Monday, June 7, 2010

I wonder if Midol can be mixed into cake batter?

If the answer to that is yes - SOMEONE, PLEASE SEND ME THE RECIPE!!!
I get it; I'm a strong, sassy, independent woman. I burn my bra! I leave my pits and legs unshaven! I find Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and the chick from "Twilight" to be the undoing of DECADES of feminism. Yup, got it.
Bottom line - I hate my monthly "friend" and all that accompanies her. I hate the bloating, the cramps, the crying over country music. (No seriously, Darius Rucker's "It Won't Be Like This For Long" gets me every time! Damn you, Hootie! And all your little Blowfish, too!). Find me a woman who claims to love her period and I will punch her in the ever cramping ovaries... because she is a LIAR!

Okay, got that out of the system. I'd say I feel better, but that's a lie. Why am I up in the wee hours on this lovely Sunday evening/Monday morning? My cramps from surfin' the crimson wave acted as a gateway drug for Midol ULTIMATE STRENGTH.... which is caffeinated. So, on top of reading 100 pages from "The Thornbirds" (HILARIOUS), bleaching my kitchen, washing dishes, and making the strawberry topping for the cheesecake I made earlier (more on that at a later date... let's just say, it was EPIC) - I've been doing some bake-style research. Well, not so much research as reading an article in the latest issue of Cooking Light Magazine entitled "10 Things to Know about Making the Perfect Cake". And so, I've decided to report on what these 10 tips are and my ever-so-perceptive thoughts on these tips:

1. The best results start in the mixing bowl. A cake is essentially a chemistry experiment - a series of ingredients mixed in a specific order to case reactions that produce specific effects. Okay, gotcha - call me Bill Nye the Science Guy. From this point forward, I shall pretend I'm in Chemistry Class whenever I bake. For the record, I nearly flunked Chemistry... it got pretty bad... my dad may or may no have called in a few favors from the Jewish mob to get me through that one.

2. Know your oven. To prevent an under- or overdone cake, get an oven thermometer - it's the best way to be sure your oven is calibrated correctly. For those of my friends or coworkers I have seen in the last week, you may recall a certain "incident" involving me, my oven, some over-flowed chicken grease, and a wee-itty-bitty flame situation. My oven and I have since come to an understanding and I was a good person yesterday and cleaned the oven out. Lesson learned.

3. Choose the proper pan size (and color). Pan size is specified in recipes because a cake increases in volume 50 to 100 percent during baking. Color is important - glass or nonstick pans usually require a 25 degree reduction in baking temperature versus silver-colored aluminum pans. I have nothing smarmy to add - this is interesting sh*t to know. But, for the love, my cat is sleeping on the chair next to me right now and she just farted. Gross.

4. Use the right flour for the recipe. Different flours contain varying percentages of protein - the more protein, the more gluten. Cake flower is lightest; bread flour is more dense. Okay, that one makes sense. What if one gets all saucy and decides to toss in some whole wheat flour (as I have been wont to do? Is wont still used in sentences? Or do I just sound like a pretentious ass? Did I spell pretentious correctly? F*ck I'm tired and this Midol is making my hands jitter.)?

5. Weigh, don't measure, flour. Depending on how tightly flour is packed into a measuring cup, you can end up with double the amount intended. Alrighty, it ain't on the wedding registry - but anyone out there interested in purchasing me some sort of flour scale thingamajig... that would work for me. Normally, I'm morally opposed to scales - but since I'm nearly certain this scale will in no way be used to take note of the size of my a**, I'm willing to give it a go.

6. Chemistry is key:
-Flour: Thickens batter
-Leaveners: Causes cake to rise (baking soda and baking powder)
-Fats: Provides moisture and texture (butter, shortening, oil)
-Sugar: Breaks up gluten, absorbs liquid, enriches flavor
-Eggs: Helps cake batter set in the oven
-SUPER Delicious
-EXTRA SUPER Delicious
-Delicious with a side of bacon

7. Give your cake a cool down. Cool cakes in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes before removing from the pan. Like a lover, not all cakes want to snuggle immediately after baking. It needs some time alone to think, wipe off the sweat, and smoke a cigarette. Or, on some rare instances, freak out if the "cake pan" broke.

8. Frost like a professional. Basically, there are hundreds of techniques for putting the frosting on properly. The way I see it - you've got cake, you've got frosting. You could slop the frosting on with a pitchfork and it'll still taste fantabulous! If you want it to look all pretty... well, learn more patience than me.

9. Fondant may make for a beautiful cake, but it doesn't taste very good. Amen, brotha!

10. Factor in for higher altitude. Since there is less air pressure at higher altitudes, cakes rise more and can dry out because liquids evaporate more quickly. If you want to simply follow a recipe, don't live on a f*ckin' mountain.

Well, there you have it - tips to making a better cake. Once Strong Cupcake is up and running, there will be regular baking classes (in which I will be attending) to explain the good ol' fashioned chemistry behind why recipes ask for what they ask for. As much as I like to think some of it is out there just to annoy me, I'm sure there's more to it than that!