Growing up, my parents did not really eat desserts often or were the fondest of sugar, but for a while there, my mom was a stay-at-home parent who baked on occasion out of boredom. Whenever the urge for muffins would arise, I would help to stir or measure out ingredients. Those memories are a bit fuzzy, but I know from the back of my mind that they happened. (I could also be crazy, and just attempting to imagine something happy with my mother, who knows). Growing up, we also never bought birthday cakes. They were usually Betty Crocker rainbow bit cakes with Betty Crocker vanilla frosting. Once again, I always helped with the frosting. That’s probably one of the reasons I was really fat as a kid (but that’s a story for another time).
My blotchy memory also remembers baking with my sister, who was actually a good from-scratch home baker. Growing up, I remember her making scones, loafs and cookies. Once again, I would occasionally be the one who stirred or measured out the sugar. Whenever she made something, and my mom was not screaming about the kitchen being a mess or the fact that I should be doing reading comprehension workbooks instead, I would love watching everything form and grow in the oven. I would literally cross my feet and sit there with the oven light on, mesmerized eyes wide open until I was yelled out of the kitchen.
- Mood – Hungover (though, is hungover really a mood?). I am on yet another new drug, and it has literally been kicking my ass. Long story short, I have trouble keeping awake and remaining focused, and I spend most of the day literally punching myself to get through work and especially, sit through meetings.
- Focus – Childhood baking memories.
- Craving – Tarts and cake.
- Feedback from the husband – I made the tarts the same week I made diplomat cream-filled choux. JH seemed to like the choux better. I never actually asked for his feedback on the tarts to be perfectly honest, but they always seemed to be the ugly sister. I have also yet to ask him what he thinks of the cake, but I make olive oil cakes often.
The first time I ever made something by myself (that I could remember) was in elementary school for a potluck. At that time, I had never really been in the kitchen by myself before because nobody had properly taught me how to cook yet. I always just watched the process. My mom was working at that time, so I was afraid to ask for her help, which would have probably resulted in a store-bought dish. This was also around the time my sister was an emo teenager and practically never home, so I could not ask her for help. For whatever reason or another, I did not want to be one of those kids who brought in store-bought goods, so I tried making banana bread while my parents were out. With foolish confidence that I would not burn down the house, I stupidly tried making banana bread from memory (of watching my sister). Back then, there was no internet to consult for troubleshooting, and I foolishly never double-checked any recipe books that might have been upstairs in my sister’s room. Long story short, I think a number of things occurred: I forgot 1) to use baking soda, and 2) I made up all the measurements in my mind. I tasted the batter before it went in the oven, and it tasted like nothing but wet flour. That should have been signal for me to throw it away or adjust it somehow, but alas, I was on a timer with parents coming home, and I shoved it in the oven. Somehow the end product did not burn (my mom would have killed me if she realized I was in the kitchen by myself) and it indeed rose, but it was hard as rock. It basically looked like a really dark brown brick.
I guess I had no pride issues back then because I brought it to school. Nobody ate it. I kept on checking the table for movement, but nobody ate it. I ended up throwing it in the woods later after I tasted the final product and realized how stale and hard it was. I could not even taste the banana. It was probably as embarrassing as the year I brought store-bought Chinese coconut pudding to school in Grade 4, and a bunch of kids made fun of me saying it looked like disgusting alien food. I mean, it looked like Jello, just pure white and not some funky neon color. Bah, kids are mean. I do not even know how it works today with the evils of cyber bullying.
Anyways, fast forward to university and moving away from home. In first year, I relied on residence food, and got really fat – end of story there. JH is aggressively abusive about my fat pictures – yes, it does look like I have a bit of a turkey chin. By second year, I had to lose weight and learn how to cook. From thereon out and until moving back home, I learned how to cook and bake – through recipes, trial and error, hundreds of failures, and yet more trial and error. To this day, I have never really been the greatest cook (I try, but I really have no interest in being experimental with savoury food), but I grew to love and somewhat succeed at baking. JH likes to raise this point a lot, but I think I actually really progressed at baking once I started to move in with him. When I was still living at home, I would make the occasional muffins or cookies. But once I moved in with him, I learned how to make pies, cakes and then fancier pies, fancier cakes, pastries and the rest is history.
In part, I tie my love for baking to my previous post about art and creative release, but I also baked a lot to fulfill JH’s love of sugar. His mom is a fabulous baker, and he grew up eating lots of delicious pies, cakes, breads, cookies, etc. In that respect, I wanted to give him the same experience. It was also fun having my own big kitchen to play with, and a place to store a lot of the fancy, fun tools you need to make pastry. Last thought in mind is that while pastry and dessert recipes seem hard and complex at first, once you practice it numerous times (and adjust for your own oven, lack of focus, or heavy hands), it becomes easier. And then you are eternally grateful for pastry chefs who share their words of wisdom in the first place.
So, the point of the story again is that at one point, I could not bake to save my life. Today, I would be happy if I could do it every day. One day, if and when I have babies, they too will learn how to bake. I will probably start them off with tarts. JH will probably subsequently yell at me, so that will change to stirring sugar…or stirring an empty bowl. But, on the subject of tarts, I made these raspberry and meringue lemon tarts, and here is their recipe. I love tarts – they are my favorite thing to make. If I had a bakery, it would be a tart bakery. End of story.
Actually, not the end of story. I am shoving in a olive oil bundt cake in here too. Now, end of story.
The Not-So-Secret Secrets:
RASPBERRY LEMON MERINGUE TARTS
- Pâte Sucrée
- Lemon Curd (recipe below)
- Torched Meringue (recipe below)
- Halved raspberries and edible gold for assembly (for the raspberry ones)
Lemon Curd – Adapted from Bouchon Bakery
|1 sheet gelatin||Bloom the gelatin in cold water.|
|216 grams eggs||Mix the eggs, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat until you see steam.|
|216 grams sugar||Take off the heat and mix. Add the bloomed gelatin.|
|216 grams lemon juice||Using an immersion blender, add the butter a few cubes at a time. Blend until smooth.|
|280 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into mini cubes||Add to the tart shells. Smooth with an offset spatula, and let set overnight.|
|5 large egg whites||Over a double boiler, gently whisk the egg whites, sugar and salt constantly until the mixture feels warm (bordering hot) to touch.|
|1 1/2 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
|Transfer mixture to mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk for ten minutes, or until the mixture is shiny, doubles in volume, and holds a peak.
Pipe onto filled tarts. Using a kitchen torch, lightly torch the meringue until there is a nice brown glow.
LEMON GLAZED OLIVE OIL BUNDT – Adapted from here
|3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
|Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a kugelhopf pan.|
|1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cups cream
|Sift together the dry ingredients – flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and the spices.|
|1/2 cup lemon juice
3 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp each – cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom
|Mix all the sugar, oil, cream, extract, juice and zest together.Gradually mix in an egg, one at a time, until it is fully blended into the mixture.|
|1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
|Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet mixture in two additions. Try not over-mix, but ensure all the ingredients have been mixed well together.|
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 pinches of salt
|Using a spatula, fold in the almonds. At this point, I meant to add a 1/2 cup of berries (for extra moisture), but I forgot.|
|1/2 cup almond flour
Confectioners sugar and lemon glaze (recipe below) for topping
|Bake for about an hour (I went to an hour and two minutes). Allow to cool for about ten minutes. Run a knife gently around the edge of the pan, and then flip carefully onto a cake stand. If the pan was buttered correctly, it should slide out with ease.|
|1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup cream
3 to 5 tablespoons lemon juice
|Whisk all the ingredients together well. Let is sit for a little, and then top over cooled cake.|