Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cakehour meets Chinatown

One of our research personnel recently returned from a trip to China.  Always thinking ahead he managed to bring quite a few things back with him for us to share at cake hour. They must have taken up quite a bit of room in his luggage.

I just got back from China and look what I brought!
So much to choose from and no idea what they are...yet!
This was certainly not your usual cake time fare.  Some of it tended toward the sweet side but on the other hand the dried wasabe scallops were something else indeed.  These came from Hong Kong and were quite unusual. Who knew that somewhere they were drying scallops?  And then adding Wasabe! It was a new taste treat to be sure.  One of the takers opened it up and exclaimed "This smells like fish!"  Duh!  The prospect of trying one also provoked some mixed reactions as you can see in the facial expressions. All in all they were not bad, however.  They did taste like a scallop, were a little chewy due to the dried aspect and the wasabe provided a kick at the end without blowing your nostrils out.   Some of us even had a couple of them. One would not recommend them with a cup of coffee but for a protein rich snack - why not. They would not go well with whipped cream, however!

This looks like a bag of hard candy!
But on closer inspection ...it's a bag o'scallops!
One little dried scallop per bag!
The secret ingredient!
But I don't want a dried Wasabi scallop!
I loves me a dried Wasabi scallop and yes it smells like fish!
Other things in the mix included "Prune Cakes". These were described as being like a filled pound cake.  The best supposedly are the ones that are filled with pineapple and are made by the company that made the ones we had.  Although it was thought the package contained a variety in truth it was all prunes. The consistency of the cake with the filling was VERY reminiscent of Fig Newtons albeit a thicker version.  Not bad!
Fruit filled pound cakes..the finest brand!
Once again, individual wrapping for your pleasure!
Instead of and assortment of fillings it's a Prune Newton!
We also had some candied yams.  Since we had eaten sweet potatoes at lunch this was a bit redundant but they were good. The description on the package was quite interesting: "Taiwan Speciat King's Sweet Potato.  Fragrance of Tung blossoms on a mountain with May's gentle fall of snow from the heart of Hakka traditions". We gather that speciat was a typo for special but other than that we have no clue what this means especially in reference to yams.
Sweet potatoes for the second time in one day!
A little different format, however!
Speciat King's Sweet Potato
No clue what his means - let alone what a Tung Blossom is!
Lastly there were some filled crackers. They reminded some of peanut butter crackers though the fillings - brown sugar malt and black sesame - were not what you would find in your typical vending machine net to the Planters or other peanut crackers. The malt crackers were a bit chewy and different. The black sesame had a more familiar flavor.

Wait - there's more!
Cookies...China style!
Black sesame or..
Sugar Malt!
We also noticed that the Chinese seem to have learned from the Japanese packaging habit in that everything including the scallops were individually wrapped. That's a lot of wrapping paper!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Quiche Rhubarbe?

Is this a pizza?....

....or a quiche Lorraine?

Domino's two for the price of one?

It's Flan de Rhubarbe!
Someone did some cooking and at first inspection everyone thought it was some kind of French type pizza or quiche with chunks of ham. Ha, ha! They were wrong.  It's a flan rhubarbe or rhubarb custard torte.  Our colleague de la France was indeed busy in the kitchen again. This time she didn't have to contend with her husband trying to eat everything.  She came up with a nice custard flan sprinkled with not too sweetened rhubarb.  Since just about everything ever made in the U.S. with rhubarb includes strawberries, this was unique for the average American palate.
On closer look this is not ham!

How did she make that crust so thin?

The work of a true pro!

Another recipe I will have to try or should I just have another piece?
It was very good however and thoroughly enjoyed. It was not too sweet at all with the sourness of the rhubarb adding some tanginess. There was a minor problem with the crust in that it did not rise very much. Nowadays you would just ignore that and tell everyone that you made a thin crust rhubarb flan...there you go...problem solved!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sperm Cake and Codfish Ice Cream

Our departing undergrad had generously brought a cake for her final day not realizing we already had begun consuming a good size torte meaning we had to put off her gift until today. Several people had also returned from trips giving us more appetites to whet. This is from the Meeting House Cafe and is a  mocha cappuccino hazelnut cake or something like that.  It kept very well in the refrigerator and was still moist and good after waiting the weekend to be featured.  This had a coffee flavored icing that was a bit like a fondant only this was easily edible a bit unlike a fondant.  The cake itself was a white cake with multiple layers that were separated by a coffee cream. We also suspect that the bottom was soaked in espresso or cappuccino to give it the taste associated with the name.  It was surprisingly not too sweet which made everyone enjoy it a tad more as no one here is thrilled with sickeningly sweet desserts. it must be the effect of all those foreigners that we get here.

A parting gift the consumption of which got postponed!
Quite a confection from the Meeting House Cafe

Multiple layers with cream filling

Fondant like top with some kind of coffee flavor on the bottom!

