strawberry rhubarb crumble ice cream

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While at a dinner, someone recounted a story about hiking near old mine shafts–the houses of the workers were now long gone, but rhubarb patches remained, still growing from over a hundred years ago, a clear testament to rhubarb’s tenacity.

But even rhubarb struggled in the front yard of my childhood home–alongside an apple tree that never managed to actually produce apples and a lilac bush that flowered once every several years. The yard, a burial ground for my goldfish and the few birds we found at the claws of our neighbours’ standoffishly beautiful and violent cat, was made of hard, grey and crumbly brick-like soil. Our rhubarb plant was a success if the plant could give us a few good stalks. The stalks were a deep red from root to leaf and – at least we swear – sweeter and more delicious than any rhubarb we’ve grown since. When we did have rhubarb we would mix it with strawberries and make pies and crumbles, though admittedly, most of the rhubarb in the pies was usually sourced from a family friends abundant rhubarb patch.

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I remember pies. more vaguely as they came to progressively be replaced by crumbles. And while I lament the loss of pies, it may just be out of duty as an adorer of pastry. I’m not sure how much I actually miss pies when the focus is on the fruit and quick ease of a crumble gets you there more expeditiously and hence more frequently and with more solid fruit per serving.

Rhubarb is something I’ve had the luck to take for granted, but once I start thinking about it, I find rhubarb so strange and full of contradictions. Tart, yet usually eaten in sweet applications, stringy and watery like celery but still so flavourful. It’s the flavour of childhood summers, and even winters when pies were made from excess rhubarb sliced and piled in plastic bags for the freezer.

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When I was younger I loved to mix the sweet fruity juices from the pies or crumbles with whipped cream and call it ice cream (more accurately one could describe it as a very soupy strawberry rhubarb fool). I suppose that’s why a strawberry rhubarb crumble ice cream has been on my mind.

This ice cream just has all the components of a crumble thrown in. I realize that it doesn’t really make sense–lacking any contrast, it really is a poor replacement for warm crumble with heavy cream or ice cream on top. But then when you want something different: something cool and refreshing with tart icy pieces of fruit and bits of crumb for texture, make sense it does.

crumble ice creamstrawberry rhubarb crumble ice cream

ice cream base

2 c milk/cream (I used around half and half)

1″ length of vanilla bean

5 egg yolks

5 tbsp roasted sugar

scant 1/2 tsp kosher salt

roasted fruit

2-4 big-small stalks rhubarb

a couple heaping handfuls of strawberries

2 tbsp sugar

crumble

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp flour

pinch salt, cinnamon

1 tbsp each wheat germ, wheat bran, rolled or instant oats OR 3 tbsp rolled or instant oats

For the ice cream base, warm the milk/cream in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds and transfer them to the milk. Drop in the pod as well. Once the milk is steaming, turn off the heat, cover and let the mixture infuse for 15 minutes.

Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and salt. Rewarm the milk mixture, and once the milk is steaming, gradually whisk some into the egg yolks to temper, then transfer the mixture back to the saucepan. Continue to cook gently while stirring constantly, careful not to boil the mixture, until it forms a thin custard that coats the back of a spoon (or reaches 155F). Pull out the vanilla pod or strain if there are lumps. Chill.

For the fruit, preheat the oven to 375F. Slice the rhubarb and strawberries into small pieces. Toss with the sugar and spread out over a parchment lined pan. Bake until the fruit has shrunk and any juices are thick–a few blackened tips are okay, but remove if all the fruit or the juices start to burn. Let cool, then chill completely in the fridge.

For the crumble, cream together all the ingredients in a small bowl. Scatter the crumble over a parchment lined pan (a small pan will do) and bake in the 375F oven for around 15 minutes or until nicely browned. Let cool, then transfer to the freezer and chill.

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earl grey blueberry cake

SAM_0140SAM_0157The inspiration for this cake was derived considerably from my desire to make a purple cake – like when frozen blueberries bleed into your muffin batter, except more intentional and not a greeny blue, but more a intense and beautiful purple in colour. This was despite not having seen any purple cakes (apart from ube-flavoured ones) which should have let me know that making a purple cake from blueberries is not a straightforwards endeavour.

Below are two interpretations of an earl grey and blueberry cake that didn’t quite meet the desired purple mandate, but do taste nice.

Attempt #1: a green cake

The first attempt began with an earl grey and blueberry chiffon cake. I used blueberry juice in which earl grey tea was steeped for flavour and colour.

Delightfully, in it’s initial phases — a mixture of steeped blueberry juice, eggs, oil — was an intense purple. Everything went down hill following the addition of the flour mixture, as the batter quickly morphed to a grey-tinged green.

