Wednesday, July 17, 2019

What's with that strawberry?

Another day, another student cake and it's on his birthday!!!  Our visiting scholar from Barcelona celebrated his birthday with his student cake month contribution.  He opted for a Boston Cream Fruit Pie. i call it that because it is a Boston Cream Pie with fruit in lieu of chocolate on the top. You might think it is a fruit flan but that would be wrong.  It is a small layer cake with some pastry cream between the layers.  This one came from Dave's and was fine.  We have had similar things before and this one was comparable.  Good moist cake with the aforementioned pastry cream and some glazed fruit on top.  It hit the spot and we sang happy birthday before digging in. We give him 3.5 stars with extra consideration as it was his natal day.

A somber birthday boy it seems!!

Our birthday boy was a little bashful when it came to taking a picture and remarked that he was not good at smiling.  Check out the video and the two resulting pics that show how we got him from A to B after his comment.
And we get some teeth!
And what was on that Strawberry. If you look at the strawberry closest to his right arm you notice there is something white on it.  We could not firmly establish if it was mold, you know, the aspergillum kind, or some frozenness since the cake was kind of juicy on top.  Being uncertain we removed it.
Just like a Boston cream pie minus one furry for frozen strawberry!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Earl Grey Cake

Our third entry is upon us and we found, prior to the baker arriving, a heart shaped cake with vanilla frosting and some kind of crumble on the top.  What could this be and why the heart shape?  We were intrigued!  But it turns out that our student participant only has a heart shape pan for baking which is sweet. Every time she bakes she says I love you!!
Thumbs up for her creation!
The cake that says I love you!
The cake she made she described an Earl Grey cake.  We took that to mean that Earl Grey tea somehow figured into the cake batter prior to baking and that turned out to be the case.  It appeared to be a basic white cake with some kind of Ear Grey infusion or perhaps liquid tea was added to the batter. We will have to get back on that.   The frosting was a basic butter cream type vanilla frosting and the crumble....? That was a bunch of smashed vanilla wafers-creative?  So we have a tea flavored vanilla cake with vanilla frosting and crushed vanilla wafers.  It is truly a vanilla day!
Crumble on top, crumble on the bottom!
You can see that it is a little dense - where are all those air bubbles?
The cake was good and tasted something like a spice cake or banana bread sans banana. It was a tad dense and the frosting was a bit congealed most likely because this is one of those cakes that should have been taken out of the refrigerator prior to serving. So many people forget to do that and the icing then tends to have the consistency of hard butter rather than a soft creamy texture.  The vanilla worked and the vanilla wafer crumble visually looked good but should have been crunchier.  We give the cake 3.5 stars with extra credit as it was homemade!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The brownies have nothing to do with Germany

For those of you who have not seen some previous posts and might have gone to Germany and wondered why you never see a German chocolate cake there is because the recipe has nothing to do with Germany. For that matter neither do the "German Chocolate Brownies" that were our second offering for student cake month. Anyone who knows the cake recognizes it as a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and caramelized coconut on top. We have a number of the cakes and today we got the brownies.
Not shy with the number of brownies!
Enough for several helpings!

So these were made from scratch brownies that were chocolate, of course, with toasted coconut and pecans on the top. I think they pre-empted the name "German chocolate" because of the coconut and chocolate combo. 
It's the topping that makes them "German Chocolate Brownies"
The pecans were a great addition!!
Dense chocolate brownies!!
In any event they were a hit!!  The brownies were soft, moist and chocolatey.  The topping with the added pecans was awesome and to top it off there was some more vanilla ice cream from Edy's!  There were plenty to go around and most people had two with some left over for another day. Good work from our second entrant, another Brown undergrad, and 4.5 stars to her for her great baking job!
Throw in some vanilla ice cream!
And it's 4.5 star treat!!
And in case you were wondering the cake is called what it is because the recipe came from the "German Chocolate Company" not the country.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

They didn't have a cheesecake!!

It is July! This year we actually have a good bunch of summer students and medical students trying to whet their research appetite.  So Student Cake Month is back...sort of!  This is an informal friendly competition to see who can be the most original and creative in making of procuring goodies for cake hour.  Years ago, with a lot more students it was cutthroat and produced the likes of the famous pregnant rat cake and the BCA cake made of progressively darker shades of purple.  So our expectations are down but that's fine.
I was looking for a cheese cake but this will do!
Our first participant, an undergrad at Brown and a future physician likes cheesecake as his favorite dessert. So he went to Whole Foods but they didn't have a cheesecake!  So he opted for his second most favorite dessert - classic pie and ice cream.  Whole Foods makes a good looking pie, as you can see, and they have their own 365 brand for ice cream with vanilla the chosen flavor - of course.  Who does pie and ice cream with anything but vanilla.

