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Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Dessert for breakfast
Made this galette using Lindsey Shere's Chez Panisse recipe and Frog Hollow nectarines. It was devilishly simple, with a lovely flaky crust. Lately I have been making my tart dough with various percentages of pastry flour for extra tenderness, but this recipe uses 100% AP. Good to know I can still get delicious results without the "fancy" flour.
Monday, June 08, 2009
I'm a little bit obsessed with orange marmalade. I blame the Tartine cookbook. They propose the idea that zucchini bread and orange marmalade are a natural fit. After I read that recipe, it was all over.
What isn't a natural fit with orange marmalade, I ask you? I know a lot of people hate it, but they're sickies. Learn to love the bitter, people. Bitter is your friend. Smear it on muffins, toast, scones, brioche. Plop some in your tea, or your cocktail. Slather it on pork, or chicken, or shellfish before roasting or searing. Maybe after searing, so it doesn't scorch. I love it mixed with yogurt. I love it mixed with chocolate. I love it mixed with buttery shortbread, or peanut butter. It plays well with ginger, and herbs (rosemary?), and I bet you could mix it with certain cheeses (hard? nutty?) for a delightful taste sensation.
I haven't tried it yet, but you could probably work it into salad. Fennel, vinaigrette, radishes? Pair it with something with a nice crispy texture that tastes fresh and clean?
I'm glad I have so many ideas, because I have a LOT of orange marmalade. A LOT. Additional suggestions welcome.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Recipe for failure
I get a lot of food emails. Many are spammy. Usually I ignore them, but a recent one from the National Honey Board caught my eye. It included a recipe for King Cake, which has been "a Mardi Gras focal point since the eighteenth century." I've never been to Mardi Gras; heck I've never even been to New Orleans. But I can't resist any recipe for eggy sweet bread, and that's what it seemed the good people of the Honey Board were encouraging me to bake.
The first attempt came out fine:
The second did not. I made a number of moronic errors while being swept out to sea on a wave of haphazard technique and bad decision-making masquerading as Creativity.
Here's a short list of things you should NOT do if you want your baked goods to come out properly:
1. Substitute key ingredients
I didn't have the proper type of yeast, but I plunged ahead anyway. The recipe asked for rapid rise; I only had the normal glacial pace variety. I didn't bother to look up the difference this would make in rising times.
2. Make inaccurate adjustments
I played fast and loose with yeast quantities while doubling the recipe. Big mistake.
3. Combine unrelated recipes
Since I'd never made King Cake before, I started poking around the internet, investigating other recipes for an idea of what this thing was supposed to look like. I found another recipe that included a pecan brown sugar filling. That seemed delicious. I wanted it. In addition to sweet-yeasty-bread weakness, I also suffer from anything-containing-brown-sugar weakness. For the second cake, I rolled in a bunch of brown sugar filling to form a sort of mutant cinnamon roll, which led to tragic leakage once it melted in the oven.
4. When in doubt, add flour
The recipe created batter. But I wanted dough, so I could roll the thing up and slap the brown sugar in it. I kept adding flour until it became kneadable. This was just plain silly. I knew it, but I could not stop. Could. Not. Stop.
When it came out, it looked like a gargantuan bagel oozing brown goo:
And guess what? It didn't taste too good either. [Slapping hand. Tying string around finger.]
I don't like coloring inside the lines. But I don't like baking monstrosities either.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Prunes, prisms, Pastilla Nash
One of my favorite discoveries at last week's Fancy Food Show resembled blood sausage from afar, but was in fact a "sugar plum and walnut log" made by an Australian company called Pastilla Nash. It's a dense roll of toasty nuts and fruit paste that can be sliced into pretty little rounds and served with cheese; I sampled a bit with blue cheese and it was very tasty indeed. It's like membrillo in that it offers a thick, mildly sweet dose of fruit that tempers the intensity of certain cheeses.
It seems that the term "sugar plum" can be applied to a variety of foodstuffs, but in this case the log appears to be made of good old-fashioned prunes. A Mason jar of Armagnac that's been piled high with plump, boozy prunes presently occupies a proud position on my pantry shelf, so I consider myself to be part of the pro-prune posse, as it were, but I understand why they might not want to market their product as a "prune log" in the U.S., where poor, put-upon prunes still suffer from unfortunate geriatric associations.
