I’ve always been a decent cook and I enjoy it. Baking however, is another matter.
First, let me clarify. I see cooking as preparing and using some form of heat to create something edible and hopefully tasty to serve as an entree or side dish. (I was told that gobbling down half of a cheesecake for lunch doesn’t count as an entree.) Cooking to me is easy because, for the most part, its amorphous and not rigidly structured…a pinch of this, a dash of that. While I might need to use the oven to bake something, its not Baking.
To me, Baking is the manufacturing of cakes, cookies, pies and such from scratch, using a recipe that calls for exact ingredient measurements. In my mind, Baking equals desserts. And I’m an almost complete and utter failure as a Baker.
My biscuits and cakes taste like flour, my cookies crumble, burn or never firm up, so you have to eat them with a spoon. The “easy” cheesecake I attempted tasted like lemon-flavored sand. And even though I know about my deficiency in the Baking arts, I still try.
I have managed to find two recipes that I can manage to bake that are edible. The first is Scottish Shortbread, which is supposed to be crumbly so I’m ahead of the curve on that one. The second is a milk chocolate brownie with a dark chocolate ganache topping.
The first time I tried the brownies was for my son’s sixth birthday. It falls right after school usually starts and he’s always been the first birthday of the school year. For his kindergarten birthday, I had bought cupcakes from the grocery store bakery. They went over well with the kids, but as each child’s birthday passed and I got the newsletters from his teacher, thanking so-and-so’s parents for the wonderful HOMEMADE such-and-such, I felt so inadequate. I vowed I would reign supreme in the birthday treat category the next year.
The first problem I ran into was that in his new class, there was a child with a severe tree nut/peanut allergy. I didn’t want my Death by Chocolate brownies to be that literal and end up traumatizing a whole classroom. I scratched the walnuts off the ingredient list and then spent over an hour in the baking isle to find the chocolates I needed that were stamped with “made in a factory without nuts” seal of approval.
Now prepared with all my non-lethal ingredients and ready to bake, I realized, maybe I should have read the rest of the recipe a little closer. “Melt the milk chocolate in a double boiler.” Hmm. Not only did I not have a double boiler, I didn’t have anything to even use in that manner. Back out to Walmart I go to get a metal bowl to use as a double boiler.
Another hour later, I’m back home and melting chocolate, stirring flour and sugar, and imagining how I’d wear my hair when they crowned me Queen of the Homeroom Moms. Right up to the point where I went to cut the finished brownies into squares and realized I wouldn’t have enough for the whole class, the teacher and her teacher’s aide. I was in the car, ready to race back to the grocery store when I remembered my sketchy history with Baking. A taste-test would be wise. After one bite, it took all my self-control not sink to the floor, pan in hand and gobble them all up. I had BAKED…and it was delicious!
Two-trips to the grocery store, one trip to Walmart, $75.00 worth of ingredients (not including the bowl and all the gas it took driving back and forth) was worth the pride I had when I handed the brownie pans to his teacher the next morning. I reassured her that all the ingredients were safe for the Allergy Kid and went home to wait impatiently for a report from my son as to how much everyone loved them.
Seven hours later he answers my eager, “Did they like your brownies?” with “They were fun, can I go play Xbox?” The word rolled around in my head for a while, not really registering that “fun” wasn’t a word that should apply to brownies. I got distracted when he reminded me to sign his agenda and that there was a note from his teacher. My hopes soared at the praise I was sure to receive about how gloriously decadent they were. I ripped into her note in anticipation and read the following,
“Thank you for the tasty birthday brownies. The children had a lovely time drawing pictures with the gooey topping on their desks, the table and each other. It would probably be best to send something a little less messy next time.”
Apparently the incident was memorable because for next two school years, the teachers called me beforehand, offering to make birthday brownies themselves.
**I had already started a post about my Cooking vs. Baking inadequacy, but I’d like to thank Rachel of The Tao of Poop for her Cupcake Wars post that reminded me of my brownie adventure.