Welcome to adobo-down-under!

Musings. Family. Food. Stories. Cooking. Recipes. Eating. A recipe journal. From simple Filipino dishes to challenging recipes and exciting gastronomical failures. This is for my girls to look back on for comfort, memories, laughs, love and lots of food!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The day I met Julie and Julia

I was quite entertained. Amused, inspired and amazed even. Surprisingly, even the girls. I've hired the DVD through the local online no-late-fees rentals, and quite frankly we've had it since more than 4 weeks ago. After that day, I have once again started working out the kitchen oven while my gym membership is accruing every fortnight. I wonder if there is phase in a year when a fraction of the world's population all march to the beat of one drum and swarm back into their kitchens to cook, bake, create until the phase dies and dwindles down and they go back to their lives and then be inspired again after a few weeks or months. Like the phases of the moon - full moon, half moon, quarter, new moon and then all over again. Or maybe not quite like the moon, but the commercial effects of TV, movies, ads, events and so on. Like the day I met Julie and Julia, along with Simca and Louisette.

The movie for one is totally entertaining. While I marvel at the life of Julia Child in Paris in the 40s portrayed by Meryl Streep, I was also quite fascinated by Julie Powell's life. For a once pencil-pushing bureaucrat to rise from the second floor apartment on top of a pizzeria is something of a feat. But to cook all the 524 recipes of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking is an absolute achievement. And Amy Adams portrayed it so well.

Before the Julie-Julia movie, I only know of Julia Child from mentions in cookbooks I've already owned, read or borrowed from the library. I also heard the name once in a conversation with an aunt who lives in NJ in the US , ...."about spending time in the kitchen so much ala Julia Child"... which was what kept her busy after retirement (she's been baking empanada on the side while still working in the UN but have orders sky rocketed beyond the roof when she retired. One time we were on the phone talking, she was busy preparing 300pcs for an individual order!) Which makes me clueless about Julia until I met both of them, together.

And so, like all food enthusiasts, I try and challenge myself every now (inspired as I was after watching the film) and then to make and create something that will take more than just measuring cups and mixing, but includes serious reading, understanding and involvement. And what could be less than inspiring than the Reine de Saba (Queen of Sheba) featured in the film - the Chocolate Almond Cake by Simone Beck.

The occasion to create something like Simone Beck's Reine de Saba requires more than the indicated preparation and baking time. I have been reading the recipe over and over again for weeks (the book on my bedside table - Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Martha Stewart Cupcakes. But hey, I also have Dreams from Father by Barack Obama so don't think I only dream of cupcakes everyday. Or maybe.....) A cake like this requires a special audience (I was quite sure my girls will not be the right audience for this) and so when the right invitation came, the time to actually bake the cake has come to fruition.

This cake found its way as dessert (alongside a new baking staple in our home - the Lemon Yogurt Cake) to one lovely evening in Cammeray with the Vega's. A lovely dark moist cake, with flaky roasted almonds. The cake is not sweet and has the dark chocolate taste that I oh so love, made even more bitter with the choice addition of espresso in the batter (the ingredients called for either rum or espresso and I chose the latter). While I thought I burned the almonds in the oven, it gave the cake a lovely crunch outside and the roasted taste of the flaked almonds added the extra flavour to this lovely, lovely chocolate cake. A word of caution though - this cake is not your average-kids-party-kind-of-chocolate-cake. This cake is sophisticated. And will definitely be one of those recipes I will want to perfect, by heart. Simone Beck - you are an artist for creating this glorious cake! And as Julia Child always says, "Buon appetit!" There most definitely be a time and place for that Boeuf Bourguignon some day. Meanwhile, all hail to the Queen of Sheba!

I can post the recipe here but then you will be missing out on a lot of learning if I do - the book is truly a masterpiece. Each recipe is written so that you go back to previous pages for important tips and details such as how to beat egg whites the proper way, and illustrations on how to best cream sugar and butter together. So if you want to try and prepare this cake, you must try and get hold of a copy - borrowed from the library or better yet, get your own copy. The latest copy was printed last year August 2009 - and has celebrated its 40th anniversary last 2001.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls that rock

The smell of bread baking in the oven always perks me up. It also turns up my appetite. Doesn’t have to be in my own home. Could be from the neighbour’s, the local bakeshop as I drive through, the bakeshop in the supermarket as I do my grocery shopping. The truth is, the smell of bread baking transports me into pure bliss – outside an Artisan bread shop in Tuscany, or at the Les Deux Magots at Boulevard Saint Germain in Paris sipping coffee and admiring Ernest Hemingway from across the table, or simply infront of the the local panaderia in Cubao Quezon City awaiting for my brown bag filled with P10 worth of pandesal! What can I say? I love my bread and dream of a Tuscany and Paris trip too! And in the past 3 years since I started myadobo, I have made attempts to make pandesal at home, like this post here. And have not been successful. At least not yet.

Recently, I’ve put myself to the challenge of cupcakes. I’m on a cupcake mission, but yet to plan my strategy. And while enroute to cupcake heaven, cinnamon rolls came to mind. I first found Market Manila's recipe here but find it too tasking. I found another recipe online here called Harvest Cinnamon Rolls which showed step-step instructions, tips and even shows photos. And since there aren’t many cinnamon rolls bought around Sydney (there is a favourite of mine from Manila which is the US franchised Cinnabon) I thought this will be an excellent challenge as I will only be basing my comparison to a commercial brand stamped as one of the best. Although my critics’ palates are not yet up to the sweetness and aroma of anything cinnamon, Lolo and Lola are always up to the taste-test challenge. And so these first attempts at cinnamon roll will be making their way to Greenwich Road for afternoon tea.

My first attempt which I’ve started working on last night, I must say, is somewhat successful. They looked almost exactly the same as the photos from the site, but not quite.

  • For starters, the rolls did not rise much. After preparing the rolls, I’ve put them in the refrigerator overnight. Still did not rise enough in the morning. I could have waited a few more minutes and let them rise on the counter, but I’m too excited as always. And the girls’ had school so there.
  • The recipe said it will yield 15 rolls, but I had 22! I must have rolled and stretched the dough too thinly.
  • I’ve used a square 9x9 pan which did not have enough room for the 12 rolls which made the baking less satisfactory. I have now bought a 9x13 cake pan which should fit in the 12rolls snugly.
  • Some of the baked rolls had the middle puffing up (which must be because they were rolled too tightly?).
  • By lunch time, the rolls I took to the office aren’t as soft as they were straight from the oven. I’m guessing it had less kneading or too much?
Although I have somewhat burned the first batch this morning, I must say it’s all looking good. I still have the other 9 rolls in the fridge waiting to be baked. With all this eagerness and enthusiasm bursting out of me like a microwave popcorn, there will be second batch of, hopefully 15 rolls by tomorrow’s breakfast. Not that the girls like this for breakfast. But they’re definitely keen to do some kneading. It should be an excellent treat to their teacher for a great Term 1 and for Easter as well.


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