Sunday, May 27, 2018

Rum Bundt Cake


There's nothing quite so fun as a birthday party, and just because you're a grown-up doesn't mean you can't have one. I wholly disagree with the creed that adults aren't allowed to do birthday parties because they're considered childish. What in the world is the point of being alive today if you can't find little reasons to celebrate? I will say, though, that I'm now 30 and I still don't know what you're supposed to do while people sing "Happy Birthday" to you.

This rum cake has come to be my favorite birthday cake. I baked one for my own birthday just last March and it was a fan favorite. I baked two different cakes, of course, and folks seemed to shockingly prefer the rum cake over the avocado oil cake - at least, that's how it seemed, just because I hadn't any left over and I had plenty of the other to spare.

The rum cake I make is an adaptation on a Kentucky Bourbon Cake. This historical confection from the great American recipe book was the prize-winning entry by a certain Nell Lewis at the 1963 Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest in Platte City, Missouri. What's neat about using alcohol to bake is that it is a liquid that won't form gluten, no matter what. You can mix and mix and mix the flour with any kind of rum, vodka, or bourbon and it won't go gloopy. You do need gluten in cake, of course, to trap all of those lovely air bubbles and therefore make your cake rise, so you only use about a quarter cup in this recipe, which was from one of my favorite cookbooks, Vintage Cakes.



When I think of bundt cakes, I think of classic Americana. What better to bake for your Memorial Day celebration? Give this a go. You can find so many funky bundt pans in different designs, especially if you comb thrift stores. There are many bundt pans out there, sitting on shelves, just waiting for you to take them home and use them.

Rum Bundt Cake

Cake
  • 12 oz AP cake flour (or 10.5 oz AP flour and 1.5 oz cornstarch)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 8 oz lard or shortening
  • 13 oz coconut sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1/4 cup rum
  • 1 cup coconut milk, almond milk, or hemp milk plus 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Rum Simple Syrup(optional but recommended)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2/3 cup coconut sugar, brown sugar, or honey
  • 1/3 cup rum
  • 1 cinnamon stick
Icing
  • 1 Tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • Rum, as needed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare your bundt pan with a bit of oil and a light dusting of flour. Prepare your glaze by boiling together the water, sugar, and cinnamon stick. Once it's come to a boil and all the sugar has dissolved, add in the rum. You want to add it in now because otherwise all the alcohol would cook off and I don't think we want that. Set it aside. Sift all the dry ingredients for you cake together.

Whip together the shortening and sugar using the whip attachment of your standing mixer until light and quite fluffy. Coconut sugar is an excellent one-for-one substitute for cane sugar. It's a less-refined (but just as dignified) form of sugar that's far more sustainable than many alternatives. It takes quite a bit less processing, as well, and it has a nice note of depth in it, which is appropriate for this cake. Add each egg, one at a time, until each one is fully incorporated. Split the vanilla bean down the middle and scrape one half of the beans into the egg mixture. Save the other half for your icing, which you'll make later. If you like, you can put the scraped pod in either the sugar container (to make vanilla sugar) or into your still-warm syrup for a kick of extra flavor.

Add in your dry and wet ingredients, going dry-wet-dry-wet-dry. Stir gently, of course, just to let the batter come together. Make sure to really scrape the hell out of the bottom and make the batter homogeneous. Pour into your bundt pan, give a few tap-tap-taps to make sure everything is spread evenly, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Take this time for yourself to read a magazine and drink the rest of the bottle. You're at home, so I'm assuming nobody is there to judge you.

Once your cake is baked - springing back when touched, and all - remove it from the oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes before turning it upside-down on a cooling rack, set inside a baking sheet to catch the glaze. Once your cake is turned upside-down to continue its cooling, you may assemble the glaze. However, if you are using the simple syrup...

Straight out of the oven, with your bundt pan facing cake-side up, poke plenty of holes into your cake with either a wooden skewer or a toothpick. Spoon half of the syrup straight over the cake and allow to soak in, being sure to spread it evenly. Wait your designated 15 minutes and then flip the cake over onto your cooling rack. Once your cake falls out  of the pan on its own, glaze the remaining syrup over the top of the cake. This should help it cool. Now, for the glaze...

