Friday, June 27, 2008

Carrot Cake Adventures Part II

I believe I have discovered my new favorite cake. Cake including the cake in itself, plus a truly wonderful and delicious frosting.

Remember last week? My carrot cake was really awful--I ended up throwing it away and picking at the top of it that was hardened by sugar. But, as Maman always says, you learn by trying. 

That's exactly what I did: I still left out the raisins, nuts and prunes, but also put a lot less oil.
The original recipe calls for 1,5 cups oil; I cut the recipe in half yesterday because I didn't have enough flour and instead of adding 3/4 cups oil, I only put 1/3 cup...

And it turned out perfect! Moist but not oily (p
hew), spicy but sweet, everything. It didn't even break! 

This minor success, plus my friend Jérôme's occasional 
"This cake smells REALLY good" while he was cooking tofu made me want to go ahead and try to get my frosting as good as the cake. I followed the recipe that came along with the cake recipe, and substituted 1 tbsp. milk for sour cream, which I didn't have.

I whipped the frosting by hand and the result was amazing: slightly tangy but also creamy... a delight on its own. It turned out it was even better on the cake:

Frosting: 1 box of "Nature à Tartiner" (150g)
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 tbsp. milk

From grating the carrots by hand to slicing the cake, making a carrot cake is fun from start to finish. 

Plus, as I was always told, "les carottes, ça fait les fesses roses".

Asian Supermarket Heaven

Imagine walking into a store, and seeing everything you could possibly want for less than 2 euros...

This is (almost) exactly what happened to me last night. My friend Jérôme and I decided to do a sort of cooking swap: he was going to teach me a Vietnamese recipe (his mother is Vietnamese), and I would bake a carrot cake (again! More on that later...). Perfect excuse, really, for a trip to Tang Frères. I hadn't been in years, and last time I did go I must have bought a lotus-shaped candle or something like that. 

With my experienced tour guide by my side, I got into Tang Frères 20 minutes before closing time, a short shopping list in hand. We strolled into the vegetable isle and Jérôme nonchalantly picked up a huge bag of cilantro...and I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the price. We ended up paying around 60 cents for something you would pay 2,50 for at any Monoprix or Champion.

As I got really excited about all this delicious-looking AND cheap food, Jérôme concentrated on what we really needed for our recipe--fresh tofu, tomatoes, and fish sauce. Meanwhile, I grabbed some Jasmine tea bags (58 cents for 20!), Jasmine loose tea (1,15!), candy, soba noodles, etc. Too bad Tang Frères is almost a half hour away by subway, otherwise I think I would go every day. Who doesn't need 10 different kinds of soy sauce??

Amazed by my purchases like I used to be when we went to the Sanrio store on our way to O'Hare airport, I had to take pictures of my shopping bag:

Lemongrass, Sesame oil, fish sauce, nougat, tea, soba, sesame... an Asian Supermarket Heaven.

Tang Frères: 48 avenue d'Ivry, 75013 Paris. 

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Carrot Cake Adventures Part I

I've been wanting to make a carrot cake for quite a while now, and an uneventful Sunday afternoon seemed like the perfect moment to bake one. Plus, I'm probably spending less money making one than I would buying a tiny slice from a place like Bread & Roses, as good as their carrot cake may be.

Armed with a special family recipe and the trust that goes along with it--"This recipe has never gone wrong"--I thought it would be the easiest ever.

That was before a spider decided to run across the countertop, and also before I decided to divide the recipe by three so it would fit in a smaller pan. The first problem was easier to solve than the second, surprisingly. 

To put it in a few words, my first carrot cake isn't that great. Not great at all, actually. Although "moist" is usually a much sought-after adjective when describing a cake, there is such a thing as too moist.This happens when I decide to leave out the golden raisins, prunes, AND nuts from the recipe, don't add enough flour (that's the problem with dividing a recipe up), and keep the same amount of oil.

