TNN Baking Project: The Upside Down World

I have been completely obsessed with the idea of cooking/baking every recipe in a cookbook ever since I read the book Julie and Julia. If you are not familiar with it, it’s a memoir. Julie Powell, tired and feeling trapped in her job, decided to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook in one year.

The idea just always fascinated me. One, because I am completely obsessed with cookbooks. And two, for some reason I only end up making a couple of recipes (if any) per cookbook I purchase. Don’t know why I do that. But I do.

So naturally, when I started to feel my all-too-familiar restlessness, I came across a baking book that sparked my interest. It looked super yummy, had the word cardamom in the title (yay, I’ve always wanted to learn how to use different spices), and it was on super sale! I purchased it and when I went to read about the author, I discovered that she was one of the bakers competing in the show The Great British Bake Off. It should not surprise anyone here that that’s my go-to Netflix show. 😉

Anyhow, I saw this as a divine sign from the Universe that it is now time to start my own Julie and Julia project with this book. What’s the name of the book: The Cardamom Trail by Chetna Makan. I am not sure how many recipes the book has or how long it will actually take me. But I am going to be making one recipe per week. I confess I am a little scared that this will be yet another book I don’t finish, but I am here for the journey. I’m here to learn more about baking, how to use different spices, try different flavors and techniques, and to find myself.

The first recipe

The first recipe in the book naturally had to be an upside-down cake. Because why not? If I am serious about this, no skipping around. Chetna (the author) wanted me to start with this one and that’s what I am doing. Pear and Cardamom Caramel Upside-Down Cake.

All the ingredients were pretty easy to find with the exception of cardamom. First challenge in this recipe: cardamom.  I really struggled finding that baby for some reason. And I just refuse to go to Whole Foods. Sorry Whole Foods lovers. I still love you, though. I eventually found the actual pods in this little latin market near home. But never having seen cardamom, much less in the pod instead of ground, I had to do a little research here. I opened the pods and crushed the inside part of the spice with a spoon instead of spice grinder. I don’t have currently have a spice grinder.

Now it was time to bake. Here was when I faced my second challenge. You know when you were in math class in High School and wondered “when on Earth am I going to ever use this?”. Well, ta-daaa, in baking of course. First, the book is all in grams and just like the spice grinder, I don’t currently have a baking scale. But that was not going to be another excuse to not start. So some conversions had to be made from grams to cups and spoons. And second, the recipe was for a bigger baking tray. I did what any gal in my situation would do, put my math skills into practice and recalculated all the amounts per ingredient.

The recipe is pretty simple, but the very first step was making caramel. I’ve seen enough baking shows to know that this was going to be my biggest challenge. And to top everything, I chose to use the brown granulated sugar, even though I know that that is the wrong sugar. Melting brown sugar (as predicted) was a pain and after seeing what it looked like, every cell in my body was 100 percent certain that this recipe was going to be a true disaster! But I am no quitter so I poured my “caramel” to the bottom of the pan, added the pears and made the rest of the recipe. Challenge number 3: the caramel looked nothing like caramel. It was more like a clump of brown sugar and butter? Was this challenge a win? Keep reading.

I mixed the dough, poured it over the caramel and pears, let JP know that he was about to witness a massive catastrophe, and put my cake in the oven filled with hopeless despair. Yes, I can be very dramatic.

Since this is not my first time in the baking rodeo, I was able to bake the cake without any issues. And after one hour in the oven, the moment of truth. Time to flip my cake and see the hot-mess-caramel I made. Challenge number 4: Flipping a cake.

By now you are wondering how this Nutrinut did overall? Well, somehow everything actually worked out! When I flipped the cake, I noticed that the caramel just melted into the cake with the pear, the cardamom flavor came through very nicely, AND although  I made the cake gluten-free, it was a pretty darn good cake. So as for the 4 challenges I had, I think I surprisingly kicked toosh here. Was it luck or is Chetna guiding me from afar? Remains to be seen!

See you in the next chapter of The NutriNut (TNN) Baking Project.

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