The big question: how will I bake my way through this bakebook?
(I assume a baking cookbook is called a bakebook and if it’s not, it should be.)
I was going to jump around to different categories. Biscuits and traybakes last time. Breads this time. Sweet pastry and patisserie next time. But then I looked at those other sections and realized I am not prepared for them.
Then I thought I could do a cover-to-cover baking journey. Start with the first recipe, pecan shorties, and end with the last one, a Neapolitan baked Alaska. But then I looked at the second recipe in the book and it requires all sorts of things I don’t have (one of which is a food processor which is soon to be on order from Amazon because I can put off that purchase no longer). It also requires stem ginger, which I’m assuming is candied ginger and not pickled ginger, otherwise those ginger bars will have a very strong sushi essence to them.
So instead, I decided to be practical and pick the next recipe based on the ingredients and skills I currently have.
Chocolate fudge brownies it is!
To be honest, I always struggle with brownies. They either turn out too fudge-like or too cake-like. I can’t find that happy medium. Unless there is no happy medium and I’ve been setting an unrealistic standard for myself, which is also very possible.
And good news folks! I purchased a sifter so I don’t have to either not sift or only sift one tablespoon at a time. Thank you, Ikea!
As I begin this recipe, I would like to note that change is possible.
Last time, I measured out my pecans with an almost OCD-like precision. This time, I’m being supes casual. You want 100 grams, Mary and Paul? Tough. Because I’ve only got 92 grams left after the last recipe, so that’s all you’ll get! (Also it’s an optional ingredient, so I feel like I can be a bit more fast and loose with the measurement precision.)
What other ingredients do I need? Caster sugar. Yes. I do feel like I know what caster sugar is.
*immediately googles to make sure caster sugar is the same as granulated sugar*
*fifth Google result down confirms my suspicion without having to click any links*
*tips jar of granulated sugar over bowl and nothing happens*
It seems as though my sugar has clumped up a tad bit. The jars are super cute on Bake Off, but maybe not so great in real life? Or I live in too wet a climate and it’s contributed to this unfortunate clumping. Or Ikea Klömpen jars or whatever they’re called aren’t exactly up to snuff. Either way, I’ll get through this amusing set-back. It actually makes me feel like a wizard of sorts.
I wonder how long these recipes would take me if I didn’t stop to blog the whole time. This system would not go down well in the show. Mel and Sue would keep checking in on me to ask why I haven’t measured my sugar yet and I’d tell them I had to take a photo of the clumping and upload it to my laptop, and then I’d be out in round one of week one and no one would question why.
I’m taking so long that my food scale keeps timing out.
Also, for the record, I’m being loosey goosey with the sugar measurements too because ever since I’ve significantly cut down on this legal addictive, I’ve found my taste buds have changed. When this happened to my sister, I judged her. A lot. And now it’s happened to me and I realize that so many baking recipes just do not need as much sugar as they say they do. Like this one, for example.
That’s a lot of grams of sugar, Mar-Bear and Paulo. I doth protest. And if it messes with the scientific integrity of the bake, I doth apologize. And if it messes with the flavour profile, all you people who haven’t cut back on sugar in their day-to-day lives, I apologize to you too, but I also think you should give it a try. It’s a really good idea.
The flour, though, I will not mis-measure. I feel like the flour is the heart of any baking recipe and you don’t mess with those requirements. So yes, when the scale said one below the required amount, I scooped some back in and then scooped some back out again when I went two grams over.
Now, the butter I have to be a little bit casual with because it’s all I have left in the house. This is where I’m starting to understand Julie and Julia’s obsession with butter. I may have to buy multiple bricks at a time from Costco. It’s actually more the heart of baking recipes than flour. Or maybe they’re like the heart and the lungs, unless you’re making a heart lung meat pie. Does that exist? I feel like it does in the U.K.
According to the recipe, I have to gently melt the butter. Gently melt it. Do not shock it in to a melted state. You don’t want to Wicked Witch of the West this situation.
I’m assuming this is the butter equivalent to cooking crabs by slowly killing them. Which I have done. And have no regrets because crab is delicious, especially when it’s soaked in melted garlic butter. Mmm. Sorry, PETA! I do love animals. But I also love how good some of them taste. (Even if it was a little scary when they tried climbing out of the pot.)
Top tip: If you had a stressful day at the office because a big project is coming up and your usual regime of bingewatching Netflix just isn’t cutting it, watch butter melt gently. It’s honestly so calming.
Part two of that top tip: add cocoa and sugar, and watch it all melt in, because that too is mesmerizing.
Uh oh! Snag in the plan. I didn’t read ahead and note that the eggs need to be at room temperature. Will cold eggs mess with everything? I feel like they will!
Today’s conundrum: How does one heat eggs without cooking them?
You crack them into a bowl on top of a preheating oven, obviously. And hope for the best.
And real talk, Ikea, this sifter is amazing. I’m used to a mesh bowl sifter—and was going to buy one—but that requires so much more effort than this bottomless stein situation.
And can we just all agree that the whole raw-egg-has-salmonella-so-don’t-eat-the-raw-batter thing is just a complete and total lie? I’ve been eating raw cookie dough and brownie batter my whole life. In my youth, I would sometimes make a bowl of just raw cookie dough so I could eat it.
If you are of the salmonella frame of mind, I invite you to not take this joy away from me.
In the spirit of transparency, I may or may not have used the spatula to get every last bit of goodness. Despite my best intention of being a grown woman with self-control, I am also a grown woman who affirms certain grown woman stereotypes, one of which is having a love of chocolate.
What kind of monsters don’t like chocolate?
As soon as someone says they don’t like chocolate, you can 100 per cent begin the first stages of the Turing test to see if they’re actually a robot. Don’t trust these people! (And also be a little wary of the ones who say white chocolate is their favourite. I don’t know about those people, either.)
While I wait for these brownies—that may or may not make it to my workplace in one piece—to bake, can we just talk about the difficulty of getting the batter into all four corners of the pan when the pan is lined with parchment paper? It’s really difficult. Because as soon as you push it in one direction, the entire parchment base moves with it, so you have to hold the base, but then it lifts up in the corner you’re holding, so you have to try to lift and slide like Ross trying to get his 30th-birthday-present-to-himself out of its parking spot.
As previously discussed, when I bake, I usually start the timer with less time than the recipe says. And then I work my way up. Pretty sure I’ve gone over by a good 5 or 10 minutes with this one, as you can clearly see with the multiple stabbings in the middle of the pan:
Also I risked burning my tongue each time after I checked the doneness of the centre by licking the knives. And let me just say, it was so very much incredibly worth it.
These have got to be the best brownies I’ve ever made in my life, and I haven’t even properly eaten one yet. I’ve had the raw batter and the slightly-less-than-raw batter, so I can only assume the completely cooked batter is just as scrumptious.
UPDATE: I ate one and I’m in love. I found that happy medium after all.