Virtue, thy name is “spread thy baking tasks over time”

'Cavendish' bananas are the main commercial cu...
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Okay, I’ve had this passel of bananas browning on my counter for the past week. They oughtta be good ‘n’ ripe now, I tell myself yesterday as I start washing the dishes piled in the sink from the last few days. It’s time to make that recipe I planned on when I deliberately bought way too many bananas (hey, the Costco on Elston has great prices!) for me to eat.

Been waiting for the moment when I am not under a high-pressure deadline for a project. But I also have to psych myself into the mood to dig out the flour and sugar and baking powder/soda. Anyone know an easy way to remember which type goes in which kinds of baked good? Which leads me to think about baking and how the types of baking recipes I’m even willing to consider are all fairly simple. None of this puff pastry, handmade pasta or piecrusts, or brioche (oh, yeah, I never touch yeast after a couple of truly mediocre efforts many years ago when I was still a married, stay-at-home mother). Yet I love things like banana bread for my breakfast, and I can make it so it feels really healthy. So why do I resist baking so stubbornly?

I’ve decided it’s not that baking is so hard. It’s first because my ingredients are usually buried in the back of some cabinet or closet—where in the world did I put that stuff when I moved?—which means I can’t just start. I am passionate about being able to do what I want to do immediately when I decide to do it. None of this running out to the store because I don’t have any vanilla or my brown sugar has hardened into a block of concrete. And then there’s the dozen-plus bowls and utensils I’ve got to dirty up—and wash afterwards.

So last night I still have some energy left at 6 pm. I think, I’ll put the butter out to soften tonight. If I pour the sugar on it, it won’t be too exposed. Not sure what happens to butter if you leave it out a really long time. I read somewhere that when you leave margarine out for days/weeks it never gets moldy or  anything–meaning it’s truly plastic. So I guess butter must eventually mold or get sour.

1/2 lb butter, 1 c sugar, 1/4 c water and 1 tb...
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And did you know that unsalted butter (the kind I like best) doesn’t get as soft as salted butter? Even though I soften it all night (and sometimes all the next day if my timing gets screwed up) I still have to beat the hell out of it with my long-handled wooden spoon in a valiant effort to cream it with the sugar. None of this using oil, or melting the butter. And none of this using the electric mixer. Somehow I’ve convinced myself the texture of the finished product is better if I expend all that energy by hand instead of taking shortcuts.

Okay, I did it. It’s 8 o’clock in the morning. Christmas music is  playing on my customized Pandora Internet radio station. I just finished cleaning up the dishes and utensils and have taken the banana-oatmeal bread out of the oven. Do I feel virtuous? Absolutely. Am I going to have a hard time waiting until it’s cool enough to have a piece for breakfast. Well, duh.

Anyway—as we all learn eventually—the trick is to break up the dreaded work into tasks that can be spread over time. Oh, yeah, and maybe I’ll try to carve out a space to keep all my dry baking stuff in one spot. Maybe this way I’ll get a few more of those goodies baked for friends and family this Christmas.

And have many more opportunities to feel virtuous, too… ” )

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