Classic American apple pie!
Cooked to the right color with those flaky edges.

The pie was very good. The apple filling was not too sweet and the fruit slices were in between mushy (preferred) and crisp (not preferred.) The crust was nice and golden with a flaky edge and well cooked so as not to be too soft.  The ice cream was also good and certainly good quality since Whole Foods ostensibly uses only fresh organic ingredients with no preservatives etc.  That limits the selection and squeezes out a lot of brands but their 365 brand totally acceptable.  The pie and the ice cream went great together so all in all a good start for student cake month and we give thee and half stars for his contribution!!
Not to soft not too hard for the apple filling!

Nothing like pie and ice cream.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Syria's Loss is Our Gain

The situation in Syria has been pretty awful over the last several years due to the ongoing civil war that started with the Arab Spring.  Very many have lost their lives and very many have been displaced and are refugees.  One of them, a former cafe owner/baker from Aleppo, Syria made his way to Providence and with his own investment and help from other organizations opened up a cafe named after the city he left - Aleppo Sweets!
Aleppo after the civil war!
It lives on in Aleppo Sweets!
It is on the east side of Providence, by Brown University, and has been described by our colleague who visited as very cute, and very authentic.  Her husband is Arabic so we take her word for it.  Today she introduced us to one of their products - a classic baklava!

Baklava or latter day placenta!
Baklava is served all over the Mediterranean regions from Greece over to the countries in Northern Africa. Although it is mainly associated with these regions it may have had a Roman origin that at the time was called placenta. According to Wikipedia:

The oldest (2nd century BCE) recipe that resembles a similar dessert is the honey covered baked layered-dough dessert placenta of Roman times, which Patrick Faas identifies as the origin of baklava: "The Greeks and the Turks still argue over which dishes were originally Greek and which Turkish. Baklava, for example, is claimed by both countries. Greek and Turkish cuisine both built upon the cookery of the Byzantine Empire, which was a continuation of the cooking of the Roman Empire. Roman cuisine had borrowed a great deal from the ancient Greeks, but placenta (and hence baklava) had a Latin, not a Greek, origin—please note that the conservative, anti-Greek Cato left us this recipe."
Shape the placenta as follows: place a single row of tracta along the whole length of the base dough. This is then covered with the mixture [cheese and honey] from the mortar. Place another row of tracta on top and go on doing so until all the cheese and honey have been used up. Finish with a layer of tracta. ... place the placenta in the oven and put a preheated lid on top of it ... When ready, honey is poured over the placenta.
— Cato the Elder, De Agri Cultura 160 BC
Isn't that interesting!!  Of course placenta is something totally different today.  Anyway,  what we ahd is supposed to be Syrian style.  So it was made or cut into little square/dianond shapes.  You have the filo dough on the bottom and then a layer of crushed walnuts, then more filo on the top. It is finally held together with sugar syrup or honey and in this case there was pistachio nut dust on the top for appearance and taste.
The top with the pistachio dusting!
Flakey filo pastry and the crushed walnut layer!
It was hard to eat just one!
This was very, very good!  Despite the sugar or honey it was not crazily sweet, was very soft to eat though the filo was still flakey, and the taste of the nuts was subtle and not overpowering. It was so tasty that several of our reticent consumers indulged themselves in more than one piece.  Needless to say it was a nice introduction to what Aleppo Sweets has to offer and we look forward to more.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Oma's Apple Cake

Having a German mother means you get a lot of good things that would be typical in Germany but not so common here. This is especially true for baked goods.  For year's mother, now Oma or grandmother made apple streusel sheet cakes for events, holidays or just for the hell of it.  It kept well and it was very to easy to eat good size chunks almost as a meal. It was so well liked by certain grandchildren that they made her a banner with the recipe to hang in the kitchen so it could be made at any time.   Oma hasn't made one in awhile but we managed to get one together this past weekend during a visit and it was featured at cake hour today.
It's not the whole sheet but a good chunk of it!
Cake, apples and streusel form the three layers!

