America · Ice Cream · Salads · Sweets · Travelling

What I eat in Arizona, Part 1

First of all, Southwest Airlines are hilarious- I’m only ever flying with them again! Airline and a stand-up comedy act? Sold.

Featured highlights:

‘If you’re scared of flying, put your head between your knees and tremble until we bring round the alcohol’

‘You are so lucky to have us as your flight crew’ (no lack of confidence there)

‘My guy in Houston writes these leaflets – I know none of you will read them but you should. If there’s an emergency – tough, you’re on your own! (Only joking, obviously look for a crew member!)

[Paraphrased but the gist is there]

They also give very friendly snacks…



During the first few days we have swum, relaxed and eaten a lot of good food, so here follow the highlights!

The first night we ate at Pita Jungle where I was again reminded of the scale of American portions – I ate the  second half of the meal for breakfast the next morning! I had a lentil fatoosh salad which there is no photographic evidence of – it tasted good though!

Dessert did make the camera though – below is an ice cream sandwich made of a chocolate chip cookie, a s’mores cookie with mint chocolate chip ice cream and hot Nutella (hence the salad before…)


(They also gave us free brownies (2) and 12 white chocolate macadamia nut cookies as we were there at closing time!)

The next day we went to one of my favourite lunch places – Flower Child. Basically a hippie place (even including a ‘yoga mat parking’ spot) it specialises in bowls, salads and other tasty things. I had a Vietnamese salad bowl with tofu which was delicious, but I was also very taken by the drinks – honey-lavender-limeade, elderflower-rose lemonade and strawberry-lemonade, all on tap!


Then we had a quick tour around some of the amazing houses in the local area before heading to Creamistry – my favourite ice-cream place! Based on some – very dodgy – liquid nitrogen freezing principles you can create your own ice-cream by choosing a base, flavourings and toppings. Below we have a creamy base, tiramisu flavour with hot fudge sauce on the top. (Again, salad for supper!)


I do also get hugely excited by watching them make the ice-cream in front of you! We are planning on going again later in the week and then I plan to go a little more experimental with flavours.

​​

Also, this is what a Malteaser looks like in the States…

Until next time then, happy eating!

America · Travelling

San Francisco- Day Two

So this was meant to be one post about San Francisco, but it took far to long to write the first one – we clearly do a lot! This is now day two – our only full day.

The hotel we stayed in provided us with muffins and coffee for breakfast- I discovered that ‘half and half’ does not make nice coffee… 

Next we started walking through some of the districts including Mission, Castro and Japantown before heading towards the Golden Gate Park. 



(No guesses as to what Castro is known for!)


This is called ‘Alpine Street’ – well named!

Starting at the conservatory we then walked through the Memorial Gardens and towards the lily pond (weirdly foul-smelling) and the Japanese Tea Garden (expensive – $8 dollars if you wanted to go in!)


The conservatory at Golden Gate Park


The less-than-fragrant lily (never saw any…) pond

We then wandered down by the lake where I was surprised to find turtles! I didn’t even think about seeing them in the wild but was struck by how still they were – sat on sticks in the middle of the lake!




Afterwards we caught a bus back to the centre and walked back to Little Saigon to get a Bahn Mi from Saigon Sandwich – definitely the best roast pork sandwich I’ve had for a long time!


Then we walked back to the Piers, heading for Pier 43 and a half, and our boat tour! This took us out to the Golden Gate Bridge, around past Alcatraz and back to the mainland, but was very interesting. After a dodgy start the audio guide was fascinating – very well ordered and gave a good balance of information throughout. The weather was sunny but hugely windy – I was trying to take pictures and several times nearly fell over whilst balancing against the rail with the camera in my hand. I was struck with two things about the bridge – firstly it’s sheer size, and secondly the colour. It’s orange apparently. My whole understanding of San Francisco architecture is a lie.



I was excited to go around Alcatraz- I had wanted to go on a tour but they were all booked up. The boat trip though was great in this respect – it gave a lot of information, slowed down as you went past and circled the island almost completely. The stories of the children who lived in Alcatraz, going to school on the same ferry as the criminals coming to the island and the interviews with people on it were very interesting and I do want to find out more. They also talked about Angel Island (the Ellis Island of the West) and again, being something I knew nothing about did make me want to learn more about it. 


