Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pineapple Cakes Again

Prior to 2012 we had never heard of Taiwanese Pineapple Cakes.  In contrast, in 2012 we have now had them three times. That is largely because we have had people pay visits to Taiwan and get them as souvenirs.  In one case they were actually homemade. Apparently these cakes are pretty popular - particularly among visitors. However they are considered an appropriate treat representing Taiwan what with pineapples being grown there that represent hospitality and such.  For lots of information about this take a look here: http://taiwanfoodculture.net/ct.asp?xItem=48618&ctNode=2680&mp=1502.
More Taiwan Pineapple Cakes!
Definitely made in Taiwan

Nice individual wrapping


The ones we had today were a commercial product probably acquired in a gift shop or at an airport.  They boxes contained nicely wrapped individual cakes. We liked the name - Nobleness Traditional Dessert. These are basically a simple, not too sweet dough that are filled with a concentrated pineapple gel.  They go great with coffee or tea and are not overly sweet. We have liked them each time they were provided and are not adverse to getting more when the next person heads to Taiwan.
It looks like a little cake, nmo?

Just a little sugar on top!
And the obligatory pineapple filling!
In addition to the cakes we learned a little about Taiwan history. You will notice how nicely packaged these are with them all individually wrapped. This is very similar to what one sees with Japanese products.  We learned that this is actually an emulation or adoption of the Japanese custom that stems from Taiwan having been occupied by Japan from the late 1800s through the Second World War. Who knew?  Taiwanese are also sushi fans, although they have developed their own style.  We were told that the Japanes influence also affected Korea which was also occupied by Japan at one point. Clearly Korean barbecue and Kimchi would be exceptions to the Japanese influence.  We learn a lot at cake hour and now we know more about pineapple cakes.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Our young celebrity chefs are back!

We had another session of cake hour - youth edition - today and saw the return of our young celebrity chefs with another of their creative and winning cake concoctions.  This is the third guest appearance and as usual no one was disappointed in the product.   These kids are no slouches - BTW.  When they bake something everything is from scratch - no prepared cake mixes. They even used eggs from their own chickens.  If you told us they ground their own flour we'd probably believe it but that would be a little much.

Checking for flaws!

The two chefs with their masterpiece!

A tower of lemon cure, yellow cake, whipped cream and bananas!

Best viewed from above - what symmetry!

Mini-cake on top with a garden raspberry!

Not shy with adding some schlag with each slice!
Today they presented with another novel contribution. They opted for a layered yellow cake topped with a mini-cake crown. (The crown was intended for yours truly and I was happy to comply with having that be my "piece." )In between the layers and inside the the crown they included their special homemade lemon curd with whipped cream.  There was also abundant whipped cream frosting the outer part of the cake. The whole thing was then embellished with banana slices.  They did a great job on the decorating end and it looked a little kaleidoscopic when viewed from above.

The main cake was two layers!
Trying out their own recipe
As each sliced was served, an added ample portion of whipped cream was included. Our two are by now well aware of how popular whipped cream is with our cake hour regulars and clearly are just as fond of the stuff judging by some of the amounts they consumed with their own treats. They are also quite adept at dispensing it out of the pressurized cans.
This is good stuff!

More thumbs up!
The cake is disappearing but I'm ready for my whipped cream now!

Better than Starbuck's!

Can never get enough whipped cream!
Thumbs up across the board!
Their yellow lemon banana cream cake was a big hit judging by the responses. We look forward to the next masterpiece from our young celebrity chefs!  In the meantime keep that lemon curd coming!
Fans wanted their picture taken with the stars of the day!

Monday, October 15, 2012

An unexpected Tiramisu Challenge

If you do something nice for someone, it is always a pleasure when the kindness is repaid in some fashion.  Today a local restaurateur that we had done a favor made us a "cake", as it was described, in gratitude for what we had done   The cake turned out to look an awful lot like a tiramisu which is something we have had plenty of.  Indeed we even had a tiramisu contest which was won by the graduate student from Italy who had long spoiled us with her special recipe that she prepared for us on many occasions.  Once we saw the "cake" for today we realized we had an unexpected challenge on our hands. Since it came from a restaurant presumably it could be of a good enough quality as to supplant the reigning tiramisu favorite.  We had to take this seriously!
Is this a tiramisu?

The powdered cocoa is somewhat of a giveaway!

Layers of lady fingers too!

Well proportioned!

Ready for the taste test!

Lots of lady fingers were laid into this one!

It certainly looked good. It was brought over in a large buffet pan and was well formed into a rectangle with a perfect coating of powdered chocolate as one should expect.  The powdered topping was the clue that this was a tiramisu.  We started cutting and confirmed it had the requisite lady fingers and mascarpone cheese filling/frosting.  The challenge was on.  Next came the taste test.  For those of us who had partaken of the Italian version we knew what to expect.  This definitely had all the correct ingredients including a small amount of Amaretto or so we like to think. Once it was cut it was impressive to see how well laid the lady fingers were.  The cross section of the cake showed them to be abundantly placed in perfect rows for a total of three layers.
Admiring the assembly work!

