November 2nd, 2008


Baker, Baker

For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed baking. Cooking can be fun too, but I'm less into it; it takes a lot more creativity, flexibility, and seat-of-pants experimentation than I'm comfortable with to be a truly good cook. Baking is more about following a recipe, executing methods and procedures just the right way every time, and that works much better for me. Plus, you have delicious baked goods afterwards, so it's really a win-win situation.

T, on the other hand, is much more of a cook than a baker. So I was surprised when, back in August, he decided to bake a pie for an apple pie tasting at his work. It was an experiment -- a "skillet apple pie", which had no bottom crust, and was topped with something more like biscuit dough, and it was tasty (especially the apple filling, which I liked a lot)... but it wasn't what people expected out of a pie, and it came in last.

So T went on a mission: learn to bake, and to do it well. First, he bought a cookbook. Then, after spending about a week reading it, he settled on his first attempt: devil's food cake. With chocolate ganache frosting and caramel sauce. On reflection, this was probably a bit ambitious -- preparing three separate recipes (the layer cake, the caramel, and the frosting) and assembling the lot ended up taking a lot longer than he anticipated, and he was up past 3am.

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His co-workers loved it, I loved it, even my co-workers loved it. (I got some good effort out of the student workers that day, I can tell you.) Flush with his success, he continued on to other things: gingerbread, pumpkin pie (twice, which is fine with me because I looooove pumpkin pie), and a fromage blanc Bavarian, aka cheesecake:

From Baking

And that's only the things I have pictures of -- he's also made brownies, pot de creme (a baked chocolate pudding), and right now a chocolate mousse souffle cake is setting up in our fridge.

It's been interesting to watch him at this obsession. Although we're slowly running out of room for cookware, and I'm about done with weekly trips to Bed, Bath, & Beyond. And if he keeps baking at this rate, he might have to start rolling me down the stairs. Fortunately, he takes most of his wares to work, where they are well appreciated. I've made a couple things from the book, too, but I was not super-enamored of the chocolate chip cookie recipe -- I like my cookies thick and soft, and these are thin and chewy (although the oatmeal-chocolate-orange zest combination of flavors is definitely tasty). But today, I gave a Cook's Illustrated cookie recipe a try, and was most satisfied with the results (the secret? melting the butter first). So I'm not ready to cede the title of family baker to T yet.