Flashback to Summer '09; that was when I first heard rumblings about a new generation of creative street food entrepreneurs that were causing a stir in the local SF culinary scene. Some of the original individuals included Curtis Kimball, the Crème Brûlée Man, who could make you a delicious crème brûlée right on the spot; and his brother Brian, the Magic Curry Man, who whipped up a tasty Thai concoction from his humble portable kitchen.
These were lo-fi dining affairs with a twist. They elevated street food beyond the usual greasy fare of hot dogs, pretzels and other fast food and provided an upscale alternative. And part of the fun was cyber-stalking them via Twitter; these nomadic vendors rotated their locations on a regular basis, so hungry customers tracked them down once they revealed their daily location.
Another early pioneer of the nouvelle cuisine of the streets was Steven Gdula of Gobba Gobba Hey, whose name pays homage to the punk rock band The Ramones and their classic catchphrase Gabba Gabba Hey.
Author of "The Warmest Room in the House: How the Kitchen Became the Heart of the Twentieth-Century American Home," Steven moved to San Francisco from the East Coast in 2008 to seek new opportunities. But, according to his blog,
"Shortly after unloading the last box and settling into our new home here this past fall, like so many other people, I started to lose my sources of income. As a freelance writer there just wasn’t that much work to be had. Magazines and newspapers were getting smaller. Some folded entirely. Also, I was new to a city where there were many established writers already ahead of me at the various outlets I approached. But writers have to write just as painters have to paint and musicians have to make music, so I did what so many others have done. I returned to my blog to keep my fingers moving and my thoughts flowing. And then I started baking regularly just to, well, just to see what would happen."
Steven started to bake "gobs," or as he describes it in his upcoming collection of recipes, Gobba Gobba Hey: A Gob Cookbook, "two domes of moist, dense cake with filling in the middle...kind of like a cupcake sandwich." These were "one of my favorite confections as a kid. Growing up in Pennsylvania they were everywhere. You could find them at church bake sales, school bake sales, birthday parties, stores and even in some gas stations on the counter right next to the cash register. I haven’t seen anything like them since moving here to San Francisco so I set out to fill the void."
And fill he did. "Wanting to bring some excitement to his game" in the "new food capital of the world," he went beyond the classic chocolate-and-vanilla standard of his youth and created more exotic flavors made with organic ingredients such as Orange, Cardamom Ginger with Saffron Filling and Black Cherry and Chocolate with Lime Butter Cream. (Full disclosure: I became an early groupie of Steven's and these were two of the three flavors that I served at my wedding in lieu of the traditional cake in the fall of 2010.)
Flash forward to the present-day, and street food is more popular than ever with big festivals, the advent of high-profile food trucks, and crowded weekly events. Steven's grown his business as well, with an online storefront at Foodzie and plans for a truck to help promote his upcoming book that will be available in late August. Start warming your ovens now for 52 recipes including Irish Coffee Gobs with Bushmills & Bailey Irish Cream, Kabocha Garam Masala Gobs with Orange Honey filling and Zucchini Gobs with Lemon-Ginger filling.
Recipe: Original Chocolate & Vanilla Gobs
Yield: 3 dozen complete gobs
For The Batter:
4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, such as Crisco
2 cups sugar, sifted
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1/2 cup 1 cup water, or as needed
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line three 8-by-13 inch cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk the dry ingredients thoroughly.
3 In another large bowl, cream together the sugar and vegetable shortening with a mixer on medium speed. Add the eggs and vanilla to the creamed ingredients, and blend on medium-high until the mixture looks like dense pudding.
4. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the egg mixture, mixing on medium speed after each addition. Then add the sour cream, and mix well. Add water if needed to thin the batter. ("Go lightly" was my mom's original instruction.)
5. Using a tablespoon or a pastry bag, drop 1 1/2 inch rounds of batter on the prepared cookie sheets, leaving 1 inch between each round. Bake them approximately 8 minutes, or until the gob domes have risen. Remove the gobs to a wire rack to cool.
For The Filling
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, such as Crisco
1/2 cup margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar, or 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1. Heat the milk in a saucepan over low heat. Bring to a simmer, immediately add the flour. Whisk. Continue mixing over low heat til mixture thickens, approximately 3 to 5 minutes.
2. With a mixer on medium speed, cream together the vegetable shortening and margarine. Add the vanilla and sugar, and mix on medium-high.
3. Add the cooled milk-flour mixture to the creamed ingredients, and beat until the mixture is fluffy; scrape the bowl with a spatula to reincorporate the ingredients if necessary.
4. To frost the gobs, flip the baked gob domes over on a cookie sheet and match up pairs of similarly shaped domes. Add 1 tablespoon of filling to the flat side of an overturned dome, then place another dome on top, sandwich-style. Allow the gobs to fully set by refrigerating them on a baking sheet for at least 1 hour. Wrap the gobs in cellophane to prevent them from drying out.