Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Our Journey--Part III

I have to warn you that there will be very little in the following that relates to baking. It is really a summary of our 3-day touristical trip on the Eagean coast of Turkey. We enjoyed those days very much, and just as I feel that sharing my baking experiences with you makes them more meaningful, so do I want to share these with you.

The third city of our trip was Izmir where Yurdaer's family live. We spent a week in their summer house in Gulbahce and made a one-day trip to Cesme where his cousins have their summer houses. This happened on a weekend and they took us to nearby Alacati, a very nice town, which happened to have its bazaar on that day. Alacati Bazaar was very lively with many colorful stands selling everything from semi-precious jewellery and hand-embroidered pillow cases to antique furniture. I made a mental note to come back and spend more time there in the future.

After we left Izmir, we went to the ancient historical site of Bergama (Pergamum). This required an easy hike, which all the same was good exercise because we had to carry Rana up. We consumed bottles and bottles of cold water on our way up.

After that, we went to Seytan Sofrasi (translated as "Devil's Table"). Seytan Sofrasi is a hill with a spectacular view of Ayvalik and its bay with many islands. What earns this place its name is a large indentation said to be the Devil's footstep. The picture below was taken in Seytan Sofrasi, and the people you see are Yurdaer's sister Gulnur, her 2 sons, Rana and Mehmet (who just managed to get himself stung by a bee as the picture was taken).

After spending some time in Seytan Sofrasi, we went to Camlik area in Ayvalik where Yurdaer spent some happy childhood years. Like any self-respecting Cancer man, Yurdaer is very fond of revisiting his past. However, more often than not, his efforts result in disappointment, since he cannot find any trace of what he has left behind. This time, however, he was very happy to see that the beauty he remembered from his childhood years was preserved. This picture shows Yurdaer in the beach he used to swim as a child.

Our next stop was Cunda (or Alibey) Island. This island is connected to Ayvalik with an isthmus. It was getting dark when we got there. We checked in to a hotel and went out again to experience the lively night life of the island. Unfortunately, I only have the below picture of Cunda which is not a good one, but I found it very beautiful with its old Greek houses. I have not seen any Greek Islands yet, but our visit to Cunda gave me a flavor of them. We had dinner at a fine restaurant by the sea, but the 3 little kids we had with us were so happy not to be cooped up in the car anymore that they kept running around, and we could not enjoy the food as much as we could. We had ice cream for dessert, hence no pictures here; however, the other local specialties we had prior to dessert will be posted in Savory Dishes soon.

The next picture is the view from our hotel room's balcony. It was a good hotel with immediate access to the beach as well as several outdoor pools.(Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name now.)

After Cunda, we went to the ancient port city of Assos. Aristotle is said to have lived here. We had very little time in Assos, which was very unfortunate as we all thought that it was the most interesting spot we saw this year in Turkey. It was unique with its cobblestone streets and stone buildings. Apparently, it is a very popular vacation spot nowadays. One down point, however, is the traffic. Can you believe that there is a very busy two-way flow of cars, nay, even trucks in those tiny tiny streets?

We had lunch at a dock restaurant which was practically on the sea, and enjoyed the view as much as the food.

I liked Assos so much that I will post a third picture of the dock. It is already on the top of our must-visit-again list.

After lunch, we hit the road again for Canakkale. Our plan was to visit the ancient city of Troy immortalized by Homer's epic poem Iliad, and to see the Trojan horse. (The horse in display now was actually built in the 1970s by a local carpenter, but it was still very interesting to see and to climb in)

Mehmet and Zeynep both learnt about the Trojan war in school and they filled us in about the mythological events that led to it. After a fast tour of the city (there was less than an hour to closing time), we drove to Canakkale and checked in to a hotel. The next day, we had a chance to see a little bit of this beautiful city which reminded us of Istanbul. The marina was very scenic and boasted another Trojan horse; the one used in the making of the Hollywood movie "Troy" starring Brad Pitt.

The marina also had a model of Troy which gave us a bird's eye view of the city we had very little time to see.

Here in Canakkale, at last, I was able to satisfy my sweet tooth as there was an Ozsut Patisserie right in front of our hotel. Ozsut started out as a modest dairy shop producing yogurt and clotted cream before it opened its first dairy dessert shop in 1991 in Kemeralti, Izmir. It has come a long way since then by opening more than 80 branches all over Turkey, and distinguished itself as a fine patisserie specializing in European-style desserts along with more traditional Turkish dairy desserts. An Ozsut creation named Ozsut's Mirror even won a prize in a dessert contest hosted by Le Journale de Patisserie. The cream filling for this cake was flavored by blueberries giving it a lovely and unusual color and it had peaches (and some other fruit that I could not name) in between the layers. Here is a not-so-good picture of Ozsut's Mirror.