I'm too lazy to keep the "P" words going much longer (thankfully, right?), but if you ever see the Pastilla Nash plum/prune logs in a shop near you, you might want to pick one up and pair it with a pungent piece of cheese. Perhaps for a party.*
*An editor I used to work with called alliteration "the last refuge of the hack writer." Positively.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Because I am a huge nerd...
I baked this cake in honor of the return of Battlestar Galactica.
Well, that's not exactly true. I baked a cake and then on a whim decided to ruin it with a bunch of the cheapo frosting in tubes that you buy in a fit of last-minute desperation at the supermarket and then discover years later at the bottom of a drawer.
Good lord, I just realized that this is my second nerdy blog post in a row. Oh well, I shall press on.
I was going to frost the cake with "So Say We All" except that I didn't have enough space and/or dexterity. To underscore once again what a giant, gleaming nerd I am, I will tell you that I first Googled the word "frak" to make sure I spelled it properly, which is when I learned that people were hosting "frak parties" at private homes, bars, and restaurants all over our awesome country that night. So it seems that I am not the biggest nerd out there. Except that I wasn't even cool enough to be invited to a frak party. Ponder it.
The cake, by the way, was delicious despite my best efforts to ruin it. It was Julia Child's Mocha Brownie Cake from Baking with Julia, and you should by all means buy the book and bake the cake if you haven't already. I like the recipe especially because the ganache uses strong, hot coffee which a) requires one to brew a quantity of strong, hot coffee, which means that there will be leftovers that must be drunk, and b) doesn't rely on espresso powder. I'm not a big fan of the stuff; I think it often adds a odd, bitter tang to baked goods.
I suppose I have just squared my nerdly status by admitting that I view a pot of strong, hot coffee as some kind of weird luxury item, and also by admitting that I have an opinion on freeze-dried espresso powder. FRAK!
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Clever cake pan
Call me a nerd, but I get excited when companies take a thoughtful approach to redesigning and improving upon everyday products, especially when they do away with minor flaws and annoyances. Sometimes the tweaks are just for fun, as in the case of my pink sparkly spatula,* and other times they are borderline brilliant, like the Beater Blade or the zigzaggy brownie pan that everybody loves.
Well, fellow culinary design nerds, behold the Ding3000 cake pan.
Isn't this smart? It makes it easy to address all the strange size-related sensitivities, proclivities and dark, smouldering desires of your guests. As long as their darkest desires are of the devil's food variety, that is. And the resulting cake is kind of architectural and strangely beautiful in its multi-leveled state. You can buy one here or here. Yes, yes, I KNOW that you can just use a knife and cut different size pieces for each person according to their desires as has been done since time immemorial, but this is still a neat idea, don't you think?
*I know that buying stuff, at least for me, leads only to the most fleeting, false sense of happiness or satisfaction, which is then followed by some delicious combination of guilt, despair, boredom, and inevitably a new desire for something else, but my stupid pink spatula continues to spark a tiny zing of cheeriness in me every time I use it, as does my Fire-King jadeite pie plate. Who knows why?
Monday, January 12, 2009
After a few years of silent longing, I finally bit the bullet and bought eight copper cannelé molds and some beeswax. If you've never had them before, cannelés come from Bordeaux and are small, custardy cakes with incredibly molten, lacquered crusts whose hues range from a beautiful burgundy color to pitch black. The best crusts are formed by coating the interiors of the molds with a layer of beeswax. They are highly addictive, and notoriously difficult to make.
I spent a couple days fooling around with them, and used Pierre Herme's recipe from Secrets Gourmands. Some would get stuck in the molds and tear when I tried to get them out. Some would rise up to great irregular heights while baking, which created a lumpy bottom when they were unmolded. Some turned black while others stayed pale, even though they had been baked for the same amount of time.
Despite their complete and utter lack of consistency, they all tasted very, very good. Obviously more experimentation and further sampling will be required.
Mysterious coconut blobs
I picked up a package of extremely cute little Thai sweets at our local grocery recently. I thought the name of them was listed on the package, but it turns out that the label only referred to the bakery in the East Bay that made them.
Each one came wrapped in a little palm leaf that was carefully stapled into a cup shape, and was comprised of a gelatinous coconut blob that had been doused with a bit of coconut cream. I couldn't stop eating them; I love the balance of sweet and salty in Thai sweets and the coconut cream had just enough salt to counter the sticky, sugary qualities of the ball.
