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.

I Dream of Pie Tin Pancakes

Pie tin pancakes.

That was the words that popped into my head when my cat head-butted me awake at 3:08 this morning.

Half awake, I rolled over and said, “I just had a dream about pie tin pancakes.”

“So, a cake?” My husband said, with his eyes closed. Apparently, the cat had stopped by to say hello to my husband in his brutish manner moments before crossing over to my side of the bed to offer me the same salutation.

“No, a pie tin. Like a large pancake. Baked.” I whispered. My interrupted REM was beckoning me back.

“A pie cake.” He said and rolled over.

Exactly.

Normally, my nocturnal ideas evaporate by the time I put my feet on the floor and my glasses on my face. But not today.

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The idea of a giant baked pancake lingered long after I got up and shuffled out to the kitchen for my first cup of coffee. ¬†As I worked out the details of how long it would bake and at what temperature in my mind, I couldn’t ignore the growing sense of excitement.

I like the idea of creating something new using just a bit of flour, some baking powder, an egg, some melted butter, and a well-greased pan. Success wasn’t guaranteed, but failure didn’t seem that important.

Baking is an exercise in hope. It is mixing together ingredients, popping it in the oven and hoping that it turns out. Putting faith in your skills and anticipating success.

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That was the magic I created in the kitchen as I crafted a pancake in a pie tin (well, a glass one for I wasn’t sure how it would come out). I was so engrossed in the process, I barely noticed the presence of my husband.

“That’s what I love about you,” he said, interrupting my concentration.

“That I make you breakfast?”

“That you dream about something and get up and make it,” he smiled.

Well, who can resist pie tin pancakes?

By the way, they turned out pretty awesome. It was a giant pancake that could be sliced up and sauced up with orange syrup and blueberries.

Sometimes our dreams can be sweet — and doable.

Note: Pie tin pancakes are easy to do. Make your favourite pancake recipe. Grease a pie tin with a bit of butter. Pour the batter in the tin. Bake in the oven for 17 minutes at 375 degrees. Bam. Breakfast is done.

Wait! I Can Make That: Taco Pizza

Two words. Taco Pizza.

Those were the two favorite words in high school. Taco Pizza was what we ordered when working late on the yearbook. It was what my parents ordered as a special treat when they didn’t feel like cooking. It was what I craved when I would visit during my college years.

Taco Pizza was the specialty of the local pizza joint, Pizza Barn, in my hometown of Gardnerville, Nevada. The small town outside of Carson City, at that time, didn’t have Dominos or Little Caesars. As far as pizza options on Friday night went, parents of hungry kids could pick up a frozen pie or make a call to Pizza Barn.

I haven’t been to Gardnerville in years since my family relocated and only recently heard that the restaurant has served it’s final slice.

Heading into playoffs weekend, I decided it was time to recreate my favourite pie for the epic showdowns between the best of the best of AFC and NFC.

When it comes to making my favourite foods that I get elsewhere, I’m always a bit leary. How can it possibly live up to my teenage memories? Will it taint my memories, forever changing the fond recollections? Or . . . my biggest fear . . . I will nail the recipe and then it becomes a staple in my current life.

I decided to risk it. I made the taco pizza as I remembered it . . . with a few changes due to my current diet.

Since those carefree days of my youth, I have become lactose intolerant and I don’t eat a lot of meat (vegan-ish). I replaced hamburger meat with braised tofu crumbles. Or I was going to. Turns out my tofu had turned so my Taco Pizza base was just refried beans with enchilada sauce.

I used lactose-free cheese blend and not my usual vegan, a happy medium for both my husband and I.

The recipe is easy. Spread out some dough (fresh made, picked up from the bakery or made from the box). Add the base layers which is beans, browned & seasoned hamburger or meat alternative. Add some cheese and pop in the oven.

What makes taco pizza so amazing is the “keep hot, hot and the cold, cold” method. Where one normally cooks all the toppings with the pizza, Taco Pizza’s siren allure comes from the cold toppings. Like a regular taco, you add the tomatoes, jalapenos, lettuce and avocado after the bubbly, cheesy base emerges from the oven.

After the first bite, I realized my greatest fear had come true. I can make the childhood pizza I loved in my own home. Anytime I want. And as an adult, there is no one here to say “we can’t have Taco Pizza for dinner every night.”