Yesterday we had a wonderful lunch. Two of our dear childhood friends are visiting from the U.S. and I wanted to cook a lunch for all of us. My French love came from out of town and helped advise us in what order to drink our wines (a Very Important Decision). We bustled furniture around to make everyone fit around the table and put the wines out on the balcony to get nice and cold. It was so lovely to be surrounded by old friends, translating important English words like “heckin” and “potate” for our French visitor. This, in case you weren’t aware, is a heckin potate:
Whenever I find myself facing a multi-course meal, I find it’s best to combine the known and unknown– a couple of dishes that are tried and true, and then some that I’ve done a million times and know I won’t need to think too hard about. And to prepare as much in advance as possible. This is about how my brain works when I look at the menu I prepared. Continue reading Lighter Kefir Banana Bread
From The Marvelous Machinations of Milena and Myles
About a month ago, my twin and I moved in together. Since we shared a room for the first 18 years of our lives, we know that any good home-creating begins with clear expectations, good communication, and some sensible house rules. We knew this because we did not do any of that for 18 years and ended up with some literal scars. Did you know that if one twin shoves the other one upwards in the womb, that other twin is capable of breaking their mother’s rib? Another interesting fact: if you kick your twin in the shin hard enough, they will limp for a week.
Our idea of house rules, of course, might not be what you were thinking of. Do we know whose turn it is to take out the overflowing trash? No. But do we have hyperbolic ingredient lists and overly intricate design sketches for the ambitious recipes we have to make this week? Hell yes. We have got our priorities right, kids. Creating a bizarre and tangled list of 100 recipe ideas, rolling a die every week, and then setting out to create said recipes together? That is an excellent house rule.
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??
I’m in Denmark again (yes, no one can keep track of where I am, least of all myself), visiting my family and a very cute Danish boy I happen to be going on accidental 6-hour hikes with. :3 I know full well that, although I am welcome in my brother’s household, it is best to pay rent. Copenhagen ain’t cheap, you know. And rent, in this case, involves baking as much as possible. Someone’s gotta bring home the chocolate chip cookies. They aren’t gonna bake themselves. Continue reading “Similarly Flawless” Apple Crumble
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.
Sailing in the black void, accompanied only by the humming sound of your own failing engines, you see one distant piercing light. Could it be salvation? Your crew, gaunt and mutinous, eye you hungrily. The violent thoughts you sense in their gaze send a shudder down your spine. Your ship’s light flickers, then fails, and your heart leaps in the hope that the faraway light is another ship, a lighthouse, a desperate beacon of deliverance. You approach as your fuel drains away, making guttural noises in the dark, drifting ever more slowly forwards. Suddenly, fear grips like a vice over your heart, as all becomes clear. One giant glowing eye rises from the watery abyss. This is no lighthouse. It is death.
Sunless Sea is not a computer game known for its kindness to players. A vast dark map, set in a claustrophobic underground cavern, is the playing field for your tiny vessel, which navigates such horrors as cannibalism, bloody secret rituals, monstrous sentient icebergs, crimson nightmares, sacrificial victims, drugged dreams of chitinous insects, and violent corrupt courts ready at a second’s notice to tear you limb from limb. The gameplay is frustrating. Without a physical notebook by your side, keeping track of quests is nigh impossible. Your “Terror” bar is always on the rise, and when it hits the maximum, your character careens into permanent insanity. When you drift too far in the black ocean, to die alone and afraid, you stay dead. You must start over.
Naturally I thought this all was an excellent theme for a cake. 🙂
I was banned from making this recipe by my former roommate (she who Travels to Istanbul and Brings Me Things, if you’ve been following previous posts). You might think that makes sense. Simple, you say. Maybe she didn’t want this sweet banana bread to tempt her. Maybe she’s allergic to bananas. Maybe I make messes in the kitchen (this last point is obviously blatant slander and has no connection whatsoever to the truth).
No, it was because of what I did with the bananas. Most banana bread recipes call for spotty overripe bananas, but I found that I never had more than one of these at a time. So scrolling down into the comments’ section of Smitten Kitchen (whence I adapted this recipe), I found the suggestion to freeze overripe bananas as they happen, then simply thaw them out when you need them for a recipe. “Brilliant!” I thought. “What a remarkable idea!” I thought.