Baking, Baking Biographies

Baking is . . .

love made edible bannerI love to read.  I’ve always loved reading.  When I was a young girl, I spent most of my summers reading.  And when I discovered a summer reading program my sixth grade year – I was overjoyed!  The school gave their students access to the library for a handful of hours each Friday to encourage the students to be better readers.  I saw this as a summer filled with adventures.

I happily walked my younder siblings to our little library and we carried full book-bags back home just in time for lunch.  It was a first in summer reading programs.  It was the summer of 1980.  I read Florence Nightingale’s biography and the entire “The Great Brain series by J.D. Fitzgerald.  (I don’t know why I loved that series, but I did.)  In seventh grade, I was enrolled in a speed reading class.  I really enjoyed that class!  I learned how to read the important words and disregard the rest.  I learned to retain the information to do well on comprehension tests.  I read fast.  I did well. I joined a Bible Quiz club and learned memorizing skills and studied with furvor. (my spelling, however, was always a struggle)  Math? Science? P.E. Class?  for the birds .. I did my best, but my best wasn’t so hot.  Learning about History or the biography of those scientists – wonderful!

Fast forward to a married young woman with little ones, homemaking, and cooking.. I could read at and follow a recipe with ease; but didn’t find much, if any, joy in cooking.  It was like science class of sorts .. follow the formula and get an edible outcome.  Boring.  But our little family  needed to eat .. every day.  The more I cooked the better the meals became.  I loved to set the table, talk at the table, and laugh with family and friends.  I saw that aspect as the enjoyment of meals more than the cooking.

Now our children are adults, many are married, and Curt and I are empty nesters.  I have time to reflect on how my cooking has progressed through the years and the course it will take in the future.  I have time again to read just for me.  During our children’s growing up years I didn’t really have the time for pleasure reading.  We homeschooled k-12 and read aloud for the children.  Now .. now the house is in a new season .. what could I read?

I found a book at the library with an intriguing title:  The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper.  The title was so lovely — so splendid.

The greatest joy in this book has been the people who made it possible.  I want to wrap my arms around the entire region of Emilia-Romagna in appreciation.  She and her people shared so much, not only in tangible information, but in the intangibles:  the spirit of her hospitality, the way light moves across her plain and her deep passion for her own culinary heritage.      ~Acknowledgements, The Splendid Table

How could I not join the author on her journey?  This isn’t just a book of edible formulas; it is a beautiful adventure.  Immediately, I saw the countryside, I felt the warm sunshine, and could smell the aromas beckoning as breads baked, meats were grilled, and fruit ripened . . . can you smell the freshness?  The author brought to life a cookbook in a way I’d never read.  This wasn’t a list of ingredients like a ‘to-do’ list.  This was a rosy cheeked loud grandma with her sleeves rolled up, dirty apron, showing you the right way to cook.  Having you taste and taste again ..

And so I began to read about soups, breads, pastas .. such a familiarity .. Garlic, butter, tomatoes, beef, olive oil .. hey! these are my favorite foods .. hey! .. a light bulb .. my maternal grandparents cooked like this .. my mom loves these .. and then I knew it .. I had come home .. I suddenly realized that food was more than for survival.  There was something more than the nutrients it possesses, it is meant to bring JOY TO YOUR TABLE.

He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and the herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; and wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to mke his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.                                                                                                                              -Psalm 104:14-15

I began to search out cookbooks that told a story, authors and bakers that invited the reader to join their family dinners, hear the laughter, and taste the delight found written on the pages.  As I read, I learned.  As I read the more confident I became as a baker and it began to show at our table.  My perspective on food was brought back to where is should be .. making our table a place of joy and not getting through another meal with dishes and complaining; but rather taking the time to enjoy and cherish the moment with those whom we ‘break bread’.

I’ll leave you with the following hashtags for you to consider:  #slowliving  #bringbreadhome  #homemade  #freshfromtheoven #splendidtable #family #friends #gatheringtogether  #morethanjusteating #lovemadeedible #nosciencehere #allheart

Are your meals #madewithlove ??

until next time,

~Cristina

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Baking, Show and Tell

Beautiful Weddings

fondant flowers and leaves 042017

Our family has celebrated another wedding and that is the reason for my lack of posting lately… ya know .. wedding stuff ..

Our youngest daughter got to have her outside wedding.. she did a beautiful job in planning and execution of her vision.  A small wedding in our oldest son’s backyard was the perfect setting for the celebration.

You know how the day before the ceremony, everyone is bustling and decorating and there’s commotion at every turn .. now .. add to that a very unusual snow in the morning followed by sunshine and then a dose of hail in the afternoon for good measure … it was a day full of weather surprises, for sure! Despite all that ‘raining down’ on an otherwise beautiful outdoor wedding, everything went off without a hitch… well, except for the ‘hitch’ at the I Do’s — hahaha!  (sorry, I had to say it)

I was honored to make the wedding cake.  It was so much fun to learn how to make fondant (or sugar paste as is known outside the USA) flowers.  My husband’s niece helped me to bake all the cake layer and was such a blessing!!  We made 4 -14″ squares and 4-14″ rounds to create one giant heart!

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Our second son’s girlfriend was my assistant decorator — another blessing!! Thanks, Noelle!  I definitely learned so much during that whole process!!  I suppose that’s a good thing.. to always be willing to learn and grow and improve..right?  We still have an abundance of Strawberry Cream cheese Filling!  In my endeavor to have enough, I made a gallon too much!  Into the freezer that went, I’ll let you know of future baking that may or may not have some extra Strawberry Cream Cheese Filling in it.

Our daughter and son-in-law loved the cake and that is what’s most important!
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Here is the inspiration for the cake .

Would you like the recipes?  First let me explain .. no let me sum-up .. After several practice cakes, I discovered that our daughter is Goldie Locks .. and not just for her blonde hair .. but that she wanted her cake to be just right.  She wanted a lemon cake. Simple. or so I thought.  The first cake was a lemon pound cake made with cream cheese in the batter .. that was too dense.  For the second cake, I used a different recipe that omitted the cream cheese and used sour cream instead.  Beautiful.  Perfect sponge, perfect fresh lemon flavor.. but no .. not quiet right, said she.  I was resolved to make everything from scratch.  Our daughter’s wedding is a big deal and I wanted the cake to be superb.  In desperation for the perfect wedding lemon cake, I asked my niece for suggestions.  She had a recipe that used as it’s base boxed white cake.  She explained that the science of the boxed cake helped in the overall sponge of the cake.  OK.. At this point, okay, it just needed to be more light in texture.

We used her ‘doctored’ box cake recipe with lemon emulsion and Voila! Success!!

stay tuned for the recipe … I have to go find it …

 

you deserve some sweetness today,

~Cristina