Monday, June 28

Bright - {Strawberry Pistachio Rolls}

I've started "tweeting."

I think.

Is that the right thing to say?

Anyway, follow me if you want to watch me make a fool out of myself as I navigate the strange new world of Twitter! Just be careful... I walk into walls.

Wow, I am just so darn original!


C ducks under the brim of his cap and lets out a loud sigh. As he confidently falls to wrap his arms around his pale, barren knees, he makes a statement:

"They're coming around again."

Although C's face is buried in his lap and the uttered words are muffled, it's easy to understand what he's saying just by looking at him. His complexion has reddened, and the once lone scrape on his knee has been joined by two others since I last checked. At this point, he's too tired to even peek out at the tractor like he did when they came around ten minutes before.

I'll give him credit; the kid started out strong. C wanted to go even further into the field than I had planned to and was eager to get as close to the "best picking" sign as his short legs could carry him. He was on the lookout for the biggest berries he could find and was determined to find the biggest, even if it meant hopping awkwardly over rows of plants and missing some serious contenders on the way. After arriving at his destination, the berries he picked went into his up-turned cap and were then deposited into the over-sized flat that I carried between my left hip and wrist.

His short legs carried him hurriedly off through the neat rows after he gave me a quick run-down of his most impressive finds.

But now the conditions have set in. The last time the tractor came by, C only mentioned it because he was concerned that it wouldn't come back. But now, as his salvation, it has gained importance.

He tucks deeper into his knees.

So we walk. I tactfully snap the last berry in sight and gently tug at its crown, greedily pressing the allotted free sample to my lips. Although the act of harvesting took a toll on the weakened fruit - turning it nearly to jam between my fingers - this berry is the sweetest I've had in years and the pint I bought last week doesn't even compare. These berries, warm on their tired green stems, contain all the juicy goodness of fresh-picked, plus the fleeting essence of the sun.

... Which is better for some things than others, as C will surely attest.

It's the last day of strawberry season at the orchard, and I'm fortunate to have made it - by chance - just in time.

Strawberry Pistachio Rolls
I was thinking about these the whole time I was picking strawberries, mainly deciding between pistachios and almonds in the filling. I finally chose the former, thanks to some advice from K, and got cooking! In the end, I wish that the pistachio flavor would have been more pronounced, but these are certainly delicious. They taste almost like a strawberry doughnut! Feel free to use purchased strawberry jam in lieu of making your own.
Printable Recipe

Sweet Dough via P
1 package instant dry yeast
1/2 c (118 ml) water at 110F (44C)
1/3 c (66 g) sugar
1/2 c (118 ml) milk, warmed
1/3 c (78 g) butter, melted and cooled to room temp
1 egg, beaten and at room temp
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 to 4 c (438 to 500 g) flour

Combine the yeast, water and sugar and let set about five minutes until the yeast is activated. Mix in the milk, butter, egg and salt, and begin adding the flour in about 1/2 c (71 g) increments until it hold together. Turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead about fifteen minutes, adding more flour as needed. Place into a well-oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour. Make fillings (below) while the dough rises.

After the dough has risen, dump it onto a lightly floured surface and gently flatten the dough with your fingers to redistribute the air. Fold into thirds and gently press once more before rolling into a 10 x 24 inch rectangle. Spread with jam, leaving a 1 inch border on both of the 24 inch sides and top with pistachio filling (this part was easiest to do by hand. You may be better off to just mix the two before spreading it on!). Wet both of the 1" borders with water or egg, then tightly roll. Cut into 10 (or more) pieces with dental floss and place dough in oiled dishes (ramekins, cupcake tins, baking dish, baking sheet, etc.) to rise until doubled*.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F. When the oven has come to temperature, bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped on the bottom. Cool on racks and drizzle with a simple glaze of milk and powdered sugar, if desired.

*The dough can rise overnight (at least 8 hours) in the fridge or simply in a warm place.

Quick Strawberry Jam
1 1/2 c (355 ml) strawberries, hulled and halved
1/4 c (50 g) sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbls lemon juice
1 Tbls cornstarch

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook until the berries have broken down slightly and the jam is thickened. Cool before using.

Pistachio Filling
1 c (128 g) pistachios, shelled
1/4 c (50 g) sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbls (28 g) butter, room temp
1 egg, room temp

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until thoroughly combined and paste-like.

Saturday, June 26

Ring - {Strawberry Frasier}

The wind has been picking up for a number of minutes, but rather than seek shelter in the house, I recline further on the porch steps. I hear no sirens now, but they were the soundtrack for my drive home no more than half an hour earlier. The revolving whirl overpowered my stereo as headlights sliced through the darkness, but now, with nothing more than straining eyes to cut the night, it's been replaced by ominous gusts and distant cracks of thunder. The preceding lightening weaves through the heavy clouds; almost as if to knit them more tightly to better stifle the stars and suffocate the struggling moon. It's true that I can see very little in these conditions, but I am able to distinguish the shifts of color above - the gradient in the sky as the storm worsens - and the bending pines no more than forty feet away.

Through the closed door behind me is the kitchen, but it's darker than usual. I'm not sure when the power went out, but it has yet to return and without it, the kitchen isn't even lighted by the understated green glow of the stove's digital clock. Without it, the dying phone in my pocket can't be recharged. Without it, I can't flip open my laptop to access the internet.

It's strange how reliant I've realized that I am on electronics. By the time it was really appropriate for me to have a cell phone, they were common. I grew up with video games and although I do remember my parents pulling our first PC from the box, I feel like I've been using one forever. It's very possible that I was simply ignorant to the evolution of both cellphones and computers as I grew, but I also feel that my own maturing has fallen in line with the progression of the devices, which is entirely convenient.

The "electronic perks" available to not only me, but every other United States citizen, are honestly unbelievable. Simple things like stoplights are a wonder in themselves, and so are automatic doors, ATMS and personal check-outs in grocery stores; all designed to simplify and hasten our lives. Luxuries like automatic emergency calling systems in cars and cheap goods due to mechanization of production are not only common at this point, but nearly expected.

But at what cost?

With the birth of electronically monitored traffic signals, ATMS, personal-check outs and low production costs, we have denied reliable jobs to many individuals, selfishly desiring speed and thriftiness over the well-being of others. Automatic emergency alerts are beneficial in all ways of course, especially if one is driving on a secluded road, but they leave me wondering: have we come to a time where passersby would not contact help if they were to witness an accident? Have we become so detached that we would simply drive away? Are we truly so lazy that we wouldn't help? So helpless that we're unable to open doors?

At what point do frivolous advancements stop?

Admittedly, there are the upsides to this, but I refuse to be so jaded that they are all I see. I know that jobs are created for the production of these advancements, but often only for the highly educated. What of those who do not have the skills necessary for programming computers or engineering cell phones? What of the bank tellers, with years of experience and time invested in their jobs, that are so easily replaced by ATMs? And what of cashiers and baggers at grocery stores, perhaps students lacking expertise (and the funds to obtain that expertise) in the fields that will soon be responsible for replacing them with machines and computers?

