Sammy the Seal

Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

Rhubarb danish

In delicious on Thursday, 28 June, 2012 at 17:33

rhubarb danish 1

Ah, if only these hadn’t been baked at 9 at night, I might have felt more inclined to whip up some kind of glaze or icing for these. They have kind of a matte finish, which is fine, but would be prettier with a covering. However, they were still delicious. Taking a bite, I initially knew the flavor but couldn’t place it, and then, I remembered that danish pastries are made of croissant dough (which I only just learned recently). Ah geez, if I recall (I’m not at home with the recipe), the ingredients were:

3.5 c flour
1 t yeast
1 c water, barely warm
1.5 c butter, cold
1/3 cream

1 # rhubarb (two long stalks)
≤ 1/2 c sugar
≤ 1/4 c water
1 T cornstarch

The rhubarb filling I made days ahead of time, as cooked filling will last longer than fresh produce. I chopped off the very ends of each stalk (no leaves, poisonous!), then sliced each into hunks no thicker than 1/4 -1/2 “, then I put them in a saucepan with the sugar, water, and cornstarch, stirred, and heated up to simmering, before turning it down to medium heat, or just under. I stirred gently, but constantly for 10-12 minutes, or until soft. There will be some chunks intact, but some of it will break down and turn to mush. Then I left out a little to cool before refrigerating.

The dough… Yikes, I don’t remember. Here goes my memory: I combined 1 cup of flour, the water and yeast, stirred to eliminate lumps, and let rise for an hour or so (it’s a thin mixture). Then, I added the cream and the rest of the flour, stirring until it came together into a loose, shaggy mass, before kneading by hand for about ten minutes on the counter until smooth and elastic. Then I refrigerated for about 15 minutes. While that was going, I mashed the butter in between two sheets of plastic wrap with a rolling pin, until I got a roughly 8″ x 8″ square. I then refrigerated the butter while waiting for 15 minutes to finish on the dough. After taking the butter and dough out, I rolled out the dough to double the area of the butter, then placed the butter on one end of the resultant rectangle and folded it over. Then I rolled it out longer, and folded the dough into thirds (like a letter) over itself, then turned, crease on the left, into the an 8″ x 16″ rectangle, then, fold into thirds. Total, I folded it five times I think. (I started late at night, got tired, and finished the last two folds in the morning before work.) Then I floured it, wrapped it in plastic and refrigerated it for at least 12 hours. It was kind cool how even in the morning, the dough had ballooned overnight (due to the yeast).

That evening, it was time to roll out into a rectangle no more than 1/4” thick in parchment paper, before putting it all on a pan, and into the fridge or freezer for chilling, to firm up the dough a little, about 15-20 minutes, less in a freezer. When I took it out, I sliced the dough into strips about an inch wide, then twisted each end of each strip in opposite directions until the inside of the strip was no longer visible. At that point, I formed each into a loose spiral, before saving an inch or two of the tail to tuck up through the space in the middle, and pressing down to make/seal a pit for the filling. (Note: the longer the rolled rectangle, the larger the pastry, as the dough strip will wrap around itself more.) Then I crammed the filling in. (Note: the size of the pit doesn’t matter. More filling shouldn’t affect how the pastry cooks. The bottom was not at all moist, as I thought may happen, but it was crisp!) The uncooked pastries went onto ungreased, unlined baking sheets and covered in plastic wrap to proof for an hour or two. Just before baking, I glazed them with egg wash. Then, FINALLY, I baked them for about 20 minutes at 400º, or until desired brownness is reached. Pleasing taste, light texture, fruity center. Even uncooked, I was excited about them, and I felt vindicated afterwards.

The flat perspective. Not as nice, but I was so happy they turned out, I like looking at them.

rhubarb danish 2

The whole family:

rhubarb danish 3

rhubarb danish 4

What I’d do differently:

Glaze it, as I mentioned earlier. Also, I’d make the pits bigger to stuff more filling. (In fact, I have leftover icing from the cake, maybe I’ll use it in these next time.) But, if using fruit filling, it’s probably best to cook the fruit first, to remove moisture, or else line the bottom with some kind of paste or cream cheese filling if using fresh fruit. Also, it might be fun to fill it with a non-sweet filling. With pastry doughs, anything is possible!

