It didn’t feel all that long ago that the blog had hit the five year mark. Now apparently it’s six!
Last year I effusively pledged my undying love for baking. Previous years, in awe that my blog was somehow still around, I expounded on all that I had learned (blog-wise, that is) and constructed ambitious plans for the future (blog-wise as well, that is). But having crossed the five year mark last year, I think I’ve reached the age at which individual years no longer feel as significant. It’s a rather comfortable state to be in, actually.
At this point, blogging has taken on a routine and easy familiarity. While I may not always have time in my life for the recipe testing/photographing/editing/writing that goes into it, by now I’ve learned (after a number of nearly year-long casual hiatuses) that that’s fine. While sometimes not much may change here, it’s hardly going anywhere. (And I still have 70+ drafts lolling about in various stages of completion so there’s usually some content I can dredge up even when I don’t have time for baking).
Growing up, I always ate pomelo with my grandpa because he was the only one willing to peel them. We’d score the top – always needing to cut deeper than expected to get through the pith – and then wrestle out the fruit from the centre (you can find some photos of the pomelo peeling process here) keeping the peel in one piece. My grandpa would then put a plate on top of the peel to help it dry flat into a flower, and thereafter it would spend a couple months dangling somewhere in the kitchen.
Nowadays I can peel my own pomelos (and I sometimes even cut my own pineapple! how I have grown), though I still look forwards the arrival of pomelos every winter.
It seems that right now banana bread is taking off! While I’ve never been too big a fan of banana bread, there are exceptions. For example, an exception flavoured with Thai green curry paste and crested with a crispy coconut fragipane of sorts.
I’ve been making banana bread with this flavour profile for years, inspired by a green curry banana bread that was once on the menu at milk bar. Over the years, on the rather rare occasions I’ve made banana bread, I’ve transposed the combination of Thai green curry paste and coconut from one banana bread recipe to the next until I settled on my current favourite. Then four years ago I threw some leftover coconut tart filling overtop and all of a sudden, I had a new motivation to make banana bread.
I’ve titrated the curry paste to be just enough to taste and to warm the mouth with each bite. The banana bread itself is on the fluffier and softer end of the banana bread spectrum, which I find a virtue, though still moist.
What is food blogging like in a pandemic? My blog oscillates between the asinine and, occasionally, trying to be a bit of something else. Today is another trying-to-be-a-bit-of-something-else sort of day.
You’ve probably noticed that there is a theme strung throughout the constant inundation of pandemic updates. While each individual headline isn’t a surprise, it is remarkable how clearly COVID-19 has broadly articulated inequities. Which is to say that COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on the more vulnerable and marginalized.
It’s probably a bit of a different long weekend this year for everyone. Though given all the hot cross buns I’ve been seeing all over instagram (the series of blog/insta posts I just finished has given me a new instagram-checking routine so I am now super in the loop these days), all the time at home has meant baking is a-happening.
My favourite bakery bun growing up was the coconut (aka cocktail) bun, probably because the filling was very sweet and I was a depraved child who loved anything with sugar. First I would pick away at the surrounding bread, leaving behind just the bottom underlying the filling, and then slowly enjoy the sugary filling on its own. I still love cocktail buns, though these days my favourite bun tends to be custard.
These hot cross buns are essentially cocktail buns in round form. Soft milk bread, coconut filling, and with the cookie-like topping which normally forms two strips on either end of the bun (like strips on a football) refurbished into crosses. To add to the hot cross bun ethos, I mixed candied pomelo peel into the dough.
This is day 7 of a series celebrating local Toronto businesses! Recent events have put many local businesses in a difficult position and unfortunately, it’s not clear when this situation will come to an end. For ten days I’ll be posting recipes inspired by some of my favourite local businesses as my own way of celebrating what they bring to our communities. While we may not be able to visit our local bakeries, cafes and restaurants right now, this is a way of keeping them in mind, and a reminder to support them again once there is a chance.
Ave Maria Latin Cafe is a café that dominates the back of a tiny Latin grocery store. Small tables and vinyl chairs in pastel green cozy up alongside grocery shelves lined with imported coffee, flour and guava paste. It’s cluttered in the best sort of way, which is to say, with food. To order at the counter you peer between the empanada warming case, a tray of snacks, and propped up menus.
They serve sandwiches, tamales, empanadas, and a slate of arepas. The first time I tried the Columbian arepas, I was surprised – made of white corn, they are a bit denser and drier than their bready Venezuelan counterparts, but just as delicious. The lady at the counter, who I suspect is the owner, is a lovely advocate for her foods, helping me pronounce arepa de chocolo, the sweeter yellow arepa encasing more melted cheese, correctly. Another time I was in, she spent fifteen minutes helping a customer pick out candy for his Columbian girlfriend.
If I am in for a meal, I love the simplicity of a salty arepa folded onto melty white cheese – and it comes alive when eaten with spoonfuls of the small dish of acidic spicy sauce that accompanies it. But it comes to dessert, I was floored when I tried the tres leches cake. It’s a towering square of sponge cake that somehow manages to be light and structured, while still fully saturated with milk. It’s the furthest thing from sodden or soggy. I don’t usually think of a milk as being a dominant flavour, but in this cake, which yields easily against a fork and leaves a small pool of milk behind, it makes perfect sense.
my favourite french toast inspired by bb’s diner in toronto – and i try my hand at describing food more …er, descriptively? properly?
This french toast is based on the version at BB’s diner – a Toronto filipino brunch spot in a two-floor house, charmingly retrofitted with what could be pastel-coloured 80s McDonald’s booth seating, houseplants, vibrantly flowered tablecloths and mismatched vintage china. The food trumps even the charming interior design. Their tapsilog is a trifecta of runny-yolked eggs, addictively pungent garlic fried rice and crisp fried milkfish dipped in tart vinegar. Another one: an omelette of fluffed egg melded with melting, charred eggplant, showered in golden rosti. Out of all of this though, the french toast is my favourite.
It looks unassuming – square white bread, sliced at a regular thickness, the custardy interior cooked until a bit firm. But pale gold banana dulce de leche lies below a whispery canopy of powdered sugar, slivered almonds and shredded coconut. The toast itself rests in a pool of what I assume is warmed evaporated milk, tasting opaque and cooked. It is every sort of delicious and comforting; think the mellow flavours, and the tres leches-crossed-with-porridge vibe from the bath of warm evaporated milk.
Given my inability (or lack of motivation) to write anything coherent, let alone interesting or relevant, I have taken inspiration from that utilitarian structure of elementary school, that handy inspirational framework that helped me produce many a vapid and dull piece of poetry: the acrostic poem.
Really (oh that was bad), it is the writing of the posts that has become the bottleneck of the blog; I have countless (i.e. 40+) drafts of recipe + photos, without a single other word written.