Thursday, June 23, 2016

Maine Blueberry Gateau

I first had this cake at my friend Evie's Epiphany Party last year, and it was truly an epiphany.  I never knew homemade cake could taste so good--so buttery and moist and bursting with blueberries!  I e-mailed Evie immediately after the party to ask for her friend's recipe, and it turns out it's from a bed & breakfast in Maine.

The first time I made this cake I made it in a pie pan (because I didn't have a 9" pan) and used frozen wild blueberries.  It was quite tasty but not as pretty so I dusted it with powdered sugar as instructed in the original recipe.  When I made it this time I used a 10" springform pan and fresh blueberries, and it looked nice enough to forgo the powdered sugar dusting.

Don't worry if you think the cake batter to fruit ratio is off.  You will be spooning a lot of blueberries on top of the batter, but while the cake bakes in the oven the blueberries sink while the cake rises so it's perfect by the end.

Maine Blueberry Gateau (lightly adapted from the Benjamin F. Packard House via The Washington Post)
serves 6

1 cup and 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 pint fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained (may substitute frozen wild blueberries)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Confectioners' sugar, for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Lightly grease a 9- or 10-inch springform pan and dust with flour.

In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour with the baking powder and salt and set aside.

Using an electric mixer on medium-high to high speed, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and continue beating until well blended. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture. Beat until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the blueberries with the remaining teaspoon of flour and the lemon juice. Spoon the berry mixture over the batter.

Bake for 50-55 min, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Slide a thin knife around the edges of the cake to release it from the pan before you release and remove the springform.

Dust the cake with confectioners' sugar before serving, if you want.

Next:  How to Make an American Flag Cake
Previously:  Tortilla Española (Spanish Potato Omelet)
Last Year:  Garlic Naan
Two Years Ago:  Speculoos (Cookie Butter) Ice Cream and Mini Stroopwafel Ice Cream Sandwiches 
Three Years Ago:  Homemade Cronuts
Six Years Ago:  Elote (Mexican Grilled Corn)
Seven Years Ago:  Bulgogi Dumplings

Friday, June 3, 2016

Tortilla Española (Spanish Potato Omelet)

I already had a trip to France and Italy planned when I found out I would need to be in Madrid the following week for work.  So after some quick thinking and planning, I managed to extend my time in Europe for another week and head out to Madrid a few days early before the meeting!

It was my first time in Spain, and I wanted to make the most of it.  My friend Sarah Ruth (the one who taught me my favorite brownie recipe) joined me from Sweden, and we managed to hit a lot of the capital and even took a day trip to the nearby town of Segovia.  Some highlights of the trip:

Eating chocolate con churros every day for breakfast!  We liked going to El Brillante for the authentic Madrileño experience and learned about purros there, which are basically, bigger, fatter churros that really remind me of Taiwanese you tiao.  We also tried them at Chocolatería San Ginés since everyone says they have the best ones, and I did like them more because they were less greasy and the hot chocolate wasn't as sweet.

One of Sarah Ruth's friend's boyfriend was a local, and he was kind enough to take us around 2 of the 3 nights we were free.  I really wanted to try Madrid's specialty--bocadillo de calamares--which is basically like a fried calamari po'boy.  He took us to La Campana just off of Plaza Mayor, and the sandwich was a lot bigger than I expected!  It was pretty good, but I would've appreciated some type of sauce on there like a spicy remoulade or an aioli or something.  I bet it would be really good at 3 am after a night of partying!

Another one of his suggestions was a Chinese restaurant that was an underground parking garage.  I totally thought it wouldn't be worth even seeking, but then we looked on-line for it, and it seemed like the real deal.  So after more than 10 days without Asian food, I was desperate enough to try it out.  You guys, it was awesome!  It honestly tasted like something my mom would make!  To find it, go to the southeast corner of Plaza de Espana and look for the stairs that go down.  Can't miss it.

We went to La Latina for tapas one night, but I was so tired we only made it to two bars . My favorite was Juana La Loca.  They had the best tortilla I had in Madrid, probably because they caramelized their onions for extra flavor.  They also had El Increible, a soft-cooked egg with truffle paste on bread.  It was amazing.  I loved that they also had some dessert options for tapas, although we didn't try any.

Mercado de San Miguel is like the Fanueil Hall/Quincy Market of Madrid (super touristy food court) but it's so beautiful I can't help loving it.  They have a paella stall with four kinds of paella, and you can get a ración (single serving) instead of having to order enough for at least 2 people like every other restaurant.  I tried the paella negra which was colored with black squid ink.  The guy scraped up some of the crusty bits from the bottom of the pan so it had a nice combination of textures.

There were a lot of great places to watch the sunset.  Two of mine were next to the Royal Palace and the Temple of Debod, which was moved from Egypt when the building of a dam threatened to flood it (similar to how the Met in NYC got the Temple of Dendur).

After returning from Madrid, I knew I wanted to try making the iconic tortilla española at home.  I settled on Mark Bittman's recipe with a few tweaks.  Instead of a whole cup of olive oil, I used half olive oil, half vegetable oil, mostly for budgetary reasons.  It's still a lot of oil, though, but you can strain it and save it in the refrigerator for the next time you make tortilla española.  I also started cooking the onions before the potatoes to try get some caramelized flavor into the tortilla, à la Juana La Loca.  They were just starting to brown on the edges when I added the potatoes, but I think next time I'll wait even longer since they didn't really end up caramelized by the time the potatoes were done.

Lastly, instead of just salt and pepper, I used this awesome Spanish flavored sea salt I picked up from El Corte Inglés that was seasoned with hot pepper, rosemary, black pepper, garlic, onion, parsley, and tomato.

Tortilla Española (adapted from Mark Bittman)
serves 3 as a main course and 6 as an appetizer

1 1/4 lbs. potatoes (I used Russet, but Yukon Golds would work too)
1 medium onion
1 cup olive oil (or use 1/2 olive oil 1/2 vegetable oil)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 large eggs

Heat the oil in an 8- or 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Chop the onions and add to the oil with some salt and pepper.  Stir occasionally while you prepare the potatoes.

Slice the potatoes thinly, using a mandoline if you have one.  Add to the oil along with some more salt and pepper and adjust the heat so that it bubbles lazily.  Cook until the potatoes are tender, but not brown.  While the potatoes are cooking, beat the eggs with some salt and pepper.

Drain the potatoes and onions in a colander, reserving the oil.  Wipe the skillet clean and add two tablespoons of oil back to it.  Heat over medium heat.  Add the potatoes to the egg mixture and mix gently.  Transfer to the skillet.  After the edges firm up, about a minute or so, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 more minutes.

Use a heat-proof rubber spatula to loosen the edges of the tortilla.  Place a large plate on top of the skillet and flip the tortilla onto it.  Add another tablespoon of oil into the skillet and slide the tortilla, cooked side up, back in.  Cook for another 5 minutes, using the spatula to coax the sides of the tortilla into a domed shape.  Slide onto a plate and serve warm or at room temperature.

Next:  Maine Blueberry Gateau
Previously:  Sesame Soba Noodles with Avocado Rose
Last Year:  Taiwanese Oyster Omelet (Without the Oysters)
Two Years Ago:  Candied Bacon Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Three Years Ago:  Rosemary Honey and Lemon Frozen Yogurt
Six Years Ago:  Passion Fruit Ice Cream
Seven Years Ago:  Kalbi (Korean Barbecue Short Ribs)