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Lime and blueberry birthday cake

In delicious on Saturday, 23 June, 2012 at 23:53

lime blueberry cake cross-section 1

And again, in all its messy glory:

lime blueberry cake cross-section 2

My first assembled cake. A bit ramshackle, eh? All told, it’s a basic sponge cake, with lime mousse as filling and blueberry cream cheese frosting for the outside. The cake is the same one I did here, just doubled, as I wanted a thicker cake to make more layers. The accoutrements were as follows:

Blueberry cream cheese frosting:
2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
8 T (1/2 c) butter, softened
2 c powdered sugar
1 1/4 c blueberries, crushed

I whipped the cream cheese, then whipped in the butter, then the powdered sugar, and then the blueberry.

Lime mousse:

1/2 c lime juice
< 1/2 c sugar
3 eggs
2-3 T butter
lime zest from however many limes it took to get 1/2 c juice

1 c whipping cream
1-2 T sugar

I constantly whisked the juice, sugar and eggs in a mixing bowl over an inch or so of simmering water on the stove for about 10-12 minutes, then, when it thickened, I strained it into another bowl and stirred in the butter (to take some of the acidic edge off) and zest. Then I let it cool a half hour or so before refrigerating it. (I actually made it a few days early to get a head start on this new adventure.) Then, come assembly day, I set the curd out on the counter a bit to warm up before whipping up the cream. I whipped about 3-5 minutes to get medium peaks (that held, obviously), then I emptied the curd down the side of the bowl and gently folded them together until there were no patches of white remaining, then I refrigerated.

The cake was sliced into three layers, about 1/2 inch thick, with layers of mousse in between. Then, I set it back into the fridge for 15-20 minutes, before coating with frosting. I had about 3/4 cup blueberries left from the two 6-oz. packages I had, so I made concentric rings with them on top. (Also, I had a little mousse left, so I put it in a couple of cute little ramekin dishes, nifty little snack portion.) Not the prettiest thing, my frosting was a bit thinner than I’d hoped. Well, you’ve got to start with layered cakes somewhere. It’s rather small, it couldn’t have been more than 4″ tall:

lime blueberry cake whole

There goes that thin frosting again, running off:

lime blueberry cake slice

So, hopefully I’ll learn how to slice cakes into even layers, and next time I flavor frosting with fresh fruit, I’ll remember to drain some of the juice after crushing it, or else cook it with cornstarch for a little bit before using it as flavoring. Darn, and I bought an expensive offset spatula to sculpt the cake with. Too bad my frosting more fluid than solid.

Rosemary cheddar gougères

In delicious on Monday, 18 June, 2012 at 22:23

rosemary cheddar gougeres plate

Finally, non-dessert baked goods! Not the best photo, nor presentation, but man do they smell great. They taste almost as good, and that’s not a knock. It just smells really good baking up. It’s my first attempt at pâte à choux (cream puff pastry dough) and it wasn’t too bad. I mean, the product turned out pretty well, anyway. I forgot exactly how they went, but it’s not at all complex. I think this is pretty close:

1 c water
salt
pepper
1/4 – 1/2 t sugar
1/2 c butter, sliced thinly
1 c flour, sifted
4 eggs
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 c cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 T dried rosemary, crushed

I put the water, salt, pepper, sugar, and butter in a saucepan over high heat until it simmered, then turned the heat down to medium and dumped in the flour, stirring for a minute or so, until there the mix clumped together in a mass and there was a thin film of cooked flour on the bottom. Then I removed it from heat and transferred the mixture to a mixing bowl to stir and cool a little, before adding one egg at a time, at which point the mixture will break up, but I kept stirring until the mix became one mass again. After the last egg, I folded in the rosemary and one cup of the cheese, then I transferred it all into a piping bag and made little swirls that folded in on themselves, then brushed them with egg white to glaze and to smooth out the surface, before sprinkling the tops with the rest of the cheese. I baked for 22 minutes at 425º, until golden brown on top. Man, did it smell good while I waited. They’re best right out of the oven, but this made about 2.5 dozen, so obviously one can’t eat them all then. Great for sharing, though. They’re okay cold, but best hot. Like most baked goods with a crust, they lose a little crispness when re-heated, so I recommend an oven to do so.

