Do you remember the first time you baked? Maybe it was helping your mom or grandmother in the kitchen with Christmas cookies or a special birthday cake.
My mother was not a baker. If it wasn’t Duncan Hines then it wasn’t made in our house. My mother’s specialty was a round chocolate layer cake made from a Duncan Hines cake mix. It had strawberry or raspberry jam between the layers and Duncan Hines chocolate frosting covering the entire cake. She then made little swirls in the frosting on the top of the cake with a butter knife. This was the cake of choice for birthdays and company.
But it was surprising that my mother didn’t bake. My grandmother and my aunts baked almost every day. They didn’t think twice about a recipe, it was all mostly in their heads and they could whip up a dessert in a matter of minutes. I remember watching them bake and I wanted to learn so badly.
When I was 12 years old, I told my mom that I wanted to learn to bake. Real baking, not from a box like she had taught me. So my mom called my aunt and asked her to teach me. They secretly made plans to have my aunt teach me to bake.
I still remember going to my aunt’s house after school that day. It was not unusual to go visit my aunt and uncle on a week night since they were the only family my mom had in the city. I was so excited when I found out that I was going to learn to bake Banana Nut Muffins.
I had to wait until after supper to start baking and I could hardly sit still during the meal. I was so anxious to start baking. I had the recipe beside me the whole time I was eating supper, reading it over and over. I am surprised I don’t still remember that recipe after reading it so many times.
After we all finished eating and cleaned up the supper dishes, it was finally time to start baking. My aunt taught me how to read the recipe and follow the directions. She taught me to make sure I had everything I needed out and ready to use before starting to make the recipe.It was an easy enough recipe so I understood everything for the most part. I made a bit of a mess pouring the batter into the muffin cups but that was to be expected, as my aunt told me. It was the first time I was using a muffin pan.
The hardest part of that lesson was waiting for the muffins to bake. I watched them baking and rising in the oven. The smell in the kitchen was fantastic. I couldn’t wait for them to be done.
When the timer finally went off and it was time to take the muffins out of the oven, I grabbed the oven mitts so fast and flung the oven door open. My aunt was not happy with how I flung her oven door open, but she knew how excited I was to finally be baking.
The muffins looked and smelled so good. I didn’t want to wait for them to cool off but I knew they were too hot to handle so I waited patiently, maybe not too patiently. I am sure I drove my aunt crazy while I kept asking if I could take them out of the pan over and over again. It was only about 10 minutes for cooling but it felt like hours. Finally they were ready to serve.
I brought them out to the living room where my uncle was watching his beloved Montreal Canadiens on the t.v. with my mom. I passed out the muffins to my mom, my uncle and my cousins. Then I sat with my aunt and I tasted what I had baked. They were delicious!
I got to take the leftover muffins home with me and I couldn’t wait to get home and give one to my dad. I was so proud of myself.
After that night, I couldn’t wait to try baking by myself. I made all kinds of cookies and muffins from scratch using my mom’s Purity Flour cookbook. I didn’t have anyone at home to help me, so it was trial and error, even though I knew my aunt was only a phone call away. I was determined that I was going to bake everything and anything I could. Eventually I started baking cakes and jelly rolls and doughnuts. I loved baking.
And now many years later, I am still baking. There are times where I have baked every day of the week. No matter what I bake, it doesn’t last long in the house, especially since I have five teenagers at home.
I started my kids off early, too. My oldest son was baking with me at 2.5 years old. I have spent time trying to teach all my kids to bake. Although my daughters still prefer to bake from mixes and premade doughs, I still try to get them involved in baking from scratch as much as I can.
And my sons? The youngest three only enjoy decorating the cupcakes and cookies I make during the holidays. The oldest ones only enjoy eating baked goods just like their father. The boys prefer to be outside grilling steaks or smoking briskets with their dad.
Baking has become a hobby for me. I love experimenting with recipes and looking up new recipes to try. I am always looking for new ideas. I even carry a notebook with me at all times in case I get an idea that I need to write down. I know it’s old school, and I could make notes in my phone, but I do like paper and pencil when I am creating a new recipe or writing down my ideas.
Some recipes are still challenging for me, like bread that turns out too dense most of the time, but I keep trying to perfect it. One day I will get the perfect recipe.
I love finding new ways to bake as well. This summer I used my gas grill to bake outside when it was too hot to bake in the house. I have tried baking in an Instant Pot, although that did not turn out so well. And I just bought an air fryer that I plan on trying to make some doughnuts in and maybe even some Beaver Tails.
Baking is something that I never tire of. There is always something new to learn. Some new trends to try, or new gadgets to experiment with. It never ends which is exactly why I love it so much.
Do you have a memory of your first time baking? Do you remember learning to bake and how old you were? Who taught you to bake or did you learn on your own?