The 15th of this month rolled around much more quickly than I anticipated, even with some thoughtful planning. We were away the last week of May and first week of June, and I thought it would be just fine to get the second challenge for our fledgling baking group, Baking on the 15th, done after our return. The recipe for “Individual Chocolate Souffles with Crème Anglaise” is very straightforward, and I’m no stranger to soufflés. Anything made with chocolate is motivating. What possibly could interfere?
I believe I can chalk up my extended absences here to a variety of reasons. Experts tell me I’m not supposed to address it but I’ve decided to ignore them because these days, it seems everyone is an expert on how to blog. To some extent, mentioning it does feel a bit like having to explain to a teacher why my homework isn’t done. And sadly, I no longer have a dog, but if I did she wouldn’t have eaten my homework so I cannot use that excuse. Excuse as in please excuse me for my absence here.
Let’s chalk it up to the following:
- Not wanting to look at, be around, or discuss food that isn’t in the realm of possibility for me right now — even in moderation. If I want to enjoy recipes clicking about the web, then ogling cheese seductively oozing from a simple grilled sandwich on white bread will not work — I don’t care how fantastic the quality of the cheese or bread is. Nor will stuffed cookies or cupcakes, or recipes drowning in fat. Sorry. This isn’t to mean I will never enjoy these indulgences again, but that I’m working hard to understand I cannot have them whenever I want. And I’m succeeding with great progress so don’t want to spoil that.
- Avoiding sitting on the ginormous ball I roll up to the Mac when I write or edit photos. Regardless of whether I take numerous opportunities to do strength exercises on said ball throughout the time I’m on it (no, there will never be photos), I have been trying to stay physically active with projects around the house — and goodness knows, there are plenty. Closets, the garage, a kitchen cupboard reorganization, keeping up with the deadheading on the patio plants. Busy. Well, except for this week. I’ve been keeping that ball warm and procrastinating. I can be very good at it.
- Getting caught up in what seems to be the mode of the food blogging day. Everybody has a list of what to do and not to to if you have a food blog. It tires me to no end having to think of doing this as one might approach a job. I just can’t wrap my head around it and it annoys me so I have to step away from the Mac in search of a bit of balance. This usually involves absentmindedly reviewing why I started this blog while sweeping my old cat Precious’ fur balls into a neat pile for the third time in a day. And then I snap out of it.
- I’m just now figuring out I’m retired. Honestly, if you could wake up every day and think as I do that you might do just about anything you’d like, would you sit in front of a computer? I did for years until I realized it was perfectly fine to enjoy life and so that’s what I’ve been doing. (see the first two items above) It’s not glamorous by any stretch of the imagination, but I look forward to it every day.
- Walking. Lots and lots of it. I try to average an hour or more a day four times a week and although I’ve logged quite a few miles, I’m constantly fighting with myself to get out there. I’m not obsessed, but processing what’s important to me at this point in my life (being mentally and physically healthy as I age) takes time and thought. It’s a pity that all my rumination doesn’t burn calories.
- Preparing less complicated, healthy food. Trust me, I love a decadent recipe with eight-thousand steps. I do. But for the last five months, I’ve been thinking less is more — just to reboot my system. I will always be someone who indulges in an amazing recipe with all the right ingredients, but for now, I’m restraining myself. This adds up to not much to post on the blog, but I’ll get there. I will. Maybe. But I’m thinking posting a hummus recipe and shooting it with my usual bowl of sliced cucumbers isn’t going to work. Editing photos and writing the post would take longer than making the hummus!
The good news is we do enjoy dessert, although not nearly as much as we used to. I’ve given it some thought and would say we average about once a month and the occasion is usually connected to a dinner party or informal get together. I think that’s good because I’ll never give up eating dessert. Considering what kind of dessert, how much, and how often is more the idea. With that in mind, we enjoyed these Chocolate Ganache Whiskey Tortes on the evening of the Academy Awards when one of my older sons was visiting.
If you love chocolate and only need a little bit to satisfy a sweet tooth, this is a perfect dessert.
Yesterday was my oldest son’s birthday, and although I do make him a cake from one year to the next (he’s 31), I didn’t this year. Retrospectively, I did decide that the cupcakes made as a Valentine’s Day treat for my two remaining menfolk-in-residence might be as good a reason as any to coerce me to sit and write something in celebration. My oldest loves chocolate cake, and had I asked what he might enjoy for his birthday, he’d have said chocolate. Anything with chocolate. Like his mother, he can do without the calories, so I think it’s fitting this year that a photo of a birthday cupcake take the place of the real McCoy as long as I can get him to look at my blog. I’m not holding my breath because as my grandmother would have said, the chances are “slim to none and Slim’s on a fast train out of town.”
Where was I?
