Sunday, November 23, 2008

Poppyseed Explosion Cake

My first notable encounter with poppyseeds happened somewhere around my eleventh birthday. It was mother's day, it was before I was a vegetarian (and before I was a lapsed vegetarian), and my dad and I were cooking my mom my favourite dish: roast chicken with a smattering of poppyseeds. At the time, I had something of a reputation as a picky eater. It would seem that I refused most vegetables, in fact most foods, that weren't white. I didn't like cauliflower either. Chicken though I did like, especially this delicious roasted chicken, a family classic, that came out golden with speckles of black just like the poppyseed bagels from the world-famous-just-a-block-away-Harbord Bakery.

After intrepidly touching the gross pink carcass on the counter, I told my dad he could go ahead with the preparations and that I'd just find the spices. "Where are the poppyseeds?" I asked. A look of terror shot through his eyes. "Well, uh, just let me find them," he answered, not looking me in the eyes. I knew something was up, so I insisted. I had him cornered, the jig was up, so with much trepidation he admitted that the whole "poppyseed chicken" thing was a hoax.

Those beloved dots on my beloved chicken weren't poppyseeds (!!) as I had been led to believe, but browned ground garlic. The truth of the chicken dish had been kept from me because my parents suspected that I could never accept to eat something so foreign as garlic--even in it's beningly ground form. Resentment, bitterness, grossed-outness, and mistrust flashed through me, but then I remembered that I was all of eleven (or was it twelve?) years old. "That's cool," I said, half meaning it.

Years later, just last week in fact, I saw poppyseeds in the cabinet of my current kitchen. Hmm I said, what do you make with this, if not chicken?

Well, friends, this is what you make with poppyseeds: the most delicious cake of all times, one of Deborah Madison's top five cakes, and worthy of a mighty ingredient that almost-flavoured my first foray into the kitchen. It's a cake that will stay moist for days though it will be finished in hours, it's a cake to write home about, certainly to blog about, and it's just about the best thing you can create on a single Sunday afternoon.

Poppyseed Explosion Cake

Note: this recipe requires numerous bowls. Before you begin make sure your roommates have committed to doing dishes after.
1 cup poppyseeds stirred into 1/2 cup hot milk (mix and leave to sit several hours before continuing with the recipe for maximum delight)

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup sourcream or buttermilk
Icing sugar to dust at end

Set poppyseeds to soak in hot milk, in a bowl, watch several episodes of TNG or Gossip Girl, then come back and preheat the oven to 375 degrees farenheit. Lighly butter and flour a 9-inch spring-form pan (one where you can remove the sides after baking).

In a bowl mix dry ingredients together, and set aside.

In a bowl beat eggs whites until they form firm but moist peaks, set aside.

In a BIG bowl cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then beat in one egg yolk at a time until smooth. Stir in sour cream and drained poppyseeds. Add the dry ingredients in thirds. (At this point, Deborah recommends: "Scrape up the batter from the bottom of the bowl to make sure it's well mixed." I'm sure you'd have done this anyway but, well, never hurts to make sure). Stir in a quarter of the egg whites before folding in the rest.

Pour batter into pan, smooth it out, then bake about 50 minutes until cake is golden and firm. Take it out of the oven, set the cake on a rack and remove the sides so that cake can cool. Before cake is cool, lightly dust with icing powder (my method: take a sieve, put in some icing powder, and hit it so that it falls evenly over the cake).

Serve if you want the people in your life to be happy.

Tortilla Soup and Existential Blogging: Begrebet Angest

I let my first C is for Kitchen invitation expire. I was very overwhelmed by the prospect. As the great Julia Child once proclaimed, you are what you cook! Am I savory or sweet? Sour or bitter? God, Am I Umami?? Am I an anti-animal rights barbarian or a baby-plant pamperer? Soon, posting had become no longer about trivial recipes but my entire self-definition! How could I possibly be expected to create something so substantive in the 14 months before the next blog invitation expired?!?!

And then, the economy crashed and Obama was elected president and I thought to myself, “Yes, I can!”

