Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dobos Torte and another birthday

August is always a busy month around here in the birthday department and who does not enjoy being spoilt on their special day? I of course head for the kitchen when I think of how to best spoil anybody, which means even a bit more baking than usual.

I use to spend hours in the kitchen baking and experimenting with recipes when I was a teenager. I adored the whole process of baking something with many layers or spending hours on decorating something just the way I wanted it. And then for a while, I lost that enthusiasm for baking. I still loved to experiment, but only with savory dishes. Baking became territory untouched. I went as far as claiming that I disliked it totally. Even trivial attempts at baking basic cakes ended in disaster, or a quick dash to the nearest store to buy a replacement.

Luckily, all that changed in the last few years. It was a slow rehab at first. Mediocre attempts to at least pretend that I use my oven for something other than roasting chickens. Slow at first, but not for long. The chemistry that is baking soon gripped me again, compelled me to try something else, new, elaborate. I dusted off a few recipes and shopped online for a few others. And then I stumbled onto foodblogs!

The blogs opened a whole new world and a new way of connecting with my sister who lives so far away and who also loves to spend hours in her kitchen. Suddenly, we could share links and become all giggly with jealousy about where Bakerella shops. We can talk about recipes and forget that we are continents apart, forget about her miserable London weather and my stressful deadlines. We could suddenly feel as though we are standing in the same kitchen, measuring, whisking, baking, tasting!

And of course foodblogs plus obsessive bakers equals Daring Bakers. That was the next logical step. We both want to learn more, bake more and blog more and what better way to achieve this, than to join this clique of bakers. And so, from opposite ends of the globe, we both attempted the Dobos Torte.

Me, I decided to share my attempt with my father-in-law for his birthday. I got a little break, when both my children took a nap on a saturday morning (virtually unheard of in this house) and had two blissfull hours in which to bake the layers of feather-light sponge. Then L took over the baby-sitting duty for a while and I could assemble and decorate. Then it was off to the party with my torte in hand.

It was not the prettiest thing I have ever made but the sounds of approval from the partygoers as they were shoveling forks full of cake, made me a very happy (daring) baker indeed.

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonfulof Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular DobosTorte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: ExquisiteDesserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague

Nougat presents

In laws and family ties can be a tricky thing, as you may all know too well. My family and its intricate political nuances are no exception. We have our share of sticky, tricky situations of the 'want to pull your hair out' kind often enough.

We are right in the middle of just such a situation again at the moment and as usual, I am the designated negotiator. My untactful self have to once again try and talk to the aggrieved sister-in-law and try to figure out why, oh why she is upset with all of us. Once we know why, we can try to patch the already patchy relationship once again.

Not my favourite thing to do, but sometimes you just got to suck it up for family ties.

I had a little plan up my sleeve though, nougat. Yes, sticky, sweet nougat to smooth out a sticky situation. Sweet, unctuous nougat to do the talking for me. With this mission in mind, I brought out the termometer, sauce pans and food processor. And when all was heated and whisked and mixed into one white cloud of sweet temptation, I knew I would be able to win her over.

The next morning, I wrapped a beautiful slice in waxy paper, tied a bow and dashed off to the reconciliation attempt.

What can I say? Who can resist nougat; it worked like a charm. Not everybody is back on speaking terms yet. But we took the first step and who knows, pretty soon family gatherings might be a happy affair again.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Happy, happy birthday

It was my mom's birthday on tuesday and we joined forces to host a little tea party for her. Just for a few friends to share her special day. I wanted to recreate a touch of french decadence, a really pretty affair. Everything on the menu had to be pretty, girly and rich and lucious. There were macarons, apple-almond tarlets, french fruit tarts and lemon-curd mille feulles. Also little chocolate cup-cakes with rich ganache icing. It all went down a treat and the conversation flowed as did the champagne and tea.
We all need to spoil ourselves from time to time and what better occasion than a birthday! It was worth every bit of effort. Happy birtday mom! May this year bring only joy and love (and lots of it)!