23 February 2012

Many Thanks

Thanks for all of the cheerful birthday wishes on the last post, as well as for the kind compliments on the cake. I so appreciate the love!

Additional thanks go out to Air Eater and Fallen From Flavour, who recently nominated me for the Versatile Blogger award. It's an honor for which I am quite grateful. I'm choosing not to pass it forward this time around, but do explore the other sites listed on the aforementioned blogs; it's a wonderful opportunity to explore the beautifully diverse blog world and connect with fellow writers.

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I haven't done much cooking lately, but seem to have collected images of scattered kitchen happenings that haven't warranted their own post. Bread-baking has been on indefinite hiatus for awhile now, so most of what is shown below isn't very recent, although they did all emerge sometime after the new year. Rest assured, fellow carb lovers, I'll likely fall back into my old ways soon enough.
Pizza with marinated mushrooms, scallion, "cheesy" and marinara sauces.
French bread from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice.
Hobak Hotteok (sweet stuffed pumpkin pancakes), slightly adapted from this recipe.
Cuban Bread, without seeds, made using this recipe.
A one-time attempt at making something like pan de sal, using leftover mashed potatoes.

12 February 2012

Bake me a cake.

I was sick of this cake before I even had a proper slice of it. There was nothing wrong with how it tasted (quite the contrary, in fact); it was simply that I spent so much last-minute effort thinking through and executing the cake--including tasting bits of it at every stage of its creation--that by the time it was completely assembled, I thought I might actually begin to cry sugar tears. Those nibbles managed to induce sugar and chocolate overload.
But I was happy with how my birthday gift to myself turned out. It was indeed my birthday yesterday and yes, I prefer to bake my own birthday cake. I don't even care much for celebrating this particular day, which is a stark contrast to how I treat my loved ones' birthdays (i.e., gleeful opportunities to shower them with the huge love I bear); I am simply accustomed to associating birthdays with the presence of a cake, probably because my mother always insists upon it. She actually offered to bake me a cake this year, recognizing the obvious lack of vegan-friendly bakery services around here. Although appreciative of her kind gesture, I politely declined. I opted to spend the first part the day doing something I generally enjoy, if not love: taking over the kitchen and turning it into my own little cave of creativity. This delightful article, which happened to catch my eye exactly one month prior to my birthday, illustrates a similar sentiment with regard to what the author calls an "unconventional task" (baking one's own birthday cake). An "over-the-top, in-your-face type of cake" sounded like a fine alternative to the more casual, cake-for-the-sake-of-cake approach I would probably have taken if I hadn't suddenly felt inspired toward something a little more decadent.
The outcome wasn't particularly extraordinary or novel. After all, it is not unusual to pair chocolate and hazelnut. The entire process--from baking to assembly--wasn't even difficult to complete, although I will admit that it was time-consuming. I doubled a slightly adapted version of a standard "wacky cake" recipe, (which yields a moist, traditionally vegan chocolate cake), splitting the cake into four even layers. For the filling, I used an adapted version of the Mocha Hazelnut Mousse from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, omitting the espresso and emphasizing the hazelnut flavor with additional hazelnut liqueur and hazelnut butter. Hazelnut buttercream (adapted from this recipe, using plain hazelnut butter and a few splashes of hazelnut liqueur) provided the exterior frosting, which also acted as a glue for the dark chocolate shards inspired by this cake. A generous pile of candied hazelnuts completed the decoration and added a delightfully nutty crunch to this hazelnut-laden cake fortress.
I've come a long way since the first chocolate birthday cake I baked for myself a few years ago. While both were scrumptious (and believe me, there is plenty of yesterday's epic creation leftover, despite my best efforts to serve my family over-sized hunks of it), this year's cake is definitely a step up.
I will gladly avoid chocolate after the final crumbs of this cake are gone...at least for awhile.

06 February 2012

Monday Miscellany: Works-in-Progress

My preoccupation with food is currently inspiring a wave of creativity. I won't pretend that anything I've attempted lately involved anything particularly novel, although the amount of kitchen know-how and imagination required was often enough to pull me out of my cooking comfort zone. These are first trials haven't impressed me enough to consider them recipe-worthy. Each project will likely get at least a second look, provided I can continue to be adequately curious and attentive.

Chocolate winter stout cookies
Although I'm perfectly comfortable with the notion of drinking beer, a six-pack of oatmeal stout had a way of prompting me to find ways to bake with it.
Mushroom "takoyaki"
In my humble opinion, seafood items are some of the most difficult to replicate in vegan forms. It's even more difficult when one has never actually tasted the original inspiration, as is the case with me and takoyaki (Japanese octopus dumplings).
Oatmeal baked apples
These are almost too simple and potentially mundane to turn into a formal recipe, but I still have this urge to throw a meticulous touch into the mix.
Have a lovely Monday, all.