cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ripeness: Too long misunderstood

I went berry picking up and down the road I live on; the lane is lined with dozens of monstrous blackberry bushes. It's too early for blackberries, or in the words of the captain, too early for blueberries. Blackberries won't arrive until late July and early August. However, the salmonberry has already made it's appearance, a brief and fleeting one of which I am bereft of all taste and participation in. Salmonberries, for those of you unawares, are indigenous to the North American Pacific Coast and are a cousin to the raspberry, some markets refer to them as golden raspberries. To outsmart the gluttonous rooks and swallows of Irwin Ave is a feat near impossible; for they shark the area waiting for the exact moment of the first rouging of peachy color on the pubescent green berries, murdering them before they are ever allowed to make it upstream. I am not a fruitarian, that sect of vegans who, god help us, only eat fruit that has died, that is one that has fully ripened and has reached the end of its life and has fallen from its stem. It goes to question then whether a fruitarian would eat a suicidal fruit, that is one that has fallen from the tree not wholly ripened. Either way I subscribe to no such philosophy viewing myself as an advocate therefore for the murdering of all fruits. And vegetables for that matter. However, in the case of the pesky common birds and their monopoly over the salmonberries, I am with the vegans on waiting for that magical moment: i.e. ripeness.

Pondering the concept of ripeness in edibles is actually quite a common occurrence in the minds of many 21 year olds, right next to planning the next kegger Bard's Tale and New France brand only, I be allergic to wheat. There are others. God awfully expensive mind you. Act on; Ripeness of fruits, one begins to think the birds may be on to something. I began to think of the mighty banana: good to eat ripe as well as slightly green, but only good for baking after its become a brown sugar paste contained in a sausage skin of a peel. Tomatoes are fine to eat when they are crisp and solid; but an unripened green tomato lends a distinct flavor for many uses. Oy! There are, not in all cases, a purpose and use in three stages for any given fruit or vegetable--Sour, middle where it's edible on its own, and for sweet. The discoveries we make. Brilliant. Oh merci mes oiseaus.

As the salmonberries fell through I turned to plan B: huckleberries. After picking around 100 to fill only the bottom of a cup, I abandoned plan B for plan C: grocery store. My Jam ideas evolved from salmonberry fig, to apricot fig, and after discovering the price of figs to apricot peach, for both were 1.98/lb. Now I may tie in all this about ripeness: the apricots turned out quite stiff compared to the perfectly ripe peaches, and due to the well known fact of my patience deficit, i could not wait a day to can to let them ripen, i needed to can right then! So unripe apricots it is. The result: two jars already eaten. Tart underripe apricots marry the almost over sweet peach in this low sugar jam so that it is tangy and crisp yet savors strongly of the flavors of both the peach and the apricot.

The apricots outnumber the peaches 6 cups to 4, peaches have an overpowering tendency in my experience. Finely diced for the most part, with a few large chunks to give the appearance of an almost marmalade. I've noticed that people are very much drawn to chunks. Smooth peanut butter has always been my preference. 4 cups of sugar to the 10 cups of fruit; not the common ratio but too much sugar and you drown the jam. Again I use a universal pectin with the addition of calcium water and lemon juice. The salty cod is going to sell a lot of jam and preserves. The breads and sweet breads made for any time of day will always come with an accompaniment of a salty cod brand homemade confiture--and of course will be available by the jar full.

A bientôt

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bye Bye Betty

School is out for the summer for my younger sisters and brother; one last bake day while they're away. It sounds oh so June Cleaver to have baked goods cooling on the stove top just waiting for the kids and breadwinner(s) to return home from a strenuous day of tedious classes and board meetings--but so what, I happen to like that. Bakers are different from house wives: for one bakers bake for baking's sake, having an audience to eat the goods just happens to be a perk. The cook of the house has all of the control: annoy the chef, leave the kitchen messy, or whine about what's made, and well, say goodbye to any chance of a homemade delicacy much less extra baked goods. The role of kitchen master is not a sexist notion on principle: it is available for male or female--however it is difficult to share, whoever claims it first wears the crown.