Simply scrape the other half of that vanilla bean into the entirety of the glaze ingredients and whisk together until it's a sort of medium consistency - not gloopy but not at all runny. Dampen a paper towel or clean tea towel and cover the bowl so it won't go dry. Your cake should cool and fall easily out of the bundt pan, and should be  no warmer than body temperature (and seriously that's the absolute MOST it should be) when you ice this cake. I wouldn't recommend it, of course, as it should be at least room temperature so the glaze won't fall straight off, but your simple syrup should have helped to cool it at this point. 

Once your cake is cool enough, spoon over globs of the glaze, in whichever fashion you like. I decorated this cake with fresh flowers from my garden. Pansies, dandelions, and roses were in plentiful supply for me on that day, but make sure you check that your own flowers at your own disposal are edible, and not poisonous. 

Vanilla Rum Cake with fresh flowers - no mirror glaze, just a classic glaze. 🌹 This is one of my favorite cakes to make for birthday parties πŸŽ‚, especially grown - up ones. 🍾πŸ₯‚πŸ˜†There's rum in the #cake AND the glaze! You can also make a rum simple syrup and soak it in for an even more boozy treat. I didn't do that because I didn't know if there were going to be any little ones at the party I attended. I'm loving that simpler cakes are starting to have a moment. Simple doesn't mean plain, of course! When I say simple, I mean the kind of cakes that the great American baker made before us. I find culinary anthropology fascinating - this cake is modified from a "Kentucky Bourbon Cake" which won a #baking contest in Platte City in the 1950s! I think it's great that those kinds of things survived long enough for us to try them today. #foodiechats #wannabgourmande #foodblogger #cheflife #instacake #vanilla #midwestlife #KansasCity #classic #flowersofinstagram #cakedecorating
A post shared by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on


Take this cake to your next grown-up birthday party, or make it for your own. It's quite festive with all of the flowers, but you can decorate it however you like. It looks especially festive with plenty of candles! Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pomme Frites


Look me in the eye and tell me that fries aren't amazing. America is the only country I've spent considerable time in, and I know that they're a staple here, but they're definitely a staple in many other parts of the world. From Canadian Poutine to American Chili Cheese Fries, we love us some deep-fried starch. I knew that they originated in France, so imagine my excitement when I learned that making them was going to count as a traditional French dish in culinary school. I thought "I get to actually focus on fries for school? I was so excited that I started dreaming about writing an essay on fries, knowing that I was going to tear it up. Tragically, I didn't write a thesis on fries (my thesis was on American Regional Cuisine) but I still remember learning to make them.

Now, there are several different preparations and all yield different results. Everyone has their own opinions on which potatoes are best, whether to blanch or not, whether to soak or not, whether to freeze or not before frying. I'm going to show you the simple method that I learned in culinary school and you can go from there. Cool?

Here's one thing before we start:

While there are over 4000 different varieties of potato, they can be sorted into two categories: waxy and starchy. A waxy potato will be the yellow or red kind you might find at the grocery store, with skin that's quite thin and that peels easily away after boiling. A starchy potato is, well, rather starchy and stick-to-your ribs, your standard Idaho potato, which is often the chosen kind to use for baking and for pasta applications. Gnocchi, for example, are often made with starchy potatoes. A lot of folks like to use the starchy kind for mashed potatoes as well as gratins. They're sturdy, and that's why I personally think that they're the better kind for fries. That being said, I've seen Gordon Ramsay make a Chip Butty using waxy potatoes, called desiree.

Pomme Frites
yields enough for 2 people, or just 1 if you're feeling a tad hangry


  • 2 medium Idaho potatoes
  • 1 quart frying oil
  • Salt & fresh chopped parsley to taste


Fill up a medium saucepot with cool water. Take two starchy potatoes and peel them, making sure to compost the peels, right along with your coffee grounds and your eggshells. Use a knife to slice thin batons of potato, a little bigger than 1/8" of an inch. You can do 1/4", if you like, just know that cooking is going to take much longer. It doesn't matter what size you choose, so long as your batons are the same size. Place them all in the pot and use your hands to swirl them around. See all of that cloudy white stuff? That's the starch. Drain the water and fill it up again, swirling and rinsing until the water is clear, then bring up to a boil. Since they're so thin, they barely need to cook for more than 1 minute before you take them off the heat and drain them. Lay them flat on paper towels to let dry out a bit while you bring up your oil. Do not have wet fries when you put them into hot oil; you will make it splatter up and you will get hurt. Seriously.

