As I sat down to post about baking, so many things came to mind, it was hard to know where to begin. There are many things I love about baking ~ some of them I've learned from firsthand knowledge, some of them I've gathered from memory ... while many more I've conjured up through pure speculation (in other words, I read a lot of magazines and cookbooks).
I should begin by saying that I don't bake nearly as often as I'd like, and consequently, I'm not nearly as accomplished a baker as I perhaps could be. I come from a long line of excellent bakers, so, really, I have no excuse. When I remember back to family meals and holidays growing up, I always think of the delicious foods on the table, the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen ... standing at my mother's elbow, peeking over my grandmother's shoulder. At an early age I began collecting recipes - family cards and then torn sheets from my mother's magazines. To this day I hoard recipes in the hundreds; sadly, not nearly so many have come to fruition.
Why? Well, that is a post for another time - when I'm ready to delve into my time management issues. For today, in honor of Cheryl's upcoming fair, I want to concentrate on the loveliness of baking. Simply put, I don't bake enough and that's not lovely - that's frustrating. For today, I want to pretend I am a more constant and competent baker. I'm going to imagine all of the things I could bake some day ... some season ... some year!
The loveliness of baking, for me, begins with the inspiration. I find myself moved to bake as the calendar turns. As a holiday nears, I am eager to cook for it; as a season changes, I rush to celebrate it with signature fruits and flavors.
So that's where I found my focus today, in inspiration. I rounded up a year's worth of ideas and recipes that I would love to try in the coming months. That list grew quite long, and mind you, I'm not planning to make all of these things - my imagination, as it often does, got the better of me!
For today, I hope you enjoy peek in a baker's kitchen ...
In winter, the kitchen gets a good scrub down after the holidays. Depleted supplies are noted and replaced. Bits of greenery are plucked down, holiday knicknacks are packed away, and all feels refreshed and new. In the other room a fire crackles merrily, and just outside a gentle snow has started to fall.
It's time to get baking, for winter brings ...
- Citrus - warm sunny and bright! How about a blood orange cheesecake?
- Dark and sticky gingerbread, with a generous dollop of homemade whipped cream.
- A King's Bread on the Epiphany; who'll find the baby Jesus?
- January birthdays and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.
- Snow days, warmed up with cocoa and homemade marshmallows.
- Hearty yeast breads to accompany thick stews bubbling in the slowcooker.
- Fresh bread crumbs rolled into a comforting meatloaf - so good with potato rolls.
- Afternoon tea, with cups of Earl Grey and spiced chai tea cake.
- Savory meat pies, like Scottish Bridies -delicious for lunch on the go.
- Buttery shortbread on Burns Night.
- A rich winter cake with dried fruits and spices.
- A dish of tropical bread pudding to bring sunny locales to mind.
- Sweet Fortune on Chinese New Year ...
- Pancakes on Shrove Tuesday ...
- A creamy jelly roll on Abraham Lincoln's birthday ...
- Valentine cakes, of course ...
- A cherry cobbler on Washington's birthday!
- Boston Cream Pie - just because.
- And a creamy onion shortcake, perfect with a Sunday roast.
Spring brings warmer days and open windows letting in a soft new breeze. Pretty white curtains flutter in the fresh air and a windowbox full of pansies dance just outside.
Spring also brings the first seasonal produce and plenty of opportunities to bake ...
- Lovely things like scented madeleines, violet shortbreads and lemon-filled vanilla cupcakes.
- Nourishing recipes like Nana's egg custards.
- Special Irish goodies for St. Pats ~ pistachio muffins and soda bread.
- Homemade waffle sticks with local maple syrup.
- Home-baked donuts on The Feast of St. Joseph - with maple frosting to boot!
- Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese icing - a jelly bean or two wouldn't hurt.
- Beautiful lamb cakes for Easter.
- Easter pie with ricotta, spinach and ham - nice for Palm Sunday brunch.
- Also on Palm (or Fig) Sunday - fig bars!
- Tender asparagus, an early arrival, tastes wonderful in quiche.
- Time to perfect our popovers ...
