Some time last year I was over in Boston to visit the Boy, and decided that in return for having me to stay so often, I should cook his housemates dinner one night. The meal plans soon gained a two-fold raison d’etre: as a thank you from me, and as an attempt to prove to one or two fairly dedicated carnivores that vegetarian food could be both tasty and filling. Much thought was given to what to make, and eventually I settled on a spinach and ricotta lasagna with pine nuts (this one). The ingredient-shopping was unexpectedly challenging, as I hadn’t really allowed for the fact that certain of the ingredients, everyday to me, were not so commonplace in American supermarkets. Eventually, home we arrived, laden down with bags of tasty food items just waiting to realise their dinner destiny. The chopping and preparing began, and all was going smoothly until I needed to measure out some flour.
“Where’s your scales?” I asked the Boy.
“Scales?” He looked at me quizzically.
Attributing this unusual response to the fact that the Boy is not well acquainted with baking, I asked two of his more frequently-baking housemates who had just walked into the kitchen. To my horror, I got the same response.
“What’s a scales?” they wanted to know.
At this point, I was starting to panic. Saucepans were bubbling over, stomachs were getting growlier, and how was I going to cook anything without being able to measure out my ingredients??
“Ooooh,” they chorused, “just use cups!”
And so measuring cups of all shapes and sizes were duly produced, and a whole new world appeared before my very eyes. Ingredients could be measured by VOLUME instead of weight!! This was truly a revelation. I returned to Ireland a week later determined to introduce this new way of cooking into my regular life. To my delight, my sister bought me a set of my very own which are not only a perfect shade of blue, but they also combine cup-style measurements with my more familiar metrics, having both marked on them.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon baking a cake to bring to a housewarming dinner party in my friend’s house, and as the chosen recipe was an American one, I jumped at the chance to use my precious cups. I’m not sure why I find using these infinitely more fun to weighing things out on a scales, but I now view it as far superior. You can just put things in there, and however much fits is the right amount!! Amazing! However, I still think it’s peculiar for certain ingredients. Butter, for example. Are you really supposed to mush it into the cup to see how much butter fits in one cup, and then that’s what you use? Is this the crack in the system – the chink in the armour, the achilles heel of it all – or am I just insufficiently educated in the ways of baking with cups? (If you know something I don’t, speak up!)
Tragically, my delight at the wonderful simplicity of the cup-method didn’t save my cake from, er, exploding on me. The bottom of the oven is now a sticky mess, and my cake-halves? They look like this:
I’m fairly sure that greaseproof paper isn’t meant to be impaling my cake…
There was obviously going to be no getting them out of the tins in whole pieces, so I gave up on the attempt and transformed my once-held dreams of an elegant, grown-up cake into what I sadly and yet slightly triumphantly termed “dessert mash”. See for yourself:
Accidental as the end result was, it was heartily received. I’m still not happy, but I have only myself to blame. The recipe is from Orangette if you think you can beat my attempt. And you can, I assure you, you can.