Sweets

DEVILS ON HORSEBACK ICE CREAM

“IF YOU GOT SOMETHING AGAINST SWIMSUITS… THIS IS A GOOD WAY TO TALK EVERYONE ELSE OUT OF IT”

WOW… I mean… just WOW…  I know it looks like I should be addressing my every bit of amazement to this fine specimen of frozen dessert right now, which really doesn’t need anybody’s introduction to be quite honest I mean look at it.  But I’m actually, with all my fingers involuntarily shaking, not focused on the ice cream just then.  Truth is, I’m still hung over, mentally taken hostage, emotionally robbed by the malfunction of this blog that has turned a rarely beautiful Beijing weekend into 48hrs of computer science-nightmare (if you came here during the weekend and found “the fridge” empty, I’m sorry).  It was a crisis so beyond the language that I speak it almost felt Sci-Fi, like an alien invasion, a fire-breathing Godzilla attack on the island of Java-script-what-eh?  I’m ashamed to admit that under the complete chaos and panic, I was so close… this close… like one-push-of-a-red-button away to just wiping everything I’ve done and everything you guys have ever said in the past 10 days, in the effort to restore control…

I almost nuked it…  I almost ground-zeroed my blog…

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ROLL WITH CHAMOMILE WHIPPED CREAM

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SOFT, SWEET, AND
ELEGANTLY FRAGRANT

UPON the realization that the previous few posts have been excruciatingly long and possibly obnoxious, I feel like today is a good day… to shut the hell up to let the recipe speak for itself.  And what’s better than to do it with a simple gorgeous cake? This is a soft, sweet and elegantly fragrant yellow sponge cake-roll hinted with almond flour, and filled with chamomile infused whipped cream.  Lost for words?  I know I am.

 

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Chamomile is a very popular tea in China, usually served with a bowl of Rock sugar on the side, which is also called “ice sugar” in Chinese.  It is a common and preferred sweetener for teas and cooking in Asia, which is not as sweet as typical granulated sugar, and many would argue that it brings a honey-like, more complexed sweetness without unwanted flavourings.

The almond flour I used is made with Chinese southern almond, which has a much stronger aroma (resembling bitter almond and almond extract) that I love.  There’s a more extensive post on that.  You can buy Chinese southern almond and grind it in a food-processor like I did, or use normal almond flour if you prefer.  But let me just say that the aroma of Chinese southern almond pairs beautifully with chamomile.

* I used a slightly larger baking-sheet than suggested in the recipe, and as a result, I felt like the sheet-cake was too thin.  So use a baking-sheet as suggested in the recipe, or smaller.

Ingredients:

  • Chamomile whipped cream:
    • 1 cup (240 grams) of heavy cream + 1/4 cup (60 grams) extra
    • 1/4 cup (8 grams) of chamomile 
    • 2 tbsp (30 grams) of rock sugar
  • Yellow sponge cake: roughly based on Bouchon Bakery
    • 2 large eggs
    • 3 large egg yolks
    • 1/4 cup (85 grams) of honey
    • 1/4 cup (50 grams) of granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup (32 grams) of all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup (28 grams) of almond flour/almond meal (preferably Chinese southern almond)
    • 2 1/2 large egg whites
    • 2 tbsp of granulated sugar

To make the chamomile cream:  Combine 1 cup of heavy cream, chamomile and rock sugar in a pot and set over medium-low heat.  Gently stir, and turn off the heat just before the cream comes to a simmer, then let it steep for at least 5 min until the cream has turned light-yellow.  Drain through a fine sieve, and press on the chamomile to extract as much cream as you can then discard the chamomile.  Chill the chamomile cream until very cold (or to speed it up, place in the freezer and stir occasionally until very cold).  Meanwhile make the yellow sponge cake.

To make the yellow sponge cake:  Preheat the oven on 350ºF/170ºC.

With a handheld-mixer or a stand-mixer with whisk-attachment, beat large eggs, egg yolks, honey and granulated sugar together until very thick and velvety (scrape down the bowl once in between).  The mixture should form large ribbons when the whisk is lifted, approx 8~10 min.  Sift the all-purpose flour and almond flour directly into the bowl, and gently fold the mixture together until even with a spatula.  Wash and dry the whisk thoroughly.  Then with another clean bowl, beat 2 1/2 large egg whites and 2 tbsp of granulated sugar with the clean whisk, until glossy with soft peaks, approx 2~3 min.  Add half of the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk-mixture, gently stir until evenly combined.  Then add the remaining egg whites, and fold it in gently with a spatula.

Line a baking sheet, about 15″ × 11″ (38 × 28 cm), with parchment paper and rub the surface lightly with butter.  Pour the cake-batter into the sheet and smooth the surface.  Bake in the oven for 13 ~ 15 min, until a wooden skewer comes out clean from the center of the cake.  Carefully transfer the sheet-cake to a cooling rack and cool completely.

To assemble the cake:  With a clean bowl and whisk, combine the chilled chamomile cream with another 1/4 cup of cold heavy cream.  Whip the cream until it holds its shape when the whisk is lifted.  Smear an even layer of whipped chamomile cream over the sponge cake, then carefully peel the cake away from the parchment and roll it from one side to the other.  The cake-roll may feel a bit soft at this point, which is why I like to wrap it firmly with the same parchment, and chill in the fridge until cold again before serving (dust with powdered sugar on top if you like).  It keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

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CARAMEL ESPRESSO FLAN/BUTTER ROUX CAKE

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THE CAKE HAS VENTURED BEYOND CHEMISTRY, INTO THE REALM OF PHYSICS…

EVERY time I unearth a truly fantastic recipe out of the landslides of materials and inspirations that bury most of my time nowadays, regardless whether it is original or reinvented, I experience a flush of anxiety which I’d like to call the competitive blogging disorder.  Symptoms include increasing heart-rates and twitching ankles, a not-exactly-little voice inside my ill-motivated head saying things that don’t exactly reflect my best, generous self.

