Third time’s the charm?

Last year when I was still in the throes of baking, before I was attacked by cystic acne and vicious tummy fat, I attempted to make orange pound cake. I tried this twice, and failed twice before giving up on this, and then giving up on baking altogether.

Still my fondness for baking has been ignited, and will not be completely extinguished so easily. Plus it was bank holiday Monday, and everyone was out enjoying the great outdoors so I figured I ought to commemorate the day as well, and what better way than to revisit an old nemesis? That kids, is how I ended up baking orange pound cake for the third time.

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For the love of yeast

One thing I have discovered in the past few months is the magnificence of yeast. This is a strange thing to write about on a fine Sunday afternoon, but i am riddled with anxiety about the workweek so what else to do but write a post on the wonders of yeast?

Yeast. It takes things from this:

To this

And then again from this this to that.

It’s magic!

Baking powder and baking soda are great, but yeast is on another level. I stare in delight at the resulting dough, resplendent in its beauty. The beautiful stretchy texture is a sight to behold and I cannot get enough of it. Bread, cinnamon rolls, and puff puff are just a few of the goodies that rely on yeast.

Still, I wondered, what are the limits of yeast? I was determined to find this out.

Last week I decided to make some bread, which is de rigeur these days. Usually I make it in a smaller pan or the pan above depending on the size of the dough. Then it occurred to me; was I restricting the rise of the dough by using a small pan? What if I used a bigger pan, would the dough just continue to rise indefinitely until it covers whatever container it is in, thereby giving me even more bread? It was genius level logic. So rather than using one pan, I split them out into two:

I would usually make three rolls and let them rise in the smaller container, as in my first bread recipe. But as an intellectual, I decided five huge loaves are better than three small ones.

Well the dough rose alright, but not quite the way I expected. Just look:

Unlike the fat juicy sexy dough I was expecting, the dough spread to fill the pan but was flat. So that is what happens when you let dough rise in a container that is too big. You get wide flat bread.

Initially I was dismayed, downcast, heartbroken, saddened by the result. Then I saw the other batch and had to laugh.

I promise you this is bread.

It did not look as I wanted, but it was still pretty much bread. I devoured the smaller batch right out of the pan with no butter or egg or anything.

Here are a bunch of pictures to prove that it is in-fact bread.

Everything looks good with nutella

All’s well that ends well.

What was my point? Ah yes yeast. I love it and I shall never be without it again.

Utter Fail!

It was inevitable. Everything that goes up must come down. So every-time I cooked/baked, I held my breath until it was done and looked fine. Unfortunately my luck ran out yesterday.

Since the lockdown I have tried to make something regularly; I have a lot of flour and I want to use it. So after my last baking bout, which was quite successful, I was motivated to try something new. I spent the whole week looking up recipes trying to figure out what to make. I came across a video on youtube about a 3 ingredient chocolate cake; no flour no eggs no sugar no chocolate no cocoa powder. After days of YT recommending the video I finally clicked on it hoping to learn how to make chocolate cake out of air, imagination and hope. I saw this 5 minute chocolate cake by the same youtuber which requires no oven no eggs no butter no milk no nothing and it seemed easy enough I immediately ordered some cocoa powder on amazon.

I also had some oranges and was in the mood for something citrusy so I looked up some orange cake recipes and found this one which seemed simple enough (except for the fact it called for 3 eggs!). 5 minute chocolate cake and orange pound cake; these were going to be my next projects. If all had gone well, the title of this post would have been something like orange you glad… (I know) or some clever amalgamation of chocolate-orange or really anything but “utter fail”. So what went wrong?

Let’s start with the chocolate cake. First I ordered cacao powder which I just assumed was a fancy way of saying cocoa powder but turns out it is something different. It can still be used in place of cocoa powder but they are not exactly the same. Then I had the brilliant idea to make brownies instead. I’m not crazy over chocolate cake. I will eat it if offered but I’m not gaga over it. Now brownies I like, especially if they are gooey and fudgy. I have made it three times during the lockdown but that was with the help of Betty Crocker, and each attempt was worse than the previous one.

I looked up dozens of recipes trying to find the best one for my circumstances. I was dizzy from all the options. Most called for chocolate bars which I did not have and cocoa powder which I erroneously assumed I had. Eventually I settled on this recipe which I liked because it was well detailed, had pictures (just noticed now there’s also a video), and even discussed what each ingredient adds to the recipe. The truth is I was dizzy from going through so many recipes and just wanted to get it over with.