If anybody knows what these are called, please let me know! I did some searching but couldn't find out their name.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Last week I went to a cafe in Oakland with my friend Riva. She ordered a hot chocolate and one of those cupcakes wrapped in plastic that are usually stacked limply near cash registers.
I love sweets, but I almost never eat cafe pastries. They're a continual disappointment, almost always stale, or soggy, or gluey from being individually wrapped, or served freezing cold when they should be room temperature. (Those thick, heavy, chilly slices of cake topped with stiff rosettes of whipped cream ALWAYS piss me off. I'm sure the health department is responsible for their frigidity, but it's still annoying.)
Riva sat down across from me and unwrapped her purchase. "Have you ever had one of these?" she asked. "They're soooo good."
Bah, I thought. Who does she think she is, chasing a cupcake with a cup of hot chocolate without a moment's hesitation? The girl was mainlining chocolate, something I only allow myself to do when I'm feeling particularly devil-may-care. But her obvious delight was hard to ignore. It was a black-bottom cupcake, the kind with the dark, rich chocolate cake divided by a dollop of cream cheese. I couldn't take my eyes off that damned thing. Despite the plastic wrap, it really did look delicious. It'd been years since I'd had one.
The cupcake haunted me for the next seven days. I'd be watching TV. "Cupcake?" my mind would interject. Editing a spreadsheet at work. "Maybe you could have a cupcake soon, what do you think?" said a little voice. "But what about the black-bottom cupcake?" it asked as I was busy eating some other, vastly inferior form of dessert. "Why don't you just go buy some cream cheese..."
So I finally gave in. I just used the Joy of Cooking's recipe, which worked fine. I did not bother with frosting. I did not add a light dusting of powdered sugar. I did not use fancy cocoa or chocolate. Once I had baked them, Randy and I did not do anything except jam as many of them in our mouths as possible (while watching The Wire) until they were gone.
And now the cupcake voice has shifted its focus to something else: gingerbread from Tartine. "Why didn't you buy some of that soft gingerbread?" it is asking. "You were just there. You could have tried it. It looked so festive."
"But I have the cookbook," I tell the voice. "I can make it at home."
"Well then?" ...
Thursday, August 14, 2008
The best nectarine tart in the entire world ...
...can be found at Camino in Oakland.
The crust was crunchy and delicate and crackly and crumbly. The nectarines were perfectly ripe and glossy. They did not add pastry cream or frangipane or any other adulterous substances to distract from the perfection of the fruit. They did not mess around.
Just the way I like it.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Hospital food = no fun
Last month I spent a few nights in the hospital. It was a very nice hospital, and I was there by choice. In fact, I was getting paid to be there as part of a study. I had never spent a night in a hospital before. Now I have spent three nights in one. Three very freaky, very long nights. I kept thinking of those lines from "The Ballad of Reading Gaol":
...each day is like a year / a year whose days are long.
The food was as bad as people always say it is. The frequent proximity of my cafeteria tray to assorted blood collection paraphernalia did not help my appetite, but there was nowhere else for all that stuff to go. The rooms are small.
During my stay, only one yummy offering appeared: a perfect cupcake topped with a cheery swirl of vanilla buttercream. I know not from whence it came, but it did not last long. I'm pretty sure Oscar Wilde didn't get cupcakes in prison. Or burritos. The morning that I was released, Randy drove me directly to a super taqueria and I ate an enormous chorizo and egg burrito and drank a giant glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice. I think everyone in the hospital, even those there by choice, should have access to burritos and cupcakes at all times. Unless they are in the gastroenterology wing.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Such a brilliant concept deserves a wider audience
This falls into the category, "Everything That's Wrong with America ...and Everything That's Right".
In case the photo is too reflective to truly understand what's going on, allow me to describe: this is a frosted brownie with a chocolate chip cookie pasted on top. It is available at the Nestle Toll House Cookie Cafe in South Lake Tahoe. Prior to this unearthing, it was available only in my wildest fantasies.
