November 30, 2008

Everything is better with cake

Over the last few months, thanks largely to the wonder of the crockpot, I've been getting back into the swing of cooking that had kind of fallen away when I took six weeks off.

And now, whether it's the time of year, or the recovering cook in me or a case of channelling my inner seventies housewife due to prolonged crockpot contact, I've been in an increasing mood to bake.

I've talked before about the fact that my Dad's dad was a baker and I've always liked baking. I grew up with Dad making bread and hot cross buns and, later on, muffins and Mum churning out chocolate cake and the christmas pudding and cake (which now we do together each year). Neither of them were fancy bakers but baked goods didn't come from packets in our house (I was horrified when someone at work told me she'd never made a cake from scratch!) I always liked helping (and licking the beaters). And I went to a high school that made you do home economics for two years and our home eco teacher was a firm believer in mastering the basiscs, so we learned scones and sponges and all sorts of goodies while we worked our way through the classic Cookery the Australian Way (though ours definitely didn't talk about sapodilla!).

So I'm a good basic baker (except I never really have mastered the touch for scones are edible but they never rise like my mum's or Keri's do...not exactly a party piece). When it comes to mains I'm pretty good at throwing things together and substituting ingredients to make something suit me and understanding techniques and doing some fancier dishes. But with baking, I've never really played around with it too much, sticking to what I know. Partly because of lack of time or really need to bake every week (because then I'd be eating the results all the time). But I want to step the baking up a notch and play around and get better.

I've been making do with mostly my little weenie food processor and an ancient pair of electric beaters that were Mum's before they were mine but yesterday (after using the scary beaters last weekend and realising the cord had reached the point known as "taking your life in your hands every time you plug these in"), I decided that, screw it, I need a proper mixer. A good mixer. Not your $100 Target job. Something I can get accessories for down the track if I want them. Which prompted the invariable KitchenAid vs Kenwood Chef decision (I don't like Mixmasters, I had an old one of my grandmother's at one stage and I HATE the spinning bowl thing - my spatulas always went flying).

KitchenAids sure are purty but they are also expensive and I've never used one. On the other hand, I grew up using a Chef. Kenwood now also make a stand style mixer like the KitchenAid but it is even more expensive than the KA. I decided that given I'm still being experimental and really, I'm only like to use the mixer every few weeks at this stage, that I couldn't quite justify spending $700 on a mixer just now. So I toddled off to David Jones and in a fit of serendipity they had a pile of the entry level Chefs (the top of the range Chef is now $1300!!!!!!!!! - that's some serious baking and grinding and every other thing you can think of going on daily to justify in my book) with a $50 cash back plus 20% of the purchase price back on a gift card plus a free mincing attachment. Sold. I am now the proud owner of a unsexy but good old square looking Kenwood Chef. Without too much virgo brain angsting. Go me.

It even magically fits in the one spare spot in my kitchen cupboard (which was an initial concern given my kitchen is small and I don't really have bench space to leave a mixer out all the time (though my mother helpfully suggested making a really big tea cosy to cover it. I pointed out I can't crochet so she'd have to do it). So long may it beat and maybe by the time I decide I'm ready for an upgrade they'll be making sexier versions : ).

And to celebrate my purchase I think I have to make cake this afternoon. After all, I have a half-zested lemon left over from my crockpot concoction of the day and it would be wasteful to not use it, plus my favourite fall back easy cake recipe has a lemon variation....of course, this reminds me that I really need to buy a new sifter and a ring tin but I shall make do.

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