9 June 2017

Less talked about

The storm started with a flawless sky.

– It will pour soon, take the raincoat, pronounced Anthony, eyes closed. The weather service on the phone showed it would storm, he continued, his head part of the pillow.

– Really? I open the balcony door to check. But it looks alright, clear and quiet, I say incredulously.

– They even graded it code yellow, a warning.

– A good storm starts with a warning, I say, half-jokingly, and look through the layers of winter jackets and trench coats. But I have to go, can't see the raincoat here, and it doesn't look like any storm out there, I add, grab my bicycle keys from the kitchen table. pull a ripe peach from the fruit bowl for breakfast later (wonder if it's actually going to be enough for breakfast; no, not really), and walk out. I shut the door closed behind me on my tiptoes, always holding back a little before the lock latch clicks. I'm stealth like that; no one hears when I come and when I go.

I leave home when the only light available is the flickering yellow of traffic signals. (I've always wondered why the red and green go after midnight; life on the road never ceases.) Away from the traffic lights and a crossroad, I move past a lengthy stretch of rose bushes, the soft sweet smell. I inhale noisily and it really gets into my head. I feel a subtle tickle along my spine and up my neck and down into my legs, like a buzz you get from a cigarette.

Stifled air keeps grating against my bare arms as I pedal. I look up; the eastern part of the sky starts to loose its stars, becomes mellowed, starts to lighten, comes down from a dark high.

The storm continues with a loud pop, no, two. One from a window pried ajar by the wind, the other from an overturned trash bin outside. I wash my hands clean from the chocolate batter, rub them dry against my apron and rush out to collect the scattered garbage bags on the pavement. In the thin dawn light I can see the storm now. I mean, I can see the low thunderclouds, they look like sand dunes. It's mesmerizing to see a white and blue jet flying into one, a man-made mirage. By the time I'm done gathering the egg shells that spilt from a loosely tied trash bag, the back of my chef's jacket is soaked. The temperatures have been in the upper twenties lately, no difference between the inside and out- on the skin, so the wet cotton feels good, cooling.

Back inside, I check the weather on my phone: heavy wind and showers for the next hour, code yellow. I'm about to go and fix the open window, but then I get a better idea. I'm going to have the peach now and watch the rainwater form ellipses on the window sill. Half-way into my breakfast, I realize, with a pang in my stomach, I don't have much else for seconds. I was right, a peach wasn't going to be enough. I try to distract myself from feeling the disappointment and think about how many of the commuters will pour onto the streets any moment now, see drenched roads and sidewalks and wonder if it's rained in the night. I'm still hungry but I have seen the dune fields in the sky, so.

In a week there will be another code yellow. It will knock off the trees, disrupt the traffic, make the news. It will hold on for over a day and everyone will know of it – the first summer storm of the year. To me it will smell like damp cow shit in the pre-dawn air – I prefer storms less talked about. But whatever, I'll pack a bigger breakfast at least.

Olive Oil and White Wine Cake
Makes one 24-cm (9-icnh) loaf cake

I wrote about this cake before. In November of two thousand and nine, to be exact. Lately I've found myself making it with a renewed zeal, and in doing so there have appeared a few tricks that make this cake even better, which is a long-ish sentence to simply say I'd like to talk about it again here. (Hi, Maud!)

First, in place of neutral vegetable oil I now use extra-virgin olive oil. It lends a level of sophistication to the cake, adds to it a pleasant savouriness. It shouldn't be anything too crazy, the olive oil. Something fruity would be best.

Second, regarding white wine, it should be dry and fragrant (and not too expensive). A Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio will blend in well with olive oil and you'd still be able to taste the wine after baking. For a little more wine flavour, because why not, I pour a few tablespoon of white wine over the cake top when it's out of the oven.

I don't remember if I emphasized before how good and unusual this cake is, so let me do it again now. It's a simple recipe, but it yields a way more complex outcome, with the most moist crumb out there. I'm pretty sure of that. You probably wouldn't know what to expect after the first contact. There is a possibility you'd be wondering if this is a savoury business or sweet. I'd say it's both as far as a cake could allow, a mix of olive oil and white wine in a sweet batter. A delectable happy thing that won't easily bore you out.

3 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon table salt
300 g light brown sugar
180 ml extra-virgin olive oil
180 ml white wine, plus more for after baking (see above)
300 g unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease a 24-cm loaf pan.

Separate the eggs. Add the salt to the egg white.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand-held mxer), beat the egg yolks together with the sugar at high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Lower the speed and mix in the olive oil until incorporated; then add the white wine and mix until fully blended.

Combine the flour and baking powder together, add to the white wine mixture. Mix well.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold them into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake until golden brown, about 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and pour a few more tablespoon of the white wine over the top. Let cool completely before taking out of the pan.

Wrapped in cling film, it will keep wondrously moist and fragrant for up to a week.

Goes great, like it should, with Earl Grey tea or black coffee, or plain, storms or no storms.