I decided not to go any further with this minor disaster so I didn't make the cream cheese frosting I was initially going for, and opted for a quick glaze instead (confectioner's sugar + a little bit of water).

Here is the result, after noticing the oil on my hands whenever I touched the cake. Oh, and after the cake broke in half. Fun:

Update: After cooling off, the cake is looking a little better, and definitely not as greasy as it used to.

I am sticking by this recipe though, but next time I'll just make the whole thing instead of dividing it up like I did. Here goes:

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 tbsp cinnamon
7 large prunes, pitted
5 medium carrots
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1,5 cups oil 
3/4 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup pecans (I think?)
Preheat oven to 325° (160C).

Mix dry ingredients together (except raisins & prunes) and set aside.

Shred the carrots--you should have 3 cups. Add chopped prunes and set aside.

Put the eggs and sugar in a bowl and beat until the mixture is thick and light colored. Little by little, add the oil. Add carrot and prune mixture, and golden raisins. Add dry ingredients without overmixing. Put the batter into a greased and floured 12 cup bundt pan, and cook 55 minutes.

Part II will have to wait until Thursday--same recipe, new frosting! 

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mizu Yokan

Most Japanese restaurants in my neighborhood, the 6th, are "fake" ones. Menus mix yakitoris and sushis, and I usually hear employees speaking Chinese, not Japanese. Although I love these restaurants (and Osaka Sushi on rue Mazarine in particular for its wonderful staff and very fresh fish) for my fix of california rolls, I wanted to get something new. 

When I was younger, we would always have mochi in the freezer--those delicious green tea or red bean-flavored frozen desserts. With mochi in mind, I walked to Juji-ya on rue Saint-Anne. Ace Mart was closed (it was Monday), and I liked the idea of shopping in a place where people eat bentos right next to you.

My shopping bag consisted of: wasabi, wasabi powder, scallions (ahhh...finally), black sesame powder, and...azuki beans

OK, no mochi, but the prepared azuki beans made my day. I then decided, on my way home, to make Mizu Yokan with the azuki. Mizu Yokan is a jelly-type dessert made from agar-agar, azuki paste (i.e. red bean paste), and lots of sugar.

After bringing all the ingredients to a boil, I poured them into crème brulée pots since I had them right next to me. Here's what it looked like at first:

And in the fridge:

Next morning, I was late for work so I had to wait all day before discovering how my experiment turned out... and the mizu yokan actually turned out well! The sweet sweet flavor was there, as were the few whole beans trapped in the middle of the jelly. I could finally satisfy my Japanese-inspired sweet tooth.

Here is the recipe I used:

* 3 grams agar agar (or kanten) powder
*2/3 cup water
*2/3 cup cane sugar (brown sugar works too)
*130g can prepared azuki beans--they already have a paste-like consistency (you can make your own, but it's quite complex)

Mix agar agar and water, heat until dissolved, add sugar, wait a little and add azuki beans.

Bring the whole thing to a boil until it becomes a little thicker, and place in a recipient in the fridge overnight. Your yokan is ready!

Juji-ya: 46, rue Saint Anne, 75002 Paris
Ace Mart: 62, rue Saint Anne, 75002 Paris

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

About Bilingual Butter

As a young girl growing up in Illinois with a French maman, I was always surrounded by a variety of culinary influences. The women on both sides of my family, French and American, are true supercooks: my American grandmother was the queen of "sticky buns" and other breakfast delicacies, while my mother has always left me under the impression that she can master anything. French cooking, obviously, but also a delicious gumbo or Thai salad...anything, really.

Now that I'm 21 and living on my own in Paris, things are getting a little more complicated. Cooking as well as my family probably won't ever happen, but I'm trying. And this blog is exactly about that: experimenting and discovering that the culinary obsession hasn't skipped a generation...

So welcome to Bilingual Butter, a place where I'll try to share my favorite food spots in Paris and my successful--and not so successful--cuisine adventures. Enjoy!