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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

There Was a Wedding

Cupcakes and Cakes

Readers, i know you will forgive me for my absence when i say that i have been busy with a big project: a wedding. Yes a wedding cake! In Brazil, fondant is known as "American Paste" or something like that, as very few wedding cakes in Brazil are covered with the stuff. Leave it to an American to fulfill the prophecy. Petit in size, the two-tiered cake was accompanied by an army of cupcakes; also unheard of in Brazil. I signed up to make the cakes from the minute i found out about this wedding, and of course i planned all along to bake and decorate it all on the day before the event as i knew there would be a few other things to do; such as getting the rest of the event planned and legalized. Wedding planner too? Whose wedding was this? My own :)

Yes. me. wedding on Saturday at 10:35 am in a civil registry office wearing a very tight (but coutour) pearl white dress that hit the knee. No fluffy "Say Yes to the Dress" princess gown. The plan: small wedding as un-wedding like as possible. But do not think we are rebels; it wasn't because we didn't want, but because i wasn't interested in having a real wedding with my side of the aisle empty. With the rest of my family back in the United States, there was no possiblity of asking everyone to fly to Brazil at the same time. The result: civil registry office with 16 witnesses followed by a lunch at a Brazilian steak restaurant (yes the ones with the dressed up Gauchos) and my laptop computer planted squarly on the table in lieu of my plate. Wedding reception via skype. Yes much different, but to me, the day was perfect.

Because of cake.

What is the perfect day to bake the cake for a saturday wedding. Answer: friday. I woke up friday morning (with an unexpected hangover from the previous night's dinner with fancy pants business men visiting from the US. i am asked along of course because i am an English speaking curiosity. what?) to do all the shopping for the cakes. Started baking about 2 (after a nap of course) and finished the army of cupcakes and small two-tiered rice and tapioca flour lemon cake. I covered the cake in white fondant and embellished with white fondant polka dots and white fondant ribbons to cover the horrid seams. I dusted the dots and ribbons with an irridescent pearl dust (not particularly visible in the photographs). Cupcakes, well they are too many flavors to list. The point is, I made my own wedding cake. And everyone, in particular my husband and I, loved it. So in my mind, the day was a success. Well, that and also driving to Paraty in Rio de Janeiro state right afterward. But that's for another post.

I moved to Brazil two months ago to attempt a new language, a new culture, a new career, a new life, and above all the rest, to get married to the man I love; The crazy brazilian who has been part of the Salty Cod since the beginning, the "editor" for those of you long-time readers who can recall. This blog began three years ago because of Paris, and that's exaclty how H and I began; three years ago because of Paris. Two months of paperwork, two months of house work (moving in tomorrow!), and just 6 more months of pending permanent residency, but we're married. We're happy. And now we're back on track with more regular posting.

Upcoming: Exploring the colonial town of Paraty, Rio de Janeiro & inaugurating my new kitchen. Stay tuned.

a bientot

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ice Cream 2 Ways

Avocado Lemon & Lemon Mint

Ice cream? In March? Remember i'm in the Southern hemisphere now and it is (the end) of summer. Over the past (almost 4) weeks i have realized a few things: i am not going to use the oven to bake anything until i move into my house, i'm not interested in baking yet in the heat, and i enjoy using serial commas. Now obviously it is possible to bake in the heat, millions do it and i have no doubt that i will. But the oven in this house.....and it's not because it's gas, thousands of bakers bake with gas, even my new still-in-plastic shrink wrap oven is gas (though it has a nifty ignite button, so no matches). It's something else....this oven just doesn't like me; it knows i'm North American. Actually there is no thermometer or temperature gauge anywhere to be found and i am not yet quite to the level (and loss of sensory nerve) where i have skill enough to stick my hand inside and determine "yup, 219 celcius." For example. The other day there were 7 blackening bananas, and so before they were mashed 50-50 with sugar in a sauce pan for "dessert" (read: plain) i said hey, stop, let's make banana bread, because after all that is what we Americans do with bananas is it not? Alright alright they nodded, (this of course came out of my mouth in my wonderful present tense Portuguese) and i made the bread. Not cake, i insisted they call it bread. Sweet bread seems to not compute. As the story goes, the thing came out charred black. This was a problem the last time i was here as i recall. But cut away the bottom and sides and it's perfect inside. You've spleened me for the last time oven, now i am only making things on top of you or with no heat at all.

