Rhubarb and Mascarpone

I’m in a Starbucks, sitting at a window seat from which my field of vision spills out like the sun onto a lightly bleached lower Spadina. It’s hard to believe the Thursday rain, the February pain. It feels, even if it’s not the case, that summer’s speaking. It just feels that way. But I still have my soft-spun sweater on, my hair still cascades my lower back. No, my closet hasn’t moulted, and my hair’s still a winter mane. I might be hesitant. I just might.

What am I waiting for? Rather, what do I hope awaits me? Or take hope from the equation and let’s be real.

What now? What then?

If I wished time would stop, it wouldn’t, not for me. Because the clouds won’t stay up forever. They all fall from their little heaven. Because seeds don’t sleep forever. They all come back alive from the dead.

Yes, there’s a foot still for the asparagus to grow. A few more hues until the rhubarb is red. A couple nights before the ramps go hide. And a blink of eye before fiddlehead becomes fern.

Yes, time’s on its way. And since it won’t stop for me, then it may as well be. Be, for me. Yes, I know it. It’s coming, a time just for me. I just don’t know when.

Like spring. Like seasons. We know it’s coming. Just not exactly when.

Caramelized Rhubarb, Whipped Mascarpone, Dried Rose
Caramelized Rhubarb, Whipped Mascarpone, Dried Rose

Homemade Mascarpone

  • 500 ml heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  1. In a sauce pan, heat the cream gently to a low simmer (180°F), and keep it at that state for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  2. Add the lemon juice and continue simmering and stirring for another 3 minutes. Be careful not to boil the cream.
  3. Remove from the heat and pour into a mason jar for a loose mascarpone, or pour into a sieve with a double-layer of cheesecloth set over a large bowl if you want a thicker consistency.
  4. Cool completely then refrigerate overnight to set. Discard any excess whey that may have accumulated. This will keep nicely for about a week in your fridge.

Caramelized Rhubarb

  • 1 bunch, about 2lbs fresh rhubarb, cut into 2-inch batons
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • Pinch sea salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F with the rack in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the rhubarb with oil, sugar, and salt.
  3. Arranger the rhubarb, concave side down on the baking sheet. Sprinkle any leftover sugar on top.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes or until caramelized and flattened.
  5. Cool completely and store in the fridge.

Dried Rose Dust

  • 1/2 c dried rosehips
  1. Place the rosehips in a clean spice grinder and blitz ti as fine as possible.
  2. Gently tap the powder through a fine sieve and discard any larger bits or leftover fuzz.
  3. Store the passed rose powder in a small clean jar and seal tightly. Use within a month.

Caramelized Rhubarb with Whipped Mascarpone, and Dried Rose

serves 6-8

  • Caramelized Rhubarb
  • Homemade Mascarpone
  • Dried Rose Dust
  • honey, preferably lavender or orange blossom
  • your favourite granola
  1. Lift the rhubarb gently from the baking dish and arrange on serving plates.
  2. Whip the mascarpone to stiff peaks (I used the loose version). Spoon dollops of this onto the rhubarb.
  3. Add a light dusting of rose by tapping it through a sieve over the mascarpone.
  4. Garnish with granola and a generous drizzle of honey.
  5. Serve immediately.

Does ice cream make kids smarter?

I enjoy reading The Economist during dinnertime, a source of convenient insight and quick information that I generally trust to have some level of class and be reasonably unbiased. In the rare cases where opinion is wheeled onto center stage on a trolley, it would be clearly labelled “THIS IS AN OPINION. NOT FACT”, so nobody unknowingly swallows it to end up suffering an ill reaction. But a couple weeks ago, an article The beneficial effects of ice-cream on intelligence – a delicious correlation left me in want. Sure, it reminded me that I hadn’t had ice cream in weeks, but the article straight up from its title, made me spit out half of my dinner (a confit tuna tartine, if you were wondering).

It’s like that moment when you hear the bubble containing your prince charming pops and out hops a silly google-eyed frog.

First, correlation is correlation is JUST correlation. And not in a million years, not EVER, will it mean causation. Consider two statements:

  1. Red cars are more likely to be involved in car accidents than any other colour.
  2. Driving a red car is more dangerous than driving a car of any other colour.

Both say the same thing, right?

