Monday, November 26, 2012

A Dash of Magic

If you bake around people with frequency, you will know that there are many who are the precise, use measuring cups for everything, level all of the ingredients perfectly and mix with such exactness.  I? Am not that.  I start out usually very well with a wonderfully exact amount of butter and sugar but then you get to all of the delicious parts like cinnamon and a 1 tsp often results in dumping a 1/4 cup.  I finish by never setting timers and sensing the doneness of my baked treat with other techniques like putting my ear to the ground like listening to the rumbling of the buffalo on the ground, figure 8 balls or reading my palm to tell me that I can in fact extract it from the oven. Ok, maybe I exaggerated a bit, but I really don't ever set the timer. It often frustrates those I bake with who are insistent that timers are necessary for successful baking.  If we are being honest, it surprises me that someone as type-AAA as me even allows for such a lackadaisical approach to baking. But it happens.  In my defense, Pie in the Sky (which is my baking bible), claims that all high altitude baking requires a doubled portion of aromatics.  We'll just say that I do it for that reason...  The book doesn't say anything about my lack of timer-use but I will just say that I have a strong spidey sense and I know when something is done.
I also have a knack for knowing when something needs baked into deliciousness.  This snickerdoodle brownie?  Necessary.  

You will agree with me shortly when you learn that this was for Colorado's first snow day of the year.  It was a depressing snow day (as in it barely eeked passed a sleet to be called a snow day) but I'll count it.  I tried to aid in the snow making process by cutting out paper snowflakes to add to the snowflake count.  I made 18.  That's 18 snowflakes closer to a legitamate snow day.  I am fairly certain that made all the difference.  So 18 paper snowflakes later, a snow day it was named.
These snickerdoodle brownies on a snowy day were the recipe for perfection.  Some things just go together that way.  Adding a dash of snow with a pinch of delicious and baking it all into magic is a pretty spectacular thing.  The most beautiful piece is its unplanned nature.  In the midst of my over-planned, over-pinned life sprung a sporadic special snow day creation. 
Lately I have been learning a lot about the treasures to be found in the unplanned.  A whirlwind of events have resulted in God unveiling better dreams for myself than I even knew I could attain.  I didn't script out this part of my life but it is proving to be far greater then I could have presribed for myself.  God's plan is sweet like that.  If life was taken like baking, with precise measurements hoping for the picturesque final product created in exact replication of someone else's perfect treat, then moments like this would not come. I am challenging you as the Christmas baking season is near, to go a little wild and not follow a recipe exactly as they tell you to.  Add an extra dash of something and see what kind of creation occurs.  Do the same in one of those carefully packed days leading up to Christmas and add a splash of magic and memories with those you love each day.  If everything in life is so scripted and exact as following a recipe, then one might never experience the possibility of something greater.  God's plans are often thwarted when we try to overplan for ourselves. 

"And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn

Friday, November 9, 2012

Butter needs its own talk show.

When someone says they are a baker, the term is vague.  Are you the grab a box-mix-and-add-some-water-call-it-good-and-shove-it-in-the-oven kind of baker?  Are you the most-people-don't-even-know-how-to-pronounce-the-names-of-half-the-ingredients-that-are-in-here kind of baker? Or in between?  There is a wealth of recipes for all kinds but it always blows my mind when a devoured recipe I made has a measly six ingredients and I don't even have to bring out the blow torch to get ooo's and aaahhh's.  A well trained or even fairly well trained monkey could have made this brownie pudding.  It was mixed, baked, a la mode-ed and BAM! Masterpiece.

I mostly credit the butter.  For some reason butter raises the status of about any kitchen project.  It cures blandness, dryness, burnt-ness, you could probably spread it on that annoying person in your life and it might make them a little more tolerable too.  I would even argue that these hipsters who keep slapping bird decals on everything they own should do sticks of butter decals instead.  Instant coolness guaranteed. If Paula Dean endorses it (and she does) and everybody has a little soft spot in their heart for that southern belle (which most do) then butter must be necessary to life.
Life needs more butter.  Seriously. Don't you just wish sometimes getting through a challenging season was as simple as lathering it in something so rich and creamy and sliding out of it with ease?  I do.  But then I start to think: self?  To what benefit is this?  Take for example my brownie pudding.  It was easy.  It was divine.  But I have to count every stupid calorie in that and I gained no culinary skillz.  In case you didn't know, my calorie rules are as such:  Calories don't count if you are celebrating (because they are honorary calories), baking at high altitude (because the calories all float away), broken cookies (because all of the calories escape during the break), or before it is baked (because the chemical reaction only adds the calories post baking).  This recipe fits none of those rules.  Reason 1: It is an everyday dessert not the happy birthday kind. Reason 2: It is not a high altitude recipe. Reason 3:It is too gooey to break and have calories escape.  Reason 4: It only tastes good post baking.  Its deliciousness was temporary and it must follow the rule once-on-the-lips-forever-on-the-hips rule. The steps to follow were rudimentary and I learned nothing new for my future baking plans. Based on these factors, there is no long-term benefit to this dessert. At the end of the day, I suppose the real benefit comes from going through the hard stuff.  It may not always be easy but the reward is much greater.  As I reflect on a season of hardship and am entering into this new season of blessing, I am reminded of the steps I've had to take to get here and the transformation of my character as a result.  While ease is good, I think I'll always choose the character.
"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:3-4