Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sponge cake with Nutella, strawberries and cream

Trying to spark blogger coils after long hiatuses is truly hard task, although I offer myself credit of doing it way better than anyone else. Of course, Season of Inferno discourages beyond measure these four-five-feels like forever- months when I put together cooking instructions/ ingredient lists and I'd rather be at the beach. Not that my overzealous kitchen experimenting has come to a halt. Nor is the motivation lost. It's just the disappointment in seeing pictures taken, edited, ready to link in what would be a perfect representation of summer, and realizing that the same summer is ready to be up and gone. Almost. I suppose, again, the resourcefulness that springs from being that errant recipe writer, often brings sporadic bouts of awesomeness, such as these, to fellow mankind. Thus, I believe I do my part and that belief is what gasses a post forward. So, this is somewhat of a midsummer's miracle. 

Turning through past dessert sequences, there seem to be more than a few pages dedicated to multi componented constructions, particularly a few layered, fruited treats. These conversations of cakeplusmanyoddities are utter, but simple refinement and convey much to the networking of complex flavor. These be the prototypes which owe a lot to a foundation built from flour, eggs, sugar, electric mixer.  Aand, in case you haven't come across the BFMK recipe index that I so proactively (seriously, your requests were hounding my dreams, ridding me of much sleep) spent a day, night and half of another tabling together, you can easily thumb through and find whatever I've highlighted and much more. 

Today we're aligning to this dynamic class of cake tiering a pound of fragraria, succulent bursts of red, that really do make for the best lipbalm flavor, ever. A genus of berry so accessible and affordable during these few months, where the harvest of our West coast alone would circle the globe more than 15 times. Yah, really! Then is it any surprise that my- probably yours too- refrigerator smells like strawberrypatchcentral?

Sponge cake is probably one of the most popular cakes ever, with a painless gatherable six ingredients that you're definite exist somewhere in your pantry/kitchen/closet right at this moment. Even when you're pressed for time, this is that cake you'd take to a potluck(yes, and several times), whip up for sweetdeprived(not really) kids, maybe dog as well. And if you follow through close to point, there's no room for unsuccess. 

Further, it's a deceptively easy assembly where each remarkable blanket of flavor helps build up to a blissful completion. Orange kissed drench over moist crumb. A luscious layover of creamy Nutella. Billowing clouds of puff cream. Ripe strawberries readying on to transcendence. Yes. We've just about reached.

The biggest plus? It is that one template from a rare few that doesn't need to be followed verbatim. This dynamic blueprint can be changed up/over/around to wherever the Tastebud Fairies transport you.

Shall we envisage a few prospects? How about clove-infused syrup in conjunction with poached pears and vanilla cream to drape on halved sponge? Dreamy pineapplejuice-rum soaked slices, topped and tucked with caramel, nuts and/or diced pineapple. These variant formats with the constant being today's cake are just wee bits from endlessly astounding possibilities which may or may not be sparking your hyperactive imaginations as we speak. Rest assured, it's all good.

I do believe keeping this from you any further is tantamount to serious crime. 

Besides it's way too pretty to be confined to a single screen.

And I'm thankful you stayed here for so long.

Do I hear you singing?

Or it could just be the angels.

This was a split-into-two presentation, one taken to a potluck, the other kept for the two junior beings I house, who finished it off in a day and vouch almost everytime they get a chance that this is the. Best. Dessert. Ever.

