Baking with Love and/or Precision???

Posted August 12th, 2011 in Gadgets & Gizmos, In the Kitchen, Posts

I have been baking and cooking for as long as I can remember.  I have a distinct memory of standing on a step stool at my Yiayia’s  (Greek for Grandma) stove and watching her make her famous Giouvarlaki (meatball soup). She didn’t speak much English and we didn’t speak Greek so I always heard “You better like it!” when she told me the name of the dish.  It didn’t really sound as threatening when she said it as it does in print.  Her cooking was all LOVE!  This is the way I learned to cook. She had a teaspoon from the silverware drawer that she used as the “little spoonful” and a big serving spoon that she used as “the big spoonful”.  There was a tiny wine glass as her main liquid measure (I have those glasses now).   My own mom is ALWAYS in the kitchen. When I think of her that is where I picture her. Even at 85 she will spend all day making food for just my dad and herself.  It is and has always been her therapy. I think I got that from her.

Recently we took a food tour in my home town of Sacramento.  We visited a local Mexican Restaurant 524  that has been in the same spot since the 1950′s.  The owner told the story of a long time cook that would hide his “measuring” spoon when he was going to have a day off so no one could duplicate his recipes exactly. This was his job security and it served him well for decades. 

On my recent visit to New Mexico,  Ben White Buffalo who owns the  Tiwa Kitchen and Bakery in Taos  told us that his mother made the most amazing hand pies with local wild fruit.  She gave her recipe to her sons and daughters-in-law but they could never quite get the exact texture of the dough.  Near the end of her life, they caught her sneaking in an extra handful of flour which proved to be the secret.  I ate one of those pies and I can attest that they have it right!

On the same trip, Kaitlin, my mom and I went to the Santa Fe Cooking School for a class on traditional New Mexican Cooking. Chef Deena Chafetz did an amazing  job with this food. We were inspired to purchase ingredients to bring home and try our hand at the amazing Carne Adovada and Sopaipillas with spiced honey that she demonstrated. But more than the food, we took away her philosophy: “Angry chefs make angry food” or conversely, the secret ingredient is always love.

But…reading food blogs and watching food tv I have begun to feel a bit insecure about my baking style.  Professional bakers say that baking is precise, more science than food. It is about the chemical reaction that takes place when you precisely combine baking powder, baking soda, sugar, flour and salt. 

SO I have become intimidated enough to add to my kitchen gadgetry.  I purchased a digital food scale the other day.  After reading my friend Kimberly on Poor Girl Eats Well for a while I was determined to find a bargain scale and was unwilling to spend the big bucks at a fancy cooking store. (I am saving for a great knife!).  I found the perfect tool at Home Goods! It is a measuring cup with the digital screen on the handle.  I am excited to try my hand at those Native American hand pies so you can bet they will show up here soon, maybe next week!

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