schooled again

things i learned today:

chocolate will burn in the microwave-i mean burned black and smoking and it doesn’t take that long to accomplish this
burned semisweet chocolate smells kinda like burned popcorn
if you screw up the first test of a recipe, chances are every one of the 7 versions you bake after it won’t be right either
and there you have it folks, a day in the life of a pastry chef…the problem with the cake recipe turned out to be the amount of sugar in the recipe. the first version called for 1-1/2 cups and i am pretty sure i only added 1-1/4 cups. when i tasted the first one, my initial thought was this cake isn’t sweet. and so it starts; each version after had an increased amount of sugar based on the amount i should have added and not the amount i actually added. now i find myself with a small mountain of cake layers and a need to run at least one more test. this time i will get the sugar adjusted properly.
oh, one more thing i learned today; i’m a little slow but i catch on eventually…

add another to the pile…

mmm cake, moist and chocolatey and warm from the oven. the fragrance is intoxicating and inviting and as annoying as annoying can be!!! another batch for the ever growing pile of cakes on my table. just one more that isn’t quite what i want it to be. never mind it even though it tastes good, it just ain’t right. at this point, i am tired of chocolate cake. or at least tired of chocolate cakes that don’t do what i expect them to do. that sound, it’s just me heading back to the kitchen for one more attempt at this lovely cake.

that takes the cake

no, really, take the cake. go ahead, take it. for the love of pete, just take it!!! part of the process of formulating recipes is testing them out and having the chance to see the differences that come with changing the proportions. it can be frustrating too, especially if it doesn’t yield the desired results, repeatedly. that is where i am at this point. close but no cigar and in possession of a growing mountain of chocolate cake on my kitchen table. one more adjustment should do it, i hope. but not tonight, i’m out of unsweetened chocolate and ambition. the fat lady hasn’t sung for this cake yet, but roger daltry has and tonight, that’s close enough…

just pluggin away

it’s a never ending cycle…measure, mix, bake, clean, taste, measure, mix, etc. today’s exercise in futility was a chocolate fudge cake. although, it wasn’t a total disaster, just more of a disappointment.

to do this properly, i have to work like a non pro. that means sometimes i have to do things differently than i normally would as a professional. take this photo, here i am mixing the batter with a dinkiest of hand mixers. it was a hand me down from a former employee in a past life. it struggled with the batter and i was skeptical that it would even make it to the finish. darry came into the kitchen and announced “i can’t smell the corned beef anymore because all i can smell is the motor on that thing.” once again, we were sharing the kitchen but at the moment, i had the counter and he had the stove top.
the layers came out of the oven looking perfect. they were completely level and looked like winners. but looks ain’t everything.
as perfect as they appeared, there simply wasn’t enough sugar in the batter. on to round two…
this time i lugged out the beast and mixed the batter with it. now i have been told that it is unreasonable to expect the user (the person who purchases and uses my cookbook) to make a major purchase in order to complete a recipe but this is one exception where i suggest you do just that. i am not being paid to say this so don’t think that i am getting anything for this but i recommend to anyone who is a frequent and adventurous baker to purchase one of these stand mixers. rather than list it as an expense, view it as an investment. these things are nearly indestructible and they last-mine is 20 years old and still working. we won’t mention the fact that i no longer have first gear and there is no such thing as a slow start when using it. and that fine layer of flour that coats the entire kitchen is just another sign of genius, isn’t it or so i keep telling myself.
the added sugar definitely improved the flavor but i think now that i need to adjust the leavener-they sunk slightly in the middle. after i make a trip to the store for more chocolate and a few other things, i’ll be ready for round 3.
having filled the dishwasher to capacity, again, i was forced to do the dishes by hand. lazy elves, they are never around when you need them.

don’t call it molasses

you wouldn’t think that these tall canes could be responsible for something as tasty as sorghum. sometimes called molasses, sorghum is a well kept southern secret. don’t be fooled by the reference to molasses, it may taste similar but sorghum is it’s own product whereas molasses is what is leftover from the refining process of cane and beet sugar-the “garbage” that they remove to make it white.

the seeds are an important grain in places like africa but they can also be ground into a gluten free flour. in my neighborhood, i can find it in the indian markets and at some point i want to buy some and try it out in some bread.
the tall stalks are cut, pressed for the juices and the juices are cooked down to make the sorghum. 5 gallons of juice will yield about one gallon of sorghum. every fall in the ellington agricultural center in nashville there is a music and molasses festival. i have watched them make the sorghum many times and have some pictures posted here.

my book wouldn’t be complete without at least one sorghum cake and here it is. a sorghum spice cake drizzled with some lemony glaze.