January 3, 2017

My Year of Baking Dangerously

Day One:

My New Year’s resolution is to become the 2017 Time Person of the Year. Either that, or to bake every day for a year. I’m still on the fence about which one to go with.

After the election, while I was stuck at the precise intersection of horrified, disillusioned, and numb, a friend sent us a gift subscription to The Great British Baking Show. Frankly, she should have known better, but she’s a newer friend, so she’s never seen me go off the deep end about food before. She wasn’t there for the hot chocolate phase, the muffin phase, the chocolate chip cookie phase, or the unfortunate quinoa phase, the last of which my children now use as a benchmark every time I hit a new obsession. As in: “This pie thing is way better than your quinoa phase.”

Needless to say, within a few episodes, our family was hooked on The Great British Baking Show, and I was in my self-saucing pudding phase. Also, my twelve-year-old son had begun saying things like, “The flavor is good, but it’s a bit underbaked, so the texture is off.”

So, here I am, ready to bake every day for a year, because 2016 sucked donkey balls and around my house we believe that butter makes everything better.

The rules thus far:

  • Bake every day that I’m in town, except if I’m returning from being out of town later than 3 PM.
  • Any dessert is acceptable, even if it’s not technically baked. Vanilla pudding counts. Also chocolate pudding. Because pudding is made of awesome.
  • Savory baking also counts, but this is where it gets fuzzy. Lasagna doesn’t seem to count while cheese soufflé does. Don’t ask me to tease out why that is.
  • It can be my recipe or someone else’s.
  • Baking with kids, friends, or strangers is even better.

The rules are a work in progress. Feel free to throw out a couple of suggestions.

Jeff keeps complaining that this particular New Year’s resolution is at odds with his resolution to cut back on desserts. This is pretty much the story of our lives together.

At forty-three years old, after teaching myself to cook from a standing start in college, I’ve come to realize that creative energy in the kitchen seems to correspond to bursts in writing. I’m deeply bound up in food for reasons best explored with a therapist. Or by writing about it and posting it to the Internet. Either works.

I spent the afternoon trying to find the perfect site on which to write about my Year of Baking Not So Dangerously. And then, tonight, I realized: I have a blog. Maybe someone will pick the story up, maybe not. But I can write about it here.

I’m totally going to revitalize the old digs, y’all.

Yesterday was disqualified under Rule #1, so today was Day One. Kickoff Day. We had brunch guests, which normally would be easy, because brunch is made for baking. However, two of the guests are gluten-free, one of them is also dairy-free, and I wasn’t entirely sure about the other two. I don’t know how to cook without milk, cheese, butter, or cream. Frequently all four. And ours is the House that Gluten Built.

I decided to make my second attempt at angel food cake, as there’s no dairy in that and minimal gluten. We won’t discuss what happened the first time. Suffice it to say I definitely didn’t get my egg whites stiff enough last time. But that was back in the Year That Shall Not Be Named. But this time, baby, here in 2017, they were stiff. I can talk like this now that I’m writing about egg whites. I nailed that angel food cake, baby. I can talk like that, too.

Mark Bittman’s recipe calls for nine egg whites. Nine. Which left me with nine egg yolks. To use up some of the leftover yolks, I went for a grapefruit curd. I made my husband squeeze and zest the grapefruit. He thought he was finished until I set him to stirring it on the stovetop, which Bittman explains must be done “almost constantly.” Since it’s hard to tell where the line between “almost constantly” and just plain “constantly” falls, Jeff stirred it the entire time. Ten minutes in, he informed me he was getting bored.

Finally, I made a potato and leek frittata, which was completely dairy- and gluten-free but still tasted good. Jeff picked out all the leeks. Because they’re green.

Tomorrow – probably pudding. Because I still have five egg yolks left to use up.

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