Goddess of Cake


A Rite of Passage
December 21, 2009, 00:50
Filed under: Baking, Cakes | Tags: , , , , ,

Isn’t change always worth a celebration? For better or worse, change is the attribute of all life: matter evolves by the laws of entropy, towards more chaos, and the living things are constantly on their way towards death. No moment is static, transformation is inevitable. A rite of passage is something that prepares us for the change, makes it easier to accept, since we tend to cling to the past with a fierce devotion.

We celebrated the bachelorette party of my friend who was getting married. Marriage is one rite of passage to adulthood, though not as important as it used to be. The Finnish folk poetry describes in vivid detail the sadness of the bride, when she has to leave her sisters and brothers, the safety of her childhood home and most important of all, her dear mother, as sweet as honey or berries in the forest. Waterfalls of tears were shed when the young bride left her home to never return, to be owned by the family of her husband, and be as the daughter – in – law the lowest in the hierarchy of a household.

The ways of marriage have luckily changed quite a bit, and these days marriage is a sign of  mutual love and commitment, not a grim undertaking made in order to keep the human race existing. On this occasion it was indeed the bridegroom who left his sunny country to come to the cold and unhospitable Finland.

That weekend, we didn’t cry (except for me, a little bit), but drank pink sparkling wine, had a lush breakfast with beautiful live music at the cafe Villi Puutarha (” The Wild Garden”, which is one of the few places with vegan things to eat in Helsinki), acquired a pair of pink handcuffs at an adult shop, tried out pole dancing and sung  at the top of our voices in a karaoke taxi. Finally we adorned ourselves with corsettes, beads, plenty of sparkle and make – up and headed for a burlesque party. Our beautiful, not so shy bride won the tassel twirling competition (don’t know what that means? Well find out, I won’t tell you), and the gorgeous bridegroom impressed everyone by an improvised Brazilian street – capoeira – dance show.

The night was ours. We partied and danced with the intensity of people taking part in a transition rite, submerged in a brazilian – burlesque fantasy world. But what does a frilly, mask – wearing, tasseled, lace – and gold – adorned foxy lady or gentleman eat before she or he hits the party? Of course a rosewater – strawberry – chocolate mousse cake, decorated with fresh cherries, figs  and pitahaya..

Rosewater – Strawberry – Chocolate Mousse Cake

Crust:

150 g gluten free vegan cookies ( I used a spanish brand called gullòn)

75 g vegetable margarine

Mousse:

200 g soy cream cheese

6 dl whippable soy cream

500 g soy yogurt

5 tbsp rose water

1 jar Sonnentor Rose Jam

3 dl frozen strawberries

1,5 dl powdered sugar (icing sugar)

2 tsp bourbon vanilla powder

2 dl agar – agar

3 dl water

Chocolate Ganache

100 g dark chocolate

1 dl soy milk or other non – dairy milk

I started the day before by draining the soy yogurt in a sieve that was lined with coffee filters.

The following day I made the crust: I crumbled up the cookies, and melted the margarine. Then I mixed both and patted the mixture at the bottom of a springform pan (diameter 26 cm), which was covered with a piece of baking parchment.

Then I made the chocolate ganache. I heated up the milk in and added the chocolate, mixing until it was melted. I spread this evenly on the crust.

Then I made the mousse. First I blended the strawberries, the vanilla, the icing sugar, the soy cream cheese, the drained yogurt,the rose jam and the soy cream with a handheld blender until it was nice and fluffy. Then I heated up the water and the rose water in a pan, and added the agar – agar. I boiled the mixture, mixing it constantly for a few minutes, until the agar – agar was diluted. Then I hastily poured it into the mousse – mixture, through a sieve and mixing carefully with the blender. Then I poured the mousse onto the crust, and put the cake in the fridge.

Some tips about agar:

– agar is a better gelling agent for mousses than gelatin, even if most people don’t know this. The mousse produced by agar is always fluffy, and never dry like the gelatin mousses sometimes are. And yes, it will set, but you’ll have to use enough agar!

– when diluting the agar it is often easier to start with a bit more liquid and let it evaporate by boiling the mixture a little bit longer, than to start with a tiny amount of liquid, like often is instructed.

– you can dilute agar to other liquids than water, but something like  cream is already too thick for this purpose.

