Living in the Carribean is kind of awesome.
Beach scenes, Petit Anse
Mojitos and piña coladas at Esther’s
If you’ve ever lived in someplace rather dreary (I’m looking at you, Vancouver and most of the United Kingdom), you’ll understand me when I say that waking up most mornings to bright sunshine might be the best thing ever.
The sunsets aren’t bad either
The local food here is pretty great, the people are super friendly, there’s geckos everywhere, and I get to drive like a maniac in my cute little car. But alas, not everything is geckos and sunshine – Ted the cockroach makes an occasional appearance, and being in a state of perma-sweatiness is a bit tiresome. On the whole, though, life here is good – some of the challenges, especially when it comes to food, force me to be a lot more creative than I would be if I had access to a huge supermarket with multiple ‘world food’ aisles.
World food aisle, traveler’s edition
And it would be great for blogging (if I ever had time to blog, that is), because I can almost never find all the ingredients for a recipe so I’m always ad-libbing! Every blogger’s dream.
Last weekend it was my friend’s birthday, and I’ve been planning his cake for months. There was talk of a 50 layer cake last year in return for what I’m sure was a minor favour (a deal that I never agreed to in the first place, I might add), and I knew he had forgotten all about it. I figured a crepe cake would be sufficiently easy but also impressive enough. I found a great recipe for the crepes themselves here, but the reviews of the chocolate cream weren’t ideal. So I found a recipe for homemade Nutella! Did you know there apparently is a huge market for vegan Nutella? Neither did I, but there you go. Being not vegan, I decided to go with this recipe from Bon Appetit (yes, I’m loyal, #BA4lyfe).
Due to slightly foreseen circumstances (nuts are bizarrely expensive here, the ones that you can get anyway), I used almonds instead of hazelnuts. I also used quite a bit more sugar than the recipe called for, which is unusual for me, but with the almonds it just didn’t have the right amount of sweetness. I only have a magic bullet and not a food processor so I hedged my bets and bought half ground almonds and half flaked. I did as the recipe directed and blended all the almonds but honestly they didn’t even get that fine – note that a magic bullet is really not the way to go if you want to make nut butter. But then I thought that maybe if I added all the liquid ingredients with some of the almonds it would help grind them a bit more, which seems counterintuitive but I think they just needed something to loosen them so they didn’t all clump! This was such a great idea, everything blended really really well – it still had some texture to it but as if I was going to sit there and strain it (if I had a strainer) after I’d spent so long grinding it. Long story short (not): I changed this recipe a lot so I’ll put my updated version below in case any one else is similarly constrained by space and ingredients and just can’t wait another day without homemade Nutella.
Okay so maybe I need to work on my swirling game
I will say that putting together a crepe cake is maybe not the best thing to do in the heat, because I almost dropped it after building all the layers because the Nutella became so soft! It was also surprisingly heavy. I ended up getting 20 crepes, so the crepes plus a layer of almond Nutella between each one is 40, plus the whipped cream on top makes for a 41 layer cake, and all the accolades to match!
Note that it is CRITICAL to put the cake in the fridge after you build it to let it firm up, and that you want to leave it in the fridge right until you’re ready to eat it because obviously the Nutella will get very creamy and slidey at room temperature!
Island Almond Nutella
- I cup whole almonds (I used roasted unsalted)
- 200g ground almonds
- 1/2cup sugar
- 8oz semisweet chocolate
- 1/2cup (1 stick butter), room temperature
- I cup heavy cream
- 3/4tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 cup strong coffee
- Melt chocolate in microwave or bain marie on the stove.
- Put 1/4 whole almonds, 1/8 cup sugar, 1/4 stick of butter, 1/4 cup of cream and a pinch of salt in the magic bullet and blend. If it doesn’t blend to a smooth consistency, add more liquid.
- Put your blended almond paste in a large bowl and repeat with the rest of the ingredients, putting the vanilla in the last batch.
- Once all the almond paste is blended, add the melted chocolate and coffee and stir. It should be quite soft. Taste for sweetness – if you want it sweeter, add some icing sugar. I also thought putting in some rum or bourbon would have been delicious but note that it won’t set up as hard so just keep that in mind.