I'm not mad.

I honestly don't even know how I feel about it.

So I'm just going to sit here on the porch and take in the storm.

Strawberry Frasier
I'm so excited to finally have Michigan-grown strawberries available! I'm not sure that this is an entirely traditional frasier, but I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, however, it has been some time since I made it so I am not entirely sure that the amount of cream made will be appropriate for the amount of cake. You might end up with to much.
Printable Recipe

Angel Food Cake via All Recipes
You will use five yolks for the filling, but be sure to save the extras for another use (like ice cream)!

1 c (155 g) confectioner's sugar
2/3 c + 1 Tbls (105 g) flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
10 egg whites, room temp
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 c and 2 Tbls (155 g) sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).

Sift confectioner's sugar and flour together into a small bowl and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine cream of tartar, egg whites and salt and whip on medium speed until foamy. Begin adding sugar in a slow stream and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, or the egg whites no longer slide in the bowl when tipped. Gently fold in flour mixture in two additions, then spoon into a lined but ungreased 9" spring form pan. Gently spoon in batter and bake 25-30 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert pan and cool completely before removing from pan.

Bavarian Cream via Michael Symon

1 vanilla bean
1 1/4 c (295 ml) heavy cream (substitute with whipping cream, if needed. I can't find heavy cream in Michigan)
1 1/4 c (295 ml) heavy whipping cream
1 Tbls powdered gelatin
3 Tbls milk
1/4 c (50g) sugar
5 egg yolks

Fill a bowl large enough to fit the pan you plan to cook the cream in with ice and set aside.

Put the split vanilla bean in cream and slowly bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let sit for 1 hour.

Remove bean and scrape out seeds, add them to the cream and discard the pod. Sprinkle the gelatin into the milk and set aside.

In another bowl, whip the heavy whipping cream to soft peaks and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk the sugar and egg yolks together. Warm the cream mixture back up and slowly whisk into eggs. Place mixture over simmering water and stir until it is thick enough to coat the back of a wooded spoon. Remove from heat and add milk and gelatin mixture.

Place pan in ice bath and stir until at room temperature, then fold in the whipped cream.

Angel food cake, 9", baked and cooled
Raspberry curd, if desired
Halved and hulled strawberries
Diced strawberries
Bavarian cream, room temp

Whipped cream and berries, to serve

Split the cooled cake into two layers and lay one into the bottom of an oiled 9" springform pan. Spread with raspberry curd, if using, then line the edge with halved strawberries. Fill the rest of the cake with a layer of diced berries then pour in Bavarian cream just to the top of the halved strawberries. Spread the remaining cake layer with raspberry curd then place on top of Bavarian cream, curd side down. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until set, about 6 hours.

Carefully remove from pan and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Slice and serve with whipped cream and fresh berries.

Sunday, June 20

Play - {Legend of Zelda Birthday Cake}

Mesmerized; memorized motions dance through my fingers. I know the signs, tricks and shortcuts as I race to the end, but still my heart pounds. Despite the fact that I stopped moving long ago, I feel sweat begin to well in my pores as I fixate on the flickering screen. The inward collapse of my chest stops. I hold my breath.

It's intense to play such games.

Between two hands, my small fingers cradled the boxy controller of our well-loved NES. Although I spent a lot of time outside as a child, I found myself fascinated by video games. I would look through our collection almost daily, thumbing through titles and wondering what it would be like to actually beat one. Although we had a Game Genie, I could only imagine the plots that filled many of the cartridges. Most games proved to be too difficult for my untrained mind, so I tended to stick to my favorites. Duck Hunt was an obvious choice for novelty alone, but I also loved The Legend of Zelda and all of the Super Mario Brothers games. But what interested me most about Zelda was the classic "rescue the princess" storyline. But because I really had no hope of ever doing such a thing, I hung with Mario instead. Besides, he's got cool things like fire flowers, raccoon suits, 1-up shrooms and magic whistles.

Who doesn't like shrooms and whistles?

We had a Sega too, and although I was crazy about Sonic, for some reason Sega games didn't grow with me the way Nintendo ones did. As the NES matured through the years and brought reincarnations of those favorite games, I was excited to try them again.

But I was surprised to find that I no longer favored Mario. I much preferred to spend my afternoons riding around on Link's horse, Epona, fighting Ganon, or hanging out on Lon Lon Ranch than I did bouncing around in Mario Party or side-scrolling old school in Paper Mario. I appreciated the challenge more, and loved that I was finally able to discover the [now-played out but still loved]Legend of Zelda. It opened my eyes to all of the other wonderful video games out there...

Which is a good thing, right?

I was crazy about Dark Cloud, Final Fantasy, .Hack, Kingdom Hearts, Katamari Damacy, Croc, The Neverhood, Crazy Taxi, Jak and Daxter, Soul Calibur, Animal Crossing, The Sims and so many others... I was once addicted to Dance Dance Revolution and thought that I was unbeatable at Mario Kart. Even though they're not all Nintendo games, I think you can probably understand what I'm getting at.

I'm a recovering video game junkie.

So it's only expected that my younger brother, C, would follow in my footsteps, right? The title of gamer was graciously passed to him a few years ago when I traded my controller for butter and sugar.

Don't I have the healthiest hobbies?

Anyway, I've been pestering C for quite awhile to give me some ideas for his birthday cake. But up until yesterday morning, the only ideas the little bugger had for me were "marble cake" and "caramel frosting," so I decided to introduce him to my friend, Google images. We clicked and scrolled through pages of cakes that I thought he might like, but the only thing that really struck his fancy was this. A fine cake, of course, but I really wanted to do something special for him. You see, I've not been able to spend much time with C while I've been away for school, and it makes me sad to come home and see how much he's missed me. I'm happy, of course, to have been missed and I missed him too, but our age gap is just so large that he is, unfortunately, growing up without my brother and I.

I want to be there for him, and it hurts that I can't really "grow up" with him.

I know a cake won't fix this (even though I am a firm believer that cake fixes many, many things), but it did help. It was fun to listen to him get more and more excited about what kind of cake he would have as we looked through images, and I really liked that he hung around in the kitchen while I was working. I've always known it, but my little brother is a seriously cute kid. He's got the classic little kid smile - missing teeth and all. His big blue eyes are divided by a freckled nose and rimmed by glasses. He's in need of a haircut, but I almost prefer his hair messy as it is to being clean-cut and straight out of the barbershop. He's tall for his age, and lanky in his limbs. He has a hard time saying 'v's and his jokes are just as bad as my own. He hates school but loves recess. He's a smarty pants and reads books like nobody's business. He's nice and sweet but sneaky like every other kid I've ever known.

