Making My Own Birthday Cake

This morning, I baked my own birthday cake. 

There would have been a time when I may have thought of one making their own cake as . . . Sad. Perhaps the pre-COVID me. Perhaps the younger version of me. Today, I found it empowering. 

There’s something special about baking a cake for a loved one to show how much they mean to you or how much you appreciate them. A homemade token to say, “well done” or “awesome.”

How often do we just bake for ourselves to celebrate ourselves? Perhaps learning to appreciate the smaller gestures, and ourselves, is  one of those hidden benefits of COVID.  The toned down celebration, the focusing on what matters.

This morning, I made an orange walnut cake with an orange spice glaze. I believe it might have been something that Hyacinth “Bucket” would have served at one of her tea functions in “Keeping Up Appearances.”

But this wasn’t made for appearances or the Jones’ next door. It was a simple cake created for someone I love and appreciate. Myself.

All I can say is that I look forward to slicing into this bit of created heaven.

The Perfection in Imperfect Cooking

Today, I made six awesome cinnamon rolls.

It was a recipe I had made multiple times before as part of our Friday Treats morning tradition. But this batch was different. The texture. The feel.

They were perfectly imperfect.

The biggest change I made in this batch was how I rolled out the dough. In fact, I didn’t roll out the dough at all. I used my hands to stretch, pull and flatten out the cinnamon dough instead of the rolling pin. It was lumpy and more of a quad-rangle than a rectangle.

I have learned that there is a magic in the less than perfect execution in the kitchen. In fact, it is the imperfections that offer the biggest punch of flavour.

About a year ago, I purchased a cookbook for Indian cuisine. The ingredients for many of the recipes include whole seeds or pods. They aren’t chopped or ground, but added whole into the pan. When you eat the dishes, each bite is a bit different than the initial one. Different seeds and pods combine to offer a different flavour experience with every bite.

Awesome. It’s like every bite says, “Here, try this. You are going to love this.” And I do. We all do. We want to be surprised, curious.

In order to get to awesome, I have to let go of easy. Of consistency. Of perfection.

Letting go of perfection allows for a unique culinary experience. We watch shows that center around creating the perfect dish with random ingredients. We scroll through drool-worthy images on our devices. We are obsessed with perfection when the magic is often in the less than perfect dishes.

In fact, the true magic of a great meal is in the company.

It is because of this experience that I stopped using a press and begun roughly chopping garlic for marinara or soups. I use a knife and not the microplane for adding a dash of ginger. I roll out the dough for cinnamon rolls with my hands.

It’s not perfect. And that is what makes it so.

Hope (Or Why I love Baking)

Mix. Stir. Bake. Cool. Eat.

It’s a basic recipe for everything and anything that comes out of the oven. But it’s not the basics that have the world turning their ovens up to 350 degrees and reaching for the sourdough starter.

It is hope. The secret ingredient in every creation that comes out of our kitchen.

I always knew that focusing on the cups and teaspoons helped my anxious mind. It gave me something to focus on; almost meditative in the flow and gentle whirl of the mixing machine. It’s calming to an oddly, ironic way to hit a snag or missing ingredient and tap into my troubleshooting self to find a workaround.

But the real magic is when I take my creation, in its raw state, and put it in the oven. Whether it is muffins, bagels, or homemade pizza, there is hope. Hope that the kitchen will soon smell amazing. Hope that all of the acids, leaveners, and spices play nice. Hope that what I have measured, stirred, and whipped will be fantastically yummy.

I think that is why so many people have turned to the Internet for how-to videos and recipe blogs. It is more than they have time and a bag of flour on their hands. They need to feel like they are creating something to share with others . . . hope.

Keep baking. Keep creating. Keep your hope rising.

PS: Here are just a few pictures from our latest kitchen endeavours!

Friday Treats Continue Through COVID-19 Lockdown

During this self-isolation period, we have continued the Friday Treats tradition in our house.

Every Friday morning, I rise early to make donuts, monkey bread, mini-loaves or scones as a way of singling the end to another week. It’s a sweet start to our Friday and reminds us to slow down to the speed of life going into the weekend.

While our days, in general, have slowed down due to COVID-19 self-isolation and I am currently not doing farmers’ markets, the tradition continues. I think for a sense of normalcy but also it gives us something to look forward to each week.

So, here are a few of our favourite Friday treats:

Vegan Monkey Bread

This is a quick recipe that can be done the morning of with just a bit of rising time.
https://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-recipe/cinnamon-sugar-monkey-bread/

Cinnamon Sugar Vegan Monkey Bread

Coffee Cake Donuts

These donuts are amazing and my husband’s favourite baked treat. Don’t have a donut pan? You can make one with tin-foil or turn them into muffins. https://bakerbynature.com/coffee-cake-donuts-with-vanilla-glaze/

Homemade Pop Tarts

Yes. We make our own pop tarts and our own jam. Here is a simple recipe for this amazing treat!
https://www.canadianliving.com/food/baking-and-desserts/recipe/frosted-strawberry-pastry-tarts

Happy Friday Treats!

A Beautiful Mess – Creativity Chaos

It isn’t until the mini loaf pan with lemon raspberry batter in the individual slots and the oven closes that I feel my intense focus shift to one of hope.

I pause to savour this moment. The moment where my creativity has been challenged and now it is up to a bit of heat to finish the process. The moment where my energy shifts to anticipation.

It is also the moment where the true depth of my creative chaos becomes evident. When the stack of measuring cups, shells of lemon rinds and egg dribble breaks through my muse and into my consciousness.

“Wow, what a beautiful mess.” I think to myself.

My kitchen, to me, is like a painter’s studio. It’s where I thrive, creative, exhaust myself and recharge. It’s the room I crave after an intense day at work. When deadlines loom or my mind is numb from the amount of output during my work day, I come home and throw myself into making a noodle bowl or black bean taquitos with homemade queso.

My measuring spoons are my paint brushes. My mixer a canvas.

Standing in my kitchen, with a mix of hope and anticipation, I feel the calm after the storm. I look forward to the clean-up as the last phase of the process and to take my mind off the waiting for the timer to signal my creation is done.

There is a calming to the chaos.

And I can’t wait for the next storm.