Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ambroisie


It all started when I went on a snowshoeing trip back in mid February with a couple of coworkers. I promised my friend, Elaine, that I would bake her kids some cake if she'd go with us (the plan was that she was supposed to go anyway without my cake offer), so that she wouldn't feel so bad leaving the family for the weekend. Long story short, she had been "reminding" me about it a few times a week for 2.5 months! Yeah, she is not the shy kind or anything, she would definitely do anything to get her way to the cake. She even made request that it has to be chocolate, chocolate, and chocolate, and no alcohol please (demanding, I know). I had persuaded her to opt for the fruity one, but she was firm on chocolate. While the rest of the world (or US) is putting their best effort to showcase the summer jewels (read: strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, lemon), here I am making a chocolate cake in the middle of Spring. But if I'm making a chocolate cake, there's no way that I would make a plain chocolate cake without putting some twist to it.

It "only" took me a few months to finally get to it, and I didn't pick the easy one either. I have been in love with Hidemi Sugino's creations for the longest time, along with Pierre Herme, Sadaharu Aoki, and a few others. One of his most popular dessert, which is also the cover of the book is Ambroisie, a chocolate mousse cake layered with two different kinds of joconde (chocolate and pistachio), raspberry garniture, pistachio mousse, and covered in shiny chocolate glaze. It sounded pretty intimidating looking at the many components, given the fact that I haven't been making much entremets lately due to time constraint, and indeed it took me no less than two weeks to finish the whole thing! No, it is not that hard really, but since time is so difficult to find lately, I was just proud to be able to even finish this cake. I would say the difficult part was trying to figure out the how-to's since the instruction is in Japanese and my skill level in that department is pretty much negative, I can only rely on my very-limited-to-baking-ingredients French, but if you know the basic preparation to make mousse, bavarian cream, joconde, it is doable.


Each joconde, chocolate and pistachio, was made differently. The chocolate joconde was made with regular almond powder and powdered sugar, while the pistachio was made with 50/50 almond paste. The chocolate mousse was made without gelatin and rely solely to set from the chocolate itself, I should have refrigerated it in the mold a little longer than overnight, but it was my last day before vacation, so it had to be done.


The layering could be more straight, and I probably should have a thicker pistachio mousse, but overall, the cake was delicious! Just like any other Hidemi Sugino desserts, even though it has a lot of components, it is so light. I didn't get to taste more than a spoonful but it was enough to convince me that Mr. Sugino is a genius in the pastry world, even the pickiest eater of all time (read:M), said that he would eat the whole thing if he was given the whole individual cake, that itself making all the effort worth it.

It only makes me more eager to get back to making entremets, especially now that strawberry season is here! I started to go farmers' market almost every Sunday now when the weather is nice, and I was so delighted to see that my favorite strawberry stall was there! Immediately I bought 6 baskets of strawberries last week, sweet and tasty as I remember it to be. I also found blueberries, and cherries! A little early maybe for the cherries, but hey I am not complaining. I also got those tulips from the most gorgeous flower stall called "super tulips" and they are indeed SUPER! So many good stuff floating around, I haven't even had the time to play with blood oranges, meyer lemons, now add strawberries and cherries to the list. But anyways, I'm trying to savor every minute of the wonderful days we've been having, although the weather here has been back in Winter mode again for the past week and rain too. I still hope I can get more free time in the kitchen by myself to play around.


I am now buried in blue macarons and have made no less than 500 macarons in a few days (including the failed ones), more on this on later post. Other than that, it seems like we're back in Winter weather, temperature dropped to low 60's max during the day, it's been raining for 5 straight days and I cannot wait to start wearing shorts, skirts, mini dresses, without having to worry about freezing.

