Friday, August 1, 2008

My first daring bakers challenge

So I want to become a better baker. In my five minutes of free time I google baking, discover the Daring Bakers, e-mail the leaders, and voila I'm in. I tell my husband, "I'm going to learn how to bake on the Internet!"

He reminds me that I have no free time.

He is soooo pessimistic. Really, he is.

Enter July's challenge: Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream. Also enter my daughter's first birthday, three new jobs, and a trip to Texas for the last week and a half of the month. I look at the recipe. It doesn't look that hard, I mean you have to skin a bunch of hazelnuts and that is going to suck, but pralines? I'm a Texan, I do those in my sleep. Heating apricot preserves up in a saucepan? I can do that! And there is some other stuff too, but the recipe is really long and I'm busy, so I put off reading it for another day, and another.

Soon it is the week of my vacation, and I still haven't made the cake. But I read the recipe and the Daring Baker's blog with eagerness and anticipation. There is some moaning about buttercream that won't come together. And the praline part of the recipe orders me to put sugar in a saucepan and just leave it there until it melts. That's how French people make pralines? Good God!

I wonder if my husband will kill me if I start making the cake at midnight. It seems kind of involved. And messy. And like I can't possibly finish it before the car service honks in front of my building tomorrow to pick up my family, our unpacked bags, and the car seat we haven't bought yet in order to deliver us to the airport for our vacation.

Our vacation. In Texas, to visit my family. I get a brilliant thought: mother's cakes have impeccable icing! She cuts thin layers with ease! She makes pralines that get hard every time! She has a KitchenAid mixer! Suddenly the dilemma is solved. Forget learning how to bake on the Internet, I would learn from the real deal: my mother.

Let's just say, without her, I would have doubted that hazelnuts boiled in baking soda would come out not tasting like baking soda (they don't), my buttercream would have never come together. (I thought I was so smart because I found the paddle attachment all by myself, but them my mom walked in and asked me why I was making buttercream with the dough hook.) And frankly, as the night droned on and I got loopier and loopier, I decided that I would like to copy the brilliant decorating scheme created by my artistic (and obvioulsy fun) colleague, but my mother encouraged me to put the extra buttercream in the refrigerator to harden it, use cookie cutters to cut little flower shapes and then put them in the freezer a few minutes to harden them.

And, finally the Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream was complete, on the counter, ready to be eaten. And my family? They had fallen asleep.

I woke them up.

Cooking with mom was fun. For the next challenge I plan on calling her on the phone, just like I usually do when I need oh, a recipe for tortillas or to figure out how to cook a roast. And I'm trying to get her to join Daring Bakers herself. I think it would be fun. We could do mother/daughter pictures. Her's would look like the mother's and mine would look like this:

Till next time!