Sunday, September 30, 2007

easy like sunday morning

How lucky we are to have such a leisurely weekend! Today was brunch #2 - quality time with our friends Jeff and Marcela. They came over around 12:30p, and we spent about 3 hours cooking, eating, mimosa-ing and catching up. And then I took a nap. Seriously, I haven't had a weekend this good in ages. :)

The main reason for the get-together was a recipe for Eierkuchen, or German Egg Cakes, that Jeff had sent me while he was visiting his parents in Canada. This was a recipe that his mother had saved out of some 80's cooking magazine that he thought I might like. They've always been my kindest guinea pigs, so what better excuse to get together than trying it out?

And they were delightful. They're very similar to standard pancakes, but they have a much, much higher egg-to-flour ratio, and the egg whites are whipped separately, making them extremely fluffy. Spooning them onto the griddle almost made me feel like I was cooking meringues. I cooked them to a fairly standard consistency, but Jeff mentioned that his mother almost undercooks them, giving the middle a whipped cream-like consistency. I'll have to try that next time.

To go with the pancakes, Jeff made up some vanilla whipped cream and a strawberry-Grand Marnier sauce, and even brought whole strawberries and sprigs of mint for garnish.

We also made baked eggs in tomatoes - unlike last time when I was stressed about how long they were taking to bake, I was allowed to be leisurely, and started on these before Jeff and Marcela arrived. In all, I believe the 8 tomato eggs took about an hour to cook at 425 degrees. I think we could have taken them out earlier, but Matty and Marcela wanted their whites a little more solid.

In case you didn't get enough, here's a close-up, and the best picture I've probably taken in my entire blog history. Oh, sweet natural light.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

like a diamond in the sky

We hosted our dear friends Gabe and Allison and their beautiful (and I don't mean beautiful in the way all children are beautiful, or in the way you're supposed to tell your friends their children are beautiful - she is simply gorgeous) daughter Piper for brunch this morning. We don't get to see them much, so I had to pull out all the stops for this meal - 1.5 times the Blueberry Croissant French Toast to yield 6 croissants (modified to include a cream cheese/fresh blueberry filling as opposed to the recipe's blueberry preserves) with Smoked Salmon "Tartare" on New Potato Slices and a fruit plate of pears and blueberries.

Everything actually came together extremely quickly. I started by mixing together 6 oz. of cream cheese and 9 oz. of fresh blueberries. Once that all came together, I stuffed them into the croissants, made the custard, and let them sit while I worked on the potatoes.

Instead of steaming the potatoes, I baked them like the reviews suggested - 40 minutes in a 400-degree oven with a little salt on top. While they were baking, I flipped and basted the croissants and made the "tartare." After the potatoes cooled a bit, I stuck some salmon on top, then just waited for our lovely guests to arrive to fry up the croissants.

I have a habit of charring the first couple pieces of French toast beyond recognition, so I tried to be particularly aware, but still managed to over-brown a couple. Didn't really matter, though - they were simply perfect. I think I would have been extremely disappointed had I just followed the recipe and stuck with plain blueberry preserves. Gabe called them almost-blintzes. I agree. I forgot to set out some maple syrup, but that might have been completely over the top - as they were, these were perfectly delicious.

I loved the potatoes, too. It was an excellent call to bake the potatoes - steaming them would probably have made them too soft. They didn't turn out particularly crispy, but the chewiness of the skin and the occasional grain of sea salt perfectly complemented the creaminess of the "tartare." I also got lucky and happened upon some perfect smoked sockeye salmon at TJ's - that definitely helped. These will also definitely be a great addition to my party appetizer repertoire.

All that while sipping mimosas and being serenaded with "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" by the little one. I'm not sure a Saturday morning could turn out better.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

sometimes things don't work out right

This was to be the savory fig experiment that I mentioned in the last post. One problem - no figs at Trader Joe's. I was too lazy/apathetic to go find them at another store, so I just used Granny Smith apples instead to make these Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Figs and Goat Cheese from Leite's Culinaria.

Other than the apple modification, I didn't change much else of the recipe. I used bacon, and it looked super silly with just one strip wrapping the magnormous chicken breast, so I used two. Or maybe I just convinced myself that it looked silly so I could score another slice of bacon in my dinner. :P

It was pretty good. Nothing terribly profound, but maybe that's where the figs were supposed to come in. I'm up for trying it again with figs - the recipe's pretty low-effort.

To go with it, I made my sweet little stand-by tomato-smozzarella salad, except this time I threw in some leftover artichoke hearts, and I made cute little Potato, Fennel, Pear and Fourme d'Ambert from La Tartine Gourmande.

These were also on my Thanksgiving test recipe list, but I don't think I'll be making them. They're entirely too time-consuming for a holiday where I must have a jillion other things on the table. The only way I would even consider making them is if I turned them into more of a gratin and made them in a larger pan. But then the cuteness, and I'm afraid, the point, would be lost.

If I do make these again, I think I'll use less onion - I felt they overwhelmed all of the other flavors. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing because I love caramelized onions, but it just didn't seem fair to all the other flavors. I would also use different pears and perhaps chunk them into bigger pieces. I used red pears that I saw at TJ's for the novelty alone, but I think they were too soft and with the additional provision of slicing them thinly, they were completely lost in the dish. I also used a Cambozola that I could barely taste - and that's a damn shame because it's just about my favorite cheese (and I'd been having it with multi-grain crackers and calling it dinner :P).

All in all, not the greatest triumph ever, but a very relaxing bit of cooking. Matty had rehearsal until 10p, so I took my sweet time preparing everything, cleaning up along the way, etc. Got everything done just as he got home. And it's so nice to have the excuse of a formal meal to sit together and catch up, and just have cliched-but-necessary quality time.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

we won't go until we've got some

What with everyone talking about figs these days, I just had to make something figgy. I've got a savory experiment with fresh figs coming up later this week, but this is a sweet project with dried figs that was born out of sheer boredom on a Sunday morning when I woke up way earlier than I needed to for yoga.

Very handy that I had all the ingredients for these Fig and Pistachio Cookies that I saw over at Cream Puffs in Venice. I had bought dried Mission figs a while back intending to use them as an appetizer stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciutto, but it never happened. Plenty of pistachios in the cupboard, too. From what, I don't even remember.

Unfortunately, these were not my favorite cookies. Right out of the oven, they evoked the ever-reviled fruitcake, so I was immediately turned off. As they mellowed out in the fridge, though, they got a little better. Still, I don't think I'll make them again unless someone who happens upon them starts raving about them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

nights are getting colder

I'm not exactly sure why this Artichoke and Yukon Gold Gratin recipe wound up on my Thanksgiving test recipe list. Sure, it had all the makings of a magnificent side dish, but I was never going to get away with not having mashed potatoes (especially the caramelized onion mashed potatoes I made last year), and really, how many potato dishes do you need? Also, I've got quite a few potential guests that hate the glorious artichoke, so I'll just keep this recipe to myself. Because I love me some artichokes.

I used 6 potatoes from TJ's potato medley bag - 2 red, 2 gold and 2 purple. I put the purple ones in the middle layer hoping it'd be a super extreme contrast, but alas, you could barely tell (especially in my wretched lighting):

I think next time I'll use more artichoke - I could have easily gone up to 8 hearts. And more cheese. I was expecting something a little more structured, mostly because of the photo of Nicole's neat gratin, but mine was a little soupier. It was still great, though - I ate nearly half of the loaf pan. :\ It was the perfect 9p meal to celebrate Los Angeles' attempt to transition into fall.

And for no special reason other than I really like the photo, here's the little appetizer/salad I made to tide me over while I waited for the taters. Just some halved itty-bitty tomatoes, some irregularly-sliced smoked mozzarella, some olive oil and cracked pepper.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

brings all the boys to the yard

***Edited to include photos of crappy-looking leftovers***

Apparently, my brain does not want to come along on my ride through food blogger-dom. Yet another meal where I forgot to take photos. I do have leftovers, though, so I hope to be able to salvage a decent-looking shot when I bust into them come mid-week.

Everything came out so perfectly. I could not have been more thrilled. Depending on how much time I'll have, this may come out again for the parents' visit.

I steamed some green beans, and tossed together a salad of lettuce mix, tomatoes, mushrooms and smoked mozzarella to get our green requirement out of the way. Accompanying the meal was a delicious Sweet Potato Cornbread - another recipe to cross off the Thanksgiving test list. Our dinner guest Greg (a good friend and Matty's former roommate) has already said that he would become violent if it didn't make an appearance at the Thanksgiving table. :P

It was really quite good. Exquisitely soft - texture-wise, it was more carrot cake than cornbread, but you can still tell it's cornbread from that grittiness you get from using cornmeal. I made it in a loaf pan, and it only rose to about 2 inches high. When I make it again, I might double the recipe to create a more substantial slice. Unfortunately, I could not make it vegan - no supplies on hand. I just used 2 actual eggs and 1/2 cup regular milk. My sweetener of choice was sucanat.

