Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pandan chiffon cake (or why you should use a ring pan)

I think you will not be surprised if I tell you that when the boy and I started dating one of our favorite activities was showing each other our favorite sweet treats. Here in Holland a strong influence of the ex-colonies, at least in cuisine matters, is still felt. So one of the first things the boy made me taste was Pandan cake, a crazy-green fluffy delight, common in Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries. And he'd been asking me to give it a try, even if I know it is not so easy to make. Anyway, the other day, as we passed the Asian supermarket, we got the ingredients. To be completely honest, we made it from a box. If you would like to make it from scratch, here is a recipe, but you'd need to get your hands on some Pandan leaves (Pandanus amaryllifolius), a tropical plant common in Southeast Asia to make an extract. In the original version chlorophyll is of course responsible of giving color to the cake, but I'm afraid our box cake was full of food coloring. Never mind, the color was still amazing.
 And at least we used fresh eggs and coconut milk. Healthy enough, for a dessert. So, true to myself I made my research on chiffon cakes and did not follow the instructions on the box (which simply instructed to beat whole eggs, then add the coconut milk, then the prepared flour, and to the oven). Instead, since I wanted this cake to be really fluffy I decided to beat the egg whites separately, then mix the rest of the ingredients and finally, before baking, fold the egg whites into the batter trying to keep all the air bubbles, doing my best to prevent the dough from deflating.
Fluffy pretty clouds
What I didn't take into account, was that I should have used a tube or ring pan, instead of a normal cake pan. You see, almost all the photos of pandan cake that you can find, and all the pandan cakes I've ever seen are in ring form. It didn't occur to me that there was a reason for that (silly me). I thought it would work, but alas, I learnt from my mistake and will soon be testing my hypothesis. As you can see on the first picture, a very thin layer in the bottom-center of the cake* did not cook or rise as it should have, it just stayed kind of pasty. And I think, I am actually quite convinced, that this type of cake needs heat also in the center in order to rise properly. Anyhow, it was still quite fluffy and it was good... it is amazing how fast we make the baked goods disappear, but it's also true that we gave some of it away.
*which looks like the top since the cake is upside down...

Oh and I spend my life explaining and blabbering nonsense to anyone who will hear me... so while I was giving little silly explanations to the boy he was actually making a video, so here it goes.
video

Monday, April 23, 2012

Unexpected

 Yesterday while coming back home from grocery shopping we decided to take a different route just for fun. I am so so glad we did because we found sheep (not that they are very hard to come by in this country). Oh the cuteness. It must be my favorite part of spring, lambing... suddenly passing images like this and knowing that everything has been renewed, that nature has started from scratch all over again. It gives me hope and makes me happy.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bedroom wars

Hello everyone. This post was written by the boy, a little bit like Kamel's Saturday edition at Lauren's blog. This will most likely not be a regular feature, but maybe now and then we'll get to hear M's voice. 

Ever since Amanda started her blog we joked about me starting my own blog.  I even had a title and everything "the daily struggles of a perfect husband". But it turns out I don't have that many struggles and maybe (just maybe ) the title was a bit much. So instead of creating my own blog or even blogging regularly  like Kamel does I decided to just make this one post for now.

It started the first day Amanda and I slept in the same bed. As you guys know Amanda used to live in Barcelona and in her apartment she had a single bed. Which is quite nice, who doesn't want to spend their first night together in a cozy bed. The apartment had terrible insulation it was freezing cold that night, but Amanda had several layers of blankets to keep us warm during the night. So imagine  my surprise  when during the night I was cold. This was strange I was in a small bed with the girl I loved and had several layers of blankets on top of me, how could I be cold? But surprise surprise the blankets were gone. Turns out my GF was a blanket stealer. Imagine the shock my GF a criminal.

I didn't dare to steal them back, not on our first night, so I laid there cold taking every bit of blanket that was available. Heh maybe this was just a one night thing right?? Wrong.

