Today I am taking a break from the vacation posts – did you really think I was done with the food there? Here is a baking update. So the baby’s new babysitter is back after sick leave. I was so excited to have help again that I decided to go ahead and bake, come what may. I had been wanting and planning to for a week but without the babysitter it wasn’t possible. Finally this morning as soon as she came I skimmed through my books and picked the first recipe I had all the ingredients for – a sour cream coffee cake from “The Essential Baking Cookbook“. This is a very useful book which has descriptions of all ingredients, explanations of basic techniques and lots of “what went wrong?” information too. It is apparently not a very famous book but I find it very helpful. Plus it was the first baking book I ever bought, from a used book store in downtown Mountain View, so I’m very attached to it. The title of the recipe made me think it was a coffee cake in the US sense of the word but reading through the recipe made me realize it was so called because it actually had coffee in it! I thought that would be perfect as I planned to take some to a coffee get-together with friends I hoped to attend this afternoon, but had to skip because I am not yet comfortable leaving baby alone with his babysitter. Ah, the joys of motherhood!
I pulled out the eggs, butter and cream from the fridge to take the chill off. I made the cream into “sour” cream by adding some vinegar to it to use it as a substitute for sour cream. I have read that yogurt is an excellent substitute for sour cream in baking but I wanted to finish off some cream in the fridge so I decided to use it. Then out came the really expensive castor sugar that I had been saving for a special occasion. Here the regular sugar has really big crystals which are alright for baking, but I find that sometimes the sugar doesn’t dissolve properly in the baked good. I had bought a half kilo of castor sugar at three times the price of regular sugar just to try. Today was the special occasion – when you bake after over two months, it is a special day! Finally I fished out the all-purpose flour (maida) and to my not-surprise found that it had bugs in it – yuck. Yes we get bugs in a lot of food that is stored for extended periods of time. Anything that will spend a lot of time in a sealed container pretty much needs to go in the fridge – dals, beans, dried fruits and nuts, flours. So I threw out the old stuff, opened a new bag, measured it out and looked around. The mess meant that I must have everything I need.
The mixer was hooked-up to its transformer, every connection was checked and then I held my breath as I turned the switch on. I always expect something to blow up, smoke and pops when anything connected to big transformers is turned on. For an engineer, I have very little faith in the electrical equipment I use! Or may be because of that. But nothing blew up and the creaming began. Butter, sugar, eggs, coffee, vanilla, flour and “sour” cream. Ten minutes later the batter was ready, poured into the pan and in the oven for 30 minutes. Twenty minutes in, this addictive and strangely familiar smell -even though I am baking this cake for the first time- filled the kitchen. It was vanilla and coffee. At exactly 30 minutes, I tested the cake and it was perfectly done. Slightly domed, but beautiful. After letting it rest for 10 minutes I took it out of the pan and it slipped out painlessly. Not a single crumb here or there. I couldn’t believe it. For the past few times my cakes and brownies had been sticking to the pan. The only thing I did differently today was use butter instead of oil to grease the pan. Butter does make everything better doesn’t it.
I put the cake on a cooling rack on the dinner table to cool completely. The baby came by saying “Happy to you” and climbed on the table with the intention of attacking it. I have no idea where he has learned that cakes are associated with birthdays and singing “Happy Birthday to you” because he hasn’t gone to a birthday party in months. But he was really excited and wouldn’t stop repeating that. We warned him that the cake was still hot so he should wait. He sat down on a chair in front of the cake and started blowing at the cake to cool it. In between blowing he would smile secretively at me and then go on. Eventually he got tired, had his lunch and went to sleep.
In the evening I cut up the cake into 2 inch squares and was completely thrilled that it didn’t break or crumble but cut up neatly. It’s been so long since I baked a cake actually, having done brownies and bread puddings recently, that I was a little wary. But the holes on the inside are fine and even except for one or two big air holes (which is a sign of incomplete mixing). The baby asked for a piece immediately and I gave him one pretty sure he wouldn’t like it, but he sat on the kitchen counter with the cake in his hand and munched away happily while I cut the rest of the cake and tasted some. It smells strongly of coffee, but it’s sweet and mildly bitter, very moist in the center but a little dry at the edges. That and the doming has to do with too much heat on the sides of the pan. Soon the baby’s piece was gone and he wanted more. Oh yes, he loves his sweets. And we know where he gets that from!