“I think I’ll stop talking about stuff I don’t like”
Coworker response: “I think you’d have to just stop talking.”
Ouch. I didn’t think I was that bad, just maybe a little too Canadian; Canada doesn’t have much of a cultural identity aside from being a) multi-cultured and b) not American. Sure we’ve got beavers and snow and the aura borealis but in the way Russia has stuffed Lenin and Cocoa-Cola has Polar Bears. Clip-art does not a culture make. Maybe we’re just post-modern?
Anyway, sometimes it’s easier for us, or maybe it’s just me, to describe ourselves by what we aren’t or what we dislike; I see this as saying “Hey, I like so many things, I’ll tell you what I really hate so you think I’m open-minded.” I suppose that makes us (read: me) sound negative.
While I see the glass as always being half full, the grass is, after all, always greener over yonder.
Negative thoughts are, after all, just another bad habit. For some time, when I was attending yoga classes 4 or 5 days a week, I stopped thinking negatively altogether. A situation would erupt at work, everyone screaming and stomping and slamming things and I’d be standing there in the middle saying something like, “Hey, man, why can’t we all get along? You guys just need to take some deep ujjayi breaths and remember that we are all connected, like, a blanket.”
Thankfully, I decided re-read a novel I’d written moons ago, and I realized that before the daily yoga sessions, I actually had a personality. Goodbye ujjayi breathing.
I completely support intense dialogue about difficult subjects or experiences that evoke negative feelings because it challenges fluid intelligence and fuels emotional growth. But also, the fact remains that more often than not hearing about a horrible dinner or a bad movie is more engaging and memorable then hearing about a good one. When you have a vacation filled with beauty and perfection people say, “Really!? That’s amazing!” and then it’s over. When you start a story with, “So this one time I’m in the bus station in New York City at 2 am and I gotta get to Philly, and this guy cuts in line in front of me and the gigantic ex-con behind me just flips the fuck out…”
The next line invariably is, “What happened?” not “Sounds like fun.”
This is why I don’t blather on about rainbows and balloons all the time. I’d rather tell a good story.
Despite this love of all things hilarious over warm and fuzzy, I have been thinking a lot about the opportunities I’ve had here in this weird city, and the things I have taken for granted and will long for when I’m gone.
- i fed top guys from CSIS and CIA, which meant there were snipers EVERYWHERE, as well as the Governor General and the owner of Cointreau/Courvoissier
- i was taught by a Meilleur Ouvrier de France, a Chef who is on this year’s team France for the World Pastry Championships, and a graduate from Lenôtre
- newspapers and bloggers mentioned the things I make
- interviewed on the radio? Yes.
- made 5,250 pies by hand
- baked cakes to be photographed for a pastry book
- plated for a Gala at the National Arts Centre under one of the city’s handful of celebrity chefs
- ate at the #6 resto in the world (okay, I had to leave the city to do this but couldn’t have gone without the friends I met here)
- worked under a 5 Diamond chef, and I cherish the way he taught me to organize a fridge and guide sauces across a plate
- made wedding cakes for two amazing friends
- made a functioning phallus cake (thank you compressed air canisters)
- met and worked with many of the wonderful, hard working, and dedicated people who are helping to develop the food-scene here
- judged final exams at the culinary arts institute I attended and worked (note to self: never do this three days in a row. Ever. Again.)
- the Café. Even though it drove me crazy, it still gives me solace
- all the amazing people I’ve met who I love to death, even those who have moved away
- seeing the same people on my way to work, on my way home, at the grocery store, at the café, at the coffee shop – there is something so comforting about them, even though I’ve never met them…but I know their schedules. Creepy.
- the fantastic music my favourite used-cd shop blares on the outdoor speakers
- the movie shop that won’t carry a copy of Titanic
- the rogue pastry shop
- neighbourhood crackheads who scream and wander into the street (this is happening right now)
- going to the shitty gym with my two favourite men, then eating sandwiches and cottage cheese on my stoop until midnight
- the monthly dance parties I didn’t attend enough of, but at least they taught me to dance and not give a shit about what I look like
- sitting in the art gallery for hours
- running along the canal, running stairs behind parliament — the view from across the river never ceases to impress me
- leaving the house early enough to walk around when the streets are completely empty
- my therapist who laughs at me and doesn’t seem to think there is anything actually wrong with me; I’m comforted by the fact that I’ve tricked her
- and clearly my parents. I know a good deal of people say things like “I’ve got the best mom and dad ever!” well, that’s nice, but today is a sad day for you because today you learn it is actually I who has the greatest parents on earth
On that note, this is a chocolate cake I actually like to the point where I briefly considered eating a bowl of it raw while slothing it up on the couch watching Californication (frivolity by definition methinks) but for the sake of this blog, I baked and gussied it up instead. And look – NO FLOUR.
