(Originally published Dec 16, 2010)
I bake up a storm every Christmas – well, not just this time of the year, but now more than ever. In order to meet the demands of holiday parties – which is largely my own desire to share my treats – I’ve been baking in between working on journalism articles. It’s the perfect compliment to writing; when my brain tires of looking for the ideal way to shape a story, out comes the butter, sugar, eggs, flour and vanilla.
But there’s something else going on when I’m wielding the hand-mixer. It’s a comfort thing.
Baking conjures memories of how my sister and I, out of sheer boredom on a Saturday night (and also because my parents didn’t allow many store-bought sweets) would bake up some cookies, or a cake – often inventing recipes. Sometimes to disastrous results, but other times surprisingly yummy!
Recently we got together to do some power baking; cookies and cupcakes for my birthday party, and for a family brunch; one savoury (Gatto Napolitano) – a brand new recipe for us, and one sweet (my mom’s famous chocolate cake that has become my sister’s specialty). She commented that we work well in the kitchen and it occurred to me later that whenever we bake we’re unwittingly reliving those Saturday nights when we were craving sugar and trying to kick the ennui.
(Cleaning up the mess was another story altogether – some of our best fights were while doing dishes. For starters, we disputed who was washing, who was drying. You get the picture!)
These days we have the internet to help us along, and it was Google we consulted when, after decorating our cupcakes with pretty little silver balls, we wondered if they were even edible. The so-called dragees (pronounced dra-jeys) are indeed edible since, apparently a human somehow consumes silver regularly and nowhere near the amount that would be considered toxic. I’d tell you that in exact milligrams but I’m not sure I finished the article: a) we were laughing too hard at the thought that it didn’t occur to us that we might be poisoning people with our food art, and b) being the alarmist that I am, I shut the computer down – no surprise to my sister, mind you! She well knows my quirky food worries. I seem to remember that the tiny decorative candies used to contain traces of mercury and so are still banned from some parts of the US. Not here in Canada though. Good thing!
Both our baking escapades were successful which bodes well for a future business we’re dreaming up that has to do with spongy little cakes with creamy frosting and loads of dragees!
Though I’ve been baking since childhood, I still consider myself an amateur and that’s where You Tube comes in handy. I watched a good two hours of decorating techniques the other night. It seems everyone and their sister has a video on how to create the perfect cupcake swirl. Which led to yet another purchase at The Mercantile today for cake decorating supplies, this time a piping kit with oversized nozzles. Without the videos I would never have known that’s what I need to make the quintessential ice cream cone cupcake swirl!
Gotta go now though, I have Christmas baking to do. Oh ya… and that story I need to finish in between frosting my cookies and sprinkling them with – yet another handy video tip – coloured sugar!