Fresh out of the oven

If there is one thing I am really good at, it would be how to procrastinate, I have mastered it down to a fine art. The reason for my constant procrastination is I am a perfectionist; if I can’t do something properly, I don’t bother doing it at all. I am not very proud of this.

I have wanted to start a food blog for some time now, but I keep on putting it off. The reason? Well that’s obvious, I want it to be perfect, and if it can’t be perfect it has to wait until it can. Every aspect of it needs to be perfect. It needs the perfect quirky name; the layout has to be well designed. The photographs need to be amazing, and the food in those photographs need to perfectly styled in beautiful porcelain bowls on lovely linen table clothes. That’s not all, the supporting text needs to perfect too; it needs to be entertaining and witty, but also informative and grammatically correct. This need for the perfect food blog is result of the overwhelming trend towards food blogging right now; it is HUGE! There are so many excellent ones out there I can’t help thinking, why would anyone want to read my blog if there are so many wonderful ones out there already.

I don’t have a great digital camera, my kitchen is not flooded with soft natural light and I do not have a cupboard stocked with beautiful crockery and cutlery; all of these needed to take those perfect photographs I was talking about. Writing does not come easy to me; it has never been a strong point of mine. However, I’ve got one thing going for me, I love being in the kitchen, no matter how poorly lit and under stocked it is. It is my happy place, and has been from my childhood years. I like to cook, but baking is my one and only true love.

Another reason for me putting off this blog is I wanted the first entry to be special, actually more than special, it had to be fireworks.  It had to about an extraordinary ‘something’ I made in the kitchen; it needed the ‘wow’ factor. In other words, it needed to be nothing short of magnificent. Due to these unrealistic expectations I had set myself, I put the blog on hold, well who wouldn’t with such high aspirations.

I recently moved into a new house, with a brand new kitchen, one with a large oven, ample storage and worktop space, something I never have had before. Every kitchen before this one, was cramped and forced me to extend my baking activities into the dining area and sometimes even into the bedroom. So this new kitchen was a big deal for me, therefore it needed a celebration, a ceremony marking the first day in which yumminess will flow out of it. This initiation I decided would begin with baking something truly special, and this, I thought would be the perfect subject for a first blog entry, and therefore the perfect way to start the perfect food blog.

Life and its routine got in the way and soon this perfect idea got put on the shelf. This does not mean that I have not been using my new kitchen, in actual fact I have used it several times and have made some lovely meals and baked goods. All of which could of made perfectly good subjects for blog posts.

There was one defining moment in my kitchen when I decided to let go of this ridiculous need for perfection, because if I don’t start this food blog now it will never happen, as perfection is almost always unattainable. On one particular Thursday, after a dull week at the office, I decided to cheer myself, and my colleagues, up with something sweet from one of my favourite food bloggers, Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. She is my food blogging idol and I am one step short of setting up a shrine, dedicated to her, in my kitchen.  That day I chose to make her Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Coffee Cake. It was going well, until I thought I could get away with pouring the batter into the smaller of my two dishes. Bad mistake! It bubbled over into the oven, and I thought it best to clean it up when it was done, as my oven was already in a mess, so I wouldn’t risk opening the oven door and ruining the cake too. In theory that seemed to be a great plan, but in reality, it was a stupid plan. The bits of cake batter that bubbled over caught alight and before I knew it there was a fire in my oven. I have to interrupt by saying this is the first time I have started a fire in the kitchen. My kitchen was filled with thick grey smoke. I did not know what was more upsetting, my oven that was under attack by hot flames and burning batter, or that the cake would be ruined by the smoke and flames.

After I had the crisis under control and was busy cleaning up the dreadful mess, I had a brain wave, my new kitchen had just gone through that initiation process I had previously planned and delayed. It was not exactly the ‘wow’ factor I had in mind, but it will definitely be a moment to remember. So that would be the day I would finally start that food blog I have been promising myself.

I have come to terms with the idea that this blog will not be perfect, just like the way I christened my kitchen. Neither will its photos, styling and its writing will be perfect, but it will be mine to enjoy, and maybe with time it and I will improve. But for now it will just be about me having fun in my kitchen.

P.S. In case you are wondering, the cake, which I now call ‘The Fire Starter’ turned our pretty fantastic, even with its slight smoky taste, and it was a winner at the office. I brought home an empty dish, with crumbs as the only reminder of the day I started a fire.

Munch Munch

Fire Starter, aka. Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Coffee Cake

From Smitten Kitchen

120 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups (500ml) sour cream
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
3/4 teaspoon salt

Filling and Topping
375 grams chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate bars (I used half milk chocolate and half dark chocolate)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 190°C. Grease a 22 x 35cm baking pan. Set aside.

In a small dish, whisk together sugar and cinnamon for the filling and topping.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs whites until stiff and set aside. In another larger bowl, cream the butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt together. Alternately mix into the butter mixture the sour cream and then dry ingredients until both are used up and the batter is smooth and very thick. Fold the egg whites into the batter.

Spread half the cake batter in the bottom of prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture and half of the chocolate chips. Spoon the remaining cake batter over filling in spoonfuls. Using a spatula gently spread it over the filling until it is level. Sprinkle the batter with the remaining cinnamon-sugar and remaining chocolate chips. Gently press the chocolate chips, to ensure they stick to the batter; no need to submerge them.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.