Saturday, November 3, 2007

Baking Day

Today was baking day. Thing 2 and I managed four dozen chocolate chip cookies, a dozen blueberry muffins, and a loaf of light wheat bread before lunch.

The chocolate chip cookies were Toll House ones (no nuts). Usually I do the pan variety, since it's so much faster, but today Thing 2 gave me his best pathetic Puss-in-Boots-in-Shrek II look and asked "Could we please make circle cookies?" Apparently they just don't taste the same. Which, come to think of it, they don't. "Circle" cookies are much crisper. I guess I prefer chewy.

During baking time, I got to explain all the reasons why you do this and that. Like why you use frozen blueberries, and not thawed (they don't explode as much). Or why you have to be careful how much you stir the batter (the muffins won't rise as much). And what the difference is between baking powder and baking soda.

I never got any of that when I was a kid. Almost everything came from a boxed mix. Which was fine. My mom isn't into baking from scratch; I am. So every chance I get, I like to learn about the reasons or the chemistry behind cooking techniques or recipes.

I taught myself how to make bread. It's been a long journey. One of the first batches I made, I made a quick run to the store while it was baking. When I returned home, I found out that the thermostat in the oven went wacko, and the bread was horribly burned. Black, really. I tossed the smouldering rocks on the back porch and forgot about them overnight. The next morning, I looked out the door to find a squirrel's rear end poking out of the loaf. He ate his way into the center, and was cleaning it out from the inside. A most bizarre sight to be sure.

The Bread Baker's Apprentice was my epiphany. I finally understood what dough should feel like. I had been adding way too much flour, and was rewarded with very dense bread. Although I have never achieved "windowpane", my breads are now light and tasty. And aside from cracking the window on the oven while trying to spray water on a baking loaf, I haven't had any disasters. Sourdough is my next hurdle.

I'm looking forward to my next baking day with Thing 2. He shows the same curiosity about food preparation that I did when I was his age. I hope I am showing him a no-fear, box-free path to baking.


Zee said...

Hi! I came over from NaBloPoMo. I'm challenging myself to comment on as many blogs as possible this month as well as post.

I never baked with my mom... She was always a dinner cooker - never any breads or cookies or anything. So I taught myself to bake and to this day, it is one of my favorite things to do. I'm glad you're teaching your son the ins and outs!

Happy Posting!

Daisy said...

I'll have to look for the book. I love to bake, and bread is one thing on my "to-do" list that I haven't tried yet. Muffins are a favorite. I just found a new cranberry muffin recipe; it'll probably get posted later this week.

dawn said...

Okay, now I am probably worrying you, but I had to comment here too. I have made bread before, but can't eat much of it, so I refrain from baking it. May do it soon though, so I can try it in my new wood cook stove oven. Yep, I am a bit of a hill billy. But I am nice.

Nerevised said...

Yum. I'm almost hungry and inspired enough to go and buy myself a muffin tray. I haven't baked much since I was a kid, but I really appreciate it when other people do.

Kristi said...

Hi everyone! Nice to "see" some new faces!

zee - what a great challenge! I've taught myself many things, including how to knit. Trial and error, that's me.

daisy - check out my Modern Market. You can find the book there. Cranberry muffins sound wonderful. I'm looking forward to the recipe.

dawn - I love cooking with a wood stove. I've managed corn bread with it, so I suppose making regular bread wouldn't be much different. I know of someone who cooks Thanksgiving turkey in one, and it's an old, circa 1950s model.

Been to Edmonton once. Roadtripped to the mall with some friends. Unfortunately, I didn't see much else of the city.

nerevised - make sure you get a good, heavy-duty muffin pan. It makes a huge difference in how your muffins come out.