For a veritable laundry list of real stuff that's wrong with America (or our government, at least), you should listen to Daniel Schorr's commentary last week on NPR. Almost as delicious as the brownie.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Cinnamon Buns and Burnout (Oh yeah, and French Laundry)
You know a food blogger is burned out when she doesn't even write a real post about her recent trip to the French Laundry. What to say? It was enormously expensive. Almost all of the food was quite good, except for a hunk o' beef that had too much of the sous-vide thing going on (flabby, no crust). Dessert was forgettable (I can say this because I've forgotten it), and the winter squash soup was so good that I will never look at a squash dish again without feeling short-changed. I grappled with pangs of guilt for spending that much money on food. They shoved us out of there in 2.5 hours, which stank, and did not even offer us any coffee after dinner. Can you believe that? Can you believe that? Me either. Anyway, I would still go back, if someone else was paying. I guess this indicates that my sense of self-respect defers to my sense of gluttony.
Now, on to more interesting topics--to me, anyway. Cinnamon buns. Every single time I walk past a Cinnabon anywhere in the world, I feel compelled to stop. But I never do. I suspect they taste like chemicals and contain 1000 grams of fat and frankly, the chain reminds me uncomfortably of the '80s.
You know what else reminds me of the '80s? Palm Springs. Which is where we went last weekend, and which is where I encountered a roach the size of my fist in the bathroom of our adorably hipster modernist hotel. I also encountered a cinnamon bun the size of my skull at Rick's. Here it is, with a knife stuck in it right where one might stick a knife into a skull, if one was so inclined:
Our waitress asked if we wanted it warmed and slathered with butter. You already know the answer to that one. Additionally, my breakfast came with these:
Am I bad food person if I confess that the sight of the cinnamon bun and its knife and the biscuits with Knott's Berry Farms jam and the plop of whipped butter made me at least as happy as many of the beautiful items on the menu at French Laundry?
It's been so long since I posted that I will throw in an extra bonus cinnamon bun photo for you; these are made from Molly's recipe in Bon Appetit, which was truly a gem. Give them a shot.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
[The phone rings. I check who it is, then answer. When Rachael calls, we waste no time on small talk.]
“Have you been to the truffle place on Divisadero yet?”
“No. But I’ve been dying t- …”
[Interrupting.] “I’m there. What kind do you want?”
“What do they have?”
“Mint, coconut, hazelnut, raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, almond, caramel, espresso, dark chocolate, Kahlua, red wine, cognac, hazelnut liqueur, raspberry liqueur, amaretto, Earl Grey …”
“Umm. Cognac. And hazelnut. And caramel.”
“I have to tell you what else this place has. They have Hostess Snack Cakes. What the hell are they doing selling Hostess Snack Cakes?”
“Wait, aren’t you at the store right now?”
“Can’t they hear you making fun of them?”
I guess they didn’t mind. Ten minutes later, this was deposited on my kitchen counter:
"This is nice and all, but where's the Hostess?"
Five Star Truffles and Coffee
411 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA 94117
Friday, May 25, 2007
An Irish bakery in the neighborhood?
Yesterday I was walking down Geary, laden with Russian groceries, when I noticed a hand-written placard placed on the sidewalk.
"Irish Bakery," it said.
[Insert sound of me, screeching to a halt.]
An IRISH bakery? In the Richmond?? I went in directly and had a look around. Turns out they had opened for the first time just a few hours before. The walls are painted light green, the counter is stained wood, and the selection is naturally limited, but holds great promise. The guys working there are convivial.
So far they're offering soda bread, scones, shortbread, baps, pasties, and a few types of bread (I noticed white and bran). The only thing I can vouch for are the scones--they are superb. If you don't believe me, take a look:
And a close-up:
I was in and out of there so fast, I didn't really catch the name or location. Maybe it's called John Barnes Irish Bakery? Maybe it's at 24th and Geary? Stay tuned for more reliable info.
UPDATE! It's called John Campbell's, and it's at 20th and Geary.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Shades of White: Sugar High Friday #31
Sugar High Friday #31 is on the horizon. The theme? All white stuff! And what, pray tell, did we make so presciently just a few days ago?
Why, David Lebovitz's French-style Vanilla Ice Cream, from his fabulous new book The Perfect Scoop, of course!
"Vanilla ice cream?" you ask. "That's it?"
Yes, but it is David Lebovitz's vanilla ice cream. It requires six eggs, copious quantities of cream and slightly less milk. It is, in short, superb.
Normally I would not waste valuable taste buds on an ice cream flavor so ...well, vanilla. I tend more towards the triple-chocolate-caramel-fudge-nut-brownie-ice-cream-topped-with-marshmallow-and-raspberry-sauce approach.
