Tuesday, January 27, 2009

recipe: clementine cake

Over my blissfully long MLK weekend, my roommate and I had a few friends over for analog games, and Darrell made chili, and I decided to try out the clementine cake recipe that smitten kitchen posted a couple weeks ago. It's the sort of recipe that's irresistible to me… whole citrus! Ground almonds! Addition to my gluten-free repertoire! Whole citrus! (I think zest belongs in pretty much everything. I sometimes eat raw lemons. If I weren't hypoglycemic, I'd drink orange juice every day. I lived in Florida for 14 years, and I miss having such easy access to all that awesome.)

It didn't come out edible in time for said friends to try it -- the suggested cooking time was pretty wide open, and I was using silicone bakeware for the first time ever, so it needed a bunch longer in the oven than I thought it would -- but it came out pretty well eventually!

It's dairy-free and gluten-free, and tastes really sharply of citrus, and is extra rad with chocolate ganache (which I've never tried to make dairy-free, but I'm certain is possible with nondairy cream and butter substitutes, as most high-cocoa chocolate contains no milk solids). Bitter is one of my favorite flavors (and emotions!), and when you do this cake +ganache, it has my new favorite trifecta O' bitter: citrus, almonds, and chocolate. The texture is really fluffy-light and creamy with a bit of grit from the almonds -- something more like a flourless torte or a cheesecake than a cakey cake texture.

Clementine Cake
Adapted from smitten kitchen, who adapted it from Nigella Lawson


5 whole clementines (rinsed and stems removed, but that's it)
5 eggs
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
2 1/3 cups ground blanched almonds/almond meal (250 grams, or 0.55 lb)*
1 c. plus 2 tbsp white sugar (225 grams, or 0.5 lb)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp rum or brandy (optional)

Optional ganache:
1/3 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 tbsp cream
1/4 tbsp butter

Optional glaze:
1/4 c. powdered (aka confectioner's) sugar
1 tsp cream
1 tsp rum or brandy


Place your clementines in a pot, cover with water (enough so that they're floating an inch or so off the bottom), and heat to a boil. Turn the heat down to a steady, strong simmer and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. (This will remove most of the bitterness from the fruit.) I used a lid with a steam escape, and liked the result… I never had to replenish the liquid, and the fruit unbitterified fairly well. If you don't have a steam escape lid, just crack the lid a bit? After the 2 hours, drain the clementines and allow to cool.

Now is a good time to measure out the rest of your ingredients.

Halve the clementines and remove any seeds, then blend (or chop) very fine. I opted for pretty much complete liquification in my blender, as I've learned that many people do not enjoy chunks of rind in their desserts.

Now is a good time to preheat your oven to 375, and butter a 9" round cake pan. If you're using a springform, line the buttered bottom with parchment paper and butter the paper. (For the strictly non-dairy cake, other methods of greasing would work fine.)

Beat your eggs (I got a good froth going, but didn't beat them stiff… about 2 minutes with a hand beater. They probably could've used an extra minute). Add the sugar, ground almonds, clementine gunk, and baking powder, and mix well. (Unlike most cakes, this doesn't have flour content that'll turn to glue if mixed too hard, so you can use a hand blender for this step, too. Just don't go nuts -- the batter should be smooth, not cowering before your fist of might.)

[If you measured your almond meal by weight, you MIGHT want to add an extra egg. I measured by measuring cup, and used six eggs, and the batter was way runny -- which is why I've put 5 eggs in my directions. If the batter is too thick/stiff to pour -- more like cookie dough than cake batter -- you'll definitely want to beat and then stir in an additional egg.]

Pour into your prepared pan, and bake for 35+ minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean. If you notice a lot of browning on top but the insides are still sticky around 30 minutes, cover with tinfoil and continue baking. (I've heard varying reports about the cooking time needed. I used a silicone pan, set on a baking sheet for stability, and probably could've gone all the way to 45 or 50 minutes before it was done.) Allow to cool as completely as possible before removing from pan.


To make ganache the real way, set your chocolate and butter in a double-boiler over low heat. Separately, heat cream to nearly boiling (ie, steaming, and bubbling just a bit), and then pour hot cream over chocolate & butter, and stir until melted and smooth.

To make ganache the easy way, dump everything in a small bowl and microwave for maybe 15 seconds, and then stir until melted and smooth. (It won't temper correctly with the easy way, so it won't have quite the same texture or shine, but it'll still be yummy.)

For the glaze, just stir everything together in a small dish, microwave for maybe 10 seconds to help get the lumps out, and stir until smooth.

Pollock the chocolate over the cake with a spatula or spoon, and when it's got as much on there as you think it should have, Pollock on less of the glaze. Cover and refrigerate to set the chocolate.

* I found ground almond meal in the bulk section of my local Whole Foods for $7.50/lb., which sounds terrible until you consider that I used <0.5 lbs in this recipe, and that I hate grinding almonds (I don't have a good food processor, and it's a pain to do in my blender, and I can't imagine wanting this cake enough to do that much grinding in a handheld coffee grinder). Check around -- it's out there! "Blanched" just means "skins removed".

Monday, January 26, 2009

awesomancy unleashed!

Readers, I have been remiss! I have treated your poorly, and I would like to apologize: I never told you that The Legend of the Burrito Blade, aka that webcomic I'm editing, launched on January 12th! Because we update every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you have potentially missed out on 6 pages of comic, each of which provides you with 200% of your daily recommended value of awesomancy! Readers, I am truly sorry. Luckily for you and my sore conscience, the Internet is a place of frightening permanence, so you can start reading from the beginning of our tale and catch up with us whenever you like.

Today's comic is a particularly exciting splash page. We've now got two main characters and one main item in play! Also, cilantro! Also, a forum.

