Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Cake

Baking is somewhat cathartic. Not only do I get to beat something til it foams, if I follow the instructions and apply a little imagination where I can't, I am left with something that is for the most part edible.

For those that know of my pre-holiday fiasco, which amounted to me misplacing my wallet right before a trip, you already know the reason why I took particular joy in breaking eggs and whipping cream. For those just hearing of it, and those who have unfortunately shared the experience at least once in their lives it is one of those moments where you wish the earth would just open up and drop you not so gently on your head.

While tearing madly through the streets in search of my patent green leather wallet (miss that more than anything else) in trashcans and under buses, and calling to cancel cards and such I had a brief moment of clarity wherein I thought to myself, " I  could sit down in the middle of this crowded street and cry, thereby drawing attention to myself, and possibly motivating a well meaning but opportunistic person to come forth and hand my wallet over..." Okay, then I had a laugh (probably creeping out passerby anyway) and finished the thought with "or I could take care of this mess, go enjoy my trip and get back and bake a cake". Obviously the latter won out.

Much thanks to M for answering the call of a much harrassed baker who could not find a non-stick angelfood tin on short notice (an truthfully balked at paying the 28 bucks for a "designer" one she happened to see).

Matcha Chiffon Cake with Fresh Cream and Berries

1 C+2 Tbsp sifted cake flour (I used Presto which comes with baking soda and salt thereby uncomplicated my life, but if you use just pure cake flour add a half teaspoon of each)

2 Tbsp Matcha powder ( I added an extra half tablespoon)

2/3 C confectioner sugar

4 large egg yolks
100 ml water
60 ml oil (I used canola but any light tasting oil will do)

5 egg whites (chill in fridge before using)
1/2 tsp of cream of tartar (available near spice rack in most chain supermarkets)

D: (Fresh cream)
2tsp water (microwaved until hot)
plain gelatine
2 C Whipping cream (heavy cream)
1/2 C confectioner's sugar

**Note I used more matcha powder and less sugar than a recipe I was mimicking since we aren't fond of oversweet desserts. Turned out perfect, not bitter but with a definite matcha taste and complimenting the fresh cream and natural sweetness of the berries nicely.

*** I highly recommend having a handheld electric beater for this (if not a kitchenaid **DROOLS**) but it is possible to do it manually. I won't say it will leave you all warm and fuzzy inside but it is possible.

1.Sift together all A ingredients in one bowl. Preheat oven to 300 F.
2. Beat all B ingredients, trickling oil in at the end as you beat the mixture to create an emulsion. Add to A ingredient bowl and fold quickly until you get a green (brown, depending on the quality of your matcha powder) batter with no streaks. If you mix this too long you will get a denser cake.
3. Whip all C ingredients in a chilled metal or glass bowl until stiff peaks form (aka you can hold the bowl upside down without destroying your kitchen and sanity). Then gently fold the foam into the green batter just until there are not streaks.
4. Pour evenly into non-stick angelfood or bundt pan. Place gently in oven (middle rack) for 45-50 min until top is brown (and probably cracked) and cake springs back slightly when pressed.
5. Take out of oven and hang upside down. (I used a perrier bottle for this) Cool completely before using thin flexible knife to jimmy it out of the pan.

6. While waiting for cake to cool prepare cream. Just heavy cream and confectioner's sugar will make a perfectly delicious cream but I wanted mine to be a bit more stable so the cream did not dissolve and run into the cake, so I added the gelatine water.
Conundrum: Gelatine will not melt in cold water. Cream will not whip if it is warm.
Solution: zap water to boiling, furiously stir in a quarter tsp of gelatine powder and let cool to about room temp, while constantly checking to see if it is setting. When the cream is super cold add water a little at a time as you whip (despite pleas of mercy from arm muscles). Helps (if only mentally) to keep the whisk in the freezer before doing this too.

7. Go wild decorating with the berries. I had really fresh, beautiful (expensive) raspberries and blueberries which I dusted with confectioner sugar to mimic snow...turns out for those of us on the East Coast I needn't have bothered, since as I write, we are snowed in.

Chiffon cake is ideally light, airy, and chewy; and while I admit my decorating skills could use some practice, the cake was the last word in yumminess.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Welcome to my version of staring into the void

"If you gaze long enough into the void, the void will gaze back into you" ...

Yes, months of freelance writing and editing has finally made me revert to quoting Nietzsche. To make time spent procrastinating from actual work more organized I have devised a way to both share information with people who share my interests and perhaps learn from my mistakes.

These eclectic interests encompass avid reading (which as become slightly more discriminate since childhood, when I was known to read the backs of shampoo bottles), frenetic knitting ( periods of which I have been known to sleep knit), cooking / baking (it's like taking chem all over again sometimes, but with much tastier least most of the time), dragonboating (a new non stationary activity which will require me to do less of the previous interest.., and hopefully photography if this blog progesses.