I’ve had to write a lot of new writer bios recently, which is both weird and very nice. It’s weird because for years I thought those were written by the editors of the publication/website/podcast/youtube channel/dog/piece of driftwood your work was appearing on. But no, turns out you have to write your own which is, essentially, being handed a blank piece of paper and told to describe why you’re so awesome.
Thankfully, I wrote about a quarter of the Castle Rushen High School Graduating Class of 19DearLordHOWLONGAGO?! ‘s personal statements so I’m used to this. I don’t like it, because, of course, there’s always the danger you’ll hold forth about how hard it is being that awesome, but I can do it. And I’ve had to do it a lot recently, and that’s meant I’ve got to describe myself as
‘An enthusiastic amateur baker and martial artist.’
Which is true. I’m baking like a baking fiend (If indeed such a thing exists) and I’ve trained in two martial arts. I studied Judo for nine months and, in that time graduated from hilarious white belt to fractionally less hilarious red belt. I also, sometime after that, trained in Muay Thai kickboxing which is the single most terrifying sport I’ve ever encountered. Picture boxing with added kicks, knees, elbows and throws. Now picture me, surrounded by off duty soldiers, firemen and police officers, training in various ways of turning someone’s face into pizza.
It was terrifying. And it was brilliant even though I never got far enough to spar with them. Martial arts, and I suspect any form of high end exercise is fun for every muscle you have, putting you solidly in your body and away from the stresses and neuroses of the day. Because you can think about them, but if you do, you’ll miss the incoming throw, or fail to block a kick, or reach for a hold on a climbing wall and discover what falling a couple of feet on the end of a rope, feeling like the largest fishing lure on the planet feels like.
By the way, it feels GREAT.
It’s a transformative experience, both the martial arts and the climbing. Hell, even the falling, because it takes you out of your mind and puts you in your body. All the stresses and neuroses of the day fall away and become something better, something more.
Which brings us to baking.
See what I did there?
Baking has been in my life, as a hobby, even less time but I love it as much. Baking’s magic, you get to turn things into something completely different to how they went in and, even better than when I was a magician, the tricks are all edible and frequently delicious. Plus, there are way fewer shrieking children demanding candy than there were when I was doing magic and any that do show up, I can call child services on! WIN! But again, as you’ve seen, I’ve tended towards full meals rather than baking recently.
A couple of weeks ago, I got the chance to change that and all I needed, it turns out, was the French Revolution
We went to see Les Miserables that morning. And some of that afternoon too. It’s a fantastic piece of movie making, at least three great performances, some fantastic music and technical choices, especially the decision to shoot almost all of the solos in apparent single takes and extreme close up. It’s immediate, brutally honest, emotional film-making and I can understand why it’s been such an Oscar magnet. And when we left, Marguerite went home to get back to work (As a law student she’s currently working 60 hour weeks regularly, as well as training for an International Mediation contest. Did I mention she’s awesome? She’s AWESOME. And awesomely busy). I, on the other hand, ventured to the local ASDA to do the shopping.
We have a rule, with the ASDA shop; one treat each a week. It can be a cookie, a chocolate bar (It’s never a chocolate bar) or, on one occasion, it was Lego. Almost done, I texted home to see what Marguerite wanted for her treat. She texted back;
MAKE ME COOKIES?
And so I did.
Or, I thought I did….for today, you shall bear witness to…
THE BIRTH OF THE CAKIE!
Victor, the usual suspects if you please!
So what you’re seeing there is:
-White chocolate chips
-Brown chocolate chips
-The growing realization that any sense of this food being healthy has been taken around the back of the fridge and kicked in the nuts a few dozen times.
-Oh and Lego DJ, who is the newest addition to the Lego minfig collection. He’s just here to observe.
First off, put 250g of plain flour, ½ teaspoon of salt and a ½ teaspoon of baking soda in a bowel and mix it. I tend to whisk for this which seems to work. Then, measure 170 g of butter and return to the scene of your horrific, garlic-related crimes. And by yours I of course mean mine. Oh hey is the Squash done yet?