After the cruise we walked back through Chinatown, before aiming to find some supper! One of the most famous Chinatowns in the world, this clearly gave off the impression of being a living district, rather than one created for tourists. We went to a bakery where Max had a Chinese custard tart and I tried an unusual delicacy of a puff pastry filled with a mixture of ginger, yellow soy bean paste and preserved egg – unlike anything I’ve had before but very tasty!


Fisherman’s Wharf – reminds me s bit of Brighton



We then tried to find tea, which turned out to feature a LOT of walking – we had bookmarked several places, most of which were either closed, expensive or not what we wanted at the time. However, our last choice struck gold and we ended up at the Capital Restaurant which served huge portions or delicious food for good prices. If we were hungrier, they had a deal for $15 of spring rolls, egg fried rice, beef and broccoli, sweet and sour chicken, tea and fortune cookies. If the portion sizes were anything to go by, that was probably a week’s worth of food in one meal! Maybe next time!


Thick noodles with cabbage and pork – not the most attractive looking plate of food but very tasty!

America · Travelling

A Few Days in San Francisco 

Before heading onto Phoenix (our main destination) we decided to spend a few days in San Francisco. There are two reasons for this:

  1. I have wanted to go for a long time 
  2. Plane tickets to Phoenix were very expensive! 

However the end result is positive – we got to spend some time there and it didn’t disappoint! As I’m now waiting in the airport for the Phoenix flight it’s time to fill you in on what we’ve been doing!

So on our first evening we were very tired but still decided to go out and explore a little bit, particularly as I had my eye on a specific ice cream sundae shop… We planned to head on the cable cars to go to Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghiradelli Square, however we accidentally got on the historical Streetcars by mistake. However, the conductor was lovely and allowed us to carry on and refused to take any money, despite us trying to pay him – instead Max got instructions to buy me flowers! 



Next we headed past the Fisherman’s Wharf to Ghiradelli Square and walked up through the shops. Passing the improvising violinist we went into the chocolate and coffee shop for our sundae – only to find that the new rules say that calorie counts have to be added to menus.

I don’t want to know the number of calories in this one.


(We did share this one)

Afterwards we walked up some of San Francisco’s massive hills and went to the top of Lombard Street (calling itself the windiest street in the world). The pictures are not great due to light, but the road is extreme- speed limit of 5mph! (Dad would like it!)



We then wandered back to the bay front and caught out first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz in the early evening, before catching the cable car back to the centre – there was a bit of a ‘Knight Bus’ (Harry Potter link!) feel to this, from the old cable car with huge metal leavers to the screaming driver! I joked on the way up that it looked a little like a really slow rollercoaster going up to the top and when we got to the top of the hill it definitely felt a bit like that!





We then went for some food which weirdly was quite hard to find at 8.30-9pm. San Francisco apparently has the most restaurants of any American city, but they all seemed to be closed! After walking through Little Saigon and the Tenderloin District, past the theatre (where I was hugely excited to find that it was showing ‘Hamilton’) and bypassing a pikachu giving directions (!) we gave it up as a bad job, and went back to the hotel. However en route we passed the ever-open Chipotle! Though disappointed to find that it is $2 more in San Francisco than in Washington DC or other more eastern US cities (they are NOT exaggerating about how expensive San Francisco is!), we got a huge plate of food and learnt what Sofritas is! (Tofu rice bowl for Max). At this point we were definitely ready to collapse (6am English time!) and were definitely ready for bed!


Baking · Cupcakes · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Bosnian Coffee-Lokum Cupcakes

Coffee culture is BIG in Bosnia, to the extent that ‘sit and drink coffee’ regularly appears on lists of ‘must dos’ for visitors to the country. However, unlike us here in Britain, coffee culture revolves not around large to-go chains of coffee, but rather around an hour-long ritual, which places the whole process at the centre of Bosnian life.

Coffee time is very important in Bosnian society, being the time of day when friends and families congregate round the kitchen, enjoying their drink. The process is slow, leisurely and allows the drinker a bit of time to relax from the stresses of the day. The process of making the coffee is as complex and steeped in tradition as the Japanese tea-drinking rituals, and with almost as many steps!

Now if this was to be completely traditional, the coffee would  need to be made in the traditional way; heating the water, adding the coffee and adding the froth bit by bit. However, as this is a cake recipe strong coffee will serve the purpose adequately (though if you wish for it to be completely authentic, a recipe is here). The cakes also include Turkish delight or lokum, the traditional accompaniment to this very strong drink.

