Baking: Not Always a Bowl of Cherries

If you are anything like me, and I’m not suggesting you are, you know that no matter what you do, sometimes things go right and sometimes they go wrong. The thing is, from the get go you never know exactly how it’s all going to end up. Hopefully for all of us, we have more “rights” than “wrongs”, “goods” than “bads”, but it’s my experience that the best laid plans, as they say, can most certainly go awry. Of course no one starts out thinking that whatever it is they are doing or making might turn out to be a disaster. Most of us embark on our projects with a modicum of optimism and at least some confidence that things will turn out a-ok. It’s just that it ain’t always so. Even when you do your best to follow all of the instructions. 

Remember that first time you bought furniture from Ikea? It all looked so simple while you were in the store. Mostly because it had already been assembled by someone other than you. As you carefully scrutinized each and every angle of what you thought could finally be the culmination of your endless search for that perfect wall unit, one that could hold all of your tchotchkes, not to mention your brand new flat screen TV, you noted that the joints fit exactly as they should, the drawers opened and closed like butter, and the doors actually met in the middle. No gaps. Get that sucker home and it’s a horse of a completely different colour. I mean who ever heard of instructions with no words? Does the screw go in from the front or the back? And which screw exactly do you use? The one that’s a millimetre shorter? Or two millimetres longer? And what’s with the red and blue thingamajigs? The instructions are black and white! As you peruse your hard work, hoping that the tiny beads of sweat on your forehead don’t stain the wood, if that’s what you can call it, you realize the shelves aren’t quite as level as you’d like and there’s that dastardly gap between the doors. And even though you did the best you could, and followed all of the instructions, such as they were, it just didn’t work out exactly as you had planned because, as we all know, things don’t always go the way we would like. Sometimes it just is what it is. (Remind me. Did someone else say that lately?) 

Take my latest passion. Baking. For someone like me, who is not really a baker, instructions are my life raft. You know by now that without a recipe I’m dead in the water. I follow my baking instructions to a tee. Not only that. I check out all of the comments in an effort to make sure that everything turned out hunky dory for all of the people I have never, and likely never will meet. Not 5 stars? You won’t find it in my oven. I need all the help I can get. Admittedly, on very rare occasions, I do add a splash of lemon, especially if blueberries are involved, or a little red fife flour for a bit of panache. But for the very most part I leave well enough alone and keep my fingers crossed that “god willing and the creek don’t rise” things will turn out as they should. Unfortunately, as with all things in life, baking is not always a bowl of cherries.  Not so much for me but rather for the innocents who partake in my never before tasted goodies. To date I’d estimate I have about an 80% approval rating, mostly because people have a propensity towards politeness. Nonetheless, at the outset of this blog I committed to sharing with you all of my baking experiences so it’s only fair that you hear about the “ugly” along with the good and the bad. Please note: Unlike the current prez of the US of A I absolve the recipe providers of any fault and take full responsibility for these failures. My poor results should not deter you from trying these out for yourself.

 Rhubarb Almond Chevron Cake

Let me just say that I should have known better.
The Recipe: Prep Time: Undisclosed and I think I know why. Cook time: 30 minutes
Me: Prep Time: 1 hour and 23 minutes. Cook time: 42 minutes Total time: 2 hours and 5 minutes. Seems to me that nothing you are going to eat for dessert should take that long!
Favourite thing about this recipe: The picture of her cake
Least favourite thing about this recipe: Having to come to grips with the fact that I have a complete lack of spatial intelligence
Lesson learned: Friends will always be polite but when your husband’s first reaction is “it’s a little dry” you gotta know who’s telling you the truth.

Zucchini Carrot Muffins

I call these my “salty muffins” which I suppose says it all.
The Recipe: Prep time: 15 minutes; Cook time: 22 minutes Total:37 minutes
Me: Prep time: 44 minutes not including the shredding; Cook time: 24 minutes Total: 66 minutes
Favourite thing about this recipe: More veggies, less guilt
Least favourite thing about this recipe: I really don’t like grating carrots by hand
Lesson Learned: You know you have a problem when you crunch down on a grain of salt. When even your polite friends admit they’re a little salty, they’re really salty.
My suggestion (not that I’m a baker): Substitute table salt for kosher salt in this one. And tread lightly.

Carrot Zucchini Walnut Loaf: Stuck in a Rut? So What!

