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, October 31, 2013

Pandan Crème Brûlée

Hello Codets. Today we must celebrate. We must celebrate a Salty Cod victory. Today, the essence of this very post marks the first time since 2009 that we have managed to return to our once a week (four times a month) quota of posting. Indeed, three barren years of singular, double and triple appearances per month (not to mention the many months of absence all together). But today we break this barrier, today, on this loveliest of Halloweens, we sing a sweet song of victory. Codets! Sound the alarm! We be back yo.

Today is a bit grey in Sao Paulo city. I am glad though, feels more like Halloween. After a few English classes this morning in which we discussed the history of Halloween, i got to recipe testing flavored creme brulee. During my classes we stumbled upon a few articles breaking down Halloween costume popularity; among children the most common are princesses and super heroes. To this, my students questioned, why are there non-scary costumes? I never really thought about it. When i was a young child i was everything from a pumpkin to pooh bear, fairies to bumble bees. Kids don't think about being scary. Original Halloween costumes are intended to simply trick wandering spirits from recognizing you. I highly doubt many wandering spirits would mess with Tinkerbell. I much prefer cute Halloween to scary; reminiscing when my youngest sister at age one masqueraded as a purple Teletubby. I do think it is sad that Brazilian children don't get the fun and excitement of Halloween. Sure, people tell me it is "just like Carnival! dressing up in silly costumes!" but honestly, Carnival isn't much of a children's holiday...which in my opinion is a good thing. Halloween, for American children, is a liberating day. You smell Halloween in the air, you feel it coldly creeping through your too-thin fairy tights and leotard because you didn't listen to your mom telling you to wear a jacket, dinner? unlikely. It is the only day where you know you will have more candy than all other days of the year combined. I do feel lucky to have so many great memories from being a child; from being an American child. On that note i am pleased to announce that my baby niece on her first Halloween will be promenading around as a perky peacock!

Now, being that i am not into making ghoulish pasta or hot dog witches if  there are no children around (though I have a feeling H would probably like it) I decided to run through some recipe testing for pandan crème brulée that I am intending to serve with the dessert course for an event im working next week. The event is a connection social featuring a foie gras purveyor (apparently the lady makes her own foie, erm, in the backyard?) a live pianist, a breathtakingly beautiful venue, and a three course plated sit down dinner cooked by yours truly. The theme is Indochine, meaning Vietnamese dishes that reflect French influences. I won't divulge the full menu as i plan on doing that next week after i've either succeeded or failed miserably. The guest list is estimated at around forty. I have two waitresses and a sous chef to help plate in a timely manner. How the hell i am going to serve forty people simultaneously is going to be the biggest challenge of the event.

Returning; there is no frenchier dessert than crème brulée, so in order to twist its ankle out of cliché overuse at expensive sit downs, I decided to flavor it with something a little more Vietnamese. My first attempt was mixing shredded coconut directly into the cream mixture. The result was tasty but there was concern that "purists" might resent the change in texture (the shredded coconut turned creamy into fluffy) so i nixed the shredded idea. I had been concerned as well that coconut milk might not set as well as cream, so i combined cream and coconut milk together and the texture kept and set just fine. success. But then i kept reading about pandan waffles, pandan crepes, pandan this and that on Vietnamese food blogs. I'd never actually tasted pandan before, but now i wanted it. Pandan extract is very strong, very condensed. much more potent than vanilla. It smells like mossy almonds. very unique. i was worried mossy almond might not translate very well in a creme brulee, but the result was really refreshing and still very much a traditional crème brulée. I tried to mix coconut flakes in with the sugar for the burned cap, but it burned too quickly and tasted like carbonized coconut. so don't do that.

For the dinner event the crème pots will be served on a plate along side miniature banh cam, fried glutinous rice flour balls filled with a sweet and spicy paste and rolled in sesame seeds. Mine will be filled with bananas and cinnamon and be sitting on top of a puddle of coconut cream.

Pandan Crème Brulée
Yield: 10 miniature ramekins or 5 large ramekins

5 egg yolks
300g cream
100g coconut milk
1/2 (American) cup sugar
a small dash of pandan essence (i mean small)
green food coloring

Mix absolutely everything together in a bowl.
Divide mixture evenly among ramekins
Place in a ban marie (casserole dish filled with a few cm or water)
Bake on medium low for roughly 45 minutes
Let cool in fridge until set

 Yes, you are right. Pandan cremes have absolutely nothing to do with Halloween. They're green, mysterious and sweet. So maybe...just maybe. I don't want to ruin the mood, but you could tell your kids that they are slime pots if you really want to get into spirit. These might be a big hit at next year's St. Patrick's Day party though, so keep that in mind.

I will close off this delightful victory post by thanking you, all of you, who are reading this. Salty has been through so much, the world of blogging and particularly food blogging has changed so much since 2007, but it's nice that you are still here. Happy Halloween.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Wedding Cake

Hello Codets. It's a hot October day--perfect for a rooftop wedding party. We delivered this 25 pound cake this morning to a rooftop wedding party in Jardins -- I know very little of the clients other than that they are a Dutch woman and French man and are modern enough to choose flavor over cliché fondant. A wedding cake can be anything you want it to be. White, tiered fondant is not the only "cake" you can have at a wedding. A wedding cake should be more personal than that; it should show off a bit of your personality. Or, it should probably just taste good. Yeah. If you are going to be spending the kind of bling most people do on a wedding cake, you should at least get the best damn tasting product out there. 

