Let's eat!

Hi. My name's Carol, and I love food. No, you don't understand. I love food. If I were on the Titanic, I'd be in the galley (kitchen) eating up the chocolate pudding and the roasted quail. I go to most events, activities and parties just for the food. The company and the conversation are secondary. Here, I'll try to document everything that goes into my mouth. Aren't we excited? Oh, hey, are you gonna eat that?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Blueberry Cake for a Lord

I broke the baker's rule of never trying out a new recipe on a friend. And paid dearly for it.

It all started when I got the bright idea to put together a home-baked care package for an old high school friend recovering from back surgery. He'd seen pictures of all my previous baked goods on Facebook, so when I offered, he immediately said yes.

Instead of going with a tried-and-true recipe, like the ever-faithful banana bread or something from Ina Garten's cupboards, I went with a new recipe waiting to be made. It's from Italian Dessert Recipes by Lisa Marietta Gianotti. I fell in love with the exotic, interesting ingredient combinations: olive oil, citrus zests from lime, lemon and orange.

Instead of reading the recipe several times before shopping for ingredients, I just scanned it, looked good, and went to town. When it came time to baking, I'd also planned on baking a new blueberry bread recipe using orange juice (can't find that link anymore, but it's just as well, the recipe sucked... the batter came out more like bread dough, forcing me to improvise and add more oj and even whipped cream). My care package would contain the blueberry cake and some sort of cookie.

I ran into my first problem when I came to the part where it said to bake the cake for 15 minutes, then add the rest of the blueberries on the top, pressing gently into the batter so they won't explode during the baking. What? Where's the rest of the info? Shouldn't I bake the cake for much longer, and how do you press blueberries into the batter on top if the cake is already baked for 15 minutes? The recipe ends there. No mention of what to do after topping and pressing the remaining blueberries or how much longer to bake, or even what to do to help it unmold.

My husband suggested she meant bake for 15 minutes after I topped and pressed the leftover blueberries into the batter. And obviously, to bake longer than that. (It took almost an hour to finish in the end.)

I ran into my second problem when I poured the blueberry cake batter in the nine-inch cake pan, as the recipe instructed. The batter almost overfilled the pan. That shouldn't happen. But instead of holding back, I trusted the recipe, and left it alone. I also thought I'd be clever and sprinkle sugar on top. I placed the battered can pan on top of a sheet pan and then inside the oven, just in case it did overflow.

It didn't overflow, but the sugar glazed over and created a hard sheet over part of the top of the baked cake. I also did what I always do and began to panic about the time it took to cool. Because I had no instruction on how to cool the cake (in or out of the pan?), I rushed the gun and tried to unmold it prematurely. That was hard to do with baked cake like glue over the sides.

When the cake came out in bits and pieces, my heart sank. I did try to salvage it by shoving the pieces back inside a freshly greased cake pan and baking it over again. Didn't work. I was too busy baking chocolate chip cookies and I ran out of time anyway.

The pieces of this blueberry cake were divine, though. But there's no way I was going to UPS my care package to my ailing friend with pieces. I resolved to try again the next day, with another run to the grocery store.

Keeping in mind that I had our son's final soccer game to attend in less than five hours, I rushed to Albertson's, picked up more citrus and extra virgin olive oil and rushed back to start the batter. I was doing fine when I noticed the recipe called for "Virgin Olive Oil," in caps, more than once. Virgin olive oil? Did that mean olive oil plain? I drove back to the store to search for virgin olive oil. No such animal. Not even at the second store, Food Emporium, which has everything gourmet. Just olive oil and EVOO. I rushed back home, figuring EVOO was fine since the last cake I baked had it and it was delicious.

This time, I only filled enough batter/blueberries to leave a half inch or so gap at the top, to prevent spilling. I poured the rest in the smallest greased, glass loaf pan I could find. When the baking was complete, I left the cakes cooling in their pans on the rack until they were cold (which meant after the soccer game). Praying, I unmolded the nine-inch cake out without incident. I almost couldn't believe my eyes. Success! The loaf pan cake was harder to unmold, but I half didn't care about that as much as the main event, the round cake.

In the end, because I'm crazy, I also thought my friend would like oatmeal cookies better. So I also baked Ina Garten's oatmeal-pecan-raisin cookies for him. I raced home after the soccer game, checked/unmolded the cakes, threw together my care package (a paper bag full of chocolate chip cookies, another paper bag of oatmeal-golden raisin-pecan cookies, blueberry bread, and the pain in the buttinsky Italian style blueberry cake), and raced back out to make it to the nearby UPS store I always frequent before closing time.

I missed the 6:30 p.m. closing time by two minutes, but luck was on my side. A patron was still in there and the clerk waiting on her didn't mind waiting on me next. After a snafu with my friend's city, which I cleared up by using the UPS store phone, I was done and on my way home by 7 p.m. Whew.

I do all this because I'm a perfectionist, I love to bake and make people happy by feeding them something special, from scratch.

But as tempted as I was to swear off trying out new recipes, I still will. I just will never try anything else this Italian Dessert Recipes lady makes again. I will also make sure the recipes I do try has it all together. Sometimes, believe it or not, they can't write out a recipe for others to follow to save their lives.

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