This is my entry to Art You Eat #5: Autumn Edition, founded by Holly of Phe/mom/enon-- do check out the round-up this November, and maybe even make your seasonal dish and join!
Last Sunday I found out (via a text message from Kittymama) that I had won the 2008 Philippine Blog Award for Best Food and Beverage Blog. There was actually an awarding ceremony in Pasay that I couldn't attend. I immediately began to wonder if she was pulling my leg, before realizing that the only reason she'd do that is to be uncharacteristically cruel. You see, the other three blogs that were nominated are all really fantastic blogs: Market Manila, Table for Three, Please, and Kubiertos. It was really such an honor to be counted among these greats of Philippine food blogging.
The problem then was my mind. It races at the speed of light at such exciting news. The most predominant among them was, "I really wasn't expecting this." and similar strange thoughts that you think would be taking the humble route, but really turn out to be more douchey than anything. Gratitude-- a simple "thank you, you're all very kind," is really the nicest thing to do. It gives respect to the judgment of those who believe in you and believe your work is worth something.
Before you guys came along (yes, I mean the food blogging community), I really never could handle a compliment. In this society, people (okay, maybe my medical school classmates) think that men have incredibly thick skins and like a camel can go on for years on a single compliment while we take the heat of comments that are meant to be friendly but when you add them all up are pretty huge blows to one's ego. After all, I am the guy who usually gets the "Oh, I didn't realize you were kind of fat!" when a girl accidentally jabs my midsection (I have a totally different appearance with or without clothes, I'm sure you know people like that). So it's kind of a shock when someone actually says something nice. I laugh about it in bed like a maniac.
The strange thing is, I never really knew how to give a compliment before you guys came along, either. I don't know when I started to withhold gushing, or believed that people didn't want to hear once in a while that they look good or did a good job. So all in all, visiting all your fantastic blogs, getting my mind blown, my saliva drained, and my stomach grumbling-- it has been a pretty wild and wonderful experience for me. Made me a better person, natch. Thank you for coming here and (hopefully) enjoying my blog, as I (surely and definitely) enjoy yours. Thanks for making me realize there's all this wonderfulness (gastronomic or otherwise) out there, all over the world!
Apple Trifle with Apple Dougnnuts from Maze (serves 6)
Do you ever wonder why the French give such beautiful names to their original desserts-- "Jolie", "Envie", "Satine", "Opera", "Ardechois", "Grenobloise"-- while the English give such long-winded and boring names to theirs? I suppose the latter would be more descriptive, but that's what menus are for! Let's be romantic! Oh, whatever. I was planning on calling this "Pomme de mes yeux" but it's still too long and this is not my original dessert. It's one Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton's dessert from his restaurant, Maze (part of the Gordon Ramsay empire), which also has a cookbook, which I am thoroughly enjoying. This is a light and elegant dessert with the lovely flavors of the fall. You can opt to just make the individual components instead-- serve the Apple Jelly on its own, eat the Caramel Custard as a pudding with some biscuits, or the Apple Doughnuts on their own. Originally this has a topping of Cider Granita but I didn't have cider and I was not too keen on making a granita for now.
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water (B) and bring to a boil over low heat. Let it bubble for a minute to thicken slightly. Cool until it comes to 40°C (105°F), then divide into two and sprinkle the gelatin on top of one half and set aside. Mix the apple juice with the vitamin C powder or lemon juice, water (A), and the half of the sugar syrup without gelatin. Place the half of the sugar syrup with gelatin over very low heat (a double boiler if you are not confident), swirling until all the gelatin is dissolved. Take off the heat and stir in the apple juice. Divide among 6 small serving glasses and chill for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Heat a heavy-based saucepan until very hot. Gradually add 50g (1/4 cup) of the sugar a little at a time so that it melts on contact with the pan. Swirl the pan as the sugar caramelizes. When it becomes a dark amber (I find that this point occurs a few seconds just after it foams), pour in 60g (1/4 cup) of the cream, stirring with a wooden spoon to combine. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely.
Put the milk and vanilla seeds in a small pan and bring a simmer. Turn off the heat as soon as it bubbles up the sides. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 33g (2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) sugar, egg yolks, cornstarch, and 15g (1 tablespoon) cream until well-combined. Slowly drizzle in the hot milk, whisking all the while. Pour it back into the pan and stir over low heat until it boils for 1 minute, whisking to avoid the bottom and edges burning. Pass the custard through a sieve into a bowl and cover the surface flush with cling film that has been punctured in a few places to let steam escape. Allow to cool completely. Whisk in the caramel vigorously (or use an immersion blender) until smooth. Divide among the serving glasses, layered on top of the apple jelly.
Whip the cream and sugar together in a small bowl to soft peaks, then fold in the Calvados. Spoon over the caramel custard in each serving glass and chill until serving time.
Add the lemon juice to a large bowl of cold water. Peel, core, and chop the apples (1/2 inch dice), immersing them into the cold acidulated water as you go. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels. Place the apples in a wide pan with the sugar, butter, and vanilla pod. Cook over a medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes. The apples will be tender but hold their shape. Take out the vanilla pod and purée the apples (ideally with a stick blender to save on clean-up) and turn up the heat to high. Cook until thick. Cool slightly then transfer to a piping bag fitted with a slim nozzle.
Apple Doughnuts (makes about 20)
In a small bowl, stir together the yeast and the milk and set aside. Place the flour, salt, and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Make a well in the center. Pour in the milk, egg, rum, and rosewater. Using a mixer with the dough hook (or your hands, as I did), stir or knead the ingredients until it comes together in a ball. Mix in the butter a little at a time until fully incorporated and the dough is smooth. If the dough still appears too wet, dust with a little flour and knead it in. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Leave to prove in the fridge overnight (it will double in size).
Bring the dough back to room temperature, then knock it back and knead lightly on a floured surface. Divide in two and roll each portion into a long log about 3-4cm (1-1/2 inch) in diameter. Cut into 20-25g (3/4 oz, the size of a ping pong ball) pieces and place on an oiled baking sheet, making sure there is space in between each. Cover with lightly oiled cling film and prove in a warm place for 1-2 hours until they are almost double in size.
Mix the caster sugar and cinnamon together in a deep plate and set aside. Heat the oil in a deep fryer or deep, heavy pan to 190°C (375°F-- I found that this was too hot and browned too quickly, or I have a bad thermometer, and ended up frying them at 160°C on my thermometer) and deep-fry the doughnuts in small batches until golden brown all over. Drain on paper towels. While still warm, pipe the apple purée into the centers and toss in the cinnamon sugar.