Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer dolce far niente

July slowly comes to an end. It feels like a long drawn out month, a summer month, but endless. Maybe it was because I did not feel like going in my usual summer hectic of “Oh, I have to make the most out of summer, let cram as much as possible into every day.” For paradoxical reasons, doing the opposite actually made the month feel endless. But there is no denying it, only one month of official summer left.

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Everyone looks like this by now.

I am not sure if I will continue with my laid back attitude or go into vacation with a renewed sense of “let’s make the most out of summer there is not much left”.  I should get at least one hike in. Eat one lobster.

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But I am eating no-lettuce salads, and managed to finally lose my fitbit flex. The clasp had opened several times recently but always at home and just in time I caught it. This time it happened on campus. I retraced all my steps, and despite it being bright pink it was not to be found. Hope, it makes someone else happy.

Fortunately, there is always cake to cheer me up..and ordering a new one.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Personal ricotta lemon cake

Currently, I am into baking smaller cakes. Like a third of a recipe sized cakes. However, as lesson learnt shows, you can’t just divide the ingredients into 3 and then go with a third. The proportions no longer fit, especially if you don’t weigh ingredients but go by cup measurements. I did this with the ricotta lemon cake, making it in a size just right for 2-3 people. The first round, I just third-ed the ingredients; the cake came out very tasty but very dense, more like a cheese cake. The second version, investigating proper portion proportions for fluffy cakes, I got it right. 

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It starts with a half stick of butter, and a half cup of sugar, butter airated with an electric mixer.

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Then, add 1 egg, 4oz of ricotta, vanilla extract, lemon extract and lemon zest.

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Finally, sieved in a cup of flour, mixed with 1 ts of baking powder, 1/4 ts of baking soda and a pinch of salt (all mixed before adding).

Pour into a greased small bundt cake or 8 inch spring form.

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Baked in a preheated oven at 350F for 35 min.

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So, this was the first version with the proportions of a half cup of flour and ca 8oz of ricotta.

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I placed frozen berries on the bottom of the pan for a summer note.

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A delicious, moist cheesecake treat.

Second try:

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More like it.

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1 slice = 1/8th of cake = 170kcal.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Great Beauty

Yesterday, I saw a movie that knocked my socks off. I am still reeling in the impression of it, and decided then and there that I need to buy the DVD. --- I can imagine it is a love-it or hate-it movie. I could not remember what made me originally add it to my DVD queue in Neflix, and that can happen. This was one of them. I started watching, I had not googled anything about it, and I was just taken in, annoyed that I ordered a movie with subtitles, and wondered after 15 min “This is fun, but where is the plot???”

After 30min it was clear “The Great Beauty” was more a Fellini-type of movie, and I had to check the small signs of a Mac or other indicators that this is current movie. It could easily have been a classic Fellini with its array of colorful, absurd, over the top characters and lack of plot. What drew me in immediately where the roof top over Rome party scenes. My favorite type of dance music and everyone, in every shape, size and age group, brought it on, shaking to the rhythm like they owned it. Bravo, Italia! I thought. “Everyone has the attitude it does not matter who you are, elegance, beauty, sensuality and living life belongs to you. La Dolce Vita.”.




The scenes of dazzling night life are contrasted with scenes of solemn women singing and a Japanese tourist suddenly dropping dead. Foreshadowing – nightlife and death. After a while the plot becomes clear. It is about Jep, an aging socialite, on his 65th birthday when he starts to reflect on his life. In his youth he had loved Elisa but she left him and he never knew why. He never married, only wrote on book in his youth (when he still believed in the beauty and poetry of life) and then was too distracted by just living the glittery high society nightlife of Rome, which was really more empty, overstimulated, with a lack of real emotions. It is a loving homage to his friends, and all of them having had their smaller and larger disappointments and disillusionments in life, but they jointly, politely, lovingly keep the illusion of the “Grande Bellezza” of life intact. Yet, people feel empty, people kill themselves, hang on to trying to be finally successful or loved, die too young of unspecified illnesses, retreat to their hometown and disillusioned leave Rome. But Jep, encountering a 104 year old nun/saint, whose goal it is to climb the stairs to a saint in a church on her knees on her visit from Africa, depicting so clearly that much of life can be pain, suffering and hard work, finds his roots, connects to the true beauty of life again and starts to write his second book. The film ends with a boat ride on the Tiber through Rome, underneath the stone bridges at sunrise (after a typical long party night).

