When even green tea makes my heart beat like in horse race, when I climb the stairs to my bedroom four times in a row because I forget what I needed there, when I throw again a cake I baked because it’s beyond any accetable standard… I understand that I need to slow down a moment, breathe, do something different and start again just when I have a clearer mind.
Reading a book that has nothing to do with food and baking works perfectly, especially if it’s a fantasy, where there are knights, damsels, intrigues, ancient forests and (dire)wolves. Without having ever seen the TV series, I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire saga, exhausted by a friend who would not stop writing me e-mails (very convincing, I admit) pushing me to read it, sure I would have liked it. And so it was, after two pages of introduction it was like diving into a parallel world… now I have to ration the pages of the books or else I would spend the whole day crouched on the sofa with the book in my hand.
Another trick that works great to relax is to make a cake. I know, it seems a contradiction, but I am not talking about any cake, when you have to experiment with doses and cooking time. I’m talking about a safe cake, a cake you are absolutely sure that will come out perfect, just from reading the ingredient list! One example? The soft and spongy Torta Margherita I learned during my pastry class.
Since I had a basket of cherries to be finished, I added a handful of the ripe fruit to the dough, then served the cake with a dusting of powdered sugar. The sponge cake has the good taste of the old times sweet treat, slightly scented with vanilla, it reconciles you with the world. Every so often you need that too, simplicity.
The doses are expressed in grams: I am every day more aware that making pastry is like chemistry, and even 2 or 3 grams seem to make a difference! For convenience I have also reported the ‘normal’ quantities in brackets.
Serve it with a sweet sherry – you’ll love it!
- 75 g egg yolks (about 4 and a half)
- 60 g eggs (about 1)
- 100 g sugar
- 50 g flour
- 50 g potato starch
- seeds of 1 vanilla bean
- 25 g butter, melted
- 1 handful of cherries, pitted
- powdered sugar and sliced almonds to decorate
- Preheat oven to 200°C.
- In a stand mixer or with the electric whisks beat the egg yolks with the whole egg and the sugar on high speed for about 10 minutes, until thick, light and fluffy.
- Sift the flour with the potato starch and fold it in gently with a spatula
- Melt the butter and stir it with a spoonful of batter, then fold it back into the bowl, thus preventing the melted butter from falling to the bottom of the bowl.
- Butter a 22 cm round pan, line the bottom with a disk of parchment paper and scrape in the sponge cake batter, up to ¾ of the pan. Spread the pitted and halved cherries on top, they will tend to fall on the bottom of the cake while baking.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the cake is golden on the surface, springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Invert the cake out of the pan onto a wire rack and let it cool down.
- Once cold, dust with icing sugar and sprinkle with sliced almonds.
But there’s more! There is also another thing that relaxes me and makes me smile again, a warm shower. Thinking big, however, nothing is better than a day at the spa with friends. Well, believe me, I’ll keep you posted because I’m leaving for a wellness weekend in Tuscany!