So, here’s to more productive moments of procrastination:

“Aztec” Soup or “Mexican Turkey Tor-tila Soup”

2 bunches scallions, trimmed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped and kept away from the eyes and nose
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Many corn tillas
8 cups turkey/chicken/ “vegetable” stock
1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, undrained
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (or more)
2 cups cooked turkey/chicken, a la julienne (optional for an easy plant-pamperer twist)
Numerous ripe avocados
½ cup fresh cilantro
Cheese (cheddar, Monterey jack, anything strong)

Saute scallions, garlic, and jalpeno peppers in heated olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add chile powder, oregano, and cumin and cook for one minute. Cut tortillas into small strips and add to the pot. Add stock, tomatoes and lime juice. Season with salt. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut more tortillas into thin strips and fry with (lots of) butter or oil until crisp!

Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with turkey/chicken strips (or not), avocado, cilantro, fried tortilla chips and cheese!

Existence precedes essence!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Vanilla Cupcakes with Quick Buttercream Frosting or: How We Learned to Stop Job Searching and Become “Kuchenfrauen”

Guten abends meine Freunde! Unfortunately, I have been preoccupied most of the summer completing a clandestine Masters degree in Abbreviations. So I do apologize (or, as we say in our Abbreviations classes, "apolo") for my recent absence. Nevertheless, I am here now to add more Euro-stylz to the blog by posting a treatise on German cupcake making (machen) and selling (verkaufen).

The Story of the Zwei Kuchenfrauen ("Cake Women"):

As I may or may not have already told you, Berlin’s low cost of living, like Montreal’s, comes at a price: an unemployment rate of a whopping 13% (almost double the national average). Consequently, one of the biggest bonding points of the typical “new Berlin” experience is bitching about the never-ending search for a good job. My new Aussie friend Tim, for instance, after failing to find jobs in graphic design, noted that he recently checked out the “adult” gigs section of Berlin’s craigslist and found (though declined to take) surprisingly high paying jobs as a porno actor. Born entrepreneur that she is, fellow “c is for kitchen” poster Beareene has of late been making many “maverick-y” suggestions about how we can get by. These ideas have ranged the gamut from “outsmarting” the other clothing vendors at the flea market and slowly cornering the hipster vintage clothing scene to running an ad hoc currency exchange business, taking advantage of the recent market chaos. However, the idea she actually managed to rope me in on was cupcake selling (!!) in front of one of Berlin’s most famous flea markets, Mauer Park.

And thus begins our tale. Let me tell you, the selling of cupcakes is not as easy as it may appear. And so, in keeping with the inclination towards brevity advocated by my recent fake degree, and with the grandiosity of yet again introducing another segment of this blog post, Beareene and I present to you: The Dangers and Delights of Cupcake Selling!

1. Making cupcakes in a land with easy access to vanilla and other decoration accoutrement is probably wise. Here in Germany, the Germans seem to prefer shitty “Vanilla Zucker” (vanilla sugar) in tiny, gross packets to real vanilla, therefore impairing the vanilla flavor of our retrospectively ill-chosen flavor of cupcake: vanilla. Moreover, after finding that the colored icing tubes that we purchased were equally unpleasant, we were forced to make the last minute decision of chipping stale Rittersport chocolate onto the cupcakes for decoration. Nico, the Frenchman whose apartment we were subletting and who thoughtfully decided to chain smoke in the 5 sq-meter kitchen the entire time we were baking, was needless to say unimpressed.

2. Even though it may seem easier to ice the cupcakes at home than at the actual point of vending, believe me in the long term it is not. Icing the cupcakes at home and then carefully arranging them on a rustic wooden tray is all well and good, my friends, until one must wait with said rustic tray on the subway platform at 12 am on a fresh Berlin Sunday morning. Then, particularly if one is a small blonde girl, one is left vulnerable to creepy old drunk men who take advantage of your friend buying subway tickets to make wild grabs for the cupcakes while you plead him to stop. Stoic though she is, Beareene, as she would like me to note, almost cried.

3. It is perhaps in your best interest to note in some sort of sign that your cupcakes are not “magic cupcakes,” as some passersby muttered to themselves.

