6

Higher Math & Eating Desserts

During my visit with my mother, I faced many challenges, the biggest of which came on July 18. On that day we traveled to a new bakery. While I stared at the artisan bread, muffins, giant striped croissants, multi-colored pastries, assorted cookies, and nougat, she asked what I wanted. “The raspberry croissant, please,” I said.

“What else?” she said.

“Nougat.” It was a small, white square with pistachios, sunflower seeds, and what looked like dried orange peel. It reminded me of something I ate in Istanbul.

“And what else?”

I contemplated the cheesecake, carrot cake, the macarons with passionfruit cream and berries, and the opera cake that promised flavors of chocolate and hazelnut. Of course, I had to have that.

Driving home, she asked when I would eat them. Once home, she asked in what order.

I thought and thought. Because I could not make up my mind, I decided to call on higher math. I posed my dilemma to the permutation gods. Should I eat nougat, croissant, opera cake or nougat, opera cake, croissant? Should I eat croissant, nougat, opera cake or croissant, opera cake, nougat?  Should I eat opera cake, nougat, croissant or opera cake, croissant, nougat?

I put a lot of thought into when I ate nougat. I decided to have it in the middle, a bridge between flaky raspberry chocolate croissant and melt in my mouth hazelnut chocolate cake.

As you can see from the photos, I forgot to photograph nougat. You will also understand why I felt so challenged. I had my hands full–as well as my mouth.

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4

Leave No Dessert Unturned

I have chocolate on the brain. It is a not so rare ailment that is easily curable, if given the right situation.

Which wasn’t the other night, when I seriously had it. Before the Royal We watched the Oscars, we chose desserts from our local grocery’s pastry case. Mine was Chocolate Tulip Cup. It consisted of chocolate tulip petals with white and milk chocolate, filled with chocolate mousse, topped with dark chocolate ribbons.

Here’s what this reviewer had to say: although the mousse was very luscious and the dark chocolate flavorful, the petals did not taste like anything.

Which meant I had to reward myself.

Tonight I went to hear Alice Medrich, in conversation with Linda Carucci. For those not in the know, Alice Medrich is one of the country’s leading experts in the field of chocolate and chocolate desserts. Linda Carucci is an award-winning culinary instructor. They discussed Medrich’s latest book, Flavor Flours: A New Way to Bake with Teff, Buckwheat, Sorghum, Other Whole & Ancient Grains, Nuts & Non-Wheat Flours.

The discussion was mouth-watering. Very mouth-watering. Luckily, support was available. Samples!

Initially, some of the desserts sounded weird, such as the brown rice flour sponge, or oddly unusual, such as the teff brownies, while others sounded somewhat appealing, such as the oat flour almond tuille or the oat flour chocolate cookies. But being a mature taster, I decided it was important to keep an open mind.

Here’s what this reviewer had to say: the brown rice flour sponge was moist and fluffy; the teff flour brownies were creamy and super light; the oat flour chocolate cookies had just the right amount of chocolate; and the oat flour almond tuille was a perfect buttery, almond crunch. Worth going back for thirds!

I am so glad I left no dessert unturned; I didn’t desert any desserts.

4

Suitable For Vegetarians

Although I’ve read many articles about the health benefits of chocolate, it wasn’t until recently that I learned it is suitable for vegetarians. A friend had given me a chocolate bar and I studied the back of the wrapper before indulging.

There, I saw the fine print: Suitable For Vegetarians.

Next I read the nutrition information: 5 grams protein, 10% calcium, 2% Vit. A, and 6% iron. Not bad for one serving. And if you eat the whole bar, your nutritional intake more than doubles.

This is the most exciting news I’ve had in a long time. Chocolate for breakfast, chocolate for lunch, chocolate for dinner. Time to munch!

Anyone joining me for my chocolate menu?

4

SAT for the Discerning Foodie

I recently joined a Meetup for people who like to eat. It’s my new professional group. The kick-off event involved tasting a variety of foods and rating them. Participants received a comment card that listed vendors and their products. We also received pencils to fill in little stars, rating featured foods on a scale from one star (ick) to five (yum). As I moved around the room, tasting and marking my card, I couldn’t help but notice that the columns were resembling those in the SAT.

I came up with my own SAT for the discerning foodie. Please read the selection, then respond to the questions.

***

Our heroine began her sampling with savory sauces. She liked when the vendor said, “You may eat as much as you want.” She tried kale tahini, smoked chipotle, and pomegranate parsley. She didn’t like any of them. She moved on to organic olive oil (pretty good). Next she tried orange poppyseed flat bread, followed by chocolate sea salt quinoa cluster, almond quinoa cluster, peanut butter cacao quinoa cluster. The peanut butter one was the best of the bunch, but it, too, could have had more flavor. She moved on to nuts–habanero honey, original blend, and coconut beach crunch (all lacked luster, except for coconut). She enjoyed crunchy almond moringa superfood, but thought chocolate purenola, fruit and berry granola, and totally free organic granola were nothing to rave about.The dates were chewy and not too sweet.The sea salt chickpeas were bland. She liked the hiranya chai spiced honey and fir honey as well as dark chocolate malted fudge and ooey gooey (trademarked name) caramel sauces. Whole grain lady birds tasted like shortbread, but wasn’t. The breakfast cookies –orange cranberry nut and cocoa–were quite tasty as was the vegan chocolate chip cookie and original frittle, aka peanut butter brittle that was very peanut buttery, but also so sweet that after 1/8″ piece she had had enough frittle brittle to last her a lifetime. The spiced watermelon pickles were also way too sweet and the maple and nibs chocolate was too bitter.

