Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Cake Review
Max's on 15th and Oak, Vancouver

Chocolate Decandent Cake
For Breakfast: good
Coffee in the afternoon: very good
Late evening after few drinks: excellent. But watch out, the cops love it there so walk or cab!
Decor: Its a deli
Service: self
Cost: $3.95

This is a finished little cake, rectangular in shape, (I will one day get my camera and computer mated so I can post photos), with a shiny chocolate glaze, little stripes of glaze piped in lines on diagonal across the top and a dollop of buttercream to finish.
Of course the first thing I tasted was the buttercream garnish, and I hated it. You see, it looked good, with a little shine so I thought "oooo, yum". Grainy, with a weird flavour. They say they use natural ingredients, but that buttercream tasted un-natural. Well, thank goodness it was just a garnish, because the rest of the cake was really quite good. Moist cake (devil's food style) divided by two slim layers of ganache. There was a thin layer of buttercream between the cake and the glaze, but thankfully it was overpowered by the chocolate glaze. Oddly enough we couldn't eat the whole piece. (Yes, once again I brought my second, a three year old restaraunt reviewer.)
I have to say, the cake didn't rock my world, but it was suprisingly good. The chocolate glaze looked better than it tasted, but at that price point, I really couldn't complain. ( I forgot to mention the price of our last piece of cake was $4.95 from Sweet Obsession)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Health Canada tells us to eat less salt.
That's all fine and dandy, but instead why don't they just tell us to stop eating processed food. For crying out loud, if 80% of our salt intake is found in processed food, it would make sense to recommend that we stop eating it.
If I was Health Canada, or anything of any import in the nutritional food world I would tell people to:
Not to mention that you might actually get some vitamins and all that stuff from the regular food you would have to eat if you stopped eating crap.
Let me stress that as I type this little rant I am eating potato chips. I'm not a puritan...far from it.
Yesterday morning I took my 3 year old for breakfast, and much to his delight, we had Bittersweet Chocolate Buttercream Cake. This was for reseach purposes, so that the Underground Baker is on par with other cakes in the city.
This little chocolate number was from Sweet Obsession. It was a three layer cake with two thick stripes of buttercream filling and a slim little exterior of buttercream icing. The top was smooth in looks to show off the buttercream I suppose, and the side was covered with chocolate shavings.
The buttercream had a nice chocolate flavour, with a kind of dry chocolate taste that must have come from the bittersweet chocolate. For my taste the buttercream overwhelmed the cake. It also didn't have the satiny mouth-feel that I find so sexy and addictive in some buttercreams. Perhaps some of that satin sensation was sacrificed to give it a stronger chocolate flavour.
The cake was too dry for what looked like a devil's food style cake, (versus a genoise style cake that is supposed to be dryish and always moistened with syrup). This is the risk of serving cake slices. The cake, as mentioned before, was overwhelmed by the buttercream. A cake with more substance, or a syrup added to punch up the taste may have served better. Or a thinner layer of buttercream with the same cake, (albeit, fresher).
All that said, we ate it in no time flat.

Cake Review
Sweet Obsessions, Trafalger and 16th Ave, Vancouver

Bittersweet Chocolate Cake
For breakfast: OK.
With coffee in the afternoon when you are very hungry: Good.
Late Evening after a few drinks: Excellent
Decor: I could care less in the morning.
Service: Friendly.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Today I am baking cakes.
Well, so far only a white butter cake that has pissed me off because one of them fell. The first one. Must have had the oven temperature too low, since the second one turned out fine after I increased the heat 25 degrees.
This recipe comes from the fabulous book by Margaret Braun called Cakewalk. I found her book while attending a conference at a place called COPIA down in Napa Valley. It is a place that takes itself very seriously. (Don't get me wrong, I love the whole concept!Its just, well, I just feel a little rough around the edges in places like that.)I was trying to get my bearings, looking at books in their gift store when I found Cakewalk. Every cake I looked at either made me smile or laugh out loud with pure pleasure. Generally I don't like my food handled too much, but in Braun's case the cakes are just so trippy, beautiful and fun that I didn't care. I bought it immediately.
Within five minutes I was introduced to Margaret Braun, and I'm sure I came off as a total idiot. I believe I told her that I loved her book, but I think I first said that every time I looked at one of the cakes I couldn't help but laugh. She got that look of casting me adrift before the brief introduction/conversation was over. Oh well. The book is great, (its mostly pictures with a few basic recipes), and the recipe has worked every other time I have made it.