Short and simple? He's awesome. He's adorkable. He's a nerd and I love him!

Happy 9th, C! You're crazy cool! And a very happy Father's Day to my dad who's not into holidays like this ;)

Legend Of Zelda Cake, for C
Ok, there's obviously a lot more to this cake than just a recipe, but I'm not sure how great I'd be at explaining the whole ordeal. I used gel food colorings to dye purchased fondant (Satin Ice. Do not buy Wilton fondant! It tastes terrible!) and I used this image as my reference for the fondant Link figure. Everything was handmade. I have a set of gum paste tools (I don't recommend buying these off of Amazon. Get your weekly %40 off coupon for Michael's and buy it there instead!) that I used for some pieces and also used an X-acto knife on nearly everything. C loved it!

Marble Chiffon Cake adapted from All Recipes
I usually hate marble cake, but I am happy to say that I really liked this one! It's very moist and soft, unlike many marble cakes that I've had in the past. This makes a little more than you will need for the cakes, so I just baked cupcakes with the extra batter.

1/3 c (30 g) cocoa
1/4 c (60 ml) boiling water
1 1/2 c (298 g) + 3 Tbls sugar, divided
1/2 c (119 ml) + 2 Tbls vegetable oil, divided
2 1/4 c (320 g) flour
1 Tbls baking powder
1 tsp salt
7 eggs, separated
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 c (170 ml) water
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 325F (160C) and oil and line two 6 inch (15.24 cm) pans and two 4 inch (10.16) pans.

In a bowl, combine cocoa, boiling water, 3 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons oil; whisk until smooth and allow to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and remaining sugar. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine egg yolks, water, remaining oil, and vanilla then add to dry ingredients. Mix just until there are no more lumps.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Fold into batter in two additions. Move half of the batter to another bowl before completely mixed and fold in the cocoa mixture until no streaks remain. Continue to fold the original batter just until all streaks are gone.

Alternately spoon the batters into prepared pans and swirl with a knife. Bake 4 inch cakes for about 20 minutes and larger ones for about 30 or until top springs back when lightly touched. Remove cakes from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for ten minutes before inverting on the rack to cool completely.

Caramel for the Caramel Buttercream (recipe follows)

1 c (198 g) sugar
1/4 c (59 ml) heavy cream

Have a small bowl ready to pour finished caramel into before you start working.

Cook the sugar in a heavy-bottom pan until a medium amber color. Remove from heat and pour in the cream, stirring gently until combined and no longer bubbling. Pour into the small bowl and let rest until cool to the touch. Whip into buttercream

Caramel Italian Meringue Buttercream For step-by-step directions for making Italian Meringue Buttercream, please click here!

Be sure to freeze any extra frosting. Just allow it to come to room temp and whip it before using again.

3/8 c (89 ml) water
1 1/2 c (315 g) sugar
8 egg whites
3/8 c (75 g) sugar
1 1/2 c (355 g) butter, softened, cut into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer.

Heat the 1 1/2 c sugar and water on the stove to 245F (118C) stirring occasionally only after the sugar has been dissolved. When the sugar syrup is around 200F (93C), begin whipping the egg whites. When they get to soft peaks, add the remaining sugar and continue whipping to medium peaks, being careful not to overbeat. When the syrup is the correct temperature, slowly pour it into the eggs with the mixer on high. After fully incorporated, beat the frosting 7-10 minutes until the outside of the bowl is room temp (I usually go a little longer than this; often times the bowl is not room temp when I begin adding butter. If the mix seems to soupy, put it in the fridge for a few moments or try briefly chilling some of the butter in the freezer before adding). Begin adding the butter, tablespoon by tablespoon, beating until fully incorporated. The frosting will deflate a little, but it's ok. Keep whipping until the frosting comes together (you may not need to add all of the butter), add the vanilla and caramel and continue whipping until light and fluffy.

Tuesday, June 15

Laugh - {German Cheese Cake with Blueberry Topping}

We spent hours together in those rooms. McDonel. Holmes. Sny-Phi.

Named for the dorms they're housed in, each cafeteria is outfitted with its own "special" features; universally equipped with salad bars, hot lines, soup tables and a meager cereal selection (God bless Special K Fruit and Yogurt!); and totally, completely and utterly shrouded in a heavy cloud of despair.

Ok, to be honest, that last part is a little extreme.

The food isn't really that bad. I'm just kind of a food snob, I guess. Yeah, I ate what was served, but I subsisted mostly on cereal and heavy salads. Oh, and whole grain toast spread with peanut butter and topped with sliced banana. Seriously, why did I have to wait until I was 18 to be introduced to such a beautiful, lovely thing?


The way I saw it, the dining halls were really just good places to socialize. The tables there are just so much more convenient for conversation than our cramped dorm rooms turned out to be, and sitting there opened up opportunities for other friends to drop in and out of conversations. You could sit there all day and never have a conversation end; by the time one person had to leave for class, you had already been joined by another and by the time they had to leave... Yeah, I think you understand how I may or may not have missed class on one occasion due to this phenomenon.

In the cafeteria, you didn't have to worry about bothering napping or studying roommates. So, mealtimes tended to last much longer than one would expect. K, P and I would continue talking long after our dishes had been picked over and stacked. Classes, friends, memories, jokes. We discussed it all.

But one of our favorite topics was the intricacies of life in the US. The complicated lack/presence/disregard of rules in our language. The occasional acceptance of leggings as pants and the surprising amount of Ugg boots sighted in the summer. The funny products available for purchase at your local mega-mart and the shockingly cheap prices of said goodies. You know, just stuff that we're exposed to every day. Some things strange, some things good and some things downright funny (I really, really wish I could share a picture of Spartan Brand "Is it Butter?" with you, but I can't find one!). There was logic behind some of it, but sometimes there was simply no better explanation than "SA."

I don't remember who came up with it, but we say it all the time. It's just a simple thing, you know, to explain something - anything - overly complicated or unjustifiable. Allow me to explain:

It stands for "stupid American."

Now, before any of my readers get upset or offended, keep in mind that I am an American. We never said "SA" in an offensive way, and reserved it for our observations of daily things in American life that were just... Well... Kind of silly. I know that Americans aren't exactly the most loved of nationalities across the world (yeah, yeah. For a lot of reasons. I know), but every culture has things like this, and saying "SA" had the bonus of being a good way to make K comfortable on campus!

Not that she appeared uncomfortable; I mean, K's English is just about flawless. She has no accent, doesn't stumble over words and never looks lost - I swear, you would never know she was from out of the country unless you asked. I just feel like hearing us poke fun at ourselves may have torn down some of the subconscious stereotypes she may have had in her mind when she first arrived. Sure, I am a bit of a ditz, I like to shop, and I use the word "like" to string together thoughts. I make irrelevant comments, talk too fast and tease people like its a sport. But hey, no one is perfect, and I think saying "SA" - even if K started it herself - was a great way for her to break into how things work around here. I know we're not the only ones, but Americans like to laugh, and I, personally, don't mind doing so at my own expense.