Representative piece showing the goods!
It is a vanilla yeast free sheet cake upon which you lay out sliced apples flavored with sugar and cinnamon.  On top of that you put a butter streusel made of butter, flour and sugar.  When it is baked the cake rises, the apples cook and the streusel hardens and gets a little crunchy. As usual it tasted great, especially with coffee, was very much appreciated and brought back memories of youth gone by!!
Love that streusel topping!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A very mini chocolate cake and the A a pistachio roll

Today was the boss's turn to bring in the goods.  Given previous history we suggested not one of his usual gigantic cakes but something smaller.  Different tastes and calorie counters aren't going for large pieces these days.  Well, he came through with a very mini chocolate and something new - a pistachio roll!  They were from good old Dave's !
Double treats for the day!
Nice looking chocolate cake!

Nice florets on top!
The cake was very small.  For reference we took a picture with it next to a coffee mug.  It about the size of two cupcakes.  Nonetheless it was a good solid chocolate cake with classic frosting that was good and creamy probably because the cake was kept at room temperature.  A standard wedge cut was smaller than a regular brownie but it gave us a all a nice little tasting.
And it's not much bigger than the mug!
Healthy eating notwithstanding the green thing had nothing to do with kale.  It was a pistachio roll - something we had not seen before and my not see again, you never know!!  This was a typical flat thin cake that was covered with cream filling and then rolled up. Like the mini cake it was very fresh. The cream filling was vanilla frosting - whipped cream would have been better of course.  The top was dusted with powdered sugar. We are fairly certain that the green color was enhanced since pistachios themselves are not that green.  The pistachio taste was evident and all in all it was well received!
Something new!!

A snow covered green log?
Nope, it's a pistachio role!

A little bit of each made for a nice treat!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Strawberry Boston Cream Pie and the Death Penalty

Today we had a lovely harbinger of not too distant Spring.  It was a strawberry cake with yellow cake, a layer of pastry cream and strawberries and whipped stuff on the top.  If you replace the strawberries and whipped topping with chocolate you would have a Boston Cream Pie so we are calling this a Strawberry Boston Cream Pie.

Today's treat!
Here's what's on top!
From the taste perspective it was fine.  The cake was soft and the cream fresh.  The strawberries were a little frozen which we take to mean the cake was recently assembled.  Of course the only down side was the whipped part was not the real thing.  This was another of those ersatz whipped cream vegetable products.  It's texture is fine but there really is not substitute for schlag.
Nice looking partly frozen strawberries!

That layer has Boston Cream all over it!
The interior view!!
We had some excitement recently in that the perpetrator of the kidnapping and murder of the young mother from the night club in Boston was a resident of the building across the street from us.  For two days after the capture the place was overrun with police looking for evidence, news crews and onlookers. Discussion of the situation prompted a discussion with some of the foreign colleagues about the Death Penalty and why it was so hard to implement here.  Apparently, since it is a lot easier to off someone in other countries, there was some incredulity how long it takes here.  Summary executions are just not our thing! 

Friday, March 8, 2019

Marble Madness for March Madness

March is here which means the basketball tournament called March Madness will get under way/  Get your brackets done!!!!  So for cake hour today we had something from Boston Coffee Cake called Marble Madness. 
Welcome to Marble Madness!!

Nice looking coffee cake!!
This is a marble coffee cake meaning chocolate batter is swirled thought the vanilla batter to give it a marbled appearance.  The top was mostly chocolate and was finally decorated with some dark chocolate morsels.

Mostly choco on top!
Throw in some of those chocolate morsels for texture and taste!
Like all the cakes from this company, it is very good. Moist, light and easy to eat!  The only critique would be that the marbling did not get very deep into the cake so you didn't quite get the right effect but who cares! 
More like a layer than marbled batter.
Anyway, good luck with your March Madness predictions and may the best team win!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Slumming it at the candy machine with some leftover Taiwan treats

Since no one signed up today we took a trip down to the candy machine on the first floor and grabbed some of their mini-chocolate chip cookies and some M&M peanuts.  Hey, at least we had something.  The only thing to be said about the cookies is that they are very similar to Chips Ahoy and have that we have clearly been mass produced taste!
The bounty from the candy machine!

And something else we found!

Mini Chips Ahoy and M&M peanuts - as American as you can get!
Once we got back we found we still had some fo the treats from Taiwan left. These are chewy, nutty circular candies that I described as nougat since they taste and have a texture just like European nougat candies.  Our colleage from China did not know the word for them in Chinese but looked on the package and found that the Chinese characters for these are pronounced Nou-at which the colleague presumed meant they just took the work into the Chinese language. 
Still had some of these left!!

What the Chinese call Nou-at!
These candies are pretty good and are the second Taiwanese treat we have come to know the other being the pineapple cakes!