Friday, June 24, 2011

Seven-up Cake, Chess Cake, and recipes involving Jello.

I am a bit sleepy this morning, as yesterday was a heck of a day.  Baking, baking, baking, and alas: more baking.  As soon as I am finished here, I get to fire up the oven again to do, well- you get it.  I enjoy it all, but as I listen to my nearly three year-old having a blast in the next room- I wish I could cozy up and watch him like a television.  It is really that exciting to be his mom right now.  

Yesterday I delivered two dozen cupcakes and a very tall cake to a client.  The evidence of 8 hours of baking was on my skirt, face, and in my disheveled hair; and as my weary arms plopped the carefully wrought creation onto my client's desk, an older gentleman asked this visibly frazzled and worn girl where the cake came from.

"From my kitchen," I replied.

"Not from a bakery?" he asked.

"No.  Believe it or not, I do hair, but I bake cakes for fun at home."

He seemed pleased (and probably mortified that I claimed responsibility for others' personal appearance), but I started to wonder: how did I get to this point?

When I was quite young, I remember pulling out cookbooks to see if we had all of the ingredients in the house to make- well, anything.  I remember baking a chocolate pound cake that my father said was "the best thing he had ever put in his mouth."  Thanks, dad.  I also remember circling recipes in the same cookbook later that evening to make for when I started my own bakery (in a addition to becoming a famous singer, Duke cheerleader, and Hallmark ornament designer).

Seven-up Cake.  Chess Cake.  Recipes involving Jello.  And a microwave.

Then I went into a cooking hiatus, when I reduced my involvement in the kitchen to defrosting the meat for the Hamburger Helper.  In college I went on an entirely "fat-free" diet, and I did a lot of experimenting with fat-free cream cheese.  When I moved to Australia, my roommate and I tried countless times to create simple chocolate chip cookies without proper measuring cups.

They never turned out.  Never.  Not once.

C- why didn't we splurge on some measuring cups, for goodness sake?

And finally, when I got married, I started watching the Food Network.  I watched Barefoot Contessa for Ina's sultry-voiced basics.  I watched Giada de Laurentiis for her creativity (how can I make this dish Italian?).  Michael Chiarello brings high-brow sophistication in a backdrop of unparalleled beauty.  Paula Dean I watched for her gall (you are seriously covering that whole ham in puff pastry?).  All of these shows brought some token of knowledge that helped my develop kitchen skills, but none deserves credit above... Alton Brown.

Now, I have a very close friend who really, would rather watch a Rachael Ray marathon than a half an hour of Good Eats.  No one person (sorry, Momma, not even you) has taught me more about food, and especially baking than Alton.  I love his mad-scientist demeanor, and it is no surprise to my husband that I regard him as... cute.  If there is ever a recipe I have in mind- some wild concoction of delicacies, I always look in his catalogue to see if he has done it first.

Alton, I am never disappointed, and to me, your word is law. Amen.

Above is Alton Brown's Cocoa Brownie and his Premium Vanilla Ice Cream.  The brownies are thick, rich, and somewhere between chewy and fudgey.  The ice cream is made from a combination of half and half and heavy whipping cream, so needless to say- eat it in small amounts.  Or don't.  But let me warn you, it is decadent!

I am not sure where I am going with the baking, or if I am indeed going anywhere at all.  All I know is that I enjoy it.  I love flour on my countertops, and a silly giggle from my hubs when he finds it on my nose.  I love smoothing out frosting, dusting a cake in freshly crushed cookie crumbs, and choosing which piping tip to use for the finishing touches.  The hum of my Kitchen Aid is music as it whips egg whites into the miracle of meringue, and the smell of a zested lemon is pure heaven.  Baking is simply... lovely!

And for now, it works.  Thank you, Alton Brown.  Thank you, hungry tummies and occasions to celebrate!

Have a great weekend!

Rachel Bee

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