Lily simplicity, a lily macaron (my first macaron)

* * * Like biting into your grandmother’s necklace and finding it comprised mostly of tiny crumbs of irregular almond gems and crinkly cloudy sugar that dissolves with the slightest move of the tongue. * * * * * * * * * * *    ****** ♥ ♥

Au Pain Doré (1415, Rue Peel, Montreal, QC)

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Hallowe’en Sweet Potato Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting and Orange Filling

I’m still baking at the Cafe™, albeit less so than before due to road construction right outside the front door that shakes our rafters with jackhammer sounds from open to close.  There’s a particular truck that stands and digs like a red BRONTOSAURUS METALREX, every day, and at this point I’ve come to almost look at it with some certain fondness, but I am weird, and excavators kind of invite personification.  I’ll get a picture of it up later.

I’m also kind of a sucker for heavily seasonal baking, so it’s been real twee at the pastry counter as of late.

BOO-ROWNIES, guys.  Like, spooky little nubbins of fudgy-fright, especially if y’aint a white chocolate fan.  But if y’aint, y’ought to be, ’cause like, white chocolate is actually really great stuff, especially when it’s all playing as bedsheets on mini-spooks.

I also happened to make the sweet potato cake from Sky High: Triple Layer Cakes, my favourite new cake book.  It’s three layers of spiced sweet potato sponge, with an orange cream filling and a chocolate cream cheese frosting that all comes together into an autumnly sweet and massively interesting package.  Because it’s got all the “spice cake” spices, but it’s more vegetal, and somehow lighter than spice cakes usually are (maybe lack of molasses), and anyway – just good!  I would warn against overbeating this one, I ended up with subtle little air holes here and there, but who really minds when the taste is so sup-awesome, and it’s got chocolate leaves and little adorable orange marzipan pumpklekins on it?  Not I!  I’ll just start looking for the maple ice cream at this point, thanks.

Sweet Potato Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting & Orange Filling

Cake:

  • 2 medium or 1 large sweet potato (12 ounces)
  • 3 cups of cake flour
  • 3 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cloves
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 2 and 1/4 cups of sugar
  • 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons of butter, at room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 1 and 1/4 cups of milk
1. Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Prick the sweet potatoes in 2-3 places, place on a small baking dish and bake for 1 hour or until the potatoes are very soft. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. (I baked the sweet potatoes the day before and kept them in the fridge)2. Reduce the oven temperature to 350F degrees. Butter the bottoms and the sides of the pans and line with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper also.

3. When the sweet potatoes are cool peel off the skin and remove any dark spots. Cut the potatoes into chunks and puree in a food processors. Puree until smooth. Measure out one cup of potato puree and set aside. (I skipped pureeing in the FP; instead I whipped the potatoes in the stand mixer using a paddle attachment, and then added the rest of the ingredients as written)

4. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves. Set aside.

5. In the bowl of electric mixer add the egg whites and attach whip attachment. Beat on medium speed until egg whites are frothy. Raise the speed to high and gradually beat in 1/4 cup of sugar. Continue to beat until the egg whites are moderately stiff.

6. In another large bowl with the paddle attachment, combine the sweet potato, butter, vanilla, and remaining sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl after each egg yolk is added. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and milk in alternately in 2-3 additions making sure to begin and end with the dry ingredients.

7. With a large spatula, fold in one fourth of the egg whites into the batter to lighten. Then fold in the remaining egg whites until no streaks remain. Making sure to not over mix or this will deflate the batter. Divide the batter among of the three pans.

8. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake layers cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then turn out the cake layers onto a wire rack and cool completely at least 1 hour.

9. To assemble the cake, place one layer flat side up on to a cake stand. With a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip and filled with chocolate cream cheese icing, pipe border around the edge of the cake. Fill the center with the orange cream filling smoothing it to the edge of the border. Place the second layer on top and repeat the process. Place the third layer on top and use all the chocolate cream cheese frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Cream Frosting
makes 3 cups

  • 10 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 stick of butter at room temperature
  • 16 ounces of powdered sugar; sifted 
  • 1 and 1/2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate melted and slightly cooled

1. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar to cream cheese butter mixture making sure to scrape down the sides the sides of the bowl. Then beat until light fluffy 2-3 minutes.

