Monday, November 11, 2013

Project Chocolate Cake - the beginning.

This week, K and I are gonna get experimental on yo' asses. K's gonna start explaining.
K: The other day, I was looking for a chocolate brownie recipe. Now I like my brownie to be fudgey, not cakey. But if there is a slight hint of cakey - only very slight - well that's OK by me. However, while I know this is how I like my brownie to taste, I can't look at a recipe and figure out whether that's going to deliver me the right kind of brownie for me. The way people talk about their brownies helps. Some would come right out and say "this is a very fudgey brownie". And then I could look at the ingredients and figure out why. But you know how it is...there are so many goddamn recipes out there and you start to get mixed up and really hungry and sooner or later you just make a call. Anyway, the other day I wrote down a matrix with all the key brownie ingredients on one side, and all the different brownie recipes I liked the look of up to the top. Then I filled in all the details and it was a goddamned revelation. Soon, it became quite clear that there was no effing way I was going to pursue the recipe with HALF the chocolate of most of them, or the one with TWICE the sugar of most of them. It was very, very educational. I could easily see which recipe had the most butter/chocolate/eggs etc., which, when considered alongside the recipes' descriptions of how fudgey or cakey or whatever the brownie is, I could start to figure out why.

Of course I could only pick one, but there were some others that I really wanted to try too. That's when I thought that maybe we could use this system to find perfect recipes for other things. We could nominate some recipes we like the look of, then draw up a matrix...

J: Well, a while ago I was interested in finding a great, go-to chocolate cake recipe and I am still very much am interested in that…

K: I'm glad you're open to comparative baking experiments. And like you, I would love a basic go-to chocolate cake so it makes sense that we try that.

J: You know I have this problem generally that although I know everyone has different feelings and opinions to me, my first reaction is to interpret everything through my own beliefs. Like if I read a recipe for "best brownies" I assume they will be fudgey and crackly on top and delicious but of course the author may have totally different feelings about brownies. Of course if there is more information I can interpret that but without it I just assume the world would do and want as I do.

I'm definitely into using chocolate cake to experiment with. It's hard though, you know, like Deb has this light, airy, cake which is delicious, but is that what I want as my number 1 cake recipe? I think I want a denser one. All good chocolate cake is delicious in its own way, but I guess I need to figure out what I am really looking for.
K: That's right! I think we all read what we want to read in to recipes. And without proper baking knowledge, it's hard to read a recipe and see how it is going to make a brownie fudgey in the middle and crackly on top. So we rely on words like 'best' and get excited, sometimes for no reason at all. Obviously baking more is a way around this. But I want to bake more + understand more and do so in a systematic way. Rely less on the words and more on an ability to read a list of ingredients and a method and be able to think well, I can imagine how those babies will turn out and I'm interested. 
And as for chocolate cake, I think the things you raise are absolutely important for finding the right recipe. What we are looking for in a go-to chocolate cake? Because if we don't know what we are looking for, then how will we know when we get there? Huh?

And of course, we don't need to be looking for the same thing necessarily. Though I think in this case we will be.

Ok, my situation, for me: I don't want a chocolate cake that is too light and airy, and nor do I want a chocolate cake that is too heavy and dense. I want something that is in between. This is not something that is easy to come across. So often, chocolate cakes swing towards the super duper decadent. That ain’t right for me. Because it basically means that it is only OK to have it as dessert. And if I want a chocolate dessert, there are so many places I can go. Chocolate tart, chocolate mousse, chocolate gelati, chocolate self-saucing pudding. But cake, man. Cake is for the afternoon. Not exclusively, obviously. But it needs to be something that will be right at home in the afternoon. That is cake's time to shine, in my opinion.  I guess that's why they so often swing in the other direction, to light and airy town, where I assume cocoa is what gives it the chocolate flavour. But that's not right for me either.  If chocolate is involved, then I want it to get out front and centre.

But, and here's the tricky thing, I still want it to be cake. Not chocolate mousse, or tart or what have you. I want it to be cake.

This picture from the internet looks like a good solid chocolate cake

J:  I totally agree about the cake. That airy cake of Deb's is from a Swiss roll or cream layer cake recipe. And it is great like that, and i think would be great on its own, but on its own I'd probably have to eat half of it to get my chocolate fill. I think we are really after the same thing here. Something quite chocolatey, not a fudge packer, but with a hint of fudgeyness. But really, just a good chocolatey cake. With a nice crumb (whatever that means), moist, great with tea in the afternoon, enough to satisfy a chocolate craving and cake craving. Chocolate cake!

I am really looking forward to this experiment!

K: I think we are totally looking for the same thing, which is going to make it a particularly useful experiment. I'm really excited too. I'm going to start looking up recipes and start a matrix! 


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