Friday, April 30, 2010

Tango's El Diablo

El Diablo
Tango, $10

This is one of the worst pictures I've ever taken of one of the best desserts I've ever eaten.  From the minute the plates hit the table I just couldn't be bothered to futz around with f-stops and framing.  

Tango is celebrating its 10th anniversary today by giving away free servings of its signature dessert, the El Diablo.  This multi-component extravaganza looks like a goth fantasy castle in the clouds.  There's cube of dense dark chocolate mousse, spiced with enough cayenne to make your lips tingle, perched on a nest of scorched meringue, and surrounded by a little moat of tequila caramel sauce; a sprinkling of cacao nibs adds texture and a bitter bass note, and  the whole thing is guarded by a few spicy-sweet praline almonds (imagine Marcona almonds from a country that believes in butter rather than olive oil).  

Back by the bathrooms, there's a framed article from "Seattle Metropolitan Magazine" in which Tango's first pastry chef, Bennie Sata, describes the origins of the dessert.  Ten years ago, when pairing chocolate and chilies wasn't yet the done thing, Texas-raised Sata took her cues from devil's food cake and the vats of mole she ate growing up.  She also talks charmingly about one aspect of the final concept that gives over-the-top El Diablo an element of home ec practicality:  egg yolks go into the mousse, while the whites get "recycled" as meringue.  

And one word of advice to those who carp that El Diablo is "too rich to finish":  share.  Your relationship will be glad you did.  

Sunday, April 25, 2010

ANZAC Biscuits

ANZAC Biscuits 

Observed on April 25, ANZAC Day is an antipodean memorial day, commemorating the past and ongoing contributions of Australian and New Zealand armed forces.  The holiday's origin, however, was more specific.  It was established in memory of the many Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) soldiers who lost their lives in Turkey during WWI, as part of a long, horrific, and ultimately unsuccessful campaign. 

In many places, the sale or consumption of crispy golden cookies known as "ANZAC biscuits" will be as much as part of observances as poppies or parades or sunrise vigils.  If it seems odd that there's a more-or-less official sweet treat associated with such a somber occasion, just consider how much comfort this humble taste of home must have given to those ANZAC soldiers. 

The ultimate origins of the ANZAC biscuit are unclear (I found a similar recipe for "Canadian shortbread" dated 1933 in a vintage Australian cookbook), but it was a perfect match for the shortages and challenges of wartime.  Made from oats, flour, shredded coconut, sugar, butter, baking soda, and water, the ANZAC biscuit calls for treacle or golden syrup as a binder, instead of then-scarce eggs.  The biscuits were durable enough to ship, would keep for long periods without refrigeration, and--just as important--were both nourishing and delicious.  Women in Australia and New Zealand packed ANZACs into whatever tins they had on hand and sent them off to the battlefields by the boatload. 

ANZAC biscuits are now a popular year-round treat, manufactured by commercial bakeries as well as by home cooks.  On ANZAC Day, biscuits are frequently sold to raise funds for veterans' services, continuing to provide comfort and sustenance for those who have served.  

Friday, April 9, 2010

Guinness Cake

Guinness Cake

I discovered the recipe for this chocolate and Guinness cake through an NPR feature on British cookbook author Nigella Lawson and her favorite St. Patrick's Day treats. The cup of stout gives it moistness and a subtle depth of flavor--not the exactly the boozy wallop of, say, a rum baba, but rather what Lawson calls, "a resonant, ferrous tang." Plus, it lends itself to visual puns; Lawson recommends a faux froth of cream cheese frosting, while I opted for a simpler dusting of powdered sugar.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Umai-do Update

In the year since I had my first, addictive taste of Umai-do's homestyle Japanese sweets, I've been keeping a hungry eye on this young business. My article on Umai-do's proprietor, native Seattleite Art Oki, appeared in the January/February issue of Edible Seattle magazine; if you weren't able to catch it in print, the full text is now available on Edible Seattle's webpage.

While the Umai-do storefront isn't yet open, renovations are coming along, and in the meantime Oki is happy to take special orders. You'll also have a chance to enjoy Umai-do products at Seattle Center's Cherry Blossom Festival, April 16-18. Try the "pink" manju (above), a delicate dumpling of homemade white bean paste wrapped in fresh mochi, or any of the other treats pictured on my original post.

3046 South Dawson St.
Seattle, WA

In search of other tasty posts? Check out Wanderfood Wednesday!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Marzipan Mold

Giving my beloved wooden sweet molds from Japan a run for their money is this slate mold from Germany, carved sometime in the 16th century. It depicts the Virgin Mary nursing the infant Jesus, and was likely used to shape marzipan or gingerbread. It is in the collection of Paris' Museum of the Middle Ages.