For me, this has been one of the few times that I’ve needed to consciously consider chemistry in such a in-your-face manner – i.e. very visual colour changes! Whereas usually, while interesting to read about food chemistry, I typically do very little with that information.

Blueberry pigmentation is derived from anthocyanins, which also are responsible for the colours in many flowers (thank you singular biology course I took!). Notably, anthocyanin colour is affected by pH, shifting from more red at lower pH (acidic conditions) to violet to blue at higher pH (basic conditions). I would guess that the base in the baking powder shifted the pH such that the colour lost its reddish and violet hue. Perhaps the green colour emerged from the combination of yellow egg yolk with the blue-er pigment.

The strange green cake baked up into a rather pleasant grey-brown instead – and the tea-speckled grey did conjure connotations of earl grey. The aforementioned/linked paper also describes how anthocyanin is more stable at a lower pH, however given the rapidity of the changes I suspect what I observed was more to do acid/base reaction than degradation – but perhaps pigment degradation could have played some part in the colour changes during baking.

Regardless of the colour, the chiffon cake had a pleasantly light taste of tea to it, and was quite nice served with cream swirled with blueberry puree and more blueberries.

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Attempt #2: a blue cake

For the second go around, I thought I would start with a base cake recipe without baking powder in hopes of better preserving the colour – so I turned to my favourite egg-leavened sponge. I also used a bit of cream of tartar to help stabilize the whipped egg whites, which has the added benefit of being a bit acidic. As the skin of blueberries appears to contain the greatest concentration of the desired pigments, I made a blueberry puree as opposed to using juice.

The resulting batter baked up into a very similarly coloured cake – a sort of strange blue which felt as though it was quite artificial as the colour doesn’t remind me of anything edible. Though it’s a strange choice for an artificial colour) as it’s not particularly pretty, and to be honest, mostly just reminding me of the disintegrating foam pad found under our old carpet.

To finish the cake, I filled it with earl grey infused whipped cream which was clearly tea-flavoured and delicious. However, I did find the cream didn’t whip up very smoothly – perhaps to do from acidity from components such as tannins in the tea? More acid-base indeed!

earl grey blueberry cake

 

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a green cake (earl grey and blueberry chiffon cake)

Makeshift tube cake pan method from epicurious. Chiffon cake adapted from Make Fabulous Cakes.

110mL blueberry juice

1 earl grey tea bag + 1/2 tsp finely ground earl grey tea

140g flour

10g baking powder

1/4 tsp kosher salt

4 egg yolks

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

90mL neutral oil

100g sugar

4 egg whites

Prepare a 7″ springform pan into a tube pan as such using a small tall can–I wrapped it in parchment paper, and secured it with a string tied around the top. To weigh it down, I filled the can with water. OR use a tube pan! As it makes quite a bit of batter, also line 4-6 muffin cups with papers.

Warm the blueberry juice until boiling, then add the earl grey tea bag and steep for 10 minutes. Remove the tea bag — you want around 90mL of blueberry juice left. Top up if there is not enough.

Preheat the oven to 325F.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/2 tsp finely ground tea. In a large bowl combine the egg yolks with the oil, blueberry juice and vanilla extract. Sift the dry ingredients overtop and whisk in.

Whip the egg whites with the sugar until stiff. Fold a bit into the egg yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in the remainder.

Fill the makeshift tube pan (I filled it nearly to the top but perhaps that was a bit too much) and use the remaining batter to fill the muffin cups.

Bake the cupcakes for around 18-20 minutes, and the large cake for around 35-40 minutes or until an inserted skewer is removed clean. To turn the cake upside down, I first removed the can from the middle (unfortunately my parchment paper came with it, which was a bit of a mess), emptied out the remaining water (next time just put a bit in so it all evaporates in the oven?), replace it, and then flipped the cake over, balancing it on the can. Let cool upside down.

Slice cake and serve with cream (swirled with blueberry puree if desired) and blueberries.

 

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a blue cake (earl grey and blueberry roll cake)

Cake recipe adapted from Rice ‘n Flour.

blueberry puree

1 cup blueberries

cake

3 eggs, split

45g sugar

5g water or blueberry juice

30g oil

1/2 tsp earl grey tea, finely ground

22g corn starch

23g a.p. flour

salt

cream of tartar

filling

3/4 c heavy cream

1 earl grey tea bag

more blueberries

Make blueberry puree by cooking the blueberries in a small saucepan until they pop and release their juices. Use an immersion blender to puree and chill completely, then press through a sieve.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper.

To make the cake, whisk together the egg yolks with the oil, 35g of the blueberry puree, and because it was quite thick, 5g of water. Sift the flour, cornstarch and ground tea over top and whisk in until completely combined.