The issues began almost immediately. First my phone storage was full so it would not let me take any pictures, which is always an ominous sign. The recipe calls for sugar, butter, salt and cocoa powder to be melted over a saucepan. I rolled my eyes at this and made for the microwave but thought you know what? I’ll just do this properly. I stood over this saucepan for 10 minutes and nothing happened. I started to wonder whether the bowl with the ingredients was heat proof or something. After an eternity I noticed the tiniest melt (?) in one of the corners of the butter. It was then that I went over to the microwave and melted it in under a minute. The recipe called for two eggs but I was not willing to spare two eggs so I used just one. All looked well until I added the flour (oh did I mention I halved the recipe as I always do?). The batter became really thick and I kept adding melted better to no avail. I really should have added some water or another egg as the recipe demanded but my baking IQ is in the gutter so I foolishly went ahead to bake it that way.

This recipe said to mix the batter well enough but most of the recipes said not to overmix the batter so I barely mixed it. Some comments said it was eggs not flour that increased the cakeyness so I only added one. At the last minute it occurred to me that there was no rising agent so I sprinkled some baking powder into the mix (even though the recipe did not ask for it). Before the brownie batter went in I knew it was going to be a mess. Boy oh boy was it a mess. The texture was trash-I was trying to avoid a cakey texture and ended up with loamy soil. The recipe called for 20 minutes but by that time not much had happened to the batter. I cannot remember how long I cooked it for but I was over it at this point. I even attempted to make a brownie mug cake on the side but that was even more a dud. Even the ice-cream I bought was tasteless. It was not a good day. I went to bed defeated.

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Looks worse than this in real life

I woke up early on Saturday morning excited to make the orange pound cake and then stayed in bed for seven more hours. Eventually I dragged myself to the kitchen and began the process. Again I had looked through a ton of recipes and was confused and exhauted. In addition to the first recipe I saw, there were also a ton of YouTube videos and they all called for three eggs ughhhhh. This recipe is quite simple but I had a few issues; I had to zest and juice the orange. I don’t have a juicer and I was worried about not getting enough juice. I tried to grate the orange to get the zest and I got nothing. The recipe called for the eggs and sugar to be beaten until fluffy which I felt required a hand-mixer which I did not have. A few of the youtube videos I watched blended the orange with the eggs, sugar and oil so I did that as it solved all my problems. I had every intention of just using one large egg but I just happened to have three tiny eggs in the pack so I decided I might as well use them (I really need to start checking eggs before I buy them).

I sieved the resulting mixture (which smelled heavenly) to get rid of all the fiber and tough skin (maybe this was a mistake?). Then I used the same sieve to sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture which in hindsight was foolish as it was already clogged up with orange fibre which probably meant the baking powder did not get into the flour. At the time I was blissfully unaware of this; the mixture looked good and smelled divine so I was very optimistic. I only used a cup of flour rather than the 1 and 1/3 cups because I just know it all don’t I?

I put the batter in the oven and felt so good that I decided to make pancakes in the mixing bowl to get the citrus taste. I added some yogurt which turns out is the tip for fluffy pancakes (the way I like them). The pancakes turned out great and the cake seemed to have risen and browned beautifully. It smelled great so I carried them both to my room to devour privately. It was not until hours later when I decided to stage and cut into the cake that I realised it was suspiciously flat and felt weird. I cut into it and the texture was weird and not cakey at all. It was then that I realised that the cake was indeed an utter failure. Thankfully the pancakes were great and slathered with nutella which turned out to be the only bright spot.

So that is the story of how I ended up wasting four eggs(!!!) which is truly a tragedy.

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First time blending an egg

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Where did it all go wrong my child?

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Darn baking paper!

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I can’t believe I did not immediately spot the problem

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I laugh to hide the pain

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I don’t know this is but it’s not cake.

Baking is so flipping easy and so goddarn hard at the same time ugh. I almost want to enroll in a baking course just to improve my understanding of the ingredients and the process. I need to understand what eggs add to it and what happens if I remove an egg from the recipe.

One random unforeseen issue was with baking paper. I usually just butter the pan (or whatever it is I use) but then someone in the house got baking paper so I thought why not. Of course then I spent ten minutes trying to figure out how to use it properly- I ended up greasing the pan anyway and then greasing the baking paper as well just in case.