The film opened with a quote: “To travel is very useful, it makes the imagination work, the rest is just delusion and pain. Our journey is entirely imaginary, which is its strength.”

(“The Great Beauty” won the Oscar for Best Foreign Movie this year).

Friday, July 25, 2014

I love lists, Friday!

It is time to sail into the weekend. Everyone much seems in the summer groove, like sitting down to a large feast, and just enjoying…. only the feast is really the great weather.

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The garden is full of plants and herbs, and my cooking interest is always at an all time low in the summer. This year I seem to be extra anti-cooking.

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Thank good for salad bars.

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I love lists, Friday!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Scallop season

It feels like this month stretches endlessly. Which is ok, because it is summer, and what better than for a summer month to stretch endlessly. The stores have ‘back to school’ isles stacked, and the clothing stores have the first fall wardrobe. Party poopers. The summer squash plants in the garden now produce based on where I planted them: in the old part of the raised bed, or the new addition filled with the Maine lobster compost. Those plants are about 5 times as big, and produce summer squash in record time. Therefore, most meals now include some fresh yellow squash.

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Like the lunch with seared fresh scallops from Stonigton via the farmers market. Yesterday, I even found the first chanterelles in the woods. As good as summer feels” scallops, brown butter, chanterelles, fresh peas and a dab of crème fraiche.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

German Summer Strawberry Cake

The other day I found a brandnew cake pan at a flea market that is perfect for making the bottom cake layer of a typically German fruit cake. A fruit cake is none-specific because it is made in the same manner, but the fruit varies based on season or in the winter with canned (peaches!) or frozen fruit. A fruit cake is similar to a French fruit tart – both are made with fresh fruit. However,  the ‘crust’ of the German bottom layer is more like a sponge cake and it is also inverted: the pan is filled completely with dough, baked and then turned upside down. Therefore, the cake pan needs to be the right one (like this, for example).

I baked the bottom layer, the farmers market had the last strawberries of the season, the German team won the world cup in soccer, so the fate of the cake was sealed: German strawberry cake!

Check this great video for more complete instructions (the cake layer is made as a more authentic sponge).

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Fresh Strawberry Cake

Base Layer:

  • 100 g sugar
  • 4 TB butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 0.5 ts vanilla extract
  • 150 g flour
  • 1 ts baking powder
  • 0.3 cup milk


Strawberry Cake

  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, dehulled, cut in half if they are large, otherwise keep whole
  • 3-4 TB strawberry jam
  • 1 cup vanilla pudding (store-bought or from scratch or with help of pudding mix)
  • 500 ml milk (for pudding)
  • 1 TB butter (for pudding)
  • 1 package Dr Oetker fruit tart red or clear glaze (a yello-like glaze that gets firm when it cools and keeps the fruit in place)+2 TB sugar + 250ml water  (optional)

Base layer: You need a pan similar to this one for baking the base layer. Make sure to butter it well because you don’t want the cake to stick.

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Preheat oven to 360F. In a standmixer (or with handmixer), mix the sugar and butter until slightly foamy. Add the egg, and mix until well incorporated. Add the vanilla extra, and mix in. Mix the flour with the baking powder, and slowly add to the mixture, alternate with tablespoons of the milk.

Pour into butter pan, and bake for 20-25min.

Cool slightly, invert, and cool completely (it is best to make the crust a day ahead).

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Preparing the strawberry cake:

Wash and hull the strawberries. Cut larger strawberries in half, keep smaller ones in tact. They should all be about the same size.

Poke the crust with a fork, and then distribute the strawberry jam on the crust. Ideally, it soaks the crust a little bit. If you use frozen fruit, preserve the juice when thawing and mix with the jam before distributing.

Prepare the vanilla pudding according to instructions. Let cool for 1-2 min, and distribute a thin layer on the cake layer. Let cool. (you won’t need all the pudding cooked).

Now, arrange the strawberries on the cake, in a circle from outward to inner circles. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar.

Optional (but authentic): Cook the glaze according to instructions and pour hot over the fruit. Start from the center of the cake and slowly distributed to the rim.

Let cool and set. ---- Serve with whipped cream!

Einen guten Appetit!