In a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites with the salt and cream of tartar until frothy, then sprinkle in the sugar and whip until stiff peaks are formed. Fold one dollop of the egg whites into the batter completely before adding the remainder and folding in lightly. Scrape into the prepared pan, level with an offset spatula and tap to release any large air bubbles.

Bake around 15 minutes or until lightly browned, springy, and an inserted wooden skewer/toothpick is removed clean.

Let cool on a wire rack (you can flip the cake over onto a piece of parchment paper to prevent the top of the cake from drying and becoming brittle).

For the filling, warm the heavy cream until scalded (but not boiling) and add the tea bag. Allow for infuse for 10 minutes. Remove tea bag and chill completely, then whip with 1 tsp of sugar until stiff–I found that my cream did not whip up very smooth though.

Spread the cream over the cake, scatter with blueberries. Roll up and chill to allow the cake to firm.

ispahan roll cake

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Today we have our second instalment of Roll Cake Road Show, a traveling roll cake show visiting roll cakes from pan to table. Today’s show takes place somewhere between the region of whipped cream and mousse, but still firmly in the county of sponge cake.

Here is our first roll cake guest that we’ve lured into our trap attracted with our excellent narrative skills and engaging exposition.

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Hello there! So happy to see you’ve come out. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Roll Cake (RC): [slowly rolls self into the impromptu studio tent and is lifted up and set in a chair by the host as it begins to talk.] Why hello – [breaks into coughing fit while being lifted] – ah, thank you. As soon as I heard the road show was visiting, I couldn’t help myself and just had to come visit!

We’re so glad that you made it out. But now, tell us more about yourself. How were you made?

RC: The story of my birth begins in the kitchen—

Yes, of course! Where else would you be made?

RC: [grumpily] I’m only trying to answer your question! You’re not very courteous for a TV show host are you?

I’m – I’m sorry. I think I was just struck by a pang of hunger which made me lash out. Please continue.

RC: I was made in the image of Pierre Herme’s classic flavour combination, you know. Ispahan – rose, lychee and raspberry.

Oh my! That sounds delightful!

RC: [now talking more cheerfully] My sponge cake contains rose water, wrapped around a lychee mousse with raspberries.

Oh yum. What is your favourite part about yourself?

RC: Hmm…my sponge cake is just so fluffy! [coughs violently as it is poked by the host].

Indeed! So fluffy and springy. And can you tell us about some of your flaws?

RC: Well, while I was being made, it turns out that the scale wasn’t so accurate at small quantities, which greatly impacted the gelatin measurement. I know that this same formula has been used to make other mousse-containing siblings of mine and they turned out fine…but due to inaccuracy, I actually contain excess gelatin. [sighs]

Oh that must be quite a disappointment. It sounds as though you’ve developed a bit of an inferiority complex to other mousses.

RC: Um, how forwards of you! Well, perhaps there is some truth in that. That might be why I’m here on the show – to see how I rank compared to them in monetary value.

We’ll be getting right to that exciting reveal in a moment! Can you tell me more about how this gelatin inaccuracy has affected you?

RC: The excess gelatin takes away a bit from the flavour of the lychee mousse and also has made the texture too firm. Though at least it has made me more resilient for the roll here! However, for any clones of me to be made, just follow the recipe and perhaps use volume measurements instead of weight if your scale is not so good at the small quantities.

Hmm, excellent advice for bakers. You know, you’ve impressed me by seeing positives and negatives regarding the excess gelatin, though in the context of eating, it sounds as though it was simply a detriment.

RC: Hahahaha! What a good joke. Eating a roll cake!

Ahem. Okay, my team of expert appraisers is now ready to reveal your monetary value!

RC: Oh my! Oh my!

You are worth… Five dollars!

RC: Oh! [feigns delight] Not that bad. Not that bad at all… [muttering under breath] but that other mousse was worth more…

Thank you so much for coming ispahan roll cake! Now let me just go grab a fork…

RC: [appears to suddenly look intently at host despite having no eyes] …is your show behind the plague of partially eaten roll cakes?

Hmm – well, this show does make me so curious about how roll cakes taste!

RC: [gasps darkly] I see now! Your show isn’t about learning more about roll cakes – it’s just a front to lure us in. You prey on our desires to have our worth quantified in a pseudo-authoritative manner, which lowers our guard! How could a human even know what a cake is worth? [tips itself off of the chair and rolls away]

[The host attempts to reach for the roll cake, but it bounces neatly out of reach]. Noo – ah! That roll cake! The excess gelatin gives it such bounce!

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Bizarre things happen when I’m stuck on coming up with something to write – luckily there was a happy ending for the roll cake this time around (though in reality, it was eaten regardless).

