Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera

endless experiments with small things that bring joy to life


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Oh Madeleines…

Here is my confession:  I have not become interested in madeleines until recently.  This popular and famous cake did not obtain my attention until couple weeks ago.  Having a full-time job and going to school do not leave much play time for me, but there are certain times I just feel the urge to do anything but homework. Here are some of the conditions that I have set for my baking relief:

  • The recipe cannot have more than five ingredients
  • The recipe will not yield a sinkful of dishes that I would have to clean up afterward
  • The recipe will not require my undivided attention for more than an hour
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It is one of those days

2013-09-23

Probably to make up for the time I have not blogged here, I spent most of the time in the kitchen this past Saturday.

Here is what I have made:

1.  Labneh:  it is a vegetable yogurt dip, topped with olive oil.  Because the yogurt is strained, it tastes extra tangy, couple nicely with diced golden radish.  The recipe actually asks for radishes, but I find it a bit too spicy; hence substitute them with radish.  The original recipe can be found here.

2.  Hummus:  Usually I made hummus with canned garbanzo beans (or chick peas), but this time I made it with dried variety.  The beans are first rehydrated by soaking overnight then slowly simmered until cooked.  The hummus tastes less salty and more fresh.  I also used a new recipe for hummus, which can be found here.

3.  Blood orange marmalade:  I have been in a jam-making mode recently, thanks to all the fall produce that is saying hi.  The delicate and fresh taste of blood orange is unforgettable, so what is the best way to capture it besides canning?  If you are interested, the recipe can be found here.

4.  Passion fruit curd with sponge cake:  this creation is based on two recipes.  The curd is taken from Marianne’s cookies filled with passion fruit curd and the sponge cake recipe is the one mentioned in one of my previous posts.  This Franken cake turns out a lot better than I expected.  Originally I thought the curd might be overcooked so I did not add it to the cake until the cake is half baked.  The slight tanginess and fragrance of the passion fruit pair with a moist cake, I am surprised that I did not eat the whole cake in one sitting!

How is your weekend?


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Rhubarb Adventure

Ever since I read about Marianne’s rhubarb obsession, I was determine to try it out.  I have heard about rhubarb and how it complements the flavor of strawberry, but I have never tasted it.  My dilemma was that most rhubarbs were sold by bunch at the farmers’ market, how about if I did not like them?  A very friendly vendor  offered me one stalk of rhubarb free of charge, so I went home and made a simple compote out of it.  While the rhubarb was being boiled, I was very puzzled as to how people liked it.  It smelled earthy and it looked like a stalk of celery with the exception of the red root.  This mystery was solved once I tasted it; the refreshing tartness with a hint of earthiness.  I topped the compote on vanilla ice cream and it was amazing on how the tartness of the rhubarb transformed the sweetness of the vanilla into something airy and light.

For sure the adventure did not stop right here.  I thought of incorporating rhubarb into a baked good, but could not determine which pastry I craved.  The solution came shortly after some mental debate:  sponge cake!  The twist to the recipe is that it will be a layered cake, which I have not attempted because the cake is usually devoured shortly after it came out of the oven.  In order for the rhubarb/strawberry layer to stay, generally gelatin is added to keep the mixture together, but in this attempt, I use the pectin from my jammaking to thicken it.  It turned out a lot better than I expected.  The moisture of the cake with the sweet aroma of strawberry.  Rhubarb changes the acidity from the strawberry into a delightful tartness with a hint of earthiness and it adds a bit of texture to the mixture.  

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Strawberry rhubarb compote.  Yes, the mixture is scarlet red, the photo is not edited.

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Strawberry rhubarb compote with my favorite sponge cake

Strawberry rhubarb filling

  • 3 cups of fruit (1:1 ratio of strawberry to rhubarb)
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon pectin
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of calcium water (helps with gelling)
1.  Thoroughly wash strawberry, remove the hulls and cut into small pieces.  Do the same to the rhubarb.
2.  Over medium-low heat, add the fruit mixture and calcium water.  Stir constantly.
3.  Combine sugar and pectin and incorporate both thoroughly.
4.  Add the pectin/sugar combination to a slowly bubbled fruit mixture, and give it good stir.
5.  Once the compote is boiling, remove from heat.


