Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Perfectly Fine Cake--Daring Baker's Challenge For March

I completed my cake this morning! Yippee. I really loved the taste of this cake—it's very chiffon-like with its light, airy texture and that hint of citrus. I pretty much followed the recipe to a tee except I decided to create mini layer cakes instead of 1 large one. I halved the butter cream

frosting recipe for this reason and unfortunately, my frosting never got thick enough during the mixing process. (Did any other DBers have similar problems with their butter cream frosting)? So, I ended up with a rather runny frosting that didn't quite make the prettiest presentation but I did my best with what I had to work with and am pretty pleased with the results. It sort of reminded me of a snowball with all the coconut flakes so I added the cherry on top to give it a bit more balance. Even though the cake did not turn out as "perfect" as I would have liked, I still had fun with this challenge and plan to serve my mini party cakes later today when my two brothers and their families come over to visit. This month's challenge for the Perfect Party Cake (a Dorie Greenspan recipe, by the way), was hosted by Morven of Food, Art, and Random Things. If you would like to bake your own party cake click here for the recipe, and party on!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Gado Gado Cravings

Oh, it feels good to be home. But, to be honest, a little strange to be blogging again. Though I haven’t turned on my oven since returning from Bali last Friday night, I do plan to start some cooking and baking this weekend. My experiences in Indonesia were filled with so many beautiful sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. I will try to recapture some of those experiences through pictures of the foods we tried while there. Luckily, Indonesian food is one of my favorite cuisines in the whole world so I had a bit of a culinary adventure of sorts. One of my favorite dishes is called Gado Gado and I indulged in this tasty, healthy dish as often as I could throughout my journey. Think of Gado Gado as a big, juicy salad, Indonesian style. I’m not just talking lettuce and tomatoes here either! Come to think of it, Gado Gado doesn’t even contain any lettuce or tomatoes to begin with! Instead, this dish is composed of an assortment of fresh vegetables that have been lightly steamed such as cabbage, green beans, carrots, bean sprouts, cauliflower, and even some potatoes. Typically, slices of hard boiled egg, tofu and fried tempe are thrown into the mix as well. What brings this dish all together for me though is the delicious, tasty, and sometimes spicy peanut-sauce dressing. My mother used to make her peanut dressing using roasted peanuts and grinding them herself but if you’re short on time (or on peanuts), then smooth peanut butter is a perfect substitute. Many times Gado Gado is also served with some crunchy shrimp chips on the side or crushed on top of the salad. Each time I ordered Gado Gado in Bali I was impressed at the presentation. No matter how small or homey or mom and pop the restaurant was, I was amazed at the time and effort the cook took to make sure the dish was as gorgeous as it tasted. I’m happy to say that I didn’t have one “bad” Gado Gado during my trip. I’d love to know if you have tried Gado Gado yourself and what you thought of it. And if you want to give your taste buds a trip to Indonesia, give the following recipe a try.

Gado Gado recipe adapted from Indonesian Regional Cooking by Sri Owen
Serves 4
2 large potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup sliced green beans
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup cabbage, shredded
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cucumber, sliced
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced

Peanut Sauce Dressing:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 and 1/3 cups raw peanuts
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 shallots, chopped
Thin slice of shrimp paste (optional)
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 cups water
1 tbsp juice of a lemon
directions for the vegetables:
--Steam or boil the vegetables just until cooked and refresh under cold water to maintain their bright color (should take 3-4 minutes for most veggies except for the bean sprouts which should only need 2 minutes. Probably best to boil the potatoes until tender).
--Layer serving plates with some shredded cabbage and mound the vegetables in the center; arrange the egg slices, potatoes, and sliced cucumber on top.

directions for the peanut sauce:
--Stir fry the peanuts for 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain in a colander, and allow to cool.
--Pound or grind the nuts into a find powder using a blender, coffee grinder or pestle and mortar. Discard the oil, except for 1 tablespoonful.
--Crush the garlic, shallots, and shrimp paste in a mortar with a little salt and fry in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil for 1 minutes. Add the chili powder, sugar, soy sauce, and water. Bring this to a boil, then add the ground peanuts. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce becomes thick (should takes about 8-10minutes). Add the lemon juice and more salt to taste.
--Pour the sauce over the vegetables and serve either warm, room temperature, or cold.