Home on the Strange

Hello my little bloglings. Did you miss me? I am sorry for the huge gap between posts but I was back visiting my family and friends in the States for the past few weeks. (Sept. 18 editor's note - instead of backtracking with future blog posts I have just filled them in on their appropriate past date. Sorry for the confusion...this post is a bit incongruous now. Make sure to backread the Ugly Fruit issues. Thanks.)

Home, where even the livestock love their desserts. And is it just me or is this first image a bit subversive? And the second one almost a visual pun? Hmm, must have been the heat.

This is not an IceCream Monster.

Fairs were attended. Things on sticks were consumed. As was a fine fine dinner before we saw a 'rock show' and a fancy dessert was made. Oh yes, there will be posts, including one with a recipe. Gasp, shock! I know, but it's amazing what central A/C, counter space, and a well equipped kitchen (and helpful sous-chefs, hi Mom! Hi Ductape Goddess!) will do towards increasing one's desire to bake in mid August heatwaves and humidity. Enjoy!


Tower of Power

Only a short while after gorging on Sweet Binney sweets The Ducttape Goddess was due to arrive to help Mom and I work on Martha's Darkest Chocolate Crepe Cake

Mom had sent me the link and I had been dying to try this recipe for ages. Just behold its mighty beauty! Layer upon layer upon layer of dreamy creamy frosting anchored mightily by the aesthetically gorgeous and contrasting crepes. Dessert has never looked so good. Of course, it being a Martha recipe it was complicated beyond all get out, had to be spread over two days and had several instructional videos no less. To that I say "BRING IT ON!!!"

The Ducttape Goddess (hearafter known as TDG) and mom started on the chocolate crepes while I got to work on the very involved frosting recipe.

While the all of that was chilling in the fridge we sent dad and kismet for a walk while we hung philberts (hazelnuts) to drip and metamorphasize into their final delicious and decorative selves.

The sugar threads weren't so bad either. Reminded me of the candied fruits topped with sugar floss at our favorite chinese restaurant in Milan.

Sadly there was a mishap (and I didn't have my camera on hand!) while the tower of power was chillin in the fridge. A sideways slide into Leaning Tower of Pisa infamy. We managed to save it and chocolate glaze the heck out of it. It might not be Martha pretty...

but it sure was tasty. And oh so artery blocking rich. I took 1/4 of the cake to my former art teachers on my visit and 1/4 to TDG at work to taste her handiwork and 1/4 to her house for her family. The rest remained with us and was way more than enough for 4 people. Now, some comments. This very well maybe the BEST frosting I have EVER had in MY WHOLE LIFE. Literally, it was like a religious experience (you know, if I had religion, I mean). The clouds parted, little cherubic winged naked babies on high blew trumpets, a ray of sunshine illuminated the bowl when it was made. Yes, it is complicated. But it is WELL WORTH IT, much like a high end sports car or mechanical watch. wink wink. As to the crepes? Meh. I didn't like the mix of luxurious frosting and thin pancake wannabes. They might be good on their own, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some nice fresh picked sunwarmed strawberries. The chocolate glaze was middling. Neither fantastic nor truly disappointing. It just was. Would I do this again? Perhaps, if I made some drastic crepe (think devil's food cake instead) based changes. Might make nice cupcakes...we'll have to see. But the frosting goes into my tome of favorite recipes. If you would like to add it to yours here it is (let me just say, 8 c. of it is a LOT, I'd recommend scaling it down for normal usage. That is unless you plan to eat half with a spoon straight from the bowl, which may be recommended)....

Hazelnut Filling AKA Bestest Frosting EVER
(Makes about 8 cups)

2/3 c. heavy cream
6 large egg whites
1 2/3 c. sugar
1 3/4 c. (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, softened
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 c. hazelnut cream
Pinch of salt

1. Put cream into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Refrigerate 1 hour.

2. Whisk egg whites and sugar in the clean bowl of mixer set over a pan of simmering water until sugar has dissolved and mixture registers 160°, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Attach bowl to mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment; beat on high speed until slightly cooled and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 5 minutes.

4. Fit mixer with paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low speed, add butter, several pieces at a time, mixing well after each addition (meringue will deflate slightly as butter is added). Add vanilla, hazelnut cream, and salt; mix until mixture comes together, 3 to 5 minutes. Fold in whipped cream with a rubber spatula. Use immediately.

Home, Sweet Binney, Home

When you only visit home once a year things (and people) change at an alarming rate. Restaurants go out, grey hairs come in, buildings spring up in fields like wild mushrooms. Alarming it may be, but change can be a good thing as well. Like when Iowa got it's first Cheesecake Factory, it's first tea house, and new youth driven newspaper with new restaurant reviews. Otherwise I might never have found Sweet Binney's.

It is housed in the same two level mini stripmall that I had my senior photos taken in. And the owner, Ryan Binney, grew up in Cape Code, before moving out to Boston and later attended Johnson and Wales in Providence, just down the hill from my much missed RISD. So I got the chance to stroll down many different Lanes of Memory while searching for tasty desserts. Ryan has been running Sweet Binney's as a store front cafe for only 3 months now but the wholesale/catering business part has been under his control for over a year and a half. Iowa is a long ways from the east coast but his fancy flavorful desserts are well sought after here as well.

The display case held decadent glittering gems each whispering to be taken home in a pretty package. So, what could we do but concede? But first an on the spot taste testing was called for. We split the 3 chocolate mascapone mousse to tide us over until we got home to nibble on the rest. And maybe even share with the rest of the family.

Each layer had it's own unique flavor. Being a chocoholic I couldn't help but luxuriate in it's richness...and yet....perhaps it was just because it was straight from the refrigerated case instead of being left at room temperature for awhile, the texture seemed a bit strange to me. I had to admit it but my favorite triple chocolate mousse used to be had at Mondo's until an unfortunate incident of rudeness on their part while getting takeaway dessert one day. The takehome desserts from Binney's had yet to redeem themselves from my initial impression.

I admit, I've never had red velvet cake before so it's hard for me to take an authoratative stance on it but the cake seemed rather dry. The creamcheese frosting with blueberries was a fantastic idea though. One I plan to try out for myself at a later point in time. The other lemon cake was forgettable. Sweet Binney's may do well for catering large groups and country clubs...but it's no Pastiche. Providence, what a funny thing and much missed place.


Ugly Fruit visits the Windy City

It's so good to be back, there's nothing like the blazing blue skies of summer back home. Skies you feel you could fall into as you bake to a crisp on a car hood in the middle of nowhere. Days that make you want to do nothing and do it well. In style, with a fresh glass of lemonade and some daisy chains to be. But home used to be Illinois too. It was time we made a pilgrimage of sorts.

As the Blues Brothers sung "Sweet Home Chicago". So vast and sprawling. Each year it eats a bit more of it's surroudings. Suburbs are sublimated and Chicago feeds it's gaping maw. As we have come to do (dinner at Alinea, review up soon). Sort of. In fact, my brother dragged me to, I mean, invited me to Lollapalooza this year.

He had gone the previous year and managed to impress me with this years line up. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Manu Chao, Matisyahu, The Racounteurs, She Wants Revenge, Mates of State and many others I can't remember now. Over 130 groups in 3 days. That's a LOT of music folks. And a whole lot of people coming to see them as well.

We managed to make it down to the lakeshore and over to the art museum. We tried open all night chinese dives and watched some ESPN2 eating competitions (yo, what's up with that?) But most of all we just had a really good time hanging out before we had to go back to our normal lives (he to college and me back to work and back to Europe). Thanks Slick.