As a child, I dabbled in the kitchen. Armed with my trusty Betty Crocker’s New Boys and Girls Cookbook (which I still have), my BFF Cheryl and I turned out such culinary marvels as Pink Popcorn Balls and the Enchanted Castle Cake. As an adult, not so much. If I ever need to bring a dish to pass for a potluck, I make an appetizer.
My mom has always been a great baker, though. Her pies are the best I’ve ever had (sorry, Hubbard Avenue Diner). Her oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookies are a welcome arrival in care packages for her granddaughters at summer camp—and they don’t last long.
In this day and age, why bake? It’s time-consuming, can be frustrating and there are so many wonderful bakery items everywhere. It doesn’t take much thought to rattle off a lengthy list of options, all within a few miles of my house: two Panera Bread locations, La Baguette, The Bread Barn, Scott’s Bakery, Clasen’s European Bakery and five grocery stores with full bakeries.
A few years ago, daughter #1 decided she was into baking. She doesn’t do it often, but has turned out some incredible creations. Her reindeer cupcakes were the highlight of Christmas 2011 and her first effort at a fondant cake for her grandma’s birthday was exceptional.
Daughter #2 now has the baking fever. Toll House Chocolate Chip Pan Cookies have become a regular item in our freezer this summer. Yesterday I helped her with a new recipe: Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars. This was one of the more complicated efforts that has ever come out of my kitchen. It was actually four recipes in one: salted caramel sauce, the crust, the filling and the streusel. All of the preparation, cooking, cooling and waiting was worth it. The house had that intoxicating smell of cinnamon and butter and apples. The treat tasted amazing. And my daughter and I had this wonderful space in time where we weren’t running errands, doing laundry, completing college applications, etc. We were just cooking together.
As we were cleaning up our tools and workspace, I realized that however “baking” is technically defined, to me it means family and love. Maybe I need to bake more often.