Carrot Cake

 

 

I made a carrot cake. It was epic, at least for me. I’ve done one cake that involved more effort, a coconut cake with a complicated icing, but I’m quite proud of this one anyway. I grated the carrots by hand and everything.
I used this recipe (http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015523-dorie-greenspans-carrot-cake) with a few alterations. I don’t have three cake pans of the required size—I only own two cake tins of any sort, and knowing me disaster would ensue if I had tried to take one of the cakes out, clean the pan up, and cook the third layer separately. It would have come out too thin, or burnt, or something. I have a genius for such cock-ups. I also used half fancy olive oil and half canola, instead of all canola oil, and switched out one of the cups of white sugar for brown sugar. I strongly recommend the olive oil (find a good one with an intense flavour—Trader Joe’s Sicilian Olive Oil is a decent price), as it gave a nice depth of flavour to the sweetness.

 

The bake took exactly as long as instructed, for once. They did sink a little in the middle, but not enough to make me regret using two pans rather than three. This could have been the result of my switching things out in the recipe, but the same thing seems to have happened to the cake in the original illustration, so it could just be how heavy the batter is with all the raisins and carrots and whatnot. (Possibly? This is where it would help to be a better chemist.) I had to trim a little from the sides when they were cooled, but there was no spilling over the edge of the pan, which is what I was most concerned about.
 
 

Cake 3

The final product came out pretty much exactly as I was hoping for—I don’t think I’ll ever buy a carrot cake again. Next time I’ll work on avoiding the sinkage, and get a better picture where you can see the icing between the layers (it is there, just as it should be, but is completely obscured by cake crumbs in the last picture).

 

 

An Ode to Bread

Comfort food. In American pop culture, we interpret this as: fatty, salty, sugary, bad for you. Something you shouldn’t have, but when you’ve had a bad day, well damn it, you’ve earned it. But what about actual comfort? What food makes you feel better when you have it? Not guilty, not stuffed, not drowsy, but — good?

Comfort food for me is bread. I’m a starch-driven machine even on my best days. Buckets of pasta. Chips. Pretzels. Almost literally endless quantities of popcorn. Good bread is the high-octane version of my simple carbohydrate primary fuel.

Good bread is fresh bread. I prefer it with texture, with rich scents, warm, with butter. I grew up in a household where my father was the (excellent) cook. My mother could technically feed us in his absence but it wasn’t pretty. However. She baked. The sticky feel of dough slowly turning into the smooth miracle of a shaped loaf is an experience so deep and early that only my hands remember it.

Good bread, while it is baking and for a while afterwards, fills your space with a smell that in itself is nourishing. Any yeasted bread will produce this smell but I am fond of using sesame oil during the last rise, when a sheen over the surface of the dough will keep it from drying and cracking as it rests before baking, and it adds a dimensionality to the fresh bread aroma that might be described as exotic or heady or but however you phrase it you will never want to stop smelling it.

Good bread is a baguette from a market vendor in Barcelona, crisp-shelled with a tender, chewy crumb, eaten in chunks with salami and a blood orange while you sit on the quay with your friend and look out at the busy port and feel drowsy and lucky and sunned.

Good bread is sandwich bread from the store stacked around thick slices of cheddar, eaten with grimy hands on top of a flat rock in the middle of your hike that’s taking longer than you thought. You’re saving the apple for later.

Good bread is the champagne bubbles of sourdough popping under your fingers as you work flour into the sponge.

Good bread is a slice from yesterday’s loaf, nutty and chewy, folded around a still-hot piece of bacon and taken like the sacrament as you walk to work in chilly pre-dawn light.

Comfort food. I love that phrase, which sounds like what a friend might bring to your house when you’re sick. Bread in particular comforts not just with taste and texture but with the act of its creation. It is no exaggeration when people describe kneading dough as “grounding”: you are gently reaching, again and again and again, through the medium of one of humanity’s oldest nourishing substances, with your hands, to the earth.

Introduction: Margaret

Hi! I quit my job for this.


Okay. Not just for this. But I went from security to Who Knows because I had one of those moments where you realize this is the only life you get. What was I doing, futzing about with writing for an hour here or there? Who was I kidding? I’ve been making up stories since I could talk. It’s what I love.


Writing — and food. Eating it, making it, talking about it, eyeing it lovingly at farmers’ markets, thinking about how its cultivation and distribution is at the heart of a sustainable future for humanity. But mostly eating it.


Because we both love reading and writing and food and reading and writing about food, my dear friend Ashley and I decided to start a blog that would be a home for all that. She’s much better read than I am. I take many, many more useless macro shots of fresh produce. So you see we both have our place in the order of things.

What an extraordinary piece of luck to be at this point in life, to be able to do this, to have this space. Thank you for sharing it, even if just for a little while. Come back soon.

organic apples in a bowl
See?

Hello, world!

As a first post this will leave something to be desired, but we thought it best to bite the bullet and get this out there. This will be a place for writing about writing; writing about food; for pictures of food, and probably also of kittens; and for working through our offline writing, and occasionally, our lives. Some sweet, some bitter, and hopefully much to savor.

Welcome to Salt Sweet Bitter.