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17/10/2011 / melgardener

When all else fails…bake

Last Friday I took part in the Australian Red Cross Big Cake Bake to raise funds for the organisation’s work both here in Australia and overseas. I’ve been a big supporter of the Australian Red Cross for many years, having worked in the NSW office’s Fundraising department in my early 20s.

The Big Cake Bake is a great idea – I mean, how hard is it to have a morning tea with a bunch of friends and ask for a small donation? Besides, I don’t normally put aside enough time in my week for baking so this was a great excuse to get me back in the kitchen and doing something I love.

Non-bakers often ask me why I love baking so much. I’m not sure I can give you a reasonable answer. A traditional baker would say that there is something soothing about measuring, stirring, mixing, chopping, blending and pouring. The theory goes that you need to be precise with measurements when baking so it’s a great distraction to take your mind off things like stress. Not to mention the payoff where you get to stuff your face with whatever you’ve created.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been much of a traditional baker so I don’t quite measure with the same preciseness you might think is needed. You see, I was raised by a lovely woman who can bake with the best of them but (very much like me) she loves nothing better than to fiddle with a recipe each time she makes it. So every time she’d bake a cake, slice or batch of bikkies, the odds were that we’d be trying something slightly different to the last time.

This made for some very interesting eating at times but always delicious results.

And I’ve adopted very similar methods – which makes it difficult when people ask you for the recipe. Sometimes I’m genuinely not sure of exactly how much of each ingredient I’ve used. It’s a bit hard to adequately explain “add milk until it looks right” and I tend to be on the receiving end of some very nasty looks if I try to include any instruction along these lines.

Within reason, I try to stick to the proportions recommended for dry and wet ingredients – after all, it stands to reason that you don’t want your cake to dry or your biscuits too runny – but outside of that (admittedly, very flexible) balancing act, I love nothing more than to play and invent as I go along.

Much of the time, I’m led by what’s available in the pantry. I keep a good stock of flours (all kinds), sugars (multiple varieties), dried fruits, nuts, chocolate and choc bits, sprinkles, spices etc… so I can try different combinations at different times depending on whom I’m feeding.

Last Friday, I’d made a banana cake upon which I drizzled a lemon icing plus a batch of choc chip cookies (the adult version this time). Mum kindly brought her Armenian slice –this time with ginger, apricots and dates. Friends came, cuppas were made, seats were taken, chatter was had and food was eaten.

All in all – a great time. So, thank you to everyone who came and a massive thank you to everyone who donated. You’ve made me a very happy baker.

Do you bake and, if so, what’s your signature item? Does someone in your family bake your favourite treat?

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