Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
The first time I made a cake from scratch, I cried. They were not tears of happiness, but from pure and utter defeat.
At age ten, I was a die-hard Roald Dahl fan. I mean, who can resist books about chocolate rivers and farting (or whizpopping, to use the correct vocabulary) giants? I was overjoyed to receive Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes cookbook for Christmas. The first culinary challenge I wanted to tackle was Bruce Bogtrotter’s chocolate cake from Matilda.
If you’ve seen the movie or read the book, you know the story behind this cake: Bruce Bogtrotter, “an eleven-year-old boy who was decidedly large and round,” stole a piece of his headmaster’s decadent chocolate cake. As punishment, he is forced to the eat more of the cake, but not just a slice. He has to eat an entire cake, 18 inches in diameter!
My cook book only called for an 8 ½ - inch round cake pan, but I was still excited to transform this literary confection into a scrumptious reality.
From years of watching my dad bake fresh bread, I knew how important exact measurements are in baking.
Ingredients: 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, 1 ½ sticks of butter (o.m.g.), 1 cup sugar, ¼ cups all-purpose flour and six eggs separated.
Not to many ingredients, not too much chance of error … or so I thought. I was a bit nervous about folding the stiff, whipped egg whites into the chocolate batter, but it was no prob. Into the oven went the cake, and I started cleaning up. That’s when I saw it: my premeasured ¼ cup of flour. I looked at the oven, then back at the flour. I don’t think I cursed as a fifth grader, but I think my inner monologue went something like, “Shiiiiiiiit!”
The cake had already baked for about ten minutes at that point, but I still yanked it out of the oven, dumped in the flour, mixed it quickly and put it back in for the rest of its baking time.
Twenty anxiety-ridden minutes late, I opened the oven and there it was. A crater cake; a sad, concave baked good. Tears ensued.
My dad walked through the kitchen at that moment, comforted me and then pondered the situation.
“The sides still look good…” he said.
I sniffed and nodded, as he produced two spoons. We both sampled the outer edges of the collapsed cake straight from the pan. It was DELICIOUS. Bruce Bogtrotter would have devoured it. Fifteen minutes later, all that was left was the sunken center and chocolatey smiles on our faces.
Who knew failure could taste so good?
Sidenote: We never told my mom how much cake we ate J
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
When it comes to delivery pizza, there is only one man for me: Papa John. I think it has to do with my memories of lonely Friday evenings in middle school. My parents worked late and all my friends lived far away. The only things that cheered me up were the soft glow of “Keenan & Kel” and TGIF on TV and a fresh hot pizza I’d ordered from my local Papa John’s franchise. Much in the style of Kevin McAllister on Home Alone, I would open the box thinking, “One large cheese pizza just for me!” Of course, being a chunky, self-conscious pre-teen, I would never allow myself to eat the whole thing, but the initial opening of the box and the release of fragrant steam made a girl dream.
I wonder how many other people have similar fond memories of a particular pizza company. Does Papa himself, John Schnatter, get fan mail reminiscing about how his pizza was a dependable beacon of light in the dark, tumultuous years of puberty?
Although the company didn’t offer nationwide online ordering until 2002, I swear I ordered from the Web in the late 90s thinking how incredibly cool it was that I could click a button and a pizza would appear. (There was time, however, that the pizza dude never showed up and I was a. too shy to call the Papa John’s store, b. depressed and anxious about the situation, and c. too hungry to wait any longer and made spaghetti instead.) Some pizza-party-poopers have complained that the Papa John’s new Web site, which launched last fall, is over complicated and flashy, but I thoroughly enjoy it. I get great satisfaction from choosing my topping and watching an animation of said topping falling gracefully on to my digital pizza.
I don’t know what makes Papa John’s stand out in my memories so much more than the other major chains. Eight grade: Dean Matthis was dared to drink an entire tub of the garlic sauce, and he took on the challenge with gusto. High school: I endured Catholic Youth Organization meetings just for the free Papa John’s at the end. I even distinctly remember sitting in nosebleed seats at a Caps game when I was home from college demolishing an entire cheese pizza myself. The sauce was magma hot and the cheese pulled to extraordinary length – pure bliss. Pizza Hut, Dominos…I have no such vividly delectable memories.
Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m a Papa John’s purist. I have enjoyed many a pizza pie, from the light pizza al funghi I had on a blistering hot day in August (which probably tasted extra magical because we’d been lost and I’d been so hungry that I’d started to cry…yes, I was 23 years old) to the hefty and satisfying slices of deep dish from Pizzeria Uno and Due in Chicago.
There’s just something about Papa John’s that gives me comfort, and despite all my rhapsodizing, I think it boils down to one thing: the special garlic sauce. At a 150 calories and 17g of fat (more than a third of your recommended daily intake) per tub – and probably infused with some sort of addictive narcotic – it brings each pizza night at home to a level that no other delivery company can beat.
Friday, April 22, 2011
Hello all! Yes it has been a good long time since I've written and that's because I got a full time job that takes 40 hours of my week plus my sanity. So, here I am at spring break and finally able to write again. So, here we go...