Baker’s dozen

All the proper ingredients – very few of which I can actually eat

I did a bit of cooking yesterday — and I even baked up a bunch of cookies. I find that baking is actually really good practice for my short-term memory issues, as well as my sequencing.

And with cookie recipes, there are so many slight variations between the measurements — 1/4 cup of this, 1/2 cup of that, 3/4 teaspoon of this, 1/3 teaspoon of that — it keeps me on my toes.

I got into this baking thing over the past couple of years, when I found myself surrounded by bakers at work, and the neighbors were also giving my spouse and me some “friendship bread”, which keeps growing and increasing, so that you have to keep giving it away, if you don’t want to throw it out. My spouse doesn’t bake, and my mom used to bake all the time, so I have a lot of great memories of the scent of fresh-baked pies and cakes and cookies. I figured, why not – I’d give it a whirl, baking up some friendship bread and also making cookies for our annual holiday cookie swap at work. Everybody gets in on the holiday cookie swap at work — men, women, bosses, underlings… it’s the one thing we all have in common, and if you don’t pay, you can’t play, so only those who actually bake something can get samples of everyone else’s work.

I went for the old standard peanut butter cookie – two batches with a twist, one creamy, the other crunchy —  and they turned out great. So that was something else I could add to the list of new things I’ve discovered I can do.

To be honest, I’ve never thought of myself as much of a baker, but when I think about it, it’s actually the perfect activity for me. It requires sustained attention to detail, it’s very specific, with things that have to be done in a certain way, in a certain sequence. It requires that I really think things through and understand what I’m doing, and when. It also demands that I stay present and not space out and wander off while cookies or bread are in the oven. And the payoff is great, in terms of the delicious smell of fresh cookies or bread.

The one drawback about it is that I can’t eat a lot of what I make — it’s got a lot of processed sugar and flour, both of which are on my “NO” list. Bread is out of the question (for the most part), and cookies are strictly limited.

On the other hand, this is a really good thing, because it means I have more to share with others who are not on restricted diets. It’s not expensive, it is excellent practice for my brain and skills, and I always have something to show for it. I can learn as I go, too, finding new techniques and approaches as I go, and fine-tuning my activities.

All in all, baking is incredibly good for me.

I used to bake bread a lot, 25+ years ago, during my first marriage. Many a Saturday, I baked up two loaves of incredibly delicious bread. I did it all by hand, the old-fashioned way as I’d always seen my mother do it, kneading it, covering the bread bowl, and letting the dough rise on a warm surface, then punching it down, shaping it into loaves, and letting it bake. It was my Saturday afternoon ritual. Something that connected me with one of the happier aspects of my past.

Then I split up from the person I was first married to, and I quit baking — probably because I associated baking bread on Saturday afternoons… the scent of yeast and rising dough and the sensation of punching it down and kneading it… with that old life I was trying to get away from.

Now I’ve had sufficient time to mend whatever was busted from those early years, and baking has a new meaning for me. I got busy yesterday, so I only did one batch of peanut butter cookies — I made “fingers” and the dipped one end in melted chocolate and rolled them in finely chopped peanuts. Holy crap — if I weren’t so sensitive to the sugar, and if I weren’t battling a cold, I would have eaten all of them. But I exercised restraint and managed to eat only one.

Now I’ve got the rest of the dough to bake up today. I will probably do that in a little bit, just so I can get it done and clear out the rest of my day. Or maybe I’ll wait till the afternoon so I can have the smell of fresh-baked cookies in the house. Yes, that seems like a better plan. Right now, I’m a bit foggy from the cold, and I haven’t quite warmed up for my day, just yet. In any case, I have options.

That’s really all I ask.