It has occurred to me lately that I might be in a bit of a rut. Even before this pandemic. Now I realize that those of you who only read this blog and not my “other” one don’t know all that much about me. So let me start by telling you that, while I don’t consider myself a creature of habit, I do have a few. Like breakfast. I eat yogurt for breakfast. Have been doing so for longer than I can remember. But it’s not like I eat the same yogurt everyday. I like lots of different flavours. And fruit. Sometimes I add fruit. Lately I’ve taken to making parfaits. Yogurt, fruit, a little granola, a bit of chia and flax, some honey. The whole kit and caboodle. I’m certainly aware there are other options for the first meal of the day, but I’m happy with my choice. So not really a rut. Just my choice. There’s a difference.

I suppose my movie watching has rut potential. Sure. I have a slight bias towards the Romcom. At least that’s apparently what Netflix thinks since it seems to me they have whittled down my recommendations to one category now. I admit. I’ve watched more than my share of Hallmark fluff. But why not? The thing is, once you’ve seen one you’ve really seen them all. I know that. I know there’s going to be a trip from the big city to the small hometown where the old flame still resides. That at some point the new guy will pale in comparison with the old one. That there will be a missed kiss before the sparks really fly which makes the realization that there is “no place like home” absolutely indisputable. I know all of that which means I can get a whole lot of other things done while keeping one eye on the telly.  More of a timesaver and less of a rut if you ask me. 

And it’s not because we have coffee everyday at 2:00 pm that makes me feel as though I could be in a rut. Seems to me it’s only natural to want a bit of a break in the afternoon. Since I rarely eat lunch (that’s rarely not never) I’m usually a little peckish right around mid-afternoon so a granola bar (I have several varieties) and a cuppa hits the spot. And now, due to the pandemic, we’ve actually experienced a seismic shift (and I use that term reluctantly living here on the west coast), moving our afternoon repast from the local cafe to our very own backyard. Where, if I do say so myself, no two days are the same. One day it’s a hummingbird bathing in the fountain, the next it’s a crow. I suppose due to the caffeine involvement this one could be considered a habit. But with all that wildlife action, certainly not a rut. 

But here’s where I must concede. As I continue to bake and to write this baking blog it has occurred to me that I might be drifting into rut territory. You may not know this, and how would you, but I have baked way more than I have blogged mostly because, and this should go without saying, it’s much easier to bake than to blog. Besides, with baking I get to eat the results. A quick review of my endeavours over these past few months however, revealed a distinct pattern. It would seem that if I’m not baking muffins I’m baking loaves. Different muffins and different loaves, but no cookies, no cakes, no croissant, pies, cinnamon buns, bagels or pretty much anything else. Just muffins and loaves. Honestly, I have never in my entire life baked a cake which should not really be a surprise since, as you know, I never claimed to be a baker. I suppose I could surmise there’s some value in developing expertise in a particular genre. And I’m prepared to go with that excuse for my singularity. But I would like to try my hand at something else. So here’s my promise. For my next blog, or perhaps the one after that, I will bake something other than a loaf or muffins. For no other reason than to make sure I don’t fall completely into this rut. 

In the meantime, my latest kick at the can. A zucchini carrot walnut loaf mostly because I had zucchinis and carrots that were either going to end up as a side dish or desert. I do have one admission to make. As you know, I normally follow recipes to the tee but I made a couple of changes to this one. Nothing drastic of course. First I went out on a limb and used my 8×4 loaf pan mostly because I like it more than my larger one but also because the author did suggest that the loaf is not very tall and personally, I like a taller loaf myself. Turned out not to be too tall in the smaller pan either. Second, I heeded the recipes’ advice and “watched my bread, not the clock” taking it out slightly before the stated 52-58 minutes. I must say that caused me some distress but it looked done and many, many jabs with a toothpick convinced me it was the right thing to do. Finally, and this was quite a leap for me, I substituted some of the all-purpose flour with Red Fife. Despite all of these changes, it was delish. And now that I think about it, maybe I’m not in a rut after all. And if I am, well so what!

Carrot Zucchini Bread

The Recipe: Prep time: 10 minutes; Cook time: 58 minutes
Additional time (what’s that?) 22 minutes; Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Me: Prep time: 43 minutes; Cook time: 50 minutes Total time: 1 hour and 37 minutes
Favourite thing about this recipe: Great way to get your daily veggie requirement
Least Favourite thing about this recipe: Grating carrots by hand
Lesson learned: Zucchini is way easier to grate by hand than carrots. Also, a little Red Fife never hurt anyone.

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