Thursday, March 4, 2010

Stressed Out? Let's Bake!

Right now there are homemade blueberry muffins in the oven.  A recipe from a Williams Sonoma cookbook that I've just cracked open.  And muffins are just the first item on my list to bake tonight.  I've also got dough for two stromboli rising on the counter;  they'll be stuffed and rolled with Boar's Head Black Forest Ham, Pepperoni, Salami, Provolone, Mozarella ("muutz-a-rella"), and Romano.  And, as I stopped at the market after work, I couldn't help but drop Anise Seeds (for Biscotti), and Almond extract into my cart as well.

People always ask me if I prefer to cook or to bake.  Baking wins every time. Hands down. My love of homemade, baked goods stems from my Mom, Godmother, and Grandmothers.  I'm a cookie snob and can tell the difference between a good "crumb," whether the batter or dough has been over-mixed, and if the leavening worked properly.  I know how to brown a butter pastry to a deep golden tone, and how to pipe royal icing with the best of the at-home bakers.

Baking is unique because its based on a chemical reaction.  You start with a combination of precisely measured ingredients, you impart heat & time, and your reward is a product in an entirely new form.  Baking changes things.  It changes ordinary flour, sugar and butter into sublime shortbread cookies. (And those Shortbread cookies were absolute show-stoppers at my wedding reception. Thanks, Mrs. Joseph!).

Doughs and batters change during the baking process in one of two ways.  Either a leavening agent gives off Carbon Dioxide causing the your baked good to rise.   Or, the cold butter cut into your pie crust or dough gets hot enough in the oven to let off steam. As that steam rises, something strange and magical happens. Your Result: golden, flaky layers that will change your day.

Yes, I like baking because it lets off steam.   Baking melts away my stresses and worries, and leaves me with a sweet treat to share with someone I love. And it leaves me in a better state of mind than the rest of the day has.   I've had a smile on my face all night as I've putz'd around the kitchen.  Tuning up my Kitchen Aid stand mixer; choosing between biscotti recipes to try, and even contemplating getting the Pizzelle iron out this weekend. 

Do you want me to make you some biscotti? I've been mailing biscotti to lots of out of town people lately.  Send me an email with your address and favorite flavor.  The momentary distraction, and baking at 350, couldn't make me happier.


  1. Sharing with someone you love? By that you meant your tummy, right?

  2. Leah I love your blog!!! I actually just started one of my own, it is still a work in progress but feel free to check it out:

    I love baking too, and if you want a good muffin recipe I actually have one posted, and I have an awesome hazelnut chocolate biscotti recipe. If you sent me biscotti + the recipe maybe I can enjoy yours and then make some more of my own! :)

    Ps. this is Amanda, I just realized my alias might not be recognizable. ;)

  3. you sound just like my daughter.

    "hi mom! just made some challah bread.
    it rose to about 6" and is delicious."

    i can't bake a thing. :)

  4. um, biscotti-yum!

    LeighAnn Swaggerty
    4901 Country Walk Lane
    Sylvania, OH 43560


  5. her biscotti is amazing by the way!