Day two of mindless eating. The best and worse and the same time. The best ’cause it was an event I’ve been waiting for some time and didn’t disappoint in any sense but the worse because it was a willpower test that (once again) I failed.
All Sydney Food Bloggers were invited and asked to bring something to eat or drink plus a $10 Kris Kringle present. I had planned to make empanadas with three different fillings (beef, ají de gallina and seco de cordero con frejoles). The Sunday before the picnic I cooked the fillings, made the dough and put it in the fridge to chill. When I started assembling the beef ones I realised it was a bad idea to do it in such a hot day, because the dough was melting and the result was not pretty. Frustration kicked in and I gave myself a day or two to choose from between the options that had been previously discarded.
The beauty of the empanadas idea was to bring 1) something savoury, which I was sure there would be a lack of, 2) something Peruvian, 3) something I could freeze and bake on the day. In the end I chose something that somewhat matched two of the three criteria: lúcuma cheesecakes, which are indeed Peruvian and could not be frozen but easily prepared the day before, and kept chilled and ready to go.
On Friday night, after the office’s Xmas party (and a few beers in my system) I got home and prepared the desserts. I got up a bit late on Saturday, went to Sydney Park for my usual sprint intervals, took a shower, grabbed my picnic paraphernalia and caught the bus to the city.
The picnic took place at the Centennial Park, which I hadn’t visited before. The park is huge but luckily there were clear instructions to get to the chosen spot. I was expecting to find lots of food bloggers but there were only four or five ladies when I arrived, (luckily, for easy recognition) taking shots of the food laid down on the flat stone used as table. Among them was Helen from Grab Your Fork, one of the organisers.
It was a beautiful and sunny day, which may be perfect in most cases, but a bit scary when your dessert is at risk of melting. More and more bloggers kept coming, some of them already knew each other. Susan from Chocolate Suze, the other organiser, had the name tags but she was a bit late, so we just introduced each other until she arrived. I was relieved to see that other bloggers brought compact cameras (even phones!) along for taking pics. I didn’t feel so amateur after all.
As expected, the sweets outnumbered the savouries by far. It’s easier to make something sweet look pretty and you’re expected to bring something pretty for such an event, right? Even so, many bloggers (me included) have decided to prepare something savoury next year. I’m already looking forward to it!
What follows is a bit of eye candy. I was planning to take notes and what was what and who made it but found it would be a real hassle. Only a few people had the courtesy of labelling their goods, thing that totally slipped from my mind and that (I think) should be included in the “what to bring” list for next year.
The cupcakes, tartlets, etc:
I wish I could have tasted one of everything, but, believe it or not, I have limits. I did try most of the savoury stuff and the sweets I didn’t wanna miss. I liked so many things that it would sound like gluttony to mention them.
I’d say the big hits of the day, judging by how fast they disappeared were Billy’s pork ribs and Ayana’s strawberry Santas.
There were drinks too. More soft drinks than anything else, but also a bit of booze. I had a glass of sparkling wine courtesy of Deborah from Vintage Macaroon and lots of water.
After a nice chat it was time for a bit of fun. Four teams fought for the gold medal in the food blogger Olympics. The contests were 1) transferring soy beans from one bowl to other with chopsticks, 2) food tasting, 3) plating picnic leftovers & tweeting a pic of the finished dish. Fun stuff to watch, not sure how the contestants felt.
Then we played Kris Kringle. For those who don’t know, the game goes like this: everybody brings a present within a price range and gets a number. Person number one gets a present from the “pool” and unwraps it. Person number two can steal number one’s present if they like it or take one from the pool. This goes on until everybody has got a present.
The only issue everyone found was that the rules were not so strict (in my office, for example, nobody can steal twice), so the game was quite long. A Cakewich and a set of ninja-shaped gingerbread cutters were the most stolen presents, followed by a mini cast iron pot, rocket-shaped popsicle moulds, and cute spatulas (shaped as a gingerbread man and a fried egg).
Most presents were interesting or just cute, like the sushi USB, the sushi train, the cupcake necklace, and the bug lollipops.
I’m happy to announce that this set will also make its debut in our housewarming party (hopefully in January).
After the game some people started to leave, some others hung out for some minutes chatting, swapping presents, tossing (and/or eating) leftovers. The lovely Angie from Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook!) gave me a lift to Sydney Park.
To sum it up, here’s what I learned on Saturday:
- Not all Sydney food bloggers are Asian (a bit of a joke inspired by a big online discussion that took place a while ago).
- Not all food bloggers have massive semi-pro or pro cameras.
- Food bloggers are normal human beings with no fancy feature that allows them to eat more sweets than regular people.
- Food bloggers love pork ribs.
- Choose sweets if you want to be remembered for bringing something pretty, choose savouries if you want to be remembered for bringing something tasty that gave people a break from too many sweets.
- Never trust a blog name (the person behind Obese Baby turned out to be a tiny skinny cute girl).
- Exception to the rule above: trust a blog name if it contains a person’s name (the person behind Lisa Perkovic turned out to be… well, Lisa Perkovic :) ).
- If you have gastritis, don’t be stupid and eat wisely.
For a complete lists of food bloggers who attended look here.
To close this painfully long post (sorry about that!), somebody asked me for the recipe of the brownie layer in my cheesecakes. I’ll pop in the recipe for the cheesecake, too, just in case.
For the fudgy brownie layer (adapted from Eat Right For Your Type)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
226 grams dark cooking chocolate, chopped
114 grams 70% chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 large eggs
2/3 cup wholemeal cake flour, sifted
2 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped
Preheat oven to 160°C.
Line a baking tray with wax paper. The size of the tray will depend on how thick you want your brownies.
Melt chocolate and butter: boil some water in a pot, remove from heat and place a stainless steel bowl with the chocolate and butter on the pot. Stir until fully melted.
Remove the bowl from the pot, whisk in the sugar and salt.
Whisk in the eggs one by one.
Fold in the flour without overmixing.
Fold in the walnuts.
Bake until done (skewer test). The time will depend on the thickness of the brownies, mine were about 1 cm thick and took around 25 minutes.
Let cool completely.
For the lúcuma cheesecake
3/4 cup powdered lúcuma
3/4 cup water
1 package Philadelphia cream cheese
1 tin condensed milk
12 grams powdered gelatin
300 ml thickened cream, chilled
Mix powdered lúcuma and water and let stand at least 2 hours to form a paste.
Chill a bowl and whisk.
Beat cream cheese using an electric mixer until soft.
Add condensed milk and lúcuma paste, beat until there are no more visible cheese pieces.
Dissolve gelatin in just enough boiling water to hydrate it and whisk it into the mix.
Pour the cream in the chilled bowl and whisk until half set. Fold it gently with a rubber spatula in the mix.
Dark chocolate, grated
Cut rounds of brownies and line your selected serving vessel with them (I used plastic wine goblets).
Pour some cheesecake mix on top.
Refrigerate until set.
Sprinkle grated dark chocolate on top.