Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Baking Blunders

It is 1:41 am and I am sitting here waiting for my bread to rise before popping it in the oven so we can have fresh bread for breakfast Christmas morning. I have only begun baking bread since this summer, but I have fallen so in love with the smell and feel and taste of freshly baked bread that I can hardly stand to eat store-bought bread anymore. I feel so... wonderfully domestic when I bake bread. A few years ago I made a mental checklist of things I would like to be able to do before I get married:

a) use a sewing machine
b) develop a house-cleaning routine that I follow on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis
c) get out of debt
d) bake bread from scratch

Well... at least I've been able to scratch d) off of my list. Some things take more time, I suppose... although I'm not married yet, so I still have time to scratch the other three items off my list. I'm getting close to completing c), which is wonderful!

I used to think that all of these domestic little traits that were lying dormant in my soul couldn't be awakened until I had a man in my life and four little kids romping around in the backyard. Fortunately, early this summer, I had a revelation. I deserved the same attention that I hoped to some day devote to a family. Why shouldn't I be able to bake bread for myself? Why can't I maintain a happy home environment for ME? And don't my parents deserve to be fed a delicious home-cooked meal? Absolutely. So I started a gradual release of these held onto dreams and I discovered... I LOVE IT!

Baking and cooking are definitely two of my favourite domestic hobbies. Ever since I knew how to cook, I was watching cooking shows, trying out new (and sometimes scary) recipes on my unsuspecting family, and experimenting with flavours and foods. This has developed over the years, and my experimentation skills have definitely improved (including one of my happy accidents... the best gourmet brown beans you have EVER tasted!)

My cooking skills have occasionally ventured into the dangerous, however. There are two moments I can recall that still make me cringe and giggle all at the same time... the first story takes place in college. My roomate and I were preparing food for a Russian themed meal that my drama team was hosting. We were putting up the play, The Seagull, and I was supposed to make potato cakes. This involved deep frying the patties of shredded potato, onion, etc. The only problem was that we didn't own a deep fryer.

Not a problem, I thought, I'll just use a frying pan! The first few batches of potato cakes went off without a hitch, but gradually the little pieces left in the bottom of the pan began to blacken and smoke. In a panic, with black smoke billowing from the pan, I grabbed the handle and pulled the pan off of the stove... spilling grease and oil all over the hot element. Instantly, red flames leaped from the stove top, licking the ceiling of our tiny apartment kitchen. I grabbed a pot lid and slammed it down over the flames. Unfortunately, this only encouraged the flames to enter the oven, and a fire show danced behind the oven window.

Luckily, my roommate happened to be a little more level headed than I, and was also trained in the use of fire extinguishers. She grabbed the extinguisher and blasted the tar out of the grease fire. Good news: fire was out. Bad news: there was a fine yellow dust coating our entire apartment. Everything was covered, the stove, the dishes (even the ones inside the cupboards), the tv, the couches, even our bedrooms had dust in them. It took us hours to clean up the mess, and months later when we were moving out we were still finding residual dust in nooks and crannies. It was quite the adventure.

The second story occurred back in my home... ironically with the same friend, plus another girlfriend. We hadn't seen each other in some time and decided we would do breakfast together. We got up early in the morning (which we NEVER do. I am a night owl by definition.) and gathered everything we needed for pancakes. Not just any pancakes, however. We made the most amazing, fluffy, soft, juicy blueberry pancakes any of us had ever seen. We made tons of them. Probably close to 30 pancakes. We were so hungry and so excited.

To keep them warm, I used my mothers pyrex cake dish (which happened to be a wedding gift from, at that time, almost 25 years ago). Thinking simply that Pyrex was indestructible, I placed the pan on the warming element of our stove top. Any of you who know anything about Pyrex can probably guess what happened next.

Everything went smoothly for the entire time we were baking the pancakes. It wasn't until I placed the last pancake on top of the pile and covered the batch with tinfoil that the inevitable happened. I turned my back to walk away and heard the loudest BANG I had ever heard in my life. All three of us dropped to the floor, certain that we were under attack by a rogue band of pancake stealing pirates!

After I realized that my life was not in immediate danger, I stood up and was amazed by what I saw. The Pyrex dish had literally exploded. Fragments were strewn all over the kitchen and into the dining room and living room. The dish was destroyed. None of us knew what to do so we simply burst out in anxious laughter. We were so relieved that none of us were hurt, and so shocked by what had happened, that we couldn't do anything but laugh so hard our sides hurt. How none of us were skewered by flying glass fragments I will never know. I guess God had mercy on my ignorance and decided to keep me around a little bit longer.

The plus side of that story was that we were actually able to salvage some of the pancakes. Since I had covered the pan with tinfoil shortly before the explosion the top pancakes were untouched. We ended up having a lovely breakfast and now have a story that will likely pass down to our children's children's children.

It is true. Cooking together is a great bonding experience. Especially when it is a near-death experience.

Well... I should probably go put my bread in the oven. And if any of you ever have the chance to have a meal prepared by me, I promise that my skills have become far less... dangerous. :)

Blessings and Merry Christmas!

No comments: