Food and Fandom: Genya’s Almond Kulich

So I pretty much finished the Grisha trilogy recently, and if it were up to me, I’d make all the pastries that were mentioned in every page. Heck, I probably still might go back to a few of the foods that were showcased in the books, but a lot of them did come from Ruin and Rising.

One of which was the almond kulich.

“It’s just a ring.”

Zoya sighed and held the emerald up so it flashed. “I am horrible,” she said abruptly. “All these people dead, and I miss pretty things.”

Genya bit her lip, then blurted. “I miss almond kulich.”

It wasn’t a big mention, but I do adore Genya, and of course she’d mention missing the food at Os Alta of all the things to miss. Naturally, I went to look up a recipe and found one for almond ginger kulich. Bread takes such a long time to make, and I still haven’t got the hang of it much yet. I find I’m usually overbaking or overproofing something, but at least my arms are getting a workout with the kneading!

Kulich is apparently Russian bread that’s served during Easter. It kind of reminded me of the Romanian pasca, which I’d done a while back, which was this sweet cheese bread that was AMAZING. So honestly, I was way excited to try this one out.

Almond Kulich

Original recipe found at Vintage Kitchen.

I also…didn’t quite follow the recipe again, because I’m not a scotch and brandy kind of person, and I didn’t have crystallized ginger handy. SO. I used rum to infuse the raisins, cranberries, and orange zest. Instead of the ginger, I substituted with dried cranberries. I also ended up breaking off a third of the bread dough to make a nut-less version for allergy purposes. Honestly, I think that’s the one that came out the best.

Behold! A nut-less brioche-looking kulich!

And the best part? It’s great with tea!

Verdict: The fruits and almonds definitely weighed the bread down a bit, so it’s not as light and fluffy as I’d hoped. That being said, perhaps next time I’ll use cake flour instead of all-purpose and mix that with the bread flour. All that said, the almond version brought such a good combo of sweet and salty to the tongue, and with some bergamot and orange leaf tea? Holy crap, I definitely have my tea-time snacks for the next few days!

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Beautiful, Dirty, Rich || Crazy Rich Asians Review

Initial Thoughts: 

Alright, guys. GUYS. I was going to rate this a full mega five star but then I watched the movie and I absolutely loved the direction they went with it, along with the curtailing of subplots. But still. STILL. This book was fab. And I mean, timing, am I right?

Because beautiful, dirty, dirty, rich, rich, dirty, dirty, beautiful, dirty, rich.


CRAZY RICH ASIANS

by Kevin Kwan
Anchor Books, May 2014
Romance, adult contemporary fiction, humor
Rated: 4.5 / 5 cookies

When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor.

On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.

If I could quote the entire beginning of the book, I so would, because if the prologue was any indication of how the book would go, it certainly opened up with a bang. As is, I really enjoyed the story, as dramatic and rife with frustrating characters as it was, it was a helluva summer read, and I honestly want to visit Singapore now (not that I didn’t before…now it’s just a more immediate desire).

“They may not know the first thing about him, but they are all vying to become Mrs. Nicholas Young.”

Rachel took it all in quietly. It felt like Sophie was talking about some character of fiction, someone who bore no resemblance to the man she knew and had fallen in love with. It was as if she were Sleeping Beauty–only, she never asked to be awakened by a prince.

But honestly, I couldn’t have found a better timing to read this book. Eleanor Young was a firm believer that timing was everything for many reasons, and I think I agree. If I wasn’t in such a mood to read a rom-com book like Crazy Rich Asians I probably would not have had as much fun with it as I did. As is, when I finally did get cracking at the book, I realized this book was just for me, solely for the fact that every few pages there was food involved.

I got so food-hungry reading Dirty Rich Asians that I ended up making scones, clotted cream, and scoured the grocery stores for some lychee to make myself a lychee cocktail. Word. Food and fandom up this biznatch!

Nick stood at one end of the desserts, wondering what to have first: the goreng pisang with ice cream, the blancmange with mango sauce, or the chocolate chiffon cake.

Seriously, I was in Singapore food heaven. And it didn’t help that I was recognizing a lot of the goodies as SEA staples. (I mean, they talked about frying bananas in batter and I immediately went and fried myself a pack of turon to have for snacks…)

The street food alone… *drools*

Not only that, but the culture itself was a lot more relatable as far as the family values went. As someone whose family network is predominantly in Southeast Asia, a lot of the gossip and judgmental drama that occurred in the book mimicked what it is like growing up in a heavily SEA-oriented lifestyle. Of course, I could only imagine the stakes in the drama of the dirty rich, but again, similar focus.

The book is also heavy with commentary of lifestyle in the SEA community. There are problems with how the rich view the world, and yes, there’s a shitton of racism and social injustice even in the East. And if you take a deeper dive into the book to see how the society in Singapore work, you’d find that a lot of the SEA folk actually represented turn out to be live-in servants, nannies, and generally that of the working class.

