I suppose there are all different things that motivate people to step into their kitchen, particularly for us bakers. Some people just love the process, the measuring, the preciseness of it all. The methodical straight forward answers. Some like the fresh smells that fill their homes. The smell of fresh yeasty things coming from an oven turns a house into a home, doesn’t it? Some do it for the duty of it I am sure. Bread needs to be baked. Breakfast must be served. It is just the way it’s always been. And some, like me, do it because we just love to eat.
Surely, I make all the things I do, for a little bit of all the reasons I stated, but mostly I bake (and cook) because it’s what I feel like eating. I crave chocolate so I make fluffy mountains of souflee’s. I am cold and my feet are wet from a day in the forest, so I stew some bones and hearty vegetables into a thick soup because it will fill my chest with the warmth I need to ease into the evening. I love bubbly things so I make kombucha. I love airy light things so I bake bread. You see what I am saying? Mostly, I love to eat warm things. Warm things out of my own oven.
When we moved into this new house, I was completely drawn to the oven here. It was brand new, gas, shiny, and silver. So unlike most rentals (or all of them if I am being honest) that I have ever lived in, it is quite a treat. The turbo burner has popped the bottoms of my mason jars while canning it’s so powerful. When I saute, the fire sizzles up through the pan with every shake of the wrist, reminding me of what its like to cook in a commercial kitchen, which I do miss very much. It heats up nice and even. Things bake well. And I use it a lot.
So when all of a sudden my pies and biscuits started coming out terribly bitter I was baffled.
I am not known for my precision in just about anything. When I was young I did gymnastics. I feared no move but my form was horrific. Even skills that I had mastered were ugly and filled with deductions, but oh my yes, I had fun doing them. This is exactly the way I bake. It’s a fluff cloud of flour swirling about me, handprints on any outfit I don, it’s messy, it’s delicious, and there are rarely recipes involved.
And up until now things have worked out just fine. But the mystery of the bitter baked goods was on my mind constantly. I scoured my ingredients tossing them out one by one. Flour in bulk! It must have gone bad! I must buy a new brand of butter! Perhaps this bitter flavor is coming from soured butter!? Finally I decided it was the oven and just short of taking it apart, I remembered a very important and very embarrassing detail. In my haste and over confidence, when I ran out of baking powder a few weeks prior, I simply replaced it with baking soda adding an egg here and there when I felt a little more puff would be in order.
This is ridiculous logic. I now see this. Because clearly baking SODA and baking POWDER are two very different things….but this is the way I dealt with it. And it was silly. Needless to say for your future reference, they are absolutely not interchangeable and take heed, your food will come out bitter and peppery and utterly inedible if you try this.
So, over the last few weeks I had three terrible pies and two awful batches of biscuits keeping me up at night, and I finally, finally found the culprit. So I did what anyone craving apple pie would do and I carted up the boys and headed to the grocery. We were on a mission. Baking powder came home, the day was spent baking pie. I peeled the tiny apples the man at the orchard insisted are best for pie. I grated fresh nutmeg. I rolled out tiny leaves for one pie, and a lamb and knitting needles for the other. I intended on proudly bringing my pie to knit night to share, themed and delicious.
While the pies cooled, and oh my my they were perfect, we headed to the post office where I giddily picked up my new lens purchased with some birthday money. I took shot after shot after shot of those gorgeous pies… They were that pretty.
If you want to know precisely how I felt click on this link and have a listen- RIGHT HERE. So excited! The Pointer Sisters would have put me on their album cover!
So, the boys bathed and we headed downstairs, but on my way down I heard a thump. A large, familiar and terrifying thump. I paused halfway down the stairs, afraid to turn around and see the two silent (guilty) boys loudly peering down at me. Rowan had pulled my camera , new lens and all, off the counter top. I panicked. I sent them downstairs, IMMEDIATELY! While tears were welling up in my eyes I tried to turn my camera on. Things were jammed. My breathing turned rapid. I slammed a cabinet shut in my haste and anger and crash!!!! A glass shattered into a million tiny shards of destruction. Little glass shards all over my pies.
Oh my pie. I sobbed. I mourned. I literally ached for the sweet gooey pie that I was forced to scoop into the trash. I could hardly bare it. I poured myself a very large glass of wine, wiped away my tears and finished Walter the Lazy Mouse. I tucked the boys in tight and drew a nice hot bath. I pretended the reason I wasn’t eating pie was because i gave it all away, and this gave me glimmers of relief.
I can’t say I won’t laugh about this later. But five pies? FIVE?! Does this happen to normal people? Truly this is a trivial problem and today is a new day. But I should mention I refuse to give up. Six will be lucky.
(Also, as embarrassing as it is, I will admit my childish tantrum was in vain. The camera and lens are quite fine.)