Let me be frank. Baking is not a necessity in most households, especially if we have just a few people to feed in our small homes. When I say ‘baking’, let me clarify. Baking, to me, is the process of making sweet treats for desserts or snacks, anything that is complementary to main meal dishes. So, a pot pie or a quiche, is not ‘baking’ in my book. Generally, everything that you bake is not a staple. There are additional factors to baking projects which make it tricky when you work from home and shelter in place. I will talk about dealing with those challenges below.
The Reason for Baking
So why on earth would you bake? In the previous post, on kitchen appliances and the oven, I talked about colder weather, social distancing, small living spaces and how every inch of space counts when you need to cook. Add baking into this already complicated scenario and you have a project on your hands.
The reason I bake is two-fold and perhaps, you can be convinced to bake as a result.
The first is for health reasons. About a decade ago, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition and it gave me my first health scare. That meant that I would have to change my lifestyle or deal with the consequences. I realized that a lot of commercial baked goods use a lot of sugar and too much artificial coloring and preservatives. By controlling baking ingredients and proportions, I get to control what goes into my favorite sweet baked treats.
The Joy of Baking
The second reason I bake is for the joy of it. I have gone so far as to share my baked goods with the larger world, in addition to the other things I do. See https://www.etsy.com/shop/BakedbySue?ref=seller-platform-mcnav. I have had this baking venture, part-time, on and off since 2013. There were times when I would stop for months on end because my other, full-time work consumed me and really, even now, I have scaled back my baking enterprise. Still, I do have faith that people do not want to put junk into their bodies and can appreciate the value of good ingredients in healthier baked goods.
The joy of baking manifests itself in so many ways. There is pleasure to be had in the ingredients, the measuring, mixing and in the sheer wonder of pulling out a beautiful golden bake from the oven. This is the same mixture that you put in the oven in a doughy or even liquid-like form. But you can further justify baking by the warmth in your house. Comforting smells like vanilla or orange waft through your home. Added to all this is the eager anticipation of getting the first bite of a freshly baked crisp chocolate chip cookie or a slice of tender banana bread. And once you get the hang of it, the act of baking itself can be positively meditative.
Prep for Baking
I cannot over-emphasize that preparation is key to a successful cake, cookie or other baked treat. So I have to talk about the extra space you must create so your baking project works from start to finish.
Surfaces and Prep Space
For those of us with smaller kitchens and not much counter space, converting some piece of furniture on a temporary basis will ease our space woes. This piece is your ‘counter’ for the duration of your particular baking project.
Here, I have illustrated my breakfast bar. This is a stainless steel cart which expands our kitchen space for hot beverage and toast-making. When I bake, I sweep all the items from the stainless steel table-top onto a shelf under the cart. I love this cart because the top is a proper workhorse surface and easy to clean.
Bake – Pans and Tins
Start with a basic set of pans. Do not succumb to the seduction of special molds and pans. Remember, you need space to store your selection of pans and this is after you have spent a princely sum on purchasing the said items. If you bake for yourself, look up a baking pan conversion chart. An even simpler solution is to look up recipes that cater to the pans you do have. You have your sheet pans from roasting to bake cookies on. Remember you are the boss of your bakes.
Here are a few pans to begin with:
Bake- Baking Tools
If you do start building a collection for baking, begin with measuring cups, spoons and a few tools for scraping, mixing and spreading.
Remember, baking is all about precision. A deviation in proportions can affect texture, consistency, flavor and other variables of your bakes.
I did not write this post for pastry aficionados or baking snobs.
I wrote this post for anyone who is a newbie to baking or for those of us trying to pare down our kitchen equipment for basic baking. A good oven with a timer and the right equipment and tools will deliver good, warming bakes.
In this article, I have barely scratched the surface of what I have discovered makes baking easier. This article is an introduction. Remember that you can build up your baking equipment collection. Begin by baking for yourself and do not beat yourself up if your initial results aren’t perfect. Remember, to a large extent, you can eat your failures. Then, begin again and know that each effort will yield better and better results. Happy baking!