Congratulations! You have just completed one third of operation cookie! The easy third certainly but hey, take the victory where you get it, right? The next third is where things get a little…optional. Or so I thought…
Melt the butter in the microwave and add it to a…value…of sugar. The recipe I use said 200g of one of the Rolling Stones’ oldest tracks and 100g caster sugar, as well as 325g chocolate chips. Now, I figured that instead of putting half a kilogram of sugar in a pan and heating it? The cook should probably just pop round and punch me in the heart and have done.
No brown sugar! Armageddon! We’re riding the last freedom moped out of Nowhere City and we haven’t even told our parents what time we’ll be back! Man the barricades! Make Anne Hathaway sing! Victory will be OURS!
Anyway, I punted the (Take it away, Mick!) brown sugar and put an extra 100g of the white in there. Less all round, easy, right? Then I put it in a bowl and mixed it with the melted butter until I had something that resembled really quite exciting, sugary lava.
Then, I added an egg and the yolk of a second egg and hit the mixer again.
Top tip: The best way to get just the yolk, is to crack the egg and pour it between the two halves over a sink. Not only will the white get dunked out but you’ll be amazed by how much the yolk weighs. Seriously, they’re weirdly heavy. Then put a tablespoon of vanilla essence in there. That amount will weird you out. Let it. It works.
By this time my dairy lava was looking pretty good so I mixed it with the dry ingredients and put the oven on, to 170 degrees celsius. This bit’s really fun because, like I said up top, this is the point at which it starts looking like something completely different to the ingredients. Finally, I added in the chocolate chips and folded them, again, using the mixer into the dough.
I made a bar cookie which is when you grease a cooking tray and make one huge cookie that covers the base of it. And of course greases the tray with a little butter and some motion blur.
It’s a great idea because it lets you control your cookie intake. Admittedly sometimes you can control it to six really small pieces instead of one big one, and then a couple more pieces just to be sure…but……but…quickly! To the oven!
Bake it for 17 minutes or so and then, take your cookie out where it can be ogled by Lego DJ!
Except it’s not…quite a cookie…You see, whilst I was laudable for reducing the sugar intake I was actually changing the consistency of the cookie too. The DAAAAA DA DA DA DA DA! BROWN SUGAR! Changes the texture, makes it thick and dense and chewy and awesome. I had none of that which meant I created a hybrid, something…new, unlike anything that has previously walked the Earth. Thick and dense like a cookie but fluffy like a cake…I give you…
CHILD OF NEITHER MAN OR WOMAN! BISCUIT OR SHORTBREAD! DOOMED TO BE EATEN BY A WORLD WHO HATES AND FEARS HIM! BECAUSE HE’S DELICIOUS! HE IS CAKIE! SUPERMARKETS WILL KNOW NOT WHENCE TO SHELVE HIM! FEAR HIS FLUFFY, SURPRISINGLY LIGHT TREAD! FEAR HIS SLIGHTLY BLURRY TOP CORNER THERE! FOCUS AND PROPORTION MEAN NOTHING TO HIM! *NOTHING!*
He did taste delicious with milk though.
Anyway, thanks once again to Victor and Lego DJ. Here’s what I learned:
-Trust the recipe.
-Egg yolks are weirdly heavy. To the point where you worry they might be a bit fake. Like how bears look like guys in tatty bear suits that don’t quite fit anymore.
-Trust the recipe.
-Different kinds of sugar do different things. Like delicious, granulated memebers of the Impossible Mission Force.
-TRUST the recipe.
-Without a lot of sugar, cookies become unusually fluffy, oddly exciting cake.
-TRUST THE RECIPE
-Brown sugar tastes so good because it makes cookies chewy. Which was clearly what the Stones were singing about.
All in all I was pretty pleased with cakie. He tastes nice, the consistency’s good and I’ll follow the recipe next time. Unless…cakie LIVES! AGAIIIIIIIIIIN!
(Organ music…fade to black)