My 15-year-old is not one to spend time cooking, so when he does I watch with delight. Turns out he’s been paying attention. He moved with confidence and ease as he made this chocolate marble cake, so there is hope he’ll leave home someday with at least a few skills in the kitchen. Truth be told, on this occasion I’d asked him to bake me a cake, because he owed me one. That, by the way, is a euphemism for the fact that he’d done something I wasn’t entirely thrilled with. He invited his friend over to help and they set out to bake me a cake with all the intensity and focus of real pastry chefs. It was awesome and tasty!
Henri and Sophie wanted to make a chocolate marble cake, so I helped them find a recipe they could do without a lot of input from me. We chose a white cake from Carole Bloom’s The Essential Baker, since her recipes and directions are always spot on. Henri made the white cake and then Sophie and I adapted it to have cocoa powder for the chocolate marbling. Not jumping in is hard for me, but I got behind the camera and let them go, because I knew Carole’s recipes wouldn’t fail.
In 2013 my husband and I bought a house. It’s a gob-smacking piece of 1902 architecture with ornate woodwork, the likes of which I’d never seen before. It was built by T.P. Healy, who made a name for himself in Minneapolis building homes for the flour barons and other folks making it big in the milling town.
Our house was once a grand gesture of a time of wheat prosperity, but it fell on hard times, as did the country, when the depression hit and it eventually became a boarding house and then apartments. Luckily for us and for the preservation of history, the house was kept in pretty good condition, considering the number of people who ended up owning it and living there.
By the time we bought the house it was broken up into 4 apartments, which was honestly part of the appeal. Not that we intended to rent the apartments out, in fact, it is only zoned as a duplex, so two of them were illegal. The draw was the 4 kitchens that came with all those apartments. I had visions of having a “family” kitchen and then using one of the others as a studio to work in.
For the first several months that’s exactly what I did. At first it was awesome, I cooked meals on the first floor where I had a great gas range, ran up to the second floor, which had the best oven in the house to bake and then to the third floor kitchen to photograph, because the light is AWESOME up there. This was all good fun, then I realized that I was doing about 12 trips up and down the stairs per recipe. Quite a workout plan, but not exactly efficient for my work day.
None of the apartment kitchens really fit the bill, but as a combined effort they were proving less effective than I’d fantasized. This became abundantly clear while a team of 6 people tried to shoot the photos for The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. We all jogged up and down, which I’d come to think as normal, but they moaned as they baked on one floor and shot on another. The photo shoot also took days longer than expected as a result. The next week I had an architect, Gregg Hackett, drawing up plans for one kitchen that would satisfy all the needs. A few months later Blue construction moved in and built it.
We were really lucky to have the original blueprints (above) from 1902 to work from and we tried to put the kitchen back to where it had been originally. This meant taking out a bedroom and bathroom to make space. The pictures below are a before and after of that renovation.
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love the theatre and creativity it inspires in people. Once I had kids it took on a whole new level of special. The boys love to get in costume, and it is a great excuse for me to dress up too. They’ve gone from being little toddler dinosaurs, to anything scary and repulsive as pre-teens. I hate to miss any of it, because pretty soon they will be “too old” to dress up. So it is bittersweet this year that I will be on the road for Halloween. Off I go to Portland tonight to bake pizzas for our Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day Book Tour. I hope I will see you as I travel from Portland, to Seattle and on to San Francisco to attend Foodbuzz 2011. To find out where we will be this coming week, please visit the events page.
This is a revisit of a spider cake I did a couple of years ago. I recreated it for a post on Cooking Channel and thought I would share it again with you. Here is a link to the original post, have a very happy Halloween.