Protip: Use a bigger pot than you think you need. Seriously. I use my 4 qt stock pot when I'm barely going to be using a quart of oil. Oh, and let's talk about oil while we're here!

See, no two oils are alike. There's such a thing as smoke point, which is just a fancy way of saying "hey this is really hot, all the water that was ever in here is now 100% gone and the flavor profile of this is now changing because it's cooking a bit too high. It might catch fire if you keep it going. For real. Because like, I'm oil. And I'm hella flammable."

I use the lard that I render from beef, combined with coconut oil. This is because it's just the fat that I have in the jar in my fridge. Yeah, I have a dripping jar. Yeah, I reuse it and filter it when I can. It's flavor. So whatever you choose, be it shortening or grapeseed oil, be careful and heat it to 350
degrees F. Make sure that you have plenty of room for expansion, otherwise you could start a fire.

Once your oil is hot, gently drop your fries in and fry until golden-brown, about 4 minutes for me. I drained it by using a slotted pasta spoon (I couldn't find my spider) and tossed with parsley and salt. You can season it with whatever you want, of course, but I wanted to keep it simple.

You can use steak seasoning, truffle oil, whatever you like!

Serve these fries with a steak, with a burger, in a bowl with cheese and gravy and veggies...the possibilities are endless! Use these fries just as you'd use any fries. They always say that you should eat whatever you like so long as you cook it yourself. So? Wanna eat fries? Make them yourself!



Thanks so much for joining me. Happy cooking and happy eating.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Vegan Palmiers




So here's the thing about a classic pastry like a palmier: it requires what it known as lamination. No, no, not like the plastic stuff that goes over documents. I'm talking layers. Specifically, layers of dough alternating with layers of butter. You can see all sorts of snippets and examples of this on a lovely show called The Great British Bake-off (or The Great British Baking Show for we Americans) does puff pastry week with each season and it's always great to watch everything they come up with. In culinary school, laminated doughs were a lesson in patience for me. It's a very fiddly and finicky thing to keep everything just the right temperature and just the right texture in order to have it successfully bake. The idea is that you have the dough - which is cold - and the butter be the same consistency and thickness when rolling. This is often a dance between time and temperature. I was convinced that I'd never be able to do it with a vegan butter substitute, that it wouldn't ever be the right temperature or consistency to hold up like dairy butter would.

Image result for earth balanceFolks, meet Earth Balance. This is the single best vegan butter substitute I've come across. It acts just like butter in every single cake and pastry application I've yet to throw at it. It makes great ganache, it does a beautiful pie crust, and emulsifies in an extremely similar fashion to the real thing. It's yet to fail at a task I've put it to - and this includes laminating doughs. Trust me, I'm just as shocked as you are. Your move, America. We're out of excuses. If vegan croissants aren't soon a thing in every vegan bakery across this great nation, SO HELP ME. 

Now then, before anyone gets on their high horse about dairy butter being a superior product and how homaigah there are so many other ingredients in this don't you want just butter it's ONE INGREDIENT and start crying and shitting your pants over it, let me explain something:

Dairy milk is considered a whole food because it contains every single vitamin you need to sustain life. Know why? It's breast milk. This is baby cow food, to grow baby cows up big and strong. Of course it's great for you and great for your children - provided they aren't lactose intolerant, which they probably are. The ability to drink dairy milk without consequence is an anomaly. 

Thanks, Reddit, for the image!

Genetically, I'm half East Asian and half Ashkenazi Jewish (and yes, that's why I have such glorious curly hair). Dairy hurts my tummy. My fiance is a pan-European mutt, however, and dairy still hurts his tummy. In fact, it hurts all of his parts because he's severely lactose intolerant. I frankly can't remember the last time I've had dairy products in my home. This makes me feel only slightly less guilty about eating pork and shellfish because meat and dairy have never touched since B. and I moved in together. And let me shout it from the rooftops: I don't keep kosher by even the most-liberal of estimates. It is definitely my fault that the messiah isn't coming. I'm terrribly sorry. I'm the worst. 

