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.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Clumpy Granola

a guest recipe by: my mom

What would you call granola with clumps? my mom asked me as i walked by her desk one morning, uh, i answered, clumpy granola. My family loves granola. A batch lasts about 4-5 day around here, however, my mom as as quick to make it as we are to eat it. It is one of her agenda items; she makes it different every single time striving to reach maximum clumpiness while still using a very scarce amount of oil. After myriad batches of cereal-esque results (12th time?) we settled on massaging a bit of egg white into the mess. The result; clumps. Clumps!

Everyone says their mom is an excellent cook, or baker, or whatever. My mom is uniquely neither. She can cook, she can bake, she can pretty much do everything. But what she is most excellent at is being a mom. I've never had a guest chef on Salty before, who else could possibly be qualified (we are very snobby of ourselves here at Salty), nor have i ever really spoken about my family (who are they?). I'm usually the center of the universe, am i not? But today, this post is for her.

I am moving exactly one week from today; suitcases and boxes are exploding in my room, and my brain is distracted enough to the point of need for medication (or wine). But one of the heaviest things that weighs on my mind is saying goodbye to my family. Now it's not like i've never left before; i went to college, i lived in Paris, i've had houses, apartments, dorms, etc., so i've passed the in-n-out stage with flying colors. I've only been living with my parents since after i graduated last May and got back from Brazil in July, so they are used to me shoving off. But this time it's different. This time there's no Christmas break at the end of the semester or designated time when my student visa runs out. This time i'm actually moving to have a life and for once, to stay put (except for times when we're off adventuring the world). Bluntly stated, the transition is harder on my mom than it is on me. Remember that i am only 23 years old, so i cannot blame her for being melancholy over my departure, especially as it is out of the country. But the reality is that we all leave eventually, and distance is relative. The world is only one place; we're all on it at the same time, there is no falling off. How wonderful would things be if the world (and my mom) viewed the world on the same minute scale that i perceive it on. Seeing is believing.

My mom means the world to me, and i know that without her being who she is, i would have never been able to become who i am; able to make the decisions that i make today. So to my mom: i am not leaving you behind, i am taking you with me. You made me who i am by letting me be who i am. Thank you for being my mom. And if you don't mind, make me some of this granola to take on the plane.

Clumpy Granola

4 cups oats
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1 cup flax seed
2 cups raisins
1 cup chopped almonds
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 sunflower kernels
2 egg whites

mix everything together in a bowl. that easy. spread as thinly as possible on two baking trays, and bake at 250 F for 30 minutes, checking (but not stirring) every 10. it should darken to a golden color, and harden as it cools.

If you are living outside of your home country, please scribble a comment on how your family deals with you being away, or how you deal with someone being away. Any help or encouragement would mean so much to me and those around me. If 50 of you say, "lucky mom, vacations to Brazil!" then perhaps we can convince her :)

a bientot

Saturday, January 16, 2010


The color, not the melancholy emotion.

What do i want to make? was the thought that sat on my mind all week. Why can't i think of something nouveau and creative to wow the masses with. damn it. And why is no one having a birthday! We need birthday cake fuel. My mind is frazzled from mindless work (the kind you make money on) and i can't think of an angle to bake up. The only thought that came to mind was blue. Blue. Blue pastry? I've reverted to primary mode. I think in colors. Excellent.

Like many of you i find unnatural colors in baked goods quite frightening. The bubble gum bright blue ice cream flavor at Maggie-Moo's will always be on my no-list. Sorry E. However, for one reason rather than another, i find macarons to not only be acceptable in unnatural colors, but to be more desirable with each quarter tsp of dye. Why? I'm not sure. Perhaps is the the lackluster taupe-ish hue of a nude macaron, or perhaps it is for the fact that the first macarons to invade my eyes were the bright dye-saturated jewels of the Parisian pastry shop windows that i would stare at on a daily basis. The macaron trees in the Laudier windows, how can you not stare at those. Deep purple, the color of the store, the color of a box of glittering macarons, the color of the sexiest looking sweetie on the planet. Now a vivid macaron image comes to mind; an over-priced pastry shop (perfect for tourists) right across the street from the back end of the church of the Madeleine, late January, and a window filled with a thousand stacked blood-red macarons. Ribbons, bows, trees, glitter. Jesus, what the hell is with these things. When i had (went) to class, i would not take the 40 minutes metro ride home during my 2 hour lunch break. Instead, i would walk 5 minutes down the street, and sit on the floor in the cook-book section of the fnac. 20 different books on macarons. excellent. Did i read most of them? yes. Did i figure out how to make them? yes. and it scared the shit out of me.

I made made them for the first time sometime in October of the following year after i returned to the U.S. And honestly, i found them soothing. Since then i have made hundreds for parties, friends, therapy, and gifts. The last being candy cane and eggnog macarons for a Christmas party which sadly didn't make it onto Salty. The point is, when i need something to make in order to relax, i make macarons. They are nothing special, everyone and their aunt now posts about them ad naseum. But, who cares. I wanted blue. And my babies gave blue.

I don't have much of a blue bias, i love all members of the blue family. Navy, Mediterranean house paint, Tiffany, sky, baby, and of course Portuguese azulejo tile blue. Now, i'm not depressed, no melancholy blues around here today. Just a batch of blue coconut-walnut sweeties, an over-lemony caipirinha, and a surprising soundtrack of norah jones, ray charles, and amy winehouse. endnote.