For the cake~
(Cake recipe adapted from CakeBoss sponge cake)
Ingredients:
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup salted butter
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
For the syrup and topping~
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp orange juice
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 1 jar Nutella
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved
  • mint sprigs(optional)
Directions/Assembly:
  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Beat eggs in stand mixer bowl on medium-high for 4 minutes. Do time this, it is crucial to get enough air beaten in so that it becomes light and airy.
  • Slowly add sugar to the eggs, and beat for another 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy.  
  • Beat in vanilla and zest.
  • In a saucepan on medium heat, melt milk and butter until butter is melted and both are blended.  Allow to cool a bit.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together flour and baking powder. Add to eggs and beat/mix gently until combined. 
  • Carefully stir milk/butter mixture this into the batter. Mix until just combined.
  • Pour evenly into two greased/floured 8" round cake pans.
  • Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes. After that reduce oven heat to 325°F for an additional 10 minutes or until the middle springs back when touched, or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
  • In the meantime, make a syrup by heating water and sugar in saucepan on stovetop. Take off heat. Stir in orange juice and zest.
  • Allow this syrup to cool slightly.
  • Take out cakes from oven and let stand in pans for 10 minutes. Turnover cakes onto wire racks to cool completely.
  • Gently spoon/spritz  orange spiked sugar syrup over cakes until cakes absorb and are somewhat dampened.
  • Let cakes set for a while or pop them into refrigerator for thirty minutes.
  • Meanwhile whip cream stiff, about 5 minutes. Add sugar and beat till amalgamated. Chill until cakes are ready.
  • Take cakes out and spread half the nutella over one cake. Spoon half the whipped cream over Nutella.
  • Arrange half the strawberries over the cream layer.
  • Set the second cake over the topped layer.
  • Repeat with the remaining Nutella, cream and strawberries.
  • Add mint to garnish. Keep chilled in refrigerator until serving.
  • Keep leftover cake covered and chilled.
Fabulous at room temp, yet chilled it becomes unbearably fantastic.
******
"As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend." Proverbs 27:17

 Thank you to all my buddies. You sharpen, encourage, uplift.  That goes to the fellow gourmands and recipewriting/interblog kin that springboard you, reiterating that yes, you can blog on. Those that actually aren't repulsed, but smile and offer small talk when your sweating face is barely making it through two reps at the gym. The one who brings you strawberries and bumper crops from her own backyard, for nefarious recipes such as these. Or load your schedule with playdates /activities and always include your kids when you never have the foresight to do so. Even them who reach out after a 20+ year gap and start conversation like it had never been dropped off. Most of all, thanks for just being nice when nice is all you need. God bless.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Steamed dumplings with chili dipping sauce

My attempts at trying to keep this space up and moving, aiming towards a one-broadcast-per-week circuit, a repertoire I honestly intended to stick to, is just not happening. As you've come to see over the past three years, multitasking, diligent foodblogger extraordinaire I am not. Those be the gifted and brilliant, and you know who you are, that get timely meals on the table, snap magazineworthy pictures of the same meals, keep house/pets/kids/clean, wax poetic over garlic like its nobody's business, save the world, all the while looking like Giada. How do you do? 

Whereas, I'm trying to shake off  what could be a rapidly advancing attention deficit, as well as the ton of bricks that occasionally sit on the wee right of my brain. This, while taking on the day's charming activities/ distractions/task checklist, read updating FB, switching/ OCD checking between three email accounts, feeding/bathing/cleaning up after dog/kids/sometimes me, killing scorpions and properly disposing of the pesky dead bird from my backyard. Really? Do you call that a conducive blogpost-a-week environment?

Spot on too, with meddlesome mental funk, is the pesky SAD which ultimately takes on my world. It's beginning, that time of the year, where supposedly balmy summer nights, shown in ads of pretty people roasting marshmallows over bonfires and barbecues happens not in my  reality. Just because I can do that on the sidewalk, along with  searing meat, frying eggs, browning potatoes, even baking cookies. For a good eight months, I live in The Inferno. Aahh, the benefits of the desert habitat, people, and I can't even cry.


But, wait... here is where it all comes full circle and I do what I must to stay afloat. As I see it, it's the only road to freedom. I eat my way through each and every nefarious experiment that happens in my kitchen, bringing in hope and a resurgence that I so need.

Now I can redirect the million conversations my mind has made to self during the inbetween, bringing today's subject to debut, expelling any and all illocution stuck in my head, straight to keyboard and onto screen. All the while making sure that today is the day it comes to the one nearest you, even if it means gluing myself to this chair. All day. Perhaps all night


And so we begin the subject of momos. Delightful little dumplings, found in profusion on streets of Southeast Asia. They are actually a delicacy native to the regions of Tibet and Nepal. Popularity of the quaint and cute packet has gained much momentum in the past few decades, where momos have invaded places from the corner cafe, roadside coffee shops, to well and beyond, most wanted feature on five star menus. Why even the spot of  map I sprung from, and my onceuponatime momo memory, brings in nostalgic bits I never wish to push aside. 


Like the Japanese gyoza, these consist of a thinly pulled flour-oil-water cover that can house a variety of filling. Vegetables. Shrimp. Meat- pork/beef/lamb/chicken. Take one, take many, the inside contents can be interchangeable and worked into creative combinations, anything that makes your heart, mind, and soul spin.