The Betty crocker stereotype is quite perturbing; from my own personal experience I have found that even just the term baking is associated with ignorance, "oh aren't you just quite the domestic doll, do you clean too?" I resent being called doll, it is almost as intolerable as the endearment babe; just hearing either makes me want to grind my teeth. I am not a housewife, nor a mother, and I love to bake and cook as do millions of others who sadly aren't professionals but pretend to be. When people eat what you create they are doing just that: eating what YOU made. It is the same egotistical pride that a musician experiences upon hearing someone hum their latest, or a couture designer at seeing a celebrity strut down the red walk in a make of their own mark; it's the universal attachment to creation. Mine happens to be jam and anything that requires a leavening agent, but to each his own. My advice to those of the mind who view such a way of spending one's personal free time as a weakness or social aversion would be to sod off. Plain and simple. And those weren't strawberries in the muffins, they were beets. Touché.

While I'm home I have the perfect test subjects: hungry kids. Brownies and a new banana bread recipe sitting on the counter is not giving too much, for it is appreciated. And I get to write about it. Ahh my true intentions; I don't care if they have anything to eat, I do it for my own amusement. You see how I jest. Everyone makes banana bread, so make it different. Yes everone uses squishy overripe bananas, try something a little more creative. My mum hates nuts in baked goods. So no nuts in this recipe. There is only whole wheat flour in the fridge, deal with it. No nuts--use coconut. Kids will eat this: add chocolate (white to keep color). Dad and sister will eat this: add rum and rum extract. I won't eat this: there's gluten. Oh well.

I'm not claiming this to be an innovative pastry to the likes of anything that hasn't been done, but I think I will sell it at my bakery. Banana, coconut, and rum. Yeah it belongs at the salty cod. With a cup of tea. But for now, it's for my family and friends to sample when they wish. Wait for evening desert of the last day of school celebration extravaganza: homemade ice cream cake and pink marshmallows at a campfire. What? There's rum too.

A bientôt.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Dad's Day Picnic in the Park

Father's day--most dads would be content to just sleep the whole day and watch television for as long as they please; in my family's case that would be 13 hours straight of uninterrupted English soccer. But dad's never get what they want. Nope. As it should be, sleeping is replaced by planed exercise with all six children and all three canines at the park for a walk and picnic on a beautiful gray moist sunday in the Pacific Northwest. And a picnic needs food. Food that caters to the customer, so for fathers day, that means my dad. The flavors: corn, mexican sodas, and captain crunch. Mix those three together, maybe add a few bananas, some Guinness, and a sprinkling of crushed pecans and you get not the powerpuff girls, but me ol' dad. So, for a heart-healthy lunch I made homeade kamut mini-baguettes for barbecued chicken sandwiches with a mango chutney, a corn, tomato and basil summer salad in individual containers, mexican sodas, and of course, captain crunch crispy treats. Not the most sophisticated, nor exciting desert to make, but as a fake caterer I realize that cooking success isn't about what will impress, but rather about what caters to the specific tastes of what the meal is celebrating. Yes the master has spoken a great truth: cook what people like to eat. Revelations my friend.

This menu was prepared completely the day before; everything except the sandwich compiling. The star player happens to be the kamut and garbanzo flour mini-baguettes; gluten free, sweet, and admirably cute I must say. For the most part with baking I try to stay fairly parallel with a recipe, but I always teeter away, usually because I lack listed ingredients. A common occurrence for a college student with a pantry the size of a bathroom cabinet and a budget the size of, well...Anyways, 4 cups of kamut flour, 3 cups of Bob's garbanzo and fava bean flour mix, 2-3/4 cup warm water, tbsp yeast, 2 tsps salt, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup canola oil, 1/4 tsp tartar, yeast, sticky kneading that eventually adds two more cups of flour, shaping, and an egg wash, and you have kamut mini-baguettes perfect for sandwiches. Such as barbecued chicken marinated in orange marmalade and grapefruit juice, accompanied by a mango chutney, baby spinach leaves, and a slice of fresh mango. C'est parfait je sais.

Note: last time was quinoa, now kamut, yet another wheat substitute. amazing. Kamut is an Egyptian grain three times the size of a wheat grain, and provides a lot more proteins. Kamut was first introduced to the Western world in the 1930's as "King Tut's Wheat" accompanied by a legend of being sprouted from 3,000 year old grains found in a pyramid. History shows that it is not so difficult to hose an American, who upon planting of the seeds displayed his regal plant at the Montana state fair. Kamut is a very versatile grain, it can be bought as a flour, grain, or a flake similar to quinoa, and is ideal (in my opinion) for sweet baking and bread making, though it produces a slightly dense texture. Kamut puffed cereal is good too, but you may have trouble finding it if your market doesn't lean towards the organic persuasion. But nonetheless it is enjoyable to say. Kamut.

