You can take the chef out of the kitchen…
You probably don’t know this about me, but I love baking. I used to do it a lot when I was living at my parents’ place. Took an interest in it in junior high school, actually. And back then, I felt like such a knob asking my mum if she could show me how to bake.
“You just follow the recipe,” she said, likely looking at me like I’d just asked the dumbest question on earth.
“But what the hell is Demerara sugar?” I probably asked.
“It’s just sugar!”
In spite of my stupidity, my desire to eat cookies and other sweet confections would force my mother into the kitchen to watch over me and ensure I knew what I was doing. Eventually, we established a pattern, once I was able to bake on my own without completely screwing up: I would bake, and she would follow me around the kitchen cleaning up after me. I was in her domain, and she needed things to be just so. My mum’s still like this. She kicks up a fuss at Christmas about having to do all this cooking, but when you offer to help her, she basically tells you to fuck off and stay out of her kitchen.
So you can imagine how I feel now that I’m dating a wonderful girl who nearly became a pastry chef… Yes, about 20 lbs heavier. And I’m perfectly OK with that.
Rachel nearly became a pastry chef, it’s true. But after attending SAIT for awhile, she decided it wasn’t for her. “It felt like being a pastry chef was 25 per cent baking and 75 per cent cleaning up the kitchen.” So she decided to move to Edmonton and go to the U of A. Lucky for me she did.
The other night, Rachel and I set about doing some baking. She received a couple of baking recipes books for Christmas:
The first one was given by my brother and sister-in-law, since they know how much Rachel likes baking (and, I imagine as with all the givers of recipes books, they hoped that she would eventually bake something for them) The Happy Baker, a Dater’s Guide to Emotional Baking is actually an excellent cook book, and not just for its recipes. Author Erin Bolger includes some hilarious illustrations and cute stories about lovers scorned… and then drowning their sorrows in baking. Functional and humourous!
The second book is actually one that I came across at Urban Outfitters. I sure can’t fit into their misshapen clothing, but the knick knacks and books they sell there are outstanding! Hello, Cupcake! is less a recipe book, and more an instruction book on how to decorate cupcakes and cakes very elaborately. And since we weren’t feeling especially artistic that evening — at least I wasn’t. I mean look at the dog cupcakes on the cover! — we ganked an outstanding recipe from the book for chocolate icing. This we would use to festoon our cuppin’ cakes in chocolatey goodness, followed by the haphazard placement of sprinkles.
Here’s the icing being whipped into shape by Rachel:
This stuff tasted heavenly, and all it was was cocoa, milk and icing sugar, really. If I could have, I would have just ate the icing. It was that good.
But we weren’t just making cupcakes, oh no. We also made delicious chocolate haystacks, a decidedly powerful combination of sweet and salty, with just a hint of marshmallow. We also made toffee crackers, which was unsalted premium plus crackers covered in toffee, then covered in chocolate, then covered in almond sliver. Both of these treats were from The Happy Baker.
I know, right?
You can see the final results of this great experiment below. Oh, and also what our delicious cupcakes wound up looking like.
I will be your official taste tester!