Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Friday, 14 August 2009

Cake cooking as theatre

Recently Mrs BB made a cake. Nothing unusual there, she regularly produces cakes, buns, cheese straws, ragouts,, dinners based on Welsh lamb, chili sans riz and eggs mornay for birthday boy. Once she did petites bombes de volaille.

But the aim with this cake was “to use up some bits and pieces.” Even I knew that this would not be simple rechauffage whereby two florets of broccoli, an anchovy fillet and a slice of Tesco mature cheddar starting to parch are combined in a savoury which Mrs BB would refuse to give a name to. Cake components are few and their union depends on ratios.

Drying up at the time I started to theorise aloud. “If you had an odd amount of flour, say 7½ oz, you’d scale down the fat by about…” And that was as far as I got. The language quickly changed into that inscribed on the Rosetta Stone and we were into tablespoonfuls and – a new one for me – “half-knobs of butter”. Mrs BB does have a high-tech weighing scale I posted half a year ago. It hangs on a hook I put up specially. Even as I speak hook and scale are turning into untouched conceptual art.

Making a cake is an act of chemistry which is why I’m able to write about it. But this is “theatrical chemistry”. Cake recipes are specific about amounts to achieve the correct “ratio” – a word no cook ever uses. Nor it seems is much attention paid to amounts. Chefs hate figures: centilitres are ugly and technoid whereas handfuls have links with the Middle Ages. I finished drying up and left to commune with the flat-screen.

NOTE: The cake - almond as it turned out - briefly occupied the container illustrated


Plutarch said...

American cooks measure in cups. But cups of what volume? Somewhere in our kitchen is a hinged set of cup measures, which I don't believe have ever been used. And why should they be for want of recipes written in American English of which there are unfortunateley a dearth? Perhaps Mrs BB could cast some light on the subject.

Avus said...

Those "Middle Ages" measures - they could be easily visualised, I guess. My maternal Grandfather was Horseman on a farm and his own way of life had not changed from the beginning of the 20th century. He measured in "thumbs" (as, I believe, French peasants still do and, after all, the Latin for thumb, "unce", gives us "inch"). I asked him why he did not use feet and inches and he said that his method did not need him to find a tape measure. He also doctored the horses in handfulls, cupfulls and spoonfulls - they seemed to thrive.

herhimnbryn said...

'rechauffage', sounds far better than 'left-overs'. Cups are used for measurement over here in Oz, also kilos and grams. I still use Mum's balance scales in lbs, if I use weights at all. Mrs B is using the ancient female art of kitchen alchemy. We cannot cook without it.

Professional Bleeder said...

I'm ahead of you here BB. Spent some of the summer writing a cross- curricular (horrid phrase - sorry) cooking/science scheme of work. Cakes will be made. Actually cake making is not my favourite chemical reaction, I prefer alkali metals in water.
Pluarch: perhaps this link will help, http://www.convert-me.com/en/ Be aware I am never happy with cakes when I convert the measurements

Occasional Speeder said...

To be fair - Mrs BB is a culinary genius - especially where cakes are concerned and therefore the rulebook - like the scales - gets tossed aside. No others should do the same.