A Poetic Interlude

So I know I said I wasn’t going to be only posting cooking posts. And then I had a long interlude of only posting cooking posts, because the reason I started the Bake Everything project was in part to give me something to write about. (It was also to level up my cooking skills, to be fair– which it is absolutely doing. I have gained at least two levels in cooking.) Realistically, most of what I post is going to continue to be cooking. But occasionally I do other things too, like write poetry. So here’s one I wrote a while back, which I will now share with you. (I’ve been referring to it jokingly as “the death by housework poem.”)

Her smile is sort of brittle,
To tell people she’s well,
A nightmare mask to wear,
On her journey into hell.

Clean the floors and wash the walls,
Organize and bake,
Clean out glasses short and tall,
Follow in the mess’s wake.

The tasks are neverending,
They repeat every day,
And always there are new ones,
Each time something’s squared away.

She’s expected just to fix it,
And never to complain,
Make the world turn with a smile,
She should never be in pain.

She hollows out her insides,
Leaving nothing but a shell,
With a picture-perfect smile,
And efficiency that’s swell.

But where has gone the woman,
When the tasks are all complete?
Don’t be foolish, there’s no finish,
She is never off her feet.

Just hollow out her insides,
Take the mindless shell,
For women are from Stepford,
It’s an awful tale to tell.

Did you ever wonder,
How it is that women die?
Organized to suicide,
In hopes their souls will fly.

For while among the living,
They are fated to endure,
Endless chores tracked to completion,
When always there are more.

Death may not be the answer,
For sure it’s second-best,
But the ideal one won’t happen,
There’s no other way to rest.

So if you’ve ever wondered,
What makes a woman die,
Think of endless fields of details,
And a quiet, tired sigh.


Kit Bakes Everything: Backlog Post! Hamantaschen, Sugar Cookies, and Gingersnaps

So remember how I said there was a backlog? Well, I did the hamantaschen and the sugar cookies way back around Purim. I am… not good at actually writing stuff up and getting it posted. The gingersnaps were more recent, but they were still a while ago. I’m slowly burning out, is the real problem, and that’s leaving me with less energy for things like cooking and posting. Even when you’ve got them stable, having two day jobs is a pain, y’all. Which is why I need to write; if I can get consistent enough content and audience here to put up a Patreon or something I can maybe get a little breathing room on that front.

Ah, well, there were cookies. I am not remotely an observant Jew, y’all (and since I inherit through my father, whether I’m Jewish at all kind of depends on how Orthodox you are), but I did make some hamantaschen for Purim. Since I can’t have the traditional fruit jam fillings, I got grapefruit marmalade and pumpkin butter to fill them with. The cookie recipe is good, even if its clarity about how exactly you’re supposed to fill them leaves something to be desired. The cookie part came out quite nicely.

Pumpkin butter makes an excellent filling– sweet and not too sweet and very like pumpkin pie, but softer and bite-sized. The grapefruit marmalade, alas, was not a success, and the ones so filled hung around the house for days before the last few got tossed. It was just too tart! There was no sweetness at all in that, and it was sticky besides. It might go reasonably well on a very sweet bread, but it didn’t work in a situation where it was supposed to be the main flavor of something. There was no sensation beyond “oh, this is making my mouth pucker.” And I like grapefruit!

The sugar cookies were instigated by Bookhunter– she and Math Dragon had gone to Maine around Purim and brought back some maple sugar for me to bake with. So I substituted the sugar in the sugar cookie recipe with maple sugar. I highly recommend this substitution, by the way. The cookies came out sweet and sugary and deliciously flavored of maple in a way that was definitely there but not overpowering. They were absolutely delicious, a hands-down winner. I’m torn between making them again to use up the rest of the maple sugar and trying something else with it. Anything else I made would have to try hard to compete with these, though. They were just so sweet and maple and delicious.