Not quite. The first one is a statement about correlation and the second is about causation. A correlation acknowledges a pattern in an observation. It is a description, and is completely acceptable. However, the second is a statement of a causation, that the colour red itself has an influence on a driver’s likelihood of getting into a car accident. This is not acceptable, because obviously if the colour red really made a car more dangerous, all the red cars would be recalled. In this case, it is actually psychology at work as seeing the colour red tends to arouse excitement and aggression in people, and drivers of red cars usually pick that colour because its boldness resonates with them. I’m probably wrong with this last explanation, but forgive me, I’m no psychologist.

Now, back to ice cream. From the graph, one could say that for most countries higher per capita consumption of ice cream tend to be observed with a higher PISA educational performance test score. But by stating that eating ice cream somehow makes you smarter, they’re implying a cause and effect relationship that is found not even in the most all-things-fit dietitian’s handbook. But of course, most people would’ve already headed out to grab a tub of Breyers or Ben and Jerry’s upon reading the title.

But let me make this clear, despite my burning desire for the opposite to be true: ice cream does not make you smarter.

Scooping back into the graph, you’ll see a bunch of uber-smart Asian kids from rich East Asian countries (Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong) who are way too smart for the amount of ice cream they eat. (Them Asian parents are strict!) Some rich white countries who are eating way too much ice cream for their brain to absorb (brainfreeze!). And places like Peru, Brazil, Germany, and Canada where the kids are eating just the right amount of ice cream for their IQ.

That definitely made logical sense to me.

Said no one ever.

So how do we explain this weird semi-solid pattern? I’m no economist, or social scientist, or education specialist or whatever, but I do know a thing or two about ice cream, so let’s start there.

There are a few things that ice cream needs: ice, and cream. See? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure stuff out.

Now ice** does this inconvenient thing where it melts, so in order to have ice (or ice cream), we need refrigerators. Refrigerators are one of the best things that came out of the industrial revolution. They are typically quite pricey, and you’d only get one if there’s a reliable source of electricity in your house. Even now they are only widely distributed in fully industrialized countries. In India, for example, less than 10% of households have a refrigerator (only a portion of which would include a freezer). In the United States on the other hand, of those households below the poverty line (living off less than $1 per day per person), 97.8% have a refrigerator. In other words, the availability of refrigeration, depends on the presence and extent of a nation’s level of industrialization, wealth, and access to stable sources of electricity. This would explain why developing countries don’t eat much ice cream.

As for this cream thing, it comes from dairy cows which require tons of land. In East Asia, the population density index or number of people per square kilometer is between 336.33 for Japan and 7987.52 for Singapore. Compare that to the average minimum land requirement per dairy cow of 0.0074 square kilometers or maximum density of 135.91 cows per km2 , and you’ll realize that a single cow can be worth up to 59 people in terms of land requirements. Now you see why dairy’s just not that big a deal in East Asia, in fact, signing up to do dairy production in East Asia is probably the worst deal ever. The unavailability of dairy, and the fact that East Asian food cultures were virtually dairy-free for thousands of years largely explains why Asian kids don’t eat much ice cream.

For developed nations with tons of land for their population such as Australia, Sweden, Finland, and United States whose population densities range from 2.91 to 32.45, they have the perfect conditions for eating ice cream. And I mean, it’s ice cream, so sky’s the limit.

Now what about the middle countries that seem to follow the rule? A bunch of things, but the main relationship between ice cream consumption and educational test scores among kids I would say is this: since ice cream is more or less a product of wealth, industrialization, basic utilities and infrastructure, land, and western culture, it should be closely related to student test scores which shares much of the same inputs. (Again, East Asian culture would be an outlier as its emphasis on early education exceeds that of the already strong emphasis in Western culture. And land isn’t really an issue with learning.)

I don’t blame the Economist, really, after all the fun the article provided me. But now I wonder what they’ll post next – “Eating rice turns you Asian”? That’ll be a fun one.

**Ice cream used to be cream poured into a bucket surrounded by ice, have ice cream machines now, where you freeze the bowl so you don’t need chunks of ice.