4. Always make friends with the chestnut seller to your left, as he is wont to make your day at the end by unexpectedly buying one of your last cupcakes.

5. Also keep a look out for slightly tubby, jolly men who are likely to be return customers. One dude ended up buying 4 cupcakes (although two were ostensibly for his "friend") while chilling out a few feet away from us and periodically praising the new “kuchenfrauen” to no one in particular.

6. At the end of the day, you may be a little tired and when a guy comes up to you and asks you if you believe in the Koran and then asks you to eat some of his cupcake before he does because “it might contain poison” it may seem like a good idea to just play along. However, this can make you feel like you’re in some sort of fetishistic food porn, so at least be more aware of the erotics of the situation before you consent. (He also brought his friend over after Erin said yes, and then I had to do it. Double gross.)

In the end, Beareene and I sold all 21 cupcakes! (Admittedly, we each also ate one during the day.) And made 27 EU! However, if you deduct the cost of transportation and buying a cupcake tin, two coffees, and the ingredients, we made about 5 EU. Nevertheless, a day well spent!

Love love,
Prof. Tata and Beareeene

Pre and post-Pleasantville-Phenomenon Mauer Park Photos:

Vanilla (zucker?) Cupcakes:

This recipe is really for kids so—make sure an adult is present while you do this!!


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sugar
6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 whole egg plus 1 egg white, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

Nonpareils and colored sugars for garnish (optional)


Preheat an oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper or foil liners.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the sugar and butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the egg and egg white one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk in 2 additions, beating until just combined; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat just until no traces of flour remain, about 30 seconds; do not overbeat.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about three-fourths full. Bake until the cupcakes are lightly golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Then transfer the cupcakes to the rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour.

Frost the cupcakes with the buttercream. (The frosted cupcakes can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature before finishing.) Garnish the cupcakes with nonpareils and colored sugars and serve. Makes 12 cupcakes.

Adapted from Cupcakes, by Shelly Kaldunski (Weldon Owen, 2008).

Buttercream Frosting:


6 cups confectioners’ sugar
16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 1/2 Tbs. milk, plus more, if needed
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt

Food colorings, stale Rittersport (optional)


Have all the ingredients at room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, the 4 1/2 Tbs. milk, the vanilla and salt and beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.

If the frosting is dry, add more milk, 1 tsp. at a time, until it is creamy but still holds peaks. Tint with food coloring as desired. Makes about 4 cups.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Avacado snack

For those days when you want the great taste without the work.

Take an avocado, cut it up. Season with lime juice and chopped ginger, and a dash of salt. Put onto toasted baguette.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

a treatise on shortening

let's face the facts, for some strange and inconceivable reason, shortening, a soft but mostly solid baking ingredient arouses in many a disgust that other fatty semi-solid baking ingredients, say butter, do not. why? perhaps the unnatural and corpse-like white/grey color, that it doesn't really expand beyond baking horizons, and the fact that in order to find it in the grocery store you always have to ask someone. and then there are people out there who KNOW that you are a user. and given the general aura of weird and gross that surrounds shortening, such a thing can't be good.

but i have been sent to show you the light! alas, the light did not come to me engraved on some golden tablets buried under a hill, but rather on a vegan baking blog in the form of Lime-Ginger Cookies. so let's talk business:

3/4 cup vegetable SHORTENING!
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 tbs powdered ginger
2 tsps baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup molasses, the sludge of the gods

mix together, roll into small balls and place on a greased cookie sheet in an oven heated to 350 degrees. (secret from lou's archives:) turn on the light and watch the magic happen. for the frosting, just mix lime juice with more powdered sugar than you're comfortable with, wait for them to cool slightly, and then smear. or if you're impatient go with the dipping method.

i am convinced that the soft but ever so delightfully chewy consistency in these cookies is partially due to the shortening. besides, if you are trying to seduce some waifish vegan babe, this little number is probably worth its weight in gold. and as we and countless investment ba(n)kers all know, gold is back in.

"what did the investment banker say after the financial crisis?"
"would you like some fries with that?"

-with files from the Gazette and a vegan with a blog named tamara(?)

the spanish word for shortening is "manteca," or more illuminatingly "grasa"