Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Recipe for a Better Baker

My first memory of helping my mom in the kitchen would have taken place when I was about 4 or 5 years old. I remember watching her prepare different vegetables for a salad she was making, thinking it would be a fun job, and begging if I could help her. She was very hesitant-- in fact, I think she said no at first. But after a little while of trying to convince her that I knew what I was doing (though I'd never done it before), I found my chubby little self standing at the counter with washed hands and a cucumber to cut. She carefully instructed me on how to hold the knife and keep my hands safe from the blade as it went in and out of the cucumber, each time making it a little smaller and a little trickier to hold safely.

Well, that job didn't last long. I don't think I thought her instructions were really so important as she made them out to be, so chop, chop I went. And before I knew it, I'd chopped right into my finger! It was a lesson well learned. And needless to say, I didn't ask her if I could help in the kitchen again for a few years after that. ;)

The next time I ventured into the kitchen asking for jobs would have been when I was around 8 years old. I started out with small jobs, like sprinkling olives on pizza, measuring oatmeal, and cutting out cookies. Before I knew it, I was making French Toast for the family, scrambling eggs, and baking bread, pies and cakes.

Today I am 19 years old, and as is evident by my current occupation, I love cooking and baking more than ever! I have earned something of a reputation among those around me for loving to bake and being pretty good at it (though, I know I still have a long ways to go).

This reputation has brought a lot of questions my way over the years. Questions like "Where did you learn to bake so well?", "How did you get started doing this?", etc.

So, I've decided to post some of those answers on here. Aside from the "How I got started with it all" (as you already know from the beginning of this post), I want to leave the aspiring bakers out there with a few tips on how to get into baking, and of course, baking well. These are not all that I would say, when giving tips on baking, but they're a start.

First off, Don't Wait to be Taught-- Teach Yourself.

Not that you shouldn't take help when it's offered-- really, all that I know of baking is what others have taught me and what I've learned through experience. What I mean is that you should not wait for information to come to you. If you want to learn, go for it! Find the information you need, and jump in with two feet.

One thing that I have always enjoyed doing is reading cook books. I can't say that I can sit there and read one for hours and hours... no, actually, I love to look at the pictures the most. :-D But I have spent a lot of time reading, and as a result, I have learned a LOT of things that I wouldn't have otherwise known. Having facts, tips, and substitutes stored in my mind has helped me with not only my success in baking, but my confidence as well.

Second, Don't be Afraid to Fail.

I've made so many miserable masterpieces, I can't even tell you. But the one thing I know is this-- almost every single time, I learned what NOT to do next time. People often learn best through their mistakes, so don't give up. Look for what you did wrong, figure out how to fix it, roll up your sleeves, and go at it again. My motto is, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!"

And third, Practice Makes Perfect.

Practice DOES make perfect. If you work at it, each time aiming for something a little better than before, you'll improve by leaps and bounds. I know this from experience: Practice, practice, practice! Get a feel for the rules of baking and learn where you can bend them.

I recently purchased a few books to teach myself a few more things, and I would highly recommend them any and all who are interested. While I have not done much with them yet, I am learning a lot, and I'm looking forward to trying some new things with them.

The first one is "Baking," by James Peterson. (Pictured below.) AWESOME book!

The second is "The Essential Baking Cookbook," by Whitecap Books.

And then, last but CERTAINLY not least would be "Chocolate and Confections," by Peter P. Greweling.

These books are all available through Amazon, or you could just do what I did for some of 'em and head on over to Chapters here in Windsor. I happen to know that at least one of them is on an especially good sale. :D I'll try to get some book reviews up once I have finished going through these books a little more thoroughly.

Hopefully by August, I'll be getting some of my very own pictures up on this blog with recipes and tutorials for you all to enjoy. Perhaps I'll try some things from one of these books? We'll see! :)

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Neglected Blogs Are My Speciality

...Unfortunately, this is true. I am hoping that will change soon, however, because... dun dunna na! I have my own computer now! And pretty soon, I'll be getting a better camera. B-) Talk about awesome.

But for now, you can hop on over to my other blog by clicking on the photo below-- and checking out the sweet deals associated with it.