And with it you can master the make-your-own-dumpling-wrapper technique, which may not be as laborious as it sounds, but just that first step in achieving stunning bundled perfection.

From the mixing, kneading, wrapping, twisting and engineering into a somewhat original, attractive shape is both the challenge and appeal of the whole project. Where All-Homemade strikes an inner chord, and your kitchen counter becomes momomaking central, end to end. 

Ground turkey meat lends a healthful extension to this light-hearted affair and brings in a balanced, distinctly fresh complement. Zested up with the powerful combine of ginger-red chillies and kissed with masala-esque components, the meat tremendously works wonders against the backdrop of an otherwise bland dough. Served in conjunction with the potent, yet smooth dipping sauce, a more than three dozen batch reaches unbearably good heights, granting you access to eat much much more than you normally would. 

So here is where I leave you and wish you well. Go on. The weekend calls. And this could be precisely what it is asking for.

This is what happens when you twist...like a boss. Right??

Ingredients for the dough~
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 c water upto 2, enough to mix and make a smooth, pliable dough
Directions:
  • Mix flour, oil and salt in a medium bowl or in bowl of stand mixer
  • If using hands, slowly add water in parts and knead to a firm, yet supple dough. 
  • For the stand mixer, using dough attachment: knead pouring water in at intervals (1/4 cup at time) on medium speed till it forms nonstickydough. Use a light hand with the water, as it tends to get real sticky, real fast.
  • Cover the dough and keep aside for 30 minutes.
Ingredients for the filling~
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 tsp chopped ginger
  • 2 tsp sambal oelek, or fresh ground chili paste
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 lb ground turkey or chicken
  • salt
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
Directions:

  • Heat oil in a large skillet, over medium heat.
  • Add onions, ginger, saute for a minute.
  • Mix in remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly until well combined.
  • Allow to cook covered on medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until meat is done and all moisture is evaporated. About 20 minutes.

After the first few, you' would've found your own rhythm and pace. But if you're like me, you've gone through enough YouTube visuals to confuse your brain. So there's all shapes, all sizes. All good. No worries if things aren't perfect. We just hide, secretly eat those and move on.
Assembly~
  • Divide the dough in two equal parts. Place a damp towel over one and remove the other to a well flour-dusted counter/workspace.
  • Flatten the dough and using a rolling pin, also dusted with flour, roll the dough thin, but not transparent, to about ¼ inch thickness. It should be large enough in diameter to cut out about 4-5  4" inch disks. I used a 4"biscuit cutter/cookie cutter. You can use also the top of a wide mouthed glass/cup. Collect and knead the remaining dough scraps, cut out until remaining dough is used up. Repeat with the other half.
  • With your fingers, press and thin out the edge of each circle, just so that it is slightly thinner than the center.
  • Place 1 heaping tsp of turkey stuffing in the center of each disc/wrapper.
  • Using your forefinger and middle finger, start making small pleats along the edge of the dough circle. Fold in/ out from one side and go all the way around, trying to squeeze out any air, fully turning the dumpling around to close. 
  • Gently twist the top to seal. 
  • Keep the prepared momos covered until ready to steam.
  • Grease a steamer tray and and fill water in the basket. Place on high heat, and have it come to a boil. 
  • Place the momos on the greased tray, careful to keep space between each and not have skins touch. Cover.
  • With heat on medium- high, steam momos 15-20 minutes, until done. Dough will be smooth and taught.
  • Serve with chili dipping sauce.
With a deft hand and some serious dough twisting skills, you'll achieve art, which I clearly did not. I could only equate this pleating to sari draping. Those of you who've worn the 9 yard Indian national dress know what I mean. For those who haven't, you have nothing to worry about- pleat on. But as I stated on my page the other day, an awkward fold here or there produces not much wrong. Instead, the overall picture will actually look impressive, much like the sari's drape and fall. Subsequently, you may want to call yourself Momo Queen. Yes, I did.

Dipping sauce~
Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup tomato ketchup
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2-3 tbsp Sriracha/Asian chili sauce
Directions:
  • Combine all ingredients until smooth. Serve alongside momos.
Notes~
  • Adjust/add more seasonings to your meat filling.
  • Use a brush of water to seal opened or loosed pleats, although the dough will stick together when pressure is applied.
  • Don't overcook/ oversteam. You'll end up with dry, dense dumpling covers.

Three years ago~ cake pops 

******
"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18