I’ve wanted to try to make something ispahan-flavoured for a while and finally got around to it here. It is a lovely combination, though the excess gelatin in the lychee mousse did obscure some of the lychee flavour. I would prefer to measure gelatin by weight as generally it’s more accurate than volume (and I’m not entirely convinced that 1 package of gelatin contains exactly 1 tbsp) but if your scale also struggles with smaller quantities, volume measurements will at least get you closer. This roll cake recipe remains one of my favourites though – so light and fluffy.

ispahan roll cake

ispahan roll cake

rosewater sponge cake

Cake recipe adapted from Rice ‘n Flour.

3 eggs, split

45g sugar

30g milk

30g oil

2 tsp rosewater – adjust depending on the strength of your rosewater

22g corn starch

23g a.p. flour

salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper (I recommend the method in the original source recipe video for ease and nice sharp edges on the cake).

To make the cake, whisk together the egg yolks with the oil, milk and rosewater. Sift the flour and cornstarch over top and whisk in until completely combined.

In a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites with the salt and cream of tartar until frothy, then sprinkle in the sugar and whip until stiff peaks are formed. Fold one dollop of the egg whites into the batter completely before adding the remainder and folding in lightly. Scrape into the prepared pan, level with an offset spatula and tap to release any large air bubbles.

Bake around 15 minutes or until lightly browned, springy, and an inserted wooden skewer/toothpick is removed clean.

Let cool on a wire rack.

 

lychee mousse

If, by some dastardly twist of fate, your sponge cake does not have sufficient rose water taste, you can add some rosewater in the mousse quite easily. Just add to the lychee puree before folding in the cream.

120g canned lychees, pureed until smooth (puree extra to obtain the right final quantity)

1 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin (1/2 package or 3.5g)

2 tbsp water

120g or 1/2 cup heavy cream

Puree canned lychees until fairly smooth – I think it might be impossible to get it entirely smooth.

Bloom the gelatin over the water. Microwave until the gelatin is melted, around 15 seconds should do it. Add to the lychee puree and mix.

Whip the cream until soft peaks. Whisk a dollop into the lychee puree to lighten, then add the remaining and fold in gently with a rubber spatula. Cover and refrigerate for a couple hours to allow it to set.

 

assembly

raspberries

whipped cream

crushed dried rose petals

To assemble, place the cake right side up (i.e. with the bottom of the cake facing down to become the outside of the roll–unless the top looks more presentable) and spread with lychee mousse. Make a line of raspberries nestled into each other like cups along one short edge of the cake. Scatter additional halved raspberries over the remainder of the cake. Starting from the end with the line of raspberries (this will be the centre of the roll), use the parchment paper to help you roll up the cake into round log. Roll tightly, but not so tightly such that the filling is squeezed out. Wrap and chill for a couple of hours to allow everything to firm up.

When ready to serve, pipe whipped cream on top of the cake and garnish with raspberries and crushed rose petals.

strawberry rose mont blanc mousse cake

SAM_9869SAM_9829SAM_9851My roommate and I had been talking about going for shaved ice for days. It was the smooth and creamy sort of shaved ice, where the ice is brushed up into ripples like bundled tafetta. The elegant pale grey of the black sesame flavour lent it the stately air of a flounce of ruffles that could be found at athe sleeve of a nineteenth century ball gown. And, even more importantly, it was airily mounded up on the plate, approximately the volume of a small roast chicken, for eight dollars.

Blinded by the beauty of its excess, we didn’t quite reckon with the reality of its quantity. Only a quarter of way through I was thoroughly done with black sesame. Halfway, I was full. By the three-quarter point I began to employ the secret technique of mashing the shaved ice into the melted pool at the bottom of the plate to make it seem as though there was less — my roommate, a considerably more virtuous person than me, continued to eat with gallant determination until even she broke down and succumbed to her fullness. The plate had transformed from enticing mountain to a sneering, melting pool of a failure – and we left in shame.

That bears no relation to this cake apart from its worth as a sibling simile – these mousse cakes were also a mountain — a mountain of cream! so. much. cream!

Each cake ended up quite big, such that even half of one was a hearty serving. Now that we’ve got that dire warning out there, I can say that the cake was otherwise still flawed, but nonetheless also quite yummy. SAM_9758SAM_9763SAM_9839SAM_9866SAM_9833SAM_9777This was my first foray into some version of a mousse cake, with mixed results. I wanted to avoid any sort of glaze and too many molds so I thought I would combine a mousse with mont blanc style piping. I began with a sponge cake base, on which I set a strawberry-rose mousse, topped with a negligible pistachio meringue, an also negligible bit of rose cream and then covered with mont blanc-style piped strawberry cream cheese.