My adventures in gingersnaps… well, there was this slight problem in that we were out of ginger. So I didn’t put any ginger in the gingersnaps, and added more of other spices to compensate. I also didn’t roll them out thin so that they would crunch and snap. (I never promised I was going to follow the recipes, y’all!) They came out puffy and moist and quite tasty, so I’ll have to try again with actual ginger and rolling out and see what happens. It’s a good base, though! Not too sweet and nicely full of spices. (What keeps happening with ginger is I remember that I bought a giant thing of it, so obviously I have some! And I did indeed buy a giant thing of it… for something I cooked with my partner, that is located at his house.)

Kit Bakes Everything: Rich Golden Bread

I made two loaves this afternoon and it’s already gone, so that’s something. One slight mishap that meant it wasn’t as risen as it could have been, so I’ll have to try it again sometime soonish, but it still came out delicious!

The main thing about this one is that it has multiple rises. Several multiple rises– there’s the first rise, then the shaping, then letting it puff for about 20 minutes or so, and then a full second rise. Enriched dough really needs all that rising, but it’s kind of a lengthy process, which is where the mishap comes in.

The second rise is supposed to take place in a cake or loaf pan, so that you don’t have to handle the dough a second time before rising– just brush with melted butter and pop into the oven. I got it all set up nicely, but so that we’d have bread around the dinner hour instead of an hour after I got home from a later than usual shift, I asked Math Dragon to do the brushing it with butter and putting it in the oven part. It didn’t occur to me to specify “bake it in the cake pans”, and it didn’t occur to him that I’d be using anything other than the baking sheets I’ve used for all the loaves of Rustic Bread I’ve been making… and so he transferred it after the second rise, which lost a lot of the rise.

However, even with that mishap and the loss of texture that necessarily accrues when you substitute all the eggs in a recipe, it tasted pretty delicious– not as fluffy as it could have been, but not close-textured either. It had more flavor than the other breads I’ve been making. Five out of the six people living here had sandwiches for dinner, since we had a lot of deli meat leftover from one of Math Dragon’s deli meat buying sprees (man takes his sandwiches seriously) and also a ridiculous number of homemade pickles leftover from an amateur catering project Chef did. The bread is now entirely gone.

I’ll have to make this one again. It’s not that much more work than the other one, and it’s clearly a hit. (Even better, maybe I can find a recipe for enriched bread in Bakewise, which I discovered today has delicious recipes which are much more straightforwardly written.)

Kit Bakes Everything: Georgian Bread and Crazy Cake

Sorry for disappearing on you, everyone! First I had a bad mental health week, and then my laptop was broken for a week, and then I was exhausted. I’m still exhausted, honestly, but the more I put off writing and keep baking, the more daunting writing up my backlog gets. I’m going to write up the one I did relatively recently while it’s fresh in my mind and and deal with my backlog later when I’m not exhausted.

There was a cooking spree! Kitty Tamer (one of my roommates) was sick, so Math Dragon and Bookhunter (more of my roommates) and I cooked dinner for her. We’d have cooked dinner for the rest of the house too, but everyone else was out.

(How many roommates do I have, you ask? Five: Chef, Kitty Tamer, Math Dragon, Bookhunter, and Tie-Dye. There are various significant others and former residents who also drop by on the regular; they’ll get Blog Nicknames if they become important.)

Math Dragon and Bookhunter did soup and sandwiches, while I did more baking. Much more baking– Georgian Bread and Crazy Cake from this cookbook, and scallion pancakes for an appetizer which are from one of my Korean cookbooks and thus not part of the project. (There is a scallion pancake recipe in How to Bake Everything. I will be doing it at some point. And probably doing a bonus comparison. Which gives me an idea for something to do after I eventually get through this cookbook– comparing recipes for the same thing across MULTIPLE cookbooks!)

Georgian Bread is fascinating. It’s basically a giant open-faced cheese turnover– you take a bread dough, spread cheese on it, roll up the sides, fill the middle with more cheese, and bake. You’re supposed to it it hot while the cheese is still liquid so you can dip the dough into the cheese; this did not happen because we weren’t great at timing our meals. One thing to note is that while the loaf of bread looks small when it’s at the rising stage, you will be rolling it out really thin, so there’s actually more of it than there seems to be. That said, if you’ve got very bread-loving people around, you might want to double the recipe.

