Getting Baked
February 26, 2010

People, I have been baking. I KNOW! Not only have I had all the ingredients on hand and actually used them successfully, but I now need to go out and get more supplies! This is unprecedented. Not since my culinary school days have I gone through so much flour, butter, and eggs.

Now, I haven't been making genoise, buttercreams, or pastry (puff or otherwise), but I don't care. I'VE BEEN BAKING! In the past week, I've made brownies, blueberry muffins, chocolate chip-cinnamon muffins, and chocolate chip-cinnamon cookies. Humble and homey seems to be driving me right now. I think I'm starting easy to build up my courage before moving on to more complicated things. (To give you an idea: cupcakes sound incredibly complicated to me right now.)

So what the hell is going on with me? I get why I make marinara and roast cauliflower and soak borlottis and sautÚ sole. That's what I do. It's what I've always done. What is it about becoming a mom that is making me ache to bake? It's sort of freaking me out. I mean, the bug's not even eating solids, and I'm all, "MUST BAKE NOW!" Catherine's mom had a theory on facebook: "When [the bug] is older, he will remember the aromas coming from the kitchen. They'll make him think of home."

That's it! I'm filling his head with visions of sugarplums as he sleeps so sweetly in the next room. I'm marinating him in the smell of fresh-baked goods in order to instill him with some sort of Pavlovian response. Either that or, being such a plan-ahead girl, I'm in training for all those bake sales I hear so much about.

Bake sales secretly scare me, quite frankly. Sitcoms are always showing put-upon moms being told at 9PM at night that little Hubert signed her up to bake 12 dozen cupcakes -- frosted in the school colors, of course -- for the next morning's bake sale.

Instead of going to a bakery and buying the baked goods like any normal person, the mom bakes them, because that's what sitcoms moms do. (Or, if they do go out and buy the baked goods and try to pass them off as their own, they almost always get outed by some loud, smarty-pants kid, and we all learn a valuable lesson about honesty and not pushing sitcom mom past her limits.)

I'm also toying with the idea of baking a cake for the bug's first birthday. Right now, I'm thinking, "Ooh, a layer cake with frosting and piped decorations!" But in a few months that will probably morph to, "How about a nice muffin?"

I don't bake the way I cook. I cook by feel and instinct. Sometimes I follow recipes, like when I'm working on something I've never made before, but usually I just throw stuff together and I rarely measure.

I can't do that with baking. I follow recipes religiously and I respect them way too much to mess with them. However, this time, I did do one tiny thing to alter the chocolate chip cookie recipe on the Ghirardelli package. I added 1 tablespoon of cinnamon to the dry ingredients, and the result blew my mind. (In a good, chocolately, addictive way.)

Here's the original recipe from Ghirardelli:

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie

11 1/2 ounce(s) 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
2 1/4 cup(s) unsifted flour
1 teaspoon(s) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon(s) teaspoon salt
1 cup(s) (2 sticks) butter
3/4 cup(s) sugar
3/4 cup(s) packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoon(s) vanilla
1 cup(s) chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 375░F. Stir flour with baking soda and salt; set aside. In large mixer bowl, cream butter with sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Gradually blend dry mixture into creamed mixture. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Drop 1 tablespoon of dough per cookie onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake at 375║F for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to lock the wax paper away and look up bread recipes.

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