The re-configured pedestrian access had shifted foot traffic closer to the centreline of the roadway, creating a wind tunnel where commuters would be pelted with precipitation.
Due to wind conditions, navigating any further than Belsize Drive would entail an unpleasant trek back. I looped back after confirming the status of Gong Cha's storefront ("Coming soon" it still reads.), avoiding the southeast corner altogether by routing up and down the stairs of the 2200 Yonge building that houses Merrithew's corporate training centre.
Unlike the last visit, the girl behind the cashier was neither as attentive nor amicable. Despite absence of a queue, she proceeded with my order in a hurried manner, sliding the Earl Grey Puff towards me between the POS tablet and brewing apparatus, then the remaining three macarons on the other side of the counter. Before I could request a bag for my purchases, she dashed away with looking back even once. Her gaze remained as far from me as possible, prompting me to withdraw my own plastic bag for carrying.
Black Sesame was incredulously tall, sandwiching layers of injeolmi and black sesame buttercream over a nutty brittle. Majority of the macaron's flavour originated from the honeyed sesame seeds, rather than the shell or filling. We likened the palette to my own Black Sesame Mousse Cake, expressing favouritism towards the latter.
I was quick to express appreciation for the perfect sunny side egg topping the bibimbap components. The Bulgogi, on the other hand, was tough and overcooked, despite adequate seasoning. Japchae noodles and flat rice cakes had also been included as part of the dish, both presenting themselves limp and overdone.
That said, I'm not particularly fond of the larger, heavier frames. Beyond diffusing off a doltish aura, frequently do they require re-adjusting due to sliding down the nose.
Early the next morning, I departed for Loblaws. Most of the ingredients used to construct the traditional treat were readily available, but one cannot construct a Pineapple Cake without the core ingredient of pineapple. Rather than taking to an off-season, unripe whole fruit, I headed straight for the frozen aisle. 2 bags of 600 g frozen pineapple were acquired; only one bag would be used to form the filling.
The ingredients were compiled into my breadmaker, for the intent was to achieve a jam-like consistency. 90 minutes later, I cranked open the lid to reveal an aromatic but watery mixture with distinct, vibrant yellow strands. The jam had not darkened to the coppery orange tone of typical fenglisu.
I transferred the mixture to the stove, where coagulation attempts were made with the assistance of a cornstarch slurry. Results were akin to a pulpy rendition of our household's beloved Ham and Pineapple entrée). Without many options left, I sieved the mixture, allowing liquid to separate slowly under the pull of gravity.
In short, the filling is best commenced on the stovetop (no fancy tools), with sieving the mixture being a pivotal step in the process. As with all pastries containing fruit filling (pie, apple dumplings, etc.) - reducing the amount of liquid is important to ensure a flaky outer shell.
In a stand mixer, softened butter was aerated with granulated sugar until pale. Some recipes called for caster, while others confectioners. My presumption is that icing sugar would yield a more tender crumb, while caster more structure, thus offering a sense of substance. Instead of compensating with 1/3 of an egg yolk, I merely decided to include the white as well. Despite having reservations to beating a mixture after incorporation of a liquid (protein from egg white), I continued mixing at a low-medium speed until just combined. The dough grew quite sticky at this point, leading me to learn that a scraper is far more effective than a spatula in this application. As per directions, the dough was chilled a minimum of two hours; even after a total chill time of four hours, the dough remained surprisingly malleable.
Assembly was a challenge, for the filling would often burst at the seams, causing the maltose to harden on the mould after baking. I likened this issue to my same qualms of whole eggs in rollout cookies, which is often remedied by removal of the white.
The pineapple cakes emerged quite promising for a first attempt. With my inept wrapping skills, I had anticipated wonky turnouts, similar to the displaced fillings of my tangyuan trials. But the moulds had worked wonders to centre the filling and smooth out any uneven edges.
On the second day, however, the pastry shell was observed to have softened quite a bit. Likely a result of osmosis, excess moisture from the filling had penetrated the shell, causing cavities to emerge within. An unexpected positive side effect of this chemical reaction was a stronger buttery essence.
- Pineapple jam filling is best constructed on the stovetop. Additional equipment is not needed, as it is easiest/fastest to reduce moisture by stirring in an open system over variable heat.
- Sieving the mixture being a pivotal step in the process - keep moisture at bay!
- Fresh pineapples are not necessary; frozen can be used to save time, as they are equally fragrant. Blending is necessary to prevent lengthy threads of pulp.
- Dough was was malleable even after chilling for longer than needed. Malleability is often increased with egg white, which proved true here, but surprisingly did not soften too much at room temp.
- Milk powder was forgotten this time around; will add next time.
- Dough will be constructed solely with yolk next time, and possibly a hint of cream of tartar in hopes that it will have similar flakiness to our annual Christmas cookies.
- Baking temperature of 330 F is too low; pineapple cakes were distinctly pasty and pale in appearance. Cakes should be baked at 350 F, lowering temperature as needed to prevent browning too quickly.
When I returned home with frozen pineapple and kale, I knew that one bag would need to be swapped out of the freezer. The partially utilized bag of butternut squash I had picked up for Sunday Baking's Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin would finally be repurposed.
The remaining portion was defrosted in the microwave, then tossed in olive oil, salt, parsley, sage, cinnamon, nutmeg, and smoked paprika with two medium onions and two cloves of black garlic - a sweeter, milder variation of the pungent herb. The process of roasting unleashed aromas that would otherwise be concealed within layers of enzyme.
A condensed recipe can be found below:
- Toss squash, onions, and black garlic cloves (I used 2) in olive oil, salt, parsley, sage, cinnamon, nutmeg, and smoked paprika. Roast until fragrant.
- Transfer to pot and add 1 can chicken stock, 1 can water.
- Add heavy cream and a splash of Shaoxing wine. Let the mixture come to a simmer, then lower to med heat. Blend with hand blender, leaving a few chunks behind.
- Serve with sprinkle of parsley and few more drops of cream, if desired.
The impromptu soup was a tremendous success, with the black garlic cloves contributing unfathomable depth to the cozy fall staple. We enjoyed this sparingly over the following days, unapologetically taking to ceramic Chinese spoons for ease of consumption.
Attempting to try my hand at K-Pop Doubles, I was appalled to see the combo bar plummet into the red zone, then get kicked out halfway into the second round.
I accumulated about 600 tickets, slightly short of the 1000 required for redemption of a Pokémon-themed plush.
The first snapped as I removed it from its casing. The second cracked at the lip with the gentlest of squeezes. The third failed to incorporate the cooking topping into the rest of the smoothie, cracking along its length until its the cylindrical vacuum power was lost.
Embracing a proactive approach, I turned to Amazon for a solution. Reusable Stainless steel straws had never been considered prior to this calamity. When faced with loss of functionality and enjoyment, drastic measures are to be taken.
As residents of the City, let us hold our heads high with pride in her legacy, honouring Hazel McCallion's hurricane-like greatness and the community she created.