Food has always been a huge part of my life. Portugal (where I'm originally from) has amazing regional food and despite being a small country I haven't tried even half of all it's delicacies. Savory and sweet. And although a heart warming roast, or platter of cheese with homemade bread can be very enticing, it's with sugar that I lose myself.
I think about it all day and all night. I think I dream in grams already. I dream of chocolate, of ganache pouring into a sponge cake, of a pastel de Belem (custard tart) still warm with sprinkles of icing sugar and cinnamon, with vanilla ice cream with raspberry coolie. The textures, the flavours, the warmth of it all around my taste buds....it's heaven.
As I grew older and started travelling I got to try different cakes, tarts, biscuits from other parts of the world. Some more to my taste than others but overall it just made my sweet dreams more global. All of a sudden they had carrot cakes, cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies.
And then my world came tumbling down when I started developing an intolerance to wheat and gluten and simply had to remove all of these mouth watering beauties from my life.
I only got to see them in TV shows, in window displays of trendy bakeries around London and wonder what would happen next.
I didn't give up. I bought some books on GF baking. I searched online for information and recipes and came up with quite a few.
There is an array of things on the internet, not all of it good. I think sometimes people with allergies settle for less because they fear being a minority and therefore less likely to be the recipient of gorgeous treats like the rest.
And true, some are dry and dense and give GF a bad name, but if you care to go the extra mile, then you are welcomed to a world of deep intense flavour and sometimes even nicer and more interesting than traditional cakes. The use of almonds, hazelnuts and a multitude of flours (rice, spelt, sorghum, gram, chestnut, sweet rice, potato, tapioca....) make Gluten Free baking somewhat tricky and expensive but the flavour never disappoints.
The pleasure of baking and trying new recipes all the time hasn't faded. On the contrary, it grew to the point of restlessness. I need to bake, I must create something that puts a smile on someone's face. There is no bad weather, battered day that a fantastically rich sweet treat won't cure. If your boss is annoying you, the cake won't, if your boyfriend betrayed you, the cake won't, if you forgot your umbrella on a rainy day a hot coffee or tea and that special slice of cake will give you comfort and peace. There is no negativity with a good old fashion cake or cupcake. Brings only joy. Unless you eat the whole cake and can't fit in your jeans after but that's a different story for another blog (weight maintenance around baking obsessive people)...
Then the birthday of a special 6 year old arrived and I got a request. "I want a Minion cake". And the adventure began. This was a completely different ball game. Sugarpaste, templates, facial expressions....the world of novelty cakes. I took the Friday off of work to build this beast (it was a hell of a big cake) and it was the coolest thing I have ever done. The Minion had clothes, and eyes and goggles and a smile. And so did I. A very big one. 5 chocolate cakes stacked with layers of milk chocolate ganache and covered with dark chocolate ganache. A yellow funny mega Minion that brought nothing more than amazement to a group of kids and that special moment where they could stuff themselves with a chocolate bomb. PERFECT....just PERFECT.
And so it started....now I sit at home browsing recipes for hours, testing frostings, more sweet, less sweet, more spongy or fudge like....Gluten free or not...Some will always be traditional ones, others will be my adaptation to the world of GF. But one thing I can guarantee. You will not tell the difference or I won't bake that recipe again. I don't settle for stodgy just for the sake of it. I would rather not eat anything of this sort if it's not up to the standard that I think it should be.
Like the seven wonders of the world, like looking at the most wonderful sunset makes you feel warm inside, or the memories of a visit to an exotic location that fills you up with emotion, so does an amazing cake have that power. We all know the difference between a good cake and a divine one. When you can say without a doubt this is the best cake I've had in my life, you won't forget. It will stay with you forever, and you will want to have it when you're happy and celebrate with others or sad and in need of a pick me up. Reliable, comforting, beautiful and exciting.
The journey has begun.... and a sweet one it is. ;-)