Monday, December 20, 2010

The Matron of Yummy’s Bakery, For a Night

I once saw an article where one of the Food Network stars criticized another because the other couldn’t bake.  Okay, I am not sure if that really happened; I noted this on the cover of a tabloid while standing in line at the supermarket.  We all know those tabloids never lie!

You probably figured out that I am a more than fairly decent home cook.  Like most accomplished home cooks, I have my set of bragging rights.   I am ashamed to say, I cannot bake to save my life.  My husband is the baker in the family. 

Among “real” professional cooks, there seems to be a stigma associated with not being able to do it all.   This weekend, I set out to redeem myself...  especially after making the dry, giant drop biscuits a few weeks ago.  I am dating myself but if you recall the 60’s show “Green Acres,” you will get this comparison.  Yeah, the biscuits were THAT BIG.  However, they didn’t bounce of the wall, so that was a good thing.

My quest to try to bake all started when my husband’s cousin, Betsy (an excellent baker who I am trying to get to post some of her secrets here) told me that she and her girls had made brownies, brownies and more brownies. 

Brownies sounded so good.  I haven’t had a brownie in who knows how long.  With my somewhat annoying health concerns and my constant quest to lose weight, I have been trying to eat healthy and exercise.  Unfortunately, treats aren’t on that agenda.  It’s the holidays and it’s an excuse to do all the things we’ll swear off on January 2nd.   What the hey!  I wanted brownies and there were going to be brownies! 

I was going to try to talk my husband into baking.  Everything he bakes always turns out to perfection.  Must run in his family.   Dan (hubby) had just returned from a week-long business trip.   After a big dinner, he was fast asleep on the couch.  You know a man is tired when college football and a cold beer can’t even hold his attention.

I wasn’t going to attempt to “wing” the brownies, at first.  After all, cooking is an art; baking is a science.  I guess that’s one of the reasons why I never got into baking in the first place – you have to measure and measure precisely.  I was never good at science.  I was the kid who was playing with my car instead of learning about kinetic energy in the seventh grade.  Yes, I have to measure when I write recipes, but when I cook for me and my husband, I do ye old eyeball it trick.  I am sure most of you do, too. 

So, I printed off a recipe online, only to find it was not a “tested” recipe.  It said so right in the fine print.  Ye gads.  Now what? 

I could have gotten right back online and found another.  I am sure there are a million good brownie recipes.  That was my fear; I’d spend the entire evening reading recipes and no baking would get done.  This was a mission that required action, not thought. Not research.  Just do it, for gosh sakes!  I want a brownie!

What the heck.  It was Saturday night.  I was feeling a little crazy.  I was going to improvise after all.  Worst case, if the brownies didn’t turn out, I could mail them to my friends up north to use as square hockey pucks. 

Keep in mind; we have a very nice mixer.  I don’t know how to turn it on.  I mash potatoes by hand, the old fashioned way.  It’s really my husband’s toy.  So I set out on my great Saturday night experiment; and in the Pioneer spirit, I attempted to make brownies, by hand.  Just like they did in the olden days.  I looked over at the holiday village that I set up in my dining room.   I could just picture myself as the matron of “Yummy’s Bakery.”  You know, the little woman who stands outside proudly handing over a fresh baked cake to the young child, while "visions of sugarplums danced in his head." I was going to make the best brownies ever, and I was going to make them from scratch!

I got out all the ingredients and a big, long spoon to stir it all up.  Yes, I measured, but by the recipe I was making up in my head.  The egg-to-flour mixture seemed perfect.  I even added chopped nuts – which I also chopped by hand -  No Euro-chopper for this gal.  Ha!  I added peanut butter and dark chocolate.  When the batter was a little too thick, I added a splash, just a splash of 2% milk.   

I tasted the batter.  “Yes,” I exclaimed as I danced around my kitchen Island.   I was sure that I had a winner.   I popped the brownie pan into a 350° oven.  I waited for thirty minutes until it all set up.    When I took them out of the oven, I could only imagine what the real matron of Yummy’s -- if there ever really was one -- thought when she removed her favorite creation from the oven and put it on the windowsill to cool.   We don’t have a windowsill here in Florida, so I had to settle for cooling on a rack on the kitchen counter.

And then  --  It - is -  alive!  There is something about the smell of freshly baked goods that can stir my man right out of a deep, deep coma.  He was so excited that I actually attempted to bake something on my own. 

After about twenty minutes of cooling, my husband took his first bite.  I waited with anticipation to see what he would think.  I felt like I was being judged by Simon Cowell.  After a few moments, Dan looked at me, puzzled, and said--

“Did you put any sugar in these?”

Cue the gaping mouth. 

In fact, I had put sugar in them.  I am not THAT baking inept.  I have to admit, since the original “untested’ recipe I had printed from the Internet seemed to be out of proportion, I cut the sugar by a third.  Imagine my joy when my husband proclaimed, “Oh, well.  It’s kind of like those sugar free cookies that you buy in the grocery store.” 

This holiday season, I think I’ll leave the baking up to my husband and I’ll just focus on making the perfect prime rib.  Tomorrow I’ll be the head cook at the Seafood Grotto in my holiday village instead.   
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