Fear not, I will try again. If at first you don’t succeed. What changes will I make?

-Try a new brownie recipe, maybe this one.
-Cacao is stronger than cocoa so add less than the recipe calls for
-Try one large egg in the orange cake rather than three small eggs. I read that too many eggs can cause a rubbery texture -Ensure the baking powder gets into the flour!!!
-Forget the parchment/baking paper and just grease the pan
-Don’t be afraid to use a hand whisk
-Don’t google everything. Just pick one recipe and focus on it.

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SHAME! So much baking paper so little cake.

Who would have thought that the brownie would end up being the more edible one.

This shh…is bananas!

The whole world has been stuck at home for weeks, and everyone is doing the only logical thing to pass the time-baking! Cakes, Sourdough, cookies, you name it. But nothing more than the almighty banana bread.  Of course this has pissed off some sourpusses out there who are enraged by all the banana bread photos out there. Well you angry birds, here is one more!

I made banana bread muffins once, under the strict watch of my baker friend. I was essentially just her hands; she told me exactly what to do, when to do it, how to do it. My only contribution was “oooh let’s put the mixture in the muffin tins and make banana bread muffins instead!” Like everyone else I have recently discovered my love for the culinary arts and with all the fuss about banana bread I was determined to make mine.

I had some very ripe bananas which motivated me even more, and I also had some flour, so I set about finding a recipe that required only those two items. Well I searched and searched but even the simplest recipe required more (at the very least butter and baking soda). I was not willing to leave my house just yet so I chopped the bananas, put them in a freezer bag and threw them into the freezer until I went shopping.

Once I got all the ingredients, I was fired up and ready to go. I narrowed my search down to two recipes; this Jamie Oliver recipe and another one which was modestly referred to as Best Banana Bread. My indecisiveness is legendary so I spent hours debating which recipe to follow; on one hand the Jamie Oliver recipe substituted sugar with honey which appeals to my pseudo healthy mind. But it called for apple juice and cinnamon which I did not have.

Eventually common sense won and I made the Best Banana Bread recipe for which I had all the ingredients. I added some nutmeg of my own volition.

All the ingredients required for the best banana bread

The recipe calls for us to cream together butter and sugar which of course meant little to me. I faintly remember my friend doing something with an electric mixer but as I did not have that I figured there had to be another way. I found this helpful video on youtube. Basically add sugar and butter (room temperature, I melted mine in the microwave for 30 seconds) and then mix with a wooden spoon until thy kingdom come. The goal is to completely dissolve the sugar in the butter so the longer you stir for the better. I did this for 5 minutes (or less) because I was not put on earth to cream butter.

Well creamed butter and sugar

I put the frozen bananas in the microwave for 30 seconds and then mushed them with a rolling pin.

Microwaved bananas after being mushed/flattened by a rolling pin

As directed, I mixed together all the wet items together (creamed butter and sugar, crushed bananas, eggs) and sifted the dry items (flour, baking soda, nutmeg and salt). Then I combined wet and dry, and added the vanilla. I did not add as much sugar as the recipe called for, it just seemed abominable to use that much sugar.  The resulting mixture was sooooo darn delicious that it took all my willpower not to eat it all with a spoon.

Yummy in my tummy. Banana bread mixture

I melted some butter and greased and floured the pan which turned out to be way better than just oiling the pan. It made it way easier to remove the finished banana bread.

Blurry unnecessary photo

 

I was going to use a narrow bread pan type object (forgive my ignorance) but I only had one of those and quite a bit of mixture. I was also not sure about how much it was going to rise so I just put the entire mixture into this wide pan. I put it in the oven at 180 degrees celsius for an hour. Oh yeah remember to preheat your oven about 20 minutes prior.

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Go with God my sweet child

 

I had some pasta while I waited.

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Yummy parmegiano amore mio

 

Eh voila! My beautiful creation.

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Look at my baby. Simply stunning

It was delicious and every bite filled me with pride. So dramatic, yes, but I can’t help it.

I ate every last piece all by myself and I have no ragrets (if you don’t get the reference just keep it moving).

Now that I have successfully made some banana bread, there are no limits to what I can achieve. Lemon drizzle cake? Sticky toffee pudding? Six tier wedding cake? I can do it all.

What delicious things have you made so far?