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.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Am I Popular?

Cranberry Bread Guest Post Em Português

This has been a busy month, but i guess you don't need me to tell you that. There have been babies born, business started, trips taken, games played, jobs gained, jobs lost, and everything else in between (when i list that, i am not talking about myself. obviously...). It seems that i have been stumbling around in the dark when it comes to Salty over the past 5 months, and i have been. Details are not really needed other than the fact that i, like you all, have been going through a bit of a pinch, a hurdle in the road, an elephant in the room, a blind man staring at writing in the sky...nobody knows what i am saying. Ergo we are back!

At the beginning of the month, the staff members here at the Salty Cod were asked to perform their first ever guest post. And we did. So it seems only fitting that we end the month with another guest post, my aren't we popular these days. Remember this time of year two years ago (no you don't) when we were posting about cooking a 30 pound turkey for 40 Frenchies at our place in Paris? Life rolls on doesn't it. Well, our dear friend Moira in Portugal invited us to celebrate the second anniversary of her blog, Tertulia de Sabores, by being the foreign guest blogger to round out the month long celebration of guests. Maybe you weren't around for the Portugal days, but we at the Salty Cod love all things Portuguese, and Moira's blog is one of our favorites. So we jumped at the bit to provide an American (uh oh) recipe for her readers. You can see the post over at Tertulia, though it is in Portuguese, so we will post the English version here. But we wish to say happy birthday again to Tertulia de Sabores, e muito obrigada por nos convidar para celebrar com você.

In this region of the world (the big one below Canada and above Mexico) the holiday season begins mid November and carries through the New Year. Mid November begins the Thanksgiving preparation, that is preparing a turkey filled menu for 8, maybe 15, maybe even 30 people. Thanksgiving is our big holiday here in the States, other than the 4th of July (which really is not so special as most countries celebrate an Independence or national day) Thanksgiving is our “look at us we're special and unique” day. Turkey, bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, and – cranberries. More than any other flavor, cranberries are the taste of the season. It doesn't matter what they are in, on, or around, anything with cranberries in it means dark days of winter, large holiday meals, and in no time at all, Christmas Eve festivities.

When Moira asked if my recipe could be American (as I am the special Portuguese-reading “foreign” guest), I was a little unsure what to make. American? What is American food? I am American and I can't even answer that. I have come to the conclusion that American food is anything that tastes good. Italian, Mexican, and Chinese – these, to me at least, are American foods. But when thanksgiving rolled around, and the bowls of cranberries started piling up, I realized that cranberries were not only a symbol of the holiday season, but more specifically the symbol of the American and Canadian holiday seasons (I'm half Canadian, so represent yo).

Now don't throw out small statistics about Chile and Eastern Europe producing a few barrel fulls of cranberries every year, cranberries are without a doubt indigenous to North America, and have yet to really draw a huge international following. Why? Probably because lingonberries taste (nearly) the exact same, and there are plenty harvested in the Baltic. Over 90% of the world's cranberries are produced in America and Canada, from the Pacific state of Washington, to the Atlantic powerhouse producer of Massachusetts. So, what could be more American to post about than the tart and tiny cranberry. Maybe you have been able to find cranberries in Europe, but I remember full well how difficult it was to find them when I lived in France, and where did I find them? An American import store of course, and at 10 euros a can!

If you have never had a cranberry before, know that they are impossible to eat fresh from the bog. They grow in water bogs, floating on the surface like sparkling rubies. They are inedible when raw, and are found primarily in sauces, juices, baked goods, or sweetened and dried. Cranberry sauce is the traditional dressing for a holiday turkey, but cranberry juice is usually enjoyed year round. For bakers, cranberries mean one thing – cranberry bread. Every American has had cranberry bread at one time or another during this season, it is quite standard. Laced with citrus such as orange or lemon, covered in chocolate, or sprinkled with spices, like any type of quick bread you can doctor it any way you like, as long as it has cranberries in it.

