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myMEGusta

Named for things that please me (“me gusta” in Spanish) and rhymes with balabusta (Yiddish for “good homemaker”).

Archive for the month “September, 2015”

Wacky Cakes? Dump-it Cakes? Soda Siphon Cakes?

Wacky Cake

Wacky Cake

Anyone who grew up in the 50s will remember “Wacky Cakes”!

Making a Wacky Cake

Making a Wacky Cake

The story in my neighborhood was that it was wacky because it contained neither milk nor eggs. “How can that be????” It was wacky in that it was a brand new recipe that should not have worked. The only cakes that “worked” where I grew up were from rigid family hand-me-down recipes or, in my house, from a box.

But, stories vary as to its origins. Also known as “three hole cake”, the Wacky Cake is said to have originated in World War II, when enterprising cooks created desserts without the rationed milk and eggs. But other stories go back to the Depression Era, same issue, different cause.

We wonder how far back in time this concept really goes. Did some 1930’s housewife pull out her ancestor’s recipes for a dessert she could make with scarce ingredients on the wagon train? We’ll never know.

Another fun, unorthodox cake is the Dump-It Cake, a rich chocolate confection made by dumping the sequence of ingredients into a saucepan on the stove, carefully and in stages, of course, then pouring into a baking pan and baking.

Brian's Chocolate Dump-It Cake

Brian’s Chocolate Dump-It Cake

This recipe, made recently by friend and super-cook Brian, originally appeared in the New York Times back in 2002: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/9404-chocolate-dump-it-cake And, it was as delicious as it looks.

But, to get really wacky, you have to come to the 21st Century (or, perhaps to the late 20th when it might have been invented) and taste a soda siphon cake.

Siphon Cake at Le Saint-Placide near St. Malo, France

Siphon Cake at Le Saint-Placide near St. Malo, France

The first encounter myMEGusta had with this treat was at Le Saint-Placide, Isabelle and Luc Mobihan’s one-star Michelin restaurant in St. Malo, in Normandy, France. Set in Saint-Servan-sur Mer, a peaceful residential neighborhood well outside of the historical (and tourist drenched) walled city, this restaurant was the highlight of a recent dining trip to France. www.st-placide.com

The cake looked more like a piece of seaweed than a dessert. In fact, myMEGusta had to call over Madame La Proprietaire to ask what it was, and she articulately explained how the green tea scented cake batter, flourless and made with egg whites, had been extruded through a soda siphon (injecting it with some carbonation) before being baked in the microwave oven. Who would have thought a microwave oven could be an important tool for a first class pastry chef?

The process showed up on a recent episode of Masterchef, one of myMEGusta’s television addictions, with a finalist creating a cake in a similar manner, his incorporating whipped cream. It looked as delicious as my recent memory from Normandy.

Soda Siphon

Soda Siphon

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When It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It: Compound Butters

Sometimes it takes a pet peeve to make you realize that you should not necessarily be annoyed at all.

Take compound butters, those melanges which show up so often in trendy restaurants, when a well-meaning chef has incorporated huckleberries or some other unfortunate choice into perfectly nice butter.

Meripaviljonki Restaurant, Helsinki, Finland

Meripaviljonki Restaurant, Helsinki, Finland

It was a bad omen when it, butter which clearly had been messed with, arrived at the otherwise promising Meripaviljonki Restaurant floating in a scenic North Sea inlet in Helsinki, Finland.

But, what a revelation! The extra ingredient worked into the butter was more butter, browned to a turn with a wonderful nutty flavor. It was perfect as it melted into hot-from-the-oven bread, a strong start to a delicious dinner.

Brown Butter Flavored Butter

Brown Butter Flavored Butter

“Why didn’t WE think of this?” myMEGusta emailed to a foodie friend.

“Compound” butter is simply butter into which some ingredient other than salt has been incorporated. They are actually very simple to make, just soften and mush around with the “extra”.

Tarragon Butter on Corn

Tarragon Butter on Corn

Herbed butters, for example, tarragon butter, can be wonderful, but have to be super fresh. These are particularly nice on corn on the cob.

The only other mixed butter which myMEGusta really enjoys is the classic Maitre d’Hotel butter. This sounds fancy, but is just butter with lemon juice and fresh parsley, easy for anyone to make, and it adds a really nice visual and flavor touch to grilled steak or seafood.

Maitre d'Hotel Butter Melting on a Steak

Maitre d’Hotel Butter Melting on a Steak

Honeyed butter sometimes appears on brunch tables, somewhat appropriate for those baskets of sweet rolls at its side. When it shows up at dinner time, we don’t touch it. Ditto for fruity butters.

Making Compound Butter

Making Compound Butter

But, readers may differ, so share your ideas!

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