While I was enjoying my Ozsut's Mirror, Yurdaer and Zeynep ordered a Turkish dairy dessert Kazandibi (Bottom of Pan)topped with ice cream. This is basically a pudding made with milk, sugar and rice flour. After it is cooked, it is poured into a shallow sugar coated pan, the bottom of which is carefully and uniformly burnt; hence the name! Kazandibi is then cooled and served the burnt bottom side up. It is one of my favorite dairy desserts.

The next day in Canakkale, we made another stop at Ozsut. I went traditional this time and got myself a Tavuk Gogsu (Chicken's Breast) with ice cream. Don't let the name alarm you; while it is true that this dessert contains threads of chicken breast, the threads are very very tiny and they are washed over and over so that they contribute texture rather than taste to this dessert. You have to try it to see how delicious it can be.

Mehmet's choice turned out to be a layer cake with my favorite flavors: raspberry and white chocolate. It was good, but I have eaten better ones.

Back to sight seeing, we spent the last day in Canakkale visiting the Historic National Park of Gallipoli. This was the site for a very bloody, 8-month battle at the end of World War I culminating in the death of 500,000 soldiers from both sides. The peninsula is now a national park with many monuments honoring the soldiers who lost their lives in this battle. This was a very emotional day for all of us that we will remember for a long time.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Matcha and Chocolate Cake

I've been wanting to make a dessert with matcha for a long time. Everything was a little experimental this first time, and there are a number of things to be done differently if I make this cake again; but since this month's IMBB hosted by à la cuisine! features Tea and the deadline is today, I decided to submit it anyway. This is my first entry to IMBB.

For the cake layer, I used Alice Medrich's Hot Milk Sponge Cake recipe with some matcha mixed in the flour. The amount I used imparted color more than taste which was OK. Next, I whipped up some cream with matcha to frost in between the layers. Thinking back, maybe I should have left it at that, but since I wanted to introduce a second flavor, I decided to go chocolate. I threw in a handful of shelled pistachios with the chocolate frosting for crunch, and topped the whole thing with a chocolate glaze. Had I not run out of whipped cream and cake at this point, I would have used more of them and definitely less of the glaze. But as things were, the glaze was the only thing available to level the top of the cake, and it turned out too thick. Oh well, what're you gonna do?

When I tasted the cake, I found the matcha taste quite dominant (in spite of all that chocolate); but Yurdaer who takes his tea very dark, said it was just right. Zeynep and Mehmet also approved of the taste. So without further ado, here is the recipe:

  • 13"x18" prepared Hot Milk Sponge Cake layer with 1 tsp of matcha powder to replace 1 tsp of cake flour in the recipe
  • 1 1/2 c heavy cream (divided)
  • 2 tsp matcha powder
  • 1 tbs plus 1 tsp sugar
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
  • Handful of whole, shelled pistachios
  • 6 tbs sugar syrup (recipe can be found here)
  • Bittersweet chocolate glaze (recipe below)
  • Ground pistachios to decorate
Cut a 2" lengthwise strip from the cake layer and line the inside circumference of a 9" springform pan. Now cut a round cake layer to fit the bottom of the springform pan. When the sides and bottom are snugly covered, sprinkle with sugar syrup. (Since I had some ready made syrup in the refrigerator, that's what I used this time, but I am planning to experiment with infusing the syrup with green tea as well.)

Mix sugar with 2 tsp matcha powder in a bowl. Slowly add in the cream and beat until you reach spreadable thickness. Spread about half of this in the lined springform. Now fashion a second round cake layer from the leftover cake to go over the cream layer. (You won't have enough cake to cut a whole circle; just improvise here.) Place it on top of the matcha cream and sprinkle with syrup.

Melt the chocolate. Pour the whipping cream slowly on the melted chocolate and stir to incorporate completely. Spread it on top of the second cake layer. Scatter whole pistachios over chocolate. Now, carefully spread the remaining matcha cream on the chocolate and pistachios. Level with the back of a spoon and make sure that the gaps in between the pistachios are filled with cream. Refrigerate until the cream layer is firm. Meanwhile, prepare and cool the Bittersweet Chocolate glaze. Glaze the top and decorate the sides with ground pistachios.

Chocolate Glaze
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, cut into tiny pieces
  • 6 tbs butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tbs corn syrup
Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and carefully heat on low flame, stirring continuously until the chocolate dissolves and you get a smooth glaze. Take off the heat, and wait until it cools down to 90-95F before you use.