As far as recipes, I am really struggling to find the time and try to write it down, especially since the book is in Japanese (and I have no idea how to read it). I start planning on the Spring Cleaning of my freezer though and I cannot wait to get to it!
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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cakepops for M's Baby Shower Favor


I can't believe it's May! I wonder where did time go. I have been out of town for the past two weeks, and before that, I was also out for a few weekends, life's been really crazy. A little warning, this post might be more of an updates rather than cake in details :)

I started this draft about a month ago or so and yes I know I have not been very proud of myself in keeping this blog updated as often as I wanted to. I had to keep changing the content as the week passed by because so many things are happening. In fact, I was writing part of this post on my "vacation" somewhere in Prairieville, Louisiana where thunderstorm and wind warning are so common. Yup, that's right! I went away from the beautiful California to Houston for a few days to visit my sister, then off to Louisiana, for a good reason. In a way, San Jose reminds me about the long hours at work and thinking about that is exhausting sometimes. So, it feels really good to be away from that at least.

I must say that I am now having so much more appreciation towards California weather and nature. Not to say that I didn't enjoy the trip (heck, I came back home with a temporary tattoo of tigger with a soccer ball on my thigh), in fact, it was nice that I could feel real Summer earlier, and also humid at the same time. It really reminds me of the time I spent during my college days in Texas. But really nothing beats California road scenery especially these days where green hills/mountains, happy cows, field of flowers, cherry blossoms, the gentle cool breeze, these little things seem to make my days a little brighter. It was one of those little pleasures in life that I appreciate so much.

The weather here is very nice now that I am back, Spring is definitely here, my favorite time of the year. I love it that cherry blossoms are blossoming everywhere. First, it was the pink plum blossoms, then the white ones, now the other pink cherry blossoms, it is so exciting that there's always something to admire and seeing the bright green leaf on the trees just somehow makes me happier. A little part of me is hoping that Summer wouldn't come so fast, just so that I can have this feeling of anticipation that Winter would not come anytime soon.


I am back now to my routine. Some part of me is happy that I am now back home and getting my regular life back, but on the other hand, it is also sad for the same reason. Getting back from a vacation is never easy I guess. It is so unfortunate that I spend most of my day time inside the office but I tried to soak as much sun as possible during the weekend including a farmers' market trip. Oh how I love this season, soon, I will sleep with my room window open, with the gentle breeze bringing the scent of the flowers from the backyard.


Anyways, enough of the ramblings, lots of things are happening lately. My friend Kiki gave birth to her second son, Wesley, which I have yet to pay a visit. My dear friend Nana is about to go back to Indonesia for good, people come and go in our life and although it is sad to see them go, it was also a privilege to be able to know them.

With everything that's happening at the moment, I could hardly have any time for myself and my kitchen, as you can probably tell that I don't post new stuff as frequently lately (not to say that I did anyway previously). It is killing me that while I got really excited seeing a whole bunch of meyer lemons in the backyard that's slowly falling off the tree and got rotten, seeing the first strawberries of the season, blood oranges, mangoes, and rhubarb among other things, I could hardly find time to do anything with it.


I did manage to make these cakepops for M's baby shower for her coworkers though, about a month ago.
It sounded impossible at first with my schedule but thanks to my dearest friends, brother, and sister in law who were willing to help in any way to make it possible, you guys are the best! The inside is red velvet cake with cream cheese icing, covered in white candy melts and purple polkadots. I was dying to make a sheep or a cow or anything farm animals for these cakepops, but they take so much time to do, so maybe next time. Anyone having a baby anytime soon?


M made the thank you tag and they are perfect (she did it quite fast too :D)! I love how everything is so well-prepared and she made it looked like it is so easy to make them. Congratulations for the upcoming baby girl "blueberry", I'm pretty sure she will grow up to be as beautiful as you inside and out.


Other than the cakepops, I also managed to squeeze in this birthday cake for little boy named Ansel. Funny thing is, I made cakes for their family a few times already for the past few years, but I have only met the dad who always picked up the cakes from me, I have never met the mom or any of the kids, and I felt so privileged for the trust that they give me. I finally met the mother last time when she went and picked up the cake, so yay, curiosity met! :)



This cake was for her son, Ansel, who turned 7 years old a few weeks ago. I also made some red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, and chocolate cupcakes with Nutella frosting, but didn't get a chance to take any picture.

I am working REALLY hard to squeeze in a little time here and there for baking, even when that means that I have to sacrifice my sleep time, but it's worth it! In fact, I made some cake last week, which took me no less than two weeks to finish, but anything is better than nothing. Will post that one up soon. Have a blessed week!
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