And boy did I ever do that a lot. I remember K talking about quark one afternoon while we were dissecting our meals, and I distinctly remember questioning her word choice. "Do you mean cream cheese?" I had asked, completely unaware that such a thing existed. But P countered quickly - proving me wrong and explaining the differences with K's help.

And then there was the whole thing with the alphabet. I guess this is a Canadian thing too, but I have never, ever, EVER heard of "z" referred to as "zed."

I'm sure I'm offending someone here with my ignorance, but I'm not trying to. I guess I'm still learning. Anyway, I'm not going to give any more excuses - I'm just going to continue to poke fun at myself.

Which is why I laughed when I read through the cookbook K mailed me for my birthday. It reminded me of those long hours in the cafeteria spent discussing our culture and customs in addition to all the "SA" things I had ever done. Scrolling across something called "creamy curd" was just the icing on the cake. Maybe it's not exactly stupid that I didn't know specifically what it (or quark) is, but I think you get the idea.

So I had to make it. Without consulting her, of course, because it's her birthday today and I'm being mean by surprising her with a virtual cheesecake. Sorry I'm such a jerk, K, but you know you like it! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

I substituted a combination of ricotta and cream cheese for the mysterious creamy curd that was called for in the recipe. It's a little grainy, but I really prefer it to any cheesecake that I've had before. I didn't have any sachets of vanilla pudding mix, but I'm resourceful enough to have found a way around it. Perhaps mascarpone would have been a more appropriate substitution for the cheese, but I didn't have any on hand.

Using the ricotta instead of mascarpone (my first choice) had nothing to do with being too lazy (or broke... Haha) to go to the store to get the necessary ingredients.

Because that would be an "SA" thing to do, you know?

Note: K emailed me to let me know that this is a recipe from southern Germany. The cheese cakes that they make where she lives contain... You guessed it! Quark. I should have known... SA!!!

Also, for those that don't know and from what I understand, Quark is like cream cheese but contains significantly less fat and no salt. According to K, it is sold in small tubs in stores.


Cheese Cake adapted from The Little German Cookbook
This isn't the creamiest cheese cake ever, but that could be due to my substitutions. That said, it's still the best cheesecake I have ever had. It's certainly not a "light" dessert, but it's much lighter than the cheesecakes that I'm used to! The recipe is very vague, so I have provided more in-depth instructions on the way I chose to do it.
Printable Recipe

For the base
1 2/3 c (250 g) flour
1/2 c (100 g) sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
14 Tbls (200 g) butter, cut into small cubes and frozen
2 eggs, straight from the fridge, slightly beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla

You will be treating this like a pie crust.

Combine the dry ingredients, including the sugar, in a large bowl. Cut in the butter using two forks, a pastry blender, or a food processor. Quickly knead in the eggs and vanilla, stopping as soon as the mixture comes together. Wrap tightly in cling film or aluminum foil and refrigerate for an hour.

After an hour has passed, roll it out and place in a 9 or 10 inch spring form pan, dock the crust, then chill. Although the recipe didn't say to do so, I think it would be best to par-bake the crust at this point. If you chose to, I would say baking at 350F (175C) for 15-20 minutes would be sufficient. Just until it is barely browning.

For the filling
This makes quite a bit of filling, and I ended up not using it all because I was afraid the pan would overflow. I would suggest doing

4 1/2 Tbls (65 g) butter, room temp
3/4 c (165 g) sugar
3 eggs
1 vanilla bean, seeds from (or 1 tsp vanilla)
1/2 sachet of vanilla pudding powder (substitution follows)
About 1 1/2 lbs (665 g) creamy curd (I used 1 3/4 c (435 g) ricotta and 1 c (225 g) cream cheese), room temp
3/8 c (55 g) flour

Preheat your oven to 350F (175 C). Wrap your prepared springform pan with aluminum foil and place in a water bath.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla. Add the pudding mix and beat until very light, about three minutes. Add the cheese(s) and whip until combined, then add the flour and mix only until it is just dissolved. Pour into your lined pan and bake for one hour.

To substitute the pudding powder
I don't claim to know exactly how much pudding powder is in a "sachet," but I compared it to a bag of instant pudding. I used this recipe as a base, but cut it down significantly in size and omitted the cocoa powder. I'm not sure it is entirely necessary to go through the trouble of making this, so do what you like.

1 1/2 tsp (4 g) cornstarch
4 tsp (13 g) confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 tsp (3 g) instant dry milk
Pinch salt

Combine all in a small bowl. Use as directed.

Blueberry Topping
You can do this with any fruit you like and make as much or as little as desired. This is just a guide, but be sure that there is more fruit than sugar, more sugar than lemon juice and certainly more lemon juice than nutmeg!

Lemon juice
Pinch nutmeg (I like nutmeg with blueberries, but you may omit this if you like)

Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until some berries burst and the sauce is thickened. Cool and spoon over sliced cheesecake.

Sunday, June 13

Improvise - {MacGyver’s Microwaved Indian Cake]

This is my first guest post and it was written by one of my best friends. Apparently, his interests include, baking, writing and saying nice things about me.

Yeah, he's pretty cool.

Maybe even cool enough to forgive me for lying to him about exactly which cake I was making last night when he called...?


Hey everybody, this is P writing. I’m a friend of Kaitlin, and I’m here to tell you that you can make a cake. Yes, you, sitting at your computer, drooling while looking at Kaitlin’s pictures. I’ve been there before too, when I see some fantastic looking picture of a recipe in a magazine or on the internet. Then I go down to the recipe and think, no way. I can’t possibly make something that delicious. It’s too complicated. Now, why in the world would I say that?

Because I’m in India. And I don’t have an oven.

Actually, there are almost no ovens in Himachal Pradesh. Indian cuisine just doesn’t require oven cooking. And no electric mixers for making batters or frosting. And no shortening, no candy thermometers, no silicone spatulas, and especially no specialty baking equipment of any kind. This is a really bad thing for somebody like me who has an addiction to making and eating cakes. With all of those limitations, you may think that I should just forget about expecting an American-style, high quality cake for six months.

Oh ye of little faith!

Did you know that you can make cakes and brownies in a microwave? Anything that’s leavened by baking soda or baking powder just needs some sort of heat to rise, and you can get that kind of heat in the microwave. It’ll even cook the batter a lot faster and more evenly than an oven. You won’t get any browning on it, but it will be moister than an oven-baked cake and it will fall right out of the container without any greasing required. No cake pans needed, and no wasting parchment paper and worrying about the cake rounds releasing cleanly. Plus, microwaves are a bit more common in rural India. You just need to find a cake recipe that can be made without creaming butter and sugar, because that would definitely be difficult to do by hand.