This cake is comprised of four layers of (real) strawberry cake, three layers of dark Irish cream truffle, three layers of a strawberry cream and is covered in a vanilla butter cream. Yeah, it tastes good. The decor atop the behemoth, as always, includes fresh flowers. No one eats sugar paste or fondant flowers anyway, so why not just use real ones? They can last in the fridge for days. The bride requested the cape gooseberries specifically as she had seen them on my display cake at the last Night Market i participated in. They taste like unripe cherries, but are beautifully unique as they come in their own crispy, slightly rustic foliage. Where the wild flowers are.

We haven't posted a recipe here are the Salty Cod in months, so since we are talking about cake, let's discuss our recipe for our Irish cream chocolate truffle. I have made over 10 batches of this in the last month alone, it's pretty damn popular. Usually i serve them on the dessert table at catering events, but the same recipe is versatile enough to be converted into a cake layer. If you intend to use this truffle recipe for a cake layer, please note that i use a form (such as acetate plastic used in the Momofuku cake method) secured around the cake in order to make the truffle set evenly.

Irish Cream Chocolate Truffles

200 grams dark chocolate
1/3 cup cream
3 tablespoons Irish cream liquor (like Bailey's)

1) Chop chocolate into manageable pieces (unless using chips) and melt in a double boiler set up (or place a pan inside of a larger pan with water).
2) Add the cream and liqueur and whisk really well until all chunks are melted.
3) For truffles: pour chocolate mixture into a dish and refrigerate until solid to the touch. Roll Tbs size balls in dark cocoa powder.

The watercolor effect is quickly becoming our signature style. I feel it to be the most refreshing and easy on the eye. For information on how to order a cake in Sao Paulo, please contact me through my professional website.

For the rest of you, as always, thanks for stopping by.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Sunday Lunch

Hello Codets. I am trying to think of something very witty to tell you. but i feel very dull at the moment. It's Monday, nearly noon, I have an appointment to get to soon in Liberdade, the Japanese district of Sao Paulo. It's pleasantly warm outside. Cotton candy clouds, wispy breeze. my dog is sleeping on the couch. There are some very noisy birds attacking the amora tree outside my window. People think amora berries are blackberries, but they aren't because they grow on trees. and blackberries grow on bushes. obviously. The stuffed birds then fly to the foyer of the apartment building where, to the dismay of the building manager, they drop violet colored bombs on the stone tiles.Other than that it is fairly quiet.

I came by to share with you yesterday's luncheon. It was a great success. Less stressful as it was only for 15 people, but still around three days work. Our strawberry lemonade cake ended up looking like a giant candy corn, unintentional i should add. But it was very delicious. The appetizers were well received, though they ran out faster than i had expected. Vietnamese spring rolls are always the hit of the party here. The main dish was pad Thai, shrimp pad Thai. I have to admit that i think pad Thai is an very easy dish to prepare-- what is difficult about it is serving it. You can't let pad Thai sit around. after a few minutes it gets gummy. So i made two batches--two full wok loads. One mistake--i hadn't planned on plating (i was going to serve it family style) so when the party host asked me to plate it i went too fast and handed out larger than expected portion sizes so that i could quickly get the next round started in the wok. Not the best idea. Instead of reaching 15 plates i only reached about 10. People shouldn't have to wait around while others are eating. Thinking toward the future, pho is much more practical noodle dish for large groups as you can make it large enough to serve twenty plus without having to make a second batch of anything. Waiting time aside, the whole event went extremely well. I even managed to clean my kitchen before leaving for the party. That is a definite first. I think im starting to get into a rhythm which is making the whole process easier. as is the case, with almost everything in life.

This week we are working on a wedding cake and next week we are presenting a tasting menu for a large sit down dinner themed Indochine. Pretty damn nervous about that one.

It doesn't feel like October anymore. I think i am starting to forget what October was like. I always loved autumn. Leaf rot. End of summer. Dark evenings. Changing seasons allow you to feel and see the progression of the year. Climate wise that is what i miss the most about the northern hemisphere; the dramatic change between all seasons. We are slipping into summer in the south. Hot days are ahead.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

For The Love of Cake

Hello Codets. I thought I would stop by to show off a bit of last weekend's October photo session with our friends over at Sophie & Theo's Cupcakes. They are offering quite a few new products this month for Children's Day (October 12th) and of course Halloween, which isn't really celebrated in Brazil (at all) but is celebrated by many in the expat community (and in the ceramics department at pao de acucar, an upscale grocery chain). Anyway, we also focused the shoot on their wedding options. There are many ways to have cupcakes at your wedding! In jars, little glass domes and inside cute wooden boxes (made by the fabulous Photographer, Fabi, over at Caixa Florida).

I had a lot of fun with this shoot. How can you not have fun photographing a cupcake? Is there such a thing as a sad cupcake? Well, i think a bright blue tall hat frosted nightmare with rainbow sprinkles might be a bit sad. Anyway, IF you are in Sao Paulo, everything you see here is available upon order at their online shop.

Aside from photos this week, we are working on a big lunch event for next Sunday. The menu is a bit across the board, featuring risotto balls, salmon lollipops, spring rolls, pork filled puff pastry, phad thai, creme brulee, chocolate truffles and a four layer cake. That's a lot you might say for a party of fifteen! But, according to my client, the lunch is for her mother celebrating a big birthday and she really wants to be a greedy piggy. Her words not mine. Since it will be a lunch i am counting on some nice hopefully, hopefully some event shots for a change. The cake will be a small 4-layered strawberry and vanilla cake with peach-colored ombre frosting on the outside. It's good practice because i have the same cake (on a much bigger scale) due in two weeks for a wedding. Lot's of cake. I'm really glad people are starting to turn away from fondant back toward flavor. Buttercream is way more attractive and appetizing (i think) than fondant. Well, we can talk more about that later. Until then --

Oh by the way, if you haven't done so yet, feel free to "like" of our Facebook Page.  Yeah, i know, sorry sorry. But who doesn't use Facebook?