Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wrapping it up

Pineapple upside-down pumpkin gingerbread

If you haven't guessed yet, I am quite enamored with this month's issue of "Bon Appetit."

I used to bake on a regular basis.* My junior year of college, I would get up each Saturday morning and bake baguettes. And there was usually some sort of pie or cake around as well. I think my roommates loved me.

In law school it usually happened on Thursday. I started to notice that I ended up throwing out part of the baked goods each week because I just couldn't eat it all fast enough. So I gave some to a friend. And then someone else learned of the gift. So I added another person to the list. By the end of that school year, I was making deliveries every Thursday evening to about seven or eight friends on my way out to the delis. Because everyone went to the delis on Thursday night.

Then I dropped out of law school and moved back to California. Once I got my first real job and my own apartment, I resumed baking. Not on a regular schedule but when the mood hit. And I would bring whatever I had baked into the office. Coworkers would exclaim, "I can't believe you went home and baked after working all day!" But remember? It relaxes me. Plus for the first time ever, I didn't need to jockey with anyone else for use of the kitchen.

That's where I'd like to be. At that place in my mind where I can come home after working all day and suddenly feel like baking. And actually have the energy. Because I must admit that if I hadn't mentioned the possibility of the cake to coworkers, I may not have actually baked it. One day, though, it will be different. Hopefully soon. In the meantime, I'm off to plan this weekend's menu.

* A confession. I keep reading about how baking is an exact science. Here's the thing. I stopped being real regular with my measurements many years ago. Yes, my grandmother taught me about leveling stuff off and all that. She was also big on sifting. I almost never do either these days. But I also have a pretty good eye for measurements. Little extra flour in that first cup? Well, a little less in the next then.

Even worse is when I make dumplings. Look at the chicken in the pot. Then dump enough flour in a bowl to go with said chicken. Eyeball the flour and add some baking powder based upon how much flour is in the bowl...

What I'm trying to tell y'all is to not be afraid of baking. Sure you may have some disasters along the way -- like any time I try to use a box cake mix -- but pretty soon you'll get the hang of it and know where the margins of error lie.

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