Halfway to Cake ~ Tales from the Gypsy Kitchen
It’s a glamorous life, this food thingy. It’s all champagne and unexpected phone calls from editors at Bon Appetit magazine and offers from the Food Network and everything you cook is perfect every single time.
Not. The reality is quite different from the fantasy. Not bad, just different.
Truth be told, creating new recipes or even putting a fresh spin on an old favorite requires, at times, a considerable amount of experimentation to get to a flawless result.
Like anything else in life, be it art or love or music or sport; to get really good at something requires practice, a measure of trial and error and learning from our mistakes.
Yesterday I began a cake. This is a cake I spent the entire summer of 2008 perfecting, jigging and rejigging.
Past staff members at the Dragonfly Inn can attest to the many stages of its development; from dry and pale, to overly moist and too sweet, to too gooey (with added chocolate bits) until finally I found a balance that is a rich, moist cake, so dense that it crumbles under your fork and a smooth, under-sweet frosting, that thrills the sweet tooth of a mature palate.
That was before a bit of culinary EDU and now I look at my recipe and think:
“Knowing what I know now, how can I take it up a notch?”
Which means moving back to the ‘great ideas in desserts’ file and shifting the recipe once again.
Like all good things… this takes a bit of time. I truly LOVE to bake, it is the science of the culinary arts. Unlike cuisine, pastry is exact and one little error can create disaster in the kitchen.
Sugar is a much more demanding mistress than salt.
Salt will forgive, salt will dilute, salt has much more flexible boundaries. Not sugar. Her properties are exact and rigid. Know them and work within them and you can create a masterpiece. Ignore them, and — catastrophe.
Let us not cast dispersions on salt, for with salt there is FIRE. Salt & I have had our share of disasters. Some you hear about and some you don’t, or haven’t, yet.
Case in point: the rib recipe that I’ve been perfecting since February, not just in favour but in technique, for ‘wow’ results. I’ve batched the sauce six times, alternately steamed, boiled, and brined the ribs to prep for the grill.
They have been (at various stages); tough, tasteless, too salty and good but not great. The notes run on to six pages, now I think I have it. We will know for sure next week if they pass the Chef B test.
They don’t call me “Princess Rib-Curry” for nothing!
Or the apricot chutney recipe, which (despite proportions being correct) was far too acidic. One may have been a bit heavy handed with the currents, rustling in a condiment that was too strong on the ‘pucker power’ and whose aesthetic resembled a beautiful amber base, with addition of mouse turds.
Not really what I was going for. So — adjust and re-test and until it is JUST RIGHT — keep it in the kitchen.
Salt demands immediacy and response. Sugar demands patience and timing.
Thus the reason I never rush a cake. Sugar does not like to be rushed. She likes to take her time. She commands respect and discipline and in exchange she brings divine pleasure to your life.
It is worth acknowledging that we are half-way to where we want to be. It keeps us moving forward to our final destination.
The final results will be ready this afternoon, appropriately adjudicated by a willing test subject, then lovingly transcribed for readers. Prepare yourselves for Double Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cake, tomorrow.