Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Vanilla Sugar Cake with Lemon Curd Filling and Lemon Zest Buttercream

Ah, birthday cake. I love making birthday cakes. Especially for my friends who have very low expectations (if any at all). From figuring out my flavor scheme to the silence that falls upon a room of cake eaters, I love it all. Rarely do my cakes turn out beautifully, but they are usually tasty.

For N's birthday last month I made him a vanilla sugar cake with plenty of lemon flavor. Originally it was supposed to be a layer of cake, a layer of lemon bar filling, and then another layer of cake, but the lemon bar filling had other plans. It was much to runny and gooey to remove from the pan smoothly, so I ended up spooning it on top of each cake layer. If I decided to make a cake like this again I'll probably just make a thinner layer of lemon bar filling and hope it bakes up stiffer. I also regret not making short bread to turn into crumbs to put between the layers. I think it would have added something.

So here it is! Vanilla sugar cake, lemon bar filling, vanilla sugar cake, lemon bar filling, all covered with a lemon zest buttercream. My kitchen smelled like lemons all day, and I ended up putting the used lemons in a bucket of warm water to keep the smell going (unfortunately the bucket apparently started growing mold very quickly, which I didn't realized until the end of the weekend... lesson learned!). For the cake I used Ratio by Micahel Ruhlman. He says a spongecake should be 1 flour: 1 egg: 1 sugar: 1 butter by weight and I have found that 200g of everything makes 2 8-inch layers. For the lemon bar filling/curd I varied this recipe a bit, and obviously a bit too much since the point of this recipe is that the filling sets, and mine didn't. The buttercream was as basic as it gets (butter, powdered sugar) with a bit of lemon juice and zest for flavor.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Review: Kathmandu Cafe

My parents and I went to Kathmandu Cafe the other day in Asheville. I unfortunately didn't bring my camera home for the short trip so I don't have any pictures. The restaurant itself is interesting - it's painted orange with pictures from India, Nepal, Tibet and the Himalayans all over the place. There is even a display of a couple of different salts from the area. All of this adds to the atmosphere immensely, giving an idea of where the chefs and owners are coming from.

We were underwhelmed by the service. The waitress took a while to bring my mom's ginger ale and when she did it was flat, she neglected to mention a Himalayan brew that wasn't on the menu, and we were seated at a rickety table (not her fault, but I would include that in the "service" of the restaurant). But, we decided we should take it all with a grain of salt as the spoiled Americans we are.

Least I throw you off with my bellyaching of the service: we absolutely loved this restaurant. My mom ordered Samosa, a "highly spiced potato and green pea filled pastry deep fried in vegetable oil." I ordered a bread filled with "mildly spiced" potato and a clay oven roasted chicken (2 breasts, 2 wings, and 2 legs), which arrived to our table sizzling hot. All of the food, combined with rice, chutney, and spiced yogurt, blended perfectly. The spices and the heat were impeccably balanced with the chutney and yogurt (and hot Chai tea I ordered). Alone each portion of the meal would probably have been barely memorable, but all together the meal became a real experience. My parents and I all ended up eating with our hands, our nails dyed with turmeric after the meal.

The kicker of all of this: it cost less than $30. We ordered a glass of wine, tea, 2 beers, a whole chicken served on a bed of carrots, onions, and cilantro, bread, and Samosa which was plenty of food to feed us all. The drinks ended up probably being half of our meal total.

Overall, I loved Kathmandu Cafe. I would suggest they fix their tables and skill up their staff on being personable, but really they don't have to. I would return again and again to eat there, even if I had to eat on the floor.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

D'oh - and one delicious pizza.

I just realized there is an apostrophe in "Bakes" in my header. That's what I get for not checking those kinds of things. I will have to fix that as soon as I get back to my other home.


To continue with my fig and bacon trend I made a fig and bacon pizza that was pretty good and would have been better if it were not for 2 details: undercooked bacon and too many tomatoes. The pizza started out as a BLT pizza - a favorite of someone's, but that is another story.

Cherry Tomatoes Sliced Fig

THIS pizza contains cherry tomatoes, regular tomatoes, bacon, figs and mozzarella cheese. All of the produce and meat is from the farmer's market! I used the cherry tomatoes as my "sauce," and then topped that with the rest. The key to getting this pizza right though is the bacon. I liked to fry it until it is almost done, done enough that baking in the oven for 7-10 minutes will finish it. This makes it so the rest of the fat dissolves into the cheese giving the whole pizza a bacon-y flavor. That topped with figs makes for a nice pizza with a bit of a sweet edge.

Recipe (not that you really need one):
1 pizza dough (recipe coming eventually)
Bacon, figs, tomatoes, and cherry tomatoes to your liking
Mozzarella cheese (also to your liking)

1. Slice the cherry tomatoes and put them on first as your "sauce."
2. Put about half of the cheese you want on your pizza next
3. Top with sliced tomatoes, very finely sliced bacon (cooked like above), and figs
4. Finish with the rest of the cheese
5. Bake for 7-10 minutes at a high temperature (450 or higher)


Monday, August 2, 2010

Figs and Bacon with a Honey Glaze


I made these appetizers a week or so ago after the farmer's market finally having figs. Unfortunately they weren't the best figs ever. A little mushy and some even had mold on them already (how did I not notice that before buying them?!). I was a little disappointed with their flavor as well, not quite as sweet and... figgy as I was hoping, but before this I had only had fresh figs twice before, so I'm probably not the best judge. I'm hoping that they're better the next time I'm there.


I looked all over taste spotting to find a "recipe" for a sweet/savory thing to make with figs and all I came up with was prosciutto and figs, which (don't get me wrong) sounded lovely, but I had just purchased some delicious looking bacon from the farmers market as well. I decided to just go with it.

What I ended up doing was wrapping a half a slice of thick thick bacon around a fig. Then I cut the fig into quarters at the top and filled it with a honey glaze. The honey glaze just had ginger and cinnamon in it. I felt like the glaze might have over powered the figs, but it made for a pretty good combination that I'd like to perfect sometime.


Recipe (it's pretty simple):
2 tbsps honey
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 figs
1 slice bacon

1. Cut the bacon in half lengthwise so that it isn't taller than the fig
2. Wrap the bacon around the fig and secure it (I used hemp twine because that was all I had)
3. Heat the honey, ginger, and cinnamon together until fragrant and runny.
4. Open up the top of the fig and pour the honey glaze inside
5. Broil until the bacon is cooked

Friday, July 16, 2010

It All Started with a Starter

The Loaf

It all started with a starter. My mom (once again) started a sourdough loaf a day or 2 before the 4th this year. She's done it a couple of times before and it has been hit or miss. The starter usually gets a crust on top with a liquid on the bottom and that's been it - just never been quite sure what to do with it. But this year she had an inspiration that came in the form of a stone oven.
On the 3rd we got to enjoy a lovely dinner with some people around the neighborhood that was focused on pizza baked in this oven:
The Oven

While we were there Mark (who runs this blog: The French Broad) told us that the oven would continue to be hot for the next couple of days and we should stop by with a loaf of bread. We promptly set on baking a loaf of sourdough bread in that oven, and we succeeded! Although the oven was a little too hot for bread (note the extremely dark exterior) and the starter didn't create quite the typical sourdough taste, the bread was still delectable, and baking it in an outdoor oven wasn't half bad either :)
Putting it in (the oven)