There are a lot of possible stressors in the kitchen, but I strongly feel that the kitchen is a place where stress should be relieved not added. If I let baking stress me out, I would certainly be in quite a predicament at the moment (launched a bit of a baking business in order to raise money for an upcoming mission trip). So, here are some personal tips if you are finding yourself conditioned to dread the combination of cookie dough and cookie sheet.
Yes, I do have and use measuring cups… occasionally and as strong suggestions. I believe strongly in the power of estimation and (to be honest) I enjoy the uncertainty and risk involved in “eye-balling it,” as my mother used to say.
I hope this is an indicator of a future of full kitchens: I like to bake while talking, singing, and laughing. I’ve also been known to have the occasional intellectual discussion over a healthy lump of cookie dough and I highly suggest it. No philosophical argument will come to fists when you’ve got something as sweet as cookies in the oven (with gooey fingers)! If I’m not talking on skype, hanging out with friends, then I’m singing my favorite sounds and some you can get for free: noisetrade, briterevolution, designers.mx, just to name a few.
stray drips, splats, and the occasional cookie on the floor
Everything while you are baking is EDIBLE, so don’t forget you can clean up/taste test all in one enjoyable finger swipe! While baking and talking to my mom on skype about this stress-free post, she says, “don’t forget about the flotsam and jetsam…” to which I reply, “I have no idea what language you are speaking right now, mom.” After a half second blank stare, she says, “Well, I don’t really know what it is either….(giggles) but I’ll look it up for you.” We finally figure out it’s originally a nautical term used to describe floating debris or items thrown overboard. Apparently, my mom thinks this also means things spilled in the kitchen. I’ll take it, mom.
burnt edges Here’s the deal, folks: you will inevitably get a wee bit past the recipe-prescribed “golden edges” every once in awhile. It’s just one of those kitchen facts of life. So, be “easy” as my Canadian friend Heather would say. Just go with the flow and, trust me, there is always somebody who genuinely prefers cookies the way you’ve just taken them out of the oven. Burnt, brown, or between gooey and barely baked… they will get eaten and enjoyed!
clean up As much as I want to say clean up can be skipped entirely – that’s actually a way for you to smother all the silly cheer of freshly baked goods. My method? Scrub a dish or two while the cookies are in the oven. As I use bowls, spoons, etc., I collect things in one bowl and put it in the sink to soak so when I do get to it everything is in a clean-ready state. I might also use already floured, sugared, and soda-ed utensils over again in a different recipe if I’ve got many things happening at once (regular occurrence). Lastly… keep the conversation or music going through cleaning. I certainly don’t like to be standing at the sink alone, scrubbing out the last bits of tasty cookie remains from a pan. No need to resent the cookies for making a mess! Even clean up can be social!
Okay – so there are 5 things. I’m learning here and I’m hoping to store some of these lessons for the days I can manage my own kitchen. If baking is as stress-free as I just made it sound, I might want to think about a new career!
I think I could almost say I am studying baking as a second language right now. I won’t say it’s easy, but I will say it is very rewarding (even if only in the “kitchen smells good all the time” sense). Anyway, I thought I might share with you some of the things I’m learning in BSL. I hope, if you ever choose to take on this delicious course, you’ll take note of this extremely important advice so it doesn’t become painfully obvious that you’ve enrolled in said course.
Do NOT brew a fresh pot of coffee while the cookies are in the oven
Make sure you begin the cookie process just after you’ve filled your tummy with good things, not before
While the dough is rising in the oven, throw some green beans on the stove – fresh, crispy green beans with salt, pepper, and a bit of butter. Then MUNCH on those instead of the “broken cookies”
Hide the milk!!
Entice your friends into the kitchen with the job of “taste-tester” and then TRUST them!
Remind yourself with each batch or finished cake that these items are going to be sold – and that finger-licking isn’t necessarily professional.
Intentionally plan a workout following your baking session so you can’t over-indulge… you know you will regret it later.
(This is my favorite) Allow yourself to lick the cake pan, once the cake is safely on its serving plate. There’s no point in completely denying yourself the good stuff!
That’s all I got for now. Any other suggestions from fellow bakers-in-distress?
I intentionally didn’t start out my post yesterday with an apology because I wanted to get right into the strangeness of my gym encounter. Today, I want to post an ENORMOUS slideshow to give you an idea of what the last two weeks have been full of: PRESENCE.
Awhile ago, I posted a video from Advent Conspiracy that challenges people to give more meaningful gifts of time and hand-crafted gifts rather than breaking the bank. Here it is again, if you missed it:
I haven’t quite felt up to pounding out life at the keyboard because there’s been a LOT of presence-making! I finally got my handmade gifts off to the States, via someone’s suitcase and now I’m working on finishing up the ones I still need to deliver here. There’s A LOT of baking going on, to be sure. It could be granola, sugar cut-out cookies, pumpkin cake, or a number of other things… but there’s ALWAYS something to do in the kitchen this time of year.
Well, enjoy this slideshow. I hope it lets you peek in and kind of sit with me as I go about being present this Christmas.
For these bars, I added to the bottom crust, because many bakers suggested a smaller pan. I needed the quantity, so I just increased some of the proportions. Also, I used whole wheat flour and added peanut butter to the second layer. I skipped the chocolate on top because they were already very sweet. It was a HIT!
For these cookies, I didn’t really follow a recipe. I had chocolate chips, peanut butter, milk, oatmeal, vanilla, and spices on hand, so I made my own combination and we’ll see how they go over tomorrow morning.
Just in case you are wondering, I’m planning a big hoorah for Friday that will involve my favorite ingredient for this time of year – PUMPKIN!