It is very easy for one to say that they love every season; I love the heat of summer, oh but I love the beauty of spring, but the colors of fall are so vibrant, and then there is winter – you can't love every season now can you. Maybe I don't love any single one, but rather like them all equally. This year I am a bit more sentimental in maintaining the images of my holidays, habits, and traditions. I am moving out of the country in a few months to start a different life, and I am not sure when I will have my American Northwest holiday again. But smells, sounds, and tastes make the best memories. Even a million miles away, I know I will still be able to taste the cranberries.

Cranberry Bread with White Chocolate and Ginger

2 1/2 cup flour
1 orange, zested
½ cup orange juice
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp melted butter
200 gr chopped cranberries
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped white chocolate

Method: Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, butter, juice, zest, and ginger. Add to the flour mixture and combine. Stir in the cranberries and chocolate chips. Divide the batter into greased loaf pans, and bake at 375 for 50 – 60 minutes. Use a wooden skewer to check if the inside is still liquid. Let cool, and drizzle with any remaining white chocolate.

Enjoy the end of November Codet(te)s (pretty clever no? That is how i will now refer to you the reader). So December is finally here. We will begin our regular weekly posts again here at the Salty Cod finally after a few months of strings. Why only now as the hectic season picks up? Well, let's just say we're about to get our inspiration back.

as always,
a bientot

Friday, November 27, 2009


not a poo, not a soccer player, just a cannoli.

Mallory, that looks like poo. Are we supposed to eat it? This month's Daring Bakers Challenge was unfortunately not gummi bears like i had predicted, but something much better, something i have always dreamed about baking. Oh wait, no baking involved. Have i told you that i hate deep frying? Well, i will tell you now. Save doughnuts and chiros, anything coming out of a fryer looks like a piece of crap. More honesty box? Cannolis have got to be the ugliest confection in the book. They are unattractive, look like a cross between a cigar and a poo that is starting to get furry on the ends. And they are a pill to make. Appetizing non? You want to make them now? Go for it, millions of people love them, and for those who don't eat with their eyes first, well they are perfect for you. Have i ever wanted to make a cannoli? No. I am 100% about appearances, if it doesn't look good, the photo won't look good. So how do you make a turd look good? Damn near impossible if you ask me. But you didn't ask me, so we'll try. We don't accept defeat with grace here at the Salty Cod, no we will curse and throw the dough mass in the trash and start over before accepting defeat, even with the chuckles burning down out neck. Oh cannoli you have spleaned me, at least now though we have met. Will you ever be on our bakery menu? Absolutely not. But you know, as with all thing in life, it is never pointless to have performed a task you disliked, you can't know that you don't like something until you try it. So here is the story of a white chocolate cannoli named kaka.

Purple and black are really hot right now. Said the grasshopper. I decided that if i had to make cannolis, i might as well make them when i had to cook, so i waited for Thanksgiving like every other American Daring Baker did. Who wants a Cannoli on Thanksgiving? Well, maybe the Italian American families do; mine is not far from an that though. A gaggle of French Canadian immigrants and a few Norwegians who think they are Vikings and you have a loud yelling stereotypical Italian family dinner table. Brilliant! Back to the story. Cannolis, hmm. The idea in the mind was dough dyed black filled white; piano key cannolis. As i made up the dough and began to fry, my uncle bellows from behind me, that looks like a dog turd!! A fried kaka! Joy. And i still have half the dough left. The rest of the family looks at them nervously, then finishes in a bout of laughter. My aunt adds, oh like krumkaka (Norwegian cookie cone) certainly is kaka! In my defense, i cry, hey! i didn't want to make these! and besides, they'll look better when they are filled. As the rest of my family were to arrive the next day i thought, damn, i better start a batch over. Black cannolis sound better in theory. So next morning, new batch. This time, purple.