But we had just made an apple pie. Nothing goes better with an apple pie than vanilla ice cream. NOTHING. (Pipe down, all you sharp cheddar fans out there.) When we tasted a bit of the final product straight from our beloved Il Gelataio Junior, Randy's face became suffused with a beatific, rapturous glow.
"It's perfect," he said.
It also provided us with an excuse to use up some of our huge stash of vanilla beans. Our kitchen is awash in them. Two large clumps resembling bundles of miniature firewood rest in plastic on our shelf, next to trashier foodstuffs such as a stale bag of El Ranchero tortilla chips and Safeway brand microwave popcorn. Because of their abundance, they are accorded little respect in the hierarchy of ingredients in our kitchen. We give them away and invent uses for the rest. We haven't bought vanilla extract in a year (vanilla bean + vodka = extract).
How can we afford to live so high on the hog? Who do we think we are, smothering ourselves in vanilla beans when they cost $7 a pod at the local spice shop?
We are cheap. And we like the internet. And now it is time to let you in on the secret. We're going public with our source.
Just promise you won't tell.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
One recent Sunday, we headed to Dixon, CA for Strawberry Days, an annual event hosted by Eatwell Farm, the folks who provide us with our CSA box. It made me feel warm and fuzzy to see where our veggies come from, but it also afforded me the opportunity to cram ample quantities of perfectly ripe, sun-warmed ruby red organic strawberries directly into my mouth. (See also: last summer's trip to Andy's Orchard.) We picked four pounds in about twenty minutes and then spent the rest of the time lazing reverently next to the strawberry patch and soaking up the sun.
We snarfed down all our strawberries in two days.
The fruit was so perfect, it needed nothing ...but one night I felt like gilding the lily. Strawberries with Sour Cream and Brown Sugar hardly qualifies as a recipe; perhaps it deserves the lesser moniker of "preparation". My parents made this for me throughout my childhood and continue to make it for me in my non-child-but-hardly-adult-hood. Although it inspires a lot of scrunchy faces and dubious eye-narrowing from the uninitiated, I encourage you to try it. Just think of sour cream of another form of creme fraiche or whipped cream, and you can get past the hurdle. Sour cream: it's not just for potatoes and tacos anymore.
Strawberries with Sour Cream and Brown Sugar
Strawberries, as many as you like
Brown sugar, as much as you like
Sour cream, as much as you like
Trim tops and halve strawberries. Place in bowl. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Lightly dollop sour cream on top. Eat. Enjoy summer.
We must have eaten so many strawberries that we started seeing red. The next weekend, we became the proud owners of this:
Not as sweet, but just as much fun.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Bluth bananas in LA
We went to Los Angeles a few weeks ago. We did many things, and most of them involved eating. In between mouthfuls of food, we occasionally managed to converse with our friends Jake and Lexi. Here we are at the Farmer's Market, eating perhaps the most well-documented chocolate-covered frozen bananas EVER:*
There's no way to eat a frozen banana suavely. You just have to go for it, assuming a position not unlike the Al's-Italian-Beef-Eating Stance: hunched forward, raining detritus all over yourself and on the floor, gnawing away.
Bananas and I have a complicated relationship: I never ever eat them, except in airports. (There's quite a bit of neurosis lurking behind that statement, but I'll save the explanation for another date.) I don't care for that pasty texture. But, like raisins, I enjoy bananas when they've been gently coddled in a nice warm bath of butter and sugar, and even better, lots of booze. In LA, I learned that I really like them frozen, too. The pastiness becomes rich and creamy, and dark chocolate tempers all that fruity sweetness.
Jake was full of great suggestions for us, so during our short stay we managed to eat piles of strawberry pancakes and huevos rancheros at The Alcove (where everyone was extraordinarily good looking); heaps of yummy spaghetti and meatballs at Il Capriccio; out of control gelato at Pazzo Gelato; strange BLTs in the middle of the night at Piper's; and last but not least, an enormous box of Stan's Donuts. Their specialty? Imagine a glob of peanut butter squished into the pocket where the jelly would usually be, and you get the idea. One bite, and you too will come to believe in the power of the chocolate chip peanut butter donut.
