Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Why I Bake

Before my daughter was born I was not a baker. I'd make cookies occasionally and a cheesecake every few years but regular baking was not on my schedule. To be honest, I did not cook very much either. We ate out a lot and my ex-husband was (and still is) a great cook. I was the forager in the relationship, willing to drive to 4 different stores and markets to find just the right ingredients.

However, the first Christmas after my daughter was born, I bought a kitchen aid and got divorced. I'll leave it to you to ponder the connection between the two. Still, for the first few years after she was born I still didn't bake. To be honest, I rarely cooked anything more complicated than boiling water for pasta. The kitchen aid sat on the counter, shiny and blue, taunting me.

However, once my daughter got a little bit older we became regulars at the Saturday Ferry Building Farmers market. She actually learned to walk in the hall before it filled with stores and people. There she fell in love with the delights at Miette and the bakery's now former owner Caitlin. We had a routine, shop for food and if we made it through the market without trauma she could choose a treat from Miette. One week it would be a cupcake, one week taffy, one week a madeline. Somewhere, there are tourists with pictures of my young daughter eating an old-fashioned cupcake, frosting all over her delighted face. At three she decided that her first job would be working at a bakery.

So what is a mother to do? In my case, it was either time to use the kitchen aid or to go broke on sweets. We made muffins, cupcakes, bread and far too many chocolate chip cookies. Last winter was the winter of the grated carrots as we made muffin after muffin from the carrots in our mystery box. This year we had 3 different cookie baking playdates before Christmas including a cookie party. My advice? Royal icing in squeeze bottles. and shortbread rather than sugar cookies. Also, a bit of almond extract never hurts frosting.

The kitchen aid is now much less shiny but far better used. On my wish list is actually a second bowl so we can do even more. I could really make a good argument that my daughter has learned fractions from helping me bake. Of course, the projects we have done together are the parenting moments I'd like to think she remembers years from now. For the record, I am still scared of fondant and elaborate recipes.

Today, with school out for the week, my daughter has a friend over for a play date. As any parent knows, at 7, two are easier than one. My first thought? Homemade cinnamon raisin bread. So we stirred and mixed and marveled at the bubbling yeast. Impatiently we waited for the dough to rise, not once, but twice. Finally, the bread came out of the oven, mine to be covered with butter and homemade strawberry jam for the kids.

The reason I bake? "Can I have seconds Mama?," from my finicky daughter.

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