Now for the frosting. I think most people will agree with me that European meringue-style buttercreams are by far the best. The problem is that they must be beaten by a mixer to get the right volume and texture out of it. Right? Wrong. You can make Swiss meringue buttercream frosting by hand. Sure, you’ll be whisking for 45 minutes, but if you have a little bit of patience (and Popeye forearms), you can make a frosting that’s pretty darn close to the quality you would get from a machine-whipped one. Plus, whisking butter, eggs and sugar for nearly an hour may offset some of the massive amounts of calories that you will soon be receiving from said butter, eggs and sugar. No, it’s not easy, but if you’ve gone three months without cake like I have, you’ll start to go into frosting withdrawal and may be willing to put it a little bit more effort than normal.

It’s not easy. Your arm will want to fall off. It’s hot, humid, there’s flies and moths buzzing around your mud hut, and you’ll be slaving away over a gas burner, trying not to let the sweat building up on your forehead drip into the frosting. Besides, you have to realize that no matter how much you whisk, your arm is never going to move as fast as a Kitchen Aid set to high, and you’ll never get quite the same fluffiness as the frosting you’re used to. Which is why I think it’s perfectly O.K. to add about a quarter cup of powdered sugar near the end of the beating to stiffen up the mixture. No, it’s not authentic, and it won’t be perfectly creamy anymore, but sometimes it’s okay to take shortcuts. I promise I won’t tell.

Also, did you know that you can make your own powdered sugar? That’s a handy thing to know when you’re in India and you can’t buy it. Just grind regular sugar in a blender on high with some cornstarch. After the frosting reached the desired consistency, I added some leftover dulce de leche that I made by putting a can of condensed milk in a pressure cooker, but that’s another story. I was a little disappointed that the dulce de leche didn’t reach the consistency that I wanted – it was much too solid – because little specks of it didn’t melt completely and got distributed throughout the frosting. Honestly though, it looks kinda cool, and that was really the only thing that went wrong during the whole process.

Another problem you’ll face when trying to make an American-style layer cake in India is waste. Indians hate wasting food. Food is a gift from the gods, and throwing any of it away is ridiculously rude and arrogant in this culture. So when you have a recipe for Swiss meringue buttercream that uses five egg whites, you better make sure that you can make something else from five egg yolks. That’s why I made simple chocolate custard from five egg yolks, a cup of sugar, a couple of spoons of cocoa and about a cup of milk (which, in my opinion, is the best milk in the world. I guess that’s just the side effect of a society that worships cows. Or maybe the cause. Who knows?) A thin layer of it would go in between the layers of the cake along with the frosting. The rest would go to somebody’s stomach. Respect the food; that’s what Indians say.

Four layers later, I had a stacked cake that looked quite stable, but somewhat naked, seeing as it was missing a final external coat of buttercream. Normally I would use a serrated knife to trim the sides and make them completely flat and even, but this is India, and that would be wasteful. Plus I didn’t have a serrated knife. I made do with an extra-thick crumb coat which also served the purpose of flattening out the sides. Anyway, cooking a cake in the microwave seriously limits the amount of crumbs that get into the frosting. It’s awesome, and very easy.

I didn’t have a cake turntable for decorating. What I did have was a smooth metal plate and an upside-down bowl. Works just the same.

I didn’t have a piping bag. What I did have was a piece of wax paper folded in half and rolled into a cone shape, then filled with frosting. Works just the same.

I didn’t have an offset spatula, or icing spatula of any kind. What I did have was a long, flat knife that’s basically a sharpened piece of scrap metal (I call it a prison shank knife). Works just the same.

I didn’t have a fancy Canon camera to take awesome-quality picture of my average-quality creation. What I did have was a friend’s digital camera that I borrowed. It doesn’t work just the same, as you can clearly see by the pictures. Plus it helps if you had mad decorating and photography skills like Kaitlin.

Moral of the story is that if you really want to, you can make a cake under any circumstances. It’ll take all day, it will be much more work than if you had a Kitchen Aid and an oven, and it won’t look or taste perfect. But it will be very, very, very good. And anyway, even if you do have all of those appliances in your fancy schmancy American kitchen, sometimes you still screw up. So don’t worry about it. Just eat it.

MacGyver’s Microwaved Indian Cake
Kaitlin provided me with this chocolate cake recipe, and we both worked out a frosting recipe together. Well, that’s not entirely true. What really happened is that she gave me a frosting recipe, I argued with her about the amount of butter, she told me to shut up and listen to her, I did, she was right, and I was wrong. But at least I came up with the chocolate custard recipe on my own. Everything is in imperial measurements for your convenience, but I had to use liter-size measuring cups and serving spoons, which aren’t exactly calibrated to precise measurements. No, I didn’t get exact measurements, but trust me, you’ll be fine if you’re short a few grams. If I can make this cake in India, you can make it too.
Printable Recipe

Chocolate Cake – recipe via Martha Stewart
3/4 c (65 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 c (215 g) flour
1 1/2 c (300 g) sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 c (180 ml) warm water
3/4 c (180 ml) buttermilk (or milk + 1tsp vinegar, which is what I used,
3 Tbls canola oil (just fill up three big spoons with oil, it’ll be close enough)
1 tsp vanilla (your choice, and since all you can get it India is cheap, bad-tasting vanilla essence, I just skipped it)

Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. You may have to grind up the sugar a bit if you have unrefined white sugar crystals that don’t dissolve well on their own. Mix eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla in a separate contain. Or, put them in an empty jar, seal the lid and shake it like a Polaroid picture. That mixes it really well. Add the liquid ingredients on top of the dry and mix it gently until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to ensure batter is well mixed.

Find some straight-sided, microwave-safe containers, something like Tupperware. Plastic works better than glass. Size and shape is your choice. It would be good if you could use something that has a perfectly flat bottom, because you won’t have to trim it. You can grease the container with a little bit of butter (or ghee, another Indian substitute) if you want, but it’s probably not necessary. You’ll be surprised.

Pour the batter into the container as thick as you want, because again, size is your choice. Keep in mind that the batter will double in size as it cooks. You can cook individual layers if you use a small amount of batter, or you can make thick layers and split them when they cool, that’s up to you.

Microwave the container on high 4-6 minutes. Start with 4, and add more time later if it’s not done. It should be very firm and solid and spring back quickly when you press down on it with a finger. The toothpick test works too. It will act somewhat “spongier” than a cake that has baked in an oven, but that’s just because when you pull a cake out of the oven, most of it is still unbaked and liquid, and it solidifies after it’s removed from the heat. With a microwave, that’s not the case. It should cook 98% of the way in the microwave.

