Jesurgislac’s Journal

August 24, 2010

Tuesday Recipe Blogging: Bring On The Sweet Stuff

You have a cake or a cookie or a muffin.

Actually, this is the Internet, so I don’t know if you really do, but pretend, okay?

How can you make your ordinary and undistinguished cake or cookie or muffin or fruit loaf or WHATEVER, really, look special? Cover it with more sugar!

Icing or frosting, the basics:

The best invention ever; if you’re icing a whole cake, do it twice. The first layer is the crumb layer.

1 cup powder sugar (aka icing sugar). This is very, very fine-grained sugar that blows about with a puff of air. You can sub in 1/3 of a cup of cocoa for 1/4 cup of sugar, if you want to make a chocolate icing.
2 tablespoons liquid.
1 teaspoon glycerine, if the cake is not to be eaten immediately: it saves the icing from drying out.
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon of additional flavouring, if the liquid is not sufficient.

The liquid can be anything. Use wine or brandy or liqueur for a rather grown-up taste: use lemon or lime juice for something sharper. Use coffee if you are making a chocolate cake. Coffee icing on a chocolate cake is THE WIN, if you can’t make chocolate ganache, see below. You can even use a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of vanilla essence. Put the icing sugar into a big bowl. Wear old clothes. Shoo the cats out of the kitchen. (Their hair will stick to the icing. Yuck.)

Add the liquid to the powdered sugar, and beat well. The icing sugar flies about the kitchen. You’re grateful I told you to wear old clothes. If the icing seems a little dry, add small amounts of more liquid, but it should be fairly thick and sticky for the crumb layer. You can expand this recipe just by doubling quantities. Four tablespoons of liquid is one-eighth of a cup, to be added to 2 cups of powdered sugar .

Spread on the first layer of icing. It will take up crumbs from the cake, but that’s okay. No one will see it. Cover the whole cake. You can use a knife dipped briefly into boiling water to make sure it doesn’t stick.

Wait for the first layer to cool and dry. It doesn’t need to set completely.

Mix up the second batch of icing – this can be a little bit more liquid BUT NOT MUCH – and pour over the first layer. Presto: you have a perfectly frosted cake.

Buttercream is even easier and you use it to layer the cake together. So, if you just frosted your cake according to my instructions above, you should now take it apart to put in the buttercream frosting, cursing yourself for not reading my instructions to the end.

1 cup of soft brown sugar.
2 tablespoons butter or vegan margarine.
1 tablespoon vanilla essence, or other flavouring of your choice. You could also add 1/3 cup cocoa, or a couple of tablespoons of honey.
Beat the soft butter into the sugar until you have a thick brown paste. (You could, of course, use plain white granulated sugar and use food colourings, if you want sparkly colours instead of the yummy brown-sugar-butter-vanilla flavour. Peasant.)

Spread the buttercream on one layer of the cake. Cover thickly. People will thank you for it. Drop the second layer on top of the first. Repeat as necessary.

Chocolate ganache: Melt 8 ounces/200g good chocolate in 1/4 cup of soy milk. (Heat the milk till it’s quite warm, not boiling, break the chocolate into the warm milk in small pieces, put the bowl with the milk into a larger bowl with just-boiled water – and stir the contents of the bowl until the chocolate has all melted. This is a foolproof technique: the milk doesn’t need to be kept VERY warm to melt the chocolate, and a bath of very hot water around the bowl works a treat.) Add a tablespoon of maple syrup or honey. When the chocolate is all melted, spoon the liquid ganache over the cake. When this sets, it will be like solid chocolate, only slightly softer. Delicious. You can use this to layer cakes together or to cover them or even as just a layer on top of the cupcake.

February 23, 2010

Tuesday Recipe Blogging: Real Pizza With Love

Filed under: Food,Tuesday Recipe Blogging — jesurgislac @ 8:25 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Pizza literally means pie. A pizza is, originally, an open-topped pie with a bread-dough crust. Naples claims to have invented the original pizza (and this year had their traditionally-made pizzas trademarked as a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed) but real pizza really is… a method of finishing up left-over bread dough with a bit of flavour.

(If you don’t make your own bread routinely, of course you can make a batch of dough specially to make pizzas.)

Because you are making your pizzas with left-over dough, the dough won’t be thin and go crispy – but then you probably don’t have a pizza oven, either. Spread out the dough as thin as you can get it using just your hands. I have a couple of 4-at-a-time mini-pie baking trays I use, because I like mini-pizzas. They’re about two and a half inches across and a quarter of an inch deep, and I divide the dough into 4 or 8 pieces, grease the pie trays, and spread the dough into a rough pie-crust shape for each.