Cupcakes. True to form, I haven’t tried either the cake or frosting recipe before, but have tried many others from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. This is the book I go to when I want to experiment. If you’re not familiar with it, you won’t see glossy photos of each recipe. It’s more of a work horse cookbook. What sets it apart from other cookbooks is the way the ingredients are listed. Measurements are provided by volume and weight which makes it quite easy to divide a recipe or to adjust ingredient quantities. Cakes are presented in one section and toppings in another and although Beranbaum makes suggestions about which go best together, I enjoy considering all the options. Each recipe also contains a brief section on “understanding” where the science is explained. As much as I’ve been an avid cook most of my life, I don’t always understand how or why certain ingredients interact with one another, so it’s helpful to understand what may not work when I’m experimenting.
What caught my attention with this recipe was the brown sugar — not something I’m used to seeing in a recipe for chocolate cake. Equally interesting was the recipe for the buttercream. Yes, it has an alarming amount of butter in it (hence the name “butter” cream…), but it’s made with egg whites instead of egg yolks, and they aren’t cooked as they would be in a mousseline buttercream. Both recipes work quite nicely with one another and make a very chocolatey combo that the resident menfolk finished off in a couple of bites — even if it wasn’t in celebration of either of their birthdays.
Speaking of birthdays, Sass & Veracity turns a big three years old this month and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to share with you that Saveur magazine has graciously nominated me in their 1st Annual Best Food Blog Awards in the “Best Individual Post” category. I’m very honored considering those whose work is sitting alongside mine. They understand the time and effort it takes to put a good post together — let alone two or three in a week. The post Saveur has chosen to focus on is one I wrote after returning from Puerto Vallarta last spring at about the time that H1N1 was gaining momentum. A group of friends and I met there in celebration of a 40th birthday only to find that we may have trouble getting back across the border. We didn’t, of course, and thankfully I was able to have fun with my own version of Mexican street tacos, which have absolutely nothing to do with chocolate fudge cupcakes or birthdays.
Are you with me?
My sister celebrated a birthday recently, and since we both believe that sending a card or present across the country for this event is necessary, I’ve been trying to think of other ways to celebrate. You know — it’s the thought that counts sort of thing. Two years ago, I posted a tribute to her. Last year, my husband and I held a candle and snapped a photo in mid, “Happy Birthday to You…” and this year? I thought I’d make her a cake.
When I first thought of this, I really didn’t think she liked any type of cake, but I asked to make sure. After all, if someone who doesn’t really enjoy cake is going to have to appreciate a cake they’ll never get to taste, then it should at least seem appealing to them, don’t you think?
Not only did I get a response from her, I got three: Angel food, German Chocolate, and cheesecake with coffee. The mention of angel food brought back memories of a cake she introduced me to, and that’s saying quite a bit because my sister doesn’t really enjoy cooking. So I thought about recreating that cake, but decided to save it for another time. Cheesecake is something I adore and make several times a year, so I passed on that one quickly. But German Chocolate cake?
Really? Call me completely surprised! My thinking about German Chocolate cake is wrapped in memories of a gooey exterior hiding a dry cake that isn’t chocolate enough. It always seemed rude that the frosting promised something quite flavorful inside, yet it never lived up to my expectations. But I seem to be in the minority because no sooner had I begun to mention that I was going to make a German Chocolate cake, that I found out it’s not only enjoyed my many — it’s a favorite.
Another surprise was finding out there’s nothing actually German about this cake. It’s named after Sam German who created Baker’s Sweet Chocolate. A Texas homemaker sent the now familiar recipe for German Chocolate Cake to a newspaper in 1957, and General Mills sent the recipe to newspapers all over the country.
My search for the perfect recipe sent me to David Lebovitz’ site first, but after a quick scan of the ingredients listed, I realized I didn’t have buttermilk. Next stop was epicurious. I couldn’t get past the idea of what they described as an “inside out” cake. Evidently, a few people had decided it was a darn good cake since there were 236 reviews, most of which were raves.
The problem I had with that recipe was the Dutch-processed cocoa. I can’t tell you how many stores I’ve searched in and have just decided to not deal with it anymore. Yes, there’s a conversion for using regular cocoa, but it’s not advised. And when it comes right down to it, there are just about as many recipes for chocolate cake out there as there are renditions of German Chocolate cake.
So guess what? I made it my own, of course. Sheer chocolate-coconut-dulce-de-leche-almond-crunchy-but-moist heaven.
Happy Birthday Lori! This is your birthday song — it isn’t very long…
As the morning unfolds on this the day of the February Daring Baker’s reveal, I’m proud to say I finished my challenge a few weeks ago, which could imply that this post was written and ready to auto publish at midnight. But no. I guess that with respect to me, it is possible to be too organized. Best laid plans, right?