Posted Monday, December 15th, 2003
The division of cooking labor in my relationship is clear: Brent crafts the entrees. I bake. It’s always been this way with us; from the beginning, Brent was fascinated by the intricacies of braising meats and making gnocchi, while I fantasized about pulling off the four-tiered black forest cakes on the cover of his mother’s latest issue of Southern Living. In restaurants he heads straight for the appetizer list while I strive to save room for dessert. He thinks up creative new uses for wonton wrappers while I pore over dessert cookbooks from the library.
I must admit that this is not an entirely equitable division. While I scarf down the gourmet meals Brent prepares while I’m at yoga, Brent doesn’t like sweets. His favorite foods are burritos and steak. And to be honest, I’m not that crazy about eating sweets either. I’m more attracted to the idea of the stunningly crafted dessert.
For me, the perfect dessert is an immensely powerful idea. I’ve always been that girl who spills coffee down the front of her white blouse the morning she’s giving a presentation, who forgets to powder her shiny forehead before a picture, who throws her hands up enthusiastically while pitting out. As in fashion, so in baking. My dessert flops are epic: I once assembled a fruit-filled angel food cake that resembled a skin disease. A beautiful, undercooked cheesecake ran wretchedly over the platter when I cut into it. My former roommate Christine has an entire photo collection of me hovering dejectedly over unfortunate birthday cakes I’d attempted for friends. Despite this unpromising track record, each dessert failure cuts me to the bone: I always begin by believing, really believing, that my finished product will look like the pictures in the magazines. And that my perfect dessert will somehow, inexplicably, make me into a better person – a person who is kinder, who is more patient, who has less oily skin…Perhaps someone who is less vapid.
My pragmatic friend Sara advises me to photograph these mishaps and send accusatory letters to the cookbook publishers. My colleagues, geeky tech workers who lunch regularly at Taco Bell, devour the ugly, though delicious, fruits of my failure. Brent tires of assuring me that baking an ugly dessert does not make me an ugly person.
And through it all, hope springs eternal. For my wedding I’ve registered for the baking bonanza: a tart pan with removable bottom, angel food pan with feet, three-tiered baking racks, even (in a leap of optimism) a candy thermometer. Perhaps with the right tools I’ll begin turning out flawless tartes tatin and chocolate roulades like the ones I saw in Fine Cooking magazine’s holiday baking issue. And if they don’t turn out… well, Brent will probably still tell me they’re beautiful.
Related Links:Fine Cooking’s baking page
Comments [post a comment]
Posted by Christine Sterling on Monday, December 15th, 2003 at 11:28 AM
Anne does make delicious tasty treats--and is moving closer and closer to domestic goddess status! It is definitely a privilege to have a birthday cake crafted by Anne---and to have a friend who will let you photo-document some of her more 'interesting' creations. I'll be by for ice cream later.
Posted by Nicholas Taylor on Monday, December 15th, 2003 at 7:31 PM
This is why I serve ice cream for dessert.
Posted by Laura Bauers on Tuesday, December 16th, 2003 at 1:14 AM
anne, i admire your baking aspirations and think inability to produce lovely desserts must be genetic, but at least you try and at least they taste good.
Posted by Mary Bauers on Tuesday, December 16th, 2003 at 9:33 PM
You are not even a teansy bit vapid. You may not be a good baker, but you are definitely a good writer, and that's so much better for your thighs.