Small, bite-size, fit in the palm of your hand. Trouble is they’re slight, so overeating is tempting. I ate about six or seven before putting them away for the evening.

rosemary cheddar gougeres pan

“Twin high-maintenance machines”

In music videos, vinyl on Friday, 15 June, 2012 at 18:56


Song: This Year
Artist: The Mountain Goats
Album: The Sunset Tree

Ah, two of my favorite things: good storytelling, and upbeat music over more dramatic, “heavy” sentiments (e.g., the refrain). I guess I could say three things, if you include a simple, but effective hook, but that goes without saying. It’s a shame I haven’t taken to much of John Darnielle’s output as a whole, because he has a quite unique voice. I’ve heard him sound a bit spirited from time to time, but the music never quite matched it. The vast majority of his songs are played solely on acoustic guitar, rarely being matched with fuller arrangements. I’m sure it’d stand out fine acoustically, but with the simple addition of adding piano and stomping percussion, this song is an undeniable rush, despite being essentially an “unplugged” performance. I think it’s safe to say this is by far the most, if not only, jaunty, toe-tapping tune in the Goats’ repertoire. Not that the subject matter is too hefty, but the refrain is pretty universal, even if it sounds melodramatic, so it always helps when music helps the pill go down. Not that I can relate specifically to the story, but at the very least I have to give it up for the lyricism and detail. I give propers to his work with his pen on this one. And yet, there’s nothing really hidden, it’s a pretty literal song. And, even if one can’t relate directly or personally to the themes, the overall message or sentiment can apply anywhere: nervous, unsure hope and resolve, but hope and resolve nonetheless.

Thanks to Craig Finn to alluding to this song out on The Hold Steady’s song “Girls Like Status”, when he sang, “it was song #3 on John’s last cd– ‘gonna make it through this year if it kills me.'” (“This Year” is, yes, the third track on the album.) Of course, of all the 500+ songs I borrowed from someone else’s collection, I’m sure I would’ve latched on to this song anyway. I’d guess that among the devotees, this is one of his most well-known songs. Not just because it’s good, but because of its spirit and pop feel. Energy like this is hard to miss, and to deny.

“…let the ashes fly”

In vinyl on Thursday, 14 June, 2012 at 11:42


Song: Myth
Artist: Beach House
Album: Bloom

Noooo, I can’t believe I fell for something so pretty and precious! I’m not hating, it’s just that most of their stuff is too dreamy, hazy, and languid for my taste. But by comparison, this is relatively dynamic (for a slow song) and has a discernible, fairly strong melody and an effective, swooning bridge. I don’t know, knowing myself, this sounds like the type of thing I could resist, but when they get you, they get you.

Emotional, (melo)dramatic lyrics ahead. Even so, I don’t really mind them, strangely. Lines like “what comes after this momentary bliss?” and “can’t keep hanging on to what is dead and gone” are kinda heavy-handed, yet almost made it to the top, but thank goodness for the “ashes” line. I don’t know, maybe this is just a time of weakness and I’m temporarily susceptible to this kind of thing. I mean, I’m actually a little moved by the song. (Softie.)

“drifting in and out
you see the road you’re on
It came rolling down your cheek
you say just what you mean
and in between
it’s never as it seems

help me to name it
help me to name it

if you built yourself a myth
you’d know just what to give
what comes after this
momentary bliss
the consequence
of what you do to me

help me to name it
help me to name it

found yourself in a new direction
arrows falling from the sun
canyons calling
would they come to greet you
let you know you’re not the only one

can’t keep hanging on
to what is dead and gone
if you built yourself a myth
you’d know just what to give
materialize
or let the ashes fly

help me to name it
help me to name it”

Red plum tart, almond frangipane filling

In delicious on Wednesday, 13 June, 2012 at 23:22

plum frangipane tart slice dusted

My first plated dessert! I should bake during the day only so that I can photograph with natural light. The nice thing about not being completely successful with a recipe is that since it’s off, instructions are pointless. (Also, I don’t want to write them, it’s late.) If it were a complete success, I also would’ve brushed the extra sugar off the crust and the rim of the plate. I might want to check the prices for a mini food processor– I ground the almonds in a blender, which was kinda vexing. Also, the skin didn’t come off the almonds after roasting, which is why the filling is so dark. I should get a spreader too. That aside, it came out okay. I used a basic pastry crust as opposed to a sweet one, which I thought would help offset the tartness of the fruit, but it didn’t really need it (and, I had a lump of the basic dough to use up). Another thing for next time is a couple more plums, I would’ve liked to pack them in tighter. They’re leaning slightly, I would’ve liked them to be standing. At least seven, instead of five, should do the trick. More plum, more tart. Extra fruit is always a good idea.

The plain slice didn’t look so hot in person, but it sure does look pretty photographically represented. The power of natural light….

plum frangipane tart slice plain

Good lighting makes a hell of a difference in photography, doesn’t it? Thank goodness for the daylight slices, go back and look at those.

plum frangipane tart

“We’re not like underpants– we’re people! We’re not supposed to be perfect!”

In celluloid, experience on Monday, 11 June, 2012 at 14:36

Not that its essential to the plot but if you’re familiar with the old Hanes® commercials, the premise makes more sense. This is only one of three I found online:

And from that, comes the wisdom of those lines and of Pete And Pete. Oh, imagination, where have you gone to? Poor kids today. I think I was no longer a part of the Nickelodeon set when this came out, but I remember this one, because of the greatness of those lines and the premise this one. Offbeat, but well-written, with a good “message” (I hate that word) too. I’m also partial to this one because I am a functional eater and therefore not always picture perfect and mannered and clean, and Nona’s (adorable little Michelle Trachtenberg) slightly didactic, but true, admonishment that “you’re supposed to use your hands!” vindicates me. If you’re not going to take her word, take Little Pete’s then: “eating perfectly is imperfect.” I think the barbecue scene at the end is actually kinda sweet. The end credits song by Solaris (who did the theme song) is a nice, melodic, 90s-jangly bookend.



“Forget your past, this is your last chance”

In music videos, vinyl on Wednesday, 6 June, 2012 at 14:24

Hey, I had no idea there was a video for this! (I must be, ahem, “Losing My Edge”.) Actually, it’s more a short film than a video, due mainly to the fact the song is almost eight minutes long. So by default, actually, though not really: contrary to common practice with this kind of song length, the song is unedited for the video (as opposed to “All My Friends”, which is nearly as long a song). A very wonderful and pleasant surprise, no radio or single edit. I feel temporarily reassured and hopeful.

Aside from the Pinocchio reference which I just picked up on, in light of the adventures the robot gets into, it’s pretty clear that robot = James Murphy. Even with the robot conceit, the concept is pretty simple concept, not too kooky, and very effectively executed. The pace and tone of the video fits the song perfectly. Most notable and poignant for me is the robot leaving the party on the “forget your past…” line. I admit I get a teeny bit choked up at that fusion of image and song. Running a close second, though is the utterly charming and likely accidental wall collision at 6:50. If there were ever an obvious decision in the history of film and video editing, it would be leaving that in the final cut. And the very end, while slightly hokey and cute, is still sweet and uplifting.

Anyway, I’ve been taking some solace in This Is Happening (front-to-back solid album, their only in my opinion) very recently, and out of sheer curiosity and hopefulness, I find there is indeed a video. Yay.

I’ve done the lyrics before. Always a good, inspiring read. “…This is what you waited for, but under lights we’re all unsure, and so tell me: what would make you feel better?” Man, I love that bit.

“Tell where you’ve been, my life”

In music videos, vinyl on Monday, 4 June, 2012 at 14:02


Song: Spring And By Summer Fall
Artist: Blonde Redhead
Album: 23

As this song has only been with me a week, I don’t have a lot to say about it yet. On the surface it sounds a bit slick and dramatic and overwrought, I’ll admit that. But a couple of days ago I was feeling moody, and I heard this song and its melancholy melody, and then I felt better. (My understated response is not unlike Louis Tully’s courtroom defense of the titular Ghostbusters in the sequel: “one time I turned into a dog and they helped me, thank you.”) Never bag on or disrespect something that helps you out, no matter how trivial it may seem.

Something else that helps me feel better:

i can't move

Mango strawberry peach pie + lounging and sharing

In delicious, You're a kitty! on Sunday, 3 June, 2012 at 20:36

mango strawberry peach pie

I realized the less photos I take, the sooner I can eat. And this one’s good enough. And, it’s just pie. Versatile, undemanding, satisfying pie:

a batch of dough

one pound strawberry (hulled, washed, sliced)
≥ one pound peach, unpeeled (pitting and slicing the damn things is tricky enough)
one mango, peeled and chunked
1/4 c cornstarch
≤ 1/2 c sugar

Glaze and sugar (colored sugar crystals might be fun one day) the top crust, then into the oven. 400º for 15 minutes, 350º for the next  30-35. It could’ve been shinier, I think it’s because I glazed with milk instead of egg white.

Other than that, we laid about

another lounging cat
yet another lounging cat
Also, for kicks, I took a couple shots from a much sunnier angle. Be warned, the demonic ghost cat may haunt your dreams:
demonic ghost cat 1
demonic ghost cat 2