Remove the container from the microwave when the cake is finished. Remove the cake from the container immediately afterwards and put it on a cooling rack. It should pop right out. Then just pour the same amount of batter back into the container and repeat the process.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream, by hand via Kaitlin, with some improvisation
1 c (200 g) sugar (ground up a bit before using, if you have Indian-style sugar)
5 egg whites; don’t you dare throw away the yolks!
18 Tbls (about 250 g, or a little over a cup, or about half a pound, or about two sticks, or about half a brick… why are butter measurements so freaking complicated?) butter, softened slightly and sliced
1 c dulce de leche, to taste, or other frosting fodder of your choice
About 1/4 c confectioner's sugar, if you want

Place the egg whites and sugar in a big, wide bowl that is much bigger than you think you need, has a nice smooth bottom that you can completely reach with a whisk, and is heavy enough for you to beat it for almost an hour without it jumping all over the place. Place that bowl over a pot of simmering water (double-boiler style), and whisk the egg whites and sugar constantly while they cook, until the sugar is completely dissolved (test by rubbing some between your fingers. If it's completely smooth, it's done). It will take about 10 minutes, and the egg whites will look nice and smooth.

Remove the big bowl from the heat and get ready to whisk a lot. This part of the recipe is going to suck a lot if you do it by hand. You have to whip the egg whites into a relatively stable foam. If you use a Kitchen Aid, you’re done when the bowl is cool to the touch and the mixture has tripled in size, about 15 minutes. That’s not going to happen if you do it by hand. The bowl will cool long before the mixture triples, so you have a choice here. Either take steroids and beat the crap out of it for a solid 15 minutes until it triples in the right time, or put the bowl back on the heat for a few minutes now and then to keep the egg whites warm and able to be whipped more. If you get it to about 2.5 times the original volume, that’s probably as good as it gets by hand.

Next, add the room-temperature butter piece by piece, waiting until each piece is completely incorporated before adding the next. You don’t have to beat it as hard as you did when it was just egg whites, but don’t go easy on it either. It will take some time, and it may turn into a soupy, curdled mess. Just keep adding the butter until it is gone. After all the butter is added, you can (if you want) add the powdered sugar to stiffen it up. Or you can put it in the fridge for 15 minutes, come back and beat it more until it stiffens. Or you can do both, which is what I did, and I got a perfectly delicious, light and fluffy frosting.

Finally, you can beat in the dulce de leche or any other flavoring until fully incorporated. Then go ice your arm.

Chocolate Custard – recipe completely made up on the spot so as not to waste anything
Note from Whisk Kid - I, in my fancy schmancy American kitchen, took the liberty of adding about 1/4 cornstarch to the mixture after it was thoroughly heated and stirred until thickened. Sorry, P - My custard was just not setting up!

5 egg yolks – hm, where did those come from?
1 c (200 g) sugar
1 c (240 ml) milk, divided
2 spoonfuls of unsweetened cocoa powder

Place the egg yolks, sugar and about two tablespoons of the milk into a big bowl set over simmering water and whisk constantly. In about 10-15 minutes, you should reach a ribbon stage, and the mixture will have thickened considerably.

Add the milk and the cocoa powder, then take the bowl off the simmering water and put it on low heat, because that’s quicker. Whisking constantly, cook and reduce it for about 15 minutes until it becomes very thick. Pour it into a container and cool it in the fridge for some time before using.

Split the cake into as many layers as you want; I used 4, but it depends on what size container you use. Set the first cake round down on a piece of (clean, new) cardboard cut from a box. Place that on an upside-down metal plate and keep it there with a couple pieces of tape, and place that on an upside down bowl. That will serve as your turntable for decorating.

Spread a thin layer of the chocolate custard on the first layer, then a thicker layer of the frosting on top of that. Cover with the next cake round and repeat. When you put on the fourth cake round, don’t add any custard (save it for later), but instead add a thicker-than-normal crumb coat. That way, you won’t have to trim the sides. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, remove, and then apply the final coat. Decorate as desired.

Thursday, June 10

Add - {Coffee Crunch Ice Cream}

As I grasp the steering wheel, the comfortable sting of hot coffee resonates in my fingertips. Perfectly smooth, pleasantly bitter and beautifully steaming, the mug resting in my cup holder provides my much-needed morning fuel.

I'll be addicted soon.

The two seem tied lately - the coffee and the car - and almost as if one cannot function without the presence of the other. But this isn't true, of course; although the car matches me in age, it runs well. The motor is quiet and smooth, the body free of rust, and the engine easy on gas. No one believes that it's nearly 20 years-old, and it's certainly not reliant on coffee to run.

Despite the low level of noise that the vehicle creates, the music flowing from my speakers is relatively high most of the time. Yes, I am that kid. I dial down the volume at stoplights out of respect, and I don't crank up my sub to an annoyingly high level, but I do like my music, and I like it loud. But at this hour, with the sun creeping up over the horizon in the east, I keep it low. An assault on the senses just isn't what I want to wake up to, you know? I'm fortunate enough to drive west in the morning - away from the rising sun - so I like to keep the other harsh wonders of the world to a minimum.

Well, except for my steaming coffee.

Or airbags.

I woke up at 6:30 this morning instead of 7 with the intention of leaving early to fill up my gas tank. In the kitchen, a smaller pot of coffee was brewed in the interest of not wasting beans. For the sake of comfort, as I got dressed, I chose jeans instead of a skirt and, just to keep dry, I ran through the rain to my car instead of strolling under the sun.


Minor ones make big differences.

Not that there were apparent downfalls to the ones I made this morning. You could never know that something like this was coming. Heavy and compacted traffic were to be expected due to rush hour and conditions, and I was paying attention to my surroundings. Driving normally with the windows up, music low and sky grey; I never expected a car to cross four lanes of traffic, cut off the person two vehicles ahead of me and cause a chain reaction of brake slamming. Honestly, I anticipated it and applied my brakes just before it all happened. But when I saw the taillights on the car ahead of me disappearing under my hood, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to stop in time. My tires spun wildly on the wet pavement, sliding further and further ahead until stopping suddenly.

The airbag was ejected and my was coffee thrown.

In the end, everyone was fine. The other car had no damage but a scratch, and my own hood is just slightly bent. The officer who stopped filed the report and we all went our separate ways as the rain continued to fall.

The other driver, E, was very kind about the situation. But although he didn't blame me and was very understanding, I do take full responsibility for what happened and will, without question, pay the fine.

After he drove off, I climbed through the passenger side door, slid across the bench and sat in front of the unfamiliar wheel. The harsh billowy clouds released with the air bag had fled through the windows in their entirety. They had not been accompanied by dust, but the interior of my car was still left completely changed. Pouring over my lap was the deflated airbag, and the lingering smell of of the reaction behind the explosion made it difficult focus as I anxiously turned the key in the ignition.

And when I was off the highway, safely parked with my mother and brothers there for support, I reached under the dash. There, upside-down, was my travel mug. Still filled two-thirds of the way to the top and still perfect, if not a little cold.

Not the ideal set of conditions for starting a day, but hey; at least someone made coffee, right?