So now every night Amanda and I are fighting a war in our bed. She steals my part of the blanket I take it back by "force". We could simply use separate blankets, but we want to feel like we are sleeping together and we kinda like our little war. So now I wanna know. Do you have any struggles as a perfect husband/wife?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Book suggestions?

 I just finished Umberto Eco's last book, The Prague Cemetery and it's time to start reading something else. Any suggestions? I have to say that The Prague Cemetery was a bit hard and dense to read, though it is full of  historic illustrations and sketches. The story, that takes places in nineteenth century Europe, is based on historical facts and it really shows how reality is weirder than fiction. If your thing is history and you like suspense, intrigue and spies you will enjoy it. I am not sure I did, it was surely interesting, and I learnt a lot. It made me research and find out more about the actual historical events behind it, but most of all it made me sad. And it made me sad because the kind of dreadful events taking place in the book, the plot, the prejudices... it all sounds too familiar. This kind of stuff is still happening nowadays, take for instance this excerpt:

"... For the enemy to be recognised and feared, he has to be in your home, on your doorstep. We need an enemy to give people hope. Someone said that patriotism is the last refuge of cowards: those without moral principles usually wrap a flag around themselves, and the bastards always talk about the purity of the race. National identity is the last bastion of the dispossesed. But the meaning of identity is now based on hatred, on hatred for those who are not the same. Hatred has to be cultivated as a civic passion. The enemy is the friend of the people".

I want to believe that as mankind we learn from the past, that we will not make the same mistakes again. That a multicultural, friendly society where we embrace the differences, where we recognize that the richness is in those differences, and learn from each other, while interacting peacefully and harmoniously is possible.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Chai tea cupcakes with cinammon swiss meringue buttercream

I hope everyone had a happy Easter weekend, in whatever way you celebrate it. For me, baking is the best part of any holiday. And Chai Tea Latte has been my favorite warm drink ever since I discovered it. So when I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it. Of course I modified it a bit. I used milk instead of soy milk, to make it creamier. And instead of just adding the spices (cinammon, ginger, cardamom, clover) to the dry ingredients as the original recipe called, I infused the milk tea with a mix of spices called "Indian yogi" (if you are in Spain you can find it at Tea Shop.)
 I was a bit afraid of messing up with the swiss meringue buttercream, but after reading a few tutorials and watching this video (thanks Marcela) I just went for it. I do not own a candy thermometer, so I was really happy to learn there was a trick to know you are ready to start beating (rubbing the egg white - sugar mixture between your fingers until it feels smooth and all the sugar grains are melted). And wow that marshmallow, sticky texture. I think next time I want to stay there and just spread it over a pie or something . Also, if you try it, and like everyone said to me, do not be afraid when a short while after adding the butter it starts looking curdled. Keep mixing and it will come together. And in the end you will have an icing with a soft, velvety, texture.Now I just have to learn to pipe the icing properly.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Perspective

I have been thinking a lot this week. About life, about happiness, about what matters. For some reason Lauren's post yesterday on what success is, along with this one about making it through hard financial times, and this story of a long marriage that made it through all make me feel that we are on a right track. That even if I don't have a true career, the important stuff, the stuff that will make me happy in life is there, and ultimately, even if it is nice to like your job, to feel that what you do is relevant,  to enjoy going to a place where you have nice colleagues (which I do), my fulfillment will not depend on that. It is very hard for me to come to terms with this, maybe because I come from a medical field, where I always thought helping others, improving their welfare, their, lives was my calling, my mission. But I want to think that in the end it will be ok.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Get ready for free ice-cream



First of all for full disclosure, this is in no way a sponsored post, I am just here spreading the news and sharing the joy. Free ice-cream day must be close to my favorite day of the year. My best friend Helga and I would make a holiday out of it and miss class just to go to the other side of the city (from campus) and get some. So, on April 3, all around the world, head over to your local Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop (find it here) and enjoy a free cone. Oh happiness.
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