If I knew that you were coming I’d bake a cake

Today while shopping for food we felt like having something sweet. After analysing the options in the stores we went to, it was decided we would bake a chocolate cake. While my girlfriend prepared lunch, I went crazy on Pinterest looking for recipes when she remembered a recipe she used to make when she was a kid and that is written down on a notebook in our kitchen.

A yellowed page with a handwritten recipe for chocolate cake in red ink. The text of the recipe is in Portuguese.
The handwritten recipe for chocolate cake

The recipe was invented by an aunt of hers and followed step by step, as it was my first time baking a cake. The original measures were divided by three, as we didn’t want to end up with a lot of cake to eat. I have also added a little less sugar than indicated, as it’s a matter of taste. I would try replacing it with maple one day, though. Since the amounts of ingredients were cut, instead of using a cake pan, I chose a muffin tray, which was possible to fill out and have some leftovers to be licked from the spoon/mixer attachment.

There is a dish with two small cakes on it. In the background, we can see a mug in the same pattern as the dish, as well as a small ceramic milk jug
Two small cakes ready to be eaten with some coffee

Aunt’s chocolate cake

Ingredients
Reminder: this is the full recipe. For 6 small cakes (not sure I should call them muffins or cupcakes), I used one third of the ingredients.
3 eggs
3 cups of flour
3 cups of sugar
1 cup of cocoa powder
100 grams of butter
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 cup of coffee
1 cup of milk

Directions
1. Whip the egg whites until they’re firm. Save it for later.
2. In the mixer bowl, put the sugar, cocoa powder, coffee, butter and yolks. Mix well and let it rest for a bit.
3. Add the flour and milk, and mix again. Once all is integrated, let it rest.
4. Add the whipped egg whites and baking powder. Mix it well.
5. Put the dough in a cake pan or muffin trays and bake at 305 Fahrenheit (about 175 Celsius) until the middle is cooked (use a knife or the pointy object of your choice to check as the time will vary according to the size – for one muffin tray, it took about 30 minutes to be ready).
6. Serve, post a picture to Facebook and link to this page. “Eat it” – Weird Al Yankovic.

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If I knew that you were coming I’d bake a cake

You get up, you get down and you try it again

Little by little, I am completing the 100 bread recipes on Pains du Monde à Faire Soi-Même, which I bought at a really good price about six months ago. So far 93% of the recipes I tried worked fine -so much so that I keep repeating them (Split Tin, small milk loaves and Anadama are my favourite so far).

But about a month ago I tried something more challenging: a rustic country bread, which involves preparing my own sourdough. I started one day and fed the leaven (homemade yeast) frequently as recommended in the recipe. It didn’t seem active at all, but I kept going, after all, I was expecting it to behave differently than bread made with dry yeast. The result was a total failure. Of all the loaves I baked so far, this was the only one we didn’t finish eating. It was as dense as lead, somewhat raw in the middle and very sour.

Shortly after this failed attempt, I received an offer from Amazon to get the Kindle edition of Tartine Bread for a dollar or so. I prefer my cook books in that vintage media called paper, but I decided to give it a go to have a reference. Upon reading it and seeing how detailed the instructions for a homemade leaven were, I took advantage of the holidays to try making my leaven again.

From the beginning, I could see the difference between recipes. After the first feeding, the starter was already bubbly. When it came time to work the dough it looked very much like the pictures on the book (or as much as I could make out from the 5-inch screen); and this morning, I baked it.

A recently baked bread resting on a cutting board
The final bread, before the world fell apart

It still looked a bit like the pictures from the book, except that I did not bake it using a Dutch oven, but rather a pizza stone (I know the instructions mention the Dutch oven, but I want to make sure I get the leaven right before investing in new gadgets). I put it to rest then snapped the picture above.

Right after that, I went to turn it around and knock on it to check for the hollow sound to make sure it was ready, but one of my fingers went right through the crust into a huge air bubble. I started looking for more big bubbles and found three more. I knew this was not good, even though the bread had risen.

When I cut it open, again the dough seemed very dense and raw in some parts. Moreover, the flour did not seem to be fully integrated to the dough, so besides huge air bubbles, I had flour bubbles.

I did not want to waste all this work, so I tried the bread, but it was awful. The previous one was bad, but we ate good part of it. Looking back I appreciate the effort we made to eat it; although this time, I accepted defeat and threw it out. Luckily, there is a new artisan baker just around the corner from my house and yesterday I had bought a delicious Khorasan bread. New Year’s breakfast was saved!

To wrap up, I still have the leaven and I’ll keep feeding it daily and see how it goes. I guess it will take a lot more practice before I nail a bread made with it.

You get up, you get down and you try it again