Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Reluctant Baker

When I left Joanne Chang's cooking demonstration and book signing last month, I was armed with two things. A signed copy of her famed cookbook - Flour: Spectacular Recipe's from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe , and a determination to get more into baking.

I love to cook. With a recipe, without one, it is a real passion of mine. Baking on the other hand? I tend to find more cumbersome. All of that measuring. The level of attention to detail required. The fact that the amount of wine you drink while baking can actually have an adverse effect (see: The I Mistook Confectioner's Sugar for Cake Flour Incident of 2009). And there is also the pride thing. I am just not GOOD at baking. I endeavor to be. But too often my cookies are burned on the bottom. Too often my bread doesn't rise! But I do love baked goods. I love the way they make the house smell. I love having something delicious I made myself as the end to a great meal. And there is something celebratory about a home baked treat!

So as I have been thumbing through Flour, I started to gain courage in my baking abilities. I mean, she makes it seem so simple and look how delicious everything looks!I kept coming back to her Pineapple Upsidedown Cake recipe and so the other night - that was my first foray into Ms Chang's world of baking.

It was intimdating at first. I have tried to make my own caramel before and it was a scorched sticky mess. And typically my cakes come out leaden and dry even when I feel that I have followed the instructions precisely. But I read and re read the instructions and her conversational way of relaying instructions gave me courage and so - it was on!

Making the caramel was not that bad - I learned my lesson that you really shouldn't walk away from it but should instead just wait for it to start to color. And lo, It did start to color! And when I added the butter things really started falling into place! Once I added the pineapple slices in - I got that feeling. You know the one. The "You know, I actually might not totally f this up" feeling!
I poured those bad boys with all their caramely delightfulness into my cake pan, and then all I had to do was mix together the batter, easy enough. I opted to do it by hand to be honest because I was too lazy to unearth the KitchenAid. But I think this worked out well. It's harder to overblend (something I often do!) when you do it by hand! Then it was poured over the pineapples and baked. While my house filled with the delicious smell of sweet caramelized pineapple, I fought the urge to open the oven door and check on it. Then once it was done I was scared that unplating it would cause an unholy mess. My fears were unfounded though as it slid easily out of the pan and onto my plate! Look at that beauty! The cake was perfect- moist, a little dense but in a velvety comforting way. The pineapples were sweet and the caramel just sealed the deal. Each bite had a little of each and was perfection. I regret to inform you that this cake lasted only 24 hours in the house before it was completely eaten. I can't wait to make this again! And to try out my next recipe from Flour! If you love to bake OR if you are like me, wanting to get more into baking you should definitely check out her book! It's written in a way that even the most reluctant baker feels empowered to try something new (me? I'm thinking of doing the homemade pop tarts next!)


Jen said...

That looks gorgeous! I'm going to have to give this a try.

Sarah said...

Definitely! I can email you the recipe if you'd like!

Jenny said...

Great job Sarah! My husband is the baker in our house; I'm like you - baking is way too precise for me! :)

Jeannie said...

This looks DELISH!!