Thursday, September 28, 2006

What's Your Fix?

The charming Dr. Miguel Cogorno (hijo/Jr.) had thoughtfully scheduled my appointment this week to avoid pregnant ladies. However, he probably had forgotten that he is a gynaecologist/obstetrician after all so I opened the door to his clinic yesterday to find a roomful of newborns and mothers.
The staffs are really personable just like the good doctor; one of them was helping a new mother to feed her baby. I tried to be unaffected; only when the older secretary came in from her lunch break and asked if she could hold one of the babies, tears started fogging my vision.
The mothers were rejoicing in young new lives and had brought their babies to meet the lovely man who delivered them. The last thing they needed was some miserable woman with a flat stomach and tears swelling in her eyes close by. I held it together, just about. To divert my attention, I kept thinking what treats I would get myself after the check-up.
What could fix me? Almost everyone's reflex is chocolate. I thought about it but I don't actually eat much chocolate anymore; I've miraculously grown out of craving it some years ago. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy it still but it is no longer a necessity.
I thought about ice cream but I've found the Argentine flavours too sweet. There are very few purely fruit or nut based ice cream like the Italian gelati. The flavours Guillermo and I stick to are banana split (banana, a little dulce de leche and chocolate sauce in a plain ice cream), tramontana (kind of like cookie'n'cream but crunchy), tiramisu, chocolate amargo (bitter) and mousse de limon (lemon mousse). I'd have some in the summer but none are flavours I crave such as fresh white peach, raspberries, mango or pistachio, hazelnut and almond milk.
Last year, Persicco had a limited edition helado named Prima Rosa (rose scented ice cream with meringue bits) which I loved. The taste was delicate and it came in hues of cream and soft pink. Apparently, it wasn't a hit with the locals so I'm not sure if they'd offer it again this year.
I've realised my tastes have changed so much that I can only think of savouries on my cravings list. Sushi and sashimi gets the crown. Pesto made with pine nuts (pesto here is made with almonds), basil, extra virgin olive oil and reggiano parmigiano paired with fresh pasta come close. The third goes to home made hummus and corn chips; Doritos would do me. No, I'm not that high-maintenance.
This is a disaster; I mean my cravings look almost too healthy. My list makes me look like a pasty faced sad bore. What happened!?
Just so I could regain some street cred here, I am going to write about the various kinds of chocolates available in Buenos Aires.
A lot of panaderías here sell chocolates; they tend to be very sweet so forget them. Tikal, named after the Mayan ruin in Guatemala, is a trendy little shop in Palermo Soho. Their packaging targets the AB demographics – young, high income professionals who like to ride the trends a little. Unfortunately, their chocolates are not to my taste either; same story, they are too sweet and have too much milk. Their fruit based ones are filled with fruit jam rather than real fruit. But I love the florist next door and don't let me put you off their chocolates because you may prefer milk chocolate to dark anyway. Guillermo certainly didn't mind them at all.
Since I frequently use chocolate in baking, I tend to look for bars. The obvious economical and decent choice is Aguila Extra Fino (60% cocoa solids). Aguila (Eagle) has recently introduced a single origin Costa de Marfil (Ivory Coast) dark chocolate, also with 60% coca solids. It is slightly cheaper than the original Extra Fino; they are all around 3 pesos anyway. Now taste test results: if you are eating it, you may prefer the new product (I'm still undecided) but if you are cooking I'd definitely say stick with the original.
For eating, I've found a great compromise. At 18 pesos (US$6) or more for 100g, I'd only get a bar of Lindt 70% or 85% as a treat. The rest of the time, I've found Salgado, made by Fenix, very edible (around 9 pesos/ US$3). They can be a little difficult to find and I've yet to see any shop stocks their full range. Try your luck in good delis, panaderías, cafes and online. I get mine from Diki on Libertad, entre Sante Fe y Arenales or an old fashion panadería named Progreso on Santa Fe, next door to my dentist.
I've experimented with a few of their single origin bars from various cocoa producing countries and have recently spotted a Gianduia flavour I'd like to try soon (hazelnut and chocolate, a classic Northern Italian combo). These are 70% dark chocolate bars with the complex flavour of a good chocolate and are not too sweet.
Of course, you can use them in baking too; your chocolate cake is only as good as the chocolate you use. There are many chocolate cake recipes out there, I've already too many. However, this fudge like chocolate cake is perfect when you want to spoil yourself.
200 g butter
200 g high quality dark chocolate
200 g sugar
5 eggs
1 tablespoon of flour
Grease the sides of a spring mould (mine has a size of 26 cm) with butter and line the bottom with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to a 190 degrees Celsius.
Break the dark chocolate in smaller pieces and heat it slowly with the butter in a bain-marie. When everything has melted, add the sugar, stir and let it cool down for about 5 minutes.
Now add eggs, one by one and stir well with a wooden spoon or a whisk after each. Finally add two tablespoons of flour and blend well.
Pour the mixture in the spring mould and put it in the oven for about 25-30 minutes. I prefer chocolate cakes, that are smooth, moist and fudgy - just melt in your mouth, so I'd watch it very carefully to not let it overcook.

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