Since 2007, each year I have picked a new skill to learn. When ever possible, I tried to get professional guidance in learning it – consider it my own personal Made. Over the years I have done guitar, singing, salsa/swing dancing and boxing. Dancing has been by far my favorite of these skills so far, and the one I have used the most. Boxing was the shortest of my endeavors. I learned rather quickly that I don’t enjoy getting punched in the face, and that it would take far more training ($$) and time that I wanted to invest to get to the point where getting in the ring wouldn’t just be a self-promoted-pummeling.
This years challenge: Baking. (Sub challenge: Maintain my current weight at the same time!)
I purchased The Professional Pastry Chef: Fundamentals of Baking & Pastry. Its a text book that is used in professional baking schools, and so has specific instructions on not just the recipes but the science behind the process as well. I found it interesting that almost all the ingredients are measured by weight instead of volume. I’ve also had to cut almost every recipe in half just to make them manageable in my modest kitchen.
Along with this I also got a KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart stand mixer. Note that if you are planning to buy a mixer, the color you chose can have a dramatic difference in price! I have to admit, I was quite excited for this to arrive.
I don’t think I’ll end up getting professional training this year, but hopefully I have enough friends and family with experiencing baking that I won’t need it! So far I have made chocolate chip cookies, (failed) vanilla butter cookies, almond tart with chocolate glaze & raspberries and sweet Irish soda bread.
Honestly, I’m not enjoying this challenge as much as I thought I would. I picked baking over “cooking” because I knew it was a unique skill set and process. It requires precision and patience – something I often lack. So far precisions and patience has meant tedious and putsy. I’ll continue to power through for a few more months and see how it goes! My friends should expect copious amounts baked goods, since if I eat everything I cook I’ll fatter than Santa by 2012!