i had another serving of eggs-kielbasa-sauerkraut for lunch, really hits the spot. i washed it down with a tumbler of ginger green tea and a fruit smoothie. in anticipation of the super bowl this coming sunday, i've been listening to sports radio, something i would never do in any other circumstances. i biked down to market basket in the early afternoon to pick up a few things (virginia ham, carando genoa salami, sorrento provolone cheese) before it started snowing later in the day. but the weather couldn't seem to wait and it was already flurrying during my trip.
today would be the day where i finally use up that cassava i bought many weeks ago. i noticed there was some softness at the tip, which is probably not a good thing, so the sooner i use it the better.
there are only a handful of cassava heavy cake recipes online. that should've alerted me that this was either a very undiscovered dish or that it simply wasn't that good or worth the effort in making so not many people have tried. this was the recipe that i originally found that inspired me to make a cassava cake. this was a similar recipe, and i wonder if they were both inspired by each other. this was a recipe with good photos, and the one of the ones that i found that involved boiling the ingredients first. the recipe i finally went with was one in which won a cooking award. it used the most amount of spices (vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice). another thing different about the recipe was the amount of baking time, nearly 3-1/2 hours.
the recipe asked for more than 2 lbs. of brown sugar in half dark/half life portions, but i found that was simply too much. earlier i weighed a cup of sugar and it comes out to about 1/2 lbs. per cup. so i decided to use only 1 lbs. of brown sugar, or 2 cups worth. i had about 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar, but didn't have anymore. but i learned a while back that brown sugar is nothing more than white sugar mixed with molasses, and i had plenty of both. so i went about making my own brown sugar, measuring out 1-1/2 cups of sugar to mix with 1-1/2 tbsp of molasses. it was hard work, and at one point i realized maybe it wasn't necessary, since later i would be mixing the brown sugar with the coconut milk anyway, so they'd all dissolve. maybe i could've added the sugar and molasses separately. anyway, but maybe there was some special reason you had to do this, so i kept mixing the sugar and molasses in a bowl until i got light brown sugar.
next came the cassava. it seemed so hard that i couldn't imagine easily cutting through it. instructions said to remove the ends first, and that was pretty difficult. it was easy on the soft end, but when i looked inside, there was a small area that had gone moldy and rotted. the weird thing was, it didn't smell bad, and i was actually tempted to taste it. it had an aroma of sweet fermented glutinous rice. the other end was harder to remove, and i even used a meat cleaver. fortunately the middle part of the cassava was easier to cut, as i divided the tuber into 3 segments. i then trimmed off the skin with the knife, and cut the cassava into smaller cubes so they'll fit in the processor.
making cassava cake involves grating the cassava, which i heard is very labor intensive and typically takes hours, so the recipe is a real labor of love. all the recipes i found just sort of casually gloss over the grating (some recipes just use pre-grated cassava) which is a big step. but it's much easier to just mash the cassava in a food processor, which was what i decided to do. i used my ninja blender/processor but i discovered right away that wasn't going to work because the blades didn't reach the edge of the container so large chunks of cassava would collect there and not get chopped. the problem was i was processing dry ingredients, which don't fall back down to center to get chopped. i even tried to blend it 2-3 times, but it just wasn't working. i'd have to use my industrial-strength cuisinart food processor.
the cuisinart made quick work of the cassava. large pieces of cassava could still get caught up in an area where it wouldn't get chopped, but not nearly as badly as the ninja processor. i ended up chopping some of the bigger pieces in the ninja first before dumping the chopped bits into the cuisinart. i found that i ran the cuisinart long enough however, eventually it would reduce any large cassava pieces. the final processed cassava had the consistency of ricotta cheese. there was no unpleasant smells, and if anything, there seemed to be a faint sweet aroma. i was tempted to try some raw and i did lick a little bit but quickly rinsed out my tongue. it tasted like a raw starchy tuber, nothing too special.
next i prepared the liquid portion of the recipe. i melted a whole stick of salted butter before adding 2 cans of coconut milk, 2 cups of brown sugar, and all the spices. i cooked everything for about 20 minutes. to the cassava i had 1/4 cup of water combined with 1 tbsp of corn starch to make a slurry. not sure if this was entirely necessary as the cassava already has plenty of starch for thickening. after the liquid finished cooking, i saved 1 cup for basting then combined the rest with the cassava. into a butter-greased lasagna tray i poured in the mixture, and into the oven it went for 45 minutes baking at 400°F.
after 45 minutes i reduced the heat to 350°F and basted with the leftover liquid. every 30 minutes i'd baste, for a total additional bake time of 2-1/2 hours. it made the house smell like a fragrant cake shop. the odor reminded me of autumn pumpkin pie.
after letting the cake cool for a bit, i cut out a slice. the edges were particularly crusty, so crusty in fact it was almost impossible to cut. as for the taste? i was somehow expecting it to taste like the other tapioca food i know, those tapioca balls in bubble ice tea. but a cassava heavy cake tastes a lot like pumpkin pie. the texture comes from the cassava, but the taste comes from the coconut milk and brown sugar, and definitely the blend of spices. i also served a piece to karen. she seemed to like it, although maybe she was just being nice.
karen came home before 6pm. because she's a nutritionist, her schedule is a bit different than a doctor's, so she doesn't have the crazy hours that cristina and freddy had. she revealed something else today: she actually has a nutritionist practice back at home, and still actively consulting with clients, now over evening skype. tonight she had 3 clients so barricaded herself in her room for most of the evening.
it continued to snow, but never really accumulated very much, just a dusting on the cars and streets. karen seems to be taking the snow very well, but i think because she's lived with snow before. i didn't ask her, but she probably took some photos and sent it back home to friends and family.