*Except for the Bluths', of course.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Friday office donuts
Me (peering into the office donut box): "Oh! I just read an article in The Atlantic about how they can't figure out how to make cake donuts taste good without using trans fats after that ban in New York."
Co-worker: "So cake donuts are, like, loaded with trans fats?"
Me: "I guess so. I guess I shouldn't eat them anymore. But they're so much more filling than the raised kind."
Co-worker: "Donuts are nothing more than fried air and sugar anyway. They're all bad for you."
Me: "Good point." (Reaches for large, zeppelin-shaped cake donut coated with chocolate frosting.)
Friday, March 02, 2007
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Sara's grandma's simple cake
Many years ago, a good friend passed along another friend's grandmother's cake recipe to me. I was in desperate need of a dessert that would let me make use of a generous gift of Italian plums. These plums had been busily overwhelming a coworker's backyard in Seattle, and one fall day she dropped an ugly plastic bag full of them unceremoniously on my desk with visible relief in her eyes. (Zucchini-growers will empathize, I'm sure...).
I am ashamed to admit that I rarely return to a recipe--there are just so many dishes out there in the world that demand to be tried!--but something about the cake's old-fashioned simplicity appealed to me, and it managed to make the leap into my spiral-bound, greatest-hits recipe notebook for good.
I recently returned to this cake, and was once again charmed by its strong Midwestern values and freshly-scrubbed appearance. Well, you know what I mean. It's honest. And versatile. And, yes, easy.
This recipe pops up all over the place in various guises, as it should. The version I received suggests a layer of halved plums atop the batter, but I have also made it successfully with thinly sliced Bartlett pears. You could top it with strawberries, or caramelized apples, or sprinkle in some nutmeg, or candied ginger, or dried cranberries, or swirl in a spoonful of jam...in other words, I doubt you can go wrong here. And adding a nice dollop of creme fraiche or whipped cream before serving never hurt anybody.
Sara's Grandmother's Plum Cake
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour (I have used cake flour with great results)
1 tsp. baking powder
Enough plums to cover top of cake, halved and pitted (perhaps 8-12, depending on size)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 8-inch springform pan, lightly greased
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream sugar with butter. Add eggs and mix. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix until combined.
Spoon batter into 8-inch springform pan.
Arrange plum halves in a single layer on top of the batter so the top is nicely covered.
Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top of everything and drizzle with lemon juice.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until done (do the toothpick maneuver).
Remove from oven and allow to cool so that it doesn't collapse when you pop the springform.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
In praise of ginger
Winter has officially arrived in San Fran. I was tricked into thinking it would never come, because last week it was consistently 68 degrees. I felt extremely smug about my decision to move to California and traipse around in a t-shirt in December when the rest of the country is huddled indoors.
Then it started to rain, and it pretty much hasn't stopped yet. So now I've reverted to my cozy winter recipe rotation, which includes boeuf bourguignon, various soups, roast chickens, and Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread Cake.
I'm a giant fan of anything starring ginger. In Paris I ordered ginger chicken at a Chinese restaurant (Passy Mandarin, I believe), and the plate arrived with a few chunks of chicken completely obscured by approximately half a pound of sliced ginger. What happens when humans consume that much ginger? I didn't know, but I plowed ahead and finished the whole thing. I felt freaking great afterwards, that's what happened. I fervently believe in such a thing as the ginger buzz. Seattleites can get a similar fix at Malay Satay Hut; the ginger chicken there is slightly less terrifyingly intense than Passy Mandarin's.
Ginger is a crucial member of a holy quinity of spices--cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg are the others--that make gingerbread cake so delicious. (Yes, I made up the word "quinity". It's good though, right? Better than quintet.) Gingerbread cake is never exactly wimpy, but this one is extraordinarily muscular, amped up and darkened by the addition of Guinness. I like to throw in some candied ginger as well. It's very easy to make, although this time around I had a bit of trouble encouraging it to leave the pan as it was cooling and was left with fist-sized hunks of cake that weren't particularly attractive. That's when a light dusting of powdered sugar comes in handy.
Wikipedia tells me, "Ground and fresh ginger taste quite different and ground ginger is a particularly poor substitute for fresh ginger." Ouch. Ground ginger does have a duskier, less tingly flavor than fresh, but let's not write it off just yet. I wonder what this cake would be like if I tried adding in some fresh ginger, very finely grated? It just might blow my mind.
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