Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It´s Complicated (not the movie?)

"So how's it going down there in Argentina?," I often get asked. "Do you like it it?" I don´t have a simple answer. We have a complicated relationship, Argentina and me. And the last couple of weeks of the year, before going back to my family in Minnesota for my "summer" vacation really brought to the forefront all of those mushed-up feelings.

Exhibit A: sitting in one of the last classes of the year, the loveliest old man delivered one of the best lectures of the program so far, expounding on social inclusion and the attempt at providing equal health care for all. He taught the class with such reassuring ease, and lyrical, story-filled narration, and compassion, and with the exception of one misogynist joke he made (after warning us that it was coming) that was so predictable to the point of being rendered innocuous, I was ready to take him home to be my very own healthcare-mentor grandpa. And then, at the very end of the class, he says aloud to the class, referring to a woman sitting in the front row, “it was really hard keeping my gaze up because she has such nice legs. It's like one time a friend of mine said to a woman, 'What nice legs you have.' 'Thank you,' she said. 'So what time do they open?'”

Yeah, we were all pretty confused, too. It was one of the least necessary comments ever. Thankfully my classmates, who are mostly Argentine, were horrified as well, though they weren't quite as shocked as the other gringo and I were.

But it's summer in Buenos Aires, meaning that everyone is showing their legs, not to mention sunbathing in bikinis in the parks in the middle of the city. My friend Carolina and I went to see that embarassing movie that no one else is seeing, which I certainly don´t regret although I liked the first one better. And Jacob got way more attractive. And I think people are taking it a bit far when they see domestic violence in werewolf behavior...sometimes a werewolf is just a werewolf, dearheart. The most disturbing thing about the movie for me was the commercial that was played beforehand. It was kind of like the comment in class-- just so unnecessary.
I like spending my summers lying in the sun on friends´ patios instead of being in some bizarre competition with them, and eating chocolate tarts, as we did the other day when my other friend who happens to also be named Carolina had her birthday and there were not one but two basically pure chocolate tarts, an Argentinean one and an American one. And beer and wine and aguardiente. And class in the morning, with my confusing professors.

Chocolate Truffle Tart
Adapted from Tartelette

For the chocolate crust:
1 stick (113 g.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (60 g.) unsifted powdered sugar (I used granulated sugar mixed with a tiny bit of cornstarch because that´s what I had, and it worked just fine, but I imagine the texture would be finer with the powdered sugar)
3 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 ¼ c. all purpose flour
1/4 cup (20 g.) unsweetened cocoa powder

In a mixer, whip together the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and pinch of salt and mix until incorporated. Add the three different flours and cocoa pwder and mix briefly. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured (use more flour) board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Do not work the dough while in the mixer or it will toughen it up. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center.
When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between two sheets of plastic so that it is big enough to fit into a 9-inch spring form pan and go 3/4 of the way up the sides. Use your fingers to distribute the dough evenly on the bottom and up the sides, if it tears just patch it up, but don´t overwork the dough and reroll it. Prick the dough with a fork and parbake it for 10 minutes. Take the tart out of the oven but keep the oven at 350F.

For the chocolate truffle filling:
8 ounces (240 g.) bittersweet chocolate
12 tablespoons (170 g.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 (50 g.) cup sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) strong brewed coffee
4 large eggs

Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring the butter, sugar, and coffee together to a boil over medium. Pour the mixture over the chocolate and leave it undisturbed for 2-3 minutes. Gently whisk until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time whisking quickly until the mixture is smooth. Pour the batter into the tart shell and bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating the tart halfway through the baking (most ovens have a hotter side), until the filling looks just set.
Let cool completely. To finish the tart, whip 1 cup (200 ml)- taste it while you´re whipping it to gauge how sweet you like it. The chocolate in the tart is not particularly sweet, and I like the tart to stay not very sweet, but it´s a question of personal taste and custom. Whip the cream until you have soft peaks (don´t overwhip it), then spread the cream over the cooled tart. It´s great with a cup of strong coffee. I like the tart best on the first day but it will keep fairly well in the fridge, lightly covered, for a couple of days.

