Hi everyone, my name is Toasted Almonds. You might not think much of me–I know nuts aren’t the most beloved of foods, and toasting? It sounds like a waste of time, right?–but I’m here to convince you that I’m a worthy addition to your cooking repertoire.
My brother, Plain Almonds, is a nice guy and all, but between you and me? He’s a little boring. For example, he underlines words that he doesn’t know when he reads, then he makes flash cards and studies them later. That’s Plain Almonds for ya. But me? I’m a wild man. When I read, I doodle inappropriate pictures in the margins of the book. Like last week I drew pictures of toasted, skinless hazelnuts in the margins of “Crime & Punishment” and Plain Almonds got so mad! He told me I was trail mix the next time I tried a stunt like that.
Certain foods are meant to be cooked at home: roast chicken, pot roast, spaghetti and meatballs. Other foods are meant to be eaten out: steak tartare, sushi, a flaming baked Alaska. Sure we can make those latter foods at home, but often times they’re not worth the hassle or the danger (raw steak at home? setting cake on fire? I’ll let a pro handle that, thank you).
Duck, I’d wager, is something most of us eat out. We expect the skin to be crispy and for there to be some kind of glaze. It’s a fancier food unless we get it in a Chinese restaurant and then it becomes a mysterious food: how do they make this duck taste so good? And why, when I try to make duck at home, does it either bomb dramatically or make me sick or both?
What I didn’t tell you at the end of the last post is that I had a secret weapon in my arsenal to impress Lauren. She who worships at the altar of chocolate, she who mocks me for my chocolate aversion: she would be the recipient of a two-tiered ganache covered chocolate creation from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. Here’s how it was done.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful,” I thought, “if instead of making a complicated fancy-schmancy-my-name-is-Nancy dessert I made something really simple like a pound cake? And used really good butter? And fresh farmer’s market eggs? And served it with raspberries and whipped cream? And used Martha Stewart’s recipe?”
That was the plan. I bought Plugra style butter which looked impressive and European. I got those farmer’s market eggs. And I whipped everything up in a jiffy: it’s normally a pound of butter, a pound of sugar and a pound of flour (that’s how pound cake got its name) but this one had better proportions. It looked promising. Into the oven it went and I sat there patiently watching the minutes tick by, filing my nails, dreaming of a better life, when the 50 minutes were up and it was time to insert the tester. I used a dry spaghetti strand as I normally do. It came out clean. (Was that my mistake? Diana said I should’ve used something with more surface area.) On a cooling rack it sat in the pan for 10 minutes. And then it was time to turn it out and that’s when disaster struck…
My pound cake threw up. You can see it in the picture: as I flipped it over, the top cracked open and hot batter oozed out. I felt the way a new parent might feel when the doctor says, “Don’t touch the baby’s head, it’s soft” and you do anyway. Ha. Ok, that was a bad example. But look how beautiful that cake looks on the outside and how sad it is that it decided to not be cooked on the inside. Diana tried to comfort me by saying that it was like a molten chocolate cake except without the chocolate. “Mmmm,” she said, dipping a pieced of cooked cake into the uncooked batter and eating. “I actually like it.”
Ignoring Diana’s good cheer, I cut the ends off and tried to assemble a semi-decent looking dessert:
And, surprisingly, it worked. I guess that only proves the adage: when life throws you a vomiting pound cake, cut the ends off, and top it with whipped cream and raspberries. Truer words have never been spoken.