I would like to stress the fact that no one was injured in this incident. The only real damage that occurred was to my car, and it all seems to be pretty minor. I know that this is a very serious event, and I do not mean to make light of it by presenting it in this way, but it happened and there's nothing I can do to change that at this point. If I'm able to get something out of it, even if it's just feeling a little better by writing down my thoughts, then I feel that I have no reason not to do so.

Just curious - have any of you ever been in an accident before?

Coffee Crunch Ice Cream via The Craft of Baking
This is my new favorite ice cream!! Makes 1 1/2 quarts
Printable Recipe

9 egg yolks
1 c (200g) sugar, divided
2 c (470 ml) whole milk
2 c (470 ml) heavy cream
1/2 c (120 ml) whole coffee beans
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out, bean and seeds reserved
1/2 tsp salt
1 c (240 ml) crushed cocoa nib brittle (recipe follows)

In a large heatproof bowl, whisk together the yolks and 1/2 c (100g) sugar until it is lightened in color and forms ribbons.

In a large saucepan, combine the remaining sugar, milk, cream, coffee beans, vanilla bean and seeds. Bring to a boil, then slowly pour the cream into the eggs, whisking constantly so as not to cook the yolks. Return to the pan and, whisking constantly, cook until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and not run when you run a finger through it. Whisk in the salt.

Pour the custard into a bowl, press plastic wrap onto the surface and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

After chilling, strain into your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. Discard the beans and recycle the vanilla bean, if desired, by rinsing a drying.

When the ice cream is done being processed, add in the crushed cocoa nib brittle, then freeze until firm, about 2 hours.

Cocoa Nib Brittle via The Craft of Baking
Makes a little more than 3/4 lbs

1 c (200 g) sugar
4 Tbls (55 g) butter
1/6 c (40 ml) light corn syrup
1/4 c (60 ml) water
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 Tbls salt
3 oz (85 g) cocoa nibs

Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper and lightly coat with cooking oil.

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, corn syrup, and water. Stir thoroughly so that the sugar is completely wet and cook, without stirring, over high heat until it turns dark amber. This should take about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, add soda and salt, and whisk, being careful of bubbles. Quickly fold in the cocoa nibs and pour onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading with the back of a spoon. Let cool completely and break into bite sized pieces. Crush 1 cups worth for the ice cream and store the rest at room temp for up to 2 weeks.

Tuesday, June 8

Pick - {Dandelion Macarons}

I spent a lot of time outdoors as a little kid. My early years were passed in a very small town to which all the stereotypes apply.

No stoplights. No restaurants. No points of interest and no sidewalks, to boot.
Ok - that last one's a bit of a stretch. There is one set of sidewalks, lining the historic buildings on the main street, that has been there for years. Housed on one side is a candle factory and the township office, and on the other a party store, yoga studio and fortune teller's shop.

As is expected of anyone from my hometown, I toured the small candle factory once with my parents. Unfortunately, the experience was not entirely memorable. I do remember being awed by their offerings. I remember climbing creaky carpeted steps and I remember watching tall wicks being dipped into hot wax. But there are no faces. No dialogue.

Our purchased candles never burned.

D, my brother, and I used to ride our bikes into town to buy popsicles, ice cream and candy cigarettes from the party store. It was a long trip, and we may have used the town's lone payphone one evening to beg Dad for a ride home (I'm still angry about that, Mister! Just kidding!), but it was always worth it.

I've never patronized the other, newer, shops. However, we did visit the video rental shop that was once housed in the yoga studio. Inside the floorboards creaked under my small feet and the darkly-painted walls held onto shadows. Dust and history collected in the corners and I, wary of their depths, kept myself safely hidden within the shelves and displays.

I never strayed far from my parents in that place.

As I scoured the shelves for titles containing the words "fairy" and "princess," I found that my interests clashed with D's. "Rainbow Brite" and "Adventures in Fairyland" were quickly vetoed; but we did agree on a little gem titled "Sigmund the Sea Monster" which, strangely enough, I really enjoyed.

Though many will go out of their way to avoid them, the dirt roads that lead up to the small town center are comforting to me. Whether I was walking, biking, or sitting on Dad's lap to steer the car (oh, what a rebel I was at the tender age of six), there were no lanes, no shoulders and certainly no police. In the summer they're frequented by horses, joggers, bikers and tractors; and in the winter, those same roads became picturesque snowmobile tracks - not to mention a great reason for closing school.

Daisies. Dandelions. Hawkweed. Deptford Pinks. All flowers growing along those roads and creeping further into yards. Behind the barn and garden were daisies, tall and confident, knowing and dainty. They always had just the right amount of petals to prove that little J down the street "loved me so," even when they didn't (I miscounted, of course). Shorter and harder to find were the Deptford pinks that dotted the sledding hill; tiny and streaked with silver that I was convinced had been painted on by faeries. And further still, nearing the pond, is the home of the Hawkweed. Sure, they're nothing fancy, but I was addicted to their distinct and sweet scent. Please tell me that someone else thinks these smell like cake and that I'm not crazy. I swear that I snorted every one I spotted.

I loved them all, and I loved the bugs an insects that visited them, too. But I was unfortunately unable to spend much time admiring them due to their location. You see, we had chickens when I was very young, and roosters do not take kindly to small girls. You don't know fear until you have heard the steps of a rooster charging behind your back.

When you're young, anyway.

I used to carry a crowbar around with me for protection. I'm not kidding. I never struck a chicken, but they were smart enough to understand what a swinging crowbar meant. However, that had a tendency to make them even more upset, which my Aunt C will attest to. She distinctly remembers me running through the front yard in my underwear with a crowbar in my hand and a pissed of rooster on my heels. She also remembers being afraid to intervene, so don't be thinking I was a sissy or anything. Roosters are jerks.

But I digress.

There was one flower that I could always fall back on. The many petaled blossoms were always waiting for me in the front yard, far from the roosters. They hid the green beneath the blue on sunny days, and painted sunshine directly onto the lawn. Yellow, yellow and more yellow. The bane of landscapers and keepers up of the Joneses. The strong one. The wish granter.

The Dandelion.

I could pick huge bouquets of the flowers, and there were always plenty more. No one really wanted a vase full of them, and I was always encouraged to pick the others, but they were accessible, free of roaming roosters and brightly colored. A regular Kaitlin target.

So I picked them. Lots of them. I played the stupid game where you rubbed one on someone's arm and said it was pee (whatever that was about...), I dissected them, I wished on them, I neatly bundled them and wore them in my hair. But eventually they would wilt, and then they were useless. Just a sad shell of a once happy bud.