Tarta de Chocolate
Adaptado de Tartelette

Para la masa de chocolate:
113 g. de mantequilla, a temperatura ambiente
una media taza (60 g.) de azucar impalpable, sin tamizar
3 yemas
una pizquita de sal
1 ¼ taza de harina de trigo comun (tipo 000)
1/4 cup (20 g.) cacao amargo en polvo (sin azucar)

Bate la mantequilla y el azucar juntos hasta que la mezcla este liviana y esponjosa. Echa las yemas y la sal y mezclala hasta que este incorporado. Tamiza la harina y el cacao juntos sobre el bol y mezcla brevemente. Echa toda la mezcla a una superficie aharinada ligeramente y junta la masa en una bola suave. Si estabas usando una maquina antes ya no la uses en este paso porque hara que la masa se endurezca. Aplana la masa en un disco, envuelvela en plastico, y dejala reposar en la heladera durante una hora.
Precalienta el horno a 180 C y pone la rejilla en el medio.
Cuando la masa este bien fria, estirala sobre una superficie aharinada o entre dos superficies de plastico para que este lo suficientemente grande y quepa en un molde desmontable de 22 cm y subir los lados. Utiliza los dedos para distribuir la masa uniformemente en el fondo y los lados, y si se rompe remiendala con los dedos, pero no vuelvas a estirarla para que no se ponga dura. Pincha la masa con un tenedor y horneala por 10 minutos. Sacala del horno pero deja el horno prendido.

Para el relleno de chocolate:
240 g. de chocolate amargo (no sin azucar-- una barrita de chocolate amargo, de entre 60-70% solidos de cacao funciona bien)
170 g. de mantequilla, a temperatura ambiental
50 g. (1/4 taza) de azucar
1/4 taza de cafe bien fuerte
4 huevos

Coloca el chocolate en un bol. En una olla mediana, calienta la mantequilla, el azucar, y el cafe con fuego mediano hasta que hierva. Echa la mezcla al chocolate en el bol y dejala sin revolver durante 2 o 3 minutos. Batela hasta que este suave. Añade los huevos, uno a la vez, revolviendo rapidamente para que los huevos no cuajen. Cuando la mezcla este uniforme, echala en la tarta y horneala durante 10 o 15 minutos, hasta que el relleno se vea justo cuajado.
Dejala enfriar completamente.
Para terminar la tarta, bate una taza (200 ml) de crema de leche con un par de cucharadas de azucar y una cucharita de vanilla-- pruebala mientras estas batiendola para evaluar si quieres echarle mas azucar. El chocolate en la tarta no es muy dulce, y a mi me gusta que este postre no quede tan dulce, pero es una cuestion de gusto personal. Bate la crema hasta que tengas picos blandos- al punto que levantes el batidor y dejes un pico que se caiga un poco (no la bates demasiado), despues echa la crema encima de la tarta (ya fria) y untala para que cubra toda la superficie. Es buenisimo con un pocillo de cafe bien fuerte. Me gusta mas la tarta el primer dia pero dura bastante bien uno dias, tapada, en la heladera.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

San Francisco Love

Quite a bit of time has passed since I last wrote...and of course there have been a million things I should have written about and didn´t (what part of writing stuff down so I can remember it later do I not understand?) Felipe´s mom, also known as the lovely Doña Lucy, came to visit and stayed with us for 3 weeks, and the craziness of the end of the year has already been manifest in its full glory of goodbye parties, holiday get-togethers, frantic packing and end of the semester assignments. And it´s Hannukah and I barely realized it. I need to fry something in olive oil, like, right now. Or I could show you where we took Felipe`s conservative Christian mother:

Even being from San Francisco, I honestly have to say I was not prepared for the amount of naked transvestites I saw at the Buenos Aires Gay Pride Parade. There were more fake boobs and butts there than there are on a Colombian beach, which is a statement I never thought I would be able to make.

I also made a very strange discovery. Doña Lucy had asked me to teach her how to make whole wheat bread, and though she initially wanted it with chopped dried figs, prunes were all that the store had. (Colombians are big proponents of the deep fryer, not so much of the oven. Now that I think of it I think I should be exempt from Hannukah frying this year given all the frying we did when she was here.) I adapted a recipe for buckwheat-raisin bread that I love, replacing the raisins with prunes, and rye flour for the buckwheat, and when all was said and done, I took a bite...and was blasted back to San Francisco, circa 1989 (which would make me 4), blue stroller and all, when my mom used to give us whole wheat rolls with dried fruit and nuts. I don´t know where she bought them, and I haven´t had anything like them since, but I remember loving them, and in the moment I tried this bread I realized that it was the prunes that gave those little breads their distinctive flavor.

San Francisco Hippy Bread
adapted from Deborah Madison

The Sponge
1 1/4 c. warm water
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 1/3 c. bread or whole wheat flour
1/2 c. dry milk (or replace some of the warm water with an equal measure of warm milk)
3-4 Tbsp. molasses, honey, or a mixture (I use half and half blackstrap molasses and honey because I find the molasses too strong by itself but I like its flavor)

Mix everything together in a big bowl until smooth, then cover and set in a warm place for an hour, or two if your kitchen doesn´t have a warm place. You want it to be risen and bubbly when you finally stir it down for the next step.

