Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Baking - An Expose

If you're like me, you look at cooking shows and blogs and pinterest and all the other places where the perfect people display their beautifully-formed wares.  They flaunt their creativity and the perfection of their innovations and artistic talents.  Everything looks like it was made without mess, without mistakes, and without effort.  Oh sure, they posture about "I had a few hiccups along the way" but they gloss over that with a tra la la and an "any one can do it!".

I am here to tell you that I think they are frauds.  They're lying.  And if they're not lying about this then surely they are lying about some other aspect of their lives.  Martha Stewart: case in point.  I'm telling you (and me) this to make you all feel better about not being one of these perfect people.  If you happen to be the Perfect I am talking about, then I salute you and encourage you not to refute anything I'm saying.  Let the Non-Perfects in this world have some hope.

I like to bake.  It's always been an element of domesticity that has agreed with me.  Mostly because there's a sugary outcome, even if you mess up.  Uncharacteristically, I can even manage the tidying up.  Mostly because there's sugariness involved here too.  I'm no Nigella, but I reckon I make a pretty good bikkie and a tasty cake on my good days.  The only truly disastrous thing I've ever baked is grape muffins.  They were foul and I have two good friends who can confirm this.  Other than that, everything else has been edible at worst, delicious at best.  I'm telling you this so that you know what is about to unfold below is not usually how I like to operate and also so you know that I'm no mug when it comes to knowing my way around a mixing bowl.  Furthermore, I would like to placate any of you who have eaten my baking and are worried that a similar process occurred.  Phil and I were the only lucky recipients of this baking experience.  We chose to eat the results despite knowing the process.

Have I baited you enough?  No?  Well before I share with you my baking "tips", let me run over how things might look if you were a Perfect writing about your baking.

1. You introduce the delicious item with a quirky story about why you chose to make this today
2. You list all your ingredients and quantities and provide helpful hints on where to get the best produce  or the most effective way to prepare said ingredients
3. You provide clear and concise instructions, possibly with some lovely photos, about how to put the delicious item together.
4. You round it off with lovely photos of the finished product and encourage others to try your recipe.

Here is how it went for me.

1. Put on cute apron.  Feel smug that already looking the part of domestic baking goddess.

2. Begin to assemble ingredients for today's recipe, yo-yos straight from the Edmonds cookbook.  Foolproof.  Realise you are missing butter.  There are only 4 ingredients and you are missing the main one.  Text husband to bring you butter when he comes home for lunch.

3.  Answer call from husband standing in front of butter fridge at supermarket and give directions for which particular brand of butter is appropriate (a buttery one is good).  Husband arrives home.  Feel smug about greeting your husband wearing an apron - domesticity must appear to be in progress.

4. Wait for child to wake from nap, feed her lunch, and set her on the kitchen floor with a host of interesting objects so you are optimising her good mood time.  Consider dressing child in cute clothes and her apron so she can look like she's "helping" you bake, but realise that readers will see through this immediately as am never that organised, plus will use valuable good mood time.

5. Ready camera to take photos of baking in progress.  Remember that husband has taken said camera to work today so get hot pink snappy camera as some photos are better than none.  Realise hot pink camera has almost no battery charge but box on.

6. Cream butter and sugar.  Pick up child to show them what is happening so they stop freaking out about dodgy sound the mixer makes.  Put child down and distract with toys on floor.

7. Take a photo of creaming.  Feel smug that you are a domestic blogging goddess.  Realise that the chicken for tonight's tea is defrosting in the background of the shot so take another with it just out of sight.  No one will no what it is and if you drop the focus the shit on top of the dishwasher will be visible.  Feel smug that you are a domestic photographing blogging goddess.

By far the most boring shot of the day

8. Open flour drawer in kitchen and measure the flour.  Grasp fruitlessly for the rolled oats bag child has just yanked from the drawer.  Watch helplessly as child flings rolled oats all over the kitchen floor.  Child proceeds to slide around in rolled oats.  Allow this to continue as it's keeping her from trying to scale your legs.  Child enjoys spreading rolled oats around entire kitchen area.  Make a note to return Top Mum badge.