2 1/2 cups flour, (I use all purpose)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups plus 1/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sour cream


1. Butter, line with parchment and flour 2-6 inch cake pans. I like to use springforms.
2. Cream butter and the 2 1/4 cups sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, mix well.
3. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together, stirring well with a whisk to evenly distribute the ingredients. Or you could sift them together if you prefer.
4. Dump half your flour mixture in with the eggs, and half the sour cream. Stir to combine. Repeat with remaining flour and sour cream.
5. Divide the batter between the buttered cake pans. Sprinkle the tops with reserved 1/4 cup sugar. This will give the cake a lovely, delicate, crunchy top. Bake 40 minutes or until a toothpick poked into the center of cake comes out with no batter stuck to it.

Cool cake for 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge then pop off the springform side. Cool cake to room temperature. Eat it all with a cup of tea, or use for layer cake.

Important Note: This recipe is from Cakewalk, but cut in half to make the two, six inch cakes. The description on how to make the cake is mine. Any clarity problems can be addressed to me.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I should be baking cakes.
Instead, I am making lasagna. I hate making lasagna, and while I am making it I think I hate eating it. But it was the request of a loved one, and I am feeling generous today, perhaps because I have been a total grump, (not the first five words that came to mind), for the last few days.
I do love making the meat sauce. While making it, I can't wait to eat it. Gently cooked ground meat - (People, please only eat organic ground beef if you can. I know organic meat can be expensive, but I would just feel better all round if people ate, at the very least, organic ground beef, especially if you don't know who produced the meat your eating. I also feel quite strongly about organic pork). - red wine, a tomato sauce (made with some carrots, fennel, lots of garlic and some herbs) and a splash of milk. The milk works like magic, softening the concentrated flavour of the tomatoes to red velvet. No need for the pinch of sugar that some recipes call for when you add the milk.
Last week I had poached some figs and ate them with whipped cream and the reduced poaching syrup, and they were so dam good that I just cooked a flat off today. The house smells divine, the aroma of figs and spice dancing in the air. I could probably eat a dozen at one go. This time I also made some creme fraiche to go with them. I can't wait.
Back to the cakes. I am all set to bake off my prototype cakes so I can send them off to a restaurant friend. But the lasagna and figs have distracted me from the task.
Tomorrow I shall talk of cakes, and perhaps start listing my favorite cookbooks.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Hmmm, I have made my second loaf of sprouted wheat bread, and the romance is wearing off. I am already on to plans of making it how I want to, tossing nutrition and tradition to the wind.
My last loaf was prepared in the following manner.

2 cups organic hard wheat berries
a bunch of water for soaking and rinsing
1 teaspoon salt

1) Soak the berries in a generous bowl, all day, in cool water, covered with a plate or cloth.
2) In the early evening, drain the berries, rinse, and drain again. Leave at room temperature, covered. Before going to bed, repeat rinsing, draining etc.
3) The following morning the berries should have sprouted between 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch. If not, but you can see little pale bulges of potential sproutage happenning, rinse, drain, etc. Check again in a few hours. If nothing has occurred, (no bulging), and your house is warmer than freezing, perhaps there is something wrong with your berries. Toss the lot and find a new source.
4) Once you have the required sproutage, turn your oven to 325. Dump the berries into your food processor bowl, using the steel knife, and buzz them until you have a mushy kind of dough that makes a little bit of a ball (more like a wet lump that runs around the center post of the steel blade)in your processor bowl. I didn't want to break up the gluten that formed, so I did not process the dough to the stage where the dough formed a ball and ran around the bowl. I also think the dough is too wet for this kind of thing anyway.
5) Line a small loaf pan with parchment. I used a 9 1/2" by 3 1/2" by 2 1/2". Bake the loaf for 45 minutes, ( I baked mine for an hour by mistake and the bread was fine, but the interior got too hot - I'm sure the bread had no nutritional value, but tasted fine.)

Cool and eat.

I have sliced my loaf and put it in the freezer. Still can't get the kids to eat it, so we are a bit slow at getting through the loaf. It doesn't help that I make yeasted bread that everyone likes to eat in great quantities.
That said, I shall be adding sprouted wheat berries to my bread on a regular bases. I think they will add a lovely natural sweetness and chewy-ness(is that a word?) to my already excellent recipe called Leftover Loaf. I know the name doesn't sound appealing, but it is a great loaf made with leftover porridge. Perhaps I will enter that recipe another day.

Monday, September 11, 2006

To continue where I left off.