And the star of the show: the Pork Braised in Milk and Cream I found on Amateur Gourmet. Dear heavens. It was quite the production, but it was worth every second. Actually, not that much active time is even required, so it was worth more than every second.

I started early this morning - ran to Albertson's to get a 2-lb. pork loin. Turns out when I opened the package, it was actually 2 1-lb. pork loins wrapped together. Whatever. Chopped up a little garlic, a little sage, rubbed it over the pork, and then refrigerated it while I went to yoga and Hollywood Billiards for the Dallas and Denver football games (I do love my football). So about 6 hours of refrigeration for the rub.

Took the pork out to let it come to as close to room temperature as possible while I peeled/crushed 20 garlic cloves. That was actually the most annoying part of the whole recipe. It would normally have been the zesting, but this recipe called for strips of rind, so I just took a vegetable peeler to the lemons and had lovely strips in no time flat.

Threw the pork in to brown, and set 3 cups of milk and 3 cups of cream (instead of 2 cups each milk, half-and-half and cream) to boil. In the future, I think I'll only use 2-2.5 cups of each - I got way more liquid than was needed to cover the pork halfway. That's the only change I'd make to the recipe, though.

It only took me 15 minutes to get the pork to just over 140 degrees internally. Perhaps the 2 separate pieces helped cut down the time. Refrigerated the whole thing, went to pick up Matty who had just come home from a show in Flagstaff, and then started re-warming the sauce and pork when Greg came over. About 2 hours of refrigeration in the custard.

I wonder which part of the refrigeration is more important - the rub before it's cooked, or the cooling process in the cream. I hear that the pork absorbs the cream as it cools, so maybe next time, I should really start the rub the night before, cook it in the morning, and then take the pork/custard mixture out to rewarm right before dinner.

In any case, it was so freaking good. Maybe I shouldn't change anything I did at all. :P The meat was juicy and flavorful, and the sauce was delicious. How can something with 20 cloves of garlic and 20 sage leaves and the rinds of 3 lemons not be, though? In retrospect, I should have saved some of the leftover sauce and maybe used it on pasta. Maybe that's what I'll do with the leftovers. ***Edited to add: that is exactly what I did with the leftovers. And it was really good. The pork was still juicy from having sat in the cream bath for the last 2 days, and the lemon had kicked in some more, making it taste almost light. Almost.***

And even though we hardly had any room in our happy bellies, I still busted out Tartelette's Pillow Cheesecake. I had attempted the Salted Butter Caramel Sauce, but I overcooked it to well past the point of sauce. I almost had candy in my hands. I'll have to be more careful next time.

The cheesecake was still divine without it. Super light. The crust was brilliant. I only made half the crust recipe because it said to save half for another use, and I still have more cookie dough in my freezer than I know what to do with. However, I think I'll make the full recipe the next time and use all of it for the crust. I used a 10" springform pan (I finally got springform pans! - yes, I'm after you, Ghetto Basque), and I felt the crust was a little too thin for all the cream cheesy goodness.

Matty's on tour again now, though, and I still have 3/4ths of a cheesecake in the fridge. What to do, what to do...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

under the pale moonlight

Some days I really hate the yellow cast of our vintage lighting. Mostly on days when I forget to brush Heidi's Sweet Potato Pot Pies with egg whites so they would brown in the oven as opposed to being the same color as everything else in my kitchen.

This recipe was successful on a number of counts. Matty was working late last night, so I just chopped everything and waited until he called to tell me he was leaving the studio before I started cooking. Everything came together so quickly - got it on the table just as he finished washing up. It was also the perfect thing for a late night - warm, comforting, and substantial enough to be worth the wait for a midnight dinner, but not so heavy that sleep would be impossible until after full digestion occurred.

