Thursday, 12 December 2013

For The Love of Baking

I love baking.

It's a love that has been fostered in me by my mother, through years of rolling cookie dough, giggling as we cut out shapes, watching magic happen underneath the beater blades and best of all, staring through the oven door as whatever I made takes shape.

Christmas cookies!
My mother always encouraged us to bake. She taught us the basics, how to follow a recipe and how to measure ingredients properly. She also taught us more complicated things, like how to cut butter into pie crust, what certain ingredients do to a final product, and what all the phrases of more complicated recipes mean. She also let us run wild. I don't know how many cookies I made that were just horrible because I changed something, experimented or messed up. I can't count how many things I've burnt or served under-cooked. But most important of all, my mother taught us to keep trying. Just because a recipe comes out terrible the first time doesn't mean it's all bad. Give it another go. Follow it more carefully or try changing something.

When I was a teenager, my mother started decorating cakes. I never got into it myself, but I'd watch her do it all and I'd give her advice on what would make a cake better. She has jokingly called me her cake consultant, and she worries when she has to make a major cake and I can't be there to advise. I'm no good at cake decorating myself, but I'm sure if I took one of her classes, I'd at least know what I was doing wrong.

I can't think of a time that I used baking as therapy, but I can think of many times that life just got out of my control, so I baked something. More often though, I bake something to share. I make desserts because I want other people to eat them. I've always signed up for dessert at potlucks, and if I have people coming over (and I have a decent amount of time beforehand), I'm sure to have something warm and delicious for them to eat. I'm not a stress-baker, but I should be.

Last night, I decided to make a cake. I did use a box mix, admittedly. I used to hate box mixes, but I find with GF baking, it makes things so much easier. There's a lot less possible contamination and a lot less guesswork with flour. (That's the one thing I was unsure about with GF baking - flour. I know how to use wheat flour. I know how gluten works, what it does, what the different kinds of flour [cake flour, bleached flour, whole wheat flour] do and how to use each of them. But rice flour? Coconut flour? Xanthum gum! Oh my goodness! I had to learn how to bake all over again!) Anyways. I made a cake from a box. Because I felt like it. I had nowhere to take a cake, no one to give it to, and no time to decorate it well. But by George, I wanted to bake a cake!

There is something so therapeutic about dumping ingredients in a bowl and watching them mix. You can just breathe as the mess turns into smooth batter. You can just feel the stress melting away as you pour smooth batter from a bowl into a pan. And as the pan slides into the oven, everything seems alright with the world. Then when the timer dings and you pull out a piping hot pan, it just seems so magical that your smooth, liquid batter turned into a fluffy cake.

I'll admit that more complicated recipes are less therapeutic, but still. Even the more complicated ones give me allotted time to stop and breathe. Somewhere between grabbing ingredients, rushing to be done one thing before the other thing is done, beating, creaming, rolling, kneading, and whipping, I relax.

I love baking and need to do it more.

But guess what! It's Christmas time. The most socially acceptable time to bake a ridiculous amount of things and give them to people. Yay Christmas baking! ;)

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