Ground too much of those silician pistachios from making Ladurée’s Financier Pistache. That’s just me being overtly zealous … or kiasu, depending on how you want to look at it! So I need use them up quickly before they start to lose all that lovely jadite green. So this is how this cake came about! I’d been wanting to bake this at home for some time already, after learning it at a tea cake class @ Palate Sensations 2 months back. Really love the texture and taste of the cake. Nothing like what I’d had before! Not that the good o’ butter pound is getting boring or what , but this is something which got me really excited. “Wow! Didn’t know a cake could taste like that!”
The first pound cake I’d tasted was a Sara Lee, and I’m pretty sure its the same for many of you. I remember having cravings for it when I was young, often picking up a loaf which was baked in tin foil from the frozen food section of a local supermarket and pestering my mum to put it into her shopping basket. This usually proved futile as the loaf mostly got sneaked back into the chiller compartment, but once in a very blue moon, my mum’s stance would soften and accede to our persistent pleads and protests and concede defeat. Then it is up for us to bicker on which flavour to bring back home. Our default choice is chocolate swirl, as we get the best of both worlds, i.e. rich buttery layers interlaced with ribbons of chocolate. A single loaf would usually last us over a couple of days, and sometimes a week if my sister and I have enough “determination” to prolong the “days of savouring pleasure”.
Over the years, we eat it less and less, probably weaned off the craving or perhaps because the spectrum of choices broaden over time. But Sara Lee pound cakes earned a special place in our hearts, being a “childhood delight” and often the central theme of several acts of child’s play, signing makeshift pacts and treaties to restrain each other from stealing bits of cake from the refrigerator without the knowledge of the other, drafted from torn out pages of school exercise books, to lil’ games like whose cake slices contained the most streaks of chocolate swirls. Totally silly and bewildering now in retrospect but its these little moments of pleasure that help fuel and formulate the most powerful memories which we cherish as time goes by.
If I have to pick a confection which I love to eat and eat a lot, it has to be scones. In fact. there was a point in time a couple of years ago when scones become much of a personal fanaticism when I snacked on them at every opportuned moment. Much to my disgruntlement, they are not the easiest pastry to find here in Singapore, barring sophisticated English High-Tea sets at 5-star hotel cafes. The latter usually mean a hefty price tag which isn’t exactly appealing for me. The Connoisseur Concerto (previously The Coffee Connoisseur) serve them as part of their afternoon tea sets but the quality seemed inconsistent. A local bakery chain, Four Leaves produce fairly decent-tasting ones, and its here that I get my supplies. Still, me aint entirely satisfied, which leaves my stomach still lingering…
A couple of months ago, I chanced upon Chef Gregoire Michaud’s blog and incidentally his scone recipe, which he professed to be from a well-known afternoon tea joint in London. While I have complete faith in its authenticity, I was skeptical if such delicious stuff could be so simple to make. So the recipe was bookmarked but KIVed for quite a while but never materialised. Then more recently, Chef Gregoire was featured in a video for Wall Street Journal. Watching the expert at work certainly helped. And when I finally saw the product at the end of the video, I was sold! They really looked imbued with all the desirable qualities of what I look out for in a good scone, the right degree of crumbliness, the right degree of crusty appeal on the outside and the right degree of soft and buttery textures on the inside. Sound really anal retentive I know. But while some discoveries were made through accidents or luck, many good things are really produced through sheer perserverance and being anal retentive, to the last detail.
Melonpan メロンパン has got to be one of the most intriguing confections in the world, with no connection to melons at all! And this popular Japanese children’s song summarises it rather well, I think. “Anpan with anko, karepan (curry buns) with kare but no melons in melonpan.” 残念! It probably counts as one of the quirkiest mysteries of culinary history.
Well, the crispy pâte sablée layer on top of the bun, if one extrapolates his imagination far enough, does bear a certain remote resemblance to the web-like motifs on the highly priced Japanese cultivated musk melons. Well, no offense but I think the Hongkongers fare better in naming a similarly crafted bread as “polo bun” 菠萝包, after the pineapple. Resembling melons or not, the aroma of freshly baked melonpans is certainly one of my most vivid memories of our trip to Tokyo 2 years back.