Frustrations and Tea Cakes

I really wanted to call this post frustrations and fruitcakes because it sounded better,
but it would have been false advertising, plus fruitcake are both unpopular and out of season.
While reading my friend's blog this morning I realized that bad days are universal.  No matter what you do for a living, you are bound to have one of those days that just levels you.  You get to work ready to take on whatever you are supposed to face that day and then you are steered into one too many wrong directions and you realize that you would have been better off sleeping through till the next day.  Monday was one of those days for me.  One aggravating situation after another turned the day into my own personal version of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. By 6:00 PM I was out the door, looking forward to a run to blow off some steam.  I was exhausted but figured that my day would probably benefit more from a run than an evening on my couch with my TV and Campari and soda, so off I went.  The weather was perfect and my run took me on a short tour around the monuments.
I am lucky live in a city where a short run means being able to take see such fabulous views.
As I turned onto P street I slowed down and did something I swore I would never do.  I walked into Whole Foods covered in a post run sweat.  I can't tell you how many times I've been waiting in line at Whole Foods and someone has stood behind me to check out smelling like the workout they just had.  This is probably because there is an absurd number of yoga studios and gyms within a 2 block radius of the store, but still.  Do you really not have time to shower before you shop for your dinner?  Embarrassed that I used to judge the person I had just become, I walked into the store to find something to cook.
A friend who tasted my mango sorbet suggested I try to make a pina colada version.  I picked up some pineapple and coconut milk and decided to give it a try.  After looking up a few recipes I decided to combine one from Holy Cannoli and one from a random Google search.  While the recipe mash up wasn't a great success, the work frustration that the run didn't get rid of was quickly squashed by chopping and pureeing an entire pineapple.  While the mixture that was to become a sorbet failure was chilling in the refrigerator, I decided to bake a cake.
Like I said, I had a really bad day and had to work it off.
A while ago I had the idea of making a poundcake and infusing it with Earl Grey tea scented simple syrup.  What better time than that night to try it?
Early Grey Pound Cake
Adapted from a recipe found on Piece of Cake
3 cups cake flour, spooned and leveled ( I used regular flour)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 cup sour cream (I used 2% milk because that's all I had in the fridge)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.  In a mixer blend the butter and sugar until completely incorporated.  Slowly add the eggs, one at a time.  Add the milk and vanilla to the mixer until completely blended.  Add half the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until well mixed in, and then add the other half. Pour into 2 buttered and floured loaf pans and bake for about 90 minutes.
It's a pretty standard pound cake recipe. What makes this cake a little different and a lot tastier is the early grey simple syrup.
I love tea.  I drink a lot of it during the winter.  Less so once it warms up.  My sister introduced me to a tea shop in Pike Place Market in Seattle where she lives and I bought a few different kinds just to try.  My friend gave me some pretty intense Earl Grey tea not long ago so I used it for this recipe.  Along with tea, I also bought little bags at Market Spice to make my own tea bags.  They are perfect if you have loose tea and just want to make a little bit of tea.
1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tbs of earl grey tea leaves.
Put the sugar and water in a sauce pan and stir over medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Place the earl grey teabag in the syrup and let it steep over low heat for as long as you feel necessary.
I left mine in for a good half hour because I wanted it to be as flavorful as possible.  I ended up adding a little water because the syrup became too thick.
It should turn brown, like tea does.
This is where experimenting doesn't always work.  I poured my early grey syrup onto the two cakes right after they were removed from the oven.
I poked a few holes in the cakes and then poured it right on.  Looking back I would have waited about 20 minutes for the cakes to cool, removed them from the pans and then poured the syrup on them.  The syrup make the cakes stick to the bottom and the sides a bit which made it harder to remove them from the pans.  Live and learn.  If you aren't too concerned about esthetics, the cakes were great.
The syrup seeped into the cake and livened up the otherwise banal pound cake with the unmistakable floral tones of Earl Grey tea.  The sweet glaze finish wasn't bad either.