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Cardamom cake

I definitely have a lot of random ingredients in my pantry, mostly because the Baker bought and forgot about them.  My usual tendency is to look up recipes that will incorporate these random ingredients, and serendipitously, my friend Marianne usually posts recipes that include these culinary components. Cardamom is one of these.  Its appearance reminds me of pistachio, but it is nothing nutty about it.  Cardamom’s fragrance is rather complex, and foreign if you do not have exposure to spices.  As I was grinding the pods, my kitchen was filled with its aroma.  It is just as pungent as nutmeg, but not as spicy at the first whiff.  It is not as mellow and peppery as Allspice.  In fact, Cardamom has the reminiscence of sandalwood to me.  Of course, my description is probably not entirely accurate, so take a sniff next time while you visit the market.

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Looks a bit like pistachio, but the fragrance is a lot more complex.

The recipe that Marianne wrote is Cardamom cake.  It is a bit different from the cakes I baked in the past because it called for wheat flour instead of regular all purpose.  The batter is also a lot thicker than ordinary cake.  Over all, this cake tastes nutty, a bit spicy, aromatic, and hearty.  It pairs very well with tea or black coffee.  The nuttiness is not from the almond on top, but the wheat flour.  The first bite gives that wholesomeness of the wheat from wheat bread.

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Cake dough, thicker than ordinary one.

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Cross-section of the cake

Given that this is the first time I bake with cardamom, I reduce the amount to 1/2 teaspoon, where the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon.  Even with the reduced amount, the fragrance is still prominent, and only strengthen as the days go by.


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Two Apple Coffee Cakes

My favorite kind of apple is Granny Smith, but I can never finish one on my own.  To remedy that situation, I often use them for baking. I recently tried out two great coffee cake recipes that involve apple.  First one has a layer of apple slices atop the cake, and the second one resembles a more traditional coffee cake with a layer of crumb on top.

The recipe with apple slices is from Simply Recipes.  The one I baked was a bit different from the recipe.  The recipe intended an apple layer in the center of the cake, but I layer the slices on top.  This modification is not out of creative initiative, but my misreading of the recipe.  One slight modification I made to the recipe is that I did not sprinkle all of the cinnamon sugar onto the cake; instead, I only put approximately 1/8 of a cup.  Despite my mistake, the cake still turned out decent.  It is not overly sweet, and you can still taste the tartness of the apple.

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Ready to bake!

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finished product.  The aroma of cinnamon even entices me, who is not a worshipper of it.

The second recipe is from Cooks.com.  Comparatively, it is sweeter than the first recipe, but still not as sweet as coffee cake you see in bakeries.  It rises more than the first one as well, given that it has both baking soda and baking powder.
I used the apple filling that was left over from my Cuor di mela experiment, and cinnamon sugar from the first coffee cake recipe you see here.  It pairs very well with black coffee or tea.
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What is your favorite apple pastries?


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Sponge cake with almond

Whenever I crave for cake, it is usually something spongy but not too sweet.  Earlier last year, I found a Japanese sponge cake recipe at La Fuji Mama, and it turned out very similar to the ones I had when I was a kid.  Liking the cake so much, I often make it without the whipping cream and strawberries.

The base of the cake is meringue, and yes, it can be time consuming to whip it by hand (yes, I have tried it), with a mixer, it can still take awhile to make sure the meringue peaks and appears glossy.

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Meringue with egg

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Ready to bake!

The only modification I made to the recipe is to sprinkle shaved almond on top of the cake, right before it makes to the oven.

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Ready to eat!

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Profile of the cake slice

In my experience, this cake becomes “flat” rather quickly, probably because of the meringue, so consume within a day or two (who can object to cake eating?)