Cooking up some Christmas memories

Christmas is often considered baking season. Both of my sons and their wives have put forth their sweet tooth desires. Over the years I had continued the family tradition of making Christmas Cakes and Christmas Plum Puddings. As a person with diabetes both of those two Christmas items must be passed by. I would bake for my children and enjoy a piece of cake or a small portion of plum pudding at Christmas time.

The recipe for plum pudding would make three of those delicious, steamed puddings and those would last for three years. But this year my children declined the traditional Cumming desserts. A tradition will disappear, but other baking will continue.

In our home my wife continues to bake short breads, squares, butter tarts, a lemon delight and butter tarts that will be shipped off to Toronto and Calgary. Wilma Beadle who worked at the newspaper would bring in a huge tray of whipped shortbreads, each topped with a piece of candied red cherry. They melted in your mouth and the cookies would disappear in an afternoon.

Through the pandemic, with lots of time on my hands I have worked at becoming a better baker ready to tackle breads, cakes, and cookies. Not every attempt has been successful. Some have been disasters and were consigned to the garbage bin. Others were successful.

In summer I look forward to the braided bread and the rye loaves that the Gerber family sold at their market stall. I hope that eventually I will be able to match those breads.

A friend of mine asked me if I could read. And then said if you can read, you can follow recipes and be successful in cooking and baking. Preparing a meal is much different than baking a cake or making a loaf of bread. A meal gives you opportunities to adjust flavours, watch the temperature of meat to the doneness you want, and bring together the vegetables with the meal so that everything arrives warm to the table.

Michael Simon a well-known chef during the pandemic, from his home kitchen with his wife using a cell phone to record the episode prepared meals from ingredients available to him and then explained how you could substitute different cuts of meat, different spices and different ingredients while keeping everything simple. It was eye opening to see and hear of the flexibility in cooking everything from stew to a pot roast, to chicken thighs to a vegetarian meal.

But in contrast baking is much different. Flexibility disappears.

Baking requires exactness in the ingredients. Weighing is often preferred over measuring dry ingredients. I have learned that using a tablespoon when a teaspoon is called for can be disastrous. I have learned that rushing the rising of breads to speed up cooking will cause the yeast to die, and the loaf flatten out. I have learned that in making pop-overs bread flour works better than all purpose flour and heating the milk before mixing it with the eggs will make your popovers rise higher above the pan and be silkier.

I read many recipes and will compare one to another often pulling ideas from all to create a slightly different flavoured dish. I am learning.

Former Publisher
Fort Frances Times

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