Wednesday, May 2, 2007

There comes a time...

There comes a time when you are learning new things when you have to sort of lay back and go with it. Think Hippies in 1969. Think skiing. Think diving off a board into a lake. That first jump is more of a walk, but then you get grabbed by gravity and you know that it's going to be ok -- different than you imagined, but ok.

The same thing happened with this installment of Bake Through for me. I struggle with baking. I know it's a simple thing of mixing flour and fat and some liquid. At least some people think of it as simple. And, my mother's maiden name is Baker so, I know it's in my genetic make up somewhere.

But, often I bake in fear. Fear that it's going to be a big brick; fear that it's going to be "raw" inside; fear that, even when it turns out ok, it's all a fluke.

In our last installment, I touted how we frosted the cake. This time, as you can see by the pictures, we have done it twice.

Two cakes: 1. the Sour Cream Butter Cake (p.35) and 2. the Golden Almond Cake (p.37).

You can tell we are in the butter cake recipes -- oh the butter. We must be getting good at doing them. There were no forgotten ingredients, no hustle or bustle. It was so relaxed that we only made one mistake, more on that later.

I so love working at Janet's place. The kitchen has a counter that we can stand next to each other and chat and work, not crowding each other. Now that we've got good weather in Northern Westchester, we can hang out on the back porch.

Ms. Beranbaum often tells us to beat for a certain amount of time to "develop the cake's structure". You can actually see the change take place. What was a bowl of various things, all of a sudden become a bowl of stuff and it's smooth and silky and a totally different color. On the Sour Cream Cake she instructs you to beat for 1 1/2 minutes to do just that same thing. We get to talking and Janet asks if that was the full 1 1/2 minutes that it requires. I said, "I don't know, let me think about how long sex takes...." Janet giggled and blushed and I said, "And multiply by three." (This is the one post that I hope Michael doesn't read :)

We have been asked to use, at various times, a wooden toothpick, a metal cake tester and a sharp knife. After our last blog, I asked one of my clients Jennifer Abadi author of the fantastic cookbook, _A Fistful of Lentils_ (Check it out!) Why there were so many options. She suggested that the wooden toothpick would "grab" hold of crumbs indicating that we'd need more cooking time, where a metal cake tester would be smooth and slip out "clean" before a wooden tester would. This seemed like a possible answer to our question. So, we tried all of the cake testing options that are included thus far in the book and each one produced the same result. This could be do to the fact that in our being so relaxed, we hung out chatting a bit longer and went about two minutes too long on the Sour Cream Cake. Yes, it was a noticable amount of time. We could tell in the crust of the cake (a bit too brown and it even smelled "brown").

Following Ms. Beranbaum's suggestion, we used the Sour Cream Ganache (p.275). Damn, this icing/frosting rocks! It was even fun for me to use in the frosting of the cake.

The Golden Almond Cake has just a hint of almond, but has a nicer texture. We decided that texture difference was based on two things: 1. we slightly overcooked the Sour Cream Cake and 2. this cake had ground almonds in it. Both of these cakes were very easy to put together. Janet opined that it was because they are becoming variations on the same theme -- butter cakes. She's definitely right, but I'm still stuck to the book.

Please raise your hand if you think that putting buttermilk and heavy cream into a jar and sitting it on the fridge sounds like a good idea. I have to say it goes against everything that I've ever heard about food safety. With that said, follow the directions for the Creme Fraiche Topping (p.259). That with raspberries is probably the best non-chocolate topping that we've done so far (I do realize it's only our third topping, but it truly is that good.)

Kevin told me today that both of the cakes were "m'm m'm good". I hope Campbell's doesn't come down on us for that quote. He did mention that the texture of the Sour Cream Butter Cake was a bit dry -- Janet let him know that was probably our fault with over cooking it just a bit.

Like I said, I started this blogging as a way to learn how to bake. What's happened? I found that Janet has the right idea, it's not learning how to bake, it's hanging out with a friend and learning from each other.

Sometimes, you have to lay back and trust the recipe. Hopefully, it's the first step toward great taste.

Bake through



Melanie said...

Kevin recently asked me how I had lost 25 lbs? Well, it was probably because he and Janet moved from Brighton before all of this cake baking began! I am gaining lbs. back with every blog installment.

Kristine said...

Robb, regarding your fear of baking, remember my first try at Charlotte's Oatmeal Bread recipe back in college? The lesson there is that even if the results stink, you can usually dry it and use it as Christmas ornaments. :)

Admittedly, these installments make me salivate. I'm so glad I read this before lunch and not after.