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.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Peter Piper Pipped

Cracked: Vols-au-Vent for Daring BakersWhy the hell does it seem ages since i have been here? Probably because it has. I will tell you how truly painful it is for a blogger to be cut from their lifeblood, from their home: (play your small violin now) it is not unlike pepper spray reaching your cornea, or being stabbed in the thigh with a dull blade, or hitting your head on the corner of a pointy cabinet; a hiatus here at the Salty Cod is like, well it is......making us realize that life is not always as easy as we would like it to be.

I don't think we ever stop going through transitions, whether it is adapting to a new place of habitation, a new job, a new relationship or a new idea; we are constantly going through today what changes our habits of yesterday. When i started this blog almost two and a half years ago (had to make sure to get that half in there...i'm 5'9 and a quarter, don't forget that quarter) i started a habit of myself that i fell in love with. Nothing could keep me from blogging. I'm in a random foreign country alone on a park bench: blog. Last karaoke night of the year at the Irish Pub down the road: blog. Easter, Christmas, thanksgiving: blog. It's 2am and there are yet 3,000 more words due on Alexander's trek through the Orient: blog. Will you go on a date with me: blog. Sleep: blog. Girl's night out cocktails: blog. I have chosen blogging over many things; aside from an ailing family member or friend, what is there that i do, or could do that is more important than this?

Oops. It appears that there is something after all. This revelation, however, does not attach any less importance to Salty. no no nothing like that. In the end what it is is realizing that i don't blog because i have to, i blog because i choose to. And sometimes, i have to choose to wait. Transitions. Transitions are glasses that let you go from dark to light without changing them. But they are also moments when you stack your priorities and weigh the outcomes. Oftentimes, the result is an exploded suitcase and a never-ending cup of tea.

I am twenty three years old. I am sure you were twenty three years once. I graduated college nearly 5 months ago, and am adjusting to two new jobs that take six of my seven days....i'm back with my parents for a bit, did you know? Do you care? I am preparing my rook, bishop, and queen for a move that you will not believe; and it is in the middle of this that i have realized that there are times when we have to sacrifice what we want in the moment in order to get what we want for the future.

But now, we have a post. Three weeks in want, we have a post. In conversation with my editor (who obviously hasn't had much to edit) i realized that the ducks were finally falling into the basket, and that it was finally ok to blog. and the tears come streaming down my face! But oh holy crap! I had forgotten i had finally signed up for the Daring Bakers, after a two (and a half) year stint of protest (daringness for being different) i sucked it up and cracked and wanted in! and i'm almost ready to be kicked out on the first challenge, ahk!

so apparently there is an actual due date that is not just the end of the month...forgive me, i'm
blond. will that work? If anyone yells at me, i would just like to point out that Christy at 5 Types of Sugar was late too. Saying that sounds like she's pregnant (she's not) but i love giving her a hard time.

So i rushed to the secret club page (only secret club members are allowed in)...puff pastry. ah ok. i've done puff pastry. wait....puff pastry, dear god why! of all things other than baguettes, puff pastry takes hours! gaw! I don't mind making puff pastry, had i not spent many hours making it about two months ago, i wouldn't have minded so much....but it really is (pardon me) quite a
bitch to make. Well. a challenge is a challenge is it not. Touche.

Vols-au vont is the actual challenge; a puff pastry cup filled with a sweet or savory. My only edge is that i have made these before, a Christmas party about three years ago filled with a spinach concoction i have yet forgotten. But on a strict time budget, puff pastry is no bueno. Meh. Salty is no wimp. Alright, Sunday we make the puff pastry dough, and Monday we bake it up. Now we must be creative with the filling...did you know that red peppers can grow in a Seattle backyard garden? they can. hmmm. peppers. Pepper, cheese, cream, cilantro, salsa cream pipped into a puff pastry! Ah sweet that's fast!

The recipe for puff pastry dough can be found here, as the September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. The Vols-au-Vent are based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

Pepper pipped mouse:
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup whipping cream
1 bell pepper
2 tsp bloomed gelatin
chopped cilanto
enough salt to taste
red/cayenne pepper (did you know they're the same?)

method: mix all ingredients (except cream) in blender or food processor until smooth. Whip cream until stiff, gently fold in mixture, and pipe into your cups.

As i've already said, i've made puff pastry for croissants before. However what was produced here, was not puff pastry. hard. dense. where are the flakes? are there any flakes? i am not exactly sure what went wrong, perhaps i was too violent with the poor dough, or went too fast. but i think in the end it was my attitude. in mallory fashion, of course. Well, now we know. take more care, or you will have a ton of pie dough in the freezer.