The purple didn't solicit much praise either. Oh well, now it's all about the photo. Who cares if they taste like kaka, they'll at least match their appearance. I made up the cream. Shit, didn't drain the ricotta. Try number two, i'm not doing too well with this recipe apparently. 0 for 2. I frost their beards as i wait for it to chill, melted white rolled in crumbled white. Chocolate, that is. Will this damn recipe ever end. Piped. Time for some photos. Will we manage? Will we make the kaka look like a jewel? Is it possible? A Thanksgiving miracle perhaps? At this time i think of Martha Stewart, they say Martha could wrap a poo in tin foil and make a pretty ornament. Martha eh...i can turn this kaka into something that glitters like gold. Really? No. But a girl can dream can't she.

To be fair to the cannoli, appearances aren't everything. They were consumed lickety-split. Beauty is on the inside? Indeed. Said the cannoli to the biscotti: will you still love me when i lose my looks? The reply: honey, i didn't marry you for your looks. Love is blind. Cannolis are a delightful treat (those who ate them reported to me) despite their appearance. Daring Bakers i wanted to yell that this challenge was a fail, but i suppose failing would only be giving up. May we please do something with a cake, a cookie, a bread next time? Anna i'm talking to you.

The cannolis came, the cannolis went. If anything they gave us all a laugh, i always want a kitchen filled with laughter. Thanksgiving at my aunt's house has always been my favorite. And i have no doubt that i will miss it for many years to come, but will be able to look back on it with a wry smile in remembrance of the sweet, crispy fried kaka.

This month's Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. The cannoli recipe is from the book Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and from The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. Unfortunately the recipe was not completely the same as from the neither was mine true to the adapted recipe posted. I found the dough much too difficult to work with the first time around (sorry Lisa) and therefore went with an alternative recipe. So who's did i go with? A non-adapted cannoli shell recipe from At Home with Michael Chiarello, and i filled it with a ricotta mousse rather than cream to give it a little more structure.

Ingredients: 2 cups flour, 2 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, 3 tbsp white vinegar, 3 eggs (BIG difference from the recipe used for the challenge), 2 tbsp melted butter, 3 tbsp water (i used wine for the purple color) and oil for frying. The method will follow the same as the recipe used for the challenge.

The kakas were not so bad, i suppose. Will i make these again? I think you'd have to hold a gun to my head. Though if the cannoli are here already, you must have left the gun. Couldn't resist, i'm sure every Daring Baker this month quoted the Godfather at least once. In the end, i believe this was exactly what i needed. A humbling reminder that there are many thousands of things i am no good at making, and that even when you are fumbling in the kitchen, when you are fumbling with your family around, it is all worth it. This is a Thanksgiving i will remember with a smile, and who knows, maybe next year when i feel a nostalgia for Thanksgiving, maybe i'll make a batch of cannolis to remember and laugh. Only joking, not even for sappiness would i make these again. Cannolis, i quit you!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Death of (one) of My Idols

Goodbye Gourmet

It's been over a month since Condé Nast announced that it will be pulling the plug on its nearly 70 year old publication, Gourmet Magazine, and even though there has already been many heart felt cries of anger and misery shouted from blog to blog in concerns to this matter, we at the Salty Cod feel Gourmet, above all the other print publications we dream(ed) of shooting for deserves at least our good bye, and praise for a great run. And to pay a proper Salty tribute to the dying friend, we began this post with an 80 word sentence. Huzzah!

In early October CN announced that it would be discontinuing the print of Gourmet, Cookie (what the hell is that?) and two bride magazines due to both a loss in advertising interest and sales, I suppose. For me, and more likely than not for you and for any other food enthusiast, writer, or photographer, the idea of having a shot or story appear inside Gourmet's margins (or bleeding across two full pages in an aerial table shot) has crossed your mind. Along with Bon Apetit and Food & Wine, Gourmet was undoubtedly one of the forerunners in print food art and writing. Granted i've only been part of the food writing and photography world for about three years now (but i'm also only 23) but i've collected these issues over the years, as thousands of other food photogs have, for inspiration, insight, and well in the words of Tony – Gourmet is one beautiful centerfold of food porn. Even though the chances of ever appearing in the photo credits of a Gourmet issue are slim to none, they've never let slip from my mind, even after decisions to slip the country. Though now, sadly, a photo in Gourmet is one of those little cabbage patch dreams that must be laid to rest.

