Tuesday, February 28, 2017

In his final week, another baby! Happy Mardi Gras!

Today is fat Tuesday, the final day before Lent on the Christian calendar, better known as Mardi Gras! Many years ago, with a student from New Orleans at the Center, we started celebrating this day of indulgence with a little NOLA flair!  Our King Cake arrived from New Orleans and we donned our festive Orpheus amulet and beads and grabbed some doubloons to toss while some New Orleans jazz played!
Guess what's in the box?
It's King Cake!!
The final product after we added the frosting and the colored sugars!
Orpheus is ready to serve the cake!
Other revelers celebrate!
Mardi Gras cheer!
This year we opted for the praline king cake.  Pralines to us were always a kind of specialty chocolate with a soft filling made by the likes of Lindt or Godiva.  However in New Orleans they are a type of specialty candy made from sugar, butter, cream and nuts. As such they are like big gobs of sweetness and in this case they are baked into the cake. This tends to make them a little soft so it ends up being a cake which is very much like a coffee ring, with big sugary blobs dispersed throughout.  This may sound too sweet but it wasn't and all together it made for a great pastry.  Even though it travels for three days, it still tastes pretty fresh when it gets here.  To get the true experience you have to decorate it with the sugar frosting and colored sugars yourself because doing it beforehand and shipping it would yield you one big mess upon arrival.

The gooey brown stuff on the right is the praline!
Naturally the other thing dispersed in the cake is the little plastic baby.  This year the baby went to our colleague about to return to Japan.  We playfully observed that this was his second baby since arriving here in the US as one of his sons was born here.  We gave him a couple of the doubloons to take home to the other kids to celebrate the birth of their "sibling".  We were told that the two oldest boys were thrilled to get the coins.
Look what I found!
His second American baby!
Orpheus acknowledges the baby man!
Till next year -

Laissez les bons temps rouler!!!

Monday, February 27, 2017

If it has chocolate and cherries then call it Black Forest

I think we are rapidly becoming the Vienna Bakery's best customer!  Because several of our colleagues live in Barrington, RI where it is located, when they sign up to bring it something for cake hour it usually is from that bakery.  Lately we have had a run but they still manage to come up with something different.
An interesting look for a cheesecake!
Today we had a cheesecake.  It was not entirely typical.  If you've read some of the posts from previous years, you have to know by now what  Black Forest cake or in German Schwarzwälderkirschtorte.  Basically it is a cake that features chocolate and cherries -as well as some cherry brandy if it is the real thing.  Over here, pairing up those two and then calling whatever it is Black Forest has become somewhat regular.  So you can get a Black Forest muffin, a Black Forest trifle (which we have had) a Black Forest ice cream sundae and today we got a Black Forest cheesecake.
The bottom looks classic New York sryle!
Topped with some dark chocolate and bright red cherries!!
It was a standard New York style cheesecake however the filling included some cherries, a bit of a chocolate swirl, (we think),  a layer of dark chocolate on top and then some more maraschino cherries as garnish. In truth,  the cherries should be the dark sour cherries but they are probably harder to come by. 
How do they get the stems so red?
And how did this all go together in a cheesecake?  Pretty well actually!  This type of cheesecake from Vienna Bakery is very creamy, not too sweet and not overpouringly dense.  The cherries and the chocolate worked well together with the cake and it tasted very good.  So we concluded a Black Forest cheesecake or German Schwarzwälderkäsekuchen was not such a bad idea.  And as you can see the German language does indeed have some very long words!
Chocolate and cherries on the inside too!

Friday, February 24, 2017

And it's time to start saying thank you b- with a cake!

One of our guys will be leaving shortly to further his career back in Japan!  In anticipation, a colleague with whom he had done a lot of work signed up for cake and it came with a personal message.  It was yet another cake from the renowned Vienna Bakery in Barrington and it was again something we had not seen before! It was a bit of a Boston Creme type cake.  The layers were yellow/vanilla with a pastry cream in between.  On top there was a modest layer of chocolate frosting with a white frosting drizzle. Instead of the frosting dripping over the sides a la Boston Creme style, there was instead a covering of white chocolate curls. This was a little different though taste wise it was very similar to the Boston cake relative.
Somewhat resembles a Boston Creme Pie/Cake
It's got the chocolate on the top!
The white chocolate curls are a creative touch!
Layers of yellow cake with pastry creme filling worked well.!
As with all of the Vienna cakes, it was very fresh and as such quite delicious. The big secret to their cakes and a lot of quality bakery products is that they are lighter and seemingly less caloric than a lot of the commercial cakes most supermarkets and mass production bakeries come up with. The Vienna also has some interesting combinations and that was the case here adding the white chocolate to the sides.  This was very much appreciated as was the message of thanks that was inscribed on the top!
From one colleague to another!
Message on top says it all!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A cannoli cake with some Ramen noodles.

