Thursday, June 30, 2011

POSITIVE CONTROL NUMBER 4 - No loss of appetite for Ed who almost missed out

For the last of our demo cakes we called upon our budding pastry chef to show off her skills and she came through quite nicely.  She picked a berry shortcake cake, which included fresh berries (as you can see on top), whipped cream frosting that she used also for decoration and a not too sweet yellow cake.  There were two layers separated by whipped cream and again some fresh berries.  It was good and light and as mentioned not sickeningly sweet like so many entries are.  So the bar has been set high for student cake month.
Our pastry chef friend is on the left!
Worthy of the pros!

A stellate decorative pattern with berries, whipped cream and almonds!

Ready for the cut!

They layered look.
Quite a number of the student went to a luncheon today and came back professing to be too full to try the cake.  What goobers! One even claimed to have eaten the food of three others.  What a glutton! Nevertheless despite almost missing out as the cake had been two thirds consumed five-piece Ed appeared to show how he could better manage his appetite and downed two pieces before it was all gone.
Eating a big lunch ain't gonna stop this guy!
This is pretty damn good!
The unofficial cake eating champ shows his form!
Although we hadn't planned on naming one we hereby declare Ed the cake eating champion of the week.  He is the first person on the list for student cake month and as he indicates he might be a spectacular failure at least we can give him some recognition.  Let the cakes begin!!  (Actually it will start on July 11 so stay tuned!)

We bade farewell to one of our cake hour comrades today.  Good luck to him in Fairbanks, Alaska where mercifully he is just visiting prior to heading off to medical school.  Tomorrow another colleague goes who was not the biggest cake eater but decided to join the party today at least.  She's also off to medical school.
Farewell to a good cake buddy as he is off to med school!
Gone tomorrow so cake today!
Sometimes you wonder how people come up with things. Today a few bent prongs of a plastic fork somehow transformed the fork bender, at least in their own mind, into Freddie Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street or whatever movie he is in.  There isn't really a lot of resemblance but nothing wrong with an active imagination.

What does Freddie Krueger have that I don't have?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

POSITIVE CONTROL NUMBER 3 - Flourless cake so yes, it's gluten free!

For our third demo cake we roped a student in to come up with something even though student cake month hadn't started. The reason is simple, he was a little braggadocious (isn't that a great word)  about his culinary abilities so we called him on it. And no, this does not get him out of having to take part in student cake month. We just figured he would set a good example.

And he did! He came with something that you will sometimes hear described with at touch of effeteness in restaurants by self-important waitresses. "A flourless chocolate cake served with a mixed berry coulis and chantilly!"  Like a cake is supposedly better because it is flourless. What that really means is there is a lot more fat in it to keep it solidified and BTW we're not concerned about gluten.  In addition to making the cake he also prepared the coulis from fresh berries and hand whipped the cream on the spot. It's best fresh after all!

Ed's back trying for another five pieces to go galloping down his gullet!

Our student chef and his creation!

This cake was dense, chocolatey and rich. The correct presentation is shown below with a swirl of coulis to one side and the dollop of whipped cream aka chantilly on the other. The two complemented the chocolate cake well and our student "volunteer" scored a hit. Perhaps hoping to reprise his success from the previous day Ed was right up there for the first piece.  The amount he consumed today remains undetermined.

The presentation!

We were interested in learning how our chef had acquired his skills and found out that he had worked in several restaurants.  Last summer the restaurant was Erbaluce in the Bay Village section of Boston.  As a person of Italian heritage he complimented the restaurant by saying it had the most authentic Italian cuisine this side of Italy and his home kitchen.  It turns out one of us used to live two doors down from this restaurant and remembers when it was known as Mario's - a neighborhood Italian restaurant with passable red sauces. My how things have changed.

