I went on a bit of a baking craze a few weeks ago and ended up with some fantastic stuff. I also ate way too much of it but we ended up giving it to a bunch of people too: the woman who just had a baby in church, J’s younger brother for a sweet surprise at work, the neighbours just for being good neighbours.
Here’s the funny thing. I used to hate baking. No, that’s not even strong enough. I abhorred baking. I would make cookies once in a while out of the need to feed my family something homemade or live up to some notion that whenever I had company I better have some homemade cookies around. But I hated doing it.
Then last year I decided to bake bread. And I became addicted. Ok, I was already addicted to bread, but I became addicted to eating my own bread. To my daughter standing on her little chair next to me to dump in the ingredients and stir them. To kneading the dough and getting that “aha” moment when it’s been worked enough. To smelling that yeasty smell when it’s baking. To pulling it out of the oven misshapen and lumpy and lovely looking all at once. To tearing off that first piece and putting a bit of butter on it. To tasting that warm, buttery piece and knowing that all the work and waiting was so worth it. And so I kept on baking. Cookies, cakes, brownies, scones, baguettes, challah… I’ll try almost anything once. So here are a few of my triumphs from the last little while. All of the cookbooks mentioned were reviewed here.
This was my first time making scones. I’ve done biscuits before and scone a similar. This recipe came from Ricardo Larrivee’s Meals for Every Occasion. They were spectacular. I even had some crystallized sugar that I sprinkled on top and it gave them a real top-notch bakery kind of look. J loved that and ate more than his fair share. Scones also freeze well so if you make a bunch you have instant breakfast and snacks during the week. Pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds or better yet, the toaster oven (the microwave tends to make them soggy) for a minute and add a bit of butter. Yumo!
Plain and simple, the staple of French bread. Surprisingly easy to make but require two risings (is that how you say it?). I let these ones rise overnight in the fridge because I didn’t have time in the evening to wait again so they were a little dried out on the top when I scored and baked them. That’s why the slashes look so severe instead of nice and doughy. Nevertheless, they were delicious. Nothing beats a yummy baguette with something as simple as a bit of butter or a slather of jam or a piece of brie and prosciutto. This particular recipe is from Mireille Guilliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat but really baguettes are a basic bread recipe: water, yeast, salt, and flour.
A return to an old favourite. I’ve mentioned these ones a few times here. I love shaped and colourful sugar cookies. I have quite a collection of cookie cutters including Christmas (tree, bell, gingerbread boy, santa, wreath, snowflakes), spring (bunny, egg, chick, bird), forest animals (tree, moose, bear, squirrel, fox, duck) among others. These hearts were for Valentine’s Day. This particular recipe is from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess, but I also love the recipes in The Joy of Cooking. The bright icing is just icing sugar and water coloured with food colouring. I’m all for dramatic looks. For E’s 4th birthday I made a whole forest of animals in their “proper” colours (green and brown trees, red/orange foxes, yellow ducks, brown moose) and they were a big hit. I wish I had remembered to take a picture for y’all!
Anyone who knows me well knows that I adore cupcakes. To me they are the perfect little treat. They can be made in any flavour, topped with anything, have chunks of anything in them and be used for any occasion from kid’s birthdays to weddings to sleepovers to showers. This beautiful bunch is actually from last summer where I suddenly had this weird urge one day to bake several dozen cupcakes. The icing is just plain old Duncan Hines vanilla coloured with food colouring. The toppings included crystallized sugar, rock sugar, chocolate covered coffee beans, coloured sprinkles and shredded coconut. I actually can’t remember what recipe I used here, I may even have used boxed mixes that were on sale (which would explain the large quantity I baked that day). Cupcakes also make great snacks for kids at school or your husband at work because they’re so portable – pop it into a small container with a lid and there ya go. They freeze perfectly and are even fun to eat frozen in the summer. All in all, the ultimate in sweet treats.
What are your favourite things to bake (and eat)?