Monthly Archives: July 2008

The Great Baking Project

I’ve been semi-planning this project in my head for months, and it’s finally time to make it happen.  I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll never be a particularly good cook.  Good cooking requires a certain flair for the spontaneous and the improvisational that I just don’t have.  I’m a rule/recipe follower.  And, as such, I think that with some practice I could make a half-decent baker.  Plus, I’ve always enjoyed the little bit of baking that I have done.

I’m also a fan of Alton Brown.  We own several of his cookbooks, and I enjoyed his show back when I watched television.  From the moment that I’m Just Here for the Food came out, I said, “I wish he would do one on baking.”  And then a couple years later, he did.  We promptly bought it, and I’ve read the extensive introductory materials several times.  But, I’m honestly not sure if I have made anything from it.

Nevertheless, I really like the way that Alton Brown has organized the book by categorizing recipes into a handful of basic mixing/baking techniques, and then giving detailed instructions and several recipes for each technique.  Thus, it strikes me that after working through his book, you could pick up most any baking recipe and understand what makes it tick.  Seems pedagogically sound to me.

And so, I’m off on a baking adventure.  My goal is to bake something approximately once per week.  My plan is to work my way through the Alton Brown book making several recipes from each technique before moving on to the next technique.  I certainly won’t make everything in the book.  I’ll cherry pick recipes that seem relatively easy and fun.  

The adventure begins this week with blueberry muffins on Saturday morning.  I’m starting with the muffin method, which is the first technique in the book.  It’s a versatile method encompassing muffins, quickbreads, pancakes, waffles, and even some cookies and other delights.  It should be fun. One thing that Alton Brown makes a very big deal of in the front of his book is the need to weigh ingredients rather than measure them by volume.  The keeper of the kitchen says that I can’t get a kitchen scale, though, until I demonstrate some commitment to the baking project.  (Since I’ve been talking about this project for months, maybe years, I think she believes that this will never happen.)  So, these first few weeks I’ll be making use of the volume measures that Brown includes.  (I think he says somewhere that he wanted to omit them entirely, but that his publisher wouldn’t allow it.)  But we’ve agreed that if I stick with the project until my birthday (a couple of months from now), then I can get a kitchen scale, provided that I find somewhere to store it in the kitchen.  

I’ve further stated that if I keep it up until Christmas, I want to get a food processor, which Brown recommends for sifting dry ingredients.  I haven’t quite gotten agreement on that one yet, but once I’ve wooed her with my astounding baked goods, I’m sure I can make it happen.