Making this also meant that I could cross off another recipe on my Thanksgiving test recipe list. I think this will make an appearance at dinner, although probably not in pot pie form. It'd be easy enough to make for a crowd, but I just don't have enough oven-proof bowls (or in this case, 6-oz. ramekins). I saw a very similar recipe for Butternut Squash in Phyllo Rolls in my Real Food Daily cookbook, so I may experiment with putting this filling in phyllo rolls and baking them. Having them in roll form will also help round out my appetizer menu because we had a lot of hangry (anger brought on by hunger :P) individuals at last year's dinner because our turkey took 6 hours to smoke.

Sweet Potato Pot Pie
from 101 Cookbooks
Serves 4

3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 to 3 c. sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 t. salt (plus more to taste)
1 T. adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chilies (or more to taste)
1 c. corn kernels, fresh or frozen
2 c. cold whole or low-fat milk
2 T. cornstarch
1 box puff pastry dough (allow 20 to 30 minutes to thaw)
1 egg white

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, add the oil, onion, garlic, sweet potato and salt. Saute, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the adobo sauce and corn.

3. In a small bowl, combine the milk and cornstarch, then pour the mixture into the sweet potato pot. Leave the heat at medium-high for a few minutes to bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and cook until the filling starts to thicken, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and season with more salt to taste. Pour the filling into small ovenproof bowls, each three quarters full.

4. Cut a piece of puff pastry dough to fit over each bowl, with some overlap. Place the dough on the bowls and fold over the edge of the dish. Brush the dough lightly with egg white (this creates a golden crust).

5. Using a fork, poke a few holes in the top of each pie to allow steam to escape, and bake until the crusts are tall and deeply golden, about 15 minutes. Tip: Bake the potpies on a baking sheet lined with foil in case some of the filling bubbles over.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

run around in circles backwards

I cannot believe no photos were taken of this feast. Well, I sort of can. We were hosting our friends Dawn and Acasia for dinner, and even though they were conveniently about 15 minutes for our 5:00p date, I didn't manage to get dinner on the table until about 6:00p. In my defense, that is still pretty impressive. Matty and I spent the entire morning/early afternoon at the Rose Bowl Flea Market and got home around 3:00p, when I finally went to the grocery store (braving the dreaded Sunday store traffic), and got down to the business of the business. It was another Epicurious evening - I made Crispy Eggplant Fritters and Sweet Potato Gnocchi.

Dawn and Acasia are both vegetarians, and Matty and I are challenging each other to be part-time vegetarians (every other day), so this was the perfect kick-off dinner. The most interesting part of the process was reading labels and sifting through what was "allowed." D+A eat cheese, but they don't eat cheeses made with animal rennet, and they definitely don't eat anything with gelatin (which for some reason, one of the TJ's ranch dressing choices includes).

It was a rousing success, and I'm just bummed there isn't photographic proof. As soon as I got home, I sliced up the eggplant and stuck it in the oven to roast. Because I was short on time, I didn't salt the slices and spend the extra half hour drawing liquid from the eggplant as the recipe instructed. While the eggplant roasted, I made the sweet potato gnocchi.

I love making gnocchi. It's by no means as difficult as other pasta to make, and the result is so impressive. I prefer to just leave all of the dough in the bowl and pinch off bits to roll in my hands as opposed to making "snakes" and slicing them. I find it to be more space-effective, especially when I barely have counter space to speak of. I've used this recipe twice before - once last Thanksgiving because I couldn't bear the thought of having marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, and once for Matty's parents' Christmas dinner last year. It was a hit both of those times, and was a hit again this time. :)

After I finished boiling the gnocchi, I set them aside and started on some Double Chocolate Chip Cookies for the ice cream sandwiches we were going to have for dessert. This go-around, I kept the cinnamon but omitted the black pepper, and just used straight dark chocolate instead of the Mayan combo.

As soon as the eggplant was finished with the oven, I replaced them with a batch of cookies. While the cookies baked, I chopped up the eggplant, mixed them with the panko/Parm mixture and got started forming them into balls. Not the least messy of endeavors, but it all ended well. Fried the little things, melted some butter for the gnocchi's sage sauce, and finished both as the cookies were done. Plated the gnocchi and fritters, threw together a little salad, brought out the gelatin-free ranch dressing, and let the cookies cool on the counter.

Everything was perfect. The tender, sweet pillows of starchy goodness, the crispy exterior/warm gooey-ness of the eggplant bits as well as the delicious smoked mozzarella (which I had never had before, and am kicking myself as to why not), and the lovely company all swirled around with some delightful wine.

