CONFESSIONS OF A GOURMANDE - Day 1
“Okay, your turn,” they said, as about a dozen pairs of eyes slid in my direction. “Tell us about yourself.” I have never been comfortable talking about myself, but here I was, the center of attention, albeit for just about a minute or two, having to introduce myself to the members of a Businessman’s (person’s) Club that my husband belongs to. Dinner with the Spouses Night.
“Well,” I hesitated, not quite knowing how to explain where I was at this point in my life. “I’ve done lots of things, had lots of careers. Now I stay at home, moral support for a hard-working husband. And I’ve started writing a book.”
“Ah, a book! About what?” Ummm...
“About food. About my relationship with food.”
“Is it a love-hate relationship?” someone asks, imagining, I am sure, a skinny woman battling body image.
“No, just love,” my husband rejoins. “Definitely love.”
Crazy woman, no good! as my husband would say. I am one of the food obsessed. You know the feeling - Friends stare at you goggle-eyed as you rhapsodize about your perfectly-cooked entrée or try and stir up a discussion about the merits of the chef as they are trying to share sailing stories. Or being brushed off as crazy by the fact that you leave for vacation with only restaurant guides packed into your suitcase. Sidelong, uncomfortable glances as you become engrossed in the restaurant menu until you start to sweat and then call over the waiter and demand he describe various dishes in detail before you are capable of being sure of your choice. Days are spent curled up with a pile of good cookbooks or your family begs you to leave the kitchen after a 3-day baking binge. At some point I started to feel like a misfit, like there actually may have been something wrong with me - and I started to resort to watching cooking shows in hiding, purchasing yet another cookbook and smuggling it into my bedroom stuffed under my coat as if to feed a dirty addiction or searching food blogs on-line like an adolescent visiting porn sites after his parents are in bed.
But a recent discovery has changed my life. This will all come out in time, but I have been liberated from those disapproving societal shackles and have decided to join the on-line community of food lovers, sharing stories, recipes, philosophies, explorations and memories.
CHOCOLATE SPONGE CAKE
My first recipe entry for my food blog! I am both excited and nervous. I haven’t quite understood how other people do this. Just dive in? I decided to make something that I have long wanted to do but I just hadn’t come across the right recipe. I have been making plain vanilla sponge cake for years - my recipe is handwritten (and smeared with decades-old cake batter) in a beat up old notebook that I started in college and have been dragging around the world for, oh, let’s just say for a very long time. I make it quite often for my husband who is watching both his waistline and his cholesterol (okay, the recipe has 6 eggs, but NO butter!), and though it calls for folding in beaten egg whites, it is quite simple to make. I decided to doodle around with it and I simply replaced 1/4 cup of the flour for the same amount cocoa powder and it came out beautifully! A bit more dense than the vanilla version and with a chocolate candy bar flavor. And it rose beautifully! It is perfect for breakfast or snacktime!
When I asked my husband how he liked it, he hesitated than said, “Well, it’s spongy. It’s a sponge cake.” Heavy on the innuendo....
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 eggs, separated, preferably at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup cold water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
cream of tartar or salt and lemon juice (see recipe)
In a small bowl, blend the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
Separate the eggs. Place the whites in a mixing bowl (plastic is better than glass for beating whites) with either 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar or, as I do, a few grains of salt and 1 or 2 drops of lemon juice. Either will stabilize your whites. Set aside.
Put the yolks in a very large mixing bowl. Beat them with an electric beater on high speed for a few minutes until very thick and pale yellow. Add the sugar and continue beating for another couple of minutes.
Add the dry ingredients to the yolk/sugar mixture, alternating with the cold water and vanilla (dry-wet-dry-wet-dry), beating after each addition until blended, scraping down the sides as necessary.
Beat the whites until stiff peaks hold (you can reserve a couple of tablespoons of the sugar that you add to the yolks and add them gradually to the whites towards the end, after soft peaks start forming. This will really stiffen the whites).
Delicately fold the whites into the cake batter : begin by folding in about a third of the whites in order to lighten the heavy batter so as not to “break” the whites (knock out the air). Then fold in another third, then the final third. Don’t overdo it or, again, you will knock out too much air.
Pour into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan (preferably with removable bottom). Bake at 325°F (160°C) for 55 - 60 minutes until set. Cool inverted.