Our latest baking adventures commenced this week with Miss Rose agreeing to accompany me on an evening performing my new favourite pastime, cupping (Miss Rose and Miss Emily simultaneously cupping; oh, how the mind boggles!). The occasion of Fair Trade fortnight prompted the delightful folks at Padre to host a cupping evening focussed on Fair Trade from a coffee roasters perspective. We were suitably educated, regaled with curious accounts of salivary afflictions, and of course guided through a delicious array of Fair Trade single origins. You may be pleased to hear that my descriptively naïve palate of "delicious", "ngyacky" (a visual description whereby one places the tongue on the roof of ones mouth and then drops the jaw in a verbal-click-generating motion while simultaneously scrunching the nose ever so slightly, kind of like a cat trying to eat something sticky – and yes, I probably could have just said "astringent", but that wouldn't be nearly as amusing now would it?) and "not as delicious as that one", has now evolved to include "toffee", "chaff" and "summer meadow" (only kidding, I'm not that much of a wanker).
Miss Rose mid-cup
The evening was as wonderful as expected, and the perfect opportunity to taste many a good coffee in a friendly and encouraging environment with the additional bonus of especially tasty falafel. For the charming folks at Padre – be still my erratically palpitating heart!
But now to this weekend's baking endeavours and what better an excuse for a kitchen-bound occasion than the belated celebrations of the day of birth of a certain Dr Menzies? Before you go getting all angsty that B got singled out for some special TPB attention (although he is perfectly entitled to maintain this presumption), I must point out that not only has he endured lengthy international travel amid panicky swine-flu pandemonium for the privilege, but is also preparing to sacrifice his sanity for a number of days to play host to Team Pretty Bake on our European sojourn in a few weeks time.
Dinner was planned, and I will come to that in due course, however we needed a little more than a simple main and dessert to fulfil our baking desires. We therefore decided to sate a few niggling cravings that had begun to amass; with our fuel for the day thus taking the form of good-old sausage rolls and chocolate cake.
Homemade sausage rolls are of course quite subject to personal taste. While I have referred you to a nice straightforward recipe, I must confess that we still managed to make a number of adjustments, namely the inclusion of minced pork in addition to sausage meat, the replacement of tomato sauce with homemade tomato relish, and the addition of grated apple and fresh breadcrumbs. Of course, once personal tastes are factored in there's really not a lot to sausage rolls. Construct your delicious meaty mixture. Wrap it in pastry. Bake it. Eat it…
Chocolate cake, on the other hand, takes a little more explaining. You see, this wasn't just any ordinary chocolate cake, but rather the classic American Ding Dong. Miss Rose ventured here just recently for a certain Small celebratory occasion and was simply delighted with the results. The discovery that this was perhaps the most cakey chocolate cake in existence necessitated a second opinion, and who am I to shy from such monumental responsibilities?
Now, the deal with the Ding Dong (aka Devil's food cake) is this:
A fundamental member of the American family of confectionery treats, the Ding Dong has a rather sordid history filled with fierce battles for marketing supremacy. The infamous 1987 Ring Ding vs. Ding Dong great cake conflict was resolved using the compromisingly homophonic King Don, which is now joined in the mega-enterprise that is the American sweetie snack by a multitude of variations, including Hostess cakes and Devil Dogs. The apparent difference between a Ding Dong and a Devil Dog is the resemblance to a hockey puck and hot dog, respectively, however the essential features of all these processed delights is the combination of chocolate cake with a marshmallow/cream filling. The Devil aspect comes from the belief that the aforementioned Ding Dong is the counterpart to that other famed American classic, the Angel Food Cake. So named for its white colour and airy lightness, the angel cake was popularised following the invention of the hand-crank egg beater in the early 19th century. Most notably however, is that this brief introduction into the history of traditional American baked goods provides the opportunity to use both ding dong and hand-crank in the same suggestive sentence.
What stands the Ding Dong apart from other classic chocolate cakes is two-fold. First is the preferential employment of cocoa over the more typically used chocolate. Second - and please excuse my going all science-geek on you for a moment - is the differentiation based on the use of more sodium bicarbonate which raises the pH level in the batter, resulting in the characteristic deeper, darker mahogany colouration.
What I like about the Ding Dong is that it is quick and simple to prepare, primarily uses coffee as the wetting agent, is both dense and moist while sufficiently airy to avoid any kind of 'mud' classification, is structurally impressive making it easy to handle, and adheres to the Team Pretty Bake mantra: "if it is cake, it must be spectacular". After all, why make a single layer cake when you can do this?
The Ding Dong
For dinner we thought it only appropriate to restore Dr Menzies to his Australian roots, preparing for him a red Thai kangaroo curry with coconut rice. A treat for B, this was also our first foray into homemade curry pastes. Admittedly you'll need a bit of time, your mucous membranes may suffer a little so a well ventilated work space is highly advisable, and I most certainly recommend some form of whirry- bladey- choppey-type appliance, but it is so worth it. Exceptionally delicious, our red Thai (and possibly red) kangaroo curry was well received and provided an excellent opportunity for the much-loved photo montage…
Red Thai kangaroo curry with coconut rice
In our discussions over how to round out the evening we had been comparing the virtues of a classic birthday cake with those of an elegant dessert more suitably reflective of our impeccable skills when Miss Rose had an epiphany for the ultimate creation. And so it is with great pleasure that I give you…
Team Pretty Bake's Ultimate Lemon Meringue Pie
We have stumbled on some rather spectacular treats during our time together in the kitchen, and during what I presume to be a moment of quite introspection, it occurred to Miss Rose that if we were to combine our most extraordinary French lemon cream tart with Italian meringue, it may just be possible to create the greatest lemon meringue pie ever to have existed. And the simple fact of the matter is that we most probably have. A sweet crumbly pastry filled with whipped lemon cream and meringue, both so luscious and silken that the only discernable difference between the two layers was the sudden smack of intense lemony deliciousness. My friends, I suspect that we could achieve world domination with this baby (although we may just keep it to ourselves), and if you are ever needing to woo, this is your guaranteed answer to success. Knees will weaken and hearts will be sent aflutter as the eyes of those who experience the greatness well with tears of absolute unrivalled joy.
As is often the way with Team Pretty Bake, we completed the night with both a classic birthday cake AND an over-indulgent extravagance, and B was most impressed by a birthday meal where the dessert course was larger than the main.
Oh sweet mother of god…
And on that particularly pleasurable note I will bid ourselves bon voyage as we prepare to experience an unforetold number of European delights. There is a certain impending anniversary that I just cannot bear to be here for, so I thought it only wise to make the long-overdue journey to visit my sister, with a few intercontinental stops along the way. Fortunately Miss Rose was easily convinced to accompany me on my first overseas escapade, so I will be in experienced, if not slightly insane hands. We promise to have fun, stay safe, experience much, consume plenty and regale you with tales of our adventures on our return. Until then, may everyone's fridge one day look like this:
Bon voyage TPB!