Of course, the dessert course must get its due as well. D+A had brought three (three!) kinds of ice cream, so we had plenty of choices for our ice cream sandwiches. We ended up making them open faced so that we could get more ice cream involved. :) Wrapped up the night with more wine, listening to records on our hi-fi, talking about how dysfunctional/functional we all are.

***Wow, I just re-read this entry in "Preview," and it sounds incredibly schizophrenic. However, that's how I felt as I was rushing around trying to read three different recipes at once, so I'm not editing. :P***

Thursday, September 6, 2007

nothing good happens on thursday

There's really not too much to say about this one. It's the Cheesemonger's Mac and Cheese that I copied out of Bon Appetit, and is conveniently reproduced here.

As I'm always in the search for the perfect mac and cheese recipe, I had to give this one a try. I love me some Brie, and I don't think I've seen a recipe with Brie. Unfortunately, I had to agree with most of the reviews on Epicurious - this was nothing special at all. I mean, it was pasta+cheese, and it was warm and comforting, but it was nothing worthy of our annual Christmas mac-stravaganza.

However, I did serve it with the turkey mignons from Trader Joe's refrigerated section, and they were much tastier than I expected. They're these round turkey pieces wrapped in a strip of bacon, broiled for about 10 minutes on each side. Round the plate out with some sauteed green beans, and while not mind-blowing, it made for a passable Thursday night meal.

Monday, September 3, 2007

i'll stop the world and melt with you

That is IT! I refuse to work with dough until the weather goes down to about 75 degrees. After the disaster that was yesterday's "Ghetto" Basque, I still insisted on making a blueberry pie for our Labor Day barbecue today - outside temperature while baking: 98 degrees. The bottom turned out fine, but my lattice looked like crap because I couldn't lay the strips over the pie faster than they were melting.

For this pie, I used the dough for Epicurious' Sour Cherry Crostata and the filling from YumSugar's Blueberry Pie. The pie dough is one of my favorites to work with, and it's extremely tasty. I had made the cherry version twice before - once last November for our cherry-loving friend Jeff's birthday, and then once shortly thereafter because Jeff insisted Matty needed to have some (he was on tour when I made it the first time). I thought blueberries would be a little more appropriate for summer. It was a fine choice, if I do say so myself. :)

And because I'm apparently some kind of masochist, I made some Roasted Strawberry Meringues to use up the egg whites that I had left over from the banana pastry cream for the Ghetto Basque. What's another 45 minutes with the oven on? Ugh.

I had never had or made meringues before (well, not on their own - only as part of pies and baked alaskas). They were well worth the effort. I mean, they weren't really much effort anyway - after you beat them, you can pretty much just forget about them. The roasted strawberries were so delicious, and they were a perfect complement to the marshmallow-y goodness of the meringues.

On to the real food. We started with a watermelon-grilled halloumi appetizer:

I had never had halloumi before, but I found it's grill-/fry-ability fascinating, and I'm always down to try a new cheese, so I thought I would bust this one out. No recipe required, really - cut block of halloumi into 8 slices, brush with olive oil, pan-fry until golden brown on both sides, arrange between cold watermelon slices. I was initially going to grill the cheese, but we only had the smoker fired up, and it was being occupied by a gorgeous rack of ribs seasoned in Dinosaur Bar-B-Que dry rub, and the freshly-caught salmon and halibut our friend Brandon had recently caught on an Alaskan fishing trip. I think cheese can definitely take a back seat to those.

The appetizer went over really well - we were all strangers to halloumi, but we probably won't be anymore. It had a fun squeaky texture, and its warm saltiness was really great against the cold sweetness of the watermelon. It's really good raw, too - very feta-y, but a bit less crumbly. Unfortunately, it's a bit expensive, but I'm glad I tracked it down to do this dish.

The surprise hit of the day was a hot crab dip that I made to get rid of more leftovers. It actually disappeared before most of our guests arrived. Oops. :P

Hot Crab Dip

3 oz. herbed goat cheese
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1/4 lb. crab meat
1/4 c. finely grated Pecorino Romano
2 oz. spinach, coarsely torn (only because I was lazy - you can chop if you prefer)
salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

Stir all ingredients in a microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Give another stir, re-season to taste, heat for another minute, if necessary. Devour via tortilla chips (our choice), pita chips, crackers, etc.