You probably have noticed the little squiggles on the top leading up to a whole hazelnut as a decoration.  To most that's all that they saw. But not all.  Someone with a more creative imagination perhaps or with less pure thoughts depending on your outlook thought these decorative elements looked like sperm. She proceeded to tell us this and as she enjoyed the cake made a few more comments along the line that shouldn't be repeated but the cake thus became known as the sperm cake.
Squiggles to most spermatozoa to others!
The same person also told us about their recent trip to the Isle of Puerto Rico. At one point during this trip they traveled far and sought out at the top of some isolated hill a place where very special ice cream is made.  This place is known for having hundreds of flavors that are not those usually found in traditional ice cream parlors. Guacamole ice cream, rice and beans ice cream, garlic ice cream, corn ice cream or most inexplicably codfish ice cream. (I wonder if the latter would taste like fish chowder.) The codfish ice creak was apparently the beau's favorite.  In case you find yourself in Puerto Rico and want to have bizarre taste experiences check out the Heladaria Lares: http://www.puertoricodaytrips.com/lares-ice-cream/. 

The home of the cod...ice cream that is!

In all probability the cod fish ice cream probably caused our friend to hallucinate about the sperm on top of/in the cake!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cakehour.com cake

It's another Whole Foods Creation!
For the first time we had a cakehour.com cake. Actually it was a cake with a special web address written on top. It was clever and a nice touch from today's cake time donor.  We've had this cake, from the Whole Foods bakery, before and thoroughly enjoyed it previously so we were fine seeing it again with our website inscription

The most apropos inscription there could be!

A nice combination of fruit and butter cream.

In addition the sides are loaded!

Loaded with shavings of white chocolate!

Our smiling contributor!

Layers separate by fruit and cream filling!  Good stuff!

This is a yellow layer cake with a filling between the layers consisting of some butter cream frosting and some raspberry (I think) puree.  The theme was continued on top where the outer part of the cake was frosted with the butter cream and the center was brightly colored with the fruit aspic.  All around the side were multitudinous amounts of shaved white chocolate which made for a very nice finish.  We managed to remember to keep the cake out of the refrigerator prior to serving this time around which made sure that everything was as it is supposed to be light and creamy as opposed to heavy and congealed.  Really - if you find your cake icing is splitting in two when you serve it....the cake needs to warm up!

I'm graduating so I brought a cake!
This is going to have to wait until Monday!
What we did not realize was that one of our undergrads was finishing her work here as she was graduating from Brown.  To thank everyone and show her appreciation she also brought a cake so there was an embarrassment of riches so to speak.  We truly appreciated the gesture but decided that we couldn't polish off two cakes and decided to go with cake number 2 on Monday!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Floating Fun Balls

Once again we are expanding our cultural horizons! Today's entry was what we came to call floating fun balls. At first look one of us thought it looked like a bowl of raw eggs that went bad with the yolks having turned brown. On closer it turned out to be little balls of something in a syrupy liquid. After considering who brought it in we did a little research and found out that we were eating something called Gulab Jamun or honey soaked milk pastry balls.

Is it bowl of raw eggs!
Nope it's Gulab Jamun but you knew that!
These are a dessert popular in India and at Indian weddings that is made of a dough consisting mainly of milk solids, traditionally, khoya, an Indian milk product (buffalo milk) that is rolled into a ball together with some flour and then deep fried. It is then put into in a sugar syrup flavored with cardamom seeds and rosewater, kewra or saffron. Sure sounds omplicated doesn't it? Well apparently the powder to make them is now commercially available so it can be prepared relatively easily.

They were served with ice cream...good idea! 
Will they float, they do because they are floating fun balls!

In some ways it does look a little like a fried egg

The balls were well soaked with the sweet syrup. It tasted good, though the overwhelming taste was the syrup. It was kind of like having a soggy DD munchkin. There was no way we were in tune to the subtle tastes of the rosewater or cardamon. We were totally in tune with the suggestion to have them with ice cream. Once they started disappearing we noticed they actually floated in the syrup and thus they became known as floating fund balls. Thanks to our cook today who made sure that our culinary awareness get ever broader.

Stopped by for a meeting and got some Gulab Jamun...fun!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tiramisu in cake form


Once again we find ourselves treated to another specialty of Pastiche, the great bakery up on Federal Hill.  This is their cake version of Tiramisu although they do not call it that. They call it a chocolate mascarpone cake.   Since two of the main ingredients of tiramisu are chocolate and mascarpone cheese you get the picture.  We are, of course, spoiled when it comes to tiramisu having and Italiana in our midst who has been preparing them for us for years.  I would say we were hesitant to try this for fear that we would like it better than what we have been getting but that would be a big lie.  We jumped right in.
Take the ingredients to tiramisu and throw them into cake form and it's a chocolate mascarpone cake!

Like everything else at Pastiche this thing looks good, and tastes good. The decorations on top were attractive and as usual it was very fresh. It may look a little heavy but was quite light and we decided it was its own thing and should not be compared to tiramisu even though it sure tasted like it.

The obligatory cocoa powder and some chocolate shards for decoration!

It might look heavy but it was pretty light!