Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bakers vs. Cooks

Is it just me, or is there a sort of unspoken tension between those who consider themselves "cooks", and those who consider themselves "bakers"?

The Cook. So pretentious. So over zealous and arrogant. Proclaiming baking as a "limiting" trade due to its precise measurements and recipes, the cook has given up on the oven after one too many bubbling messes oozing out of the loaf pan like lava where a toasty cranberry walnut loaf should have been. With a need to improvise and take mistakes back, cooks are simultaneously creative and clumsy.

The Baker. We all know this person. That one chick in the office or at the tailgate who prides herself on being "the one" people turn to for cookies, cupcakes and other bread-like products. Mysteriously, she is always a rail. Someone explain that to me. Needless to say, everyone likes this person, which makes her skinniness that much more obnoxious. Also, it's not uncommon for the baker to despise any type of cooking that does not involve eggs, an oven and complicated icing techniques.

You might be asking yourself, "Where do I fit in?" Chances are you know exactly which personality fits you. And if you're not sure, you either A. Kind of suck at both of these things or B. Might be a little bit like me.

You see, I grew up in a house ruled by The Cook's iron, chicken-wielding fist. The woman can COOK. But, do I have memories of fragrant pies sitting out on the window sill to cool, or fresh oatmeal raisin cookies waiting for me to devour at the end of a particularly math-filled school day? Negative. In fact, my memories of her homemade sweets are limited to the holidays - I'm talking pumpkin pie, apple pie. That might be the extent of it.

Two reasons for this, I hypothesize. 1: My mother is 5'4 and <110 pounds. Yet, a girl after my own heart, she was famed for hiding in the pantry as a child eating cherry pie filling out the can. Do you think a person with that sort of dedication to sweets can keep fresh baked goods around? That's a physical impossibility. Reason #2: My mother has a complete aversion to mess. We are talking vacuum once a day, sparkling counter tops type aversion here. She always argued, Baking is so messy. Flour, flour everywhere. She, of course, had a point - which has a lot to do with being a mom, I think.

So where do I fit in?

Not surprisingly, and much to my fortune, I take after Mom - and a natural cook I became. Truly, I hadn't given baking a chance. Until I remembered: the mess. The dreaded, baking mess. A mess which for me, the clumsy cook, leaving a path of soiled dishes and numerous spills behind me, tends to be immeasurably larger than other bakers'. But I'm kind of a hot mess myself, so is it strange to assume that baking and I go together better than I once assumed?

One thing I've learned about baking: it does not afford the baker the luxury to "screw up" the way that cooking does, which is very frustrating to the baker and disappointing to the bake-ee. There are no mistakes in baking. There are lots of mistakes -- and solutions -- in cooking. That works out pretty well for someone like me, who tends to zone out while sauteing and starts thinking about that scene from Star Wars where Luke Skywalker climbs into that weird horse looking creature's body for warmth in the middle of the tundra. Pull a move like that during baking? There is no going back.

To the point. Today I made these. 

Pumpkin Brownie Swirl Bread/Mini Muffin/Too Sweet & Great To Be Called "Bread" Things.

Combination of Trader Joe's Genius & Lawfully Wedded Wife's Brainchild. Make them. No seriously.

Oh, and about the "having too many fresh baked goods" around issue. Turns out that, when you work in an office, sweet treats aren't nearly as tough to get rid of as Mom thought. So that's how those baker girls do it!


  1. This is really cute, Steph. I love it. I'm def. not a baker. I fudge it up every single time.