I can't help but feel a bit guilty for aiding (not being, I am not THAT full of myself. yet.) in the demise of the print industry, an industry that I yet dream to get into. Lovely irony. Blogs, websites and the myriad online recipe indexes are strangling any chance of renewed success in the print industry. All print publications for that matter. I mean look at the kindle, we don't even have to buy books anymore. All in all, are magazines done for? Is Gourmet just the first of many to yet fall? (well technically Condé Nast already folded a couple of other publications, including Men's Vogue. Surprisingly there wasn't much outcry). I've worked for a food magazine, albeit a small North Idaho publication, but the business of publishing is brutal, and the demands for it are waning. Hopefully this isn't the end. There is something about print photographs that have a certain spark and light that computer screen photos lack. Tell you what, if someday they all fold - we'll come out with our own, Salty Cod Magazine, to live on the food mag legend.

In the end we are paying a mourn and tribute to Gourmet, for many years (first issue was January 1941) of stunning photography and inspiring stories about cuisine from every corner of the world. As a food writer, food photographer and travel writer, we will miss you Gourmet, but rest assured we will continue your work for you. Sadly though we now have one less thing to read in the tub.

Thank you to my 11 year old sister G for for braving my big ol' camera to take the photo up top.

a bientot

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I'm a Guest

Chocolate Hazelnut Souffles

I've never done a "guest" post before for a fellow blog writer, but now i can say that i have. Mel of Bouchon for Two is traveling through Paris, and asked if i could do a French recipe to share with her readers, as i used to live in France and can provide a sappy yet hopefully entertaining commentary on Parisian nut, i made souffles. Hazelnut souffles. Tu sais that it's my first time making souffles too? Yes. So i've learned that they have tricks, and i've learned a lesson in speed photography. Why speed? You have solely two minutes to capture the souffle before he moves on; you have to be quick, no think, just shooting.

I will not post the whole story here - if you click Bouchon for Two (right here) you will be directed toward my story and recipe. Mmm yes, whether you care for souffle or not, it is a story about Paris, nuts, and love. What the hell more could you want? My souffles are tall, dark and handsome- exactly how i like them.

Petite Version:

Souffles, Paris, Love. I remember a while back Aran (pastry chef, author and photographer of Canelle et Vanille) wrote an ode to the souffle as a symbol of romance, and I have yet to drop the connection. A souffle for two is a romantic whisper, a fleeting “spur of the moment” as you have mere minutes to catch its climax before deflation. Similarly, love is a product of chance moments. That is, one fleeting moment stuck among three hundred million other chanced possibilities, the window of opportunity being infinitely minute. A souffle is a mirror image. You are given a chance with every souffle to marvel it before falls, if you miss it you miss it, love is the same way – your chance is as short as a peaked souffle, if you don't take it when it rises, you will miss it, and if you miss it , it is gone perhaps forever. The word souffle comes from the French verb souffler: the breath (gently), to whisper or to blow (ehem, as in a candle). A gentle whisper, perhaps a soft sigh, oh how romantic, how so very souffle.

A souffle for two...what is more romantic than sharing a whisper. Paris is clichéd as the city of love – but is it clichéd? Could it not be true? Perhaps for some, Paris can catch you that one in a million. And then? And then win him over with chocolate and nuts and he is yours forever. Does food always have a metaphor for life? Yes, yes it does. Photographing a souffle relies very little on a photographer's skill, instead it sits on their impulse. Shut up and click, you have two minutes, no time to think, just feel it, press it, capture it. It is now or never. Therefore life and love are your souffle. Take for your own the exact moment you want.

Ah, tu aimes et vouloir plus? Allez vers le blog de Bouchon For Two pour la recette.

a bientot

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ano da França...