The stash of blanched almonds sadly found their way into a granola recipe the other day. As such, the costco bag of whole almonds had to be dug into. Skins? Not a problem. We'll mix them with walnuts. No more parchment? poo, only one silpat. What happened to all the pastry bags? I just used them...and i sent my own personal set already on to brazil with measuring cups and teaspoons. Hmm. Plastic baggy it is.

for the shells:
3 egg whites
2/3 cups ground almonds and walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tsp food dye

Grind the almonds and walnuts in a food processor with the powdered sugar. Meanwhile, whip the egg whites in a stand mixer or with egg beaters. Slowly add the sugar and food dye, and whip until the whites are stiff. Turn the bowl upside down, if it doesn't fall on your face, you're good. Pour the nut-sugar mixture into the whites and fold using a spatula. Fold 50 times (Tartelette's tip) and scoop into a pastry bag fitted with a wide tip. Pipe small circles onto a silpat or parchment covered tray. Let them rest for 30-60 minutes. Bake for 10 minutes at 275 degrees. Let cool for 2-3 minutes, and carefully remove from the pan.

for the coconut cream
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tbsp coconut milk
1tsp vanilla powder

Beat the butter, add the sugar and whip. Add vanilla, add milk, and whip some more. Transfer to a pastry bag, and pipe a small amount onto half of your shells. Sandwich another shell on top to finish.

The next time i make (try) to make macarons will be in brazil. It may be a while before i find an affordable mixer and an audience to try them. But we will. And they will be better than ever before. A brazilian macaron is different than a french one. I'm not quite sure how it is different, but i will find out. and i will let you know.

a bientot

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Brazilian in Seattle

Where Have I Been?
right here.

I don't know if other "internet writers" take vacations, as not only have i AWOLed the Salty office, but i haven't looked at any other blog in over a month either. Yeah i'm backed up. Did i even turn my computer on? Well you were busy with your families and what-not anyways, so i rest assured that i was not too sorely missed. But holiday vacations are now over, and it's back to work (real work and Salty work). So, happy late Christmas, and happy new years! May your new year bring you 365 great days of thrills, chills, and peppermint pills. 2010 brings quite a few changes here at Salty as well, we're quite an organic column here, and change quite frequently. In this mode I am announcing that the atmosphere here is morphing back toward that of when we lived in France a few years ago, that is stories based on travel, culture AND food stories rather than singular recipe focus. What brings the shift? I (first person, no journalism here, this is personal) am moving to Brazil at the end of January. I am moving into my (very own) house in a small city in São Paulo State with my fiancé H, who is usually referred to as "editor"around here for his non-colloquial perfect English. I am stepping into a different life, but it's what Salty (and a few other staff members) have been needing. We're deathly excited for the new blog (ehem, life) direction, and hope to take you along as we first did when we opened shop in France nearly three years ago. Announcement done. So let's write a story.

H spent the past month with me in my family's home in Seattle, and remember this was his first time here in the US of A. So what have i learned about Brazilians in America? That not even the most expensive and fancy-pants fish and oyster house restaurant on the Seattle waterfront can keep a Brazilian from dreaming about rice and beans. Good grief. Did i end up making rice and beans at least one night? Absolutely not. When in like you're in Mexico. As far as Washington State tours go, I hit this one on the nail (drum roll); we made it to every corner north, south, east, and west. Well, every corner but Walla-Walla as there is nothing in said town but onions and a state pen anyways. Lucky for us Seattle Christmas was quite warm this year; low to mid 40's nearly every day. So, below freezing for a Brazilian. But for a Swedish Fish out of his wrapper, he adapted quite nicely. Right on Red? Not a problem if i yell GO! And unfortunately yes, we do have to leave a tip for the waiter. Phrases learned: Litter and it Will Hurt, Click it or Ticket, and Can i see your ID? American radios play the same song over and over? Yes. Yes they do. And when i say left, i mean right. For once the tables were turned: i - the mute pantomime not afraid to make animal noises in the thick of public overhear in foreign countries around the world collecting nickles for giggles produced, was all knowing for once. Though, i do enjoy the "huh?"of it all. Being on the unknowing end. I'm meant, i feel, to be a foreigner. Smiling for the same awe as when listening to music in a language you don't understand.

There is a bit more to Seattle than Pike Place Market, though we did make it a (first) stop. Actually, we spent very little time in Seattle. North we went to Ferndale, a town practically on the border with Canada where my aunt and uncle have a farm. For the American tour: oh look a farm. And that's a goat. At the farm my professional cooking aunt was the only one to manage to erase rice and beans from the mind with her eggs Benedict, seafood risotto, and an ever-coming supply of the Northwest specialty, smoked salmon. Then we went south to Vancouver, a city just on the border of Oregon. East to Spokane, Washington's second largest city and the home of my alma mater, and then north-west by boat to the pristine San Juan Islands for a "nature"tour, and overly-cutesy bed & breakfast (which i highly recommend with 10 stars). But even with all the fancy tours that i could squeeze into a month, really what we liked most was lying on the couch, not working, being lazy, and making macarons and tarts in the kitchen. Of course, all of this while wearing the new leopard print snuggie.

Impressions: American food would be better if it had rice and beans tucked in the side. Our cars are a bit big. Ferry boats are cute, but oh how quickly you learn to loath them. Christmas is a big ritualistic deal. Americans and Brazilians really are the same, just a little different. Pineapples cost a lot of money and computers and ipods do not. But most importantly; that we are ready to go back to Brazil and start a new life. The Brazilian has already left the building, but i follow in 25. And i'm taking you with me. Nervous? Me too. So until then, let's bake something, because yes i missed daring bakers.....but it won't happen again.

a bientot