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Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Baking Lesson and a Kitten

I think I've mentioned before that I am not a very good baker.  Any time I try to make chocolate chip cookies, they come out looking like one of those Pinterest fail photos (we've all seen those, right? hilarious!).  They look like some kind of not-very-well-defined blob of beigeness with brown spots on them, where the chocolate chips are.  Eek!

Luckily, I have a friend who is a very great baker!  She bakes almost every week, and the treats of her's that I have sampled have been divine!  So I asked her if she would mind giving me a little Baking 101 lesson.

Meet my friend, Jenna!
...with the finished products.

In addition to being my baking friend, Jenna is also my fig tree friend.  Remember a post from last week, when we had fresh figs in antipasto?  That was her tree they came from!  So the treat she decided to bake tonight is a Fig Cake.  I think it's so cool that you make it in a cast iron pan.  

Here she is picking figs to go straight from the tree into the cake!

The treat I decided to bake is wedding cake.  I just really love white cake with white icing.  Any time there is a wedding coming up, I'm excited for the couple and all that jazz....but I'm really excited about getting to eat the bride's cake!  I'm totally kidding!  I love people way more than cake...really!
This is how it turned out!
...with a little, er a lot of help from Jenna, of course!
She's got the icing squirter thingie out!  It just got real up in here!

The recipes I used for the wedding cake are here:
White Cake
Perfect Wedding Cake Icing

This is Tink, the foster kitten.  She is waiting to be adopted.  Jenna and her husband are taking care of her until she has a home.  She's precious!

Baking 101: Lessons I learned from Jenna the Baker:
1.  When making a layered cake, spray all over each cake pan, line the bottom with parchment paper and spray again.  This just makes it so much easier to get the cake out and keeps it pretty.

2.  You might be thinking, "okay how do you line a round cake pan with parchment paper?".  That is what I was thinking anyway.  This is how: you place the pan on top of the paper, trace the pan with a pencil and cut out the circle.  Jenna is doing just that, here:

3. If you don't own a flour sifter, you can use a whisk to combine flour, salt and baking powder.

 4.  You can find really cool, old-fashioned flour-sifters at estate sales. Here I am using a wonderful vintage flour sifter!  I think the last time I did that was maybe one time at my grandmother's house when I was a kid.  I'm going to be looking for my own when I go estate sale shopping from now on!

5.  Never use soap and water on your cast iron skillet.  Do a salt and oil scrub instead.  Soap will wear off the coating and interfere with skillet seasoning.  The reason for the salt is to provide abrasive cleaning as you oil it down.  

6.  When making icing, it's good to mix for 4 minutes each time you add an ingredient.  Stop halfway through the 4 minutes and wipe the sides of the bowl down.  It should look like this when you're done:

 7.  Also on icing: Don't ever add multiple cups of Confectioner's Sugar at one time!  It will fluff up into the air in a powdery cloud and choke you when you inhale it.  Add the sugar a little at a time while stirring.

8.  Don't ice a cake until it is completely that it doesn't melt the icing.

9.  When icing a cake, put a spoonful of icing on the plate before you put the cake hold it in place as you ice the whole thing.

10.  To start an avocado seed, you remove the pit from the avocado, wash and dry it, skewer with toothpicks, and place over a glass or jar filled with water, so that the bottom one-third of the pit is submerged.  For more detailed instructions, google "how to germinate an avocado pit."

Note:  I know that last one didn't have anything to do with baking, but it is still good knowledge.  Who knows, maybe Jenna and I will come up with an Avocado cake!  Who wants the first taste??  Any takers? None? Okay, maybe not.  Haha!

A few more pics from our baking night:

A very old Cook Book.

Slicing figs for the fig cake.

I got to cuddle Tink a lot while the cakes were baking.

I wouldn't call myself a great baker now.  But I was glad to learn a few lessons about baking from a friend...just in case there's ever a cake or bread emergency.  As far as my chocolate chip cookie skills go, I don't know.  I may have to attempt some for the kids soon and let you know whether or not they turn out looking like some sort of mutant postapocalytic creatures!  Until then...Happy Baking!  I'm sure your treats will turn out better than mine! :)