There might not be a Partridge

I’m the first to admit that there are some things I am and some things I am not. If you are reading this, you already know that I am not a baker. Which doesn’t mean I don’t like baking. Au contraire. I love baking. It’s just, as I have explained over many pages, that I don’t really know much about baking. Because of that, I simply take the authors of all those recipes I use at their word. I trust they know what, when and how stuff goes together and, with only a few exceptions, they have been mostly right. For this I am quite grateful as it lets me do pretty well what I don’t really know how to do at all. 

Here’s the thing. I may have mentioned this once or twice before in my other blog (yes blatant self-promotion. So sue me!) here I go again. I am also not a gardener. But unlike baking, I actually don’t really like gardening at all. And while, as an adult, I am willing to take some responsibility for my lack of interest and capabilities for this endeavour, I feel that some blame lies with my upbringing. You see, I grew up in the middle of the big city where the only plants that were planted, grass that was cut and trees that were pruned, was done by a small army of men (yes, I am that old) who drove up in their trucks once a week to descend upon a dozen or so unkempt lawns and flower beds and return them to their well manicured, not to mention rather uniform, splendour. There was no borrowing the neighbours lawn mower or pruning shears as there was nary a garage that housed any of those implements of destruction. Which is exactly what they would have become in the hands of us and those around us. Geraniums, petunias and cedars summed up the extent of my rather limited knowledge of the local flora. No admonitions here. Or judgements. Just telling it like it was for me. Enough said. I figure I’m somewhat absolved.

You can imagine then, it was with some wonder that one morning I watched my Dad come home carrying what appeared to be a rather large twig in a bucket. Intrigued, I followed him to the backyard where, after some careful consideration, he very methodically cleared a spot among the cedars and began to dig a hole, presumably to house the twig. To make a long story short, as I am sure you will appreciate, it turns out that, for whatever reason, my Dad had decided that what we needed in our backyard was a pear tree, so he planted one. A pear tree. I hate to admit this but, up until that very moment we all assumed that pears came from the grocers in little cardboard containers. Somehow (and I attribute this again to growing up in the big city) we never really made a connection between the fruit and the fruit’s origins. The fact that there might be orchards full of trees bearing pears seemed to have escaped us. Again, not judging or wanting to be judged. But here we were now with a pear tree right in our own backyard. Which was kind of nice.

It took a few years but eventually our little twig grew up to be quite a formidable size. Each year, as we watched our tree get bigger and taller, we were overcome with anticipation as we thought this might be the one. The year that one of those little white flowers would produce a piece of fruit. Alas, for many, many years it was not to be. Until one year when it was. A little white flower magically turned into a pear. Granted, there was only one, but each year after that the tree came through for us until we found ourselves asking people to come and relieve us of the fruits of our labours. Well my Dad’s labours really. 

Fast forward 50 years or thereabouts. When we moved into our new home on this Island of ours where unlike me, everyone is a gardener, we felt compelled to add a pear tree to our yard. For old times sake. And for my Dad. Little did I know that in order for one tree to bear fruit you need to plant two, which although doesn’t really explain how pears ever appeared on our little tree in the big city could possibly explain why it took so long to do so. Never one to question the experts (hence the recipe thing), we of course have two lovely pear trees in our yard. While it has taken some time, there might not be a partridge in our pear trees but this year there sure are a whole lot of pears. Which brings me to what I wanted to write about today. Pear recipes. Because for the past few weeks I have had no choice but to focus all my baking efforts on using up the abundance of pears our lovely little trees have provided. So if like me, you are not a baker or a gardener, or even if you are, and you too have a circumstance that has resulted in an overabundance of pears, you might want to try one or more of these. 

Yogurt Cake with Pear and Dark Chocolate

Recipe: Prep time: None given. Smart. I wouldn’t have come anywhere close.
Me: 47 minutes. That’s not so bad.
Favourite thing about this recipe: Chocolate. Did I really need to answer that question?
Least favourite thing about this recipe: Licking the grated chocolate off my fingers. Just kidding!
What I learned: Whether you call this a cake or a loaf (I’d call it a loaf) pears with chocolate are delish!