Spread the inside of the pizza pie with your sauce: something sharp and full of flavour. (Or you can make a white pizza with no sauce.) Besides the standard tomato sauces, I like salsa or pesto. (Anchovies are perfectly traditional for pizza, if you were wondering.)

Add your bits and pieces, sliced thin. Mushrooms, garlic, baby aubergines… anything you like, really. (I got to this stage of mini-pizza making and asked the child what she wanted – daughter of a friend, an alarmingly picky eater – and finally the only thing she actually agreed to was chips. She grew up quite normal however. Don’t be discouraged.)

Add the cheese! Or skip it, if someone’s allergic to dairy.

Leave to rise for half an hour to an hour: bake till the cheese is melty and the edges are crispy: and then let cool for ten minutes before you eat, because burning your mouth on hot sauce and hot cheese is really going to spoil the whole rest of the evening. If you don’t pay attention to the pizza of my experience, then it helps to have ice-cream in the freezer.

But then of what situation is that not true?

February 16, 2010

Tuesday Recipe Blogging: Pancake Day!

When I was a kid, Saturday evening meant pancakes for supper. Not what you probably think of when you think “pancakes” – these were thick, almost savoury cakes made with cream-cracker crumbs and cottage cheese and eggs, served with fruit sauce. Though I have not made them in years, the recipe is fixed in my mind:

Ingredients per person: 1 ounce of cream crackers, crushed or ground to fine crumbs; 1 ounce of smooth cottage cheese; 1 egg. Beat the cottage cheese and the eggs together to form a thick yellowish paste, then add the cream crackers “to a dropping consistency”, meaning that when I picked up a spoonful and dropped it into the hot oil, it fell cleanly from the spoon. We always fried them in shallow oil till they were dark brown, layered them on a plate with paper towel to catch the excess fat, and ate them with fruit sauce as soon as possible after they had been made.

The sauce was made with two tins of fruit – over the years I think my two favourite mixtures were pineapple and apricot, or mandarin oranges and pears, and usually preserved in fruit juice rather than syrup. But really, any kind was good – I think the only sort I ever regretted was a tin of fruit salad mix with glace cherries. It was always made in a cast-iron red pot that had been a wedding present: save a little fruit juice in a small bowl, and tip the two tins into the pot, turn up the heat under the fruit, and mix the juice with a tablespoon of cornflour. Add the mixture to the fruit in the pan, and stir: magically, to me when I was a child, the white mixture would disappear and the liquid juice in which the fruit rested would thicken into a sauce. This could be eaten hot or cold, so the sauce could be made hours or even a day before the pancakes. These were delicious and filling, and as I remember no one usually managed more than three. There were always leftovers, which were eaten cold as snacks.

Nowadays when I make pancakes I usually make them with a cup of flour, or more depending on how many people I am feeding, and a pinch of salt: make a well in the middle of the flour, stir in an egg, and then up to a pint of milk, or milk and water, or beer, (or cream if you want thicker, richer pancakes) to make a thin batter, which makes a large thin cake in a thin layer of hot grease in a pan or on a griddle.

But I also sometimes make sourdough batter, which is egg-free: I take some sourdough starter from the fridge, add some more flour and water, beat it into a thin liquid with a plastic whisk (metal isn’t good for the yeast) and leave it to quicken for an hour or so in a warm place. When it’s bubbly, it’s ready to be used as I would basic pancake batter.

I eat pancakes plain, or with maple syrup, or lemon juice and sugar, or with a spice like cinnamon whisked into the batter, or with curry…

How do you make your pancakes? How do you eat your pancakes?

October 11, 2009

Cupcakes for Macduff

The Cupcakes for Life site is down due to bandwidth, but the magic of Google found me the cache, and this is too good not to share:

“Cupcakes were designed with birthdays in mind. However, not everyone has been allowed to be born.”

How did you celebrate pro-life cupcake day? (via)

Act V, SCENE VIII. Another part of the field.

Enter MACBETH

MACBETH

Why should I play the bakin’ boy, and cut
with my cake knife? whiles I see cakes, the cuts
Do better upon them.

Enter MACDUFF

MACDUFF

Turn, cupcake, turn!

MACBETH

Of all men else I have avoided thee:
But get thee back; my plate is too much charged
With cake of thine already.

MACDUFF

I have no cakes:
My cake is in the oven: thou baker’s reject
That sugar can cover!

