Thursday, June 26, 2008

Whimsical Soy Sauce Delight

Product spotlight!

Lily Bird Soy Sauce Dispenser

The first glimpse I saw of this bird was in the window display of the Alessi boutique here in Stockholm. I was even more enraptured when I realized that it was a soy sauce dispenser. From a collaboration between Alessi designer Stefano Giovannoni, and the National Taiwan Museum arose this collection.

However, I am slightly chagrined at the overly chinoiserie of the line with these Asian figures which are egg timers and pepper mills, but oh well.

My friend was taken by the milk dispenser:

Which I wouldn't turn my nose up at if it magically appeared as a birthday present this year.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Several Dreams

There are several dreams in my life which I have yet to achieve. These might be as audacious as winning a prestigious literary prize, or as humble as replicating a delicious pear and dark chocolate cake I ate a year ago. Sometimes my friends will ask me why I haven't just gone out and bought the object of my desire -- like a Brazilian hammock (these are the most comfy in the world). These answers can be too complicated to explain and I mostly shrug, but I realize inwardly, I'm waiting for the right time for these things. I can't have a hammock without a yard, and I don't have a yard because I don't want to drive a car and because I don't want to have a car, I live in a city.

In any event, this blog has been neglected while I've been working on my book about Sweden, but after I ate a fourth of the much dreamed of and wanted Warm Pear & Dark Chocolate Almond Cake, I decided that others could want to eat some too. I got inspired directly by Al Di La of Parkslope Brooklyn, where this warm pear and dark chocolate cake was a lot of yummy mouthfuls after a meal which burst with flavor.

In any event, I searched high and low for a good pear and dark chocolate cake. I've made pear coffee cake before, more of the cinnamony kind, but this cake tasted more rustic. I was even tempted to use a little cornmeal.

Unfortunately, I am an imprecise baker. It's equal parts arrogance and recklessness. Since I've baked enough, I feel I know the outer periphery of what makes baking science work, and I was lucky enough, this time, to succeed.

Warm Pear & Dark Chocolate Cake

2/3 c flour
1/2 c salted butter melted and cooled (if using unsalted add 1/4 teaspoon of salt)
3 T marzipan or 3 T almond flour
2 eggs
1/2 c sugar
1 vanilla bean's worth of seeds or 1 t vanilla extract
4 oz dark chocolate -- use the thin dark chocolate bars and break into squares
3 ripe pears (I prefer Bosc)
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Peel pears and cut out cores and slice into quarters. Lay in a circle with the rounded parts touching the bottom of the cake pan. On top of the pears, add the dark chocolate pieces so none of them are touching the bottom of the cake pan.

Beat eggs and sugar together. Add the melted butter. Add the marzipan and beat until fluffy. (If using almond flour use when adding the regular flour). Add vanilla bean seeds, then flour, baking powder, and baking soda. After the batter is smoothly combined, pour the batter over the pears.

Bake for 40-50 minutes until the tester comes out clean. You may want to cover the top to prevent it from getting too brown.

This is great for afternoon tea or dessert. I recommend you serve it warm because it tastes best that way.

Now to return to the losing battle between myself and eating more of this pear cake ...