Cookies, brownies, cakes, and pies…oh my.
Within the past five years, I have found baking to be a soothing (and sweet!) hobby. I blame my foray into the “triad of bad” – what I call the trifecta of flour, sugar, and butter – on Pinterest. I was an enthusiastic “Pinja” that kept getting served image after image of cookies and brownies. The pictures that were worth a thousand calories slowly wore me down and got added to a Pinterest board.
Then one Sunday afternoon, I decided to grab cookie-making ingredients and just…bake.
And bake I did. Chocolate chips cookies. S'mores bars. White chocolate chip cookies with dried cranberries topped with vanilla bean-infused sea salt. Red Velvet Whoopie Pies. I quickly started looking forward to all of my #SundayBakingProjects.
Jared was more than happy to try ALL THE THINGS. But a few months in, even though he loved all of the creations…he begged me to start bringing some of the goods to the office so he wouldn't need to buy clothing in a bigger size.
I am so glad he did. As much as I enjoy the process of making the sweet treats, I get even more pleasure in sharing the goods with friends, co-workers, and family. The “mm's” and “ahh's” make me smile and reach for AP flour container often, I get a kick out of taking a sizeable Snap-lock container of my #SundayBakingProject wares to the office to share.
But one of the best things about baking is how it made me even closer to my future father-in-law, Jim. Jim is also a baker. He is a man that acts with careful precision. Every recipe, tool, and resource is read, reviewed and researched with his meticulous eye and adroit mind. He is passionate about the science, the why's, the how's just as much as he is by the rewards of a good bake. It's fun to learn and bake along with him. Many of the tips and tricks you will see below, I've learned from Jim (always delivered with a twinkle in his eye and a baking gadget he uses and wants me to have. And it is always PERFECT!)
Bake and your whole world bakes (or eats) with you. Whether it is help in the kitchen or sharing a platter of cookies or brownies, sweet treats bring the people in my life together. Do you feel the same way about your baking or cooking?
Read the recipe all the way through first. I've been figuratively burned numerous times by not reading it all the way through. There was a fabulous cookie I wanted to make to “butter up” a colleague. My plan was foiled as the dough needed to spend 24 hours in the fridge before getting popped into the oven. Trust me. Read the recipe all the way to make sure you have everything needed including time!
Mise en place will set you up for success. This French term means “everything in its place”. Similar to reading a recipe through, mise en place has saved my cooking and baking a$$ on numerous occasions. Have you ever started to make a dish and realized halfway through that you are missing something? Yeah, me too. And it sucks. Mise en place will keep you from “premature cooking/baking evacuation”.
Weight vs. Volume = Size Doesn't Matter. Jim showed me a Weight vs. Volume baking video years ago. I nodded my head up and down as I watched because it just made sense. If you measure by weight, you have a constant which is critical to baking. If you measure by volume, the actual weight of the ingredient could be skewed. Once Jim saw that I “got it”, he presented me with a kitchen scale. It's a kitchen tool that I used for every baking project.
Check out the weight vs. volume video (grab your popcorn and soda…it's a little long) here
The right tools make all the difference. My kitchen scale was the perfect gift for my baking. Over the years, I have slowly accrued or received items to help me be a rock star baker – KitchenAid mixer, Sil-Pats, high-quality baking pans from Williams-Sonoma and more. I think next on my list will be a candy thermometer.
Better ingredients yield better results. In a typical month, I bake anywhere from 2 to 4 times and share the goods with friends, family, and co-workers. I want to “wow” people with my tasty treats, so I go for higher end vanilla, chocolate chips and all-natural flavorings (extracts such a peppermint or orange). I do find that spending a little more on premium items does make a difference.
Who knew that Pinterest would turn me into a “shaker and baker”? I've learned a lot over the years yet still have so many things to learn and try. Maybe one of these days I will get over my “yeast-phobia” and start making bread and…mmm…cinnamon buns.
Do you like to bake? Or do you prefer the eating part? Are there any recipes that you think I should try? Please let me know in the comments below,
Work Hard. Play Hard. Drink Chard. And I've Never Baked With Lard.