2. Measure out 1 cup of frosting and set aside.

3. Add the melted chocolate to the remaining icing in the bowl and beat until well combined.

Orange Cream Filling
  • 1 cup of reserved cream cheese icing from above
  • 2 tablespoons of frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1/4 teaspoon of orange extract

1. Stir together all the ingredients until well mixed.

Fous Desserts for a crazy girl

It’s officially autumn in Montreal!  The days alternate between so gorgeous you can’t believe the bright and sunny-crisp air and oh jeebus it is COLD out but hey the leaves are still nice.

On the nice days I like to walk to bakeries.  It’s a peaceful thing, with sugar at the end, and my hope is that over the next few months that I have here in this city, I might gain a kind of perspective on the relative quality of Montreal patisseries.  Some equations are obvious: Au Pain Doré is everywhere (and the quality I’m finding is surprisingly good, at least at some locations).

Patisserie Gascogne at least LOOKS fabulous, and worth any kind of inconvenient trip to cross it’s huge corner-front doorstep.  Is it newsworthy to walk around and spend $2 on a cookie, eat it with gusto and then talk about it?  It depends what you consider news I guess.  And even if the answer is no, it’s not like I’ll stop.  Food bloggers the world around rally with me on this one!  Pleasure is worth talking about.

Yesterday, I managed to convince myself that a lemon meringue pie would make a fabulous lunch, and lo and behold it really did.

Lemon Meringue Tart, $2.50, from Patisserie Fous

If I could make a pastry like this, I might retire from making pastry and uh, MAKE PASTRY.  Hehehe, well dude, this was awesome.  I kinda like my lemonyness to kick me down and dance a little citric acid dance around my gumline, and this one was a lot gentler than that.  At first I lamented!  I really did.  Okay, not that much.  And soon I loved it.  What it lacked in sharpness it made up in pure clean flavour, and paired with that melt-away campfire meringue and, that sandy super-browned crust that broke off like sedimentary layers made mostly of butter, it balanced real nice, sir, it did.

And since I couldn’t leave such an adorable place without craning my neck at the extra little elegant nibbles they’d had out, I picked up a few extras.

A yuzu truffle ($2) and an earl grey madeleine ($1) went on the order, too.  Both pretty good specimens of the type, with some interesting flavours to keep one interested beyond the promise of sugar.  And it was my first madeleine ever!  Can you beLIEVE that?  I’m such a cookie virgin.  I was surprised at how subtle the flavour was, and the crumb was surprisingly sturdy to me.  Eggy, and rich, but still somehow light and not too sweet.   And the yuzu truffle?  MMmmmmMMMmmm one bite coats your mouth with impossibly creamy milky deep chocolate with overnotes of exotic citrus.  Not quite tangerine, not quite grapefruit, but there like a bright yellow trim on what would otherwise be a regular truffle.  Really nice.

Fous desserts on Urbanspoon

DIY ink, a mysterious stone

There’s something about the actual tools one uses – the objects they surround themselves with – the knick knacks purchased and added to the costume, the badges and brushes and hats…

One such object for me, is the chinese ink stick.  By way of beginning, of hoping to describe this object – it smells like ancient earth, burnt wood, insects and, well, ink.  What it actually is compressed vegetable soot (! sounds appetizing, no?)  and a small amount of glue, which is sold in little boxes and is ground against a special stone with a bit of water added to make this unctuous, pitchblack creamy liquid… usable to draw with, calligraphize, and get all over your clothes.  It is the THE original ink, before the liquid version was ever sold in bottles.