All in all, a grand barbecue. There's really nothing like saying goodbye to summer hanging out in a canopy under misters with your closest friends for about 9 hours. Nothing at all.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

what kind of fuckery is this

Sadly, the best photo I could get.

I try my darnedest not to cry over inanimate objects. Well, I almost cried over this jacket, but that's because I can't afford it, not because it pissed me off. Like this Gateau Basque did. I'm now calling it my "Ghetto" Basque.

My very dear friend Jay had a Labor Day/birthday barbecue today. Since I've taken to baking presents these days, I asked his wife Rebecca what kind of flavors/baked goods he liked. She said, "Banana chocolate pie or something along those lines."

I thought I would play around with Peabody's recipe. To get the bananas in, I used the pastry cream from her Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie. Instead of cherry preserves, I used strawberry because I thought it would go better, and I remembered that he liked a strawberry banana cream pie I brought to his last birthday party. And even though it's untraditional, I thought I'd put a chocolate glaze over it to hit all the bases Rebecca mentioned. Also, Rebecca is going gluten-free, so I substituted gluten-free all-purpose baking mix for the regular flour.

Let me preface this all by telling you that says it was 103 degrees Fahrenheit in Los Feliz while I was baking. Which means our un-air conditioned house was probably closer to 113 degrees. And I had been baking cookies to take to a pool party to make ice cream sandwiches. So, for giggles, let's say it was 120 degrees in my kitchen.

The dough pieces were firm in the fridge, and I rolled them out with little difficulty. They started to get a little soft, so I put them back in the fridge for a bit while I baked the other cookies. When I took one piece out again to lay in my 9-inch cake pan, it refused to remove itself from the parchment paper. I stuck it in the freezer along with the other piece of rolled-out dough for a couple minutes, and finally managed to get one into the pan. Except it was in a jillion pieces. And would not patch up without ripping across the bottom.

Here's where the ghetto part comes in. I stuck the pan back in the freezer, and a couple minutes later, with my head in the freezer, I managed to patch the bottom layer together. Yep. Horrendous waste of energy, but I put together a cake in the freezer with the door open. Spread the strawberry preserves on the bottom, piled the banana cream on top (it seemed a little too gelatinous, but hopefully it mellows out in the oven), and then tried to stick the other piece of dough on top to finish up.

Except its stubborn ass refused to leave its parchment as well. I'm so glad our neighbors' grandchildren weren't visiting today as they do most weekends. Lots of things came out of my mouth that little children should not hear (see title).

I gave up trying to remove it all in one piece, so I took everything out of the freezer and ended up scraping up the very, very soft dough, dumping it on top of the banana cream, and then using a butter knife to spread the dough across the top. Stuck it in the oven with one final curse, and went to seek refuge under a ceiling fan.

The entire time it was baking, I started freaking out - this is never going to come out of the pan. I won't be able to put the glaze on properly, everyone is going to see what a failure I am, and I will truly cry.

Well, it came out of the oven looking great. After it cooled, I planned to remove it from the pan, and then pour the glaze all over it. The top seemed really delicate, though, so I decided against trying to invert it for fear of causing a massive explosion. I just ended up glazing the top and decorating it with a couple slices of caramelized banana.

I was really hoping to get a photo of the cake sliced so I could showcase all the pretty layers, but it was not to be. There were so many problems! I had lined the pan with parchment paper when I was still planning on removing the cake from the pan, but since I didn't, it ended up creating a problem in removing each slice. I suppose a springform pan would have helped, but even after we got the first "slice" out, none of the other slices would cooperate. The goop that we ended up serving up to the birthday boy and guests looked like they had already been eaten. Rebecca kindly called it "Ngoc's Pile of Deliciousness," but it was pretty heartbreaking. It also tasted really grainy - think it was the dough part. It was otherwise wonderfully delicious, although I don't recall really being able to taste the preserves.

Then it dawned on me - could all these problems be because I used gluten-free flour? I'm searching the Internets now, and I'm seeing some sites say I should be adding xantham gum and the like to gluten-free mixes to get it not to crumble. Well fan-freaking-tastic. I didn't think I would need to do it if I bought a mix. If anyone has opinions on the matter, I'd love input. I don't want to exclude Rebecca when I'm making cakes, etc.

I mean, 120 degrees could definitely have had something to do with it, too. I guess I'll just have to try it again with regular flour. Like in the fall. :)