The cakes tasted of strawberry and rose as expected, but were quite rich and there are a number of things that I would likely reconsider were I to do this again.

The sponge cake base is based on a sponge cake that I really like for roll cakes – it’s fluffy and flexible. I later realized that these characteristics also meant it was insufficiently sturdy as the the cakes generally developed a bit of a lean.

The meringues were quite small, providing nothing in flavour, and they quickly softened as well, providing nothing in texture. That was useful to learn for the future, and I would definitely skip the meringue and small amount of rose cream.

The mousse and strawberry cream cheese were quite nice, but it is lots and lots of cream – perhaps a bit too much! Either the cakes need to be smaller, there needs to be more tartness in the mousse, or another component is needed for contrast – either a tart layer of jelly or even a crisp textural contrast instead.

In making the mousse, I lined rings with parchment paper (in lieu of the fabled acetate, which I would like to try one day) which allowed me to remove the refrigerated set mousse inserts easily. I also, nervously, tried one ring of mousse without any lining and froze it. Wrapping the outside of the ring in a cloth soaked in warm water, it did actually loosen easily – and the mousse didn’t thaw into matrix of desiccated cream dotted with pools of water, but a normal mousse. Oh the rumours of mousses are true!

So there are some redeeming qualities to this assemblage, so my process is below for, at least, my future reference.

strawberry rose mousse cakestrawberry rose mont blanc mousse cake

Enough to make 4 generously portioned mousse cakes with lots of extra little bits and pieces.

 

sponge cake

Adapted from Rice and Flour. Makes one 20x20cm cake, enough to cut four cake bases.

2 eggs, split

20g oil

20g milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

30g flour

pinch salt

pinch cream of tartar

30g sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a square pan that is around 20 by 20 cm with parchment paper.

Whisk the egg yolks with the milk, oil and vanilla extract. Sift in the flower and salt, whisk together to combine.

Beat the egg whites until frothy with the cream of tartar, then sprinkle in the sugar and whip until stiff. Fold into the egg yolk mixture. Transfer to the prepared pan and spread out the batter evenly.

Bake cake for around 20 minutes or until browned, springy, and an inserted skewer is removed clean.

 

strawberry puree

Makes over 1 cup, enough for the following recipes.

300g strawberries

1 tbsp sugar

Chop the strawberries and let macerate for 1 hour until juices are released. Puree.

 

strawberry mousse

Makes about 2 1/2 c to fill five cylindrical 1/2 c mousse molds (2″ diameter).

1 1/2 tsp gelatin

2 tbsp cold water

3/4 c strawberry puree

3/4 c heavy cream

1 tbsp sugar

Line 2″ diameter rings with parchment paper and set in a pan on top of another sheet of parchment.

Bloom the gelatin in the cold water, then microwave until melted (it doesn’t take too long–try around 15 seconds). Mix into the strawberry puree. Whip the cream with the sugar until stiff, whisk a dollop into the strawberry puree to lighten, then fold in the remainder.

Fill  the rings. Chill overnight until set.

 

rose-pistachio meringue

Makes enough for lots of small meringues!

1 egg white

30g vanilla sugar

generous 1/4 tsp rose water, or to taste

1 tbsp salted pistachios, ground until fine with 1/4 tsp cornstarch (to prevent oil from being released)

1/8 tsp matcha (for colour)

Preheat oven to 200F. Draw 2″ diameter circles on parchment paper.

Whip egg white with sugar until stiff peaks are formed. Sift the matcha over the ground pistachio and whisk together. Fold the rosewater and ground pistachio into the meringue. Transfer meringue to a piping bag, and pipe small mounds of meringue within the circles, keeping the diametre less than 2″.

To dry out the meringues, bake for around 1 1/2 hours, then keeping the door open a crack with a spoon handle, let cool in the oven.

 

rose cream

1/2 c heavy cream

4 crumbled wild rose petals

1 tbsp sugar

Warm cream, then let steep overnight with rose petals. Strain and whip with sugar until stiff.

 

piped strawberry cream

1/2 block of brick cream cheese

3 tbsp strained strawberry puree

2 tbsp sugar

3/4 c heavy cream

Cream the cream cheese with a wooden spoon until smooth, then beat in the sugar and then beat in the strawberry puree, a bit at a time. Whip the cream with the sugar and fold into the cream cheese mixture.

 

assembly

sponge cake

strawberry mousse

rose-pistachio meringue

rose cream

strawberry cream

Cut bases from the sponge cake using a 7cm/2 3/4″ diametre ring. For the mousse, lift up and shake gently up and down to begin to release mousse. Holding it gently, centre on top of the sponge cake base before peeling off the parchment paper.