Well here we are with another entry from the Vienna Bakery.  I think we are becoming one of their better customers with four or our senior people living in Barrington and patronizing the bakery.  Today's cake volunteer brought in something very good looking that we hadn't see before - and we have seen a lot of Vienna cakes!!  Because it had a small cannoli on top we presumed it to be a cannoli themed cake and that turned out to be the case.
Where have we seen this before?
Another visual treat from the Vienna!
Stripes of chocolate and something else on the top!

Cannolis are a thin tube-shaped fried dough that is stuffed with sweetened ricotta cheese. Sometimes chocolate can be added to the filling and also as a dipped coating around the edges. If you have ever been to the North End of Boston, any of the bakeries there feature cannolis with Mike's Pastry being the most popular. One thing about cannolis - they are practically a meal.  There is quite a bit of the cheese which tends to fill you right up.
Yes that is a mini-cannoli on top!
So how would today's cake follow a cannoli theme? That's a good question and it turns out it is mainly through the use of sweetened ricotta for the filling between the layers of the cake.  The cake layers were chocolate and the ricotta was used for the filling between the layers and also on the top of the cake. The sides of the cake and rim of the surface were frosted with whipped cream - a fave - and some chocolate shavings.
The whipped cream is especially enticing.
The cake was good and fresh and certainly satisfied the sweet tooth. There was a total of three layers separated and topped by 3 layers of the cheese as mentioned.  That was probably one layer two many as far as the cheese is concerned. Although the cake was very good if the middle layer, like the sides, had been whipped cream it would not have been so rich and less heavy. Like a cannoli, you tended to get filled up right away. That is not to say we didn't enjoy it - we did!
Three total layers of cake and filling!
That's quite a bit of cheese in between the layers.
For and added treat, one of our colleagues picked up some Japanese treats for us to try.  These included Ramen snacks.  This is not a pack of Ramen that you put water into and toss in the microwave but rather some dried noodles that are salted and spiced to be eaten as is.  They weren't bad but not as much fun as the spicy peanuts!
It's a pack of ramen but don't boil the water!
A crunchy and previously unknown snack opportunity!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

For Valentine's Day - a pie with red filling!

Red is the color of Valentine's Day!!  In the past we've celebrated with some heart shaped donuts but nobody was really into Dunkin' Donuts or DD!!  Today we just had a pie -  with a red filling so there was some intimation of recognizing VD!
Trader Joe's for VD
Its a pie indeed!
Thatched top is a nice touch!
The pie was strawberry rhubarb from Trader Joe's.  It looked kind of homemade and not like your cookie cutter pies from the regular supermarket.  There was a thatched curst on top and exactly what you would expect from strawberry rhubarb filling.
The irregularity of the crust and the stuff spilling out gives it a homemade appearance!
Some of that crust is pretty thick!
It was good for the most part but the takeaway is this was a very doughy pie.  The crust tended to be a little thick and not very flakey. The volume of filling to crust was probably a little on the low side.  It was nice but even though it is Valentine's Day, probably no expressions of eternal love for this pie, just a passing fling.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The People's Liberation Army says come back!

As mentioned yesterday, one of our colleagues is leaving after about a year of academic research.  In China she is employed as a physician at the PLA or People's Liberation Hospital 302 in Beijing.  Her appointment here was extended through November 2017 or so we thought.  There was since the approval for the stay, some kind of military reform in China and as part of that all doctors abroad were called back and had their permission to extend their sabbaticals revoked.  That unfortunately means she has to unexpectedly pack up and leave within a month.
We certainly have see n this before
It's called their classic American chocolate cake and what a classic!!
When the final day came, we had a cake hour reception for her with some parting gifts. She provided the cake which turned out to be from Pastiche for the second day in a row. She opted for one of their classic American Chocolate cakes.  This one looks a little than one that you would pick up at a supermarket but that is something that Pastiche is known for.
Message of gratitude before feeding us cake!
Expressing her thanks!
When you get a fresh cake from Pastiche, it is really very good!  The cake portion itself is always light and moist. The frosting on the inside is usually something lighter than what covers the cake.  What does cover the cake, we assume, is some kind of butter cream frosting. You are supposed to let the cake sit at room temperature for at least an hour but we always forget.  So instead of getting a soft smooth, melt-in-your-mouth experience, the frosting breaks into shards when the cake is cut and it takes a little extra body temperature for it to soften in your mouth.  But that is our bad, certainly not Pastiche's.
Moist layers and light frosting.
Something for the head, heart, hand and wall!
Quick pic with the research team!
And a quick one with the boss!
Once the cake was served we presented our departing friend with a few gifts and did a Brown logo makeover. Our friend was happy with the new look but a little sad that she had to leave.  We were sorry to see her go so soon but wish her well and look forward to the next time!
A few more colleagues from the host country!
And now with the administrative gang!

The final cake hour ten second shot!