Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Dog's Breakfast

What better way to get your spice fix than through infused spirits? Especially during the holiday season. I still haven't figured out what to make this year but perhaps I will steal a recipe from my new favorite food blog, The Dog's Breakfast. These two Montrealers write and design beautifully. I burn with envy at their gorgeous page layouts and crisp appetizing photography. Better yet, their posts often feature spices from my favorite spice purveyor in the world, the Montreal-based Épices de Cru. Their infused vodka includes a blend of bird's eye chiles (a close relative of the Peri Peri), red Kampot pepper, red Szechuan pepper, and dried orange peel. The kind of vodka you could drink straight [chilled] to appreciate the intermingling of flavors. What are some of your favorite ways to infuse spirits?

Also, while I'm gushing about The Dog's Breakfast, check out this fantastic interview they did with Ethné and Philippe de Vienne.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Spice cake three times sweet with bourbon soaked raisins

You may have noticed. One of my favorite ways to eat spice is in sweets and baked goods. When it became fashionable to add chile to chocolate à la mode aztèque (and, soon thereafter, to all kinds of chocolate desserts), I jumped right on that bandwagon, and have remained on it ever since. Three of my very favorite desserts on this planet are spice cake, mince pie, and triple ginger cookies with white chocolate chips. Years ago, when I worked as a line cook for the B&O Bakery in Seattle, one of the bakers there made a garam masala spice cake with caramelized pears and chocolate ganache. I could have gone without the ganache, but the earthy perfume-y notes of the garam masala in contrast with the caramelized pears was a revelation I could not turn back from. I like my candy spicy too. Just a few months before creating this blog I made a pumpkin seed brittle with sea salt and pequin chile powder that became a quick household addiction. [I will reduplicate it for another seasonally-appropriate entry, soon].

This cake was the product of last-minute improvisation. Last night was the annual, obligatory, French and Italian department party, an occasion I always dread and always end up enjoying despite myself. I only read the invitation a few hours before the party and realized it was a potluck-style event. It seemed a nice occasion for a cake. I love showing up to parties with a cake. I mean, who makes cakes these days, anyhow? So it was decided. The only problem was, I only had 1/3 cup of sugar left in my pantry, not nearly enough to make a whole cake. Right next to it, though, I had a bottle of strong blackstrap molasses and a container of raw local honey my mom sent from Seattle. So it was decided; I would make the cake with sugar, molasses, and honey. Those three sweeteners together, with the inclusion of freshly ground cinnamon, Tellicherry black pepper, and clove––and brought just over the top with a layer of bourbon soaked raisins––filled my house with the most intoxicating smell that has ever emanated from my oven. The flavor and texture were great as well, and I received a ton of compliments at the party, but my memory of the cake is fixated almost exclusively on that smell. It smelled like everything I love: butter, caramel, spices, and bourbon. Taste-wise, the cake is not too sweet, pleasantly moist, and has just enough of a kick from the black pepper to make you wonder, "what spice is this?", but not so much that it tastes like a pepper mill. If you want to make a sweeter version, I might warm some honey, poke the cake with toothpick holes after it's been out of the oven for 10 minutes or so, and glaze it (no, soak it!) with the warm honey.