I hate baking but I do it like once a year.
I hate baking.
I think it’s one of those things that I like in theory. I mean, in theory, I like the idea of baking. I like the idea that with some eggs and flour and sugar I can make magic. I like the idea of fresh baked apple pies with a glistening lattice crust. I like the idea of rich, chocolatey layer cakes topped with gooey buttercream and thick ganache. I like the idea of warm muffins bursting with fresh blueberries straight from my oven.
But, out of theory, baking is just messy.
In order to bake, you have to clean. Twice. You have to clean before you bake to make sure your surfaces aren’t contaminated with last night’s chicken or that morning’s hazelnut creamer. You have to bust out your mixer and scrub it of all its dust. And you have to make sure your cats’ hair and litter and food and saliva stay far from your baking area. Along with, you know, your crazy nosey cats.
But then, after baking, you have to clean again. Because flour and sugar and egg goop disseminate. You can’t stop them from getting all over the place. And there is no turning back if you accidentally turn up the speed on your KitchenAid mixer a little too quickly.
I mean, sure, you probably should clean twice when you cook regular meals too, but it’s not the same as cleaning with baking because a pork chop or a bell pepper isn’t split into a million teeny tiny particles that get into every crevice of your kitchen and most of that mess when cooking if confined to a cutting board that you can scrape straight into the trash can and put directly into the sink.
And, speaking of cooking, when you’re cooking you can julienne as many or as few carrots as you want or eyeball some soy sauce or shake a salt shaker over your dish without measuring a damned thing and your meal will usually turn out fine. But with baking, you have to be precise and measure things and probably weigh things and I’m sorry but who has time in their life for that?
So, for most of the year, I confine my baking to boxes of Jiffy muffins and go to one of the many fine bakeries in Chicago (of which there are several just down the block from me in Lincoln Square) to fulfill my sugar cravings.
But, sometimes, like maybe once or twice a year, you just need to bake something from scratch. Sometimes I just get the itch to bake a specific recipe, like an olive oil cake or some chocolate brownies. But, usually, the only time I bust out my mixer is around Christmas.
I could tell, last week, when I settled in to bake Christmas cookies that it had been a long time since I last baked because when I tried to move my KitchenAid from the shelf, it wouldn’t budge. The little plastic feet had melted themselves into the wood but, after some prying, I was able to finally move the mixer, feet still firmly stuck to the surface of my kitchen shelf. The layer of dust was also alarming and I spent a good part of my prep time scrubbing every surface of the mixer and bowls and paddles and attachments three times over.
And then I continued to make a mess. I got flour and brown sugar all over. There were egg shells for days. I forgot to secure the bowl to the stand so, when I turned the mixer on, the bowl went flying and I nearly lost a finger.
But, at the end of the day, I had cookies. Marshmallow fluff swirl dark chocolate chip cookies (recipe below). And I had a contribution for our annual holiday cookie exchange at work.
And I had a messy kitchen. That I still haven’t completely finished cleaning up.