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Archive for August, 2010

Brown does not picture well.  It generally does not cause a run of a thousand cravings that secretly plot conquest and domination.  (Unless it is shiny and luscious, but chocolate belongs in its own category.)  No, brown is more background than inspiration–a certain plainness that leaves us pausing and struggling to muster enthusiasm.

Understandably, I was baffled by my own attraction to this pecan cornmeal butter cake.  It is certainly brown.  Pecans, especially ones that have been roasted are a caramelized brown.   Beurre noisette (also known as browned butter), which infuses the entire cake, is also deeply amber brown.

Perhaps, I am attracted to my own cake opposite–something that is unstructured and not fussy.  Sure, the show-stopping cakes are fabulous to rave about, but when it comes down to it, I want something that is unspectacular and brings me back down to earth.  There was something carefree about this cake that I liked–something about the plain nutty hue of the cake base and the syrupy macerated berries that cascaded down the soft dollop of freshly whipped cream.

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If one of my friends reminds me of a raspberry buttermilk cake, this friend reminds me forever of my introduction to the fabulousness-in-a-jar called Nutella.

During my early college days, I spent a great deal of time escaping the miles of cornfields and pumpkin patches that surrounded me and my small college town.  Although I initially loved the romanticism of the Henry David Thoreau-like isolation in Central New York, I began to miss the noise and connection I felt in California to its people and its food culture.

Amidst the fun of plotting weekly brownie raids with my Vermont roommate, she could not fathom my obsession with the California avocado (which I promptly embraced when I made my first trip home  during Thanksgiving) or my habit of drifting through small European grocers and giant Asian supermarkets.  I was alone in my obsessions, and I was reminded of this every time I got a care package.

Of course, then, I had my childhood friend who kept me company during late night cram sessions.  While I taunted her that I finished all of my classes for the day before she woke up, she taunted me with tales about a certain chocolate hazelnut spread slathered between crepes and fruits.  After much insisting, I got my own jar of Nutella, and since that watershed moment, Nutella and I have never parted.

Thus, this cake is a reminder of my first spoonfuls of Nutella.  Psh, don’t give me that look–I know it, and you know it that this is the only way to properly to enjoy Nutella when it is 3 a.m. and you still have the error analysis to compute for the caffeine content in your green tea samples ;)

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Raspberry Buttermilk Cake

The most meticulous person is not always the neatest person, or at least, I am the most meticulous un-neat person ever.  However, don’t look at my office desk for evidence because it is an exhibit of how a calm accountant’s cubicle should look like, and no, my neatly printed handwritten to-do lists are definitely not incriminating.  Look to my personal desk, which is stacked high of food memoirs, unanswered letters, and crinkled receipts.  Yes, that is my mind in physical form–one whopping mess.

In addition to the aforementioned randomness that calls my desk home, there is the list of August birthdays sat with a pleading urgency on top of the sheets and sheets of yellow.  I am not bad, and I have not forgotten.  I am stumped because I have this horrible habit of trying to one-up myself while attempting to dream up thoughtful presents.      

Perhaps, the difficulty here lies in the fact that I try to pick gifts that remind me of themselves.  Lately, I have been thinking about a past conversation with one friend with an August birthday about how good the raspberry coffee cake at one of the American breakfast joints was, and as soon as I saw this cake appear on one of the food potluck sites, I thought, This is it! 

Of course, since my mind wraps around all things food, she reminds me (maybe, unfortunately so) of a raspberry buttermilk cake.  A Gourmet one, I might add because she’s awesome like that, or so, the foodie in me tries to rationalize!

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My mind has a bad habit.  It tends to face-plant over a recipe, glares at it, and obsesses over how that recipe “got in the way” of dreaming up bigger, fancier things.  For a while, panna cotta seemed like one of those simple and elegant desserts–always unfussy and usually plain.

While panna cotta graces many Italian dinners as a sweet farewell to the antipasti, primo piatto, secondo piatto, and contorno, its presence during the course of the meal, while appreciated, flits away as quickly as a dream ends. In short, it is hard to remember the experience of eating panna cotta because its flavors are so simple and pure that the dolce course seems so subdued relative to the other courses.

However, for a change, this twist on the classic panna cotta intrigued me in a way that I can’t pinpoint.  I think it’s the pink.  No, I swear, it’s the pink.  Wait, I’m not sure.  Is it the strawberry or the pink?  I am partial to both.   Or was it the novelty of trying kefir?

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