One of the things I love most in the world is quietly gathering ingredients from my disorganized baking cupboard and laying them out in anticpation of a delicious dessert. This year, I decided that I need to start taking more time for the things I love to do that are just for me more often. I've resolved to laugh even when I'm the only one who thinks something is funny, to bake more, and to write more. I need to do those things to be the best me.
Tonight, I pulled out my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume I, and I giggled as I thought about which recipe should be my first. I thought back to our first wedding anniversary, and I pictured myself standing in a bakery in the St. Germain area of Paris preparing my masterpiece. It didn't take long before I came across Le Marquis [Chocolate Spongecake]. I read over the ingredients, knowing I had most of them tucked away in that disorganized cabinet. The rest lived in various parts of my somewhat more orderly refrigerator. First, I rummaged through the cabinet where I keep pots, pans, casserole dishes, and baking supplies I don't often use. I felt around for my spongecake pan that I'd know it by its ridges. I pulled it out while continuing to pull ingredients from their various homes in my kitchen.
I found some shortening and flour and began to prep the cake pan. That's when I realized I'd pulled out my Elmo cake pan that I used to make Noah's first birthday cake in place of a spongecake pan. I had a good laugh realizing this baking experience was already a little less romantic than I'd imagined ahead of time. I quickly pulled out my spongecake pan and then caught myself and used butter and flour to prepare the pan as the recipe dictated. Making the batter had to be hands down the most fun, peaceful, relaxing baking experinece I've ever had. I melted the coffee and chocolate together just as the recipe called, I created a ribbon out of egg yolks and sugar, my egg whites created stiff peaks right on queue, and then I mixed the batter together and poured it into the spongecake pan. That's when I double checked the recipe and realized that I was supposed to use a regular 8-inch pan. So I poured the batter into yet another pan after briefly prepping it with butter and flour.
Then, I waited for the magic to happen. Right on time, the top of the cake cracked as the guide suggested. I sat there laughing at the silly mistakes I had made, but glad they hadn't cost me the cake. I pulled the cake out and it passed the test for being perfectly done. A little bit of chocolate came up on the tooth pick. I waited 10 minutes for it to cool then I ran a knife around the inside of the pan like the recipe instructed. It had been a fun experience. French baking felt so much more honest and delicious than American baking. I couldn't wait to tell the world that French baking is easier, slower, more delicious and perfectly suited for me. Just when I began to dream about the chocolate glaze I'd make in a couple of hours after the cake had completely cooled, I turned the cake upside to put it on the cooling rack, and it didn't budge. I smacked the pan. Nothing. So I did what anyone would do when they had messed up a delicious dessert. I tasted the cake, and I heard French children singing about peace in the background as bit into the little chocolate delight in my hand. I scooped the rest of the cake out with a cake server and then I brought some to Ash. He liked it, but the piece I gave him looked more like a brownie. So I cut the rest of the cake up into random pieces and put away our batch of six small brownies that took me two hours to make.
Okay, maybe there would have been more, but once I messed the cake up, I decided I needed to eat half of it to make sure it was safe for consumption. I'd be a liar if I didn't admit that after the first bite, I knew the cake had turned out exactly how it was meant and that I possibly forgot the butter while prepping the final (third) pan I'd prepped for the cake. I cannot wait to make my way through more recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I wonder if all of the recipes will taste this delicious and make me feel like I'm sitting slowly sipping coffee outside at a cafe in Paris instead of standing in my disorganized kitchen in suburban Maryland. Maybe Julia Childs didn't want me to end up with a beautiful cake afterall. Maybe she knew I needed an hour or two to laugh at myself while eating half of a cake. And maybe, I should have used the shortening to prep my pan.