That's how I roll (get it?  Man I'm funny)

9.  Go to get custard powder from the cupboard.  Find the packet at the back of cupboard and look at it suspiciously - packet looks like it is circa 1995.  Look into top of custard powder packet and notice slight discolouration of powder.  Possibly traces of weevils also.

10.  Cross roads: try to resurrect what little custard powder you can from vintage, infested pack, or flag entire process.  Decide to doggedly box on.  If biscuits are gross, can be biffed before anyone has to taste them.

11. Sift less sinister looking bits of custard powder to make sure there are no weevils in the bits you plan to put in biscuits.  Pour rejected custard powder into the sink so it makes a congealed, yellow mess in sink.  Decide at this stage to stop taking photos.  Probably not very enticing...

12. Beat flour, vanilla, and dodgy custard powder into cream mixture.  Look on with concern as it looks like bread crumbs.

[side note: when you make "short" things like yo-yos, they often have a very crumbly look about them but come together.  Mine looked more like sand from the Sahara than bread crumbs]

14.  Attempt to distract child who is becoming bored of swimming in rolled oats.  Realise you are swiftly running out of good mood time.

13.  Box on (the theme of the day) with crumbly mixture.  Try to press into balls.  End up with pea-sized biscuits.  Try adding some melted butter to increase stickability.  End up with buttery bits in the mixture.

15.  Pack several pea-sized balls together to make decent-sized biscuits and place on baking tray.  Try to do this while singing The Wheels on the Bus to child who is now attached like a limpet to legs.

16.  Press biscuits with fork.  There are all kinds of things going round on this bloody bus that should not be there.  Typical of public transport really.

17. Get biscuits in oven and look at making icing.  Realise that butter icing needs custard powder.  Seriously consider scooping some out of sink but understand this is a bridge too far.  Settle for plain butter icing with vanilla essence.

18.  Get biscuits from oven.  Express mild surprise that they look vaguely normal (except the two that got the lump of extra butter added to make mixture more sticky - they've melted off to one side).

18.  Realise that child is alternating between trying to scale your legs using teeth as crampons, and rolling despairingly in oats.  Decide to put child down for nap before attempting icing.

Edie trying to scale my legs

Don't leave me down here Mumma!

19.  First real success of baking: child goes to sleep.

20. Whip butter icing by hand for fear blender will wake child.  Ice biscuits.

21. Step back and survey the carnage.  Try to clean up quietly so as not to wake child.

BUT HERE'S THE KICKER PEOPLE.  Look at what came out.  They look like some pretty edible biscuits.  And even my hot pink snappy camera managed to capture them looking alright.  So what's the lesson here?  The lesson is that I could have written that up to make it sound like Blog Recipe #1 up there.  I could have tried to say that it all went swimmingly with a few "hiccups" and showed the photo below and you might have believed me.  But that would make me a liar or at best, a stretcher of the truth.  How many people out there are doing this to us??  I am standing up for the Non-Perfect out there and letting you know that if you have ever been through anything like I did on Monday, you are normal.  The abnormal people are the Perfects (if they even really are perfect).

So bake away my friends!  Or whatever it is you do!  Do not be put off by people who seem to be in control of their lives.  They'll be on home detention for dodgy trading before you know it.

And yes, we ate the biscuits.


  1. This is such fantastic stuff Charlotte and lots of mad head-nodding going on as I read!!!! What stunning presence of mind you display xx Anna P

  2. TOTALLY! I often wonder whether something actually tastes as good as it looks when I look at cooking magazines. Love imagining Edie swimming in the oats :-)

  3. Especially funny as about to embark on baking marathon for whanau arriving in weekend! I am one step ahead though. I have got rid of the two small children for this exercise! xx

  4. Absolutely love the picture of Edie scaling your legs. Oh how I laughed!

    Your yo-yo's look great and your baking story sounds much like mine (minus the child).
    However when I bake my finished results tend to look awful (but still taste really good).

  5. I am a bad friend. I was sort of hoping for a disastrous-looking biscuit - perhaps one that still tasted good. In other news, I once made pecan pie for my Mum (I think it was her birthday) and completely forgot the sugar ...