Bosnian Coffee-Lokum Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 4oz butter
  • 4oz caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4oz self raising flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 tbsp instant coffee powder
  • 2 tsbp boiling water
  • 80g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 20ml ml milk
  • 1 tbsp rosewater
  • 8 pieces of Turkish Delight, chopped.

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5, and line a cupcake tin with liners. Make a traditional cupcake mix by creaming together the butter and sugar, before beating in the eggs one by one. Sift in the flour, and stir in the vanilla essence. Pour the boiling water over the coffee grinds and stir to dissolve, before mixing into the cake mixture. Spoon into the cupcake liners and bake in oven for 30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the cupcake tin and leaving to cool completely.

Beat the butter and icing sugar, until light and fluffy. Add in the milk and beat for 5 minutes until thick, light and fluffy. Add in the rosewater and beat until combined. Spoon into a piping bag and pipe onto each of the cupcakes before decorating with a small square of Turkish delight.

Baking · Cake · Cupcakes · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

The Netherlands: Caramel Apple Waffle Cake

Netherlands flag outline

When I was younger, my father usd to go to the Fotokina trade shows in Amsterdam every year, and when he returned he would invariably have brought us back stroopwafels, the iconic caramel waffle biscuits flavoured with cinnamon. Whilst relatively commonplace in England today, back then they were a novelty, and we used to excitedly anticipate his return with these lovely little biscuits. This following cake takes inspiration from these treats, and combines them with sticky caramel apples (to allow you to feel slightly more virtuous!)

The cake is made in a waffle maker, which makes this cake very quick to make in comparisons to many others. These are layered with caramel apples and a salted caramel cream.

Caramel Apple Waffle Cake

Ingredients:

Cake Waffles

  • 4oz plain flour
  • 4oz caster sugar
  • 4oz butter
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs

Caramel Apples:

  • 2oz butter
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar
  • 4 dessert apples

Salted Caramel Creme Filling (taken from here):

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups of icing sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup of caramel

To make the cake waffles, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla essence and eggs and mix thoroughly before sifting in the flour and baking powder. Beat the mixture until a smooth batter is formed –  add a tablespoon of water if the btter is too thick. Preheat your waffle maker and make the waffles following the instructions specific to your model. As a general guide the waffles will likely take about 2-3 minutes. Set aside to cool whilst you make the other components of the cake.

To make the caramel creme filling first beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and salt and cream together before adding the caramel. Combine the mixture and keep cool until needed.

Make the caramel apples by peeling and coring the apples before cutting them into segments. Melt the butter in a pan before adding the apples and caster sugar. Cook or about 10 minutes, tuning occasionally until the apples are caramelised.

Assemble the cakes by spreading a waffle with the caramel cream and adding a layer of caramel apples. Spread a second waffle with the caramel cream and decorate with apple slices before placing on the top to complete the cake.

Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

Austria: Sachertorte

Flag of Austria

The choice of cake for Austria was very simple: the Sachertorte. One of the most famous Viennese delicacies, no description of Austrian cakes would be complete without mention of this fantastic gateaux.

The story goes that the cake was invented in 1832, then Prinz Wenzel von Metternich asked his head chef to create a magnificent dessert, suitable for serving to many distinguished guests who he would be entertaining that evening. However, due to illness the task actually fell to his 16 year-old apprentice, Franz Sacher. The prince was delighted with the result, reportedly claiming ‘Let there be no shame on me tonight!’ The dessert was the source of much controversy over the correct construction of the cake in the early 20th century, resulting in the Hotel Sacher being granted the rights to use the name ‘The Original Sachertorte’ for their cake.

The recipe below is the original recipe for Sachertorte, taken from the book Viennese Cooking’

Sachertorte

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 3/4 cup (170 g) butter
  • 6 1/2 oz. (180 g) semi-sweet chocolate
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) sugar
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 cup (120 g) flour
  • 10 egg whites, stiffly beaten
  • 2 tbls. apricot jam

Icing:

  • 1 cup (225 g) sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) water
  • 7 oz. (200 g) semi-sweet chocolate

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 275°F(140°C) oven. Grease and line a 8″ cake tin.

Beat the butter until cream and smooth. Melt the chocolate and add to the butter. Add the sugar and stir well. Add the eg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour and mix gently before folding in the egg whites. Pour the mixture into the pre-prepared tin and bake for about an hour. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Slice the cake into two layers. Heat up the apricot jam and spread over the bottom layer, before placing the second layer on top. To make the chocolate icing, heat the sugar and water until it forms thin threads when a spoon is lifted from the pan. Melt the chocolate using a bain-marie, and gradually add the sugar mixture into the melted chocolate. Stir constantly until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Pour on top of the cake, ensuring a smooth finish on both the sides and the top. Serve in small slices with unsweetened whipped cream.