Things I didn’t do: the recipe calls for breaking an egg over the top of that cheese and baking it until it’s just set, and then putting a tablespoon of butter cut up into small pieces over the top while it’s still hot. That just struck me as overkill, honestly; the thing’s already so rich! Why add more? I could barely eat it as it was.

Crazy Cake is weird, although at least some of that might be that we did the Baily’s Irish Cream version first and our bottle of Irish Cream was really old. It’s extremely fluffy, but as a cake that’s deliberately done without diary or eggs, it has little richness. Or at least, that’s the variation with the alcohol. When you do the variation that involves replacing all the water in the recipe with coffee, it’s significantly gooier. And also caffeinated, which I really don’t recommend in cake, especially if you have my congenital sensitivity to substances. (Turns out autism often means you don’t react normally to drugs! In my case, this means an extreme sensitivity to them.)

Our next trick is going to be trying it with Kahlua, on the theory that this will have the coffee flavor to bring out the chocolate flavor, alcohol to make it fluffy, and no caffeine to upset my brain and stomach. I will have to see how that actually turns out, but I am intensely curious.

Kit Bakes Everything: Chocolate-Sour Cream Pound Cake

It is possible to screw up cake such that your household won’t eat it, y’all! They were eating the Entemann’s someone brought home! A store bought cake! In preference to a homemade chocolate one!

In all fairness, if I could eat the store-bought one, I probably would have been too. I don’t know if it’s because I subbed Greek yogurt for the rest of the sour cream when we ran out or if it’s just the way these cakes are supposed to come out, but the texture was awful. I ate some of it because it was chocolate cake and I’ve been sick with the flu, but it was dense in a very bad way– heavy and muddy and just weird. I’m not sure what caused the problem, though I’d also be willing to go with “this is a cake texture some people prefer” or “this is the texture of a sour cream cake”.

It was probably some kind of mess-up in the execution, though, because looking over here at The Cake Blog‘s comparison pictures, that is not at all what my cake’s crumb looked like, though I don’t think that one was a pound cake either. Also, I don’t have a lot of experience baking with real dairy. Since my partner’s away visiting relatives I thought I’d give real butter and sour cream a shot.

One might also blame the oven, or the Bundt pan, or any number of variables that go into a cake. Or maybe pound cakes just shouldn’t be chocolate. I’m probably not going to try it again to figure it out, though; there are plenty of cake recipes still to go, and some that I’ve tested that everyone actually likes (not to mention scores of other cookbooks), so troubleshooting this at random is kind of a low priority– if I do enough with similar cake recipes that I start to have a targeted idea of what was wrong with this one, I might come back and give it another shot. But without the “double it so you can use a tube pan” this time!

Kit Bakes Everything: Devil’s Food Cake and Rustic Bread

Protip: look in all the cabinets before you decide you don’t have springform pans.

Which is to say, I made a layer cake! Only I didn’t find the springform pans, so it turned out very oddly because I baked them in differently-shaped regular pans and turned them out on top of each other. I’m not really sure what differentiates Devil’s Food cake from other types of chocolate cake, unless it’s the texture– this was unusually dense and moist. It was actually pretty tasty.

I learned how glazes work! And now I’m going to tell you all. The heart of a glaze seems to be that it mixes up liquid, goes onto the cake liquid, and then solidifies into what’s basically a hard sugar shell. So one of the things you need to do when you put it on is that if you want your glaze to be thicker across the cake is you need to wait for it to dry and put it on a second time, because if you try to dump all the glaze on at once it pools around the side of the pan– though they’re not like icing; there’s not necessarily a reason to put on a particularly thick layer. This doesn’t count as another recipe since it’s still a variant of the same Lemon Glaze recipe I was varying in my last post, but it’s something I’ve figured out.