- Also time to work on our sheet cake technique with the showers, graduation parties and First Holy Communions ahead.
- Rhubarb, the first fruit of the spring! So wonderful with strawberries, but plenty good on its own.
- Time for a spring hike and a batch of granola bars (or explorer bars as we like to call them).
- Smooth, rich cheesecake, a must during the Easter holidays.
- A beautiful white cake for Pentecost ...
- And an upside-down pineapple cake for Trinity Sunday.
Summer finds us spending more time outside than in, and that's as it should be ... but there's still plenty of opportunity for baking! Fresh produce is at its most plentiful, so stop by the farm stand and pick up a bunch, a bushel or peck!
Summer days bring simple but glorious delights, like ...
- The end of the year picnic ~ and these are so perfect and portable.
- Blueberries for sale along the road to and from Maine (otherwise known as Vacationland). With these tiny blue beauties, you might make a sauce, a buckle, a grunt ...
- Or perhaps a heavenly peach blueberry cobbler.
- The county fair ~ trying to win a blue ribbon and make fried dough at home.
- Sunflower muffins, nasturtium sandwiches and hummingbird cake.
- Fresh herbs from the garden mean buttermilk herb biscuits at supper.
- On Midsummer a summer pudding served in the garden.
- Putting up jams - saving a little for thumbprint cookies.
- BLT's made with heirloom tomatoes and thick slices of sourdough bread.
- Nothing sells better at a lemonade stand than rice krispy treats.
- Fruit-filled lattice pies, linzer cookies, and summer's star, strawberry shortcake.
- A plate of lime-glazed cookies served with a cooling punch.
- A simple honey-vanilla poundcake, perfect for any ripe summer fruit.
- The Fourth of July, and a grand flag cake or a platter of flag cookies.
- Take me out to the ballgame bars - at home, or at the park.
- Watermelon cake - cool or really cool!
- Homemade hamburger buns and hotdog rolls - nutritious and economical!
- Peach butter muffins taste great on the porch ...
- and corn muffins go great with summer barbecue.
- Zucchini bread tastes even better with a tall glass of iced tea.
- Summer suppers that make the most of the garden, like a ratoutille bake.
- Homemade ice cream sandwiches on the front steps.
- New England Lobster Pie after a day at the beach.
Autumn draws us back into the kitchen. The leaves are falling, the air is crisp, and the days are growing short once again. Our baking days kick into high gear as we head into the holidays.
Autumn brings homey and humble things like ...
- Soccer or football shaped cookies, just in time for the big game.
- Bake Sale days ... these are always a hit.
- Back-to-(home)school snack cakes - how fun!
- Fresh soft sandwich bread baked first thing in the morning.
- Banana-oat muffins at breakfast, pear bran bread at lunch, apple squares for evening dessert ...
- Peanut butter and jelly bread
- Cinnamon pecan buns on Sundays after church.
- Saturdays spent raking and soup for lunch with soft, fragrant rolls.
- Homemade brown bread to serve with beans and kielbasa.
- Friday night pizza with homemade dough balls in the freezer.
- Eclairs for St. Therese.
- Devil's food cake (served with tiny swords, of course) on Michaelmas ...
- and Angel's food cake for the Guardian Angels.
- Applesauce on the stovetop and oatmeal raisin cookies in the oven.
- Quick breads travel well on an autumn picnic.
- Rice pudding, so comforting on a rainy fall day.
- Peanut butter and jelly cookies!
- Homemade calzones stuffed with all kinds of savory fare.
- Halloween treats like pumpkin whoopie pies, glazed cider donuts and popcorn balls.
- Parker house rolls and anadama bread for Thanksgiving ...
- All kinds of pies and Indian pudding.
Now, next of course comes the baker's favorite time of the year - Christmas! That will have to be a post all its own, because there's simply no end to the baking ideas there ... when fresh supplies are laid in and dark cozy afternoons are unfolding ... we bake together ... listening to carols ... watching the day's light fade as the Christmas lights come on ... oops, here I go again - better wrap up! :)
Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! I'm off to buy some flour! (And don't forget Cheryl's fair on Monday!)