This past weekend was my birthday, and as is my usual tradition, I made my own birthday cake. Actually, I enjoy it. This year was particularly fun because I sort of designed it myself. I didn’t invent the entire recipe, but assembled it from other recipes that I found. I still haven’t named the cake yet–maybe you all could help me??
The cake is chocolate and passionfruit. It’s based on a cake from the recipe book The Cake Bible, which involved a chocolate genoise (don’t worry, I’ll explain this below) covered in strawberry whipped cream. I had made this cake several years earlier, and I remembered it when I was trying to decide which cake to make for my birthday. As some of you know, I’m in Hawai’i right now doing research for my dissertation. However, I wanted something tropical to fit the place I’m in, and which would hopefully be locally grown. I decided to replace the strawberry with passionfruit because it also goes well with chocolate.
One would think that it would be easy to find fresh passionfruits, which are also known as lilikoi, in Hawai’i. Here, there is a vast quantity of passion-orange juice, passion-orange-guava juice, passionfruit flavored desserts and on and on. But let me tell you. NO ONE SELLS IT. NO ONE. I guess it must be available at farmer’s markets, and apparently it grows wild everywhere on the Big Island. BUT NOT ON O’AHU (which is the island where I am). I went looking for them at perhaps six different grocery stores. I finally found frozen passionfruit concentrate at the last store and I have no idea where it was from, so my attempt to buy local didn’t even work out. Oh well. For this recipe, you can use either passionfruit concentrate or, if you’re lucky, fresh passionfruit juice/pulp. Continue reading Where have all the passionfruits gone??
Aaaaaaand we’re back! Milena and I have been traveling, so we haven’t had time to post in a while. I was attending a friend’s wedding in the Bay Area and then a family wedding in India. But, at last, I’m back in Hawai’i and I baked something new!
I made a mimosa cake for my auntie’s birthday this weekend. Did you know that a mimosa is more than just something millennials drink by the bucketful at brunch? It’s also a flower, which was probably what the drink is named after. The cake the I baked is also named after this flower:
Mimosa cakes are an Italian dessert. According to NPR, and also Manuela Zangara (the author of the recipe that I used), mimosas are the symbol of the “Festa della donna” (International Women’s Day) in Italy. Men are supposed to give women mimosa flowers, and often people make this cake to celebrate. The festival happens on March 8, when mimosa flowers are in bloom. Their cheery yellow color also celebrates spring. It was just good timing that I made a cake that celebrates women at the same time as the Kavanaugh hearings were going on (ughughugh). It’s also a pretty complicated bugger, so I would not recommend attempting it unless you have some cake baking experience.
Today, I attempted to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie again. I’m looking for something thin and crispy, and thin and crispy all the way through. I tried the Martha Stewart’s recipe from her website (original recipe here). I really liked it, and the cookies meet my qualifications, but I’m not sure if I would call them perfect. I’m still thinking about Alton Brown’s thin and crispy chocolate chip cookies, which I tried last week. Even though his cookies weren’t crispy all the way through, they really tasted good. I’m attributing this to the milk in the recipe. I think it added a vanilla, and perhaps even floral, note. Usually, cookies don’t have milk, but sometimes recipes call for it or water to make the cookies flatter. I’ve read that milk makes cookies soft, however, and these cookies were indeed quite soft. Later, I might try to invent a recipe with this nice vanilla flavor but remains crispy all the way through….
The cookies I made today were quite good too. Because of the increased amount of sugar and perhaps butter (in relation to Alton Brown’s recipe), they had a really nice caramel flavor. In order to bring this flavor out, you have to make sure to bake them long enough. Otherwise, the taste falls a little flat (har har). They need to be well-browned, not just golden brown. Don’t go by the pictures, as I’ve brightened and filtered the hell out of them.
This is the beginning of my journey to finding the perfect chocolate chip cookie! It seems appropriate to start with chocolate chip cookies, because they seem to be a basic recipe of American baking. They’re also one of my favorite things and one of the first baked goods I learned how to make.
I get obsessive about baking one thing perfectly once and a while, and the time seems to have come around again. Three years ago, I baked seven genoise cakes over the course of several weeks to figure out how to do it well (it was really hard). We’ll see how many tries it takes this time…
Everyone has a different chocolate chip cookie ideal–soft, chewy, or crispy? Thick or thin? And in which combination? My personal favorite is thin and crispy. Unfortunately, most recipes that I’ve encountered don’t do this. They’re usually not crispy, crispy only on the edge but not in the middle, or too thick. Today, I tried Alton Brown’s “The Thin” chocolate chip cookie recipe. I’ve never made it before, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.