For the foolishness of God

is wiser than human wisdom,

and the weakness of God

is stronger than human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:25

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Orange Pekoe Ice Cream

Orange Pekoe Ice Cream – about 1 pint

  • 375 ml half-and-half or 18% cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 165 g brown sugar
  • 8 orange pekoe tea bags, cut open
  • 2 earl grey tea bags, cut open
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Empty the tea bags into a small saucepot and pour in the cream. Bring almost to a simmer on medium low heat, stirring constantly.  Turn off the heat as soon as the mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat and place on a trivet. Cover and let steep for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together the yolk, sugar, and salt until pale.
  3. Strain the steeped cream through a fine sieve into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to prevent cooking the eggs.
  4. Strain the mixture through the sieve again back into the saucepot.
  5. Cook on medium low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat.
  6. Cool completely before chilling overnight in the fridge.
  7. Once the custard is completely chilled, churn in an ice cream machine for about 25-30 minutes, or until the consistency of buttercream frosting. (I like to churn it slightly past the creamy gelato stage because I find the ice creams tend to be a bit too solid and hard to scoop with the smaller amount of air incorporated.)
  8. Enjoy immediately (the biggest joy of making your own ice cream), or

The teas suggested here are just the beginning – I’ve made the same recipe using chai and thai tea as well, I just can’t tell which one I like better! Want to next-level it? Scoop it into a whisky glass and top with home-cooked boba! You’re welcome.

Equal and Distinct

It’s been a while since I last posted, so forgive me if my words seem a little rusty. And no, I haven’t forgotten the whole debate thing, but when I have a recipe that really excites me, I don’t want any distraction – I just want to get it on the table.

 

As many of you know, dessert-for-breakfast is a pretty standard card on my table. From apple pie, to pain au chocolat, to honey kasutera, and black sesame tang yuan – you see why I have no trouble waking up each morning.

This week, it’s been brownies. The first batch had crisp, crumbly edges and a dense interior. I ate these for breakfast for five days straight, and they were fine, but far from perfect. They were a little too tall, a little too crumbly, and they didn’t have the shiny craggle-top. So I changed a few things – same ingredients, same measurements, different technique, and these came out.

I tried to give as much detail as possible and as much reasoning as possible to demystify what makes a ‘perfect’ brownie and in a way that you’d remember. And by the way, these are gluten free – not because I was trying to go for a GF recipe, but because I love the combination of dark chocolate and buckwheat, and believe it or not, I find it much easier to work with.

“I have always loved you,”

says the Lord.

Malachi 1:2

Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Brownies

Dark Chocolate Buckwheat Brownies – makes 1 8 by 8 inch slab

  • 4 free range eggs, at room temperature
  • 180 ml packed golden sugar
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 125 ml unsalted butter
  • 300 ml chopped dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips
  • 240 ml buckwheat flour
  1. Place the eggs, sugar, salt, and olive oil in a mixing bowl and beat with a fork until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside. (Using a fork instead of a whisk or electric beaters will minimize the amount of air incorporated into the batter, giving you denser and fudgier brownies. The dissolved sugar that binds with the egg forms a skin as it dries during the beginning stages of baking – similar to the smooth shell of macarons.)
  2. In a small saucepot, melt the butter over medium low heat, swirling occasionally. As soon as the butter is melted, add all of the chocolate and turn off the heat. Let the mixture sit for 30 seconds, then stir gently for about 2 minutes until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. (Butter melts at 35°C, and chocolate melts at 30°C. Since the eggs only coagulate at around 60°C, you should have no problem combining the two directly.)
  3. Pour all of the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and mix with a fork until smooth and shiny. Add all of the buckwheat flour and fold it in gently with a fork, making sure you get rid of any lumps. (The finished batter should be smooth, shiny, and considerably runny for a brownie. Don’t worry, it only seems very runny because it has tons of melted fat and un-coagulated protein.)
  4. Line an 8-by-8 inch square baking pan with parchment extending up the sides and pour in the batter. Tap it firmly against your counter for 5-7 times to get rid of any air bubbles. (Air bubbles will rise to the surface during baking and break the craggly skin you want.)
  5. Allow the mixture to rest for 20-30 minutes as you preheat the oven to 325°F, placing the rack slightly above the middle of the oven. (Most recipes will give 350°F as the temperature setting, but the same ingredient transformations such as proteins denaturing, sugars rearranging, and starches gelatinizing can all happen at a lower temperature. In addition, the low temperature ensures that the cooking is more even since heat travels through mediums at a constant speed regardless of the difference between the surrounding temperature and the medium’s temperature, and a slower and lesser rise which will not disturb the delicate wafer-thin skin that forms at the top nor turn the brownie cake-y.)
  6. Bake for 28-30 minutes, or until the middle is puffed up, shiny, but still jiggles when you shake it gently. (The middle only puffs up because the moisture there is heated through, becoming steam which rises, but it is still wobbly which means that the starches haven’t completely expanded and set up. In other words, it’s cooked but not over-baked.)
  7. Place directly on the counter and cool to room temperature. If you would like, now is the time to sprinkle on some fleur de sel – while it’s hot and still giving off steam so it sticks. (You want to cool the brownie down as quickly as possible so that the center stops cooking immediately, contracts back down, and turns the smooth shiny skin into the craggle-top. Air is a poor conductor of heat, so cooling it on a rack is about as ineffective as you can do. If you have a marble countertop that is the best way to go.)
  8. Chill completely in the refrigerator, uncovered, for about 2 hours. Once chilled, lift the brownie slab from the pan by holding the extended sides of parchment. Cut into 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, or 16 slices – whatever you fancy. I like  to cut them into 6 pieces, makes the perfect breakfast size for me. (Chilling the brownies before slicing solidifies the butter and chocolate fats, giving you cleaner edges.)

