Cake Fear

I think we have established by now that I am generally afraid of baking cakes. I fear that it won’t rise, or it will fall, or it will organize its temperamental little self into foam, sauce, and jelly-jammy layers because I failed to beat the egg whites just so. I worry that it will stick to the pan and come out in pieces so I have to make a “German Chocolate Trifle” for my husband’s birthday. Or it will be underbaked in the middle and I will not discover, until it is already on my guests’ plates and on its way to their mouths, that my lovely apple upside-down cake is actually apple upside-down pudding. (All theoretical concerns, of course, not that any of these things has actually happened to me.)

Well. This month’s Daring Bakers challenge (or “mob bake,” as my husband calls it) brought a whole new meaning to the phrase “fear of cake.” The way I see it, any recipe whose author admonishes you not to slip up or you’re looking at a trip to the ER definitely warrants an extra dose of serious baking anxiety. Not to mention full body armor.

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It’s A Toss-Up

potato rosemary goat cheese pizza

There are times when a toss-up is definitely not a good thing. The upcoming election, for example. You want your candidate to earn an unequivocal win, right? So get out there and vote on November 4, if you haven’t done so already. I’ll be really ticked off if I have to stay up until 6 AM while “too close to call” remains on the lips of every news anchorperson in the country, because you didn’t bother to vote. So go, no excuses. That means you!

This month’s Daring Baker’s challenge was a toss-up of a different kind. Our host Rosa (Rosa’s Yummy Yums) delighted me by choosing pizza, but terrified me by stipulating that we had to shape the crust by tossing it up in the air like a real pizzaiola. The last time any crust of mine was airborne involved a few choice expletives and a pretty extensive patch job. Thenceforth, until Rosa stirred things up, I resigned myself to being a more relaxed, if inauthentic, pizza crust roller.

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Tips for Idiots

If you’re going to be an idiot, it helps if you’re at least an early-rising idiot.

That way, when you get up at 6 AM and see that the world is being taken over by Daring Bakers bearing lavash crackers with all manner of vegan, gluten-free dips, spreads, and salsas, and you slap your forehead and realize that yes, it’s that day and you’re caught not only lavash-less but lavash-plan-less, well, you still might have time to pull something together before you get caught up in the rest of your day.

It helps to have a few other things on your side.

Like that your lovely hosts Natalie (Gluten A Go Go) and Shel (Musings From the Fishbowl) have crafted a challenge that is fun and delicious (and yeasted in the bargain!) without being too time-intensive.

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Worst Best Pâte à Choux Ever

How do you go from cursing your pâte à choux to adoring it in 60 seconds flat? Here are the steps I used (YMMV):

  1. Be delighted and excited about the challenge Meeta (What’s For Lunch Honey?) and Tony (Tony Tahhan) have chosen for the August Daring Bakers challenge: Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs.
  2. Plan to make the éclairs to take to work, where you are sure to have enough chocoholics around to summarily devour them.
  3. Make the chocolate pastry cream and chocolate sauce for the glaze the night before, without incident. Plan to make the éclair shells that night also, but be too exhausted to do so safely.
  4. Get up at 5AM. Make coffee.
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Cake Concepts Clarified

During the baking and serving of this Filbert Gateau, the July Daring Bakers challenge hosted by Chris of Mele Cotte, it seems there were a few concepts I was a little unclear on:

Concept #1: Your husband is allergic to hazelnuts so don’t count on him to help you eat this cake. How did I not know this? Have I really not made anything with hazelnuts in the more-than-half-my-life we’ve been together? Oh well, I suppose it’s discoveries like this that keep a marriage alive.

Concept #2: Do not bake jewelry into the genoise. Especially earring studs that have potential to do serious bodily injury. Luckily I discovered it before our dining room turned into an ad hoc piercing parlor.
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Wild Yeast One; Danish Two

Today is the one-year birthday of Wild Yeast. Holy crow, time flies! I’m not one for elaborate birthday bashes, so let me just say this: Thank you to all of you who read here, and to all of you who share your fabulous blogs with the world. A year ago, I never could have imagined that I would ever meet so many extremely cool people from every corner of the earth, let alone count you among my friends. You’ve made my year!

Now, about that Danish:

The Danish pastries I made last month were good, but not as flaky and crisp as I like them, because the dough wasn’t laminated. I had planned to try again, with lamination; little did I know that Kelly (Sass & Veracity) and Ben (What’s Cooking?) were plotting to force my hand by choosing Danish Braid for this month’s Daring Baker’s challenge.

When I read the recipe (from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking), I was a little surprised to see that the roll-in butter for the Danish dough was to be softened by beating it (plus a bit of flour) in a mixer to give it a spreadable consistency. The lamination in my (admittedly short) past has involved whacking a block of chilled butter with a rolling pin to shape it into a still-firm rectangle around which the dough is wrapped.

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