There are five important aspects to a good layered dessert:
Obviously, the most important aspect is flavour. If your flavours are in flawless harmony, it won't matter how the other aspects are doing.
BUT if you want to give your dessert to anyone other than yourself or close family/friends, you'll need to pay attention to aesthetics. The old saying holds true; we eat with our eyes.
Taste and appearance are obvious aspects most people think of, but I find texture to be almost as important as flavour. Different textures in your dessert give contrast (though there should be contrast between your flavours as well), and keep your eating experience from getting boring once the basic flavours have been tasted.
For a more in-depth understanding of all this, I found this free (super short) baking textbook on plated pastry/desserts:
An example layered dessert breakdown:
Recipes from example dessert (for all diets):
I tweaked normal recipes to make every layer of this dessert low-carb and sugar-free. Click these links for the recipes.
Adapted from this recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/espresso-tuile-recipe.html#!
1/2 ts. salt
1/2 ts. molasses
1/2 ts. molasses
1 cup erythritol or xylitol
1 cup isomalt or maltitol
1 1/4 cups flour substitute (I use 3 parts almond flour, 1 part coconut flour, and a teaspoon of guar gum per 1 cup of flour mixture)
6 oz. soft butter
1/2 ts. vanilla paste/extract
1 cup crushed nuts
Preheat oven to 350 degreed F.
Combine salt, molasses, both sweeteners in a bowl. Add flour substitute, butter and vanilla and mix well. Add crushed nuts last.
Place the batter in a heaping tablespoons on non-stick baking sheet, 2 at a time. Bake for 8 minutes, watching carefully. Crumple 2 pieces of parchment paper and set on a dry work surface. Remove cookies from oven and immediately peel them off one at a time, working quickly while still molten. Drape them over each piece of shaped parchment paper. They cool and set very quickly, so if they stiffen up, place back in the oven briefly.
- Sub the sugar and syrup for low-carb sweeteners, ideally more heat-resistant ones like maltitol, and isomalt in syrup form. Super-low-carb sweeteners like erythritol and stevia will not work well. This biscuit needs the sweetener to help with stability, so using something like stevia would produce a non-ideal result. (DO NOT even think about using sucralose/Splenda or aspartame/Equal, google their toxicity)
- the nuts in this recipe are for texture and taste only, so they can be left out without any structural problems.
Low-Carb Raw Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough:Adapted from: http://willowbirdbaking.com/2011/03/20/three-safe-to-eat-cookie-doughs-chocolate-chip-sugar-and-cake-batter/
Low-Carb Chocolate Mirror Glaze:Adapted from: http://joepastry.com/category/pastry-components/chocolate-mirror-glaze/
- Sub the sugar for one or a mix of low-carb sweeteners. I recommend erythritol and stevia since they are the lowest in carbs, and this recipe does not require the stability that maltitol or other sugar alcohols would provide. (DO NOT use splenda or aspartame, google their toxicity)
Adapted from: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/cocoa-brownies-recipe.html#!
4 large eggs
2 cup sweeteners (I'd recommend half-half split of erythritol or xylitol, and maltitol or isomalt)
1/2 ts. molasses
8 oz. melted butter
1 1/4 cups cocoa powder
2 ts. vanilla extract/paste
1/2 cup flour substitute (I use 3 parts almond flour, 1 part coconut flour, and 1 ts. of guar gum per 1 cup of flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan.
Whisk together eggs until fluffy and light yellow, add sweeteners and molasses and mix well. Add remaining ingredients and mix to combine.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 45 minutes. Do not over-bake!
Cool completely, then refrigerate to chill. It will not cut cleanly unless chilled. You can freeze it for a short amount of time to ensure extra-clean cuts.
- Sub the sugars for low-carb sweeteners, ideally more heat-resistant ones like maltitol or isomalt for structure, plus healthier sweeteners like erythritol, xylitol or stevia for extra sweetness. If calories/carbs need to be as low as possible, use a mix of erythritol and stevia, not pure stevia. This cake needs the sweetener to help with stability, so using only stevia would produce a non-ideal result. (DO NOT use sucralose/Splenda or aspartame/Equal, google their toxicity)
Low-Carb Creme Anglaise Custard Sauce:Adapted from: http://joepastry.com/category/pastry-components/creme-anglaise/
4 egg yolks
vanilla beans seeds (1 bean) or 1 ts. vanilla paste/extract
2 cups whole milk (for richer result use half milk and half cream)
1/3 cup erythritol (or stevia to taste)
Pour the milk into a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Meanwhile, mix the vanilla and half the sweetener in and stir until it has dissolved. Have the yolks ready in a medium bowl, add the rest of the sugar and mix well. When the milk mixture starts to simmer, start tempering the yolks by pouring about half a cup of it into the yolks and whisking it in quickly. Add about another cup of the milk mixture, whisk, then pour all of it back into the saucepan. Return the pan to low heat and gently bring the mixture up to 183 degrees F, whisking steadily. Check before it reaches this temperature by dipping a wooden spoon in and swiping your finger across the custard film. If the custard has thickened enough that your finger leaves a path, don't wait for the temperature to reach 183, directly remove it from the heat and strain it into a bowl. Allow it to cool to room temperature (use an ice bath if you're in a rush). Store covered, with plastic wrap touching the surface so a skin won't form. Chill at least a few hours before using.
- I recommend erythritol and stevia since they are the lowest in carbs, and this recipe does not require the stability that maltitol or other sugar alcohols would provide. (please DO NOT use splenda or aspartame, google their toxicity)
Low-Carb Savory Tart Crust "Pate Brisee":Adapted from this recipe: http://joepastry.com/2010/making_pate_brisee/
10 ounces (2 cups) flour substitute (I use 3 parts almond flour, 1 part coconut flour, and 1 teaspoon of guar gum per 1 cup of mixture)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces chilled butter cut into pieces
2-4 tablespoons ice water
First, put half the flour and the salt in the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment and turn it on low. Add the butter a few pieces at a time. Add the rest of the flour and turn the mixer up to medium. When the flour has all been incorporated add two or three tablespoons of water and mix for 30 seconds or so. Pat the dough into a flat patty, wrap it in plastic wrap and and put it in the fridge for an hour.
Your Goal: gain a new definition of normal
I've met two kinds of expats:
Tourist-trying to live home lifestyle
other- someone wanting a deep connection with the host country
It's ok to be a tourist, but don't tell yourself you're doing anything other than getting a scratch-the-surface vacation experience. Doesn't matter how long you've been living abroad, you have to be immersing yourself to be a "local".
Eating Out: Depends on country, but if locals rarely eat out, you should rarely eat out. If you do eat out, eat at places with local cuisine. Foreign food is ok on occasion, but should not be daily, even weekly.
Grocery Shopping- no expat or import stores (every now and then is ok),
Try something 7 times before deciding whether you hate it or not, palate has to adjust.
Taxis vs. buses vs biking vs walking, don't distance yourself from local people, unless only safe option is taxi.
Again, do what locals do. Depends on country, but if it's safe, take the bus, even if uncomfortable. It'll help you understand what average people have to go through, and more importantly, it'll force you to spend time near locals and listening to the local language. You may even get to talk to people.
Walking is good too, biking, if safe. Scooters, if safe.
Uncomfortabel does NOT necesarily equal unsafe. Figure out the difference.
#3: Socializing + Customs
Spend a part of every day with locals. Doesn't have to be your whole day, but every day. Cultural adjustment happens best and fastest when you're surrounded by that culture in a social context, social pressures apply subconsciously.
When you spend enough time around locals, their manenrisms and the sounds of local conversation will become normal to you.
If your job recquires working with other expats, that can't be helped, but outside of work, make sure you're spending at least a small amount of time DAILY with locals. Once or twice a week won't cut it. The goal is to be as immersed as possible, which requires feeling uncomfortable for a good chunk of your dayy. These situations won't be uncomfortable forever,a nd the more you do it, the sooner you will learn and adjust. Finding a langauge buddy helps a lot, also helps you learn the language.
Having a community is what gives you both a cushion from culture shock, but also helps you immerse yourself emotionally, socially, not just linguistically. You'll never adjust if you focus only on what you're missing, skyping people back home, spending your whole day with other expats, etc.
expat communities are sometime necessary for sanity, I have one, and keeping home relationships strong is of course really great too, but I'm just saying that it shouldn't be your routine 24/7 daily. immerse yourself and build a new lifestyle in your host country, learn as much about it as you can, learn to love it, even if it takes a while. You don't have to give up your old life to gain a new one, you can have multilple lifestyles and cultures. All racially and culturally mixed people like myself have understood this since we were little. You can gain adjust yourself to multiple cultures, you're not stuck with one!! It is extremely difficult to completely 'assimilate" to a new culture, but adjusting doesn't necessarily require assimilation. I suggest that you aim for assimilation though, because that way you're at least aiming high.
People who travel a lot often partake in the flashy celebratory shallow level of holidays, but if you partake in these things year after year, connect memories of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, emotions to each holiday or celebration, you are doing the same thing kids do as they grow up with their home "culture". After repeated attempts at experienceing the things that are "normal" for the country, you become like local kids, you start gaining a feeling of connection to these holidays and celebratoins, as well as to others who have experienced these things.
Learn the language. No excuses. It will take a LONG time to get good, but it won't take that long to be able to have a conversation as long as you are willing to be embarrassed and mess up a lot. Practice every day, and your brain will sort out the rest. Immersion is best, listen to music, radio, tv, movies, mimic what you hear, act like a toddler
Everything about learning a language changes your definition of normal. Doesn't matter how bad you are at it, normal humans are capapble of adapting. Language is crucial to having a deep understanding of a culture, that means being able to have a conversation. Basic questions do not count. Where's the bathroom, how much money, Hello how are you, where is..., etc.
When your environment has sounds that your ears and brain understand, the environment will feel more confortable and "normal", which will help you adjust to the culture as well.
Kids spend their whole childhood learning social cues and how to make small talk, how to express themselves. It's the same when you learn a language, it takes YEARs to get good at it, so don't be in a hurry, be patient.
After a few years/
Everything I've explained above should be your goal for your first few years. Once you feel comfortable and adjusted, once you can speak the langauge decently or at least hold a conversation, once you've reached the point where you are familiar with all the popular local dishes and have tried them all multiple times, once your palate has changed, you start liking foods you thought were weird or even digusting when you first arrived, once you stop feeling uncomfortable when people do something that would be understood as rude in your home culture, THEN and ONLY THEN would I reccommend spending more of your day according to your home country lifestyle or any lifestyle different from locals. Again, you don't HAVE to assimilate, it doesn't have to be your goal, but think of any immigrants you know or might've met back home. Which ones do you think enjoy life more, the ones who've put in the years of effort to adjust to a new culture, teh ones who've got a solid grip on the langauge, or the ones that have spent years clinging to their old life, sometimes because of lack of help and resources, but often out of fear and homesickness. The best cure for homesickness is to make a new home. You don't have to give up your old one.