what is this charred and glistening beastie?
do not be afraid. it is a fresh-out-of-the-oven torta di mela which the kid and i whipped up in our slightly dysfunctional kitchen a few sundays ago.
a backstory: packing up the house in sydney earlier this year, i discovered that i had two electric hand mixers: one, which i’d been using regularly, and one which i unearthed from the back of a deep kitchen cupboard, that i’d forgotten all about. this forgotten mixer had been entombed with a box of attachments — a stick blender! a mini food processor! — and in a fit of why haven’t i been using this one instead? i walked old faithful up the street and gifted it to my friend on the corner.
and then we moved to melbourne, and one day i tried to cream softened butter for a batch of biscuits, and the mixer’s spindly little arms, spinning so merrily in the air, immediately ground to a halt when confronted with the soft yellow clumps. i was mostly inclined to not continue with the biscuitry, but these were for the kid to bring into class the next day for a classmate’s farewell do. so i grabbed a wooden spoon and went at it. people in ye olden days used to do this all the time, didn’t they?
i wore the blisters halfway into the week. and in the end, only six biscuits out of the entire batch were eaten by the kids (someone else had brought a bowlful of nerds, and those turned out to be the biggest hit, alongside the potato chips. pah, kids.)
but i was willing to give it the benefit of doubt: maybe the butter hadn’t softened quite enough for a domestic handheld mixer. even my metal whisk had had a hard time. however, some weeks later, i tried the food processing attachment on what i’d hoped would be a salsa verde for dinner. the blades hit a parsley leaf in a puddle of olive oil, and stopped cold.
i took great pleasure in exorcising any ill feeling by bashing together the parsley, oil, garlic and anchovies with my trusty pestle-and-mortar, and we did eat copious amounts of delicious salsa verde that evening. but also, i started visualising how good a pistachio green kitchenaid would look on my benchtop. later in the night, i accidentally dropped the errant mixer on the floor while putting it away, and i didn’t feel a shred of remorse.
but kitchenaids take a while to materialise (i’m thinking a birthday present to myself in a couple of months), and a few weeks ago, i came across a recipe for the apple cake in a freebie gourmet traveller cookbook. at the height of apple season, it called for a cheap kilo of granny smiths, and just under half a block of melted butter. it was all i needed to ignore the shortcomings of my inherited oven: the worn-away temperature markings, the peeled-off door seal, the heat escaping through the door which made any contact with the stainless steel exterior painful and burny…
the kid and i worked away for twice as long as the recipe indicated, building up layers of lightly spiced cake batter, toasted almonds, dried figs and sliced apples (she is quite the apple arranger, the kid, and also an expert breaker of eggs), and then, there was cake. it tasted wholesome, and almost healthsome and made us feel that we were still in charge of our appliances.
it made a good breakfast over the next few days, with a spoonful of thick cream and a cup of milky tea, eaten after the school run, nestled in my new $10 ikea cushions on the old couch in my sunny backyard.