And here’s a few more.
Pear, date and walnut loaf
Pear and blueberry cobbler
Pear and Blueberry Muffins





Let’s Get this Bun in the Oven

Here’s how I see it. There are real bakers who love to bake. If you are lucky, one of them is your friend. These people know everything there is to know about baking. It’s like they were born in a kitchen, however unlikely that might be. Recipes? Who needs one! Measure? Not in these kitchens. They simply know what to do. For real bakers, baking is an art and a science. The most beautiful and delectable creations emerge from their ovens. They are masters of their craft. And just so you don’t underestimate them, you should also know they understand the chemistry of baking. Their vocabulary includes terms like “protein bonding” and “maillard reactions”. The “magic of leavening agents” is no mystery to them. They are aware of the difference between baking soda and baking powder and have a firm grasp on how yeast, when added to dough, “feeds on starches producing sugars, alcohol and carbon dioxide as byproducts”*. Ask them, on the spur of the moment, to whip up a Mille-Feuille and they’ll reach into that fridge of theirs and pull out the citrusy yuzu cream they keep on hand in anticipation of this very request. Most of us are not these people but if you are, this new blog of mine probably won’t cut into your baking time. 

Then there are those who are not bakers and don’t have even the teeniest desire to be one. I freely acknowledge that used to be me so on this one, I know from where I speak. Non-bakers, as I have chosen to call them, have the local patisserie on speed dial for that dreaded moment when the neighbor, in her most neighbourly way says, “Let’s all get together on Monday for a chit chat. And hey! Bring a little something for us to nosh on”. They know that on “muffin day” they will make a valiant, but alas failed attempt to provide homemade goodies, ultimately requiring a late night trip to the grocers in the vain hope of finding a couple dozen muffins, with no trace of peanuts, that can be pawned off on a bunch of 6 year olds as something that has recently emerged from the oven. They are the first to sign up for crackers and cheese at the office potluck. Non-bakers have mastered the art of disguise with their stockpile of fancy cake plates and heritage (looking) cookie tins all at the ready to replace those nasty aluminum pans in which oh so many store bought goodies are packaged. Not wanting to outright lie, they simply smile and politely nod when complimented on their treats, deflecting any requests for recipes with some long winded story about promises to a great great grandmother, and all subsequent women in the family, to safeguard these most treasured of family secrets. I can’t tell you what non-bakers do with all the spare time they must have, but I’m guessing they won’t be interrupting whatever it is to read this blog. 

Finally there are people like me, and hopefully at least a few of you. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I transitioned from not baking to baking but I can tell you that when I bought my first KitchenAid stand mixer in a lovely cerulean blue primarily to add a pop of colour to my kitchen, I had no idea it was the quintessential baker’s tool. I mean I had a lovely new kitchen with tons of counter space so, why not? Little did I know how soon my life would change. Was it the first batch of rugelach? The banana nut bread with dates? Can’t say but somewhere along the line my life turned upside down, (although not like COVID-19 upside down). Except for one thing. Even though I bake, I am not a baker. And if that confuses you, let me explain. I know nothing about baking. Shall I repeat? Nothing. I don’t know why I add baking soda rather than baking powder or what will happen if my eggs are not at room temperature when I add them to the mix. I can never figure out why dry and wet ingredients have to be mixed in separate bowls even though, in the end, they end up together. And yeast, quite frankly, scares the heck out of me. As a result, I just do what I am told. Recipes are my bible. Measuring spoons and cups my trusty companions. If there’s a baking pan or cookie sheet that self-proclaims “best in its class” and promises I will never again be faced with an unevenly baked loaf, you’ll find it in my baking drawer. Yes, I have a baking drawer. 

You might be asking yourself at this stage of the game, why would someone like me decide to write a baking blog?  Well there are a couple of good reasons the least of which is that even I, the self-professed “shallow gal”, have to admit it’s a tad difficult to come up with ideas for “Shallow Be My Name” these days. Don’t worry. For my small but loyal following I’ll keep writing that blog too, just not quite as frequently. Although I can’t really blame that on the new normal as my old normal was pretty sporadic too. More importantly however, I thought it might be useful for me to share what I like to call the “truth about baking”. You see, for real bakers everything goes pretty much the way it should. For me, and maybe for you, not so much. Let’s face it. We both know that a recipe suggesting a prep time of 15 minutes means setting aside a good hour, perhaps and a half, to get oven-ready. And speaking of ovens, if I were to preheat when told I’d likely be able to roast a chicken as I work on mixing and stirring my little loaf. And you have to know when my recipe calls for Red Fife flour I will scour the city to find it because in my kitchen, there are no substitutes allowed. And that’s the difference between me and a real baker. They know what I don’t. 

This blog is about that. What really happens when we bake. The good, the bad and the ugly. Edible and inedible. With pics. So, without further ado and, as they say in the biz, let’s get this bun in the oven!

Almost forgot. If you are so inclined, feel free to follow/subscribe to the blog. I’d love to have you along for the ride. 

*https://sciencing.com/chemical-reactions-that-occur-during-baking-12731635.html