Monday, June 24, 2013

Fresh Watermelon Cake - boating, waving & failed jumps starts

failed jump starts
(to the Dutch version) Summer has possibly started. Possibly, because this year, around the globe, we seem to be experiencing a summer that could be best qualified as a string of failed jumpstarts. The few days with the promise of summer weather in Amsterdam are met with a frenzy of activities.

The last two days in Amsterdam were tropical. So tropical in fact, that even my visiting tropical mother in law took off her winter coat.

We experienced some severe weather in Paris a few days earlier. The sky went dark at 11 in the morning. To a jaw dropping point. On our way home, the storm followed us north.

The Louvre just before a hellish storm
Today it swooshed over the east of the Netherlands.

boating and waving

When it's hot, Amsterdam goes a little crazy. Boating has always been a popular pastime with the locals, and with all the canals around here, you can imagine a lot of them have a small boat. Or a big one. And some a very very big one.

Once a year, somehow all of the city decides to take all these boats for a spin.

Today is that day.

Sitting on a bench by the canal, watching the boats glide by, taking it all in with my better half, I wonder out loud why it is that people start waving at each other as soon as they are on the water.

"Because they are having fun"

"I meet a lot of people in the street having fun. They never wave."

It is like a switch is flipped: people on boats wave to people on other boats. People on boats wave to people in the street. People in the street wave to the people on the boat.

Sometimes the people in the street start to wave. Sometimes it's the people on the boat. Rarely ever is it a synchronized wave.

We spot a few of them, usually being exchanged between captains. Their casual waves serve another purpose than all the other waves. In keeping boat and passengers out of harms way, it pays to acknowledge your obstacles.

"It is about acknowledging."

"Acknowledging what?"


A man on a very big boat, filled with what appears to be his family, waves at us. We wave back.

"His wave, for instance, could mean; hey look at me, I'm special, I'm on a boat."

People in the street, probably tourists, start waving back as well.

"Now we are saying; Yes, look at you, you're on a boat. We acknowledge you are special!"

"You're such a mood killer. Just wave back and have fun!"

"I'm sorry. It's second nature to me to ask questions about behavior. Call it an occupational deviation."

improper conduct

At the other side of the canal a boy and a girl get ready to unlock their bikes and move elsewhere. The magic of summer is happening right in front of our eyes. There is an embrace, a tentative kiss, and soon a full blown display of improper conduct in a public place.

It silences us both. And makes us smile. The sun is finally defeated behind the horizon. Under the cover of the last bit of twilight the couple goes unseen by the occasional boat that is still going strong.

A young man walks past the kissing couple. He knows he'd be best of just ignoring them. But I see the slight drop in walking rhythm. I see him pushing his peripheral vision to the limit. And I see him decide to glance back at the couple, a split second before he actually goes ahead and does it.

He keeps on walking and looks back, swinging his head back low, stealing a glance from behind his own left shoulder. Just a split second. Then he turns back. He sees us, at the other side of the canal.

I can't help it; I wave at him. He waves back. A short, discrete little wave. A 'I know you saw what I just did and I feel a bit awkward now'-wave, accompanied by a smile that communicates the same.

"How warm is it now?"

"still 28° C."

"And tomorrow? What is tomorrow's forecast?"

"16° C."

"Guess we'll have to create our own summer this year..."

Fresh Watermelon Cake

1 ripe watermelon
any other fresh fruits available
1 or 2 cans of full fat coconut milk
3-5 TBSP of confectionery sugar
½ vanilla pod

The only time the oven isn't fired up in this house is when it gets really, really warm. To nevertheless meet any baking expectations on those days, you have to think out of the box. On the Internet, you can always find some one who did that for or before you. So, when I decided I wanted something cake and watermelon without turning on the oven,  Google came up with this, and after some rummaging around I went along with this. Notice how I search for recipes using pictures instead of text? You want to know why? It saves the hassle of clicking through a lot of recipes from conglomerate food sites that aren't always helpful. And pictures often speak louder than words, so I find researching and sourcing recipe ideas a lot less time consuming!

The recipe is simple. You take your watermelon, cut of the rounded ends, and shape yourself a nice cake base. The watermelon should be just about ripe so it won't leak too much liquid. I got a seedless one to make it easier to eat.

From here on there are two ways to go. You can either simply cut the rest of your seasonal fruits and dress up a colorful fresh-fruit-cake. Or you can start with whipping up a can of coconut milk that you have chilled overnight in the fridge and 'frost' your melon. Whipping cream out of coconut milk, can that be done?

Yes it can! You are going to need full fat coconut milk. The best way to ensure success is to avoid any liquid left in the can after refrigeration. Use two cans if you have a big cake, and just scoop out the solids, add some sugar to taste and some vanilla, and whip it up as you would with normal cream. It doesn't quite behave like the real thing, but you'll be surprised how good it holds on a watermelon.  Dab the melon as dry as you can manage and  cover with coconut. Make a nice decoration of other fruits on top and around the base of the cake. Here is a recipe for coconut whipped cream.

If you really want to go all 'you'll never guess there is a REAL watermelon inside of this', you can toast some almond slivers and sprinkle them on the frosting. No one will see it coming....

All in all it is a great 'cake' for various reasons: it is dairy free, gluten free, there's just some sugar in the coconut cream (that could even be left out if you really wanted to) and, most and foremost it is bake free, and that makes this a perfect option for a hot summer day!


Friday, June 7, 2013

Bread for the slashing impaired

After asking the question "would the technique that I'm using on the pain cordon work on a baguette"  out loud on the net, the answer came back with the speed of light in the shape of this video.  5.14 minutes into the vid you can see how these Cuban bakers (in Florida) are using what looks like strips of leaf to let the dough rise on. Make sure to watch the rest of the video as well. It's worth the 7 minutes of your life, in case you are a dough head that is. Enjoy!


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Date, Chocolate & Orange Entremet

For the first time in years my better half celebrated his birthday without me. While I guarded the fort, he has taken his mother on a trip to Spain, where she'd never been before. She saw Barcelona, was in awe with Alhambra, found out how hip Valencia actually is, saw Guru's baby, who just happened to be in Torre Viejo, and ended up in the Hilton in Sevilla.

I like Sevilla, the land of oranges. I was there with my partner long ago. We took this picture there, in the days before there was anything like digital photography. It later became the picture on our customised wedding-invitation stamps.

He took another picture when he passed the same spot again this time around. With one click, he made it, shared it, I got it and had to laugh. I love the 21st century.

Tonight they're coming home. And of course I had to make him a belated birthday cake. It's an entremet to be exact, not a cake. A base layer of sponge with dates, covered with home made marmalade, topped with a dark chocolate mousse, then a layer of orange mousse, and finishing with an orange jelly. And orange tuiles for decoration and crunch. I've tasted all the separate parts, and that was wonderful. I will have to wait until the travellers find their way home late tonight.

date chocolate & orange entremet

I made it straight from a recipe on the net. The recipe works like a jiffy. The only warning: use the smallest bowls in the house to mix your ingredients. Because of the many different layers, you end up mixing tiny amounts for this one cake. Next time I'm making it, I'll make it easy on myself, and make two in one go!

Thank you Silvia and Ivan from mushitza for sharing this great dessert. Enjoy!