Wednesday, 2 March 2016

How to cook a surprise birthday dinner (when you live in a one room apartment with the person you want to surprise and you have 4 hours)

1. Make food you can (at least) partly prepare a day in advance. 

Ideally you’ll be able to make it look like you’re only cooking dinner, something that will taste better tomorrow. Don't let it look like that night’s dinner though unless you also have a good excuse for not eating it when asked, which you will be. This could be because you have other dinner alternatives up your sleeve (any alternative will need to be better than what’s on the stove) or you suggest going out to eat. If you're going for the second option, it cannot be raining outside if your story is to be convincing. If it is raining outside, and you have a big pot of (let's say) red sauce bubbling on the stove inside, you’ll be making more sauce tomorrow.

2. Make sure you have all parts of your springform before you start to bake.

This is important because you cannot make a substitute springform by placing the spring bit within a quiche dish. This does not work even if in your moment of just-made-the-cake-dough-where-shall-I-put-it-desperation it looks like it will. It won't and you will have batter escaping from under the spring. If your quiche dish is too shallow, you will also have batter on the floor. If your neighbour is an 80-year old bachelor, he will probably not be able to help you out with a spare springform. This means you’ll have to telephone the nearest grocery store to check whether they have one, but naturally this will be a national (even if unofficial) day of baking such as Valentines Day, so the store will be sold out and even if they’re not, the girl who picked up the phone will think you’re lazy and maybe even a little undeserving because you left your baking too late, it’s not as if you didn’t know it was Valentines Day, and so even if there were springforms left, she wouldn’t tell you. By the time you’ve accepted that you will have to go to the bigger, further-away store rather than explain (in Dutch) you’re not cooking for Valentines Day even though it’s Valentines Day, it will probably be snowing. And it probably won’t be snowing nice fat flakes like in a Christmas movie, but a mix of freezing rain and slush. 

3. Make sure you remove all plastic parts of newly bought springform before you continue to bake.

Make sure, too, that you do this before you pour in the batter you’d already poured into the quiche-dish construction because you’re going to have to pour it back out in order to release the spring to remove the tag like I had to. 

4. Make sure you’ve had your coffee before you start.

Don’t fall for the ‘I’ll just hop out of bed, pop the cake into the oven and read the weekend paper on the couch with my coffee as I wait for it to bake’ ideal or it might be 15:23:46 until you actually get to drink one by which time you’ll have been out in the rain/snow (unless you've complied with point 2) and to the supermarket with cake batter all over your face because of course you were licking bits off the counter when it started overflowing.

5. Make sure you have an oven rack.

Or at least an oven-suitable something that you can use to create some height and put your cake on.

6. Make sure you clean away all the baking stuff, pots and pans you used.

Or the surprise will be blown and your going out into the snow with no coffee, unnecessary. 

This is a true story. 

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