Welcome to Cookie-Land! It's not the kitchen in the hollow of a tree in the forest but lately, I have been doing a lot of baking. I cannot seem to help myself. Cookies, breads, pies, cakes unending. I took some banana bread to a neighborhood gathering last night that went over well. In fact, one person even referred to it as baking magic. That's a nice compliment. So since I seem to be in that frame of mind anyway, this is where that "magic" happens.
Actually the above photo was from when the kitchen was first finished. There is almost nothing in the cabinets or on the counter tops. It looks like nobody lives there! I assure you, we not only live here, I make a big mess here!
For me, baking starts in my head. I get the urge to make something. Step two takes me to the pantry. What do I have to make something with? I usually try to avoid a last minute grocery store run just to satisfy a spontaneous baking urge.
So, scanning the shelves (Not the cleaning supplies box!) I see that I have everything I need to make chocolate chip cookies! Yum! And fortunately that is one of two recipes that I seem to be able to keep permanently stuck in my mind. I never have to look that one up. And if you care to know, the other one is for biscuits. Everything else, I gotta have the recipe right in front of me.
Now once I'm in the pantry, I turn right and there it is, my best baking buddy, my baking station. My what? You see, my mixer is huge. It's big enough to make double batches which is wonderful. But it's also Very Heavy! And lifting and hauling that thing around, while I can do it, is not my favourite thing. Our builder guy, without ever once hearing me complain about how heavy and awkward the mixer is, or even seeing the mixer (everything at the point was still packed away) suggested the solution. And Tim, without me ever having to whine even once about it, bought the coolest thing ever! I present to you, my rolling baking station!
How it works is, the rolling cart with the mixer on top, lives in the pantry. It fits perfectly below those shelves. Then when I want to make something, which is all of the time, I roll it out to the end of the kitchen island and plug the mixer in. I never, EVER, have to lift that beast again! Plus I have all sorts of storage in the cart for baking needs. I lovelovelove this! Brilliant solution.
Anyway, next up, I gather my ingredients. I like to have everything I need already out and handy before I begin. I think I learned this watching cooking shows on television. I don't usually go as far as having everything already premeasured and in a zillion little bowls, but I like having it out on the counter. For several reasons. First, now I am positive that I have everything I need. I hate being halfway through preparing a gingerbread cake only to find that I do not have enough molasses to finish! ARGH! Also, as I use each ingredient, I put it away so if I get interrupted part way through, I know exactly where I am in the recipe.
Like most people, I am a big multi-tasker, so it's not at all unusual for me to be on the phone while I bake, or doing laundry at the same time as I'm making cookies or all three at once! Putting things away as I've used them helps to keep me on track. And believe me, I can use all the help I can get. This is what the kitchen counter looks like just before the cookies are begun.
This is the point at which things start getting messy. Once flour and sugar are involved, it is a guarantee that I'm going to have to clean thoroughly when I'm done. But that's okay. It's part and parcel of the project. I walk in knowing that is going to happen.
If I'm not on the phone while I'm baking, I'm probably singing. I never know what song is going to pop into my head, or series of songs. Sometimes I'll do the entire score of a musical. Other times it's a sonata and that would be more of a humming thing. Maybe it'll be a whistling kind of song. But there will be music involved. The day I made these cookies (it was yesterday so it's easy to remember) it was all Beatles songs. I don't know why. But I started with "Yesterday" and by the time I got to "Yellow Submarine" there was a line of cookie sheets on the counter filled with lovely little balls of chocolate chip cookies ready to be popped into the oven.
This is the point where I have to admit that I do have one very favourite, absolutely essential kitchen baking tool. And I have already used up one down here and I've put in many culinary miles on the second one. It's probably because I do multi-task that I rely so heavily on this. You can tease me all you like but I refuse to bake without it. It is my handy dandy kitchen timer!
Back in Colorado, I used the timer function on the microwave oven. It was plenty loud and simple to use, sufficient to the task. But the timer on the microwave in this kitchen is too quiet. If I'm not standing right next to it, I cannot hear it. The timer on the actual stove is a mystery to me. I have tried repeatedly to figure out how to use it and gave up. If it's that hard to figure out, it's not user-friendly, or at least not Sam -friendly and so, no thank you. I love the oven, but it's timer leaves me cold. So it's back to old school timer-ing. And in fact, this works so much better for me since it's portable. If I need to do something outside for 10 minutes while something bakes, I can take the timer with me! Handy! Sometimes the old ways, really are the best ways.
As a side-note, just because something is the latest, greatest, newest way of doing something, doesn't mean it's the only way, or necessarily the best way! Which also explains why I hand write my grocery lists and keep a paper calendar still instead of figuring out how to do it on my phone or my laptop which "some people" mentioning no names but his initials are Tim Humphreys keep insisting is easier. If it truly was easier for me, I would probably do it the new way. Clearly, for me, the old way is easier for me. So There.
But I digress. Back to the cookies. While they were baking, I was able to fold and put away a bunch of laundry, load the dishwasher, clean up the unholy mess I made of the kitchen and read the newspaper. Nice! And still the result looked like this:
And yeah sure, they look okay. But the last, but absolutely crucial step in cookie making is quality control. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it. I have volunteered myself for this mission. It's a noble sacrifice that I make on behalf of my family and friends. It's a three part process. First the bite. Then the savour. Then the resultant decision. It's pass/fail. No actual grade involved. And you need to know that I am a tough critic.
Whew! Looks like we passed. I will not be feeding this batch to the disposer today. Thanks for coming along for the ride on my cookie adventure today. As you can see, no actual magic involved. Just happy baking.
I wish you a cookie-rific weekend!
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.