So, it has been a few weeks since we started In Depth, and so far, I have not been able to meet with my mentor, Donna Lenic. I had been hoping to meet with her this past weekend, however, she was unavailable. So, instead, we are planning to meet this Sunday, and start baking. I will update/add a new post once this has occurred. We are going to start with something fairly simple, but surprisingly, something I have never done. This is going to be baking a cake and icing it.
You can think whatever you like, but the truth is, I have never ever baked a cake from scratch in my life. I find this rather ironic, as I have made brownies, cookies, muffins, and banana bread, but not something as simple as a cake. Throughout my whole life, I have always used Betty Crocker cake mixes, and thus, have only had to add a few ingredients, stir everything up, and then bake the cake. Something as simple as knowing how to bake a cake will be very useful, as you can make cakes your whole life, for other people’s birthdays, or special occasions, and it never gets old.
Up until now, I really never thought about the science of baking and what the definition of baking is. The dictionary definition of the word baking is as follows: to cook (as food) by dry heat especially in an oven (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/baking). Whenever I baked, I always thought of it as simply speaking, cooking dessert. However, more recently, I have come to the realization that baking is not limited to desserts, (even though that is mostly what I baked), but it include muffins, pies, pastries, breads, to name a few.
According to Wikipedia (what a useful tool!), baking is when “The dry heat of baking changes the form of starches in the food and causes its outer surfaces to brown, giving it an attractive appearance and taste.” This is quite true, as almost (if not all) recipes include flour, or some other variation of it such as whole wheat flour.
In my perspective on my in-depth, the universe is all about discovering new tip and tricks about baking, as well as determining some things that you can only find out with time and practice, such as how to tell when baked goods are finished cooking, or when you are over stirring a mix. The process of baking happens on many different levels, such as the microbial level, in which certain ingredients act/react to each other to help create the final product, or the level on which the whole cake for instance, is on.
For me, one of my obstacles right now, is the fact that most baking is a somewhat easy process. Most of the recipes that I have looked at in cookbooks, for muffins and dessert, as well as the various recipes that I have made during Home Ec in middle school, and during Foods 9, I have been able to complete all the recipes with a fair amount of ease. I am not going to say that I am an expert, and that I know everything about baking, because I don’t, but in my limited experiences, I have found that if you can follow a recipe, then most baking and cooking will be fairly simple for you.
On that note, if you would like to try your hand at baking, or any kind of cooking, I have found that the recipes in the Company’s Coming cookbooks are fairly simple to make, and taste very good. Most of my cooking and baking experiences have come from these books, in particular, the Company’s Coming cookbook, “Mostly Muffins”. It is from here that I started to expand my baking horizons, moving from mostly brownies, and cake mix (see above), to muffins and loaves, that could be made in just an hour.
My First Meeting With My Mentor
Having successfully met with my mentor for the first time, I left the meeting with a lot of new knowledge, and a hunger for more tips and tricks (and more baked goods ). I baked a somewhat simple chocolate cake, and the only difficulty I had was trying to get the cakes out of the pans (let me tell you, they were stuck on pretty well!). I also made chocolate icing to go on top of the cake. What happens is you bake two cakes, and then you stack them. I learned some pretty nifty tricks quite early on. For instance, I learned that not only should you grease your pans, you should also flour them.
I now fully understand the quote, “The universe is a living, creative, experimenting experience of discovering what’s possible on all levels of scale, from microbes to cosmos.” In just over two hours, I quickly discovered that you can do quite a lot with something as simple as making icing! There are various methods to making homemade chocolate icing, let alone store bought ones, or just using whipped cream. Also, once the cake is iced, there are so many different ways that you decorate the cake, without needing anything special, except for the utensil that you iced it with (in my case, it was an offset spatula). I chose to go with a somewhat simple, yet elegant (I thought so at least) swirl design.
I did get to try a piece the same night, and I have to say that it was the best cake that I have ever had! If I could, I would offer you a slice, but since I can’t, I’ll just show you some pictures :).