Thursday, May 26, 2011
Shiny and new, before seasoning
Last year I picked up some high quality tin-lined copper canele molds from E. Dehillerin - only six because they were like 10 Euro each and I couldn't imagine myself making them often enough to buy a full dozen. Well, that was a good call because they are a pain! I used Chez Pim's method and recipe, and if you take the time to scroll through the entire post, you will understand why it was quite the daunting task. Unlike macarons that are just as dependent on having the right ingredients as the method, canele batter is very straight-forward, but the baking is what is so so finicky. I don't even want to get into the details because just thinking about it gives me a headache, and for some crazy reason I decided to make a lot of batter which meant caneles up the wazoo for an entire week. I would really like to know how bakeries make them in bulk because just baking off one batch of six took HOURS (really, read the Chez Pim post. I am not exaggerating). My very first batch (out of many, many batches) turned out the best, probably because I was getting more and more disgruntled.
Crisp and custardy, SO much better freshly baked
After I made my first batch I was really unsure if I did it correctly. They were quite tasty, but far more custardy and not as chewy as any I had before. The only ones I was familiar with in SF were from La Boulange ($1.75 each), so the next day I decided to pick a few up for comparison. I also got a few from Boulettes Larder ($3.50 each, good God). The La Boulange ones were baked really early in the morning, possibly at 1am according to the cashier, so I thought mine should be comparable since they were baked within a few hours.
I don't know when Boulettes Larder baked theirs since they seemed quite fresh, but mine were actually very similar. Delicately crunchy caramelization on the outside, soft, almost flan-like custard in the middle. Yes, this is how caneles are traditionally described, but let me tell you... the ones from La Boulange were completely different - not as crisp, and more chewy than custardy in the middle... almost mochi-like. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but everyone I had taste test the three agreed that theirs were the worst. While I could easily pat myself on the back, I won't because I would rather eat theirs than make them myself. While $1.75-$3.50 sounds insane for one canele, it is worth the trouble. Trust.
Boulettes Larder, my first batch (I was able to even out the coloring in subsequent batches), La Boulange
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
While there's a burgeoning coffee culture in other cities like Portland and New York, SF's is pretty much unrivaled (as of now). I've never known much about coffee or even liked it very much, but living here has taught me a lot. Just a few years ago I was still adding cream and sugar, likening my cup to that of melted ice cream. I remember my first revelatory experience - that $20,000 cup of Blue Bottle siphon brew that was so sweet and smooth on its own. I'm still no expert, but I've learned to appreciate the seemingly pretentious latte/cap art as a good indication of the quality of microfoam, and can better understand the reasons behind increasing prices.
Who makes your coffee also makes such a big difference, which is why I think I'm drawn to Blue Bottle. My friend, who has biases of his own, admitted that they have really great technique, while other roasters might do more research on their beans and farms. Even within Blue Bottle though, some people are markedly more skilled than others (I for sure have a favorite barista), so I feel like discussions about the "best" coffee shops are a bit pointless. What does it even mean to be the best?
I've also realized what a snob I've become, ugh! The other day I had to meet a friend at some random cafe, and I seriously considered not getting anything so I wouldn't have to waste my money on burnt mediocrity or spongy foam. Good coffee is a treat for me, and I don't drink it out of habit, addiction, or for a caffeine fix. While I sound super elitist right now, I think it's justifiable to save my money for something I deem worthy of indulging in.
I don't have a point or message I'm trying to make, except that coffee can be something to be savored, and it's a real privilege to delight in the work of so many hands that strive to make it something special. Anyway, I'm excited to see how this community grows and where it's going!
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Here are some photos I took of the candy table I set up for my dear friends Kevin and Tinwin. I only made some lavender cupcakes with lemon buttercream (probably my most popular wedding flavor) and dipped the marshmallow sticks. The bride and her friend made the cake pops. Grace of course designed the candy bar wrappers and was a huge help as always!
I was also able to flex my flower arranging skills (or lack thereof) yet again, and I was reminded of why I am not a florist. Let's just say that I strongly dislike ranunculus.