You can bring them back to room temperature to serve once you’ve cut them, pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds so they get all gooey, or have them straight from the fridge. I prefer the last one.

Now, how many brownie points did I just earn?

A Slice of American Pie

America’s large, loud trumpet that is Trump knows only one tune: “Wrong.”

The following is an excerpt from his speech on trade, corrected by me so that it actually addresses trade.

“We allowed foreign countries to subsidize their goods, devalue their currencies, violate their agreements and cheat in every way imaginable, and our politicians did nothing about it. Because these countries are sovereign states and as a sovereign state ourselves, we respect that fact and have no right, nor power to tell them otherwise. Trillions of our dollars and millions of our jobs flowed overseas, while trillions of dollars flowed into and millions more jobs were created in this country as a result of globalization, an unstoppable wave that crashes against the walls that separate the Us and Them. At the same time I have visited cities and towns across this country where one-third or even half of manufacturing jobs have been wiped out in the last 20 years, to be replaced by even more jobs in high-paying tech, finance, and service sectors.

Today, we import nearly $800 billion more in goods than we export because we are a major consumption power and have a huge economy that generates enough income to support this spending (or have established enough credit to be able to finance it). We can’t continue to pretend as if we can stand to be an autarky, as if we can survive the world we are in now by raising up walls made of taxes and restrictions. This is not some natural disaster, it’s a hodge-podge of globalization, technology, and cultural evolution. Very simple. And it need not be corrected because trying to do so would endorse isolation, reversion, and the undoing of everything the years after the two World Wars and the Cold War has taught us. It would mean turning our greatest trading partners, China, Mexico, and the European Union into our adversaries and losing out on over 40% of our country’s total trade volume. It would be the consequence… It would be the consequence of a leadership class that worships Americanism and perversely sacrifices its diverse economy and position as a world economic superpower to satisfy its dream of becoming an endless field of corn as yellow as Donald’s hair. This would be a direct affront to our founding fathers, who wanted America to be strong. They wanted this country to be strong. They wanted to be independent and they wanted it to be free. This means not building a cage around ourselves.

Our founding fathers understood trade much better than Donald, believe me.

George Washington said that the promotion of domestic manufacturing will be among the first consequences to flow from an energetic government. That was in the 18th century, in an era where the posterchild of the world was Britain due to the first industrial revolution. Alexander Hamilton spoke frequently of the expediency of encouraging manufacturing in, in, in the United States. He died in 1804, had he witnessed the birth of the Internet, and the dawn of Big Data, he might have focused on that instead. Might I remind you, that we live in the 21st Century?

And listen to this. The first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, warned that, quote, “the abandonment of the protective policy by the American government will produce want and ruin among our people.” This was under the context of an American torn and shattered by the Civil War that lasted during his presidency. And as anyone who has taken a political science or history course, Abraham understood that in order to hold America together, resources must be focused inward to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, economy, and cohesion. He understood it much better than Trump, that’s why he was Abraham Lincoln, I guess.

