So here’s the thing. Cooking and baking aren’t just about cooking and baking. They’re not wholly centred on the outcome, at least for those of us who take pleasure in flour explosions and licking our fingers to dab up the crumbs of cheese that have somehow escaped the grater. It’s just as much about zoning out from the stresses of day to day life, concentrating on weighing ingredients and not dropping egg shell into your mix.
When I step into the kitchen, knowing that I’ll likely be there for hours, this is the playlist that comes with me. It doesn’t always run in this order and I’m adding to it all the time. There’ll always be a little bit of Celine Dion – belted out horribly, and loudly – and some dancing about in the square metre of floorspace to Walk the Moon. A touch of funk from Betty Davis, followed by possibly the oddest selection of music I could have put together.
I’d also recommend you listen to this – no matter how many times I listen to it, the 1 minute 50 mark always comes like a punch to the gut, but, um, in a good way.
What do you listen to when you cook? Send me some recommendations below!
This is a post about cookies, an astounding cookbook, and a teensy bit about boys. Skip to the bottom if you just want the cookies. I understand. The real issue here is infusing browned butter with chilli and then mixing it with big shards of dark chocolate.
Anyway. The sun is finally shining, and the spring cleaning is underway, but today I’m taking a brief trip back to December. It was Christmas morning – too early for everyone else, because I’d been awake for hours with excitement – and the seven of us, all long legs folded and squished into various corners of the living room, were diving into the frankly ridiculous pile of presents.
My mum was frowning, watching me tear open the wrapping paper on a gift she’d bought. Pulling it off like a 5-year-old, I revealed the Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book. I’d not requested it; she’d gone a little off piste, based on a love for the Cook’s Illustrated magazine. ”Is it okay? It’s not in colour! It came and I panicked because…it’s not in colour. And it’s full of drawings!”
Of course it was okay. It was perfect – old school drawings are half the point of Cook’s Illustrated, along with rigorous testing and gloriously geeky scientific explanations. I put it to one side, carried on unwrapping other gifts, every now and then just resting my hand on its cover or flicking to the contents to see what awaited.
A couple of weeks ago, my flatmate and I had a late night reminisce about high school. For both of us, it wasn’t a particularly positive chat: we were, predictably, a bit weird. But some of our biggest regrets were losing touch with the teachers we looked up to, the ones who imparted wisdom that wasn’t on the curriculum.
It’s strange, the things that stick with you. French and Spanish have both leaked from my memory now, verb formations jumbled beyond help; only nuggets of medical history remain; my hands no longer feel comfortable wrapped around a paintbrush. The lessons my teachers tried to give us are long forgotten, while fragments of conversation stick around.
The one that’s stuck with me the most came from my art teacher, a woman who encouraged us all indiscriminately and overlooked the fact that I occasionally sneaked supplies out of the classroom, inks and quills I still use now.
“You have to understand the rules before you can break them.”
I’m almost certain she wasn’t just talking about abstract art.
Sometimes, especially when it comes to baking, you just shouldn’t mess with a recipe. And other times you should look at the recipe, snort-laugh at the notion of using perfectly good alcohol to cook with rather than drink, and then mess with it entirely. Continue reading
So that was a bit of a gap between posts, eh? 2014 has already been somewhat bonkers, to the point that food has been about what can be cobbled together in the few hours between getting home and going to (sweet, sweet) bed, rather than something of experiments and long weekends in the kitchen.
Letting go of the festive season has been a struggle. Our Christmas tree came down long after January 6th, and the rest of the month saw me gleefully throwing leftover Roses and Quality Street down my gullet and swigging beer while I chuckled at the poor chaps giving up sugar and taking part in Dry January.
But it’s February in a few days, and nothing makes you realise you need to step out of Hotel Chocolat, even if there are bargains to be had, like facing Valentine’s Day as it rushes at you head-on.
Of course, I realised this after I made this cake. It was a multi-purpose delight: a birthday cake, a look-how-strong-my-willpower-is-I’m-not-even-saving-myself-some cake (kidding no-one, I know), and as the last slice was devoured with a cup of tea by a friend, fork in one hand, tissues in the other, a break-up cake.
The cake itself is layers of salted caramel, carried by a simple vanilla sponge and wrapped in white chocolate buttercream, the sweetness offset by the touch of salt. What a way to wave goodbye to January. Continue reading
There are still nine days till Christmas and I am preemptively festively plump. I’ve drunk cocktails and sprained my ankle and danced on it anyway already. The tree is up, wrapping paper has been purchased, and still it does not feel like the season, because none of these things, in this city, are part of the traditions.