Documenting the art of baking through trial and savor. The Baking Sensei is a monthly journal that focuses on the experiences of baking.
As summer nears its end, I’m soaking up every last bit of it by savouring a few summer-esque flavors. Lemonade is something I associate summer with. And I’m sure you do too, especially when you see young kids setting up their lemonade stands in the neighborhood (or eateries adding some lemonade special on their summer menus). But for me, lemon is an all year round ingredient. For the most part, you’ll see me sipping sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon and mint.
To slowly say adieu to summer, I wanted to bake something lemony. I chose to make lemon-flavored Madeleines. In searching for a recipe, I went to one of my favorite food blogs: Love and Lemons and found Jeanine’s version of the sponge-y cookie. It was just the right amount of lemon flavor. I did add a bit of honey to slightly enhance the sweetness. Here’s the last few weeks of summer!
Sensei of the month: Love and Lemons -- Meyer Lemon Madeleines
Lately, my brain feels as if it’s running on an electric hamster wheel with the off-switch broken. My mind has been constantly spinning with thoughts which leads to losing focus and completely zoning out.
This space was created to allow me to share the results of my test-baking recipes and the thoughts, feelings, and/or feelings that go with it. This month, I chose a recipe that was simple and easy to follow. It seemed like my mind needed a break from focusing on intricate instruction and allow myself to be on auto-pilot for a moment. Plus, a dose of honey, yogurt, and raspberries are always a good combo. Sometimes baking is simply baking and nothing more. And that’s all that is needed sometimes.
Sensei of the month: Alison Roman’s Honey-Yogurt Pound Cake with Raspberries from her Dining In cookbook (pp. 276-277)
“We cannot control the sea, but we can learn how to surf the waves.” A reminder from the Headspace app on my phone. A perspective that I try to practice but sometimes lose when the waves knock me down. I’ve been in a phase for awhile, a phase of feeling stuck and a phase of uncertainty… And that is the wave I’m learning how to surf.
When I created this space, it was to share my baking experiences and thoughts. But, unknowingly, it also became my way to escape “the sea” (and me). I know not everything in life is transparent and clearly laid out for us to know and see. However, this type of uncertainty has led to more moments of stress, anxiety, and fear than usual. My mind spirals into a circle of thoughts and wonders if I’ll ever regain that sense of certainty and stability in order to continue the goals I was working towards.
But I know that even though I cannot control the sea’s direction, I will have to learn how to surf with the waves if I don’t want to be swallowed by them.
Sensei of the month: Claire Ptak’s The Violet Bakery Cookbook -- I’ve baked three recipes and counting from this book. It has to be my favorite cookbook so far.
Note: This month I baked more than usual. I test-baked many recipes that I didn’t know which one to capture for this month’s photo. But in the end, I felt the empty cake stand illustrated the mindset I'm moving towards: a blank page.
Are you a “procrastibaker”? Earlier this month, The New York Times published “Why Work When You Can Procrastibake?” The article focused on how baking acts as a distractor from work that needs to be done. I didn’t have to ponder too long on whether or not I’m a procastibaker. I can say that I am not. I’m more of a “planning baker.” I am always planning what to bake and when to bake it. There’s a lot of research involved when I am planning to bake. You might think I was preparing for the Olympics of baking, but I’m not. I’m just very thorough. (And yes, the research and pre-baking prep can get a bit out of hand and overwhelming.)
Anyway, back to procrastibaking. The one common factor that I do have with the procrastibakers in this article is distraction. Baking, for me, is a distraction from myself and the world around me. It’s not a stress reliever since baking induces a different type of stress in me. But for a short moment, no matter what frustrations arise from baking, I am able to escape from my thoughts, emotions, and existence. Baking allows me to zone everything out (including myself) and focus only on the task I’ve set out to complete.
Recipe of the month: Easy Pavlova Recipe by Natasha’s Kitchen
Repetition. It’s something I often do, which should not come as a surprise since I’m all about routine. When I find a good rhythm with something, I keep it on repeat until it’s no longer applicable. For instance, I participated in a cycling class for two straight years every Monday and Wednesday. Not only did I burn a good amount of calories, but I also burnt out my interest in it. With food, I will eat something until it’s out of season or no longer enjoyable to the tastebuds.
This, of course, applies to baking as well. If a recipe is a success in process, end result, and feedback, then it becomes the recipe of the month (heck...sometimes for the season or even for the year). These yummy cookieslasted for a few seasons last year. Plus, if I had to buy particular ingredients for a recipe, I would bake them until they were gone (got to make it worth every penny, right?).
Now, you might be wondering where do all these baked items go if I’m on a repetition marathon. I can say I do not devour all that comes out of the oven. I actually eat one or two cookies or slices and am done. I rarely eat what I bake. Typically, they are shared with and/or given to family and friends.
Lately though, I find myself on repeat mode with a particular ingredient instead of a recipe. The ingredient? Raspberries. Not sure what it is about them. The taste? Maybe it’s my readiness for spring-like weather? Who knows... But so far, I’ve made raspberry crumble bars, honey-yogurt pound cakes with raspberries, and a raspberry almond puff.
Being repetitive with baking might sound a bit mundane, but it can be an opportunity to try new things with something familiar. For instance, substituting an ingredient with another to modify the flavor or texture. Yes, it might mean crossing paths with frustration and going through a few bakes before getting it right. However, there is contentment once achieving the desired result. So...don’t hesitate to bake on repeat.
Recipe of the month: Raspberry Almond Puff from Sift Magazine’s Spring 2018 issue
“Is patience really a virtue?” A question that often wanders in my mind when a recipe decides to test my limits. My determination of “getting it right” also obstructs my experience with baking. The combination of striving for 100% and tested patience is stress-inducing and a joyless experience, especially for a novice baker.
Knowing that I cannot shut off the “getting it right” mindset, I reset my perspective on baking. Instead of seeing it as a creative outlet or a stress reliever, baking has become a practice of patience for me. It taught me to slow down, focus, and wait when necessary. The result of this practice: the kitchen is still intact. ;)
Routine. It can be seen as a list of repetitive mundane tasks or an exercise that sets the day’s tone. For me, routine was the former but now is the latter. The decision to turn my routine from mindless task completion to self-care practices stemmed from wanting to better my mindset, perspective, and way of living.
Quiet mornings, the backdrop to my new routine, allow me to absorb the serenity of silence as I meditate, read, and ponder. However, my routine would not be on track if I didn’t include breakfast. Most mornings the menu includes a glass of orange juice, yogurt with granola, and a hot cup of tea. But once in awhile, I like to go “fancy” and treat myself to some Belgian waffles.
There’s something about sitting down and eating. It forces you to pause and take in the moment. And maybe that’s what my routine is trying to get me to do: slow down and take notice of things that I didn’t before.
Recipe of the month: Classic American-Style Belgian Waffles via Sophisticated Gourmet
Thirty-one days into 2018 and it seems as though the electric hand mixer, all-purpose flour, and other baking-related items are in hibernation mode. However, like waiting for dough to proof, a plan is slowly rising. While others are diving head first into their New Year’s resolutions, a moment to reflect, assess, and brainstorm is happening instead.
This month focused on figuring out the next steps of this baking journey as well as purging the unnecessary and simplifying the intention of baking. Instead of searching for those hard to find ingredients for a recipe that will most likely be baked once, the intent is to select recipes that are simple in process yet intricate in experience.