– the agar starts to set right away when you remove the pan from heat, so you have to be fast. Allow it to cool maximum a minute!

– use a sieve when you pour the agar – agar liquid into the mixture you want to make a gelee of. There are anyway always  some lumps in it.

– You will see right away, if there is enough agar in your mousse, because it will start to set immediately. The following day, if there appears some liquid around the cake that probably means that something went wrong, and the mousse has not set.

– This cake that you can see in this picture that was taken in great hurry, hasn’t got enough agar, but the recipe should be allright. I was thinking about other things…

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The Seasonal Taste
October 13, 2009, 19:12
Filed under: Desserts, Salad | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Nowadays we live in an eternal summer of the supermarket aisle. It’s like in paradise, everything is available for us all year round, all different tastes from everywhere in the world, and amidst all that we graze innocently like Adam and Eve, knowing nothing of evil.  I would not hesitate calling today’s food production evil! If you have not seen the movie Food Inc, I strongly recommend it for everyone. You may think you already know all that scary stuff about how food is produced today, but honestly, when watching those abundant, lucrative supermarket shelves it is quite easy to lull yourself into a content forgetfulness and just allow yourself to be fed, like at Mother’s breast, with no worries.

I recently heard the Finnish author and passionate vegan, Antti Nylén, talk. He said something brilliant, when asked how he feels about the fact that he voluntarily refuses so much potential delight in his life. He answered: ” Abstinence in itself is a delight”, in the most laconic manner. It was great, and wonderfully true too, though the delights of abstinence are widely forgotten in our society. By this I don’t mean that we should completely refuse some nice edible things, but to perhaps eat them less, and savour more. I should personally really cut down on lemon, since I know somebody probably suffers for picking them somewhere.

I love the fact that there are still a couple of things that you can’t taste year – round. One of my favourites is  Finnish early apple varieties, especially “punakaneli”, Malus Domestica ´Koritschnevoje` that is a lovely thin – peeled, sweet, red – cheeked apple that has an aftertaste of cinnamon. None of the varieties of other apples comes anywhere near this one in taste I think.

apples

The other favourite seasonal food of mine is fresh broad beans (vicia faba). I adore broad beans: of course, they are a great local protein source (we don’t have that many pulses growing in Finland), and besides they are simply such a beautiful design. You know, how you open the shell and each one of the beans is nested in this white fluffy padding, in a little hook, like a treasure that they are. I could write a poem on broad beans! You can of course eat them dried too, but that’s a whole other story.

Common for these both things is that besides being seasonal, you need to pretty much grow them yourself in order to get some. The apple variety I’m talking about is very common in Finnish home gardens, but the commercial orchards don’t seem to grow it, I guess since it doesn’t keep very well. Fresh broad beans you might find here in an organic store if you are really lucky, and for them the season is already well past. But they are easy to grow, though mostly not very commonly known among home gardeners.

Spicy Broad Bean Salad

20 shells of broad beans

A handful of long beans

1 red fresh chili bean

a bunch of fresh coriander

cherry tomatoes

a couple of garlic cloves

1/2 dl lemon juice

1/2 extra virgin oil ( I had canola)

salt

I shelled the broad beans and steamed them and the long beans a few minutes. The broad beans only need like three minutes, the long beans a little longer. Then I chopped the chillies and garlic finely, and combined these two with the beans, tomatoes and chopped up coriander. The dressing I made out of fresh lemon juice, oil and a pinch of salt. This particular salad was fiercely hot, but the amount of chilli can be adjusted. I think the taste combination of fresh coriander, chili, lemon and garlic is simply divine, fresh and hot at the same time.

broad bean salad

And as dessert another seasonal thing, which is a veganized version of a really traditional Finnish dessert: Lingonberry mousse. Originally it is made with lingonberries (or some other berries), whipped cream and quark.  It is very simple to make, and fluffy and delicious. I think my veganized version was surprisingly nice too, since often this kind of stuff just doesn’t work at all.

Lingonberry Mousse

2,5 dl soy cream (I like the brand Soyatoo!)

2,5 dl soy yogurt

1 dl mashed lingonberries

3 tbsp sugar

a pinch of vanilla powder

I whipped up the cream and folded in the rest of the ingredients. That’s it!

lingonberry mousse