Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Ganache, the chocolate God of Obstacles

I regularly pray at the alter of Smitten Kitchen, and aspire to have a blog filled with such sumptuous photos (alas I must make do with the tools at hand). I have been particularly tickled by her Salty Chocolate Caramel recipe. Ordinarily I am wary of American cooking websites - because all to often in the conversion to metric and local ingredients - something goes awry. However, that said, the easy to follow directions, copious conversion references and user comments have made all my attempts thus far purely pleasurable.

With my meager budget I finally gave into temptation and purchased the requisite candy thermometer. Yes, egad, things are a bit lacking in joie de vivre when a $10 item can blow the budget. I had been feeling a little glum for a few days and so sought some spiritual solace in the pursuit of cooking for pleasure.

Now, as always, as a lesson I am deemed to repeat ad infinitum (Sisyphus hello?) - when choosing to fill that sense of emptiness with something (hectic social calender, work, worrying, guilt, food or overindulgence of any kind) the universe will endeavour, whether by design or sheer randomness, not to reward my weakness and offer a pat on the back - but usually give me a sharp rap on the knuckles. And deservedly so.

So my desire to have a kitchen "win" to cheer me up - resulted in a resounding failure. Not only did my toffee split into oil and a new type of substance that I suspect may outlive the human race, it also burnt so badly the scent of charred chocolate has embedded itself in the kitchen tiles. 3 days later, my heavy, copper bottomed stainless (ha!) steel pot is still sitting in the garden, unwilling to relinquish its charcoal shroud despite numerous soakings, reheats and poking with sticks and other sharpish instruments. Despondent, angry and even more miserable I slunk off to bed swearing all American food blogs be damned. But indeed Smitten, nor anyone else is to blame, as the story further reveals...

The following day - hell hath no fury like a woman scorned - or in this case, the "I'll show you who's in charge of THIS kitchen" I set out to even the score. Now rather than tackle my foe on uncertain ground I decided to regroup at least and counter-attack with a tried and true recipe, the premise being a birthday cake for B's dinner that night. Now I certainly don't recommend vengeance be a key ingredient in any recipe, let alone one so innocent and untarnished as a birthday cake. But woman scorned and all that - mixed in with a healthy dose of exhausting day and an over stimulated sense of timeliness, I forged on. The unconscious cursing in the kitchen even warranted jms to poke his head in and suggest that time was not in fact "of the essence" and that a modicum of peacefulness might aide my plight (tho' perhaps not quite the exact words he used). Not sure also whether the 5-headed hydra he saw in my stead was particularly appreciative of the advice either. Evidence suggests it was definitely not heeded, as upon pouring strange looking batter into a carefully buttered and floured bundt pan, said hydra discovered she'd forgot to mix in a key ingredient (ie. sugar).

Whilst this was rectified, the sullied pan was not, so ultimately, after much pacing in front of a cursedly slow oven, said cake did not pop out gleaming in its fluted beauty as per usual, but cracked in twain leaving a ring of sticky cakeyness behind. No amount of cajoling would reunite the two, it being so throughly stuck it could only be pried out chunk by chunk with careful fingers.

So in a vain attempt to resemble a whole cake, crumbs were pressed together, and eventually a ringed cake of sorts was achieved. But oh did I rant, and curse. Bang pots and stomp shoes. Till eventually random acts of kitchen violence gave way to wailings of "I am a failure" and all the pent up feelings and unrealistic expectations of my previous glum mood outed from their subconscious hideouts.

Fortunately, the god of obstacles was not deaf to my ministrations, and like an out pour of rain to cleanse the earth, a simple chocolate ganache came to purge my cake/me of all its insecurities and imperfections with a warm velvet cloak of love and acceptance.

And I am reborn. Whole, perfect, once again. (And the cake was delicious)

No comments: