Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Rare Sighting

A team of folklorists recording indigenous birthday songs of the far north disappeared en route to a remote village. They left no trace other than a knapsack stuffed with garbled and incomplete recipes and a roll of film containing a single mysterious photo, reproduced here.



Based on this evidence, we completed a painstaking reconstruction and arrived at the following artist's rendering. We are not sure what to make of the startling resemblance it bears to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics mascot, Quatchi.



The combination of dense spice cake, fluffy maple frosting and crunchy nut topping was particularly pleasing.

Cake

The cake is an applesauce cake baked in a 9 x 13 pan. We used the recipe from the 1950's Joy of Cooking and doubled it, dispensing extra batter into a couple of auxiliary ramekins. As suggested by JoC, we replaced 1/4 cup of the cake flour with cocoa, which we mixed with the currants before adding them to the batter. The batter was quite thick, and the finished cake surprisingly dense. It would be interesting to try the applesauce cake from the 1990's Joy, which is very similar, but has less flour and sugar (also fewer currants, but that's just modern wrong-headedness).

According to our usual procedure, we froze the cake before cutting, which was particularly important with this recipe as the cake is slightly sticky and the abundance of currants makes neat cuts more difficult to achieve.

Frosting

We used the Maple Sirup (sic) Icing from the 1950's Joy of Cooking and made a made a one and a half times batch, which turned out to be a good amount. This is a beaten egg icing made with boiling syrup, which was a new adventure for us. It's not difficult to make, although we nearly missed taking the syrup off the heat in time, as it jumped rapidly up to temperature after hovering just short for quite a while. We poured the hot syrup slowly out of the pan into the egg white mixture, but it would have been better to pour it quickly into a heatproof bowl first, as the last of the syrup overcooked from the residual heat and stuck to the pan.

The frosting was easy to spread and had a lovely texture and flavor. It also kept well over the several days it took to polish off the last of the cake. The recipe is definitely a keeper although a bit pricey, given the cost of maple syrup these days.

Topping

2/3 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely ground
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cocoa
(Quantities are approximate.)

Mix the ingredients and sprinkle on top of frosted cake. After applying topping, dust with large sugar crystals, concentrating the crystals in streaks to suggest clumps of sasquatch hair.

Boots

The boots are strips of apple and strawberry flavored Stretch Island fruit leather. This appears to be a relatively new brand, and does not contain food coloring, making it permissible under the manifesto.

We wanted to make the frosting under the boots not look like bare skin, so we mixed dried ginger with white sugar and sprinkled it on the legs before applying the fruit leather. This was a mistake - the ginger was overpoweringly hot. It still tasted good, in a Thai sort of way - it would be interesting to try slightly more controlled amounts on a different kind of cake.

Finishing Touches

The eyes are squashed raisins, the nose a brazil nut, and the mouth a piece of licorice whip.

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