The corn and tomato summer salad starts with 4 ears of white corn blanched on the cob for 3 minutes. Add cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, chopped basil, crumbled mozzarella, and a vinaigrette of 2 tbsps white wine vin, 1 tbsp red wine vin, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Pack them up in little containers from the olive bar at the market, and it's picnic perfect. Finish up with rice crispy treats made not with rice crispies, but captain crunch! Innovative and portable. It was a successful fathers day, beat the rain by a few minutes and surprised dad with a coffee bur grinder. Oh the joys of life I know. You should have seen what I did for mothers day. A ginger pear clafouti for breakfast, and a ginger thai basil beef curry for dinner followed by an orange chocolate mousse. Hmmmm what's the next holiday I can exploit for an excuse to cook...independence day. I think I'll do an international theme for that dinner. Apple pie and burgers are out of the question.

A bientôt.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Quinoa Cookies

I made cookies today. One: because I couldn't think of anything else, two: because I was all out of eggs, and three: because I wanted to make a post on this blog because it's my second day with it. I am impatient. Get used to it. So, egg-less quinoa cookies were the result. Most pronounce said grain as "keen-whaa"...but what is it? Quinoa is a Latin American grain with a centuries-long baking history. The Incas referred to the grain as"chisaya mama" meaning, "mother of all grains". Technically quinoa is not a grain, it's a seed, and its appearance is very flighty, it forms a kind of curl and is very light. During Latin American Spanish conquest quinoa was passed off as "Indian food" and considered un-Catholic. So much those silly conquistadors knew, Quinoa happens to be one of the few non-grains that can be cooked like a grain, is gluten free, and has more protein and amino acids than other grain flours. It can be used as a seed, a flake, or a ground flour. Quinoa has slowly made its way north and east across the Atlantic, but the cheep and easily cultivated wheat, soy, and corn pretty much rule the world, so quinoa is slow in finding it's way into western pantries.

The quinoa in these cookies is accompanied by rice flour, bs, raw maple syrup, peanut butter, brown sucre, butter, vanilla, and a pinch of nutmeg. Fairly simple, but! Gluten free. I try to do as much gluten free baking and cooking as possible as I have a mild allergy to it. Most humans do. You probably are to some degree, it varies for everyone. There are so many other grains to use besides wheat that it shouldn't be a problem, but hidden glutens lurk everywhere, and no commercial cereal bar, cookie, cracker, or sweet would ever be caught dead with an ingredient other than all purpose flour. The point is flour can be substituted. I made a tiramisu for my little sister's seventeenth birthday a week ago, and made a gluten free sponge with white rice and fava bean flour, no one was the wiser.

Other possible way to get in touch with your quinoa side are to make waffles, hot cereal, or biscuits. Quinoa flakes can be cooked exactly like oatmeal or cream of rice, all you need to do is don it with flavors such as rasins, cinamon, sugar, or flavored coffee syrups. Don't underestimate flavored coffee syrups, they may one day save your life. I mean it.

Quinoa cookies: 1 cup rice flour, 3/4 cup quinoa flakes, 1 stick butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/2 cup maple syrup, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp baking soda.

The Salty Cod: The Who and What

Got carried away there a bit...the first post should explain what I'm all about, what the salty cod is, and why anyone would be interested in reading in the first place. Two posts in one day!

I'm Mallory, a 21 year old college student not studying food or culinary techniques, but rather a double major in US history and the French language. I am a chef-wanna be. A "can I bake you something?" person who gets excited about the concept of birthday because it means a cake will be needed. Catering seems like a dream job, but I love history more. So to have both in my life I cater my own parties and create my own recipes in my spare time as a hobby. History writing is my passion in life. Editing as well. Know any French? Throw it at me i might just like you that much more. I am moving to Paris in the fall of 2007 to study history at the Institute Catholique and the Sorbonne for a year. Wish me luck I am going to be in the birthplace of culinary greatness. I hope to log my culinary finds in France in this journal, for, if anything, erm, self preservation. Therefore, I cannot claim any training as a professional in the field of cuisine, if you try my recipes remember they were pioneered in a tool-less dorm kitchen for the most part. I have no services to offer like some of the other food bloggers out there, i.e. food styling, photography services, catering, menu planning---no business yet, just words, words and thoughts that is all. Alors pour moi, je pense que la joie est d'ecrire, cuire, et apprendre. Read on brother. read on.