Tropical French Macarons for a Sweet Victory

It's been nearly a month since Rio de Janeiro was chosen to host the 2016 summer Olympics. If somehow you hadn't yet heard, just pretend you did. Rio beat out Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo in the bid to hold the 2016 games, the city was chosen October 4th in Copenhagen, a decision that has sparked much joy coupled by expected grief. For Brazilians, for South Americans, and for anyone else who has a soul (mmm) the Rio victory symbolizes both a boost for Brazilian nationalistic pride (only a few Brazilians already have big heads) and a reaffirmation that indeed Latin America is finally coming into the world spotlight it has long deserved. Naturally there has been quite a bit of hesitation from both the Brazil-lovers and Brazil-haters (is there even such a thing? a Brazil-hater?) on the chosen city; "Rio is such a dangerous city" - "The money could be put to better use" - "All those tourists, such easy targets, Rio is a war-zone, what are they thinking!?" bla bla bla. But true. Sure Rio has a lot of problems, watch City of God and you won't disagree. But there are thousands of people living in Rio who aren't murderers, drug dealers, gang members, thieves, or helicopter snipers. There are millions of good people living in Rio and around Brazil who deserve the Olympic games. So here at the Salty Cod we wish to ask you to stop thinking about the negative aspects of Rio 2016, and instead close your mouth (preferably over a macaron), lay down your doubts, and celebrate with us that World Cup and the Olympics are going to be back-to-back in a country that will very soon take over the world. This is not a political blog, but we wish never-the-less to say stick it Chicago. Is there writing in the sky? BRASIL!!!

For those of you who don't know, one of our staff members here at the Salty Cod happens to be a Brazilian, so there has been much celebrating in and around the office and test kitchens. So what do we do to celebrate? Why, bake French pastries of course. With no room to brag in our novice qualifications as a patisserie (what qualifications?), I am quite good at making macarons. Yes, i said that. While no where near the skill set of say Helen or Aran whose recipes i've used over the past couple of years to navigate making my own macarons, i've done it enough, (and in quantities that would make some cry), that i know the ratios and timings in my head. What can i say, i like macarons. I lived in Paris, they are gluten-free, and i'm a self absorbed snob who secretly revels in the smug-pleasure of knowing that mine turned out with feet and yours need to see a podiatrist. Either way, a personal treat for a personal topic (mmm yes i take Olympics very personally). So i decided to make macarons, it's the year of France in Brazil anyways, so c'est absolutement parfait pour l'occassion. Then i realized Daring Bakers was doing October challenge macarons- merde, are you kidding me? Well, can't post macarons twice in a month. So. I'll save my idea. And celebrate my (excuse me, their) victory at the end of the month. This is my second month with Daring Bakers, and so far it has not been quite all that daring. Puff pastry and macarons....perhaps next month will be gummy bears.

What makes these macarons Brasilian besides their tri-color? There are Brazil nuts ground in with the almonds in the shells, and the fillings are assorted cheese mixtures with tropical fruit. Idea Original: creamed cheese with guava, but, no guavas in this part of the world. Ergo Idea Supplemental: creamed cheese with pineapple, creamed cheese with banana, and creamed cheese with avocados and apples. Is that a Brasilian macaron? Yes. Yes it is, verdade! Are there any macarons in Brazil now? I will say most likely not. Will that always be the case? Most certainly not.

So what do you know about Brazil aside from the capital as Buenos Aires (please catch my sarcasm here), tropical fruit hats, beautiful naked women, coconut water on the beach, hunky Latin lovers (scratch that), and children playing barefoot soccer in the womb? Nothing? Oh come on, even doctors had ideas. The smartest of medical school trained professionals know to ask (i am referring to my own...lady doctor here) if there are refrigerators in Brazil. Hmm, good question, as it may be difficult to hook up electricity to the Amazonian tree-houses all Brazilians live in. Well, maybe there is no Spanish word for refrigerator. To this point i believe the Rio Olympics are justified in of themselves; the world will be forced (through a month long series of Travel-Channel specials, McDonalds commercials and Visa advertisements) to see that Brazil is not a country of jungle people in grass skirts; me Tarzan you Jane- but a country as, if not more, rich and diverse than all the other tough guys out there. The Olympics may not be for 7 more years, but well, i think it's worth making a note today, tomorrow, and everyday. Carnival is year round non?! So why not the Olympics!

