Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Matcha Mother's Swiss Roll (Vanilla, Green Tea, and Chocolate Swiss Rolls)

I apologize for the terrible post title but I couldn't resist the urge to make a stupid pun.

Usually I start a post with a story or an explanation of how I decided to try making the recipes covered in the post.  But this time there's nothing special about it: I just googled recipes that use matcha (green tea).  I was in the mood for baking something that was matcha flavored, found a recipe for a green tea Swiss roll, and liked the look of it.  Nothing fancy.

Swiss rolls apparently aren't Swiss at all.  They come in a variety of flavors and the filling (usually whipped cream) can also have pieces of fresh fruit in it.  It turns out that I spent my childhood eating the "Hong Kong" style of Swiss rolls from the Chinese bakeries in San Francisco without realizing that the European versions are much sweeter.  I prefer the less sweet style, especially when it lets the taste of any fruit in the filling come through more (mango!!! yum).

The green tea Swiss roll recipe I found by googling comes from KitchenTigress's blog, and she is from Singapore.  I got lucky and happened to find a recipe that is in the Hong Kong style without knowing it.  I tried three different cake variations (vanilla, matcha, and chocolate), and two different filling variations (flavored whipped cream only or whipped cream with fruit).

While looking up Swiss roll facts for this blog post, I also found out that most people have trouble with the cake cracking and splitting when they roll it.  I did not have any of these problems when using KitchenTigress's recipe as the base for my experiments.  This is because Kitchen Tigress designed her recipe to produce a cake that is 1) moist and 2) stretchy and flexible.

The Pioneer Woman's post on Swiss rolls shows an excellent example of the cake cracking.  This is not a criticism of the Pioneer Woman, it's just the reality that most people face when making Swiss rolls.

The other major difference I found while googling is that people recommend rolling the cake while it's hot and letting it cool down, then unrolling it to fill it and then re-rolling it back up again.  I let the cake cool down completely before spreading on the filling and rolling and didn't have to rush through any steps.

This was the result of my first attempt at a Swiss roll using Kitchen Tigress's Vanilla Swiss roll recipe:

Vanilla Swiss roll with whipped cream filling and mandarin orange slices
The little black square is where a piece was when I dusted with powdered sugar but I ate the piece before I took this picture.
It was great.

The hardest part of the green tea recipe was remembering to double the ingredient quantities after converting from metric to imperial units.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

The Injera Experiment: Mildly Successful

This post is a little bit different from the other posts because it's not about baking desserts, but it is about experimenting in the kitchen.  In this case, I tried making Ethiopian food.  If you've never had the chance to try Ethiopian cuisine, you are missing out!

There are several wonderful things to enjoy about Ethiopian cuisine, including the fact that it has a lot of vegan and vegetarian options and that injera (flatbread) is gluten-free.  I've gone out to Ethiopian restaurants when I know that I'm going to be eating with people who have dietary restrictions.  The main Ethiopian meal of the day generally has several different types of vegetable stews and may also have a spicy meat dish, which are served on large pieces of injera.  You rip off smaller pieces of injera and use it to scoop up mouthfuls of food.  The injera also absorbs the flavors of the food that's on top of it, so when you're done eating the stews there is flavor-infused injera left to finish off the meal.

There are several cities in the US with large Ethiopian and Eritrean populations, and I ended up living in three of them: Washington DC (largest Ethiopian population in the US), Los Angeles, and Oakland.  While my Ethiopian cooking skills may be lacking, I have extensive practice at eating in Ethiopian restaurants.

After a really nice dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant several weeks ago, I was lying on my bed in a food coma and googled Ethiopian recipes to see how difficult it was to make what we had had for dinner.  To my surprise, all of the recipes looked very easy.  The biggest problem was that I was missing two major ingredients: teff flour and berbere spice.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Macaron Madness: 10 Batches in 2 Weeks

Everybody describes making macarons as difficult.  Everybody also has a set of rules for making macarons: the egg whites must be aged! the egg whites must be at room temperature! you must sift the powdered sugar and almond mixture at least three times! the French meringue method is better!  no, the Italian method is better!

I took two week off work for the holidays at the end of December and made lots of plans, of which I actually did none. What I ended up doing was lying in bed and binge-watching the Great British Bake Off.  This is a fantastic show and I recommend that anybody who is into amateur baking should give it a try.  It is literally just about baking, and the judges' comments are very helpful.  One contestant made a quick comment while making macarons, which got me thinking about how all of my macarons came out perfectly in DC and failed miserably in SF.  So I decided to fix the problem.

An important point to know is that macarons (mah-kah-rohns) and macaroons (mah-ka-roons) are not the same thing.  They're derived from the same word which is why the names are similar, but the cookies are not:

This picture is supposedly from I Do Believe I Came With A Hat but I got it from this Pintrest page.
If you're Ashkenazi Jewish like me, you are mostly likely unfortunately aware of macaroons because they don't contain any flour and are commonly served as dessert during Passover, straight out of the Manischewitz tin.  They are terrible.

Macarons, on the other hand, are small sugar bomb sandwiches that have a softer filling and a crunchy outer shell of meringue.  It's these shells that have the reputation for being so difficult to get right.

This blog entry is a little bit different from the others.  It only has one recipe and details all of the various things I did to get these suckers to come out right.