Friday, July 17, 2009

Baking adventures, part I

Baking is something that always has me bamboozled. Sneaky flour and its sneaky little ways. It will go into the oven looking all expectant dough like and make my house smell like vanilla and cinnamon, building my hopes up to a point where I'm dreaming about opening my own cupcake stores and such, and then the said baked product will either...
a. collapse in the middle
b. turn into a rock candy on the outside, with uncooked doughy interiors
c. stubbornly refuse to resemble any cake/pie you have ever seen
d. all of the above

So I always approach baking like an exam. Step one. Find a good recipe. Step two. Memorize it. Step three. Do not mess it up!

That being said, I do love baking and how Martha Stewartish it makes me feel. There is something mysteriously wonderful about dipping your fingers in raw dough, licking the bowl clean, watching it puff up and rise in the oven, pulling out a warm cake and eating it right out of the pan, or breaking apart hot cookies with melting chocolate chips inside...

Here are some recipes I tried, which are well on their way to becoming family favorites. They are tried and tested and sorta idiotproof, if like me, you bungle your way through baking.

Pineapple Upside Down cake
This one comes from Susan of FoodBlogga. Susan always puts up the most tantalising descriptions of fruits and like. Her post on Kumquats had me running around for a week looking for the tiny but explosive buggers. This is a ridiculously simple recipe. The key, methinks, is in beating the egg whites separately. The copious amounts of butter and sugar also help. The first time I made it, I forgot to add sugar in the batter, adding it only to the pineapples and butter layered at the bottom of the pan. The sticky, goey sweetness from the upside down topping was enough to flavor the cake. The cake was slightly denser though. I followed the recipe the second time round and although fluffy, it was a tad too sweet for me. I baked it for picnics, for a Friday lunch in the office, for an impromptu dinner turns out perfect every single time.

This is another one from Susan's stable. She baked them with pistachios and dried cherries. I didn't have cherries, so I used raisins and I like pine nuts. That's my only substitution. Double the batter, seriously! You want to pass them around, these babies will make you proud. I baked a couple of dozen big, fat ones and they were over within a week.

Stuff I made, but did not get a picture of - Heidi's Triple Chocolate espresso bean cookies. With a name like that, the cookies had to be good. There was cocoa and espresso in the batter, and chocolate covered coffee beans and chocolate chips too. Each cookie was like a concentrated shot of mocha. They were chewy with an almost fudge like interior. The batter was so richly dark, I burnt my first batch trying to figure out if the cookies were brown enough :) They didn't store so well though, and had to be finished in 2-3 days, not that it was a problem.

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