Wednesday, March 11, 2009

3/11/09 The Baker

I performed an unnatural act tonight -- I went to a mall. That's because I performed a very natural act, procrastinating, and don't have time to order gift baskets in time for the open house this weekend.

I stopped by Williams-Sonoma to pick up a second mini-muffin tin, as I use mine a lot, and I often need a second tin. While checking out, the friendly salesman said cheerfully and slightly apologetically, "While you're here, do you need some paper liners that fit in this tin?" I shook my head, not bothering to look up. "Or maybe some cupcake mix?"

I raised my eyes and looked at him squarely. "M i x?" He hesitated, unsure if my flat tone came from ignorance or contempt, and started to say, "yeah, like if you want to m a k e...." My wilting gaze cut him off, he stopped, then burst out laughing, understanding. "OH! A scratch baker!"

And then we had a nice chat about the pros and cons of various bakeware. It was fun, and sort of validating. I like bringing reality to theory and when I have a riveted, fascinated audience to hear my compulsively detailed pro-con lists. He'd never heard of a very basic flaw in their ultra-adorable train pan, for instance (a pan I love): most consumers of train cakes are kids. But if you put frosting on a train cake, it covers all the detail. And kids want frosting on cakes!

I really have come a long way as a baker recently, in no small part because of our remodel project. I've baked something different, and often something I've never made before, every Thursday night to bring to the construction crew on Fridays. This was partly fueled by a personal challenge to use every scrap of fruit that entered my house, though don't pat me on the back for not being wasteful -- this meant many energy-sapping hours of a 350-degree oven. It was a great outlet to experiment and try new methods and recipes. I wouldn't dream of serving the guys Duncan Hines on Fridays.

So now, I stash a few mixes for emergencies, but if I'm in a time crunch, I'll buy a whole cake. If I'm really baking, then what's the point of a mix? And now I can rescue twice as much fruit, and waste twice as much energy, flour and sugar, in my two ovens.


p.s. Our front porch, almost done -- still some tape on the door, the doorbell button is missing, and those horrible code-passing flood lights on the walls need to be replaced after final inspection....but I just love this. This is one of the best views of the house. We hadn't planned to replace the old painted porch floor, but we had to, and I'm so glad.

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