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Ugly on the outside

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a cakey person.  Nor am I a fluffy sweet snack person. So when the urge to bake racked my head, heart and right-hand pinky today, I decided some wholesome breakfast loaf bakery was in order.  I had my heart set on a spicy, moist carrot and zucchini loaf; one robust enough to be sliced and shoved in my unusually exuberant toaster and spread with butter of a morning.  Carried away by the wholesomeness of the undertaking, I decided my loaf would be too noble and healthful to be contained in glyphs on a page, and trusted to the culinary dwarves of healthy miracles to guide my spoon. That’s right, peeps: flying without a recipe. Dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, ground ginger/cinnamon/cardamom/nutmeg, shredded carrot and zucchini, a little lime zest; wet ingredients: eggs, yoghurt, melted butter, milk, lime juice.  Mix the dry, mix the wet, mix them together.  Add more milk and flour as needed to get the balance right, and then bake for around 45 minutes in a loaf tin. I could almost feel the healthy glow as I smelled it cooking.  The scent of spices as it cooled on the bench was awesome.

A couple of small observations.  The first: how ugly is this thing?  This loaf came out gnarled, nobbly and beautifully browned.  As someone who considers the Giant Cuttlefish, the entire Nudibranch suborder of invertebrates and lichen among the most beautiful creatures on God’s green earth, I was thrilled. Behold its rough terrain! Tremble at the robustness of its brown crevice-and-bumpercule-riddled crust!

Like the thorny devil of the kitchen.

Love that stuff. A lot of the stuff I cook is hard to photograph because, frankly, it’s not that pretty. It’s robust, healthy, full of rich spice smells, but not pretty. I am deeply suspicious of the over-decorated, over-creamed, fluff-and-fondant school of cake decorating. I argue that the more decorated and flamboyant the exterior of a cake is, the less you are going to enjoy eating it.


So it was with smug pride that I revelled in this nobular beast; its flecks of green and orange from the vegetables, its firm yet yielding crust, its soft and moist interior.  Wholesome and rustic: what more could I hope for?

Which brings me to my second observation.  Remember how I mentioned abandoning the printed recipe and throwing my cookery into the hands of the culinary dwarves of healthy miracles?  Up above that first picture, I listed the ingredients to which the dwarves guided my hands. Go on, take another look. Take an extra close look at the dry ingredients.  See anything missing? Yeah…sugar. While I had wanted a healthful loaf, I also wanted a pleasantly-flavoured one. Without sugar, this baby was little more than a bland brick that wouldn’t have looked out of place trying to camouflage in the leaf litter. Smelled fantastic, but really didn’t bring much zip to the lip, if you see what I’m saying.

To top it off, my cake-doneness-testing-knife lied to me: the second slice I cut off revealed a mooshy under-cooked core that I was not at all pleased to see.  Ugly on the outside; ugly on the inside.  Dud!

(I admit to leaving it on the bench for the rest of the afternoon, mostly on the off chance that I would somehow grow to love it: but sadly it was not to be.)

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