Things like, gah I hope I’m one of the few living bodies on earth who know about his.  Gah I must publish this recipe now, like right now!, like in any given second somebody else might hijack my discovery.  Gah I hope when I Google “flan cake”, nothing, and I mean nothing… in the English-speaking world at least, would show up on the first page.

But of course, like most of my wishes nowadays, the answers from God-gle, are usually negative.

When I stumbled on an Asian baking-blog by accident last week, and discovered something called the “flan cake”, I thought ding-ding-ding!  I mean after all, it isn’t everyday that I look upon a cake-recipe that has ventured beyond chemistry, into the realm… of great physics.  A cake with two distinctively different layers that bake simultaneously, but magically self-separates.  A cake that bakes on the laws of physics, that lighter mass in weight (in this case, the sponge cake-batter), will float above denser mass (in this case, the flan custard), and that there’s nothing you can do to sabotage it.  It’s not just a failsafe cake.  It’s an anti-fail cake.  Guaranteed by science.  How could I not be excited?

But of course as it turns out, like all other great ideas, God-gle already knew a few.  Fuck.

BUT again, a closer look into all the flan-cake recipes shown up on the research, my CBD relapsed.  Not only that most of these recipes uses a cake-premix, but even the ones that don’t, involves the dull and tiresome sponge cake-method of using vegetable oil or creaming butter.  Gah, I’m back!  I could still be the first second third… number of handful people to tell you about this, ahem, fucking awesome cake.  Because. the true genius of this particular flan-cake lies not only on the magic of the two self-separating layers of flan and sponge cake, but also on the miraculous outcome of a butter-roux cake batter.  Yes, a roux cake.  The combination of the two wonders, a cocktail of miracles, from what I can tell, is still a relatively under-exposed secret.

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MONDAY BLUE-BERRY OATMEAL COOKIE

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DOES IT SOUND LIKE A GOOD TIME TO FLUFF IT?

I have been told multiple times, by a number of highly credible professionals other than real doctors, that I present troubling signs of minor depression.

Do I?

I sleep.  I sleep for a staggering number of hours each day and struggle every morning day for reasons not to add a couple more.  But I wonder, perhaps even argue if a real depressed individual would be emotionally capable of the kind of trust and intimacy I share with my dog-hair-embroidered blanket?  I also distract myself from my wild discontent in life with the soothing and gentle comfort… of e-commerce.  It levels, if only momentarily, my spiritual black hole with mostly delusional clothing that are always one size too small… or one feet too tall.  There’s an out-of-place installation in my closet of sequin dresses, and jeans that squeezes my lower half like an outbursting Italian sausage, sounding a silent warning of my concerning mental status.

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THE IMPLODING HONEY CUSTARD CAKE

“I HAVE PROOF OF ITS ABSOLUTE TAKEOVER ON THIS SIDE OF THE PLANET…  HERE SEE!”

You must think me mad.  I know.  I’d think the same thing if I were you, entertained in front the computer witnessing the mental meltdown of this blogger who’s rocking back and forth, murmuring about what’s obviously a tragic kitchen disaster… if only to herself.  Maybe that happens sometimes… just maybe.  But not this time.  I know what this must look like.  A melting cake?  A tragically deflated sponge cake that’s foaming uncontrollably in its mouth?  Oh shit it’s an epileptic cake!  Go ahead, mock it, have a good one.  Then I want you to quiet down, sit in a circle hand-in-hand like tiny eager pre-schoolers and braise yourself for an unexpected cake that will.  Change.  Your.  World.

Ready?  It’s Japanese.

(or, as a reader newly pointed out, Portuguese as well)

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JUSTICE IS SOFT-SERVED

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“FROZEN YOGURT THAT COULD OUT-STAND ROOM-TEMPERATURE”

The past few days have been weird.

From what it seems, you’d think that I’ve been riding the creamy white waves of exhilarating… homemade frozen yogurt.  But behind the coolness and calm, there had been an underground storm of anger and injustice.

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SPEED FOLDING, PEANUT SUGAR MORNING BUNS

“JUST TWO FOLDINGS, GUYS.  TWOOO FOLDINGS!”

I literally cannot wait, cannot put another wasted minute between you and this recipe.  Cannot contain the overjoy in the fact that I have fulfilled the purpose of why I was put on this earth, my designated service to humanity… it is all done, right here, after I push the “publish” button.  I can die now and be accepted into heaven and I shall be in peace.

Yesterday, armed with skepticism, I entered the kitchen with an unlikely theory.  A few hours later, I came out lit-up like a Christmas tree.  This rarely happens, but it did.

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THE PINEAPPLE BUNS/PO LO BAO

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“THEY HAUNTED ME LIKE THE SWEETEST NIGHTMARE”

I want to begin today by saying, “I’m sorry, Kelly.  I sidetracked.”

A few weeks ago, a reader sent me an earnest suggestion saying that ever since she lost contact with one of her beloved things to eat, the curry beef buns from Chinese bakeries, that she has missed it dearly, and that it may fit eloquently into this humble blog of mine because from what it seems (and she’s right), that I’d love me some curry, too.  Oh yes, Kelly.  Oh you have no idea, curry and me are like this.  We tight.  However… even though we spent a substantial amount of keyboarding discussing those mysterious curry beef buns, two other relatively mundane words that she brought up amidst the conversion haunted me like the sweetest nightmare and chased away everything else.

Wait, did you say… pineapple buns?

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