One of my new roommates also cooks things. We will call him Chef for blog purposes. I think he may actually be a more technically accomplished baker than I am, which is interesting when you take into account that I consider myself a pretty good baker and he considers himself more of a cook than a baker. But he somehow gets a smooth top on his cake, and then carefully mixes up the icing and carefully frosts it and trims his cakes. Actually, the differences in our cooking styles may be summed up by some variant of the “Technician Versus Performer” thing on TVTropes– though not as intensely as the page will describe, since he does do creative cooking and I occasionally work on my technique. (Really, this entire blog series can be construed as an attempt to work on my technique.) But he’s been making souffles for days trying to get them exactly right before he does any bold experimenting with the recipe, while I tend to start at bold experimenting with the recipe and let any technique I learn grow out of that.

Anyway, there were two cakes in the household for a while, my enthusiastically glazed chocolate cakes and his much prettier beet cakes.

Rustic Bread was my foray into the yeast-bearing part of the book. I’ve now done this a couple of times, because my household is a very bread-loving place and my roommates are most enthusiastic consumers of it. I’m still not sure how “shape it into a boule” is actually supposed to work– it’s already in a boule shape when you put it to rise! Is there something else I should be doing to get it into a boule? It’s been baking up just fine…

I’ve also only made one attempt at the oven-safe skillet to make the oven full of steam thing, mostly because the oven here is terrible and if you put the cast iron thing in it never really gets up to temp. It’s not having that much effect on the crust, though filling the oven with steam is supposed to do… something… to the crust. I think it’s supposed to make it browner or crisper. I have also learned not to put things on the bottom shelf of the oven because they get brown very fast there. (Our oven is terrible!)

And yes, my roommates are getting Blog Nicknames. Mostly because as often as people apparently cook for each other in this apartment, the new roommates are likely to become regular cast members here.

Kit Bakes Everything: Honey-Spice Cake with Buttercream Icing and Gingerbread Part II

Hey guys! It’s actually been a while since I did the cooking I’m discussing here– I’ve been moving! I’m so very glad to have moved (there are TWO CATS in my new apartment!), but wow has it been exhausting and I’m still not unpacked yet. So I’m going to post here about cooking done a while ago.

First thing’s first: I love bundt pans! I get to make a fancy cake while putting almost no actual effort into cake decorating. I really need to get one of these for myself! (Though it did lead to a slightly overbaked cake because I’m not used to working with these things.) I did Honey-Spice cake, which is a pretty neat cake. It’s fairly dense and thick, because it calls for whole-wheat or rye. I used white whole wheat, and we also substituted some kind of dark beer for the coffee so as to have a caffeine-free cake. It was pretty tasty!

Since I had a bundt pan and had made a fancy cake, it occurred to me that I should also ice it, especially since I have a whole chapter of icing at the end that I’m going to have to do!

I went for the Not-Too-Sweet Honey Buttercream (a variant of Not-Too-Sweet Vanilla Buttercream), and I need to do more experimentation with icings, because it didn’t come out that well. It was grainy and it never really thickened, and it wasn’t sweet but it didn’t have any other flavor either, really. It was just kind of this… vaguely buttery thing.

I think maybe buttercream is one of those things where butter-versus-margarine actually matters. Though that my not be all of it, because of the next recipe. A few weeks after that cake (see? I’m behind on writing these up!), I got together with my metamour, who’s low-gluten but not totally gluten-free, and I decided to see how a low-gluten version of that cranberry gingerbread from New Year’s worked– remember I was speculating it would do well gluten-free? There’s gluten in my egg substitute, so it wasn’t completely gluten-free, but there were perhaps four tablespoons of flour in the entire cake. It came out kind of sandy–even in a cake there’s no true substitute for flour– but respectable. I bet you could use real eggs to make it a completely gluten-free cake and have it come out less sandy.

But I digress. Since I’d already done that recipe once and the goal is finishing the book, I wanted to do a new recipe to go with it… and cue the icing. The Lemon Glaze recipe has a number of variants, including a Cinnamon Glaze which the gingerbread recipe specifically calls out as being good with the gingerbread. So I made that, still with Earth Balance instead of butter, and it came out fine. The major difference between the two, actually, was that we’d run out of confectioner’s sugar when I was halfway through making the buttercream, and rather than powder more in the food processor I attempted to just use straight turbinado. For the cinnamon glaze, we powdered a whole bunch of sugar and it worked better.

So let this be a lesson to remember to powder your sugar for icing!