If my life were a reality show, it would be called Kitchen Boners (NHBPM 14)

 

And oh, how we would laugh.

We got home from the gym just before 9pm, so I threw a chicken in the pressure cooker and dumped a bag of kale into a stock pot. Then I gathered the few supplies needed to make the lovely “Orange Kissed Almond Cookies” at Beard and Bonnet, which I’d bookmarked last week. Everything would be ready in about 20 minutes, and I’d be a rockstar.

Instead, the leeks I threw in with the chicken burned and had to be dynamited out of the pressure cooker. And the dark meat didn’t get 100% done, because the pressure cooker cookbook I’d borrowed from the library that said how long to cook everything? I returned it a few days ago.

The cup of leftover Mexican restaurant salsa I threw in with the kale made it too salty.

And the cookies?

Oh, the cookies.

Or more accurately, the “cookies.”

First, I didn’t have orange extract, so I microplaned some fresh zest and let the dough sit for a couple of extra minutes. It smelled heavenly. All systems go.

Then I opened the can of almond paste, which the fine print said was actually “almond cake and pastry filling.” Semantics! I thought. If they meant marzipan, surely they’d have said “marzipan.” And the regular grocery store didn’t sell anything exactly labeled almond paste, so this was probably the stuff.

I worried just a bit when the almond paste and sugar didn’t become so much “uniformly crumbly” as uniformly gooey and unappetizing looking. And my dough was darker than the original recipe’s pictures, but then, my kitchen’s not the best lit room in the house.

Besides, I was in a hurry. Twenty minutes in the oven would fix it all.

So what if it smelled like orangey-almondy-cancer after about 10 minutes?

The inspiration:

From Beard and Bonnet. Don’t they look absolutely scrumptious?

After 25 minutes in the oven, my reality:

This is pretty much why I don’t bother watermarking my photos.

If you’re detail-oriented, you’ll notice that I held the parchment paper up at about a 90-degree angle to the cookie sheet, and the cookie sludge did not budge. But when it cooled, it did harden into a substance that could be used to attach a guy in a hard hat to a girder. In case you’re in the market for a more natural hat-girder adhesive.

Today’s lesson: Almond cake and pastry filling IS NOT almond paste IS NOT marzipan. Use what the one a recipe actually calls for, and you’re more likely to end up with what a recipe is actually supposed to make.

 

Bonus lesson: This is exactly why you should keep ice cream in the freezer. Well, one of about a thousand reasons, but still a very good one.

Have you butchered anything in the kitchen lately, even though you really do know better?

My favorite health app is: cooking (NHBPM 12)

Cooking: 5 stars

I started cooking around age 7. I had to stand on a chair to be able to see into the skillet, but my dad showed me how to make pancakes and eggs scrambled and fried. My tormented mom objected and made me run drills so I would know what to do the day my long hair would inevitably catch fire at the gas stove.

Correct answer: grab a dishtowel and wrap it around my head, then stick my head under the faucet at the sink.

Anxiety — not just for breakfast anymore!

But in spite of her warnings (or maybe, in part, because of them), I felt like a wizard caught up in an alchemical romance. I could take simple elements — water, egg, bread, cheese — alone or in combination, put them in a metal pan, apply fire, and end up with something entirely new: scrambled eggs or a grilled cheese sandwich.

I held the spatula AND the power.

Ever since, cooking has been something I do to create and to relax. For me, cooking is natural mindfulness. When I’m doing it, I don’t have the resources to think about anything else, and my mind is unusually focused yet aware. I use all my senses, including instinct, to make a steady stream of evaluations and decisions. I flow.

It’s perverse, but I even like that the end product is ephemeral. It helps keep my ego in check and keeps the focus on the process, not any particular outcome.

But. I would still like to share an outcome with you, because I made a lovely cake this week. You might have trouble tracking down one of the key ingredients, though, because it is rarer than rare — leftover champagne.

KK recently received a beautiful personalized bottle of real champagne (from zee Frahnce!) as part of her work anniversary. We waited to open it until a dinner with friends because she kept saying, “We can never drink all that ourselves!”

She’s so cute.

But because nobody wanted to drink all of her champagne, and she couldn’t, we ended up with nearly a cup of it leftover. (Beware those self-fulfilling prophecies.) It kept for a bit in the fridge, but of course wasn’t great for drinking anymore. It was great for cooking, though.

I would say this cake was worth making even if you have to open a fresh bottle to make it. These are the sacrifices we sometimes have to make, you know.

Champagne Vanilla Pound Cake

Inspired by this BHG recipe and this description of real pound cake.
Makes 1 9×5 inch loaf pan (8 servings). Double it to fill a 10-inch tube pan.

For the cake:
Butter a loaf pan. Preheat your oven to 325°F.

Weigh out 8 ounces of gluten-free all-purpose flour in a small bowl. Add 1 teaspoon on xanthan gum and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

Soften 8 ounces of butter (that’s two sticks). Add 8 ounces of sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Beat in 8 ounces of eggs (for mine, 3 large eggs ended up being 7.something ounces and it worked fine).

Add 1/2 cup champagne or sparkling wine and the scrapings from 2 vanilla beans (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, but the beans taste better and look pretty in the cake).

Slowly add in the flour mixture, scraping down the sides to incorporate it all. Pour the batter into a buttered loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes until it tests done.

Cool in pan for a bit, then turn it out onto a plate and add the glaze.

For the glaze:
In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup of powdered sugar with 1 Tablespoon of champagne. Add a few drops more champagne until it becomes a drizzling consistency. Pour over slightly cooled cake.

I served this for dessert with Philadelphia-style Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream (this recipe + 1/2 cup canned pumpkin and 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice).

KK”s review: “Oh my god, I LOVE pound cake. You would never know this was gluten free. Can I have some more glaze?”

My review: Easy to make and easy to enjoy. The cake had the large moist crumb it was supposed to, and the champagne kept it from being overly sweet. Next time, I will poke holes in the top of the cake and add extra glaze. Because when you’re a grownup, you get to do that kind of thing.

And like the true primary beneficiary on her life insurance, I introduced KK to toasted pound cake with butter, for breakfast.