Yes, our original Constitution did not even have an income tax. Instead, it had tariffs emphasizing taxation of foreign, not domestic, production. Yes, because the original Constitution was signed in 1787, when America just hopped onto the industrial revolution choo-choo train and it needed to protect its fledgling manufacturing sector from its major competitor, Britain.

Today, 240 years after the Revolution, we’ve turned things completely upside down for good. We tax and regulate and restrict our companies because they are the biggest users of the America’s resources, and we allow foreign countries to export their goods to us tax-free so the American people can enjoy a higher abundance of goods at a lower cost.

As a result, we have become more dependent on foreign countries than ever before, just as they have become more dependent on us. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to embrace co-operation and winning together.

That means not voting for Donald Trump.”

Now, I say this because I love you, America. And also because I want you to keep making cream cheese and apple pie.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit,

but with humility of mind regard one another

as more important than yourselves;

Philippians 2:3

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Creme Brulee Apple Pie-Stuffed Cheesecake

Creme Brulee Apple Pie-Stuffed Cheesecake

Butter Biscuit Crust:

  • 1 sleeve maria biscuits, broken into pieces
  • 1/2 c butter, melted
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Place the maria biscuits into a food processor, and pulse until they become uniform fine crumbs.
  2. Add the butter and salt and pulse until mixture is moistened.
  3. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and press the cookie mixture firmly into the pan to form the crust. Chill for 30 minutes in the fridge.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and. Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly golden. Cool.

Cheesecake Batter:

  • 500 g full fat Philadelphia cream cheese, cubed (2 bricks)
  • 1 kg cottage cheese
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 8-inch apple pie (store-bought)
  1. Place cottage cheese in a blender and blend on medium speed until thick and creamy. Add the salt, sugar, vanilla, and cream cheese brick by brick, then the eggs, one at a time.
  2. Divide the batter in half, and whisk in the cinnamon into one half.
  3. Pour the cinnamon cheesecake batter over the crust. Gently put in the apple pie, and pour the plain vanilla cheesecake batter on top to completely cover the pie.
  4. Bake at 300 degrees F on the middle rack for 45-50 minutes, or until almost set (with a slight jiggle in the center). Place a tray of water in the lower rack to prevent cracks from forming.
  5. Cool completely before chilling overnight.

Brulee Sugar Top:

  1. To serve, slice the cheesecake into 12 slices, running the blade under hot water between each cut to get the cleanest slices.
  2. Sprinkle the top of each slice generously with 2 tsp white sugar. Using a blowtorch, brulee the top until sugar is melted and caramelized.
  3. Chill for another 15 minutes to let the sugar harden a bit more for extra crunch.

Enjoy!

the catch: suspicion

I have never befriended rhubarb.

Not because of any particular scornful or contemptuous experience, but straight-up that I never even tried. Surrounding this strange celery-chard looking vegetable that bears as much resemblance to a fruit as a tomato does to a vegetable but which somehow passes as one in all of the best baked offerings in this balmy season were too many questions for this me of a stranger.

Why is it sometimes pale green dirtied with half hearted contours of muddied red? And does that mean it’s unripe and therefore toxic to eat (in parallel with tomatoes)? Do I roast or stew it first before incorporating it into recipes, or does it soften at a compatible rate as the rate at which most pastries and batters cook? How well does it retain its bright red colour under heat? How acidic is it really? And this last one which for some odd reason gives me a level of unrest borderlining the societal anxiety associated with the oatmeal cookie raisin-vs-chocolate debate: are strawberries a must?

As you can see, in the time I spent deliberating each of these questions, the following two recipes could have been sent well on their way in the oven. To further the iron content in all this, all of those questions were answered only after I got my hands gritty with two pounds of rhubarb.

And the fruits of this new-found friendship, as you will soon discover in the recipes to follow, are worth the labour.

So that got me thinking, maybe people are (just) like rhubarb? Such that as one actually makes the simple effort of adding a bit of warmth and sweetness to the equation, it solves itself, and the questions either melt away and become negligible, or are answered in the process?

Oil and perfume

make the heart glad,

so a man’s counsel

is sweet

to his friend.

