Archive | February, 2011

O’Gourmet Food Hall Trifecta of Ginger Cake

4 Feb

Everyone loves ginger cake. I certainly havent met a ginger cake that I didnt like, even those slightly stodgy, heavy ones. Its the magical melding of ginger and dark sugar, of molasses and heat that creates layers of flavour. Ginger cake is complex. Its a full frontal experience because the spice perks up the taste buds, while the richness and sweetness tease the palette. I have always loved ginger cake, but when I got a whiff of the Bentong ginger available at O’Gourmet Food Hall, I knew I wanted to try my hand at remaking it anew.

Bentong ginger is considered the best in the world. It is fresh, crisp, stark and sharply spicy, but it has undertones of sweetness. O’Gourmet Food Hall has organic, locally grown and incredibly fresh Bentong ginger. The scent assails you as soon as you peel the root. The firmness of the ginger, the clarity of the flesh, and the taste. Absolutely gorgeous.

I decided I wanted to make a ginger cake with this particular varietal, but I wanted to add more depth to it if possible. I found some ginger curd which has a more muted caramel deep throbbing hum of ginger to it, and some beautiful fresh ground ginger powder which adds a musky beat. A trifecta of ginger in one cake. Would it be too much? Turns out, if youre careful and you add the fresh ginger in stages, you can find a balance of taste that is close on perfect. Add to that the dark tones of brown sugar and molasses, fresh organic eggs, and a frosting of cream cheese and fresh vanilla bean. Sublime. Happy making. And amazingly easy.

Do note that if you want a very simple ginger cake, you could just halve the recipe and leave out the frosting. You will then have what is more like a tea cake, still stunningly gingery but a little more sedate and less full on. If you cant find ginger curd, leave it out, but do try and find the freshest, crispest, firmest ginger you can, and use organic ingredients as much as possible.

For a two layer cake (serving 12 people… or more!)

  • 3 cups organic pastry flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ginger powder
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/3 cup treacle (or corn syrup or honey if you dont have treacle)
  • 2 – 3 tbsp ginger curd (optional but very good)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp) butter, melted
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1/2 – 1 cup fresh ginger, peeled and grated finely
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans or 2 tbsp (or more) vanilla essence
  • 1 – 2 tbsp cream (if needed)

Preheat your oven to 175C (350F), and butter two cake tins, and line with baking paper.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and ginger powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, molasses, treacle, ginger curd and eggs. Set aside while you melt the butter into the hot water in a small saucepan, over medium heat.

Whisk the melted butter and water into the sugar/molasses mixture, and stir in the fresh ginger. It really depends on how strong your ginger is – so I always add 1/2 cup first, and then taste. Add more until you get a peppery almost overwhelmingly ginger taste. Remember that the heat of the oven will mute some of that sting.

Stir the flour mixture into the large bowl, and mix until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tins, and bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, or until a cake tester is inserted and comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it.

Remove the cake from the oven, and allow to cool, in the pan, for about 5 – 10 minutes. Turn out onto a rack to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, add the cream cheese to a stand mixer bowl, and beat for a few minutes until it attains a softened consistency. Add the icing sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat. I always like to taste the frosting at each tablespoon of sugar, because I dislike icing that is too sweet. Split the vanilla pods and scrape out the beans and add to the frosting. Beat for a few seconds more until the vanilla is totally integrated. Add a tablespoon of cream (or milk) if the mixture is too stiff.

A Trifecta of Ginger CakeCentre a cake round on a serving plate, and ice the top. Place the second cake round on top, and ice the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate until half an hour before serving.

Enjoy!

Foodie Days

4 Feb

Since I first started this blog, life has changed for me. I have become more and more immersed in the pleasures of food and cooking. Its been a wonderful journey, at first taken with little steps, but it has now moved into joyful leaping bounds. I cook most every day, and often I am too tired to blog about it!

So much has happened, in such a short time. I am humbled and awed at this simple truth: if you live your passion, your true self, then everything falls into place. Every day is joy, every moment is a pleasure. In recognising that which resonates inside, happiness becomes normal. And opportunities (and wonderful people) come to you.

So what have I been doing, rather than blogging?

I did a photo shoot with the magificent Lascheersco for Retale magazine – O’Gourmet Food Hall’s Chili Ice Cream for their Valentine’s day issue. It turned out gorgeously (as you can see here), and it was wonderful to work with such creative people. The image is really beautiful, and the process was yet another education in food presentation.

I was given so many good food things! Two of my favourites … The amazing GoddessMoments brought back a tub of dulce de leche from Argentina, which was devoured and savoured… I wish I had been less greedy, and put it in an ice cream, but so it goes. And I recently, GoldenOro gave me a little tub of mastic – the very particularly Greek herbal sweet gum paste. I am currently meditating on how to use it. Perhaps in an almond honey cake – the tart herbal hit an antidote to the sweet unctuous honey richness. Or in an ice cream – refreshing and creamy at the same time. Decisions, decisions!