Place a meringue on top of the mousse. Cover the meringue and mousse with a thin layer of rose cream. Fill a piping bag fitted with a mont blanc tip with strawberry cream. Pipe over the mousse. I find it is easiest to put the cake on some sort of turntable and slowly turn it with one hand while you pipe with the other.

 

no more cream please.

lemongrass, strawberry and black glutinous rice semifreddo

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It’s been a while since I’ve read any, but I’m still very fond of young adult fiction (high school dramas aside, though!). It’s probably that YA fiction tends to be populated with coming-of-age type stories with characters that are decidedly still in flux. They undoubtedly doubt themselves and unmistakably make mistakes. They’re rarely set in their ways, and even if they are, they will rarely reach the end unchanged. It’s this vulnerability to change and openness to learning about themselves in YA fiction that draws me in.

In many ways, I think that’s a stage in my life that I still identify with. I remember, when I was younger, thinking that at this age I would really be myself – in the terms of humanistic psychologists, I might have been thinking about self-actualization. Though perhaps I set my goals a bit too lofty and such confidence in the stasis of my identity isn’t age-dependent. Regardless, it’s my desire to grow as a person — whether through fantastical adventures or day to day struggles or forming relationships or finding what makes one care — that brings me back to YA fiction.

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Growing up, reading fiction was also one of my main influences. Especially because it wasn’t until high school that I had more of a command of the internet. And in particular subjects, a lot of my education happened through books – for example, I missed the boat getting any formal education on the diversity of sexuality and gender identity, not to mention topics like consent (though it seems that boat has left the dock again… oh wait, it seems it’s back, thank goodness).

Consequently, some things I didn’t even exactly to seek out, but instead had to encounter it. And in my case, often it would be fiction.

In grade 8, I read a little bit about what it can mean to identify as transgender in Luna by Julie Ann Peters. In grade 10, I met the main character of Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin who was intersex. Throughout school, David Leviathan’s prolific repertoire provided me with a stacked library shelf to read from. In Every Day, the main character’s fluid gender identity and non-binary identification helped me realise my conceptualization of gender needed to change. I still remember my joy when reading the ebullient Boy Meets Boy, where a distinct absence of homophobia was a celebration of identity and experience that doesn’t need to be formed on the basis of struggles with prejudice and persecution. And my initial surprise at its lack reinforced the problematic expectation that writing about members of marginalized groups is only considered “authentic […] if they are dealing with pain or abuse of some kind, most often directly related to their race, religion, or sexuality” – and add in ability, neurodiversity, body shape, class, gender identity and of course more.

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Diversity means writing books about characters that reflect the real world, and publishing and promoting authors that represent the real world, not just a subset. To read and identify with a character or experience can be legitimizing and validating, and should be available to everyone (absence of such also sends a subliminal message) – and I would suggest most urgently in young adult fiction. As a time when identities are being formed, it’s so important to know who you are is okay, a message that I wish would be delivered on all fronts. That books can act as an access point to exposure and self-reflection also underscores why diversity and representation are so important. Given that society does tend to huddle along class lines and many populations are marginalized, it’s not a guarantee that people will be talking to you about everything. A lot of things no one talked to me about – and so it sometimes fell to books.

I don’t want this to sound like I think identities are subjects to be studied, and can be understood from just reading a book. Nor can one could assume a character’s lived experience will have any bearing or similarity to that of a person who just happens to share a single characteristic – that would essentialize when there is no one experience. But if reading about ourselves means we can be kinder to ourselves, and reading about each other means we can be more compassionate to each other – well I think that’s plenty good.

I’ll leave you with a couple of delightful YA fiction booklists for pride month that I came across: YA Pride’s LGBTQIAP YA books by Asian authors and Colorline’s colour-focused LGBTQ list. Though it’s not YA fiction, I’ve been reading Johnny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead. Happy pride!

More reading: I recommend this excellent article on the struggles of diverse characters being seen as too “quirky” from Bustle and a nice overview of some of the changes and challenges in How to Make Young Adult Fiction More Diverse from the Atlantic.

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This was my first time making a semifreddo. I quite liked how relatively quick it was (infusing aside) and so non-fiddly. Even though I had a sense of what it would be like given some effusive descriptions I’ve read, I was still pleasantly surprised, at just how light and soft it was. It’s a bit crisp without being hard and then melts smoothly.

Whenever there’s something infusible, I always think of lemongrass – it’s one of my favourite flavours, but so far I’ve found hard to put into things except if its infused. Here, infused in the whipped cream, the lemongrass flavour came out well – lemony but in the smoothest and creamiest way. Together the strawberries and lemongrass are a very bright combination and despite all the cream it, was relatively speaking, refreshing! The glutinous black rice froze into chewy little nodules – I was worried it would be too hard, but I found it pretty enjoyable.

