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Monday, July 25, 2011

McQueen and Me...


A couple of weeks ago I gave myself the luxury of visiting the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibit at The Met, while the kids were in school (if you’re planning to go, get there as the museum opens so you don’t find never-ending lines).
It was incredible to see this designer's work and his artistry in fashion. From how he tailored to how every piece was conceived to represent what he was thinking, feeling or experiencing. Each coat, dress, blouse and shoe has a vision and a purpose behind it, even his shows, which were more like artistic performances. Every season he used the runway as a platform to express himself and interpret history, culture, fear, vanity, status, nature, society and the human psyche. Beautiful, spectacular, creative, personal and even spooky. The clothes he designed were just a glimpse into his own self, and all the emotions that eventually led him to end his own life.
McQueen definitely caused an impression not only in fashion but in a different medium of art.

Which brings me to the McQueen I actually know. The one that I see day and night, every single minute of my life. In my son's bed, bike, skooter, p.j.'s, drawers, shirts, shorts, socks, toy chest, hands, underwear, shoes, art work, you name it. The red car with sparkly blue eyes and perfect smile, who speaks just like Owen Wilson (at least in the English version of both Cars movies). In short, my 4-year-old is crazy about this character, and to celebrate his birthday, try guessing the theme he chose…
We had a little party at the playground with the few friends who were still in the City. It seemed more like an altar to this Disney/Pixar animation and an ode to licensing than a birthday celebration, but my little boy was in Cars' heaven.
Planning the cake wasn’t that easy, because as much as he loves McQueen, he hates eating. And for a reason I will never be able to understand, he doesn't like cake (in general, not only the ones I bake, which makes me feel better).
So, I decided that instead of a cake, I would make him a racetrack-shaped huge blondie. I covered it with non-dairy chocolate ganache, ground pistachios and oat cookie crumbs, all which are included in his list of edible things (along with yogurt, finger nails, toys, his Lightning McQueen bath towel, and the occasional bugger).
As I explored decoration possibilities, I settled for paper cutouts. This was the result.


It took me the whole morning to put it together. But he LOVED it. His eyes lit up when he saw it and he showed it proudly to everyone.
The blondie came out delicious, almost everyone asked for seconds, including my celiac friend, who couldn't believe it himself, as he's rarely able to eat birthday cakes.
However, after blowing off the candles, the birthday boy left the table before I even had a chance to serve him the first slice. He was in a hurry to go play and didn't even try it.
Isn’t this why I called this blog "the irony of baking"?


BLONDIES
This recipe is easy, super fast, delicious, wholesome and if you use a scale, you'll only get a bowl, a baking pan and a whisk or spatula dirty. It freezes well if double wrapped, and... do I need to keep convincing you to bake it?????

Super ingredients: Whole oat flour, flax and if you want, you can add 1 cup nuts. almonds or your favorite seeds

  • Vegan 
  • gluten, nut, soy, wheat free 
  • pareve
INGREDIENTS
3/4 cup (4 1/2 oz) coconut sugar
1 Tablespoon ( 0.3 oz) flax meal mixed with 3 tablespoons (1.4 oz) water 
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (3 oz) olive or expeller-pressed grape seed oil plus more to oil the pan
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) whole oat flour (gluten free if needed)1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon sea salt 
1/3 cup (2 1/2 oz) ounces semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
(gluten, dairy, soy and nut free if needed)

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Oil an 8-inch square baking pan and line bottom and two sides with parchment paper leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.. In a large bowl, mix with a spatula the coconut sugar and flax-water mix until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and oil and beat to mix well. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, beating until just incorporated, and making sure no clumps are lef. Do not overmix. Stir in the chocolate chips (and seeds and nuts, if using).


Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use the spatula to smooth the top.

Bake the blondies for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is dry and golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached (not wet, but not perfectly dry). Remove the pan from the oven and let cool.

Unmold by lifting the 2 sides of parchment overhanging. Cut the blondies into squares. The blondies can be stored, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months (thaw before serving).

To make racetrack blondie cake, double the recipe and bake it into 2 (9-inch) round pans. When cooled,  cut a sliver of both circles and connect them together. Double-wrap them in plastic and freeze for at least 4 hours. Then cover them with ganache. For some reason, these blondies bake naturally with a raised edge, which comes in handy when it's covered with ganache, as the chocolate keeps contained.

DAIRY-FREE CHOCOLATE GANACHE

INGREDIENTS
3/4 cup (6.75 oz) unsweetened rice milk
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (8 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon sea salt

METHOD
In a medium saucepan, bring rice milk to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat immediately and pour into a large bowl with the chocolate chips. Whisk vigorously, until chocolate is completely melted and well incorporated. Add salt and vanilla. Whisk. Let cool. Pour onto frozen blondies, so ganache sets or cover and refrigerate or freeze.









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