Our foodie crew had dinner at Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio again to celebrate ZaZa’s and Adi’s birthdays. Nathalie is cooking with beautiful precision and artistry. This meal was absolutely phenomenal from start to finish. And, she is continuing the menu into the month of February, so if you havent tried her food (or are aching to go back), now is a good time! They are open for lunch, and two nights this month for dinner – the 11th and 25th. Go, if you can!

The deconstructed french onion soup was so beautifully presented, and delicious. Rich, without being heavy. And the vegetarian main course – an emmental and parmesan custard, topped with darkly sweet and bitter caramelised endive, and a endive and cream foam – I dont have words for how it made me think, and reevaluate, and abandon myself to the pleasure of that dish. And the carnivores were raving about the lamb, the beef cheeks, the fish, the prawns. I fell in love with the pureed peas. I wanted to slather it all over myself it was that good. Each dish was presented with such care and elegance, and yet it never felt artificial or forced. It felt like you could taste the passion of the woman cooking for you … and that kind of experience is soul deep satisfying.

On the way home, Adi and I talked about the joy of that meal, and how strong and confident the food is, and yet utterly feminine. There is an elegance and a grace, a female beauty to the presentation and the taste, which is often missing in the peacocking of some (very good) male cooks. I am a fan of Nathalie’s food (obviously) … but there is a power in a woman’s touch, and a great pleasure in being one of her lucky customers.

The following photos from that night are courtesy of Adi 🙂

Sauteed Endive and Cheese Custard

 

Prawns with a Milk Foam

Lamb

Prettiest Peas Ever (and most delicious)

Lemon Cake with a Cherry Sorbet - Stunning

I also cooked, and helped to host, more than 50 people for Jobby’s baby shower. Ive detailed the menu in a previous post, and will definitely be writing up a few of the recipes – the truffled potato salad, and the fresh ginger cake were particularly lovely. It was overwhelming, and exhausting, to cook for that many people. But the challenge was a wonderful one. It made me stretch myself in a different way, and demanded I plan and consider what to cook, when, and how.

I was so pleased to see how much everyone enjoyed themselves, and ate and ate and ate!  And I was so very lucky, to have once again, the invaluable assistance of AngelKitten. She has a grace, a quiet strength and a wonderful eye. She made the food look good. And MsTK made the whole space look professionally designed and put together – in less than 24 hours!

Here are a few of the things we enjoyed…

Mini Cheese Scones - Served with Fresh Herb Cream Cheese

Chili Spinach Artichoke Bake

Truffled Potato Salad

Cakes! A dark chocolate cake with mint chocolate chip frosting and a fresh ginger cake with vanilla cream cheese frosting

Mini Baked Truffle Cookies (Starry Starry Nights)

And I have cooked, on request, for many friends. And even found it within myself to price and sell what I cook. This was unimaginable for me just a few short months ago. But as I immerse myself more and more in cooking, I recognise that I need to put a value on the time and energy I spend cooking. Its part of valuing myself as a cook. Its been a challenge, but its also been a learning and growing experience.

I made more Yee Sang cakes than I can count in the last week or so for Chinese New Year. They were such wonderful fun – and I still have a few more to make! People really enjoyed the quirky nature of these cakes – a traditional yee sang, it is not. But its a delicious dessert, that holds much symbolism and joy for the New Year of the Rabbit.

I made two versions. The first batch, with the assistance of AngelKitten, were corporate gifts. They had their own bespoke design, and were very beautiful.

Making the World Beautiful Yee Sang Cake

 

And this week, I did a series of cakes based on the original O’Gourmet Food Hall version. I do love that blue porcelain against all that red. Dramatic and gorgeous.

Yee Sang Cake for the Year of the Rabbit

I have also been cooking regularly for friends and loved ones. A hazelnut chocolate cake. The same cake, made into a big birthday cake, stuffed with raspberry cream cheese, and iced with vanilla whipped cream. An easy pasta with tomatoes, spinach, white wine and onions. My semolina white chocolate pudding, with raspberry sauce. A simple bread pudding, elevated with bittersweet chocolate and raspberries.

Each of these moments, these events, these experiences, have consolidated a celebration of myself as a cook. As I near my 40th birthday, I am thankful to have found such happiness. I am looking forward to what life will bring me. And I promise… I will blog regularly!

 

Please note that the photographs from Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio are copyright bigeyesentertainment@gmail.com and the second photograph of yee sang cake is copyright GoddessMoments. None of these images may be used without express permission from their authors.