Proverbs 27:9

Rhubarb Shortbread Bars
Rhubarb Shortbread Bars

Rhubarb Shortbread Bars – makes 1 9-inch square pan

For the butter shortbread

  • 1 1/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1/2 c icing sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2-3 tbsp cold water
  1. Line a square baking pan with parchment paper extending past the sides by at least 1 inch (this will act as ‘handles’ by which you can lift out the entire piece later for slicing).
  2. Place the flour, sugar, salt, and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is even and very pale yellow throughout.
  3. With the motor running, add the water one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture begins to clump together.
  4. Dump the crumbly dough into the prepared pan and press it down firmly to form an even layer right to the edges.
  5. Stick the pan in the freezer to chill for 10~15 minutes as you preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  6. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden and the top no longer appears wet.
  7. Take it out to cool as you make the rhubarb curd.

For the rhubarb curd

  • 1 lb rhubarb, chopped
  • 1 can (355ml) cranberry juice concentrate
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 c cornstarch
  • 3 eggs
  • few drops red food coloring, optional
  1.  Place the rhubarb, cranberry juice concentrate, and sugar in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and continue to simmer until the rhubarb is very tender, about 20 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool completely.
  2. In a blender, blend together the rhubarb mixture (including all the liquid), cornstarch, eggs, and food coloring until smooth.
  3. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until very thick (the mixture is quite thick to begin with, so it’s safe to bring the mixture to a sure simmer, which also ensures that the starch-destroying enzyme alpha-amylase is gotten rid of).
  4. Pour the curd onto the baked shortbread base, smooth out the top with a spatula, and bake at 300 degrees F on the lowest rack for a further 30-35 minutes, or until only a slight jiggle remains in the center.
  5. Cool completely on a rack before putting it in the fridge to set overnight.
  6. To serve, loosen the edges by sliding a thin knife right along the sides of the pan. Grab the extended parchment handles firmly and lift the entire bar out onto a cutting board. Make neat slices with a straight-edged knife by running the blade under hot water and quickly wiping it dry before every slice. There’s no need to dust it with icing sugar as the bars will have produced a nice glaze on its own.

Enjoy!

Cranberry Braised Rhubarb
Cranberry Braised Rhubarb

And east is east and

west is west

and if you take cranberries

and stew them

like applesauce

they taste much more like prunes

than rhubarb does.

~ Groucho Marx, 1890-1977

Rhubarb Almond Cream Tart
Rhubarb Frangipane Tarte Fine

Rhubarb Frangipane Tarte Fine – makes 2 tarts as pictured above, adapted from the Bojon Gourmet’s Rustic Rhubarb, Almond, and Honey Tart

For the Almond Frangipane:

  • 90 g ground almonds
  • 75 g sugar
  • 40 g rice flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 85 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender (if you are using a blender, make sure you put the eggs in first so the blender can run smoothly) and blend until as smooth and even as it will go. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days if not using immediately.

For the rest of the Rhubarb Tart:

  • 2 sheets puff pastry
  • 6 rhubarb stalks cut in half crosswise (so that it fits on the pastry), about 1 pound
  • 1 beaten egg, for brushing
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • icing sugar, for dusting
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, with the rack placed in the top third of the oven.
  2. Dust the pastry with flour and roll it out to fit the pan. Prick the pastry all over with a fork, leaving only the outer 1 inch un-pricked.
  3. Divide the almond cream between the two rolled sheets of dough and spread evenly, leaving the outer 1-inch bare.
  4. Arrange the rhubarb over the almond cream.
  5. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg and sprinkle sugar on the rhubarb and the brushed edges.
  6. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the rhubarb is tender.
  7. Let cool before dusting with icing sugar and slicing.

Enjoy!

Instagram: we’ve been doing it all wrong

In this post tech-bubble ecosystem we are, for an overwhelmingly fat part, bottomless feeders. No, we are not eating nonstop, though we are certainly eating way more than our grandparents did. What we can’t get enough of, however, is that intangible feed that stretches on into the endless abyss beyond the southernmost limit of your screen.

Yet despite doing backstrokes all day every day in this sea of information, we are starved.

Why?

Because the feed is junk.

Yes, Instagram, Facebook, and all those other Gen-Y habitats make information so liquid, so accessible, and so abundant, but with such high traffic, one thing became indispensable – selection. Not in expanding (we’ve already gone off the charts with that), but in narrowing, because too much choice stresses us out and even though getting that tenth like still feels synonymous to touching your toes in the morning, it’s in these platforms’ interest to generate as many likes as possible.