Chocolate Cake (pg. 209)
226g dark chocolate (I upped the sugar to accommodate the 76% chocolate I had on hand — reduce the sugar if you have the recommended 64% chocolate)
Melt butter and chocolate over a bain marie until fluid but not hot. Whisk 40g sugar and yolks until ribbon stage (very light in colour, thickened to the point where a ribbon of the mixture takes 8 seconds to sink back into itself or about 60 degrees – which is to say when you stick your finger in it and can’t keep it there longer than five seconds). Strain the yolks over the melted chocolate and whisk to combine. Set aside. Whisk the remaining sugar and whites in a spotless bowl until stiff. Mix a dollop of whites into the chocolate and egg mixture to loosen it, then fold in the remaining whites in two additions. Spread on a silicone mat or parchment and bake at 320 for 12 minutes.
Once baked and cooled, spread a thin layer of melted chocolate on it to keep it from sticking to a cake board or parchment, let it set in the fridge, then flip it over to remove the parchment or Silpat (carefully! if it sticks, freeze it, then remove). If the cake is uneven, protect it with parchment and even it out with a rolling pin. Cut into desired size and shape.
I didn’t make that. I made it before, for the BFG. Or rather inside the BFG. The cake. Not the fictional giant man. Instead I replaced the idea of the mousse with…Root Beer Chantilly.
Infusions are amazing. While I loves me some burned sugar and beurre noisette and mailliard browning, but flavour through infusion is likely more useful then setting everything on fire. Generally “unnatural” flavours and foods don’t interest me, I will admit I am a total softy for old-timey anything. Hence my love of Absinthe, bustles, penny-farthings, quinine, and three-piece suits. I never drink root beer, but I do love it. So I picked up this:
I’m not sure why anyone would want to do this, nor to I remember thinking “this looks great, I need this in my life now”. But here we are. I had to do something with them. Don’t ask about why I didn’t just use Root Beer candy oil. That isn’t part of today’s lesson.
Shit, I forgot I was talking about infusing things. Basically, you can take anything that has liquid in it and give it a flavour boost naturally by infusing it first. Like Ice Cream? And how, since that’s how it’s done. But here is a weird example:
This photo is of Jelly Doughnut flavoured nitro-frozen ice cream from a shop in London. They made some choux, threw them in with the milk and cream, infused that bitch, chilled it, strained it, crème anglaised it, poured liquid nitrogen on it and I shoved it in my gullet AND IT WAS AMAZING.
Today’s Lesson: EVEN YOU CAN INFUSE ANYTHING.
You want to make whipped cream that tastes like leather?
Now you know what you need to do.
Say it with me.
Infuse. That. Bitch.
Here is the procedure I used; it’s a Pierre Hermé recipe, but I think Pierre has a magic pastry hand I don’t, because this broke a bit, which I figured would happen. This process doesn’t make sense to me. Heat the cream with the candy. Bring it to a simmer, then remove from heat. Stir occasionally until candy is dissolved. This will take patience (I recommend a good soundtrack). Re-heat as needed. Add gelatin, whisk it around, transfer to a bowl and cover with saran. Chill overnight (say wha?). Whip to stiff peaks when needed. Pipe immediately.
I assembled this in that new wave pastry way all the chefs are doing in Paris. Piping little boules and layering with thin pieces of tempered chocolate. No doubt they look clean and elegant (though I tend to bend towards more organic looking food, ie: Noma’s plating style), like the pastry version of a Barcelona sofa. But slicing and mouth feel? Okay, they slice fine and the tempered chocolate provides a really nice contrast to the dense cake and cream. I may have been won over on this one.
Oh, and that weird gelatinized cream, when chilled, has the texture of marshmallow. Hm.