I based this off of Stella Park’s semifreddo recipe. I also recommend giving the accompanying article a read as it’s full of helpful details. For example, she found that both the whipped cream and whipped egg mixtures are stable enough to sit while the other is being made meaning that you can make them in either order and don’t need to worry about doing it simultaneously – exactly the kind of details I worry about!

semifreddo

lemongrass, strawberry and black glutinous rice semifreddo

Adapted from Stella Parks’s honey semifreddo on Serious Eats. The original recipe uses 4 eggs – I reduced it to 3 because I wanted to make less, but add in an extra for an amount that more thoroughly fills a standard 9×5″ loaf pan.

for the strawberry swirl

60g strawberry puree

for the black glutinous rice swirl

2 tbsp black glutinous rice

coconut milk

lemongrass semifreddo

250g (1 cup) heavy cream

1/2 stalk lemongrass

3 eggs

3 tbsp sugar (could be decreased further)

to serve

strawberries

vanilla sugar

To obtain the strawberry puree, cut strawberries into chunks and puree in a food processor until smooth. Usually I puree 20g extra to make sure I end up with the right amount of puree at the end.

To prepare the black glutinous rice, cook the two tbsp black with equal quantities water and coconut milk in a rice cooked according to obstructions. When the rice is done, check if the grains are soft – if not, combine with some water in a saucepan and simmer until softened and some grains have split. Measure out 60g or so to be used for the semifreddo.

To prepare the semifreddo, cut the lemongrass into small pieces. Heat 1 cup (240g) heavy cream until barely steaming, then remove from the heat and add the lemongrass. Cover and allow to sit until cooled to room temperature, then move to the fridge and continue steeping overnight.

The next day, line a pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap and place in the freezer to chill.

Press the cream through a sieve and add a splash more to account for any lost cream. Whip until stiff and set aside in the refrigerator.

Set a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water – or other double boiler set up. Whisk together the eggs and sugar in the bowl. Mix continuously with a rubber spatula until the eggs reach 165F. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and whip until the bowl feels cool to the touch and the eggs have quadrupled in volume – and in the words of Stella Parks (original recipe) “thick enough to briefly mound up like soft-serve ice cream when dropped from the whisk.” This may take 5-8 minutes.

Set up two additional bowls for the strawberry and glutinous black rice swirls. In one, dollop a spoonful of the whipped cream into the strawberry puree and combine to lighten it. In the other, dollop another spoonful of the cream into the black rice, folding it in to loosen and lighten.

Add half of the remaining whipped cream to the eggs and whisk in until combined. Add the remaining cream, folding it in gently with a rubber spatula. Transfer 1/4 of the semifreddo to the bowl containing the strawberry puree and fold together gently. Transfer another 1/4 of the semifreddo to the bowl containing the black rice and fold together gently.

Remove the prepared pan from the freezer. Transfer the plain semifreddo to the pan in an even layer. Next, add dollops of the strawberry semifreddo evenly over the surface. Follow this with the black rice semifreddo. Use a small offset spatula to dip deep and pull up, and create a few swirls. Transfer to the freezer for at least 8 hours.

For serving, slice strawberries and macerate with a bit of vanilla for a few hours. When ready to serve, turn the pan upside down over a platter (it might be helpful if you can chill the platter in the freezer first). Tug on the paper to dislodge the semifreddo. Top with the macerated strawberries. Allow to sit for a couple minutes at room temperature to slightly soften, then slice and serve.

houjicha & chestnut roll cake

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This was the roll cake that set me on a dark path – sorry, a lovely path! -of never-ending roll cakes. A whole roll of roll cakes, rolling on and on.

My past roll cakes had either been terribly brittle or a bit too delicate, the result of which meant I came to associate roll cakes with a tad bit of anxiety (particularly during the rolling process – roll roll!). I dealt with my anxiety in the most healthful and classic of ways by avoiding making another roll cake for years.

And then, finally, I figured I would give roll cakes another try. I had been (anxiously) scoping out different recipes and came across this one from Rice & Flour, a lovely blog which I suspect may now unfortunately be defunct given that the last post was a couple of years ago. The recipe’s accompanying video which convinced me that the cake was indeed rollable. SAM_8931
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Now that I’ve made it a number of times, I can attest that the cake is quick, reliable, light and pliable, and currently my favourite recipe for a roll cake. The only changes I’ve made are to make it a bit thinner than in the original recipe and cut down on the sugar.