It was then pointed out that the parking lot right behind the restaurant had a significant historic meaning. It was the site of the Melody Lounge of the former Cocoanut Grove Nightclub and it was in this lounge part of the club where the famous fire started that ultimately took close to 500 lives.  It's a very interesting story when you realize that the fire lasted all of seven minutes and did not destroy the property. Those still remaining at cake time had never heard of the event. For more info get a copy of the book or check here:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

POSITIVE CONTROL NUMBER 2 - Ed gets the summer blues five times

Our second positive control or demo cake was actually a summertime version of a blueberry pie.  This is a very good recipe and gives you all the goodness of those blueberries without them being cooked to death.  The pie can be in a traditional crust or a crumb crust. The crust, if necessary, is baked in advance  as the pie itself is not. A sauce of cornstarch mixed with water, sugar, lemon and some of the berries is cooked on the stove and then poured over the remaining blues.  This mix is poured into the crust and kept in the fridge until it gels.  The topping is none other than whipped heavy cream and a little bit of sugar and vanilla. In our case as you can see, the topping was applied and the used in combination with some fresh berries to creatively decorate the pie.  I mean this is a demonstration so you got to set a good example, no?

One pie...

and a second!

Topped and adorned with whipped cream....

....and fresh blueberries!

Nicely decorated..... set a good example!

The result is a pie that is refreshing not that sweet and not at all heavy as a standard blueberry pie might be. (Not that we are dissing blueberry pies that we actually like lots.) It hit the spot with a number of people who never come back for seconds but did so this time.

Ready to go!

Add caption

The winner in that category would be our student intern Ed who happened to be the first to arrive.  He devoured one piece and as thereafter he was still only the person who had arrived he was offered a second piece which he gladly accepted.  Other people did finally arrive but Ed hung around and consented to a third and fourth piece.  Towards the end there was still some pie to go around and the fifth, albeit smaller piece that was served up was also easily consumed. Actually it was fun seeing how many we could get him to eat and I think he set a record. If this continues everyone should plan to make larger cakes and tortes or bring extra brownies!
Two thumbs up with Ed in the background looking for piece number 5!
I guess Ed's all finished now!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

POSITIVE CONTROL WEEK - Black Forest cake to start

What is positive control week aka demonstration week.  Well, with student cake month coming up we decided to have a cake time week that would be full of really good cakes either purchased or homemade.  Today we featured the Vienna Bakery Black Forest Cake.  As you can read in previous postings the Black Forest cake or Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte is the cake of all cakes in at least one humble opinion and is the featured dessert in the lovely placed of Freiburg, Germany. The problem is that what you get in the United States usually bears little resemblance to the German recipe.  The best exception was Ursula's European Pastries whose demise we still bemoan.

Loving the inscription!

A respectable American version...

....of the Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte or Black Forest Cake
This version from the Vienna Bakery, however, is a respectable alternative. It is a little sweeter than the real thing and did not taste like it had the Kirschwasser or Cherry Brandy - a critical ingredient! The maraschino cherries are also off the mark as sour cherries are supposed to be used. However, it has the mandatory whipped cream frosting and the cake and the filling were not overly sweet.  It is indeed very good and is nothing like the hyper-frosted super sweet versions that commercial bakeries usually put out.  The inscription on the cake was also a nice touch as the named person is a Black Forest Cake aficionado to say the least.

Layers of chocolate cake with whipped cream and cherries..if only it had the cherry brandy!
This was definitely a good start to demo week and set a good example for the students who have to step up during the month of July. Unfortunately for them a scheduling indiscretion resulted in them getting a lesson on how to watch a lab robotic machine do its job - actually it was a lesson on how to set up and run the robot. So while they watched the machine pipet samples the rest of us got to indulge and finish off the cake. Too bad for them but they are all prepared for that robot should they ever get to use it!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Staving off dementia

Where's the cake? I don't see a cake. Do you see a cake??

