This blog is mostly about hunting down the best in and around North Melbourne. Given my sweet tooth, that will include a rather generous number of blogs on baked goods. I’m also a baker and since my friends often come round to our place for baked goodies, I think a blog on my own baking is justified. Not that I need to justify my blogs I guess… you’ll just read ‘em or leave ‘em!
For me, baking is sort of like yoga. I like to think I’m a better baker than I am yogini though. For the hour while I’m making a sponge cake or the ten minutes while I’m placing sugar decorations on the top of a batch of cupcakes, I’m thinking about nothing beyond how much air I’ve got into my eggs or how pink is too pink for icing. I feel calm. I don’t worry about clients, life plans, filing, finances, my family, my partner, global warming, whether my house is clean, my daily calorie count, health insurance, friends’ breakups, saving the whales, restaurant reviews, whether I should floss my teeth or any of the other gazillion things I worry about.
The other thing I love about baking is that it’s something I can do late into the night. My normal brain only works a limited number of hours, but my baking brain is different. I happily bake at 1am in the morning. It’s quiet then, there is a certain baking zen which can be achieved when all the other houses are dark and it’s just you and a bowl of ganache in the middle of the night.
I don’t do early morning baking though, so I could never be a professional baker. Last year I tried to bake one of my staples, a classic four berry pavlova, at 6am. Normally I could do it with my eyes closed (baking blind – ha ha get it?), but I didn’t beat the castor sugar in sufficiently and then I had the temperature down too low. I ended up with a sort of soggy, brown pile of marshmallow. This dessert failure meant I had to whip up a very quick batch of crème brulees with the egg yolks I had left over from making the pav. It all worked out fine in the end, but the brulees were definitely below my normal standards and they weren’t nearly as visually spectacular as a glistening berry covered pav plonked down in the middle of a table. Anyway, that night dessert was had and Pav-gate was not mentioned again, but that episode definitely confirmed my earlier suspicion that much like scrambled eggs, hard work, loud music and overly chatty caffeine hyped colleagues, baking should be avoided before 11am.
My baking style
Even when my baking doesn’t turn out perfectly, it pretty much always tastes good, it’s just the presentation that takes a few goes to perfect. So if it isn’t perfect, it just means I eat it, rather than serving it up to friends. If I haven’t got time to make something else, then I serve it up to them anyway, calling it “rustic” or “home style”. If all else fails, I smother it in whipped cream to make it look better.
I like what I call “girly” baking – lots of pink icing, cachous, sugar roses, polka dot patty pans and heart shapes. I’m a massive sweet tooth, so it’s mostly sweet and decadent things which I bake. My family’s background is English, so that flavours my baking choices a lot. Scones, sponge cakes and classic puddings feature heavily. And of course, I am addicted to chocolate and all things chocolately.
Fifteen of my favourites
Fifteen baking related things I love more than puppies and rainbows combined:
- My Kitchenaid Mixmaster. I call it my “baby” and no-one else is allowed to use it.
- Whipped cream – see above.
- Online shopping.
- Warm sticky date pudding – my dad still makes the best one I’ve ever tasted.
- Delia Smith – classic perfectionist and obsessed with process, she should have been a lawyer.
- Eating the wonky looking ones – we all do it.
- Nigella Lawson – she’s over the top on TV, but the woman can cook and she makes my midnight snacks look so innocent in comparison!
- My blowtorch – I’m also a bit of a pyromaniac, so it combines two passions.
- My nan’s passionfruit sponge –it was the first real baking lesson I ever had.
- My chocolate coloured apron with the big pockets in the front.
- The cast iron frying pan I lugged all the way back from a trip to the USA.
- Edible glitter – seriously, WTF?
- Pyjamas – the best bakewear.
- Licking the spoon – but NOT double dipping.
- Vanilla beans – because everything looks classier with vanilla bean through it, right?