They fight

MACBETH

Thou losest frosting:
As easy mayst thou the intrenchant air
With thy cake knife impress as ice my cake:
Let fall thy sugar on softer baked goods;
I bear a charmed cake, which cannot yield,
To one of woman born.

MACDUFF

Despair, cupcake;
And let the baker whom thou still hast served
Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother’s womb
Untimely ripp’d.

MACBETH

Accursed be that tongue that tells me so,
For it hath cow’d my better part of man!
And be these juggling fiends no more believed,
That palter with us in a double sense;
That keep the word of promise to our ear,
And break it to our hope. I’ll not fight with thee.

MACDUFF

Then yield thee, cupcake,
And live to be the show and gaze o’ the time:
We’ll have thee, as our rarer cake wrecks are,
posted on a blog, and underwrit,
‘Here may you see the cupcake.’

MACBETH

I will not yield,
To kiss the ground before young Marcotte’s feet,
And to be baited with the rabble’s curse.
Though Conservapedia be come to Slacktivist,
And thou opposed, being of no woman born,
Yet I will try the last. Before my body
I throw my warlike cake. Lay on, Macduff,
And damn’d be him that first cries, ‘Hold, enough!’

Exeunt, frosting. Alarums.

April 28, 2009

Tuesday Recipe Blogging: Plantain and Pineapple Curry

I’m writing this on Sunday, not on Tuesday, because I feel the need to write up the recipe before I know for sure if it was fail or win.

My usual recipe for this is Banana Tofu Curry. It’s very good. But, I’d been wondering for some time if it were possible to make it with plantains. (Those big green banana-like fruit that need to be cooked before they’re eaten.)

So on Saturday I bought four plantains, and on Sunday I cracked a coconut I’d bought earlier (cracked two: but one of them seemed off, so I decided not to use it). This part involved much thumping and bashing with my heaviest hammer. Great fun.


(more…)

April 9, 2009

Vegan Lunch Box Turns To The Dark Side

It is a truth not sufficiently acknowledged: being thin, and being healthy, aren’t the same thing. (I wrote about this a bit in October last year: Diet Merchants Lie.)

I believe in eating healthy, delicious food.

I love (or rather I loved) the deliciously simple Vegan Lunch Box blog, which for a year or so was the one thing I could always turn to with a smile: a blogger who, every school day, posted a photograph of the beautiful and tasty vegan lunch she had made for her small son to take to school. (Such as: this Easter lunch, a beautiful layered bean dip lunch, a yummy French Toast lunch, an injera and pea stew lunch that makes my mouth water just looking at it, and some really lovely musubi. Just a short list – I could go on and on…) Lovely, healthy, delicious lunches, not intended to be slimming or diet or anything ugly promoting thinness over health… so I thought.

The small son is now homeschooled, so he doesn’t get daily lunch boxes (and is in any case past the age where he could accept without embarrassment his mom blogging about his lunches every day). I don’t check Vegan Lunch Box every weekday: two or three times a month, usually – about as often as it gets updated.

A couple of weeks ago, Vegan Lunch Box got all exercised over the blog that posts awful pics of deeply unhealthy food in large portions: thisiswhyyourefat.

She wrote:

So I started thinking, what if, instead of looking at images of junk food every day, we served ourselves up a daily helping of healthy images instead? Can healthy images trigger the same reaction but in reverse? Can they inspire us to better health, make us crave a colorful salad, or help us get to the gym?

Good plan. So, what did she come up for as a counterblog?

thisiswhyyourehealthy?

Nope. Vegan Lunch Box isn’t interested in promoting healthy eating of good food. She wants to promote being thin. Her new blog is thisiswhyyourethin.

It is completely bloody wrong to equate “Being healthy” with “being thin”. It is objectionable in the extreme to try to advocate that people eat healthy, tasty, delicious foods to get thin.

If you are healthy, you probably aren’t thin. If you are thin by modern standards – BMI less than 18.5 – you are unhealthy, no bones about it, you skinny bag of bones. Even if you are carrying more weight than BMI standards say you should, if you eat a healthy diet and don’t go on yo-yo diets and exercise regularly, you are more than likely more healthy than someone with a lower BMI: certainly you are more likely to survive a debilitating illness or a serious operation.

Oh, this is the post on Vegan Lunch Box where she proudly touts her new skinny baby: My Brand New Baby Blog. Huh.