I got mine in a little shop in Taiwan, Real Ink™ being the number one paramount treasure I needed to take back with me.  I lucked out, my superlatively awesome hostel was just off of a main street absolutely thick with calligraphy shops, and even a few art stores for good measure.  I walked into one of those art stores and found that the world around, dispirited and oddly-haircut art kids look pretty much the same, at least  I recognized the furtive, asymmetrical and kinda androgynous thang from back home.  That, and the shops were so crowded with vertically stacked pastels, erasers and exacto-cutters that you basically had to exchange life stories with the boy in striped-shirt in front of you, just to pass by them and find where on earth they kept the brushes….

Eventually, among one of the many stores with automatic doors and shopkeepers who spoke not a drop of english, I found a place that felt… right.  The owner picked a simple blue box up from the bewildering stack there available, and pressed it into my hand, and all I could do was celebrate that he was there to provide such a perfect scene – a stick *chosen* for me!  Granted, he probably just wanted to offload one of them on me (he had a surplus), but I asked later at the hostel what the characters meant and apparently it’s something like “uneasy/strange balance/equilibrium”, which I LOVE.  More than love.  I embody!  Good choice, random shopkeep, good show. ^_^

 

 

So now I use this stuff almost exclusively to draw with.  The inking portion anyway.  The colour comes later.  And slowly, the thangkas are taking shape….

Current soundtrack… Roxy Music – Country Life

crispy rice @ maison bulgogi, and a lovely gateaux-meets-terrace moment

YOGGIES!!!!

By which I mean yogurts.

Yeah, so working full time at a cafe means my fridge is almost embarrassingly empty of the makings of a complete meal, because I mostly eat at work.  Actually, it would be easy to say it’s embarrassing, but the truth of it is this amuses me to no end, lest I would never dream of displaying my mono-product placements online.  YOGURT!  hahahahahaha, oh man it’s amazing.  I can’t even tell you how many of these I go through.   … and hey, at least I still make my own granola.

(Gateaux Macaron, $3.67, from Au Pain Doré, white chocolate mousse with Frangelico, chocolate macarons, hazelnut praline and some kinda dacquoise bottom layer…. yum)

But I don’t always eat such a refined and creamy diet.  Nah, sometimes I skip lunch and head to the patisserie mecca that is the Parc/Laurier area of Montreal.  There, I select, ever so prettily; finger outstretched, scarf poised ever so, latent french skills bubbling to the fore as I speak, “un petiti macaron, s’il vous plait,” a tiny gateaux for a sundrenched october kinda day…

See, I’m doing research; I need to sample charlottes and opera cakes, tartes d’amande and chocolatines, cupcakes, galettes, canelles, mousses and all the layers and components between.  Bubbling together ideas, remembering the whisper of cream as it melts and coats the tongue and teeth with dairy-white satin, comparing the crackle of meringue and the snap of a tuile… oh yes, my career path is so taxing, I tell ya.

I bought a black coat today, and a white cat came to join me while I ate my black-white dessert, and the air was cold but I also had new mittens, so everything was actually pretty much perfect.

Night before: Maison Bulgogi!  After an attempt to go for Ethiopean at Magdala (and finding it apparently closed for the evening), my buddy D and I said fuck it, let’s do Korean.  And oh man!  man man!  Maison was so good, or at least I loved what I got.  The barbecued eel bi bim bap (I forget the actual Korean/hangul name for this) came on this great piping hot stone, with plenty of tender vegetables, not-too sweet but definitely-sticky barbecue sauce, and loads of white rice which, thanks to the stone, got totally crispy and amazing on the bottom.  crunch crunch!  Plus of course, plenty of hot sauce and kimchi mixed into the complimentary miso soup and vegetable sides (marinated potatoes, fat sprouts, and tender seaweeds).

D got the raw fish rice bowl, which would probably be the best damned thing this side of the pacific on a warm day, but as it stood I was really happy with my spicy hotness.  I didn’t try the raw fish, although the roe was super cold, almost frozen… so again good for summer I’m thinking.

Oh yeah – and the eel itself!  I almost forgot.  Like slurping up meltaway fatty strips of sweetness, SO GOOD.  Yeah, check out this restaurant, plus it’s full of Koreans which is (duh) a good sign.
La Maison Bulgogi on Urbanspoon