While we were in the middle of miserably hot weeks (90 degrees is miserably hot for me) i thought, ah, i'll make ice one makes homemade ice cream here. No kidding. But i didn't actually want to be right with that statement. Why make it when you can buy it everywhere? that's something that is starting to pop up more and more around me. The bakeries make bread, so why make it? Cookies come in packages, so why mess up a pan? Well, i guess the answer to all of it is i like to do it. It's not the product i am crazy over, it is the process. However, one thing, at least in this household, that is homemade more often than bought is juice. Juice? Granted there are dozens of varieties of juices at the grocery market, but fresh fruit is not expensive, and buying an entire pineapple for one pitcher of juice is quite reasonable. I watch H's mom make juice daily out of pretty much anything. One carrot and one apple? Done. Chop, put in blender, add water and sugar, then strain and drink. She has a pretty fancy pants juicer that happens to be named Mallory (the name of the electronics brand, seriously. they manufacture coffee makers, toasters and fans too) but she does it this way. Lemons, avocados, oranges-seriously it takes a lot of fruit to make a small amount of juice. But no one has scurvy around here that's for sure. So yesterday there was a bag of passion fruits, about 6 apple-sized yellow globes. I (myself) will make passion fruit juice. When you cut into a passion fruit it is quite hollow, there is a glob of seeds attached to a pink membrane with a little juice surrounding. Once that is scraped out all that is left is white sponge and quite unattractive nodes that look like sea anemone tentacles. Whoever thought to call this fruit 'passion' has a sick mind...the Brazilians actually believe it to be a sedative fruit, quite ironic actually. Can't get to sleep? Suck on a passion fruit. In Portuguese it is called maracuja. I mixed it with squeezed lemons, sugar and water and thought it extremely tart (but good). Later i noticed H's mom added about 50 percent more water. Guess i'm too tart.

What? Ice cream? As i was set on making ice cream to do a post for poor Salty, i had it stuck at the front of my mind. We went to Sao Paulo last week for another visit to the US consulate to finish up a few things, and on the way we stopped at my favorite place smack on the corner of a highway exit ramp, the kind with large obnoxious billboards- where? None other than the extremely corny Castelinho da Pamonha, also known as the "Corn Castle" to grab some corn ice cream to make going to the consulate less dreadful. Now, i wrote about this place last August when i recreated the sweet corn ice cream in a post here. I guarantee you that anyone who visits will be forced even against their will into this place. there's even a corn playground. Neither here nor there, but i couldn't make and post corn ice cream i keep moving.

Two days later i went for a visit to an aunt's house (there are about 20 aunts) which is settled in the garden of an extremely large mansion in a private condominium surrounding a river. Why in the garden? Her husband is the gardener. We were there, of course, for "afternoon coffee" and snacks...slightly British if you ask me. We went into the kitchen and she opened the oven; each rack was lined with avocados (Brazilian avocados are huge, bigger than mangoes) that practically spilled out over the floor. jesus, i said, your oven is full of avocados. well, what a wonderfully obvious statement. Now the sky is blue. But at least i'm trying. Aunts, uncles and cousins are the only ones so far who i am comfortable attempting to practice my wretched Portuguese on. Now there were two more large buckets of avocados on the porch; how is she going to use all these? Horrific thoughts returned to last January in my grocery market in Poulsbo (near Seattle) where i unfortunately had to pay $2.50 for a single rotten avocado that was smaller than an apple. yeesh. Another bucket of lemons, a bucket of oranges, and every 5 minutes one of the caged-quails seemed to pop out yet another spotted egg. Well, i have to say being a gardener looks quite rewarding in more ways than one. When we left we took a shopping bag full of avocados and lemons. i'm going to make avocado and lemon ice cream. Thanks tia.

