Wednesday, May 28, 2008
You know that old expression "If I can do this, anybody can". Well, let me tell you.... We finally took the plunge and joined The Daring Bakers. I decided, with Psychgrad kicking and screaming that it would be growthful to stretch ourselves a little. Neither Psychgrad or I are what one would call "bakers" but then if you want to get better at something, it's all about going outside of your comfort zone and working on learning a new skill. I mean, really, how hard can it be? You read a recipe, you follow the instructions, voila you have a finished product. All I can say is "folks...I have a whole new found respect for the people who put out these works of art". I'll get into that a little later.
The Daring Bakers challenge this month is hosted by , Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, Lisa of La Mia Cucina , and co-hosted by Fran of Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea of Whiskful. I'd like to acknowledge the hosts of this challenge and the members of the academy (oops..that's another speech)
The hosts for this event are dedicating this month's challenge to Barbara of Winos and Foodies. Barbara, an honourary Daring Baker is the force behind the food blog event called A Taste of Yellow supporting the LiveSTRONG foundation started by Lance Armstrong. Since what I do in my private life (when I'm not blogging that is) is so closely linked to causes, I have designed this bracelet in dedication of Barbara's energy and effort to helping find a cure. Since all of my bracelets are named, this one will be called Barbara and carries the silver awareness pendant symbolic of general cancer.
I had never even heard of an Opera cake, let alone had a clue about how to create one. Thank goodness for recipes and clear directions. I now know that it's a cake made up of (usually) five components: a joconde (a cake layer), a syrup (to wet the jaconde), a buttercream (to fill some of the layers), a ganache or mousse (to top the final cake layer) and a glaze to cover the final layer of cake or of ganache/mousse). So when I read that, all I could say, and out loud I might add, was OY FREAKING VEY!!!!
There's a "but" in all this. The but is that once I sat down and read the instructions - especially the 40th time which is when I think I started getting it, I realized that if I broke it down to it's component parts, it wouldn't be quite as daunting as I thought. And, thankfully, I didn't have to start and complete the whole project at once - I could spread it out over several days. There were some hiccups along the way and although I'm sure it doesn't have the polish of a seasoned baker, my "accomplishment" gives me a sense of pride...and I'm even here to tell the story.
Of course, after toiling with probably what has been my greatest baking challenge thus far, I walked into a local market and in their bakery, what do I see but these absolutely gorgeous pieces of opera cake with Opera piped across each piece - perfectly formed, gorgeous to look at. I rationalized the whole thing by saying "I'm sure they've got a system and this is clearly not the first time they've done this". I have an even greater appreciation for bakers - I mean they were charging $2.75 for a slice of this cake and I thought "are you kidding me - it's gotta be worth $7.50/slice at the very least. This thing is work!!!" Then I did the math - about 20 pieces to a full cake x $7.50/slice - that would be $150. for the cake. Sounds pretty decent to me.
The verdict: Being a Daring Baker is somewhat like being a frog. I know you're looking at me and saying "huh???" so here's the explanation in a joke.
For the Novice Baker:
"Once upon a time, there was a frog who fell into a bucket of cream. The side of the bucket was so high that he could not jump out. He knew if he stopped swimming he would sink and drown. So the frog paddled around in the cream all night. By morning, he'd whipped it into firm butter and was able to jump up to freedom.
Persistence and attitude are the ticket to success."
You can find the recipe at any of the host sites.