Sammy the Seal

Archive for March, 2013|Monthly archive page

Pineapple cheesecake + almond meringue sandwiches

In delicious, You're a kitty! on Sunday, 31 March, 2013 at 23:33

pineapple cheesecake 1

With ladyfinger border, obviously. Oops, didn’t get any photos of it sliced. Would’ve been messy anyhow. Sponge on the bottom, then pineapple, then cheese filling, then the rest of the pineapple. It was a fluffy cheesecake, not a smooth one with clean slices. I’d think that’s because of the soft peak meringue that was folded in to the mixture. (Edit: after speaking with a classmate this morning, it’s also quite likely I creamed too much air into the cheese mixture, which is why it wasn’t so smooth; it wasn’t so loose, it supported everything, but it sounds like you mix just until blended, and I remember definitely paddling it longer than that.) A little sweet, it could probably have done with only about 60% of the sugar. The ladyfingers had to be re-done, because I left them in maybe a minute too long. They were done when I checked on them the first time. Darn. But I wasn’t about to have a dark, shriveled, ugly border on the cake.

pineapple cheesecake 2

pineapple cheesecake 3

That would be an interesting appendage to have. You can snack on it, or you smash it into people, à la pie-in-the-face, at any moment, and then regenerate it.

pineapple cheesecake 4

Everything looks so different at night, like a different identity. It looks more serious.

pineapple cheesecake 5

I had extra whites from making buttercream, and extra buttercream from the cake, so for utilization’s sake, I made some almond meringue discs to hold the chocolate french buttercream. That, and I wanted to use my new mixer again, and to make one last thing before spring break ends and I have little time to tool around in the kitchen.
What’s with the dang shadows?almond meringue sandwiches 1

A bit better.

almond meringue sandwiches 2

And with that, I believe I feel a yawn coming.

yawn coming

Yes, it’s time to go.

yawn is here

Apricot chocolate sponge cake

In delicious, You're a kitty! on Friday, 29 March, 2013 at 15:43

apricot chocolate sponge 1

That’s chocolate french buttercream (fun to make, very rich and evil– good to use on your enemies), and more apricot under the little grate. The very bottom of the cake was sliced off and crumbled up so the top would have some texture instead of icing alone. That, and having more sliced surfaces instead of a crust surface.

So, another practice cake. Instead of adding most of the sugar to the egg foam and saving a little to be folded in with the dry ingredients, I did a bonehead switch-up and went vice versa. Fortunately, the volume didn’t seem to suffer, though I wonder what it would have looked like had the sugar not weighed the foam down and deflated it a bit when it was added with the flour. When the cake was cut (it wasn’t for me, of course), I didn’t have a good camera on me, and the cross-section shot was lousy, but I could’ve put more apricot jam in the middle, as well as evening it out. I could see a gap or two of empty space. Tsk. But the layers of icing on the side and top were good, fairly even and not too thick. Also, I can’t get my dang rosettes right. Basic, and still inconsistent.

apricot chocolate sponge 2

And my shell borders are still too big. Keep scaling back pressure, as light as I can go. I like to think I’ll get it.

apricot chocolate sponge 3

But, life isn’t all bad, at least not for some of us.

happy sunny cat 1

Happy sunny cat.

happy sunny cat 2

“I went to the market to realize my soul”

In vinyl on Sunday, 24 March, 2013 at 15:09

Song: Rudie Can’t Fail
Artist: The Clash
Album: London Calling

Shoot, what to do when I don’t feel like wasting too much time writing? Oh yeah, choose a song so awesome, the words flow easily, and you don’t even have to say much to begin with. My goodness, could this song be any catchier and livelier? I love the spontaneous atmosphere of the song, with backing vocals, spoken asides, interjections, and scatting from anyone and everyone at any moment scattered all throughout the song– “sing, Michael, sing!”, “no, no”, “oh no”, “okay!”, “have!”, “hey boss man!”, “where you wanna go today?” (since I first heard this song, I imagined that this is where Microsoft took their old tagline from). It seems the rule was to leave the mic open, and if you get close to it, you have to say something or make a noise. Even if you’re not in the band. It sounds like recording was a great time, I’d be shocked to learn there were too many takes of this. The camaraderie is humbling and inspiring, and it kinda galvanizes the chorus, which has a sincere, slightly plaintive tone, especially on the first two lines. They took time out to be heartfelt, then moved on before dwelling on it too much.

