The way I wrote recipes pre-blog went something like this: a list of ingredients + maybe a baking temperature +/- possibly a baking time. Either on a sticky note (destined to be accidentally thrown out) or in an obscure word document that I would never find again.
It took some searching, but I did find one word document again while I looking for a genmaicha-infused chocolate caramel custard I had made back in high school. It was written, of course, in typical fashion: a list of ingredients (no baking temperature, no baking time). To be fair to my former self, since I was making quite a few puddings at the time, I likely had the procedure memorized.
I am often not a fan of bananas, but they take to caramel so naturally and really start to taste quite good while they’re at it too. So it’s no surprise that tarte tatin is deemed an acceptable receptacle for bananas in my book. (Banana bread is alright too, if we must!)
This particular tarte tatin was inspired by a flavour combination from one of Ottolenghi’s columns in the Guardian – caramelized bananas with miso and anise. I love the combination, which I’ve transferred over to a tarte tatin, made dark, bitter and salty.
It was over a year ago (can you believe we’ve been in the pandemic for over a year now?) when I wrote about a resurgence in anti-Asian sentiments, driven by racist pandemic rhetoric but symptomatic of underlying currents of white supremacy that continue to persist. I thought I was taking it seriously then, but when I go back and read what I wrote, that “anti-Chinese racism[…] is alive and thriving in Canada, I didn’t doubt,” it rings weakly. At the time, I don’t think I really, really meant it. Not in a way that could imagine what happened in Atlanta was possible. Who would ever want to think such a thing could happen? – is my excuse.
I’ve been thinking more about why I kept harbouring hesitancy about the extent of anti-Asian racism, even when I’m a descendant of immigrants who paid an astronomical head tax, and other members of my extended family were interned. I think it’s because the model minority myth has been pervasive in my thinking – it posits that “Asians are pretty much white,” collapses the experiences of a diverse group into one, and suggests that the socioeconomic successes of some members means that structural barriers don’t exist. All of which are false. This is what I need to unlearn.
I don’t know whether there is a grapefruit rose soap, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the flavour combination subconsciously entered my head via a soap. I mean, it sounds pretty soapy – in a good way. (I always find myself wishing that displays of fancy handcrafted soaps were edible. Oatmeal, honey and goat’s milk soap? I’d eat that for breakfast any day. Especially if it wasn’t actually soap.)
These soap bars cakes are also actually grapefruit cakes. I’ve tried making “grapefruit” cakes a couple times before following a similar approach as I would with a lemon cake – throw in some zest – and always ended up with a very plain cake. Because I am very susceptible to the power of suggestion and have an active imagination, I could taste grapefruit if I waved my hands and thought hard enough about it… but that doesn’t help others taste the flavour.
The blog year in review is an opportunity for me to highlight my personal favourite recipes that I posted during the year. And it has been quite a few this time – sixty?! to be precise – and for the first time ever in my six years of blogging, I’ve actually posted at least once every month of the year.
I’ve put together a series of 10 categories in which to highlight recipes, ranging from the cake of the year to the festive recipe of the year. It’s a bit like an awards show night except it it is administered by me, all the entries were written by me, it was judged by me and announced by me. Wow, is that not the great thing about a single person blogging enterprise?
These tarts have a pairing of two strong flavours that manage to hold up against each other: tart raspberry and toasted black sesame. They have a black sesame tart shell filled with caramelized white chocolate and black sesame mousse, topped with raspberry jam, raspberries and a black sesame brandy snap. Did you notice the black sesame?
This is a mashup of my two favourite retro desserts: baba au rhum and black forest cake – the result is, in essence, a very, very boozy black forest cake. The baba is flavoured with chocolate, soaked in a syrup of kirsch, rum and Chambord, and then served with plenty of whipped cream and a cherry kirsch compote.
Baba au rhum is classically a rich, yeasted cake soaked in a rum syrup. Recently I’ve been making babas based on the recipe in the Duchess Bake Shop book by Giselle Courteau. She dries out the babas for a couple days until they’re thoroughly desiccated and ready to absorb a startling amount of syrup. It’s a method that ensures the flavours of the syrup penetrate throughout the entire cake!
Rooibos tea comes from the plant Aspalathus linearis which grows only in the Western and Northern Cape areas. San and Khoi people, the indigenous peoples of southern Africa, have been harvesting, processing and drinking rooibos tea long before colonial times, passing traditional knowledge regarding the medical properties of rooibos between generations.
Earlier in the spring The Alley, a Taiwanese tea chain, (I get too many ideas from bubble tea places) had a houjicha and peach series; my roommate and I longingly stared at the sign in the window as we walked by on our way to the store to stock up on rice and instant ramen. I ended up never trying any of the drinks as the pandemic came into full force soon after, but I’ve been keeping the flavour combination in mind.
Regarding the industry’s whiteness, it might be tempting to dwell on questions of representation, or to wonder who ought to occupy the top positions at legacy publications. But as years of examples have shown, the work of challenging biases in food must dig deeper. After all, hiring a handful of people of color at these outlets doesn’t fundamentally alter the media landscape at large. Too often, such staffing shifts represent decisions made with optics in mind, which tends to mean that new voices are elevated but then not empowered, or that sufficient resources aren’t put toward substantive changes in coverage. Challenges to the dominant framework often come from outside legacy institutions altogether.