After that, she walked to the main hall to explore the artisan market. She loved Cowboy Toffee’s toffee, especially the English toffee, bittersweet chocolate, cyprus sea salt flake combo, which amazed her. She also tried English toffee with semisweet chocolate and roasted almonds, English toffee with milk chocolate, toasted marshmallows, and graham crackers, and English toffee with white chocolate and roasted almonds. Onwards to CocoTutti, whose chocolates she had the pleasure of meeting/eating at the SF International Chocolate Salon in March. She sampled nondairy toasted coconut, lemon lavender, blood orange, ginger caramel with peanut and Thai oil, raspberry, citrus infused caramel with almonds, and liquid vanilla caramel. Her favorites were the first five. She preferred Roxanne’s cranberry almond granola to any she had previously tasted because it was flavorful without being sweet. She also was partial to Roxanne’s biscotti. First she tried triple ginger with fresh ginger, candied ginger, and powdered ginger, then pumpkin biscotti, made with organic pumpkin, butterscotch pieces, and Viennese cinnamon, then butterscotch. Even though the butterscotch is Roxanne’s #1 bestseller till the pumpkin comes out, our heroine liked the ginger best. Her taste buds, which are her best buds, are always partial to ginger. She liked the design of Burma Superstar’s hand cut lotus chips and thought Della Terra’s Meyer lemon olive oil was very lemony. She especially liked the lemon olive oil cake, which which was the most lemony lemon cake she has ever tasted. Speaking of lemon, she enjoyed Sinful Salt’s lemon flavored salt more than the rosemary and habenero, but preferred the sea salt on the toffee to the sea salt with bread and olive oil. Diane Love Lifestyles’ Love Morsels aka fruitcake was exquisite and the spices reminded our heroine of pfeffernusse. She also liked Diane’s Kookra Crisps, made with pecans, dates, currants, golden raisins, dried tangerine, and Meyer lemon peel. Sour Flour’s crispy, crunchy croutons had hints of parmesan, black pepper, and olive oil.

SAT portion. Be sure to read each question carefully. Use a No. 2 pencil. If you erase, make sure no lines are visible. Are you ready?

1) our heroine began tasting

a) chocolate sauces

b) savory sauces

c) watermelon pickles

2) Watermelon pickles is to frittle because it is

a) spiced

b) savory

c) too sweet

3) Please fill in the blank:

You may eat as much as you …..

4) ooey gooey is the trademarked name for

a) caramel sauce

b) granola

c) biscotti

5) Which of the following is an amazing combo?

a) peanut butter and jelly

b) ham and cheese

c) English toffee, bittersweet chocolate, and cyprus sea salt flake

6) At the Chocolate Salon in March, our heroine had the pleasure of meeting

a) the creators of Bazooka Bubble Gum

b) CocoTutti

c) Captain Kangaroo

7) Our heroine’s best buds are

a) her taste buds

b) her foodie friends

c) all of the above

8) Her favorite CocoTutti flavors were

a) graham cracker crumbs

b) teriyaki beef jerky

c) nondairy toasted coconut, lemon lavender, blood orange, ginger caramel with peanut and Thai oil, and raspberry

9) How many samples did our heroine try altogether?

a) Not nearly enough

b) more than 52

c) less than or equal to 52

10) The spices in … reminded our heroine of pfeffernusse

a) what is pfeffernusse?

b) fruitcake

c) lotus chips

Congratulations on finishing. You, too, can move on to a Higher Sampling Education.

4

Bar None

On my recent Canadian Rockies visit, I discovered the Nanaimo bar. This decadent treat may have begun in British Columbia, but like many travelers, is found in other parts of Canada. Though I had seen it along my travels, I didn’t know what it was and was hesitant about venturing forth, until, thanks to an article in an in-flight magazine, my mouth watered and the next time I saw one, I pounced.

I fell in love with the chocolate wafer crust, creamy vanilla filling and rich chocolate top. When I returned to the U.S., I consulted with my good friend, the blogger Chocofigbee (http://chocofigbee.com), who was kind enough to divulge her Secret Recipe. I collected the ingredients and followed the recipe to the C (C for chocolate). It was one of the rare times I didn’t deviate from a recipe.

Deviate a lot, that is.

I deviated just a little by adding more shredded coconut than called for to the middle section.

I waited patiently during the intervals.I couldn’t wait to try my concoction once it had set.

Verdict: the bottom was too crumbly, the top too firm. The middle, which had tasted creamy and vanilla-e when I licked the remaining bit from the bowl, didn’t taste like anything.

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I panicked, worried that my pals at the potluck would neglect my creation.

I decided to turn my my bars into pudding cake, which looked more like pudding. I poured coconut almond milk drink into a saucepan, added all my bars, plus agar agar. Agar agar, according to modernistcookingmadeeasy.com, “is a gelling agent extracted from red algae. It is commonly used to stabilize foams and to thicken or gel liquids. It is relatively easy to work with and a good starting point for modernist cooking.”

Or post-modern, if you’re Chef E.

I then said my magic incantation: Mush kush, mush kush, stir stir stir.

I stirred as I heated it over a medium flame. I poured it into a pan and baked it at 350 for ten minutes, put it in the fridge for ten more minutes. It got rave reviews at the potluck.

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