Hi all! So I was hoping to update more than just once a week, but the past week has been ridiculously crazy, some of which involved doing this whole hiking up Half Dome thing. It was awesome.
Yes, that's the top of Half Dome. That pose is a lot harder in hiking boots and on top of an uneven rock. :| Oh well.
Don't want to say too much, because hopefully I'll update my travel blog some day... some day... (As I said earlier--I'm notorious for not updating these things, but I'm trying!) The night before we summit Half Dome, we car camped at Upper Pines Campground in Yosemite Valley (by the way, I've decided I despise car camping, and I hate RVs even more... backpacking is definitely the way to go!). At least with car camping, you can go a little more gourmet with food. We opted not to really focus too much on the fine foods:
We just prepared one-bowl foods and just dug in... I mean, who really wants to wash more bowls than necessary, especially while camping? Not me. But we just made sure we had a more or less balanced meal... protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables/fruits/fiber... all in all, it wasn't too horrible.
I mean, who can deny this beautiful pot full of whole wheat rotelli pasta with marinara sauce?
At least we don't have to chow down on pine cones, right? Although, this little dude seems to be enjoying it a whole lot.
Well, fat squirrels aside, back to the whole baking thing! I received a food processor that I ordered in the mail last Tuesday night... so of course, I just had to use it! That, and it was Ezra's birthday (the guy who helped push for the generous gift certificate at my old work place!) on Thursday, so who needs more of a reason to try out this lovely flourless chocolate hazelnut cake??
I was running low on ingredients, but I found a bar of good dark chocolate, and bought some whole hazelnuts from Trader Joe's.
First, I prepared all the ingredients--separated the eggs, measured out the chocolate, the brown sugar, the butter, the cocoa powder, and the water. I even toasted my own hazelnuts!
Then, I ground the hazelnuts in my spanking new food processor!
To do this, take the toasted hazelnuts, and add a few tablespoons of sugar per cup of nuts in order for the sugar to absorb the fats released, so you don't end up making hazelnut paste (which could be good, but probably for something else). Just don't be like me, and think that you put in all the sugar when you really didn't, because I realized I forgot about half the sugar until after I folded in the egg whites...
And yes... hand-beaten egg-whites!
What a very tiring process... my right arm was definitely about to fall off, especially after the first dance class after a whole month of nothingness. But look... still peaks, yay!
Another thing that made me so excited was to use my fair trade cocoa powder!
I used Green & Black's organic fair trade cocoa powder! If you don't know what fair trade is, look it up. I just received Black Gold, an awesome documentary about the coffee industry and how fair trade works. I originally saw it in my global poverty class, and hope to make everyone I know watch it. ...I'll be sure to discuss it along with so many other food issues some other time.
Anyhow, so after mixing everything together and folding the laboriously hand-whipped egg whites and pouring it into one prepared 6" cake pan and one prepared 3" sprinform cake pan, I realized that I had about 3/4 of the brown sugar left that I had forgotten to mix in.
What I did was mix in the brown sugar with what was left of the batter (about 1/3 cup?) to incorporate it, pour the batter from the cake pans back in, and fold the two batter together. That way, you won't over-mix the batter even more than necessary, flatten all the egg white bubbles that you so tiringly created, and come out with a hockey puck for a cake.
It still turned out delicious.
And more or less pretty... the final cake had a piece that fell off.
I wanted to make a layer of dark chocolate chocolate ganache to pour over the top to set, partially because it would hide the ugliness of the cake, and because chocolate ganache is oh so tasty. Unfortunately, I was out of heavy cream, and basically had no time to run/bike to the store and get some. So, I improvised, and just melted some left-over chocolate from making the cake with butter, and made a drizzle pattern over it. Then, I topped the cake off with some candied rose petals and candied mint leaves that my roommate had bought me a while bag because I was eying them at The Pasta Shop in some ritzy place in Berkeley. They didn't quite go with the cake, and I would have preferred to do a really dark chocolate and a white chocolate drizzle pattern... that would have been fun, but I was already running late, and I had a lecture I wanted to go to, and I wanted to add some color to the otherwise monochromatic cake, so the candied floral would have to do. ...In the end, I think it turned out. (If I were smart, I would have put the candied petals and leaf where the hole was but no... I'm not that smart.) In the end, I ended up with one 6" cake, and two 3" cakes. ...They were all well-received. :D
A final close-up.
So I made this cake bright and early in the morning... so it was ridiculously rushed. BUT, at least I was able to use natural lighting for my pictures, buahaha!
Anyhow, the past week also involved another Anadama bread that a wonderful fellow friend ordered, but that's about it. Last night, I made a Turkey Zucchini "Lasagna," which turned out okay, but definitely something I want to play with more. I'll write about it later. For now, I should probably step away from the computer and tend to my poor, ache-y muscles.