Another thing you might have missed: As part of our promotional run, I got turned into a cartoon. A cartoon with NEEDS. This was probably a short punt, as I am already more bendy and expressive than many citizens of Toon Town and do indeed enjoy dance numbers to a needful extent.

Should you find that you also have NEEDS -- and I'm talking about a need to keep up with the comic, I can't help you with the dancing thing -- you can subscribe to the Burrito Blade feed, or add the LiveJournal feed to your f-list. I cannot not recommend it!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

44th presidential inauguration

We've got a televison in the conference room on my office floor, and so a few coworkers and I watched Obama being sworn in. Loved his speech.... Inspiration! Hard work! SCIENCE!

My favorite part, though, was how giddy-nervous Obama AND Chief Justice Roberts were during the actual swearing-in part. And I could swear Obama giggled just a tiny bit right when he stood up. It was just an awesome, human moment among all the pomp and circumstance. I think he's crazy for wanting to take up the mantle of Chief Executive during a time like this, but I'm excited that he's excited. I think that speaks more about the work he'll do during his term than any pretty words could.

Although I have to say, I'm fairly certain that Aretha's hat was the most exuberant party in attendance:

"EAT MY SPARKLES, NAYSAYERS!" it seemed to say.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

consumerism wow: 3 t-shirts i covet

Warrior Plumbers by Chris Hastings, the Dr. McNinja guy. I'm of that particular generation for whom seeing references to Super Mario Bros. is like hearing the lullabies my mother used to sing to me. And that in that bizarre-realism sort of style that Hastings does? Behold, and feel as though it were your own: The indignation of the sucker-punched Piranha Plant! The crispy plight of the Koopa Paratroopa! The dull, niggling concern of the Goomba that really, it shouldn't have feet, let alone shoes. A bunch of sizes are reprinting, but TopatoCo turns that stuff around pretty quick! The shirt is $19.75, and ships via your choice of USPS or UPS.

Love Is Blind by Tara McPhearson, the popart & comics lady (warning: sometimes she draws boobs, so if you're not okay with that you shouldn't click through to her art). A print of hers was placed on the set of Juno's room! She just did a cover for Popgun, which my friend APK is Assistant Editor for! My aunt is dating her father! (This is possibly the worst TMcP bio ever. I'm just entertained by the little ways her work keeps popping into my life, lovely and surprising and sad like violet-flavored toaster pastries made with salt instead of sugar.) Women's sizes only! Apologies to people who are not womens. I just ordered this shirt today, and I'm slightly dubious about how it'll fit (it's printed on American Apparel's Sheer Jersey 2-Sided Top), so I'll post updates when it arrives in case anyone's curious. The shirt is $24 and ships flat rate.

Piggy Board by Preston Haynes, who is some dude on Threadless. I'm not sure what sort of message this shirt sends, other than the perhaps obvious "Lauren wants to be friends with the person wearing this shirt because they are probably rad," but I like it! However, if you're a dude who fits somewhere between the sizes XS and 2XL, you won't be able to buy one until/unless Threadless reprints it. I find this to be a frequent problem with Threadless tees… they've got a great catalogue, but the odds of finding everything (or anything) you want in your size are something like the odds of secretly being Batman: it depends on how much you're willing to compromise with reality, and what sort of Fates you've pissed off. The shirt is $12, and Threadless ships via UPS.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

review: Dolfin Chocolat: Milk, Hot Masala from India

One of the best things about being a grown-up is that you can eat chocolate recklessly, like a 4-year-old who's gotten into the pantry, whenever you want. I usually keep a few bits & bars in stock in case of immaturity emergency -- anything from Vosges to Choxie. I've been depleating my supplies recently, so the other night while I was at the grocery store I picked up a couple of minibars by Dolfin, a Belgian company that I'd never tried anything from, including their Milk, Hot Masala from India bar.

Upon opening the bar, it smells like chocolate and then SPICE and then chocolate again, and then spice. I suspect that they're not kidding about the "Hot". My little 30g/1.058oz bar has 4 sections, so I break one off -- it's a milk chocolate but it's got a good snap to it, if not much temper shine.

Tasting a piece, the spice hits my palate first -- this tastes like an Indian restaurant smells, an almost floral bouquet of cardamom, cinnamon, and pepper. The flavor of the chocolate only comes to the front as it begins to melt -- but it's so smooth, like a sip of creamy cocoa. Bars like this are why I'm getting into milk chocolate again after years of being a fiend for dark. It's a really big, full-mouth flavor, surprisingly not hot for as spicy as it smells, and so rich that I'm perfectly fine with eating only one quarter of the tiny bar at a go.

My only (and slight) qualms with the bar: It's got a very very slight grit to it due to the lovely spice content, so once in awhile I find myself chewing on a bit of spice -- but it's a texture thing, not a flavor thing, and overall the quality of the chocolate is so nice that I can forgive it. Also it's got a bit of an odd aftertaste to it from the lingering spices -- I think the cardamom's going to stay with me awhile. A drink of water mostly clears my palate.

If you like masala spices, and/or cardamom in general, you need to find a bar of this pretty much immediately. It's brilliant, feels indulgent, and the minibar is sized for preventing too much of a caloric splurge (~41 Calories/7.5g quarter section, or ~164 Calories/bar… for contrast, a Hershey's Kiss is ~26 Calories/4.6g kiss, and I have to eat 3 or 4 of those to feel sated). I give it 9.2 nom nom noms out of 10! Though I found mine at my local Whole Foods, Google lists several online retailers who carry the Dolfin line. I bought mine, at a discount, for $1.69 (normally it'd be $2.20 or so at my WF).

I'd definitely try other bars from this confectioner -- and that's a good thing, 'cause I've got a bar of their Dark with Pink Peppercorns that's next in line.