Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Baking Is A Nice Way To Scent Your Home. Especially If You Enjoy The Odors Produced By Burnt Egg And Scorched Flour.

So today I'll be taking another stab at baking.  Not unlike running, baking is something I didn't enjoy and disparaged at every opportunity.  It was just too precise - all those exact amounts and things at particular temperatures - who remembers to take eggs out so they can come to room temperature?  And now, like running, it's something I'm trying to do on a regular basis.  I'm not exactly sure what it is that's causing me to haul out the flour and sugar and the freakishly heavy Kitchen-Aid mixer once a week, but think I can trace the origin back to when Tickle the cat passed away on my watch a month or so ago.

I felt there had to be something that came from her passing aside from my new understanding that cats can look pretty normal even on their deathbed.  I thought I could work on being more mindful in each moment, so I made a tomato tart.  Personal improvement and savory French pastry just seemed an obvious match for me.  Typically when making anything requiring a dough (shudder), I would whip out the Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, or the Pillsbury pie dough, or the Whole Foods pie dough (if I had recently won the lottery), but this time I thought I'd try to make my own.  I hoped the process of taking the time to actually measure ingredients and put them together in the right order would be a good exercise to slow my mind down.  Like a meditation only you get to eat something tasty afterward.  And it did.  The dough kind of stuck to my counter when I rolled it out, but it worked and I actually enjoyed the process.

So the next week, I made a peach tart.  This time I tried making the dough in my food processor like Ina Garten does, but my processor convulsed and smelled like burning rubber while it whirled the ingredients together - Ina's doesn't do that.  The dough worked anyway, and now I'm shopping for a new food processor.  Last week I made a peach cake.  I forgot the salt and it overflowed in the oven, but I'd call it mostly a success.  Apparently, if the recipe requires a 9" pan you should go buy one if you don't have it already, and not convince yourself that the 8" one you do have is going to work just as well.  It won't, and your house will not smell anything like the cinnamon and sugar the recipe promised, but more like smoke and miscellaneous burning oven darkness.  Live and learn.

Today I'm making an apple cake from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook.  I've managed to keep the family from eating the six apples I need, so I feel like I've cleared my first hurdle.  I'm sure something will crop up and make this baking experience less than perfect, but I'm okay with that.  Even failed baking can be delicious.  And as part of my mindfulness exercise, I'm trying to not be annoyed that I'm spending extra time doing something that never works quite right.

It's kind of like what I've learned in my yoga practice.  Some people refer to it as 'living your yoga' this behaving in the same way off the mat as on.  See, sometimes when you're doing yoga, you'll attempt poses you'd really love to be able to do, but from day to day or year to year those poses just aren't gonna happen for you.  But you try them anyway and when you land on your head or fall on the person next to you (or in my case, since I practice at home, I'll fall and knock over a lamp), you just get back up, laugh it off, and try again the next time.  It's a practice - you don't focus on perfection - you just take your time and do it as best you can.

So my mindfulness practice will be ongoing.  I don't know how long this baking thing will be the avenue I use, but I'll keep at it until it gets boring or I gain 20 pounds.  It has made me feel good though, to take time to do something I would normally shortcut, and I highly recommend giving something like this a try.  It brings you into the moment more and you gain some new skills to boot.  I'd love to be that neighbor that just pops by with a basket of freshly baked muffins someday - looking fresh and smelling of home.  I'm clearly not there yet.  My baked goods taste better than they look and after these episodes I'm usually sweaty and smell of burning hair and egg.  But we carry on.

I'm wearing this today.

My shirt is the color of flour and that is not a coincidence.  No one really needs to know what goes on behind the scenes.

gratitude:  the smell of cinnamon, sweeping views, clogs, Downy Wrinkle Release

thanks and love.

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