Okay, that's enough disclaimers and tragic backstory. Let's get onto the recipe.

Vegan Palmiers
  • 150 g cold vegan butter substitute, pressed into a flat square, then frozen
  • 5 g salt
  • 105 g cold water
  • 205 g AP flour
  • 45 g vegan butter substitute, quite warm, near-melted

Measure your first 150 g of vegan butter substitute and press between two sheets of either parchment paper or plastic wrap to create a square. I didn't measure, but I'm pretty sure my square was about 6 inches on each side, with about half an inch of thickness to go with. Pop that in the freezer and work on your dough.




Simply combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and begin to knead with your hand. You will have to knead this to create a fair bit of gluten so that the steam from the melted "butter" will catch and make everything puff up and rise. The kneading process shouldn't take longer than five minutes; you just want to do it until the dough is rather smooth and homogenized. Wrap in plastic and let it rest for about 15 minutes in the freezer.

Once your dough and butter are cool and quite firm, you're ready to work. Roll your dough out to a square that, when the butter pat is placed on it, it will envelop it wholly. Like this!


I think you can actually see the cuts I made in the butter to make it into a pat. Neat! Anyhow, take this cold mass and fold it over onto itself, like an envelope. Check out my visual representation below...






Easy peasy pumpkin sqeezy! Now comes the fun bit... the lamination bit! This is also called folding. There are letter folds, book folds...lots of them! You can google any tutorial on how to do folding techniques - I  personally like the letter fold. That's when you take the long rectangle of your dough and fold it over in thirds, like you'd fold a letter, and roll out! I snapped a photo of the tutorial out of my old culinary textbook from school for you to see. It really is quite simple!

Now, once you've folded your dough into thirds, brush off the excess flour and roll out longways. Then, fold that now long piece into thirds which would be going the opposite way from the initial fold. Basically, you're always rotating something one turn and folding. But never go more than two turns before letting the dough rest in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. I promise you that it's worth the wait! Once you've rested the dough, roll out the dough again and do another letter fold, and yet another. You've now done the letter fold four times, which means you have now made twelve folds, which means you have twenty-four layers of alternating 'butter' and dough. I think that's fair enough, don't you? I think that you're ready to make your palmiers. 

So, the palmier is a special French sort of sugar cookie. Luckily, you only need about a third of your dough to make a dozen or so of these cookies, which means you can let the other two thirds hand out in the freezer until you're ready to use them again. So, cut a third of your dough and brush off your counter because you're not going to be rolling your puff dough in flour - oh, no, you'll  be rolling it in SUGAR.

That's right, SUGAR!

Take your dough and roll it out to about 1/4" thickness and cut that in half. Roll up your first half of dough into a scroll long ways. This means that you have the short end facing you, and two long book-end type situations happening to make a big scroll. You then roll up your scroll on the long sides to have two scrolls meet in the middle. Do the same thing with your other long piece of dough, but only roll up halfway towards the middle. It's almost as if you're going to be reading it.

Place your first, tightly-wound scroll in the middle of the other and then squeeze gently together to get it to stick. Turn over this entire log of scrolls so that the rolled bits are facing down and that the bottoms are facing up. Using a rather sharp knife (serrated is my knife of choice for this particular application) and quite gently slice off scroll sections of the roll. Spread out your cookies, sprinkle even more sugar on top, and then ROLL THEM FLAT! I do mean flat. Roll them quite, quite thin so that they're basically tuiles of sugar. 

Pop onto a silpat mat or a parchment sheet and freeze until your oven reaches 375 degrees F. The trick of puff pastry is this:

*YOUR DOUGH MUST BE COLD. YOUR OVEN MUST BE HOT. YOUR DOUGH MUST BE RATHER COLD GOING INTO A RATHER HOT OVEN.

Write it down. Put it on your fridge. Tattoo it backwards on your forehead so that when you look in the mirror, you can read it legibly. 

Bake for about 12 minutes or until they're golden-brown. Let them cool. You don't want to get burned with hot sugar. Besides, this way they'll become crisp the way they're supposed to! Spectacular!




Happy cooking and happy eating - and if your mom is in town and you don't have a strained relationship with her, you should take some time and make them for her. You can get this ready for mother's day dinner if you start right now.