To quote my favourite American doctor: “She has gone from the 25th weight percentile to the 3rd in one month. Now I’m not a baby expert, but I’m pretty sure they’re not supposed to shrink.”

Update: why Vegan Lunch Box is going off my blogroll
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March 24, 2009

Tuesday Recipe Blogging: Sweet Potato and Leek Soup

Almost too obvious to blog about, but not quite, because it really is that good.

Six leeks: wash thoroughly, remove all the bits you wouldn’t want to eat.
Two medium sweet potatoes.
Three medium white potatoes.
Two vegie stock cubes.
Herbs: I used rosemary and sage.

sweet potatoes

Chop the leeks, scrub and prepare the potatoes for their awful doom. Put the leeks in the slow cooker. Cut the potatoes up into small pieces. Add the herbs (about a half teaspoon of each) and crumble in the stock cubes. Cover theubgredients with water, put on high for half an hour and then low for eight to twelve hours, liquidise with a stick blender, and enjoy.

(Obviously one could make this without a slow cooker, in which case I would probably cook the sweet potatoes, leeks, and white potatoes in butter or olive oil, with the herbs, until the sweet potatoes were beginning to be tender, before I added the vegie stock.)

I think of leek-and-potato soup as one of the basic soups – it’s fine, you make it a lot when leeks are in season, eat it with maybe some cheesy bread or with sour cream stirred in. But the addition of sweet potato makes the soup richer, gives the flavour more depth: it turns a good soup into a great one.

The colour of the soup becomes a murky green rather than a clean green-and-white or plain green, but who cares when it’s tasty?

February 10, 2009

Tuesday Recipe Blogging: Cheese and Potato Pie

In its simplest form, this isn’t even a pie. It’s just the fastest way to get three hungry kids fed, presuming that you routinely have potatoes and cheese in the house. This was my dad’s fast food meal for us.

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February 3, 2009

Tuesday Recipe Blogging: Easy Peasy Pea Soup

The easiest way to make this soup:

About a quarter-kilo of frozen green peas (that is, the usual smallest size available). A vegie stock cube.

Put the peas into a pan. Crumble in the stock cube. Cover the peas with water. Bring the water to a boil and cook for a couple of minutes. Skoosh the cooked peas into thick green soup with a stick blender. Season to taste with salt/pepper.

That’s all. It’s a delicious quick fresh hot soup.

You can dress it up, if you have time, by sauteing garlic in olive oil, or better yet (if you’re me) garlic and broccoli and some rosemary, or fresh sage, and then adding the frozen peas and water/vegie stock cube, but this turns it into a bit more of a production. The original version produces lovely soup in less than ten minutes – not much longer than it takes to open a tin and heat it.

You can also (if you have a slow cooker) make mushy peas: half a kilo dry split peas, two or three onions, as much garlic as you like, vegie stock cube, dried sage, salt, pepper: chop the onions and the garlic, add them and the split peas to the slow cooker, crumble in the stock cube and a teaspoon or so of dried sage and just a bit of salt and black pepper – and then cover the mix with water, and cook for about half an hour at a high heat and then for six to ten hours at a slow heat. Ridiculously delicious.

January 27, 2009

Tuesday Recipe Blogging: flying food

Via, via, the open letter on Virgin Airlines food, inspired me to this week’s Tuesday Recipe:

I used to fly from Heathrow to Scotland on the BMI earlybird flight more often than I like to remember. In theory, you could get a breakfast on the flight: in practice, getting a vegetarian breakfast required booking it at least 48 hours in advance. (The flight was one of those you can book 12 hours in advance – I don’t know if they still exist, but on at least one occasion I decided to go to Edinburgh if I could get a seat, rang up BMI in the afternoon, booked myself on the next day’s flight… and found I was 36 hours too late to get a vegetarian breakfast.)

The one time I managed to book in advance and navigate their special meal booking system to get a vegetarian breakfast on the plane, another vegetarian was sitting several rows ahead of me, so when he asked could he have a vegie breakfast, he got mine: and no, the flight attendant did not apologise for the mistake.

Food on short flights exists mainly to give the passengers something to do. (Actually, I suppose the practice of serving meals probably initially began because flight attendants, whose primary duty is to save the passengers lives in the event of disaster, were always mostly female, and what do you have women do when they’re not saving lives? Serve food.)

On long flights, though, you do need to eat something – even if you’re not doing anything: and of course the crew need to be fed: they’re working. The only problem is, and particularly if you’re vegetarian: the food is usually vile, where it isn’t inedible.

My solution is baked cheese on bread. (more…)

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