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Endless summer

Meanwhile, I’ve settled into summer. The days are still long, warm without being too hot or humid, the wind makes the birches bristle like a tulle skirt. My normal summer mode would include much driving, to coastal towns, but this year I seem to have a more local, hang-out, chill in the garden approach to summer. Days flow and wrap into each other, endlessly. Relaxing. Like in the book, “Northern Lights”, I started listening to yesterday, which appropriately also starst with “…. when time is slower in the summer, or stops at all”.

I have a feeling I am not the only one, enjoying summer this way, at the pool, at lakes, with plenty of friends, and ice cream, in swim suits, feeling like kids again.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Bah Haba, the backway

Yesterday, the Monday of the July 4th weekend, after hurricane Arthur and most of the local weekend visitors had left and went back to work, I finally made my first trip this summer to beloved Acadia and Bar Harbor (or Bah Haha, as it is called by Mainers). Getting to and being on the island I am always amazed of this being Maine at its best, and it is no surprise it is such a tourist attraction.

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I was still sore from a long run so I ruled out a hike for the day, and decided it would just be a “hangout on Acadia” kind of day. This time, I did it the back way. When I arrived on Acadia around noon,  I went to Bar Harbor first. This was also due to the fact that I wore new shoes and I already had blisters. There is only one Rite-aid I could remember and that is smack in the middle of Bar Harbor. It was a good plan because most of the tourists were out and about hiking, swimming and biking, and BH was comparatively free of cars and with half empty sidewalks.

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Yes, there is now live opera, La Boheme.

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The general Bar Harbor July/August theme: beer, cocktails, lobster and ice cream.

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Note the world cup….

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Reeallly old cars..

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I mean, really old authentic cars, as to be expected from Maine.

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Brand new pastry bars, of course, with whoopie pies.

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Rupununi is gone (sad face, I had my first meal on Acadia here). Now  there is Beerworks instead and it added a 2nd story deck.

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A short stop at Blaze, to give my achy feet a break. Culprit shoes.

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After having a late lunch, and then an extended espresso break in a new, tiny, beautiful café next to the mid-town Mount Desert Ice cream, I saw that the traffic had picked up and I got out of town, the backway, to Northeast Harbor.

Northeast Harbor is a place that even during the peak of tourist season is always quaint (although, word must have gotten out). Only Martha Stewart, the Rockefellers, and Ms Astor’s son will shop here.

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Here, even Gwyneth Paltrow thinks it is still all good.

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As said, word of Northeast Harbor must have gotten out, because buildings along the tiny Maine street are demolished, and the ‘shopping’ extends beyond the tiny few hundred yards now. However, this is a find which is worthy of Martha Stewart: a new, beautiful place to pick up salads, wine, and olive oil and eat it right in front to the store. Tasteful Tides.

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The food looked delicious and I opted for a striped beet salad with dried apricots, basil, pistachios and a champagne vinaigrette. Lovely!

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Then, it was time to head back home. Bye, bye until next time.

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Honeymoon cake

The weather is back to being summer, and the mall was very empty today --- likely everyone was at camp, a lake or the beach or hiking. I was wary facing the tourist crowds combined with the crowds of locals finally being able to head out for July 4th weekend and took it easy. Home, sweet home.

I finished a cake, a lemon ricotta bundt cake, which I had made a few weeks ago, and loved so much it needed a repeat, just with 2/3 of the ingredients, perfect for a smaller bundt cake pan. I even made a tiny bundt cake, for me, because the larger one was destined as a welcome back/honeymoon cake for friends.

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Honeymoon Cake (Lemon Ricotta Bundt cake)

Small 6-cup bundt cake mold

  • 1  Stick Unsalted Butter At Room Temperature
  • 10 oz Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • dash of lemon extract
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 Large Lemon (Save Rest For Glaze)
  • 1  cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1.5 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt

 

For The Lemon Glaze:

  • 1.5 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 TB fresh squeezed lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour the bundt or ring pan.
  2. In a large mixer bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the ricotta cheese and blend well. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each. Add the extracts and lemon zest and mix until fully combined.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt.
  4. Add the dry ingredients in several smaller parts, mixing just until incorporated.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spoon as needed.
  6. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Let cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
    Cool completely.
  8. Whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth and thick.
  9. Drizzle the lemon glaze over the top of the cake.
  10. Let the glaze set for 30 minutes and then cut into wedges and serve.

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