Monday, June 1, 2009

Weekend Baking.

On Saturday I woke in a panic. I had a potluck dinner that night, and I had no idea what to make. I had promised dessert, and now I had to deliver. Frantically I turned to Italian Too Easy, by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, the owners of the River Café in London. I found a chocolate-almond cake that seemed simple enough, but I would substitute hazelnuts for the almonds. The recipe was clear and straightforward, although I still wonder why they specify "organic eggs." Of course they are preferable to ordinary ones, but what if you did not make it out to the farm where the corgis bark madly from the kennels or over to the farmer's market to buy eggs from the stand that carries all those delicious-looking jams?

Butter and chocolate melted in a bowl over simmer water, hazelnuts were chucked into the food processor - we are like *this* now, my food processor and I, although the bowl is made of a lighter plastic than I would like - and pulsed until finely ground. Actually I get distracted by Twitter and the hazelnuts are a bit sticky, but they will be fine once scraped into the cake batter. Eggs - yes, organic - are cracked, some left whole, others divided, the yolks and whole eggs stirred into the cooled, melted chocolate-butter mixture, the whites whipped until they hold firm peaks. I hold my breath as I fold the chocolate-hazelnut mixture into the egg whites - I don't have a good history with egg whites - and pray as I slide the pan into the oven. Miraculously, the cake rises, slips out easily from the pan after it cools. I place it on a gold cardboard round and stick the cake into a pink cardboard box, tie it all with string, and walk downtown to A.'s apartment with my cake and a pint of homemade salted caramel ice cream.

The cake is a success, the ice cream more so, because for some reason homemade ice cream trumps all else, even cakes made with organic eggs. But then it is Sunday and I have another project before me: chocolate cookies with lime zest and cocoa nibs. K. emailed me the recipe, and whenever she emails me a recipe it is an indication that she would like me to make it for her. As soon as possible. I have good cocoa powder, Droste, and limes, two small instead of the one large that the recipe calls for, and cocoa nibs provided by K. The dough fills the kitchen with its fragrance as I stir it together and when I take a taste I am blown away by how good it is. Soon I am eating a small dab of cookie dough with every scoop I place on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet.

I eat a cookie straight from the baking sheet, as soon as it is cool enough to touch. It is soft and warm and intensely chocolatey, with the subtle zing of lime zest and the slightly astringent crunch of cocoa nibs. It is the best cookie I have ever eaten. I eat three in rapid succession, all still warm from the oven, and later, once they have all cooled and I am packing them up for K., I eat another one. You know. Just to make the numbers even. There is more dough in the freezer, waiting for another day.

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