I heard stories of dandelion wine and dandelion greens in salad. We didn't consume such things in our house, but I was always fascinated by the idea of eating something as simple as a weed. Which is why stumbling across a recipe for dandelion jam really drew my attention. It reminded me of being in that small town, and spending summers up to my ears in blossoms. I just couldn't wait to taste the essence of something so common and familiar. I knew it had to be good, and I was so right. This dandelion jam tastes like an incredibly flavored honey. Smooth on the tongue and just delicately floral. I've been eating it thickly spread on toast as a snack and straight of the jar with a spoon when I need a fix. Adding it to macarons just seemed like the right thing to do.

Almost like picking 300 dandelions for your mommy.

Dandelion Macarons via Tartelette
Printable Recipe

90 gr egg whites (about 3)
30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr almonds

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, and gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Beat just until you can hold the bowl over your head without slippage. Place the almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Sift them into the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 280F. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don't let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer. To fill: pipe or spoon about 1 big tablespoon of butterceam in the center of one shell and top with another one.

Dandelion Swiss Meringue Buttercream
2 egg whites
1/3 c (65 g)sugar
7 Tbls (100 g) butter, room temp and cubed
Dandelion jam, to taste

In a double boiler, cook the egg whites and sugar, whisking constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and whip (with a stand mixer or an hand-held one) until room temp, about ten minutes. Lower speed and begin adding the butter, piece by piece, waiting until each cube is incorporated before adding the next. After all butter is added, return mixer to high speed and beat until the buttercream comes together. Add jam and use to fill macarons.

Dandelion Jelly via Fat of the Land

2 c (470 ml) dandelion petals (just the yellow part)
2 c (470 ml) water
1 c (200 g) sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
3 tsp pectin

Bring water to a boil and add dandelions. Boil for 10 minutes over medium heat, then strain dandelions and return the liquid to the pot. Add the remaining ingredients, then bring to a boil before reducing to a simmer. Stir with a wodden spoon until syrupy. Be aware that this may take some time. To check the finished state of your jam, drop some onto a frozen plate. When it is at the desired consistency, pour into jars to keep in the fridge or can in sterilized jars by sealing them and processing in a hot water bath for ten minutes. in hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Sunday, June 6

Unexpected - {Tuna and Roasted Red Pepper Sushi Roll}

Since school ended, I've been spending a lot of time in my car.

It's not that I work every day, but my time off from work seems to fly by. I'm happy to fill the off-days with hobbies, families, appointments and obligations, but before I know it, I find myself between lanes on the highway.

Back on the road.

And since school ended, I feel like I've been living out of that same car.

Sure, I have places to stay, but having divorced parents has always left me feeling a little... Divided. Between Mom's, Dad's, my Grandparent's place, and overnight stays in various friends' apartments, I never really know where I'm going to end up when I hit the highway after work.

Most nights I end up at my Grandparent's house because theirs is 15 minutes closer to work than either of my parent's. However, I have, since first making that claim, found it to be inconsistent.

I don't think I have a speeding problem, but I suppose it would all depend on who you asked.

But when I do go to my Grandparent's, I always know that I'm in for some delicious food (yes, contrary to what I may or may not have lead you to believe, I do not live off of cake and cookies!). It's rare that I know what I'll come home to, but it's always a good surprise and I honestly can't think of a time when I went to their house and was served anything that was less than awesome. She says she doesn't like to cook anymore, and she says she's no good, but she still makes food everyday and is totally wrong about her cooking skills. Plus, she even stocks her pantry with Maple Nut Goodies (my weakness. I don't know why, but I can't get enough) for me and packs me a lunch for work the following day.

I am SOOOO spoiled.

But last Tuesday, when my rattling muffler sounded my arrival to their house, Grandma greeted me with a dinner that I never would have expected. As Lulu, their dog, bobbed excitedly between her feet, Grandma informed me that dinner that night would be different. Dinner that night would be...


As in raw fish.

"I tried a piece before you got here. I didn't think I would like it, but it's actually really good!"

How awesome is that? My Grandma ate sushi! Of her own accord! And she even liked this sushi - the remains of my packed lunch - that I brought home and was worried about wasting.

She's great :)

And so is my Grandpa - even though he was afraid of the sushi and ate Grandma's chili (yum!) instead, he's not afraid to put himself and his beliefs out there in order to make a difference.

They're both so strong, so caring and so giving... Maybe it sounds strange of me to say, and I'm sure that it's evident by how much I talk about them, but I am so proud of my grandparents and I am so fortunate to have people as awesome as them in my life.

Especially because they always appreciate what I make for them!

Tuna and Roasted Red Pepper Roll adapted from Use Real Butter
This makes two rolls and is no where near as difficult to do as you might think! I was able to find sushi grade tuna at an Asian grocer, but I'm going to make some more tomorrow with scallops I purchased at Whole Foods. I had a nice conversation with the woman working the counter about my plans and have no fears!
Printable Recipe

1 c (160 g) sushi rice (uncooked)
1 c (235 ml) water
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1 package of sheet nori
1/4 lb (maybe less) (115 g) tuna, cut into thick slices
1/2 red pepper, roasted and cut into matchstick-sized pieces
1/2 cucumber, cut into matchstick-sized pieces
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced thinly

Rinse, drain, and soak the rice in (non-measured) water for at least 30 minutes, then drain. Combine the rinsed rice and measured water in a saucepan and cover, then bring to a boil over medium high heat, reduce the heat and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the rice to steam undisturbed (don't take off lid!) for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small bowl, then stir until salt and sugar are dissolved.

When the rice is nearing the end of its steaming period, wet a large mixing bowl that is big enough to hold the rice. Wipe off excess water and wet the tub a second time with vinegared water (1 cup water + 2-3 tablespoons vinegar). Wipe off any excess. Heap the cooked rice in center. Allow rice to cool in the tub for 10 minutes. Pour the dressing over the rice and mix the dressing evenly with a large spoon or rice paddle. While mixing, fan the rice to cool it. The rice is ready to use when it reaches body temperature.

Assembly: On a sheet of plastic wrap, set down one sheet of nori. With wet hands, grab a handful of sushi rice and evenly spread across the top 3/5 of the nori sheet, pressing the rice down to ensure it sticks to the seaweed. Arrange sliced avocado on plastic wrap and carefully flip the nori over so that the rice faces down onto the plastic wrap and avocado. Place a line of tuna at the non-rice end of the nori, leaving a little room on either end. On top of that, repeat with lines of red pepper and cucumber. Roll the fillings up from the non-rice end of the nori (like a carpet) and continue to roll tightly, but not too tightly until the rice encompasses the entire outer part of the roll. Use the plastic wrap to help maintain shape without letting the roll stick to you. Use a bamboo mat to firm up the shape and compact the roll. Remove the bamboo mat and the plastic wrap from the roll. Dip a very sharp knife in water and cut the roll in half. Repeat until you have 8 pieces. Serve with wasabi, gari (pickled ginger), and soy sauce, if desired.

*Just as a note, I rolled mine in a different way. This makes much more sense than what I did, but the battery on my laptop died and I improvised.