The weekend just gone saw me doing some serious baking. I undertook some fairly big-ticket items, the kind that I wouldn’t bake for just Sean and I because we’d never eat it all. Well, we might give it a good hard go, but there’d be dire consequences of the ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’ variety.
So I have two delightfully successful items to show you. To begin, my very first apple pie. This was a promised pie, made for Alice’s dad. Alice’s dad did a great favour for me recently and when I asked what I owed him he said ‘an apple pie.’ Now it turns out it was a flippant remark he gave no further thought to. I, however, wanting to show gratitude and also fancying a baking challenge, undertook to make the best damned pie I could .
Following this recipe, I gave it everything I had, with home-made pastry, a huge bag of Granny Smiths and heavenly spices.
Here’s the result.
I adore the look of a home made pie, I’ve decided. The imperfections, the lumpiness, the obviously clumsy attempt to decorate the edging. It’s all mine. The pastry was so light and delicious. One of the jobs I hate most in the kitchen is that rubbing of cubes of butter into flour. I have tended to avoid it, making pastry in the mixer instead but this time, knowing I was aiming for authenticity as much as possible, I did the rubbing work and was thrilled with the results. I do think it makes a difference. No stodge in this pie!
I wish I’d got a photo of Alice’s dad with the pie. When I arrived, I put the pie on the bench, turned to pick up Alice and when I looked again the pie was gone! He’d absconded with it – and was hiding in the lounge room in a corner guarding it from the kids with his life! He did eventually share and the entire pie vanished into lots of hungry bellies. Every last scrap. I call that a success.
The next day I had to bake for work. A fundraiser morning tea had been announced some weeks back as part of the Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea cancer fund-raiser event. Someone had decided we should have a bake-off and submissions were invited. I knew at once what I’d cook – it was a cake made for me by fellow knitter, Gretchen, or LoveMyClogs as she’s known on Ravelry. I’d visited a month or so ago and she made the most divine carrot cake I’ve ever eaten.
I say that as someone who finds the humble carrot cake a bit overdone – they’re fairly common and sometimes just a bit ho-hum. But not this one. Oh no. I was, until that day, unfamiliar with a baking bible, from a Sydney icon, the Bourke Street Bakery. The carrot cake, Gretchen told me, is an incredibly special recipe and she wasn’t wrong. Setting out to make it on Sunday, two pages worth of well set out detail greeted me. The ingredients are not unusual or difficult, but the method is not familiar at all – it’s basically a meringue mixed with a cake. Basing the mix on fluffy sweet egg whites gives it a texture like no other.
So at the office bake off, there were about eight cakes – many incredibly fancy and complex – a triple decker strawberry sponge was my personal favourite. That’s a kind of baking I’m yet to try. I did get photos but my computer ate them in the upload this morning so you’ll just have to imagine a boardroom table straining under the burden of eight amazing cakes. My humble looking, but delicious Bourke Street Bakery Carrot Cake sat alongside those amazing creations, awaiting judgement.
My boss was one of the judges and we all sat and watched as the judges circled the table, discussing the finer points of presentation and then, the taste. The judges marked down my cake for some scattered crumbing (picky!) and for being height challenged (I should have used a smaller tin) but they praised it for its delicate, airy texture (rare for carrot cakes) and for not being over burdened with icing. In the end I didn’t win. I think I lost out to some excellent cakes and had a ball in the process. Who knew baking contests could be so fun?
A woman from the floor came to me later and told me she voted for mine but couldn’t say so loudly because her friend would feel she’d been disloyal! As she’s a long-standing Country Women’s Association member (those women know their cakes!) I took her endorsement as high praise!
I had planned to type out the recipe but found another blogger did it already. So here it is. Go for it if you want to try a carrot cake like no other. I ordered the book because if that recipe is anything to go by, this is a must have book for me.