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.