Time and time again I’m amazed by the magic of cooking.
Not too long ago I made Pioneer Woman’s recipe “Grandma Iny’s Prune Cake” where you make an icing from sugar, buttermilk, baking soda, syrup, butter, and vanilla extract. It needs to be boiled for a while but it must not reach a soft ball stage. I didn’t have any idea what kind of stage that might be so I just boiled it until it looked something like in the photos. (I may’ve cooked it too long but anyway. It ended up being a syrupy-looking thing (maybe the caramel stage) and it was easily pourable. And the whole thing was delicious. That’s the main thing.) At first I was sceptical: the thing started boiling, then foaming (all but fluffed right out of the pan) which I think could be the butter’s fault (it wasn’t the artery-clogging kind). But I waited patiently for the syrup to appear. I actually scooped a bit of the foam off because I was afraid the butter was not right for the recipe. Suddenly — very very quickly — the foam went down and it turned into syrup.
Today I decided to try a fudge recipe where you had to boil sugar, cream, honey, and butter to the soft ball stage of 116 degrees Celsius. (I was going to buy a thermometer but forgot.) Once again, the butter started foaming (so it wasn’t the “healthy” butter’s fault although the real butter foams in a lot more controlled manner) and I started doing the water test: drop a bit of the syrup to cold water and once it’s forms into a soft ball when it hits the water, it’s ready. I waited and waited, and stirred. And put a few drops of it in the water — getting only slightly white sugar water. At one point it was still very foamy but a little thicker than it had been before so I decided to try my luck: it actually seemed to harden a little in the water so I took it off the burner, even though I thought “it’s foam, it can’t work”. In an instant (a few seconds, seriously) it turned into something I could really call fudge. Wow! Then I started mixing in the flavours: white chocolate (yummmm), ginger jam (odd but it’s in the recipe — gotta try it), and dried cranberries. Little by little I started believing I may’ve actually managed to do this right. Now it’s cooling down right behind me — I’m just inhaling the smelly goodness since it’ll take a while for it to be ready for cutting.
I only wish I could succeed in normal cooking. It seems I only get the cakes and other treats right, and my regular food comes out bland or just weird. Maybe it’s because dessert-making is more of an exact science?