Friday, January 21

A hankering for baking

I have lately had quite the hankering for baking: I can't seem to stop! Yesterday, it was gingerbread cookies. The other day it was scones and cupcakes. Today, it is brownies. There is something so comforting about spending time in the kitchen and being warmed by freshly baked goods and a hot oven, especially in the winter time. And it is always so rewarding to share these baked goods with others. It is as though homemade baked goods embody the ultimate warmth: that is, love. At least personally, when I bake, I love.

This is not to say that baking is a breeze; in fact, baking is quite a challenge for me.

I have reflected greatly on this, and I predict that such challenge sources from my reluctancy to follow a recipe as is. While with cooking you can alter nearly any ingredient to suit your personal preferences, baking is quite the different story. Because I do not fully understand the chemistry behind baking, often times my alterations in baking yield a less-than-desirable final product (cookies that taste like biscuits, scones that look like pancakes, etc.).

However, it seems that by embracing rather than avoiding this challenge, I am becoming a stronger baker. I am continuously noticing subtle things, like how certain flours affect the final baked good, or what happens when you use butter as opposed to shortening. Baking forces me to slow down and pay attention to little details that I might otherwise miss. Though I truly appreciate the spontaneity that is permissible in cooking, the particular attention to details that is required for baking is a test to myself; a test of my patience. Fortunately, the rewards to such attention are often great.

As I continue to practice baking, I find myself becoming more aware of how ingredients work together; this is really quite a beautiful thing to witness. I can only hope that one day I will have such a relationship with the ingredients in my pantry, that I will be able to create my own baking recipes. Until then, I feel comfortable following in the footsteps of those who have forged before me, to understand these relationships in a way that has allowed them to create beautiful baking recipes. Perhaps you will join in the journey that is baking?

These brownies are a wonderful place to start, if you have not already started baking. Though there are a few steps, they are quite simple, and not too particular. In fact, this recipe, originally from the Spice House, has been modified with a few ingredients of my own!
Brownies for chocolate lovers
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 1/4 cups of butter
1/2 cup of cocoa powder
3 eggs, slightly beaten
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups of white flour
1/8 teaspoon of baking soda
A pinch of salt
1 generous dash of cinnamon (This is my little addition)
A little chocolate bar, chopped (This too!) 

1. In a medium sized sauce pan, heat the sugar and butter over medium heat until the butter is fully melted and the sugar begins to dissolve. Add the cocoa powder and remove from heat. Stir to reduce the temperature until the eggs can be added. Add the eggs and vanilla extract.

2. In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add this mixture to the wet mix, in the saucepan. Mix until this is thoroughly mixed. Stir in chocolate

3. Butter and flour-coat a 9 inch by 9 inch baking pan. Pour your batter in, and bake for 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees, or until a knife inserted into the center is clean when removed.
Happy baking!

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