I always think describing them using the word “punk” is kind of an insult– they’re musicians, plain and simple. No posing, no self-importance, no bombast, just a good time delivered with great musicianship and élan for widespread enjoyment. There are songs I listen to more often, but this song is a perfect example of the joy and love of music. If you’re not singing, dancing, moving, or even bobbing your head? Well, if you can’t say something nice….

Some pictures. I always think it’s neat to see stuff from before I was born, when musicians sort of mattered. Hell, the world’s changed so much in the just the last 15 years, 35-40 seems downright mythical.

Red vegetable tart

In delicious on Monday, 11 March, 2013 at 17:02

red vegetable tart 1

This one is from a couple of weekends ago, I forgot how pretty it looked until I was cleaning out my camera. The  “red” tart is: red potato, red pepper, red onion, with feta above and below, in a pâte brisée shell. Much more appealing before baking. Cooking takes out the vibrancy of the color, of course. I heard it was good though, savory (not a dessert!) and loaded with vegetables.

red vegetable tart 2

Not pictured but made at the same time, were two types of flatbread pizzas that I didn’t eat but was warmly complimented on– one with red onion, broiled garlic and halved grape tomatoes, and red pepper; and the other with squash, apple, and red onion (there was a lot of vegetables prepped). I didn’t want to deal with activating yeast (I don’t have instant or fresh yeast) so I made flatbread, which is quite simple. I should have some of my own next time. For those not familiar with the baker’s percentage, it’s a way for comparing, by weight, the most abundant ingredient (usually flour), which is set at 100%, in relation to all the other ingredients. The flatbread was:

flour 100%
water 42%
olive oil 14%
sour cream (or yogurt) 14%
sugar 7%
salt 2%

I used 18 ounces of flour, then calculated the rest. Developed and rested like a normal dough, rolled out to 1/4″ – 1/8″ thickness, baked at 450° for 12-15 minutes, however long pizza takes. You can added spices or other inclusions to the dough, though I just brushed olive oil and herbs on it before adding the mozzarella and toppings. Instead of pizza, maybe just season, then bake half the time for flatbread strips or chips. Maybe one weekend when I haven’t procrastinated on my homework.

(Note: I just made some dough using 21 oz. flour, and the re-calculated amounts of the other ingredients, and came up with a very wet dough, so I added an ounce or two more of flour. My guess is that either my new bag of flour sucks, or else I measured incorrectly/my scale was off, because I followed the percentages exactly last time, and came up with a much more workable dough, as far as I can remember. Can’t wait to get a stand mixer.)

The Week In Pastry: Napoleon, Poured Mousses, Strawberry Charlotte

In delicious on Saturday, 9 March, 2013 at 10:20

This week was mousses and bavarians, though included is a napoleon from when I was working with puff pastry that I finished Monday.

Unlike the one I did the week before, this napoleon I created start to finish– mixing, baking, assembly/finishing– with the exception of sheeting the dough (which I could’ve done, except the chef asked someone to do it for me). Also, I didn’t make the fondant, but we make large batches at a time for everyone in the program to use, so few people actually make it. I made it once last quarter, so that counts. (I think the lens of the camera wasn’t clean, hence that gray spot on the right.)

napoleon full 1

Fondant wasn’t thick, so the chocolate lines melted into the white, unlike last time when it was too thick, which also made for sketchy feathering. Much smoother feathering this time around. I don’t usually like glares in photos, but shiny fondant means it was re-worked properly and not overheated (which results in an unappealing matte finish). So shiny is good here.

napoleon full 2

The molded mousses we make in batches and freeze, as well as the cookie bottoms, so the only thing I did myself was make the cocoa glaçage to pour them in, pour them, and finish with chocolate buttercream and filigree and such, all of which are par items and pre-made in bulk. For these Sarah Bernhardts, I did make the chocolate whipped cream inside:

sarah bernhardts

Chocolate mousse towers, of which all I did was finish, i.e. pour and then add a choco buttercream rosette and filigree. Shoulda gotten closer, oops:

choco mousse towers

White chocolate mousse pyramids, as finished by me, which should be obvious by the wonky white chocolate lines. If it isn’t obvious enough, the lines should be a lot finer; I cut the opening to the piping bag way too big. Also, it’s possible I should’ve melted the chocolate more thoroughly to be thinner. I also should’ve moved the pyramids as soon as I piped the lines on, before the lines dried. They had hardened when it was time to move them from the grate they were poured on, onto the liner, which is why there are broken lines on the center pyramid. Not too proud of those, finishing is kinda essential here, but oh well. Next time.