There was no cake today. Whereas cake time or Kaffee und Kuchen (Coffee and Cake) is a well regarded part of German life it probably doesn't beat beer and wurst.  Today's surprise was that cake hour featured the latter.  Today the carbos came from the beverage of beer and our protein from the hot dogs.  This was actually a rebirth of beer Friday which took place several years ago when through some phenomenon that we still don't understand about 19 undergraduate students were accepted into the summer program.  Apparently they couldn't tolerate being in an area where the study of the effects of alcohol consumption  took place without feeling compelled to fully participate in the project by consuming some alcohol themselves.

Bringing back beer Fridays!
Once they departed and our sanity returned we went back to sweets but in a nod to the hotter weather and the expired tradition a few opted to bring back the beer and off we went.  There was a good selection including an organic Bavarian brew and Clausthaler non-alcoholic beer for the youngsters.  There were some wheat beers and even a Sam Adams Brewery version of Kölsch which is a beverage served in the city of Köln aka Cologne in Germany.  We don't have a good frame of reference so we can't really judge the latter.

The full menui and no cake in sight!

Chips and salsa!

A sample plate is prepared

A fine beer display

Quite a selection too!
To complement the brewskis our hosts featured some chips and salsa and hot dogs.  Given some of the research done here the dogs offered were Oscar Meyer nitrate/nitrosamine free.  It seems that nitrosamines have been implicated in dementia and/or Alzheimer's disease.  How nice that we were able to eat our wieners without worry.  They were very good and so it now begs the question what are the nitrosamines good for if they can taste just fine without them.  We'll be looking for more of these nitrosamine free products hitting the shelves.

Tasty hot dogs and we won't be demented!

No dementia for me either!

Enjoying the scene he helped create!

All the students in one place!

We can have our wurst and eat it too!
The pseudo beer bash was well attended and the new summer crew were happy to attend.  What is it about these students that prompt them to always sit together in a clump. Peer pressure? Trying to fit it? Disinterest in other age groups?  Who knows but it happened here and it is likely it is going to happen again.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Famous 4th Street Cookies and a Quiz

Over the past weekend while others were carousing at the wedding of our graduate student colleague, another was off to Pennsylvania, where the bride is from, for a graduation.  This resulted in a short but nice visit to "the City of Brotherly Love" aka Philadelphia, PA.  On Sunday the weather was perfect for a walkabout which included the cathedral, the Ben Franklin parkway museum area, and the obligatory walk up the steps of the art museum while dodging all the runners emulating Rocky Balboa whose statue is on the museum grounds.  From there it was on to Rittenhouse Square, Chestnut Street and the Reading Terminal Market which is a great place that has food prices that are significantly less than in Boston.
Inside the Reading Terminal Market

The visit to the market presented the perfect opportunity to bring something back for cake hour and the selected vendor inside the market hall was the Famous 4th Street Cookie Bakery. 
Who knew they were famous!

A random selection waits inside

After the unveiling

These looked great and they offered a big selection so with instructions to just give me your selection of 16 cookies the salesgirls did their job and packed me a nice little box to go in a reusable Reading Terminal Market bag no less! The cookies made it back with Amtrak safe and sound and were the featured treat today.  However before serving them up I wondered what did people actually know about Philadelphia other than it being the home of the Liberty Bell (if they even knew that.)

So before anyone could make a cookie selection they had to take the Philadelphia Quiz. This was a quiz with 12 questions and one for extra credit pertaining to classical, colonial and contemporary Philadelphia. The highest scorer got to pick the first cookies and the second highest next etc. Our champion scored 10 right although she admitted she was mainly guessing. The bulk of the crowd got around 7 correct which is not too bad considering how little and impact the city is having on their lives. Take the quiz and see how you do!

The cookie selection was comprehensive and fairly represented their offerings including chocolate chip, peanut butter cookies, sugar cookies, white chocolate and macademia nut or so it seemed etc.
The full offering
Looks like chocolate chips with nuts
A sugar cookie
Classic Oatmeal Raisin
Pick your favorite

For the complete menu check out their website and see if you can match them up to the pictures. So if you are in Philly go to the Reading Terminal Market and grab yourself a cookie or an ice cream because they have that too!