Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Carpe-ing practice

I worried a little bit that Friday’s post might come across as mawkish or proselytizing, especially since I wrote it to myself as much as anyone else. I have a deep-rooted tendency to perceive the glass of life as half-empty (or maybe it’s that it’s half-full but cracked?), and recalibrating that perception is an apparently never-ending ongoing self-improvement project.

I was motivated to write it not only by the events it described, but also by the fact that DP left that day for another extended overseas trip. This semi-regular (biannual? semiannual?) event has a tendency to shroud me in a light mist of gloom (as opposed to a thick fog of depression). It doesn’t make me take to my bed with the vapors, but it does take a noticeable chunk of the fun out of life. So it was an exhortation to me as much as to anyone else not to spend the next several weeks exclusively in a funk of chores, lists, and generally self-pitying drudgery.

In an attempt to take my own advice, I’ve proposed myself a weird little challenge for this solo parenting stint: to do one cooking project every day. I’m defining “cooking project” according to my own idiosyncratic parameters: basically, it has to be something that goes somehow beyond what I would normally do to make sure we get our three squares a day. So, it could be baking, although preferably something I haven’t made 452 times before (*cough* cupcakes *cough*); it could be a new lunch or dinner dish I haven’t tried before, or even one I haven’t made in a long time; or it could be trying a new ingredient or technique. Really, just something to nudge me out of my comfort zone and keep me out of the mac & cheese/leftovers rut solo parenting sometimes sends me into.

Not coincidentally, this will also make excellent blog fodder. (See? I told you it was all about me.) And now that I’ve broken the back of my Pepsi addiction (43 days and counting; I’ve even had a couple in restaurants and then wondered why I bothered), I’m ready to take on something new.

To wit:

Having evolved RL’s Leftover Rule of Thumb some time back, I am always on the lookout for things that align with its basic policy. I have no proof, but am reasonably certain that lamingtons are a creative Australian way of gussying up leftover cake by slathering it with chocolate syrup and then rolling it in coconut. And it works, too: the syrup makes the cake nice and moist all over again.

[Disclaimer: for any actual antipodeans reading this, I am sure I have violated virtually every rule of lamington tradition in making these. They’re the wrong shape, for starters, because I cut leftover unfrosted cupcakes into quarters and used them as the cake. And since we don’t have desiccated coconut over here (and doesn’t that sound appetizing?!), I tried to approximate it by toasting some of the readily-available fresh coconut—which, upon consideration, I think was a mistake, as it would have stuck better in its original fresh, damp state. Oh, and the picture is awful, because I forgot to take it before the sun went down. But I did get the chocolate syrup recipe out of an actual New Zealand cookbook.


some quantity of plain yellow cake, cut into squares or rectangles* (a good basic cake recipe)
125 ml water
14 g butter
113 g sugar
14 g cocoa
about ½ cup coconut

Some recipes suggest sticking the cake pieces in the freezer for a bit to firm them up for the rough handling they’re about to receive. If you put them in there, don’t forget about them.

Combine the water, butter, sugar, and cocoa in a small saucepan and bring to a boil on the stove, stirring to combine along the way. Don’t wander off to check something on the internet and let it boil over. When it’s heated through and all the elements are properly combined, leave to cool for a bit. Put coconut on a plate or piece of waxed paper/baking parchment. (Or toast it first if you insist, but I don’t encourage it.)

Take square of yellow cake and dip into chocolate sauce, making sure to coat on all sides. (You can use a fork, or tongs, or your fingers for this, depending on your cooking style.) Next roll chocolate-covered square in coconut until you have gotten as much coconut as possible to stick on. Gently place on a rack to dry for about an hour. Repeat procedure with remaining squares of cake.

Here’s a picture of what some properly made, neat lamingtons look like. But my mutant ones were pretty tasty too.

* I used four cupcakes that I had lying around. I also quartered the syrup recipe's original quantities, and I had quite a bit left over.


Sparkly Em said... Best Blogger Tips

i think yours look better! (but i didnt say that too loudly, ok!?)

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

I think mine have a certain rustic charm. Also, being realistic, nothing I make is ever going to look like that photo.

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