Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Daring Bakers' July Challenge: Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

Ack! Late again for this month’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge! The worst part is, I actually completed it in time, but I didn’t have a chance to unmold it, photograph it, and eat it until just a few minutes ago!

There were a lot of components to this month’s challenge, which was a lovely ice cream cake. First, we had to make our own ice cream. I’m one of the unlucky people who do not own an ice cream maker, but our hostess Sunita gave us a way to make ice cream with just a freezer: you literally freeze cream, after sweetening and flavouring it. Rather than go for the classic chocolate-vanilla combo in the original recipe, I went for chocolate and green tea.

Then we had to make Swiss rolls. I had made biscuit roulé before (the one year I tried making a bûche for Christmas), and I have to say I had done better job back then than I did now. I overcooked one of my layers, which cracked when I tried to fold it.

But I think my biggest problem was slicing the Swiss rolls, after I had filled them with green tea-flavoured whipped cream. They got squished and lost their shape in the process. The result: one ugly-looking bombe on the outside.

But not so bad on the inside! The layers of green tea ice cream, chocolate fudge sauce, and chocolate ice cream are pretty clearly defined.

And the taste? A tad too sweet for me, but I loved the different textures. And let’s face it: ice cream is always good, no matter how you make it, or how you serve it!

Thank you Sunita for this challenge! And all of you be sure to check out the Daring Kitchen and look at all the more aesthetic cakes that the other Daring Bakers have made!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tasting memories

Anyone who went to a French high school (as well as many people who didn't) is familiar with Proust’s madeleine. In À la recherche du temps perdu, the narrator eats a madeleine with tea, and finds himself instantly flooded with involuntary memories from his past.

Many things can trigger memories. Music sometimes works that way for me: I’ll hear an old Alanis Morissette song on the radio, and I’ll find myself transported to my teen years in Brussels, with all the angst and confused feelings that come with that period in life (blech). But with food (and smell, as the two usually work together), the experience is usually much more powerful. That’s why we sometimes find ourselves craving foods that we know aren’t even particularly good: because they bring us back in time.

But sometimes, the foods you remember aren’t available. Which is why I was looking forward to tasting something in particular when we reached Japan in May. I had not been there in over fifteen years (I briefly lived there when I wan eleven years old), but there was something I absolutely needed to taste again. Not refined Japanese cuisine, or even traditional Japanese street food, which I hadn’t even had that much of, back when I was living there.

No, what I wanted to taste again was iced milk coffee from a vending machine.

It sounds silly, but one of the first times I ever tried coffee was from one of these little cans. And I’m an espresso-lover now, so it really was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. This drink is more milk than coffee, and is quite sweet, so it’s ironic that I, who now take my coffee black and bitter, remember it so fondly. It’s nothing special, with its malty taste and watery texture. Nevertheless, as soon as I spotted a vending machine on our first day in Tokyo, I shelled out 220 yen and treated myself and Laurent to a can each.

It tasted just like I remembered it. And apparently, I’m not the only one who finds the stuff addictive: Laurent got regular cravings for it throughout the rest of our trip.

At other times, you think you’ve forgotten all about a specific food, yet you instantly remember its flavour as soon as you see it. This happened to me when I saw these little candies for sale:

I have no idea what they are exactly. Some kind of dried legume or something (or a pea? I really don’t know), covered in a flavoured sugary coating. I hadn’t thought about these sweets in years, but I immediately remembered them, along with their texture and their flavour. It’s funny how it all popped back into my head and tastebuds.

Now, if only I knew what these are… If anyone out there knows, I would be grateful!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Daring Cooks' July Challenge: Nut Butters

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

I realize I have been really neglecting this blog this past month. But rest assured, I’ve pretty much been neglecting ALL my usual online activity these days, except for email. My apologies to all the beautiful bloggers whose posts I haven’t been reading as regularly as usual – I miss you! Let’s just say life has been… not hectic, exactly, but weird, and changing from day to day. Things keep happening that stop me from forming a routine.

So, getting my DB and DC challenges is pretty much all I can muster right now. And even then, just barely: I made this month’s dish yesterday.

This month’s Daring Cooks’ challenge was simple: make nut butter from scratch, and cook with it. Straightforward, yet so full of possibilities!

I had never made nut butter, but it turned out to be a breeze: just put your preferred nuts in a food processor and chop, adding oil if necessary, until you obtain the desired texture. I was somewhat afraid our old food processor, which is more than 20 years old, wouldn’t be able to handle it, but it came through with flying colours!

Our hostesses had given us several recipes, but given the temperature here these days, the cold Asian noodle salad really jumped out at me. Plus, Laurent and I often have to eat dinner fairly quickly these days, because the FanTasia film festival is going on right now: it’s when we make up for never going to the movies during the rest of the year, by bingeing on alternative Asian films and animations for three weeks. Since noodle salad can be made in advance, it was perfect for such a night.

(On a side note: I may be neglecting my blog, but I am still a hopeless foodie. The movie we saw yesterday was Le Grand Chef 2: Kimchi Battle, which, you guessed it, is about Korean chefs battling to make the best kimchi. I squealed during all the food shots, I drooled over the fancy knives and pretty equipment, and then… I cried. I cried during a food movie. To be fair, it was during an emotional, mostly food-unrelated scene. Still… I cried during Le Grand Chef 2.)

The noodle salad was a huge hit. I used Chinese egg noodles (despite being kind of frustrated that the ones I had in the pantry look like spaghetti), and mostly followed the recipe, except that I substituted sautéed mushrooms for cucumber (we’ve been eating cucumbers everyday, and I needed a change), and cut the garlic in the dressing (despite that, both of us still had vampire-repelling breath during the movie). Speaking of the cashew butter-based dressing, it was so good I felt like licking my plate. Laurent has declared that he wants this dish again, very soon.

So, despite being last minute, I thoroughly enjoyed this challenge. Thank you, Margie and Natashya! To see the challenge recipe, head on over to the Daring Kitchen, and check out the blogroll for some creative uses of nut butter!