Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bringing back Winter

Out-of-towners always tell me how lucky they think I am living in Los Angeles. "Such great weather! I would love it!", they say. I'll admit that the climate facilitates such activities as riding bikes from Santa Monica to Hermosa Beach, or hiking in Temescal Canyon, or dining al fresco, but c'mon! Do I really need to be wearing my summer clothes in the dead of winter (as I did last week)?? Honey, living here for seven years...you're going to start missing the seasons. Why can't it just be brisk for a solid month??

We finally had a good rain before the weekend and I was elated. Showers are the closest thing to Winter we have in these parts and I loved every minute of it, and even though it kept me from finally getting back to Griffith Park after my month-long absence, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, hosted by Heather of Sherry Trifle, was the Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread and was most appropriate for summoning the warmth of winter. With our near nonexistent winter this year, any taste of the holidays is welcome, and this recipe brought me back to that.

This was another easy recipe to put together, and as Chinese New Year dinner was only the night before, I had lots of ginger on hand already. I decided to omit the crystallized ginger as I wasn't sure my coworkers would be game for that much spiciness, but I feel like with the ground and sugared ginger, the flavor was just right. The cake definitely wasn't too sweet and the chocolate icing was also a big hit although from the photos, you can probably see that the sugar didn't dissolve all the way for some reason. Not the best in terms of appearance, and I don't know what it is -- The mild sweetness? The single tier construction that makes people think it isn't as indulgent as a multi-layered cake? -- but this cake was devoured so quickly.

In a couple more weeks, it'll probably be a consistent 80 degrees until June gloom, and it just doesn't feel right to pull this recipe out on post-sunbathing afternoons, but next October...watch out.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The savory side of baking

I do lots of baking, by the normal person's standards, and especially during this time of year, but virtually all of it is sweet. Cakes, pies, cookies, muffins...these are never unusual in my repertoire, but it takes something like Tuesdays with Dorie to "force" me to bake something savory. I don't know what it is -- I've just always erred on the side of sweet from childhood on.

Soy milk sweetened with sugar, or with the addition of green onions, preserved pork, pickled greens, and a drizzle of vinegar and chili oil? Sweet, of course!

A flaky, curry chicken or Chinese BBQ pork mini-pie, or a flaky egg custard tart? Dan ta! (No brainer!)

Brioche french toast with bourbon-pecan topping, or red flannel hash with a poached egg on top? Okay...these days, that decision is a little tougher -- I can't pick a winner.

Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake was the host of this week's recipe, and she picked Savory Corn & Pepper Muffins, thankfully, because I probably never would have made this recipe if someone hadn't. Typically me, I prefer the sweet Yankee style of cornbread (may be because I was first exposed to this kind of cornbread first and most frequently) and the additions of any savory ingredient always perplexed me.

Cheese? Jalapenos? Why would you do that??

This recipe came together so quickly despite the chopping of the extra add-ins, and although I feared something went wrong when my perhaps-not-room-temperature-enough buttermilk was mixed with the butter (lumpy, bumpy substance), everything turned out just beautifully. Next time, I think I may even add more black pepper, jalapeno, red pepper, and cilantro, as I felt like those flavors could be more pronounced. I would absolutely serve this at dinner, or as an accompaniment to a yummy hash or egg-based breakfast.

I think maybe my salted-sweet-leaning allegiances are now giving way to a finer appreciation for things savory. What is this world coming to?