white choco pyramids

And finally, two strawberry charlottes with raspberry lemon gelée. I made most of it, though a couple of things were leftovers from other production, like whipped cream, lemon gelée, and the two thin layers of chiffon cake inside.

strawberry charlotte 1

A little messy with the gelée, which was influenced no doubt by the lack of uniformity of the ladyfingers. Piping those always gives me trouble, very messy. But I think all the other elements distract enough. I hope.

strawberry charlotte 2

“Can’t say why I kept this from you”

In music videos, vinyl on Sunday, 3 March, 2013 at 14:49

Song: Turn Into
Artist: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Album: Show Your Bones

Thank you to Easy Street for playing this song as I walked in the store, else I wouldn’t have been compulsively listening to this for the last six weeks. I guess it’s serendipity as much as anything, as it’s the final track on the album and  I happened to walk in on the solo halfway through the song. Regardless, hooray for record stores!

Every album is a progression for any performer, but this album and song feels less calculated than their debut. The brash, saucy vixen seemed all affectation to me. Despite a few good songs, that attitude rubbed me the wrong way when I wasn’t unimpressed by it. This one feels truer and more measured; it’s not all edge. As far as the more emotional songs go, this, just by comparison, blows “Maps” out of the water. The vocals are affecting and sincere, complementing the confessions and perspective of the lyrics. It’s pretty obviously (to me) about opening up/letting go, and I especially love the bridge, where the lyrics have gone from her not finishing her lines, to straight candor:

“Can’t say why I kept this from you
My, those quiet eyes become you
Leave it where it can’t remind us
Turn this all around behind us
Well I know
I’ll fall right in to keep you out,
I’d like to tell you all about it” (awesome crescendo in her voice on the very end of this line)

Between this and “Hysteric”, they certainly have a knack for mature reconciliation (call me an idealist, or at least optimist) love songs, which aren’t the sexiest or happiest, but feel more honest. The latter is more subdued and has less immediacy, but only by comparison. They both have a sense of acceptance and lessons learned that inform the song and give it some truth and realism. There’s a certain perspective that can only come with a fair amount of maturity and frankness with oneself, and these two are laced with it. It’s the process of moving from “I know what I know” and “keep that kind of window closed”, to “hope I do turn into you” and “I’d like to tell you all about it”, and maybe to “turn into the only thing you ever know”.

Of course, all that touchy-feely would be ultimately moot if the song weren’t danceable as hell. Which it is. It’s the first thing I noticed when I first heard the full song. This is a highly dynamic song. The fast, short strumming and steady, moderate gallop of the drums are rhythmically addictive and keep things moving. I can’t say it enough, but I really like when there’s some drive and muscle behind a song that elevates it from the level of mere prettiness and “aww!” It has that at heart, but it’s rockin’ too. What good is sentiment without conviction and a grounded attitude? That being said, the piano that starts just after 1:30 is too sweet, and how better to follow it up than with a squealing, spacey, awesome solo. The high notes that guitar hits from there until the end…. ah yeah. Lots of delicious noise at the end of the song. The drum fills at the end of the solo and at 3:19, where it kicks off the coda, are old as the hills, but who cares, I’m glad they put them there. They’re non-gratuitous, simple, and satisfying. I think this may well be their best song (pending the coming release).

I like the video– simple, hazy, colorful, and a little joyful, too. I’ve heard Karen O is as exuberant and expressive live as she is here, it’s a good look. The floating band near the end is some good goofy. Even Nick Zinner, sturm-und-drang-looking brooding with his foofy hairstyle and all, smiles at 3:23! I love that stuff. Count me for enjoying what you’re doing rather than posturing. I hate to reduce her to “cute”, but she looks cute here. Unabashed dancing always score points with me.