“Did you hear me? Mainland China!

Philip was baffled. “Doesn’t everybody’s family ultimately originate from Mainland China? Where would you rather she be from? Iceland?”

“Don’t be funny with me! Her family comes from some ulu ulu village in China that nobody has ever heard of. The investigator thinks that they were most likely working class. In other words, they are PEASANTS!”

That being said, the book is first and foremost a romantic comedy. It is an Asian Pride and Prejudice. And let me tell you, I’ve been having my fair share of P&P binges this week. Too much Mr. Darcy is never too much, and I can now also say this about Nicholas Young. Yummy.

Hubba hubba indeed. Hello, TDH of the month.

(On a related note, I’ve also gone to see the movie this weekend, and I will have to agree with many others who’ve clamored and sang the movie’s praises: it was tremendously done, hilarious to a fault, and I cannot tell you how ecstatic I am to see a great rom-com back on the silver screens. Also, the curtailed plotlines with Astrid and Peik Lin were SO MUCH BETTER DONE in the film, not gonna lie. So. Yeah. WATCH IT!)

4.5 out of 5 cookies! Honestly, it should just be a 5 out of 5 if you combine the ending of the movie to the book itself. All the same, I’d totally still read the sequels.


Have you read this book or watched the movie? What did you think?

Of Mangoes and Sponges

So I’m sitting here eating cake (because of course I am), and I thought to myself: “I never actually did write a post about the mango cake I made a few weeks back…”

And because I haven’t actually got a book review ready for today, I figure, WHY NOT talk about the loveliness that is mangoes and cake?

Isn’t that scrumptious?

So I decided on mango cake because it was my father’s birthday, and he does love mangoes. Normally, we could easily get really good mango cake at the local Filipino bakeshop, but come on. I bake, and I wanted to try to make some kind of mango cake at some point.

Lucky for me, I found the perfect recipe to emulate! I found this mango sponge cake recipe at Natasha’s Kitchen, and she really does do a good job with the recipe, so I won’t go too much into it!

The recipe did call for thinly sliced mangoes, but with my oafish fingers, that wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I decided to cut a bunch up into cubes (or as close to cubes as I could) and then deal with the decorations by overcompensating with frosting. Oh, hah, but let me tell you about that frosting.

I’ve decided that I’m no longer a big fan of buttercream frosting. Too much buttery taste, which, if you paired it with something else, could actually taste good. All in all, though, there is a time and place for buttercream, and for all else, I usually like the touch of plain ole’ whipping cream.

In this case, though, the cream cheese frosting really did highlight the flavor of the mango and the cake! It wasn’t super sweet, it was lighter than I’d expected (and this is surprising, considering how dense cream cheese can be), and it was tres delicieuse!

In hindsight, the only thing I would change is the actual cake. I don’t know if it was because of my oven, which burnt the cake a bit, or if it’s the nature of sponge cake to be dense, but I would have loved it a bit more if it was a softer texture. Next time, I might try a mango chiffon cake with cream frosting…just the thought of it makes me drool.

That being said, this cake was still really good, especially once I started stacking each layer with the cream cheese frosting and the mango puree. (Side note: I actually didn’t add any extra sugar on the puree. The mangoes themselves were pretty sweet as is, and sugar seemed overkill.)

The cream cheese frosting, though…I may have run out of cream cheese frosting by the end of it. Silly me for wanting to go crazy on cream cheese frosting decorations!

Still, totally worth.

Verdict: All in all, it was a crowd-pleaser, to a point my picky dad even had more the next day. Again, the cake itself could have been chiffon softer, and I would make note not to add any extra sugar in the mango puree, if only to make the actual mango flavor shine. The cream cheese frosting was absolutely delicious!

Food and Fandom: A Tortallan Feast

Happy birthday to me!

I thought about actually doing a Top Ten Tuesday today, but come on, it’s a good day to celebrate with food! It also occurred to me that this would be my 50th Food and Fandom post ever, so how does one celebrate both her name day and her 50th F&F post?

Well, make a feast, that’s what!

Now, I realized I hadn’t actually reviewed Tortall: A Spy’s Guide by Tamora Pierce, so let me tell you how amazing it is first.

Tortall: A Spy’s Guide is kind of a compendium of notes and guidelines that were compiled by George Cooper. As the spymaster and Whisper Man of the Tortallan Crown, George has…quite a bit of interesting notes about the characters within the kingdom as well as notes on Immortals and the world around. The book itself is divided into several parts, and Tamora Pierce’s co-writers include Julie Holderman, Timothy Liebe, and Megan Messinger.

I won’t get too much into this book, because it’s really chock-ful of information–mostly spoilerish if you’ve never read a Tortall book before–of the series itself.

One of the sections in the book, however, dealt with a chef that George’s spies end up following with the thought that said chef was a spy. Turns out he wasn’t, but there’s a ton of journal entries in the book itself that details the chef’s plans for several dishes and feasts.

