Even though it’s good to be back in Beijing, I’m never really feeling at ease. This semester is the first time I’m sharing my room with someone, and so far it hasn’t been a very pleasant experience. I don’t want to complain too much cause I know there are way bigger problems than having a horrible roommate, but when my roommate is doing everything to prevent me from sleeping at night (like putting on her heels in the middle of the night while already wearing her PJs, just so the noise of the heels will keep me awake) and studying during the day (like refusing to put on her headphones when she’s watching Pakistan Got Talent on full volume), I find it hard to stay zen.
Luckily I have the best friends and parents who help me to stay positive, see everything in perspective and think of creative ways how I can get back at her (it stays with fantasizing though). And sometimes a little bit of chocolate will help as well.
This is the easiest chocolate mousse there is. You only need to make sure that you’re using fresh eggs (not sure if I would use raw eggs in China though) and good chocolate, and you’re good to go. With only two ingredients (+ a little bit of salt) you will end up with the most light and delicate mousse that will make you forget all your worries, or at least for as long you’re eating it.
All of the teachers at my internship are, unlike me, overseas Chinese and Chinese is their mother tongue, which means I can learn a lot from them, either by practicing my Chinese or observing their teaching methods. It also means I served these brownies with a ridiculous amount of chocolate in them during the break to compensate for the lack of a Chinese nationality (kidding), but maybe also a bit to calm my first-day-of-internship nerves. Of course the day went great and there was nothing to be nervous for to begin with, and at night my roommates and me went to Amsterdam to go to the movies followed by a Chinese dinner.
Chinese restaurants sometimes have two menus, one for the tourists or Dutch people who are complete idiots when it comes to Chinese food, eating with chopsticks or just anything Chinese. And there’s the menu for the Chinese people who know what they’re dealing with. So when we were handed a menu mostly in Dutch, I asked the waiter (who was probably the same age as us) politely if he also had a Chinese version. The conversation went as followed:
Him: Well.. I do.. but I’m assuming you don’t speak Chinese.
Me: Well.. I do..
Him, raising his eyebrows: You can speak Chinese?
Me: Yeah.. I actually had my first teaching day today.
Him, in a cute voice: Aah, you had your first Chinese class today?
Me, smiling a bit uncomfortably: No, I taught my first Chinese class today.
Him, still not believing me: So you think you can read those characters on the menu?
He still didn’t believe me, but at least he gave me the Chinese menu and added in a skeptical tone “if you need any help, just let me know”. Later when I ordered in Chinese, the flustered waiter didn’t respond back in it, except for a clumsy “ok”. And then it occurred to me that he probably was fluent in Cantonese, but my Mandarin was way better than his. For the rest of the night he tried to avoid our table as much as possible.
Hot weather makes me incapable of doing anything other than hiding in cool places and resting (preferably at the beach/pool), I can’t sleep, eat, think properly, let alone cook or bake. It has been sizzling hot these last couple of days, especially for Dutch summer standards, and I have been avoiding doing any major activities.
So I find it quite amazing that I was still able to create this summery ice cream, but I’m glad I did because it is so damn delicious and it is the only right thing to eat in this weather. Even though I was able to get myself into the kitchen to make this ice cream, I did wait till the weather cooled down a bit to tell you about this mind blowing ice cream. Strawberries are roasted, mashed and mixed with a coconut custard, churned into ice cream and mixed with chocolate, resulting in this roasted strawberry-coconut-straciatella ice cream.
The roasting of the fruit makes the flavor of the strawberries more intense, the coconut gives it a fresh twist and the bitter chocolate is a nice contrast to the sweet ice cream and makes for a nice little crunch. I think all of us need to have a tub filled with this in the fridge as an emergency kit for the next heatwave.
I’ve been overthinking everything lately: everything that happens, every decision I make and every conversation I have. Not only do I do this about things that are happening right now, but also about everything from the last couple of years and all the things that are yet to come. I’m aware that most of this is a big waste of time, I can’t change the past and don’t know what will happen in the future, but I just can’t help pondering about things from studies to boys and from in which city or country I want to live in to getting a grown-up people’s job.
Probably no one other than me has a clue what I’m talking about; so let’s just talk about cookies, cause I don’t have any doubts about these. And I have the entire Internet to back me up: these New York Times chocolate chip cookies are famous, and not just for any reason. These humongous cookies are crispy on the outside, gooey (if warm) and soft on the inside and eating one, or two, of these makes life a lot less complicated.
It’s no coincidence that the posts of two of the best brownies I’ve ever made, this one and this one, have crappy pictures. When these fudgy monsters come out of the oven, the only thing I want to do is dive right in and treat myself on a piece of sticky chocolate gooeyness, but just when I’m about to do that, I have to remind myself that I should take pictures first. The little self-control I have just allows me to take a couple of lucky shots before I take a piece, or two, ok, maybe three. And as you can actually see – busted – I couldn’t even restrain myself from slicing the whole thing up and snatching a couple of pieces before taking the pics.
After having to take two trains, two plains and a cab ride to get from Amsterdam to Beijing while being sick, I arrived in my dorm room completely exhausted and jet lagged, but luckily these fudgy miracle workers helped me feel better. The caramel gave me the energy kick my body needed and the chocolate helped me to get over the pity party I was having. And I’m pretty sure they’ll help you feel better whatever problems you’re having, but let’s be honest, no one needs an excuse to take a little bite of these salted caramel brownies.
I know the brownie in this picture doesn’t even come close to the looks of the beautiful original, but it sure tasted amazing. They already taste wonderful immediately after taking them out of the oven (watch out not to burn your mouth on the dangerously hot caramel), but they taste heavenly the day after.
I arrived at my parents’ place late last night. My dad made me bitterballen (a Dutch snack) and then they sent this tired jet-lagged girl to bed. I woke up before 6 am and immediately was energetic, it was already 1 pm in Beijing after all, so I got up and started my first day back home.
I think it goes without saying that one of the first things I did was baking a cake, or at least make an attempt. It didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped though. It started with using the wrong chocolate. I only realized that I had been chopping up milk chocolate when it was too late, so I decided to just use that one. And just when I patted myself on the shoulder for not letting the butter burn, I clumsily poured some of the sizzling hot butter over my own hand – ouch. I ended up whisking the eggs with my right hand and having my left hand under the cold tap to stop the cooking process of my fingers (sorry for killing your appetite).
But despite these small (painful) setbacks, I ended up with a delicious cake that has a crunchy outside, a soft inside and is filled with soft pieces of pear and chunks of chocolate. Having baked my first cake since almost 6 months makes me feel better than I’ve felt in a long time and it makes up for any burning fingers or mean jetlags.
Every winter I drink a lot of hot chocolate. I would buy Dutch chocolate milk in the supermarket and just heat it up in the microwave. Having neither Dutch chocolate milk nor a microwave I had to make hot chocolate how hot chocolate is supposed to be made: by just mixing hot milk and dark chocolate. Make it this way and you’ll end up with an incredible rich hot chocolate, so much better than any chocolate milk you could buy in a supermarket. Adding a splash – or two – of liqueur could only make it taste more heavenly.