Filling roll cakes with whipped cream is perhaps another mechanism to deal with my anxiety surrounding insufficiently stiff fillings (…like this roll cake, agh this horrifying paris-brest, and oh these eclairs, and well, a whole lot of other things that have never made it onto the blog). But beyond its ease and reliability, whipped cream is also just my favourite filling choice texture and flavour-wise.

SAM_8951I’ve been mulling over the combination of chestnuts and houjicha, or roasted green tea, for a while, and this cake was an easy way to bring it to reality. It’s a bit of a heavy combination for summer, but ends up tasting almost springlike in a light cake with cream! The chestnuts and cream are always lovely to eat together. I find houjicha less bitter than green tea, which let me add plenty to the cake for flavour without it becoming too bitter.

houjicha & chestnut roll cake

This cake is so quick! So easy! I love it! Cake recipe adapted from Rice ‘n Flour.

3 eggs, split

45g sugar

30g milk

30g oil

2 tsp finely ground houjicha

22g corn starch

23g a.p. flour

salt

cream of tartar

3/4 c heavy cream

1 pack roasted chestnuts

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper (I recommend the method in the original source recipe video for ease and nice sharp edges on the cake).

To make the cake, whisk together the egg yolks with the oil and milk. Sift the flour, cornstarch and ground tea over top and whisk in until completely combined.

In a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites with the salt and cream of tartar until frothy, then sprinkle in the sugar and whip until stiff peaks are formed. Fold one dollop of the egg whites into the batter completely before adding the remainder and folding in lightly. Scrape into the prepared pan, level with an offset spatula and tap to release any large air bubbles.

Bake around 15 minutes or until lightly browned, springy, and an inserted wooden skewer/toothpick is removed clean.

Let cool on a wire rack (you can flip the cake over onto a piece of parchment paper to prevent the top of the cake from drying and becoming brittle).

Once completely cooled, prepare the filling by whipping the cream (sweetened to taste if desired). Reserve enough whole chestnuts (6-7) to make a line along the short edge of the cake, and finely chop the remainder to get around 1/3 c chopped chestnuts.

To assemble, place the cake right side up (i.e. with the bottom of the cake facing down to become the outside of the roll–unless the top looks more presentable) and spread with whipped cream. Sprinkle with the chopped chestnut. Nestle the reserved whole chestnuts in the cream, lined up along one short edge of the cake; starting from this end, use the parchment paper to help you roll up the cake into round log. Roll tightly, but not so tightly such that the filling is squeezed out. Wrap and chill for a couple of hours to allow everything to firm up before slicing and serving.

tahini, dark chocolate and banana muffins

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“Maybe you should make a banana bread,” my grandma suggested, in a thread that seemed entirely out of the blue.

“Oh, are you finished the banana bread already?” my mum asked, referring to the half loaf of banana bread she had brought to them yesterday.

The loaf, wrapped in plastic, was completely untouched.

“Maybe… banana muffins,” my grandma said next with a significant glance at the two brown bananas on her countertop.

Like most reasonable people, she does not like over ripe bananas.
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I think I’m not the fondest of banana bread, but I’ve started to doubt that core component of my identity as I did end up enjoying these muffins a lot.

Perhaps because these muffins have some other fun flavours – tahini in place of oil or butter, dark chocolate, honey and coconut. While the batter was heavily perfumed with the scent of tahini, it wasn’t as discernible once baked, so I wonder whether also adding some coarsely ground sesame seeds, or topping the muffin with seeds would help reinforce the flavour. While the muffins don’t scream of tahini (then again tahini isn’t always a screaming sort of flavour), I think they do provide a lovely subtle nuttiness. The muffin texture also surprised me–they turned out quite light and fluffy!

tahini banana muffintahini chocolate banana muffins

Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction banana muffin recipe. Sally’s Baking Addiction has become one of my favourite resources for reliable baking recipes. Makes 5-6 muffins. 

80g whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

a couple pinches of nutmeg

240g mashed banana (around 2 medium bananas or 1 1/2 large bananas or approximately 3/4c + 2 tbsp banana)

60g stirred tahini

25g honey

25g brown sugar

1/2 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

40g chopped dark chocolate (1 handful)

15g shredded coconut (1 handful)

Preheat oven to 425F. Line 6 cups of a muffin tin with muffin liners.

Combine the flour, baking power, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl.

In a large bowl, mash the banana, then whisk in the tahini, honey, brown sugar, egg and vanilla. Mix in the dry ingredients, then lastly stir in the chocolate and coconut.

Fill the muffin cups up to the top with batter. If desired, top with a slice of banana (sprinkled with a bit of sugar), shredded coconut, or both – though the banana slice will slightly temper the rise of the muffin in the oven).

Bake for 5 min at 425, then lower the oven temperature to 350 for around 15 minutes – check for doneness with a wooden skewer. Let cool.

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