Saturday, May 8, 2010

urban garden party V

Dayliliy and Mulberry Pavlovas- since I had already used some daylily tubers I wanted to throw some flowers in there too. (most recipes I found were for the flowers) I honestly used them more for color than flavor, I can't really say they added much flavor-wise, but they looked stunning. The mulberries were collected from a tree in my alley and are truly one of my favorite spring treats. They grow all over the city and a surprising number of people are unaware of their charms. The berries start out white and turn from red to almost black as they ripen. Supposedly the white ones will make you sick, but I suspect that is an old wives tale they just don't taste very good. I like them still on the red side- they are a bit tarter that way. They also feature into the story of Tristan and Iseult-- the original star-crossed lovers. Something about the white berries being turned red with blood. I can't seem to find anything helpful about it online. My Antonia, by Willa Cather also uses them for the star crossed lover metaphor I seem to recall... I made individual pavlova shells and piped them with a star tip to make them a bit fancier. I used coconut cream, but whipped cream would have worked just as well. I think the most important thing is to make them a bit in advance so that the cream has time to soak into the meringue and soften it up a little. I did not add any sugar to the berries as they were already quite sweet, but if you were using store bought berries I probably would. They are displayed on a chunk of birch bark that is resting atop a small cake stand.

Chicory Dandelion Coffee- This is another thing I have been meaning to make since I was a child. I remember my mother's confusion when I told her I wanted to roast dandelion roots and make coffee... umm why? I was a strange child. If you have ever been to New Orleans you have probably had Chicory Root mixed into your coffee, it's fairly standard practice there. I combined the two because honestly I couldn't gather enough of each to not combine them. Just gather the largest roots you can find, wash and dry them, cut them into smaller evenly sized pieces and roast in an oven at low heat. Mine never got super dark but were clearly dried out and reduced in size. Then grind them in a coffee grinder and prepare in a french press. The dried roots smell amazing- almost chocolately, but the tea you make from them is quite bitter like coffee. I thought it tasted great although if you are expecting it to taste exactly like coffee you will be disappointed. I used some teacups from my collection- I went through a strange phase of collecting small single tea cups as a teenager. Yeah... I was a weird child.

Chicory Tea Cakes- This may be my favorite recipe of all the garden party recipes. I knew I wanted a tea cake to follow with my evolving British theme and I was stumped for days about how to do something more interesting than just sticking a flower on top. Then somehow this came to me. I used my leftover ground chicory root and substituted it for the matcha in Nick Malgeri's Green Tea Pound Cake. I actually added about 4 tbs. which is twice what he calls for as matcha has a stronger flavor. I also added a simple glaze of confectioner's sugar and water which was key I think- they were a little too dry without it. (And I am not generally pro-glaze I only added it to begin with because I thought it looked pretty) The tops are garnished with chicory flowers-- also edible. They were so tasty. The chicory/ dandelion root adds a subtle bitterness that makes the cakes so complex. I will definitely make this again. The platter is another piece of bark that sanded and waxed (so happy with these platters) and the little doilies are made like paper snowflakes. I wanted some kind of 'modern doily' for this party because it went with my theme and because the cakes were too close in color to the platter. I initially was going to machine embroider some but I ran out of time so I came up with this as a backup. It was super easy and fast and I think they look adorable. Here are the basics if you didn't do this ad nauseum as a child. Just round off the edges of your snowflake and you are good to go.

Flowers are milkweed, (which is surprisingly beautiful up close) feverfew and alliums.

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