If you’re not convinced, think of the extreme case: if a contributor never got a single like despite consistent postings, would he be inclined to continue? Probably not, because he could probably post on an alternative platform an gain a greater following.

So these platforms got really smart, and learned from the users. Who has their attention? What did they like? What did they search for? Every reaction that results in a click becomes a data point that’s used to generate a feed that’s more in tune with your history of reactions, more interesting to you. But don’t take my word for it, ask Insta.

Now, for anyone who’s at all into statistics (but don’t worry if you’re not, what follows isn’t rocket science), when trying to estimate a parameter from a random sample, the bigger the sample, the better your estimate. In other words, Instagram takes all your clicks, and from those, computes a range for your interests. It then projects you a feed based on that range of what it thinks you’d like. You’re happy too, because you’re seeing all the stuff that you usually like, and you click away in autopilot glee.

This happens over and over again, like the circle of life. And as your collection of likes grows, that range becomes ever smaller and your likes become ever more concentrated around a single subject because that’s all your feed feeds you. This results in an even narrower range. At this point, Insta knows a ton about your preferences and can pretty much pinpoint your sweet spot.

Guess what your feed looks like now?

Yup, everything is what you like. Everything is the same. Everything reflects you.

What you once thought was supposed to broaden our creative minds now projects our very selves back at us. Yup, Socrates would have been all over this.

Is there a way out? I would suggest two, both equally implausible. One: give zero information, so no liking, no following, no searching by hashtags. Or two: be completely unbiased in what you react to, so like everything, follow everything, and search up every word in the dictionary and the urban dictionary. Or three: if you like the way your feed looks that much…

then baby you should go and love yourself.

For if anyone thinks

he is something,

when

he is nothing,

then

he deceives himself.

Galatians 6:3

Honey Lemon Tart with Honey Chantilly and Honeycomb
Honey Lemon Tart with Honey Chantilly and Honeycomb

Honey Almond Pate Sablée

  • 2 c AP flour
  • 3/4 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp light honey
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  1. Place the flour, butter, and salt in a food processor and pulse until crumbly.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, honey, and almond extract.
  3. Add the egg mixture into the dry mixture and pulse until a soft dough forms.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and pat it into an inch-thick disc. Wrap tightly and freeze for 20 minutes.
  5. Unwrap the dough and roll it out to 0.5 cm thick, dusting with flour as needed. Press it into a fluted 9 or 10-inch tart tin. Don’t worry if the dough rips – just trim the edges and use the scraps to patch up the tears. After trimming and patching, press the edges against the sides of the tin to push up the dough about 0.5 cm above the height of the rim. Dock with a fork and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the tart shell directly for 18 minutes, do not blind bake this.
  7. If the bottom has puffed up, gently pat it down while the pastry is still warm. Cool completely.

Honey Lemon Custard

  • zest of 5 lemons, divided
  • juice of 5 lemons
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 c light honey
  • 350 ml whole milk
  • 170 g unsalted butter, cubed
  1. Whisk together the zest of 4 lemons, all the juice, eggs, and honey in a heavy saucepan on medium heat until starting to thicken. Gradually whisk in the milk until well incorporated and the mixture thickens again.
  2. Strain into a bowl, then stir in the butter and remaining zest until smooth.
  3. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Pour the custard into the baked tart shell and bake for 30-40 minutes. The center should still be quite wobbly.
  4. Let cool and chill overnight until set.

Honey Vanilla Chantilly

  • 250 ml cold heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp light honey
  1. Stir together all ingredients in a large bowl, then whisk to soft peaks. Keep chilled.

Salted Honeycomb

  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 c sugar
  • scant 1/2 c light honey
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the sugar and honey in a heavy saucepan and bring the mixture up to a boil. Stir until all the solids have dissolved.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. Continue to stir until the baking soda completely dissolves.
  4. Scrape the mixture onto the lined baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt. Let it cool completely until hard, then break into pieces.

To serve, slice the tart with a hot knife (run it under hot water then wipe it dry). Top with a dollop of whipped cream, garnished with a few chunks of honeycomb.

Enjoy!