Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Baking for an audience. (Or, I'm no Sara Moulton, despite the shared first name.)

So the day finally occurred. The Day.

The day where I would be baking in front of people not related to or dating me. A still forgiving crowd, albeit less obligated to be.

Hoo boy.

I pondered and thought, and decided to make a recipe which had served me well in the past. I even brought the dry ingredients (I was to bake in my friend's house, no less) in a plastic bag, so prepared was I. I felt confident, and a tad bit sassy, carting in my cocoa and flour and homemade vanilla (more on that on a later date).

I mixed together the ingredients, "borrowed" eggs and oil from my friend, and put the cakes in the oven. They baked. I made witty banter with my friends. I took them out of the oven. The banter continued as the cakes cooled. We ate dinner.

After dinner, the cakes still had not cooled to my liking. I thought (no, Sara, haven't you learned that thinking is BAD) that maybe they would cool down faster out of the pans.

I took one pan and hovered it over a plate, my friend peeking below.

I then heard the sound of disappointment. Ohhhh.

Where's the other half?

Found it.

(I'll clarify now that my cakes were not blue, the lighting made it seem that way. They were just brown. And misshapen.)

Seems as though the cakes were more than very reluctant to leave the pans in their warm states. Really, who could blame them. It was nice and cozy in there. And they were about to be wrangled by yours truly into some sort of socially acceptable form (not really).

Despite the really awful looking cakes ("I'm sure they still taste good!" she was chiming in with at this point), I forged ahead. What other choice did I have? (Note to self: learn to make parfait or another broken-cake-friendly dessert.)

Already beginning to cave in on itself.
Problems on the horizon

The plan was to cover the cake in ganache. While does cover flaws on a cake, it doesn't hide them. You know a problem is still there, but it does have the added bonus of a tasty layer on top.

Not bad, not bad...
Trying to cover them up

Not good, not good...
Not pretty

At this point, Adam had the misfortune to wander in and ask,

(and we all know what he's about to ask)

"How's it going?"

I gave him my best "doom and destruction and horror and "Oh the humanity"" look, to which he replied (after hustling over to make sure I still had my limbs after my expression), "Oh, it looks fine."

Here, it just looks kinda like a mess. But not a sinking mess with a crumbling foundation. It's all about perspective, really.

After slicing the cake. No, the inside is not undercooked. It's just missing an essential ingredient we like to call cake.
Try to ignore the sinking middle, please.

When sliced, it sort of kind of maybe resembles a respectable cake. Kind of. Maybe.
Doesn't look too bad in slice form

Despite its cringe-worthy appearance, yes, again, the cake did not fail me. Really, how could you go wrong with chocolate and raspberry (the middle layer) and more chocolate. I know! Don't let the cakes cool entirely before slapping them together! That'll work out brilliantly!


So yes, the moral of the story is to be friends with kind and forgiving people (ones who enjoy cake are a nice bonus). Also to let your cakes cool before taking them out of the pan. But more about the friends (such as mine, who barely acknowledged that the cake was self-demolishing before their eyes, and only made mention of it to remark on its deliciousness).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It's that time of year that the world smells like a florist.

I love looking at the pretty flowers and colors this time of year, don't you?

Tree in bloom

Springtime colors


This is so much better than snow.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

An idea for leftover Easter candy. Or that candy calling to you from the 75% off bin.

So Easter was a few days ago, and I'm sure by now the baskets have been rifled through, the favorite candies picked out and long gone by 10:30 sunday morning.

Have you ever noticed that Easter candy is not just enjoyed through being eaten? Candies of all shapes and sizes are hidden, Peeps are microwaved and forced to joust.

Um, yes, I did say joust. Your family doesn't do this?

But if you do have any Peeps hanging around, here's a simple and delicious idea: Smeeps.

This looks good already

The peeps, pre-microwave

All heated up


(I thought the photos detailed the process pretty succinctly, don't you?)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Re-attempting a previously failed theme. Is anyone else nervous?

With springtime brings seasonal allergies; pastel-colored candies, tank tops, and disposable dinnerware; and the tuning up of the symphony of flip-flops, their slapping on the concrete as omnipresent as cicadas' buzz in the warmer months.

It also brings Easter.

Last year for Easter, I made these cookies, which were chocolatey and sugary delights (not to mention meticulously measured). This year, I began brainstorming early, trying to think of an absolutely fantastic contribution to the dessert table. Ideas bounced crazily around my head like a child that had eaten all the sugary confections I contemplated. Cupcakes? Cake? I pondered.

Finally, a few days before Easter, I walked into Michael's, saw they were having a sale on Wilton candy melts, and the decision was made.

Candy covered pretzels.

Yes, I know how this went last time.

With a profound sense of confidence that came out of I'm not really sure where, I bought a bag of purple and a bag of yellow. I was ready. So ready.

The only moment of indecision occurred in the supermarket, when deciding what shape of pretzel to turn purple or yellow. Seriously, who knew there were so many different shapes of little salted (or unsalted variety) pretzel? It was impressive. It was overwhelming. I pondered, looking at the thin ones, the thick ones, the short ones, the long ones, the honey mustard ones (those were ruled out fairly quickly), the rows and columns of pretzel that lay before me.

I eventually settled on (after consulting my mom's opinion on this decision as well) the square ones (the ones that look like you could play tic-tac-toe in them if you had a really really tiny writing instrument).

After being dipped in candy melts:
Lots of pretzels

Ready for easter

Well, that went pretty well, now didn't it? Not to toot my own horn over dipping half a pretzel in a chocolate melt, but the outcome was pretty crowd-pleasing. And there was no burned or crumbling chocolate in sight.

Today's lesson: Even if something goes pretty wrong the first time you attempt it, it may be worth it to try it again. Unless it was just doomed from the start. Then you could just try making these pretzels. They're quite good.