So i guess i'm a daring baker now, right? no hazing? well. maybe not yet. i'm on the in-crown of baking blogging now eh? we'll see how long i keep it up. but. you know. i think i just may do it.

Change is good. change means we're learning. i like this home here too much to ever give it up. but i must drop my infantile ideas of its condition-less priority. Maybe there will be three weeks again where i cannot come home. In a perfect world, i come home every week. but life's not perfect.


A challenge just means i have to work harder to get it. if you didn't fight for it; sometimes it is not worth having. we're here. we're baking. we're photographing. we're growing. and we're figuring out the tricks. so keep with me friends. i won't disappoint.

a bientot.

Monday, September 7, 2009

September 7th

My Virgin Lily Cake.

It's raining in Seattle on this September 7th. Autumn has now officially begun. It goes like this: because the rain falls from the sky ever so gently, the light steady stream remains on the leaves of the sponge trees until they become rain trees. Then, when the steady wind blows in off the west side of the Puget Sound, the leaves of these soggy trees will dance; continuing the rain even though it has passed. This is real rain in the Pacific Northwest. Ensuring a steady six or seven hours followed by the banana slug parade. But i don't mind the rain, not here. Here is where it should rain. No where else. But summer is over. I can hear the mourning bells ring. and i laugh. Happy September 7th.

Do you know what today is? The answer varies depending on who you are. In the US, today happens to be Labor Day, so wave the red, white and blue. In Brazil, today happens to be Independence Day, so wave the yellow, blue, and green. And today also happens to be September 7th, a special day for the staff here at the Salty Cod, a two year commemoration of our team, if you will. So September 7th is quite a cause for celebration, and a Salty Cod celebration implies cake. a real cake. a fondant cake. a lily cake. on y va.

My virgin lily cake is indeed a virgin; this is my first fondant cake. Fondant cakes are typically associated as wedding cakes, but they don't have to be. any special occasion will do. How will i ever make your wedding cake if i do not practice first eh? I've long goggled after fondant cakes, putting them up on the "out of my league" shelf. I did the same thing with French macarons until i found myself making one hundred for a party. so. man invented fondant, man controlleth fondant, and Salty follows suit.

The one thing that has always scared me a bit about cake fondant is the taste, it savors highly of crap. Though i dearly love marshmallows, as the pink ones are my thing, the thought of putting marshmallow fondant in my stomach is not on my wish list. Therefore, after working some image freelance for my good friend, ex-neighbor, and professional caterer C, I asked with a pretty please for the secrets of her fondant recipe. Not only did i get the recipe, but i received a pot of inverted sugar and a hunk of her preferred white coating chocolate. Score one for the Salty Cod! Thank you C, couldn't have done it without you. It tastes like candy!

It really was not as difficult as I thought, though it is not as perfect as i would have liked it to be. A little lumpy in spots, and not as divinely symmetrical as it should be. But close enough for government work, and for our first attempt. What would you say if i told you it was gluten free? Ahk, i suppose would be the correct response. Well, as with most of the things i make for other(s) here, they can seldom be eaten by the intended recipient who is oftentimes in another state/country. Therefore if you can't eat it, i better at least be able to tell you what you missed. And this cake is half intended for me, as i am the paycheck writer at the Salty Cod.

The cake is an extremely dense dark chocolate cake, as are most gluten free cakes. Though with this particular cake, density was a bonus. The denser the cake, the smoother the fondant. The crumb coat used was a raspberry buttercream--when i say coat, i mean coat. Very thin, a crumb coat on a fondant cake should be only just enough to make the fondant stick to it. The fondant itself is a white chocolate fondant comprised of gelatin, white coating chocolate, inverted sugar, confectioners' sugar, and (gasp) i don't have white shortening, so i used butter. but somehow it worked. And, i melted the white chocolate in a double boiler. If only the women in the kitchen at that barbecue could see me now. As i am a fondant novice, i sufficed with one tier and a simple skype-blue ribbon around the parameter. simpler the better some say. and who wants a fuss of details and dobs when the real focus is on the white lily that was carried to me by three African swallows.

If you are an American, happy Labor Day. If you are a Brazilian, happy Independence Day. If you are a crew member here at the Salty Cod, thank you for contributing the Sweets. Salty is good, but without Sweets, we got nothing.

A rainy day, this September 7th. The moral of the story: when lilies bloom in a vase next to a blue ribboned cake, there are only four things to say: salut, ca va? i made you a cake. the flowers are lovey, te amo.

a bientot