Why do I cook?
Well, there are a lot of reasons.
To feed, to nourish, to make people happy, a sense of achievement, copying what the masters do….
And there lies the problem. Sometimes I put myself under huge amounts of pressure, feeling like I have to achieve a certain degree of proficiency before serving a dish in front of everyone. Even when it’s a familiar recipe like a sponge cake – I can obsess at lengths over the decorations, symmetery, neatness, smoothness… and how much the filling oozes out of the middle.
In pursuit of perfection, this can sometimes involve repeating one dish over again so many times that I become thoroughly sick of it. And then it loses some of the spark that made cooking fun in the first place.
So I say – no more. It’s important to realise that you can’t achieve proficiency in all areas of life, and to be amazing at cooking is to be a chef, which I most certainly am not. And remember that even they have their weak spots. After all, you don’t employ them to cook every cuisine under the sun, do you?
Sometimes it is perfectly normal to need 2 or 3 tries before you get the hang of a technique. Some flops are inevitable, while you work out the consistency the fudge is supposed to achieve, or the rise of the bread, or slapping the cake with icing. Often, after a long hiatus, I forget to perform little tricks of the trade such as freezing or chilling a cake before icing it, or using a cake scraper to get a really smooth finish. Yet there have been times when I’ve made and decorated perfectly good cakes without using any special techniques, armed with just a butter knife and a paper plate.
Last week was a bit of a funny one.
I just let myself relax, and take a break from everything. No pressure to do anything at all.
So what did I actually end up doing?
Well aside from going to work (unfortunately non-optional), I snoozed a fair amount, read some excellent novels that Amazon has been kindly flicking my way via “My Recommendations” and caught up with old films. No baking, no cooking, nothing strenuous at all. I had essentially monotomous meals consisted of heating up a tin of soup, toasting a bagel, or quickly frying an egg, and guess what? It was BLISS.
Anyway, that interlude of peace wasn’t going to last very long, but then I got back into the kitchen, whacked on the oven to bake this fabulous cake, and you know what?
It turned out perfect first time!
The sponge is a Peggy Porschen recipe, invitingly dark, chocolatey and divinely scrumptious. Originally I was going to make a white chocolate ganache, but somehow my hands worked separately from my head and I found myself whipping up my trusty Hummingbird Bakery chocolate frosting. It worked a treat, and I liberally sprinkled the top of the cake with my collection of pink sugar decorations.