Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2013: My Year of Baking

I'm setting out to learn how to bake.  Even though I've been making cakes and pies and cookies and tarts and muffins and still other goodies for the past 15 years, I can't say that I really know how to bake.  Sure, my attempts have met with some success.  I've perfected a carrot cake that had one friend suggesting we get into the cake-selling business together.  My chocolate olive oil cupcakes are always a hit at parties.  And my signature dessert once drew a comparison to the chocolate layer cake at the ever-popular Brooklyn dessert spot The Chocolate Room.

But even so, I've simply been following instructions.  (Well, for the most part anyway.  One early disastrous mistake, in high school, was mistaking salt for sugar.  I can assure you I've since become far more diligent and focused.) 

This year, I want to go beyond reading recipes to understanding them.  I want to comprehend the hows and the whys of baking: everything from basic formulas to fundamental techniques to the chemical reactions that occur during the baking process.  I want to understand what contributes to a dessert's flavor and texture; and when and how I can omit, add, or substitute an ingredient or step.  

And why all this?  I want to understand the basics of baking so that I can be free to create desserts of my own: fanciful, unique, things that speak about me.

It'll be hard work for sure.  A lot of reading, practicing, experimenting, mistakes (although hopefully not the same ones repeated) and redos; frustrations mixed in with disappointments.  I'm up for the challenge.  On the flip side, when I'm home there's nowhere I'd rather be than in the kitchen.  So I might as well spend even more time in my sanctuary.  Besides, I expect it to be fun -- a lot of fun.  Maybe I'll even encounter some unexpected epiphanies along the way.  Not least of all, I'm looking forward to the gratifying smells and tastes of the treats I'll be pulling out of the oven throughout the year.

I'm excited about this journey I'm embarking on.  And with that, I name 2013 "My Year of Baking."

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