Back to the nobody makes ice cream here statement. I want an ice cream maker for my birthday (which is in July), i told H a few weeks ago. Anyways. Haven't yet seen one at any kitchen store....gulp. So i'm making it by hand for now. Guess they aren't the most popular selling of products-First sign. Now for cream; everyone knows you need cream to make ice cream (hence the second part of the word.) So we be at the grocery store, "where is the cream? doesn't anything come in bottles?" Poor H who tries to help as best he can to accommodate my outrageous projects that make no sense to Brazilians. He looks, thinks, then says "what kind of cream? What does it come from?" uh, a cow. Oh. We shuffle to an aisle with cardboard boxes full of already prepared whip cream mix that you simply whip. No, not this. I want pure cream, this has sugar and chemical junk in it, isn't there anything fresh? Something that has to be kept cold? At this point he is quite confused and my attitude doesn't help. The people at the store inform us that they don't sell it-second sign. please please, this is not the time to have one of those breakdown culture-shock moments. Over the weekend we stopped by the pharmacy at Carrefour and thought to see if they had cream in a bottle, they did (i think it's cream....) have cream in a bottle. Fresh whipping cream (i hope that's what it is...). Hooray Carrefour! However slightly expensive. At this point i decided to make two flavors, because i'm like that. I need mint now. For lemon mint ice cream. Mint?...again i have confused the poor man, like toothpaste flavor, i clarify. I head over to the produce section with green leaves and herbs, H asks "why are you here then?" I pick up a bundle of mint and say uh, to get the mint. "That's mint? Mint is blue." interesting....wait what?? Let's laugh and move on. We are so lucky to be awarded so many possibilities to laugh at the smallest of things each and every day. Culture is such a wonderful thing, nothing is wrong, nothing is right, all it is is different.

So here is my ice cream, no machine, only hand. It is a combination following the methods of David Lebovitz and Jamie Oliver (both don't mind machine-less cream). I made them both at 5:30 this morning since H left early for work (we have an appointment at the registry office early in the afternoon, immigration stuff). All ingredients were thrown in the blender, and then poured into casserole dishes and placed in the freezer. As they are thick (in depth) they took quite a while to freeze, stirring every 30 minutes to break up the clumps. Would you believe 5-6 hours? Avocado is a great ingredient to use when attempting the dish method to make ice cream as it is a naturally fatty food and allows the ice cream to remain creamy with fewer ice crystals. And, not surprisingly, the lemon mint tastes exactly like a mojito. Now we have homemade ice cream, probably the only homemade ice cream around for miles. Was it worth it? I think so.

Avocado Lemon Ice Cream
500ml cream, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 can sweetened condensed milk, 2 Brazilian avocados (like 4 of the wimpy ones in the U.S.), juice of 2 lemons, 1 tsp vanilla extract (or powder).

Lemon Mint Ice CreamIngredients:
600ml cream, 1.5 cups sugar, 1/2 can sweetened condensed milk, juice of 2 lemons, 1-2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint leaves.

Method (for both):
Combine all ingredients in a blender and whirl until smooth (you need to use a blender or you will have avocado chunks...mmm). If using a machine, follow the instructions for your particular model. If making by hand, poor into a shallow baking dish (plastic, glass, etc.) and place in the freezer. Check it after 45 minutes and stir with spatula or whisk. Keep checking every 30- 60 minutes (depending on size of container and temperature of freezer) keep stirring until it is consistency enough to serve.

a bientot

ps. i'm experimenting with banners, this is the third in the past three weeks....can't quite get it right. Yes i do take constructive criticism as useful. So keep it coming.