They want a great feast! I cannot believe it…I must prepare a feast to impress ambassadors and guests from other realms.

Some of these foodstuffs were very interesting, and I wish I’d had the time–and the ingredients–to do more! Maybe I’ll return to a few of them, including the George soup. But for now, I have a list of three!

Appetizer – Custard Tart with Cranberry Sauce

I have decided to include gooseberry tarts. Her Majesty loves my gooseberry tarts and such beauty should be made happy.

Alright, so this could technically be a dessert as well, but the illusion egg was all sweet, so I moved things around. The original recipe was for a gooseberry tart, however, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a gooseberry around me. So when I looked up a substitute recipe, the suggestion was for cranberry. Anyway, I found Paul Hollywood’s Egg Custard tarts recipe on BBC (because I’m obsessed by The Great British Bake Off and it was just perfect in this case). I topped it off with a cranberry sauce glaze.

For the cranberry sauce: 1 cup frozen cranberries, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water. Just reduced the sauce a bit, filtered the skins, and voila! Pretty easy.

Main Course – Poultry Pot Pie

As well as suckling pigs, I cannot get enough of any one small bird–quails, pigeons, doves, larks, ortolans, partridges–to make pies for everyone. I will use a mix, and call the resulting pies “a medley of small birds.” Our guests will believe I have done this on purpose and not because I could not obtain enough birds.

So I’ve been visiting the local H Mart, which is this Asian supermarket, and one of the awesome things I found is that they have given more variety to the term “poultry”. No longer is it just chicken, but all other manner of birds, game and domesticated. Anyway, I wasn’t daring enough to try the gamier birds like the fowl and the pheasant (but I will eventually!) but I did want to play with small birds, so I went with the Cornish hen and the quail!

I don’t think I really followed a recipe here. I was mostly improvising, but if anyone is looking to figure out what I did…

Ingredients

  • 1 Cornish hen
  • 6 quails
  • 1 package of peas
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 pound of potatoes (I used an assortment of purple and red), chopped
  • Salt, pepper, and paprika to taste

The Cornish hen was taken apart and boiled, then shredded. I’ve been using the new air fryer recently as well, so I used that for the quail, which I also shredded. I kept the legs because they were nice and crispy.

Dessert – Illusion Egg

I have designed an illusion dish. I will take the uncooked eggs of many birds–not just chicken eggs, but those of quails, geese, swans, and so forth, so my eggs will be of various sizes and colors…I will have Mathy the undercook place a mixture of sweetened almond milk and gelatin. We shall leave the filled eggs in our cold room to set for a day. Peeled, we will have white, yolkless “eggs” that seem perfectly normal until they are tasted. Then let visitors marvel at how sweet and mild our birds are!

The dessert was pretty much straightforward. While the chef in the Tortall book went with sweetened almond milk, I went for condensed milk, water, and gelatin. You’re pretty much just eating sweet milk jello, but it made me giggle!

And, that’s pretty much it! Omnomnom. Now time to go eat cake and stuff.

Food and Fandom: Tea Party Cupcakes

So my sister is getting married this weekend (probably today, considering when I’ve scheduled this post, hah!), and one of the things that have always been foremost on her mind was to include something from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in the theme of her wedding. This didn’t exactly come to pass on the wedding and the reception itself, but we bridesmaids made do by throwing her a smashing Wonderland-themed wedding shower!

Now, some of the things I personally loved about Wonderland is its massive world and its aesthetics. So we decided to take elements of Wonderland and put it in the food, drink, and decorations. Essentially, what we threw for the bride and groom was a mad tea party!

One of the things I worked on for the wedding shower was the tea party cupcakes, which I had originally wanted to make as a cake. But honestly, cake would mean slicing it and we were talking about tea-time goodies, so cupcakes sounded much better as a “grab and go” food for the event.

I found this Earl Grey cake recipe that I modified a bit so that I could make some two dozen or so cupcakes. I didn’t use the buttercream frosting, though a honey buttercream does sound amazing, but I figured a simple vanilla cream frosting could also bring up the Earl Grey flavor. (Also, I have found I’m not a big fan of buttercream, but I do love the lightness of whipped cream frosting.)

While the recipe called for a specific type of Earl Grey tea, the one I used was from Twinings (souvenir from London!) and Spices and Tease. I didn’t add the oil into the cupcake because I didn’t think it was needed, what with the butter already being there, and turns out it really wasn’t needed! Baking time was much less than the cake, which I put to about 14-15 minutes.

As for the frosting, I used roughly 3 cups of whipped cream with 1 cup of sugar and 2 tsp of vanilla extract. This gave such a lighter feel to the cupcake, and it ticked off all the boxes!

In any case, pair that up with some checkerboard sandwiches, a bit of Long Island Iced Tea (and some virgin ones for the non-drinkers, of course!), card rice krispies treats, and Wonderland-themed cookies, et voila, a mad tea party fit for a most deserving bride and her equally nerdy geeky groom!

I mean, not bad, right?