De Retour with Mango Sorbet


Where did the last five months go? I can't believe the last time I sat down to write was back in January when I was in Seattle visiting my sister, brother in law and new baby niece!  She is now five months old and winter has turned into summer (almost).  I feel as if years of events and experiences have been squeezed into these past few months.  Distractions have kept me from doing what I like doing the most - cooking.  Maybe it was the stress of long days at work, or personal distractions that ended up being just that, nothing but distractions.  My desire to cook had all but disappeared for a while.  I used to cook to relieve stress.  I used to put aside the things that were bothering me that day and concentrate on chopping, stirring, grating, and reducing.  For some reason none of those things appealed to me for a while.  I'm not completely sure why I took a break from the kitchen, but I'm glad I'm back.

I don't know a lot about tropical fruit and when they are in season as you can find most of them year round in the grocery store.  I was craving mango salsa and shrimp for dinner this week (post to come about that soon) so I walked to Whole Foods and found small little yellow mangos that were so ripe to the touch they were impossible to resist.  These champagne mangos are much smaller than the ones with the red-ish yellow skin you are used to seeing.  After a successful mango and shrimp feast I was hooked on my new super sweet mango discovery and I went back for more this weekend.  But what to do with 6 small mangos?  Make sorbet!


I've tried to make sorbet before and have been disappointed with the outcome.  I've made some pretty tasty icecream but I have yet to make sorbet I am proud of.  The black currant sorbet I made was a bit grainy and the prosecco sorbet I made didn't freeze correctly (too much prosecco... can you blame me?)  A while back I was "tasting" the lemon sorbet we were serving for one of my events at work and chatting with the pastry chef. I asked her what made this sorbet so much creamier than what I have made in the past.  It almost tasted like sherbet.  She assured me there was no dairy in it, just egg whites!  Raw egg whites in fact.  While the fruit puree is freezing in the ice cream maker, you add the whites of one egg.  This gives the sorbet a much smoother, creamier consistency.  Who knew?  Once you get over your fears of salmonella, it makes sense.  I decided to put the tip to the test.

If you look online for a sorbet recipe you will find a variation of the same recipe over and over again.  Take fruit, puree it, add water, sugar and a little bit of alcohol (so it doesn't freeze into a fruit brick when you put it in the freezer) and that's you're done.  I decided to go with a David Lebovitz recipe and put my own twist on it.  His recipes are pretty fail proof.

Mango Sorbet

adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz

2 large, ripe mangos (I used 6 champagne mangos) 2/3 cup sugar ( I used a 1/4 cup agave syrup instead) 2/3 cup water 4 teaspoons fresh squeezed lime juice ( I used a half a lime) 1 tablespoon dark rum, plus more to taste (I used homemade limoncello I made a few years ago) pinch of salt ( I forgot this.  Oops! It tasted just fine though)

1 egg white


Take the meat off the mangos by slicing down each side, following the pit with your knife.  Squeeze the rest of the meat off the pit with your fingers to make sure not to waste anything.  Puree the fruit in a blender along with the water, sugar/agave syrup, lime juice and limoncello.  I used limoncello just because I thought the citrus would go well with the mango and I'm not a huge fan of rum.  I completely forgot about the pinch of salt.  I'm sure it gives that final sweet/salty balance that all cooking/baking needs.  I think the sorbet tastes just fine without it but I will include it next time.

Once all your ingredients are pureed together, chill it for about an hour (I chilled mine overnight) and then freeze it in your ice cream maker for about 20 minutes or until it looks like a slushy.  Add the whites of one egg at the very end of the freezing process.  It gives the puree a silky taste and a pretty sheen.  A great addition to the recipe!

Don't you love my old food processor?  It makes about as much noise as a margarita machine.  My neighbors must have thought I was having one heck of a party yesterday.





After it is finished freezing in the machine, put the mixture in a container and let it finish freezing in the freezer.  I had to steal a taste before it was finished.


Delicious, creamy, fruity and cold.  I wouldn't call it perfection but it's pretty good!  I had some leftover papaya so I tried the same process with it too. Instead of limoncello I used some of my homemade lemon verbena vodka.  The papaya had less flavor than the mango did but the lemon verbena vodka added a delicious herbal dimension to the cool treat.



Having been back in the kitchen and experienced what I used to enjoy so much, I know I will be back again soon.

A bientot.