As many of you might imagine, I often have something baking in the oven at my house. For me, baking has become as natural as breathing… and almost as life-sustaining. As I child, I jumped at the chance to bake, and eventually became good at it. Sure, I’ve had my share of baking mishaps – my first pie falling in the oven, my first loaf of bread that was so heavy it could have served as a doorstop, but that is to be expected. When we are learning a new skill, mistakes come with the territory. But when we make a mistake, we learn a lesson… and if we pay attention, we rarely do the same thing again.
When I was a young teen, my Mom told me that she would show me how to make Cinnamon Swirl Bread which was a big deal because my Mom really didn’t like to bake. Together, we made a batch of bread dough and let it rise. Once risen, my Mom took the dough and rolled it out into a rectangular shape and brushed it with melted butter. Then she did something that seemed strange to me at the time. She took the cinnamon-sugar mixture and placed it all one of the long sides of the rectangle, and then she rolled up the dough. “But how does the cinnamon swirl happen?” I asked her, confused. “That happens in the oven” my Mom explained as we put the loaves into their pans for the second rise. It seemed magical to me and I couldn’t wait to see the finished loaves.
Well, now I know that’s not how it works. When we took the loaves out of the oven, they looked beautiful, and smelled even better. When we could wait no longer, we cut into the bread and discovered a “log” of cinnamon sugar in the center of each loaf. There was no magic; my Mom had just misunderstood the directions. Once we discovered the mistake, we laughed until we cried (and ate up every last crumb!) I’m glad that my Mom made that mistake because in doing so she gave me the permission to do so as well. What a gift!
Which reminds me of a conversation I had while visiting a friend recently. Catherine was a nurse in the Navy, worked as an emergency room nurse, and is currently a nursing supervisor. As I helped her clean up after dinner, she mentioned to me that she had been inspired by my year of pies and said that she could never do what I had done. I was embarrassed because what she does everyday seems so much more inspiring. Then I asked Catherine if she liked to bake. She told me that because baking is such an exact science, she didn’t really do much baking. Wow. Perhaps because she deals with life and death issues all the time, she doesn’t want to add one more “science” to her load at the end of the day. Who could take that kind of pressure? In her job, if Catherine makes a mistake, someone could die, whereas in mine, we just end up with something that’s imperfect (at best) or headed to the trash (at worst). Luckily for me, my job is much more forgiving.
Apple Blueberry Pie
As is usual, I made a few pies this last week. One was sent to a woman I’ve never met. She read this blog and told me a bit about herself and the challenges she was facing and asked to be considered for a chocolate pie, and because I could, I sent her one. It was the same Brownie Pie recipe that I’ve mailed to others (and the only “pie” that I feel comfortable mailing) but sending it off to this “new” friend felt like I was offering a glimmer of hope for better times.
The other pie that I made this week went to a friend who recently had a fire in her home. When we spoke, she told me about all the things that have happened in her life in the last few years. Just listening, I felt tired for her and so I asked her, can I bake you a pie? “Oh you’re sweet” she said, “but you don’t have to do that.” I know, but that’s part of the fun… I don’t have to do this “pie baking stuff”… I want to. It makes me happy to do it, and I’ve noticed that the happiness doesn’t end with me; it tends to spread. And that is a good thing.
Before I go, I wanted to mention that I also baked a few other treats this week because on January 24, I will be teaching a gluten-free baking class at the Ashland Food Coop and I wanted to test my recipes for clarity, timing, etc. I’m very excited to have the opportunity to share my love of baking with others and I want to thank Mary Shaw at the coop for encouraging me to do this.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
“We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It’s our privilege and adventure to discover our own special light.” Mary Dunbar