This has been long overdue; I finally decided to take up a new hobby: cooking. Well, to give you a little background I’ve always known that I loved cooking, not only because I love food, actually I used to have this notion that if you cook it you won’t enjoy it, I prefer to have people cook for me, so it’s not about the love of food it’s more like the art of cooking itself, it is something you can be quite creative with. I remember what one of my favorite professors at university once said, she was a very elegant, cultured and well-educated woman and a women rights advocate and what not, and she said that with all her academic success and achievements, when she makes a dish that is so delicious she feels like she’s earned a higher education degree, or something to that effect.
So, I love cooking, I enjoy cooking, it’s just that my previous experiences weren’t very encouraging and at times epic failures so I gave it up and convinced myself that it is something I can’t do. But then I realized, if everybody else can then why can’t I? In fact, the problem with my previous cooking endeavors was that I tried to improvise, and as it turned out it’s not very wise to improvise in something you know almost nothing about. S, I decided to go by the book, looked up some easy recipes and decided to make a cake.
You see, a friend told me it’s better to start with easy desserts and move up the scale from there. I also like baking more than cooking itself, I guess. The problem was I’ve never lit an oven in my life, not comfortable with them, I feel like they’re going to explode and take my eyebrows away. But of course I need to get over that, hopefully it won’t be an obstacle.
So, baking it is. I looked up this recipe on the internet, and may I say that there are some fantastic facebook pages with easy step by step recipes, with pictures too. It’s nice to see facebook pages serving a purpose instead of just making up stupid stuff to collect likes and fans. Anyway, back to the cake. The cake I made was Blackberry and milk cake. My first cake to make from scratch (Actually I’ve made one when I was at school but my mom walked me through it and she did the whisking and stuff so that doesn’t count). So before I go through the steps let me lay out the ingredients I used, I played with the measurements to make a bigger cake since I was taking it to the family gathering at Grandma’s.
3 cups of flour
2 cups of sugar
150 grams of butter (that is one and a half sticks) update: that was too much butter, use 50 or 75 grams
1 and a half cups of liquid milk
A sprinkle of vanilla
A pinch of salt
1 and a half tea spoons of baking powder
Blackberries (or strawberries, or blueberries, whatever floats your boat)
So, I got all the ingredient out on the table, 30-minute meals style, you know watching cooking shows gives you some pointers, not that I watch any, it’s just that I translate them. Actually at first I realized I was going too slow and thought that wouldn’t work, I should be fast, Rachel Ray’s fast –another cooking shows influence- there’s a certain energy about her that I like, makes you feel like she’s cooking at home not on TV and h=the way she eyeballs everything and just pours things down and throws in chunks of ingredients and cheese like there’s no tomorrow. But again she doesn’t bake, and we’re taking about baking here, so preheat the oven to 400 degrees and back to that.
So, I put the butter and the sugar in the pot and put them on low heat to melt slowly. At the first glance I was a bit skeptical whether the sugar will start to caramelize or even burn before the butter melts, it looks that way, but as soon as the butter starts melting you get that amazing texture and color and once you add the vanilla, which I was quite generous with not just a sprinkle, you get that delicious smell that makes you feel this would be enough, you can just stop here and you got yourself a dessert. Then of course the milk, I used low fat milk because when you’re using that amount of butter you might want to cut down on the saturated fat a bit.
In a separate bowl, I mixed 3 cups of flours, using the same cup I used to measure the sugar, you can’t go wrong using the same cup –hopefully- and then I added the baking powder and a pinch of salt to balance the sweetness out. Then I started to add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, in batches of course, and I kind of panicked a little because it was a bit lumpy, but then I remembered we had a magical instrument called the electric whisk, and there was a smooth silky delicious cake batter (after lifting it off the heat of course). So that was kind of reassuring, you know, if the batter tastes good then hopefully the cake itself will taste good too.
After that I poured the batter into a pan, needless to say I enlisted my mother’s help at several stages like to decide which pan to use and how hot the oven should be, and she lit the oven I have to say not because I wouldn’t do it but I think she didn’t want to take the risk of her new kitchen blowing up.
After pouring the batter into the pan I put the blackberries on top. The original recipe had strawberries but I thought blackberries are more interesting, not to mention that they have a nice tang. You can use either fresh or canned ones, I used the canned ones because I like the moisturizing effect of the syrup and as you may know fresh blackberries are ridiculously expensive here and they don’t taste as good as they look. If I may make a disclaimer here, I thought the blackberries would sink to the bottom but they didn’t, had I known that I might have done a better job esthetically.
Now into the oven, I must say it didn’t give that amazing cake aroma that fills the house when my mom bakes a cake but it’s a different kind of cake, I guess that’s because I didn’t use any lemon or orange zest.
I want also to point out that in the course of writing this post I got excited and got up and made quick chocolate fudge. Well, I discovered that being excited about cooking makes you don’t feel like eating, I didn’t have lunch today, so there. But I also think I might be trying to fill a certain void here, this has gone a bit far… but I’m enjoying it, no need for philosophy now.
So, here is the final product. Looks good, no? And it tasted great too
There was a little problem though, it was a bit undercooked. Well, it was really undercooked to be perfectly honest, I think I just had to use a hotter oven, that was the mistake. I admit I was disappointed and it really make me feel bad, like a failure, which is ridiculous as it’s just a cake, but the thing is it’s really not, I actually thought of writing a post called “the psychology behind a cake” after that. To tell you the truth for a moment there I was like: “I’d better stick to writing” which made me think that maybe I got interested in cooking because I’m not doing much writing these days, I mean, other than my blog there’s nothing, so maybe that was it, and when the cake failed me I felt like I had nothing which is ridiculous. And yes, I can write and cook at the same time. And that’s just part of the things I concluded after that baking experience, but I’m over it now, maybe I’ll try again sometime later in sha’a Allah. Why do I have to philosophize everything? Why can’t I accept that life could be simple sometimes, and that it is just a cake? A freaking undercooked blackberry cake?
P.S: If at any point you planned to make the “isn’t there an iPhone cake too?” joke then please save it, I’ve already heard it twice!
Update: I think the cake didn’t rise because I used too much butter