The Salty Cod: Bakery, Cannery, Cafe, and house of fine teas. Opens at the crack of dawn and stays strong until the wee hours of the morning to give college essay writers a warm place to finish (start?) their term papers. Flash a student ID card and take 15% off.

But don't go looking for it...yet. It doesn't geographically exist. It exists in spirit eh? And on this site, and on my product labels, products that I don't sell, but thats not the point. The point: This bakery will exist, and this site is collecting its character, forming its identity, can i get any more prosaic. Maybe. I'm a writer Fred baby what can I say. Anyways, this site will materialize into the Salty Cod someday, I promise..with blood! Whether it's in ten, twenty, or thirty years, it will be a reality.

What does a salty bottom feeding flavor-less fish have to do with baked goods and coffee? Everything. The Cod fish has become a personal icon for me, I feel safe with it. At first it was a joke born in a Gonzaga US history class when a truly inspiring professor introduced me to the history of the cod fish, and the novel Cod by Mark Kurlansky. Fascinating little bugger really, the cod. The United States owes a lot to the north Atlantic cod...just trust me. So my two loves in life melange in this bakery, history and cooking. And French baking, don't forget that. Even though this bakery won't serve wheat products, as I and the majority of my family are allergic to the mass produced grain, all fare will be made with the other grains of the world, and yes there are other flours out there besides wheat. So look for the Salty Cod someday. I'll serve lobster on Friday nights.

Birth of a Blog: Begin with June Cherry Jam

I'm sorry that you have to read the word 'blog'--it's such a horrible word. What was wrong with just terming it ejournal or something? What to expect from this food ejournal? What makes it different from all of the hundreds already out there? Nothing really, they are my inspiration and I, as well as them, will be posting recipes and photos of culinary creations along with witty and anecdotal stories to accompany them. Everything edible ever made has a story, has an event, a person, and a reason behind its creation. I love that aspect of food above all others, so prepare yourself for very verbose and wordy analysis of all things culinary in this journal, for I am only an untrained self-proclaimed chef by hobby--this is food through the words of a historiographer. Pleased to meet you.

June Cherry Jam: Why is it June cherry? Besides the fact that it was made in June there is no reason at all, just that it looks better on the label. My sister is a graphic design artist and makes the labels for me and insisted on adding an adjective to the overused monotonous sounding "cherry jam". June was the best I could come up with seeing as it is pure Jam; nothing in it other that fresh little cherries, sugar, pectin, and lemon. Future note: to avoid the adjective scramble make a two-fruit jam, like cherry peach, or blueberry orange.

The Cherry June Jam comes on the heals of my last weeks creation: the Rhubarb lime Jelly. Cheesecloth is my new best friend. The brand of pectin I use is Pomona, it is the best product out there for those of us who wish to develop our own recipes rather than using six cups of sugar to a measly four cups of fruit (referring here to the ever diabetes friendly surjell.) Pomona allows one to control the amount of sugar used and allows for sweetener or honey substitutions. More fruit and less sugar produce the obvious: your jam actually tastes like the fruit it claims to represent. Watch your acid use though, if you use less sweetener, you should probably use less acid, unless you like it super tart. It is summer, so we should all be filling our pantry with jam, in my view, (my jam snobbery) there is never a time in life when one should have to buy crap-jam from the grocery store. Canning doesn't make you a
grandma (I'm 20), or a martha -stewart-house-wife with nothing to do all day, people have canned for centuries! And well maybe the need for preservation of perishable summer fruits and vegetables is not as profound as it used to be prior to the refrigerator, you should do it anyway. It impresses, tastes good, is fun, and you always have gifts on hand. Stay tuned for my experimentation with pickles!

Cherry June Jam: 6 cups crushed cherries, 3/8 cup lemon juice, 4.5 tsps pomona pectin, 6 tsps calcium water.