Cake · Europe · Nation Cake Challenge

France: Apple Tarte Tatin Cake

Flag of France

France is known throughout the world for its patisserie, with some of the most famous desserts originating from this culture. Macarons, gateaux, eclairs – the list goes on. As a consequence I was really spoilt for choice when designing this cake. I settled on tarte tatin eventually though an artistic point rather than an edible one – I loved the idea of trying to create the decoration out of he top of the cake itself, rather than covering it with other things, as is so often the case.

This cake is a variation on an upside-down cake, a design of cake which is seen as ‘retro’ these days. The bottom of the cake tin is covered with caramel, and the apples are arranged in a flower pattern on the top of this. the cake mix is then placed on top of this and the whole cake is then baked in the oven. A second cake contains a layer of pastry cooked on top of the cake, much like a Bakewell tart. The two cakes are then sandwiched together with caramel creme patisserie, and the finished cake is decorated with sugar decorations.

This cake involves a significant amount of work with hot sugar and caramel so care must be taken. You must not use a springform tin to make the cake as the hot caramel may leak through the joins, causing danger of burns. For your safety, ensure that you use a solid, well greased tin and that you use oven gloves and great care!

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 225g (8oz) salted butter
  • 225g (8oz) golden caster sugar
  • 225g (8oz) self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 eggs
  • 60ml (4 tbsp) whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Toffee apple topping:

  • Butter (for greasing)
  • 200g (7oz) caster sugar
  • 3 large Grany Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1cm slices
  • Zest of one large orange

Pastry Disc:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 125g butter, cut into small cubes
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 splash of milk

Caramel Crème Patisserie:

  • 6oz sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 ¼ ounce cornstarch
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ½ ounce unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Salted Caramel Shards

  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 2 pinches sea salt

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a 9 inch baking tin and set aside.

Heat the sugar and 3 tbsp water in a pan over a high heat until the sugar has dissolved and turned a rich golden brown colour. Do not stir this at any point, as the sugar will crystallise. Remove from the heat and pour into the lined baking tin, ensuring that the base is completely covered. Arrange the apple wedges on the top and cover with a third of the orange zest.

Make the cake by beating the butter, sugar and the rest of the orange zest until fluffy and pale yellow in colour. Mix in the eggs on at a time, before sifting in the flour and bicarbonate of soda. Add the milk and vanilla extract and stir well to combine.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 40-50 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Place a cooling rack over the top of the tin and invert, being careful to avoid any caramel that may fall out. Remove from the tin and set aside to cool completely

To make the pastry disc, sieve the flour and icing sugar into a bowl. Using your fingers, work the cubes of butter into the mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the orange zest. Add the eggs and milk, and mix to form a soft dough. Lightly flour this dough.

Pat the mixture into a thick disc and flour it. Wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface to approximately 5mm thick. Cut the dough to the same size as the cake, and place in the cake tin to ensure an accurate base. Prick all over with a fork and add baking beans to the case to ensure that the pastry does not rise up. Bake in the oven at 180˚C/Gas Mark 4 for about 15-20 minutes, checking constantly to ensure it doesn’t burn.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the pastry circle from the tin and leave to cool on a baking rack.

Combine 5 ounces of the sugar and the water in a small, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, brush down the sides of the pan with water, and boil for 8 to 10 minutes, or until caramelized. The sugar will be fragrant and a deep amber color when it is caramelized. Remove the pan from the heat and dip the bottom into an ice water bath for a second or two. Slowly stir in the milk. Return the pan to low heat and stir until smooth. Increase the heat to medium and heat to a simmer.

Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch and remaining 1 ounce of sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk in the egg and yolks. Continue whisking while adding the hot caramel mixture in a thin stream. Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it thickens and just comes to a boil. Immediately strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl and stir in the butter and vanilla. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate.

To make the caramel shards, put the water and sugar in a small saucepan and heat up. don’t stir, but swirl the pan occasionally. Allow the sugar to gently caramelise before quickly pouring onto a lined and greased baking sheet. quickly tip the sheet to ensure complete coverage, and sprinkle with sea salt. allow to cool completely before breaking into shards.

Assemble the cake by placing the pastry circle on the serving plate and covering with a layer of caramel crème patisserie. carefully place the cake on top, and decorate with caramel shards.