The Bread
2 Tbsp. oil or melted butter
1 3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. chopped prunes
1 c. walnuts, optional
1 c. rye flour
1-1 1/2 c. whole wheat or white flour
1 Tbsp. butter, optional

Stir down the sponge and add the oil, salt, prunes, walnuts, and rye flour. Add wheat flour until the dough clears the sides of the bowl, then turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until resilient, 5-10 minutes. You will probably need to add a bit of flour as you go as the prunes make everything a bit sticky; you don't want a super dry dough though, just add enough so that the dough is workable. Oil a bowl, form the dough into a ball, place in the oiled bowl and then turn it over so the top is lightly coated with oil. Cover the bowl and leave it to rise until it's doubled, 1-2 hours.
Lightly oil a 9 x 5 in. loaf pan. Gently deflate the dough, form it into a flat rectangle, and roll it up tightly so that it fits lengthwise into the loaf pan. Pinch the dough together to seal it and place it seal side down into the loaf pan. Cover loosely and let rise again until doubled, 40 min.- 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 375 F, and once the dough is risen bake the loaf for 45-55 minutes, until hollow-sounding when tapped. At this point you can brush the top with the tablespoon of butter, it gives the whole loaf a buttery taste that I love but that some people (hippy mothers die hard) would not approve of. Let cool before slicing...we're going to pretend that this happens, and that Felipe doesn't always want to immediately eat any and all warm bread in his vicinity. It is better though, as it is with almost all breads, to let it cool all the way down before cutting into it.

Pan Hipi de San Francisco
adaptado de Deborah Madison

La Esponja
1 1/4 taza de agua tíbia
una cucharada de levadura seca
1 1/3 taza harina de pan o integral (de trigo)
1/2 taza de leche en polvo (o reemplaza parte del agua tibia con la misma cantidad de leche tibia)
3-4 cucharadas de melaza, miel, o una mezcla (yo uso mitad miel de purga y mitad miel porque me gusta la melaza pero sola me parece que da un sabor demasiado fuerte)

Mezcla todo en un bol grande hasta que este bien incorporado, tapalo y dejalo en un lugar calientico por una hora, o dos si tu cocina no tiene un lugar calientico. Quieres que este con burbujitas y que haya crecido cuando ya lo vayas a usar en el siguiente paso.

El Pan
2 cucharadas de aceite o mantequilla derretida
1 3/4 cucharita de sal
una taza y media de ciruelas secas, picadas
una taza de nueces, opcional
una taza de harina de centeno
1-1 1/2 taza de harina de trigo integral o blanco
una cucharada de mantequilla, opcional

Revuelve la esponja y echale el aceite, la sal, las ciruelas, las nueces, y la harina de centeno. Añade la harina de trigo hasta que la masa se despegue de los lados del bol, despues echala a una superficie enharinada, y amasala hasta que este elastica, de 5 a 10 minutos. Es probable que vas a necesitar echar mas harina poco a poco mientras estas amasando porque las ciruelas hacen todo un poco pegajoso, pero echale por poquitos ya que tampoco quieres una masa muy seca, solo que se pueda trabajar con ella. Aceita un bol, haz una bolita con la masa, colocala en el bol y volteala para que la superficie este cubierta ligeramente con aceite. Tapa el bol y dejala reposar hasta que doble su tamaño, 1-2 horas.
Aceita ligeramente un molde de 22 x 12 cm. Desinfla la masa, y forma un rectangulo plano y ruedala apretadamente para que quepa a lo largo en el molde. Pellizca la masa para cerrarla y colocala con el cieere abajo en el molde. Tapala sin apretar y dejala crecer otra vez hasta que doble, 40 min.- 1 hora. Precalienta el horno a 180 C, y cuando la masa ya haya crecido horneala por 45-55 minutos, hasta que el pan suene vacío si le das un golpecito. En este momento puedes rozar la parte de arriba del pan con mantequilla, le da un sabor de mantequilla que a mi me encanta pero que a algunas (las mamas hipis quizas) no les gustaria. Dejalo enfriar antes de cortarlo...vamos a fingir que eso pasa y que no es que Felipe siempre quiere comer cualquier pan caliente que haya en sus inmediaciones. Igual es mejor, como con casi todos tipos de pan, dejarlo enfriar antes de cortarlo.