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Amy S of (i have no idea what her blog is). The recipe is by Claudia Fleming and is found in The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern. However, as i enjoy making macarons, i suggest you try using instructions from Helen of Tartelette, she is, without hesitation, a great teacher for those wishing to attempt a macaron for the first or twentieth time.

Petite French cookies to celebrate such a thing? What can i say, j'adore le Bresil.

*disclaimer: yes i know the capital or Brasil is Brasila not Buenos Aires and that Brasilians speak Portuguese not Spanish.....don't yell at me i was trying to be funny to make a point!

a bientot

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

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A bit of Travel Writing

Salty Sunday of Philosophical MusingFriends--I can call you friends, after all you're crazy enough to keep coming back to poke a nosy eye into my life, ergo we're friends. And now it is time for Salty Sunday; a moment of philosophical prose. lucky you. It is time for a house clarification: there are three main components of the Salty Cod: fancy pants baked goods, photography, and travel writing. It says it right there in the header. Often the last is forgotten though. We have never been nor ever will be uniquely a food blog. Sometimes food sometimes travel, and sometimes neither? Perhaps this removes me slightly from the community, but what can i do; i'm a slashy.

About a month ago i wrote this article for a travel writing contest on ah-ha moments. I knew i would not win as i exceeded the 200 word count by nearly double. what can i do, i'm a brat. But perhaps on this Salty Sunday of Philosophical Musing, i should resurrect it for someone other than a rejection inbox to read. I will preface it by letting you into something personal; i miss Brasil and what i left in it so much that it hurts.

Under the Stars in Ouro Preto
What a bloody tourist town. We walked past the main square, Tiradentes, as a group of tourists crowded around a gaggle of street performers syncing a drum beat. Tonight was not my mood for entertainment. In our hands were plastic cup caipirinhas purchased from a sticky floored locals-only bar; half the price but twice the flavor. One block past the square—all was deserted. We climbed the stone wall surrounding the Cathedral, Aleijadinho's masterpiece. Are we allowed to sit here? No one near to stop us. I looked at the sky while swinging my legs against the centuries old brick; “you know,” I began with a slight hiccup, “I see the same moon in lets see...where is the big dipper?” “The big what?” my accomplice replied. I stopped short—ah yeah, southern hemisphere. i had forgotten I was somewhere else. How the hell does an American forget that they are in Brasil. So we have the same moon, but different stars. A connection yet a cut. It looks like the difference is merely in the details; big picture little picture. “I don't know what is a dipper,” he went on, “but there are, others you can see...” he resolved as he pointed ubiquitously “up” toward the constellations whose distances, in reality, dwarf our own perceived continental chasms into minute scales of nothingness. My eyes filled and began to salt my caipirinha. Was a bit too sweet anyway. Why do i feel no pangs of homesickness. I looked again to the moon, the same moon, and I knew I was not so far away; how could one feel homesick whilst in their own backyard.
Revelations: The medical test for the feeling of place is simple: if when stabbed with the realization of being far from home there occurs no pain or remorse at or around the injection site—then the diagnosis is that you are home already. Ah-ha.
I scraped the last crystals of sugar off the bottom of my cup. That was the strongest mojito i've ever had. I slid off the stone wall, I won't feel it on my bare legs until tomorrow. For a tropical country, Brazilian winter nights are pretty damn chilly. But enough with the stars, my lemony lips tell me. In a cobblestone town, you have to watch where you place your feet; eyes to the ground, and give me your hand. It is now time to walk home.

A bientot