Full Baking Mode

It’s already December so I can speak freely. The holidays are coming, the holidays are coming and I’m going to bake the hell out of every product I get my hands on! Yay! Holidays! That’s the gist of how I feel about December. The whole month.

I know there are people who start singing Christmas songs in November and I see such people as disturbed individuals. I know a couple. They’re unreasonably positive, always seeing a silver lining in every bleak situation and doing other stuff normal people wouldn’t do because they’re normal. I mean, normal people complain about everything and are never happy, right? Okay, I may be wrong.

Anyway, I don’t start singing — or even humming — Christmas songs in November but I do get a special itch in my brain. As soon as temperatures spend their first night in zero territory my baking addiction rears up its head. And I say hello.

Life was difficult for my baking self once upon a time when there was just the two of us, me and my then-boyfriend, now-husband. Neither of us has what was once called a sweet tooth. I don’t know if people still use the phrase but in any case, we don’t eat a lot of sweet things. Whenever I baked something we had to force ourselves to finish it even when we shared it with friends and neighbours (It’s a tradition in this part of the world, sharing your food with neighbours. As long as you know them well enough, of course. And only if you can’t eat it yourself.)

I still did it, though. You know how addictions are. You can only deny yourself the pleasure for so long before the pressure becomes unbearable. I don’t have any grand ambitions. I’m not a particularly good baker, either; I’ve ruined quite a few recipes that were probably for souffles in the guise of cakes. But I do a decent dozen of muffins or a cake as long as it’s not a souffle in disguise. I have a whole gallery of pictures to prove it.

Baking is a bit like writing. I love every part of the process: preparing the ingredients; finding out I miss a vital one; going on an emergency trip to the corner shop across the street; checking if now I’ve got everything I need; beating the eggs; adding the baking powder right before I plop the flour into the egg mixture without it; grating the cheese or the chocolate, or the apples, or whatever the recipe calls for; putting it in the oven and watching it grow and brown to that most mouth-watering of all colours, the golden brown of a well baked cake or a muffin. Unless it’s a chocolate cake or muffin, of course. Then it’s just brown.

Now, life is a lot easier because we have Cat. Not that she’s a sweet eater, no. Of course not, where do you think her genes come from? She does like sweet stuff but prefers the shop variety, which has on many occasion made me question my mothering instinct because I feel like strangling her on the spot. Kids These Days and all that. They just don’t know what’s good for them. But, be that as it may, Cat goes to school. With another 19 kids. I’m sure you can see where I’m going.

There is also the wonderful tradition of Christmas bazaars. Not only can you share the food you need to make because of addiction with people who will, hopefully, appreciate it but you will be doing good in the process. The reasons I love December have multiplied in the past eight years.

So far this December, I’ve done my linzers and my Swedish honey cookies, and I’ve got Russian curd cookies and some brand of lemon cookies lined up for today. I’ll make cute little goodie bags with them for the good people of Cat’s school and send the rest around the block, the block being the actual apartment building we live in. We call them blocks.

This is great but it presents a problem. I will be left with two weekends until the end of the year and no reasons for baking anything. I’m not too worried, though. By then I will be humming Big Bad Voodoo Daddy all day long and will be planning the Christmas and New Year’s Eve lineup. Oh, and I will be baking bread. Since I don’t have the kitchen capabilities for making huge quantities of bread in one go, I have to bake it every day because the quantity I do have capacity to make goes fast. So yeah, I’ll be baking bread for the rest of this generally good year.

P.S. One of the great things about having a kid is the volunteer slave labour. She volunteered to spread the jam on the linzer cookies and stick them together — something I’ve always found tedious. The not so great thing about having a kid is that she also wants to cut all the cookies — an activity I greatly enjoy. Oh well, life is about sacrifices. We all have to make them.

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