Context - I can't help but look at this bread for what it is, a very primitive bread. That said, if one looks at it from the historical perspective of an early bread, a sprouted bread must have been a breakthrough. Sweeter, and more importantly, easier to grind than dry wheat berries, it probably made breadmaking alot less work. Whether people making this bread long ago knew it was very nutritional would be difficult to know....
I wonder what came first, sprouted unleavened bread or ground flour unleavened bread?

Comments: I like the taste of this bread. But I don't think it is quite right as a flat bread. I think it needs to be made in a different shape for a number of reasons. First, my kids won't eat it the way it looks now. I don't blame them. To solve this I will be making the next batch in a deeper pan, perhaps getting it to a three inch depth, and baking it longer. Second, I want the bread to have a higher ratio of creamy chewy interior to the thin crunchy crust. Perhaps this is difficult to achieve and I just don't know it because I am only in the early stages of testing. I think if the bread was thicker, you could retain the nutritional value of the sprouted grain in the interior of the loaf, while making a more substantial crust by increasing the oven temperature. You may lose some of the nutritional value, but since the loaf is thick, you could monitor the interior temperaure of the loaf and pull it out at its optimum temperature.
I should note that I did not use a non-stick pan. I prefer to use parchment paper. It worked just fine, so long as I dusted it with a little bit of unbleached flour.

I am off to start another batch of wheat berries, and to look for more information online.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

My first test of Essene Flat Bread is done. The results are, well, flat. It was to be expected, after all. Lord knows I have made flatter breads, both on purpose or not, before. I am going to approach the bread from my usual observational criteria of food: taste, smell, (aroma would sound so much better), texture, looks and context. General notes on preparation will follow.

Taste - It tastes good. A slightly sweet flavour, in part from the maple syrup I added, but also definately from the wheat berries. It has a wheaty taste, but not floury. Before I ground it up in the food processor I was afraid it would taste grassy since I could smell a hint of it from the sprouting. I was concerned that I had oversprouted past the required 1/8th of an inch, but once I poured out the sprouts I realized some had sprouted even less than the 1/16th of an inch suggested in the recipe. I could taste a hint of the salt, which in my books is ok, especially since its the lovely grainy, french sea salt, but the flatbread could easily go with less than the teaspoon suggested.

Smell - Very nice, a pure wheat smell, not yeasty, (obviously), nor grassy as feared. I have had some organic stone ground whole flours that smelled quite grassy when wet, which seems weird to me, (Any comments on this would be appreciated).

Texture - with a thin crust on the bottom and top, and a chewy interior that brought to mind porridge. It is not unpleasant. It is, on the other hand not common to our North American idea of bread, even unlevened flatbread such as roti.

Appearance - Well, it doesn't look great. At least not to me, but it is my first try, and I am already trying to figure out how to make it in a rectangular loaf like I used to buy in my health food days many, many years ago. Some of the appearance problems have to do with how I baked my first flat loaf, but more on that in preparation notes. I should add that with the oven temperature so low, there was no browning on the crust, which wouldn't have improved it's looks anyway. I think this bread has browning potential because of the sugar levels in the sprouted berries, and the addition of the maple syrup. I am assuming the low level baking temperature has something to do with maintaining the nutritional value of the berries, so may not mess with it too dramatically in future testings.

I have run out of time so I will finish this up tomorrow.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Alright, I've soaked the berries overnight, washed them thoroughly in cool water this morning, early, then once again around 10 am. They have not sprouted, but are soft evough to eat...kind of the texture of just cooked short-grain brown rice. These berries are like the proverbial "a watched pot never boils". I can't stop poking around looking for at least one sprouted berry.
I have already decided to add the salt, and instead of honey I will add a little maple syrup to give them a Canadian flair, when it comes time to buzz them in the food processor.
This flatbread project is a little bit of penance for me because I was a bit of a b*&$h when someone asked me a technical question about flatbreads made with mung beans. I know nothing about mungbeans and bread, and should have answered along those lines. Instead I was glib in an inappropriate way. So I am now making this essene bread, which will eventually lead to making a mung bean bread. In all honesty, I'm not sure if I want to make a mung bean bread...actually, I'm not sure my family and freinds want to eat mung bean bread. Maybe it will taste amazing and not only will I happily eat the mung bean bread, I will have to eat my words.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Here's a recipe I am going to start today. I have no idea how good this recipe is, but thats what this blog is all about.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Here are two paintings to brighten up the place. The top painting is by my sister Candy Minx and the bottom painting is by her boyfriend Stagg

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

CBC Almanac Bread Recipes, November 22, 2006.