41. Baking Away

Well, it finally happened – I caught the baking bug. My reluctance to step foot in the kitchen growing up was well justified lest I get caught up making pizza dough, biscotti, bagels, cinnamon buns, chalah bread, muffins, etc. In hindsight, my child and teenage self didn’t see the joy in baking, it was much more of a chore. Sometimes I would get short bursts of inspiration, but I was quickly drawn back to just-add-egg mixes and take-away food. The skills I begrudgingly acquired faded, and the importance of fresh, handmade food in my mind dwindled throughout university.

The start of the process: sugar, flour and butter.

Who could be so cynical as to decry a house full of homemade goodies? Why, I did dear reader. And successfully I might add, for many years. Call it jaded, call it shortsighted, but my perspective changed this past Christmas.

I was gifted some Australian cookie cutters in shapes of various fauna and decided to give it a whirl. I thought it would be easy. The recipe I tried didn’t work. The dough was too soft. It was a disaster. Who couldn’t make simple sugar cookies? Me.

After years and years of helping in my mother’s kitchen, I couldn’t bake a straightforward recipe. I decided this was going to change. And if I was going to be in the driver’s seat, I’d (finally!) make what I had always wanted to try.

I started with emphasis on desserts, having had a lifelong sweet tooth.

I’ve always liked scones. Only three ingredients, recipe courtesy of Margaret Fulton, Australian baking icon.
A more North American friendly scone, with a heaping cup of sugar, cream and jam.

Lemon bars! A lifelong dream to make. These went into the oven so runny I thought I messed up, but turned out amazing and really do look like the picture. Recipe found here.
A choc custard cake. On a diet or not big on sweet desserts? This is a great option. Top tip: turn it upside down to serve! This one also goes in the oven very liquidy.
Mom’s choc cookies, Silver palate cookbook.
Angel food cake, the devil. Uses a silly amount of eggs and precision. I followed Sugar Spun Run’s recipe. Her page had the most detail and a how-to video. I have the pan if anyone is keen!

Some challenges I’ve had are translating American recipes to metric. Here in Australia they use grams and Celsius, which is something I didn’t notice about Canadian recipes – we’re all over the place with how we measure stuff. The most helpful tool I’ve used to keep consistent is a scale. Some recipes also have nuances, needing dutch processed cocoa powder or preferring cake flour or self raising flour to all purpose flour, or caster sugar to white sugar. Some names are different as well, cornstarch is corn flour, flax seed is linseed, half and half just doesn’t exist, etc. It requires more patience then at home, but a nice middle ground is finding Australian recipes for Australian ingredients!

Another big tip about baking is having your ingredients at the right temperature. It’s the easiest step to put everything out on the counter a few hours or the night before you start. It’s the biggest save if you read the recipe and prepare. Also, sift your dry ingredients if possible!

A hazelnut chai spice cake. I didn’t use hazelnut flour or almond flour, but I think the grittiness would add something to this smooth tasting cake! I topped this with the browned butter cream cheese icing and toasted hazelnuts.
A chocolate tart dusted with cocoa powder and icing sugar. This recipe is fussy, I will be looking for alternatives next time. Much richer than the custard cake, perfect paired with ice cream.
The fateful failed cookies! How sad Australia looks with the dent over Adelaide. How pitiful does that kangaroo tail look! Needs another attempt I think. Happy Baking!

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