It's good but.....
You can really see how much of the cake pieces went into this!
This abundance of lady fingers turned out to be the decisive factor in this not overtaking the Italian recipe, however.  Although it tasted very good and we very much enjoyed it we realized we had come to prefer a recipe that does not have so much of the cake/lady fingers ingredient.  This would have been a real contender had the top layer of cake fingers been replaced by a thicker layer of the frosting.  This is what we had come to appreciate, expect and ultimately prefer.  This preference does not indicate the cake today was bad - it was delicious - it simply means we have an acquired taste when it comes to tiramisu and frankly we've been spoiled.  Our Italian student - now PhD - remains the champ!

Still number one in our preferences!
The reigning and continuing champ!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Eating our fruit tart pondering how to prove someone is in Maine

This was a day when we could have used some good technology like you see in the CSI programs.  You know the one's where the person calls on the cell phone and the pursuers instantly know where the person is.  None of this has anything to do with today's cake however.  It was a fruit tart made at the Whole Foods Bakery and is a good standard cake hour selection.
Another Whole Foods Treat

Good Pile of Fruit - makes us feel healthy!

Check out that slice of pineapple!

The fruit arrangement must be creative!

It's is a classic floury crust on the bottom, layered with vanilla pastry cream, with ample fruit on top. The fruit is bound together with a glaze usually containing a little gelatin to keep the fruit from falling all over the place. Part of the enjoyment when having one of these is finding out what fruit is on the top.  This had a nice selection of berries - including some monster blackberries - and some big chunks of pineapple which is not always seen. How the fruit is laid and displayed on the top is always interesting and part of the creative process of making this thing.   The other added benefit to this is you feel like you are eating something just a titch healthier than a cheesecake.  A fruit tart also will frequently attract a few more takers of people who are otherwise watching their waistlines.  That was the case today. It was a good, popular, tasty treat that everyone enjoyed.
Looking good!
Pasty cream below the abundance of fruit!
The missing Portland, Maine colleague had a presentation and poster at the annual research celebration. Our colleague was even in the running for a young investigator award for work on obesity and intellectual development in children - paraphrased perhaps inappropriately as "fat kids are dumber".  This isn't entirely new!


She didn't win the award but a certificate of participation was presented.  All of a sudden she turned up in Maine calling one of our willingly helpful people asking if they could take down the poster and get the certificate as being in Maine prevented being able to do it in person. Our colleague was happy to help, took down the poster and got the certificate showing it to us at cake hour.

Hey everybody, look where I am! It's a poster - get it!

It was then that someone impishly suggested that the researcher had actually not left for Maine yet but was still in RI but not willing to do the things herself. That kind of got people wondering.  Our helpful friend then called the researcher to let it be known that the stuff had been collected and confirmed that she was indeed in Maine. This is where we could have used some kind of CSI tracker. All different ideas were floated...call again and ask how the weather is and then check it on weather.com for instance.  That was kind of a silly one. But if we could have told where the cell phone pinged like they do on the TV shows we could have confirmed the whereabouts if for nothing else than to satisfy our own curiosity and to help our helpful friend not feel like she might have been had.  Was she or wasn't she at long last in Maine?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

City Girl Returns

We thought we would be going without our sugar fix today when we realized that there is a cupcake company that delivers.  Since we hadn't had any of their stuff for awhile we arranged for a delivery specifying as broad a selection as possible. Right on time they delivered a dozen including several different varieties.  Since we didn't bother to ask what each of them was it was kind of fun to try to figure it all out.  Their stuff arrives in a nice pink box perhaps due to their name. We don't know if there is a city girl but is so she clearly likes pink.  We also noticed the disclaimer very quickly which proudly specified that these products are not.  They are not all those things that seem to be de riguer these days....not nut free, not vegan and probably loaded up with gluten!  We liked this notification...instead of saying what things are it is clearly specifying what things aren't!

Local Cupcake Business!
Pink is the color of choice!
Not your usual disclaimer!
Today's selection!

A lot of chocolate for sure!

Cocoanut and caramel also featured!
The selection included several that looked interesting.  The toasted coconut was pretty obvious as did the plain and the chocolate ones.  There were a few surprises mostly relating to the fact that several of them were filled with additional frosting or something else.  Based upon the flavors and the filing we were able to identify one as Boston Creme cupcake.  Another had a center of "molten" chocolate that was quite clever and good.  Since we doubt a lot of them are baked this way it is clear that a lot of talent and effort goes into producing these. 
Looks like an autumn theme!

A center filled with frosting!

This is chocolate for sure!

With a molten chocolate center...well done!
Boston Creme Cupcake - it was also filled but that got eaten pretty quickly!

Festive toasted coconut on top!
Sealed with a kiss!
Also with a filled center - you gotta love frosting with these!
The overall impression was once again very positive and we were happy with the broader selection this time.  From the visual perspective we understand why the top is loaded with frosting but you got to be a frosting glutton to be able to put it all away. Although it is not very heavy it is undoubtedly loaded with fat.  We wonder if the same aesthetic could be achieved with perhaps a smaller dollop of the frosting.  Food for thought but if you are stuck needing quick access to sweets City Girl is a good choice for sure.