Thursday, 11 March 2010

Cooking up a Storm

I think I've replaced love with baking. Actually I've replaced work, relationships and normality with it. Baking and I are very happy together - it gives me what I need, is always sweet and delightful and I don't even mind cleaning up after it.

Don't get baking confused with cooking - cooking and I have been going strong since I was about fourteen. I love to throw together a vibrant stir-fry, cook carby, creamy comfort food like macaroni cheese or even just put a new spin on a classic like scrambled eggs. Baking is a new thing in my life. It's a separate concept - cakes, cookies and brownies are not necessary, they are treats. Taking the time to bake something delicious that's both unnecessary and a little naughty takes love and patience. There is something unbelievably satisfying about beating a cake mix until it's perfectly smooth and airy, or sieving flour, or whipping up creamy icing. Sharing your baked goods with other people is like introducing them to a boyfriend - you're half proud, half scared no one will like it, with just a pinch of wanting to keep it all to yourself.

My latest baking challenge is Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Guinness Cake. It's the sort of mix of indulgent and quirky that you wish you had created yourself. I added some melted Bournville chocolate (I refuse to believe that merely cocoa powder and sugar is enough for a rich chocolate cake) and it's still baking, but I'll update with the results and a picture. I'm not a huge Guinness drinker, but alcohol in puddings is only ever a great thing in my experience, and the mixture smelled irresistable pre-oven. I still have to make the cream cheese/sugar/double cream whipped icing, but not a lot can go wrong from here.

Cooking is totally cathartic (as well as a brilliant skill to have, especially if you can trade off cooking for the person/people you live with shopping or washing up) and while some people love going for a run or a swim to clear their head, for me - tragically, for my waistline - it is cooking that does the trick. I recently read Julie & Julia by Julie Powell, and it's such a great read for anyone interested in blogging or cooking. Julie was in a dead-end, depressing job in New York in the aftermath of 9/11, and felt trapped and suffocated by the pressures of her life. She set herself a mad goal to cook every one of the 524 recipe's in Julia Child's hefty Mastering the Art of French Cooking book in one year, and to document her efforts, her victories and failures in a blog (back when blogging was still a new concept.) The book is not published with blog entries but as a more fluid story, with some references to her readers' comments and her personal life. It is fascinating, and takes some getting into (Julie is a somewhat acerbic character and not at all concerned with being likeable, which I loved) and it's really just about being a normal person with problems and joys and ambitions, trying not to get swallowed up by a big city in turmoil. I highly recommend it, as well as suggesting that you persevere if you find it slightly slow-moving or inaccessible - I was totally absorbed and rooting for Julie by the end.

Essentially, Julie comes to feel a huge personal satisfaction in setting herself little goals in the form of complex dishes, and also in feeding those she loves. It's a primal thing to nourish those around you, and I can totally relate to her turning her life around in the kitchen. This is not to say that this will become a cooking blog, but just that baking is putting a smile on my face these days (not least because I'm blasting Journey in the background and singing along) and I kind of like it.

1 comment:

  1. Its interesting the cooking/baking distinction. While making a cake today it occured to me I enjoy baking more than cooking, though I'm not sure why. I'm just a bit lazy with cooking, I want to get to the end goal of me eating dinner more than I want to spend ages perfecting the taste. I guess, like you said its the treat factor and I think I enjoy the fact I'm doing it for fun rather than cooking so I can have dinner. I will upload a picture of the cake I made today on facebook later, its VERY pink =) xxxx