Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My only weakness

Cake cross section

bullets... oh and chocolate cake too!

I know I say 'sexual chocolate' a lot, but seriously... sexual chocolate.

So as promised, I've come back to wrap up the last bit of break I had remaining. Again, when you live in the suburbs and it's freezing outside, there's not much for me to do aside from baking. First up was the chocolate cake. My family has a terrible habit of buying way more than we need whenever things are on sale, and this year's purchase consisted of oatmeal. Imagine a fully stocked shelf of oatmeal at your local supermarket... now that's what my pantry looks like (I think we actually purchased some 60 odd pounds of it). Seeing as I have, as my mom puts it, 'womanly cravings' for chocolate cake, I combined our surplus of oats with my love of cocoa and baked it into a layered cake. Despite the odd sounding combination of oats with chocolate cake, the outcome was a decadently moist cake that cut cleanly. In fact, there was no hint of oatmeal in the cake batter since it was soaked for 30 minutes and beat to oblivion in the batter. Once filled with cream and covered with icing, it was as the pictures show, a fairly successful bake job.

Slice of chocolate oatmeal cake

Part two concludes with my zucchini bread! My lovely parents also bought a surplus of zucchini, of which they decided to only use one, so the task fell on me to dispose of the... er... extras. Now contrary to the idea of many, my kitchen pantry is not well stocked. Yes, we have tons of oats and zucchini, but I often find myself without simple things, for instance, cinnamon and eggs. I had already started to process the zucchinis when I realized that I only had two eggs remaining in the fridge, so I was a little bit worried that the loaves would come out not as bread, but as bricks. Furthermore, I opened the cupboard to see no cinnamon, no nutmeg, no all spice... what was a guy to do. Improvise! haha, I just continued mixing, going by ratios of the all too familiar banana breads that I've done in the past, and substituted a 'secret chinese ingredient' in place of what would normally be cinnamon... (五香粉) *wink* for those that understand Chinese. I popped the loaves in the oven, 50 minutes at 375, and after 50 minutes of anxiety, I was greeted with this...

Zucchini bread

A pair of beautiful golden brown breads that are curiously moist for lack of eggs. There is a touch of unexpected sweetness on the first bite (not me, I mean... I was the one who added the sugar) and a slight kick from the spice. For what it's worth, I've only gotten to eat two slices, one loaf disappeared before cooling, one loaf was eaten by the next day, and a few slices remained to bring to school... (so come knock if you would like zucchini bread).

I know I mentioned a peanut butter banana oat bar that I made with whey, but they're not very photogenic, which isn't to say they aren't delicious, but I'd rather not sully my blog with 'food un-porn.' I've pretty much summed up winter break, so with my last bit of posting, I'd like to wish my friend Chris a very happy 21st birthday. Yes, I know I'm a day late on this posting (or is it a week early based on the timestamp?). So I'm done until Friday, where we'll pick up with 'Restaurant Week,' at AJ Maxwell's Steakhouse.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Baking fail...

Homemade linzer cookies

People on the internet lie, donuts are something you shouldn't ever bake no matter how good the 'reviews' are. So I started out with the intention of making a baked donut, did one as a test, realized how stupid it looked and scrapped the dough to make apricot thumbprint cookies...

They came out nice and soft, with a texture in between that of a doughy bread and a traditional shortbread, kind of impossible for me to describe (seeing as I'm an engineer and fail at words most of the time). I guess I could say it was a semi-success in that my parents ate it without a peep or complaint. Anyway, just thought I'd make a quick update since I have nothing else to do at home... except body weight workouts of course, ha!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

O! 'Hallo' there...

Hallo Berlin

Another hard day at work, 9 to 5... so tedious. Actually no, I love my job. I currently work at American Express as a web developer using Ruby on Rails and it's pretty much the sweetest thing in the world. First off, I get to play with a decked out Macbook Pro which, while I'm not a terribly big fan of Apple products in general, is pretty sweet, add to that the fact that I get paid to surf the internet (shhh...) and toy around with code is still unbelievable to me. The main thing however is the food. Amex is located in the Hippodrome, which is conveniently on 44th and 6th ave aka. land of food carts and more variety than you could ask for. This is great for me because... well.. I love food? Haha, but seriously, seeing as my ability to cook is greatly limited by the fact that my dorm's kitchen is buck nasty, I'll be eating out more, and with that, I will bring you my thoughts on some of midtown's finest eateries (which fall within my student budget of course).

My first review is actually one that almost didn't happen. Wayne, who's a good friend who happens to be a classmate and coworker of mine (and I guess fellow foodie?), has a stupid rule where he refuses to walk past certain bounds he considers midtown. Hallo Berlin is a street cart located at 54th and 4th that I've been meaning to try pretty much since I started working at Amex. After a bit of goading, and emphasis on how amazing the sausages/bratwurst looked on other blogs, he finally caved. So we trekked up to this cart and dutifully lined up, perusing the menu for what we wanted. Wayne went with the 'Dictator Special,' which was one berliner and one bratwurst diced by a sausage cutting machine, topped with red and white cabbage, grilled onions, and German fries, all accompanied by a small onion roll and a mushroom potato stew. I wasn't feeling the soup, so I just went with the 'Double Soul Food Mix,' a knockfrank and a bratwurst diced in the same manner, with the same toppings, just without the soup.

Anyway, the man running the show, Rolf is pretty much the most legit German man I have ever met (I've met very few, but he tops the list). He goes through his assembly line routine of dicing and assembling a neat little container holding your sausages, all while making ridiculous smalltalk... insisting that you want more of his 'special sausage.' All in all, the Hallo Berlin cart is quite an experience from the moment you give your order.

After paying for our food, $8 for the Double and $9 for the Dictator Special, we pretty much blitzed our way back to the office, obviously since cold meats would taste weird (I actually stuffed my brown paper bag in my fleece, and was pleasantly serenaded with the smell of wafting gravy the entire way back). So how was it when we got there...?

Pretty goddamn awesome. To be honest, the picture can't do it justice. Even as overpriced as I thought it was, I couldn't help but admit the amazingness of this cart. The mix of condiments (unknown sauces) with the chargrilled taste on the franks made for a pleasant blend of flavors, and while the bread was somewhat hard... it worked well with the juicy bratwurst. As for the soup, Wayne said it tasted like butter soup, and by Paula Deen's definition, it's a winner (no seriously, it was probably pretty good). So what's the verdict? Yes the Hallo Berlin cart is a fairly long walk from the office, and yes it is slightly pricier than most midtown cart offerings, but would I go back? Definitely, and repeatedly too, because even after you're done, the taste of the pork/beef is still on your lips, and you just keep wishing that maybe you should've gotten that triple combo for $11...