Category Archives: Learning Project

My Journey of Baking, from hatred to dislike

I started this baking project with the goal that I would become more confident with three tasks, 1) following directions 2) handling stress 3) the actual baking aspect.

This project has taught me a lot more than that. Just looking primarily at the baking skills I have developed, I can now using a piping bag to ice, I can make my own strawberry sauce, I can put together cake, and decorate cookies, I actually made a from scratch angel food cake, and was able to make meringue. These were all major proud moments in my learning project. I cannot believe how good some of the recipes turned out.

There are skills that I was not expecting to learn, such as the ability to read directions, connections between multiple recipes, and time management.

This learning project was about baking, but the amount of connections that I made to teaching was surprising. I am not talking about the fact that I can now bring cookies to my class on holidays, let’s be honest that I will probably still buy candy. I am talking about how I now learn how important writing a clear recipe, or lesson plan is for those that reading it. I may understand what is being written, but  I need to write my lesson plans in a way that if I need a sub, they can read my lesson plans. Another useful skills is going with the flow, I know that as a teacher not every lesson will work out perfectly, some times I will run out of supplies, or a space will be double booked. This is something that stresses me out. However, managing to figure out recipes, fix mistakes and handle it when stuff just does not work out, is something that I have really become more accepting of. Wait time, in baking there is a lot of wait time, also know as the baking and/or cooling part, sometimes you need a lot of wait time and sometimes you only need a little. This is the same for students, some of them get a concept on the first try, some of them need a few more examples. Some students will know the answers right away, some will need a few minutes to think about the question. Wait time feels like the world has stopped turning, or at least it did until I started to appreciate wait time while baking. Now wait time means that something is getting done, even if you cannot see it immediately, students are thinking, they are problem solving, and hopefully only a few of them are day dreaming (just like that one cookie, no matter how many times you turn the pan it takes being alone in the over to actually get baked). It is OK to not be perfect, I am a perfectionist, I like my lesson plans running smoothly, my class organized, and everything to happen as planned. Yeah that world is long gone. Just like the meringue that wouldn’t stiffen, there are times when everything I do will go sideways and nothing will work and I will want to cry. But I won’t, at least not in front of students. It is OK to make a mess, so this isn’t something that I really learnt, mostly because I am very good at making messes. But it is OK when your classroom is a mess during art class, or when there are scrap papers everywhere during a productive math class because a mess can be cleaned up!

I learnt a lot more from baking than just the skill of baking. But the most important thing that I learnt is how easy it is to find strategies online, my favorite is the blog Joy the Baker. The blog provides lots of strategies for baking, simple strategies like measuring out your ingredients in advance, and tons of other hints in her Baking 101 category. You can find any recipe online, so that was never a problem but I find that I still like my family’s recipes the best.

I started this class hating baking, now I just dislike baking. I like it more when I get to use short cuts like store bought cake mix or frozen tart shells. This makes baking easier and less stressful. Is baking something that I will eagerly do to eliminate stress, NO, but it is something that I could do if I needed to. Which to me is an accomplishment.

Layered Baking that requires Little Baking

I have came to the realization that layered desserts (pretty sure that is not the right term, but I like the way it sounds) are my favorite to bake, because YOU BARELY HAVE TO BAKE!! My level of excitement when I found out that I only had to do a small part of actual baking, I did a happy dance. Which embarrassed my boyfriend as we were in the Wal-Mart aisle when I realized this, but I did not care, because I BARELY HAD TO BAKE!  I decided to do two recipes that my family enjoys quite a bit. Every Christmas I get to enjoy a fantastic trifle with my mom’s family, usually it is because we always seem to forget about dessert until last minute, and we always have cake mix in the cupboard and whipping cream for the fruit salad. I know that they are fairly easy to make, and tasty, and quick. All of which makes me very happy. I found a recipe online, I have stopped paying attention to the websites were I get the recipes because I would rather focus on what I am baking rather than where I found the recipe I am baking.

The second recipe I decide to make comes from Christmas with my boyfriend’s mom’s family. Anyone who knows me, knows that I HATE trying new food, like no matter how good it looks I will do anything to get out of it. However, my first Christmas with Tyler’s family made me super nervous and I was way to nervous to tell his favorite aunt that I would not try her baking. So for the first time, I willing tried something new, it contained chocolate so I wasn’t like I had to have my arm twisted too much. For the first time, four years ago, I experienced chocolate sex in a pan (not sure who came up with that name), but it was really good. So I decided to make it for my final baking attempt.

 

Both the recipes turned out really good. Something I need to figure out is how to accomplish baking without using every dish that happens to be in house. For these two recipes I went through seven bowls, 6 measuring cups, and like two dozen utensils. The entire kitchen was a mess within the first five minutes of me starting.

If I could bake without cleaning I may enjoy it more.

No shortcuts in baking with meringue

This post is a little late, one thing that I was not prepared for during this semester was being so busy, not with school but with all of the extra responsibilities that I seem to have piling up. My normal baking day is Saturday, but on June 11th I was preoccupied watch my cousin get married to his high school sweetheart, something that I decided was a higher priority. I did manage to bake on the 12th, but until today have not had time to make a post  until today.

Meringue is one of the simplest recipes  I have ever used, its egg whites and sugar maybe a few more ingredients but really its just egg whites and sugar. Sounds simple enough… right well it was not. Since I got home late on Sunday, I was trying to condense the time needed to make the meringue, the recipe for the meringue on Lemon Meringue tarts, which actually is a lemon meringue pie recipe, and meringue cookies was very similar. Me being the smart person that I am thought why not just take the egg whites that I need for both recipes, combine them, split the thickened mixture in half and add the remaining ingredients to their respective halves. This might have been one of my stupider ideas. Problem 1, they did not split anywhere near half which made the rest of my measurements whack. Problem 2, making meringue sucks, like a lot.

I started with making the lemon filling of the tarts (I cheated by already having a pre-made pie crust), which was really easy. The one weird part of this recipe is that once I had the lemon, butter and sugar mixture boiling, I was supposed to add a small amount of it to the whipped egg yolks, stir it, than add it back into the lemon, butter, sugar mixture. So I am not really sure what the point of the one step was, if someone knows a little clarification would be great.

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IMG_1899This was added into the empty tart shells, which I fill 3/4ish of the way full, which actually looked a lot more like 100% full but apparently they were not.

To the top of the tarts I  added the meringue, which is where all the problems arose.

IMG_1904 Because of my super duper smart idea of making all the meringue at once backfired, and than I realized that we were out of eggs to make more… on a Sunday… in Craik… every store in town was closed… oops. So I had to improvise, which in this case meant getting my dad to help me. When I googled strategies how to fix this I FOUND NOTHING! How is it that no one else has never been in a situation that requires making meringue stiff… I feel like there has to be more than just me that is bad at following directions.

IMG_1895 My fantastic solution was to mix it until it got kinda stiff (which actually never happen, because it was more like whipped cream the stiff meringue) but I just went with it and piped it on the the tart.

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IMG_1901I have gotten much better with the icing piping thing, but still struggle with having the stacked look.

IMG_1907 The lemon meringue tarts turned out fantastic, this might be my favorite thing I have baked this entire learning project.

The meringue cookies were literally icing sugar, a lot of icing sugar, and egg whites. Supposedly it should have whipped stiff, but these turned out even more runny than the other meringue. So while they tasted kind of OK, they did not look anything like what they were supposed to.

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3 Pies+ 1 Kitchen+ 3 not great recipes= One stressed out Brooke

Alligator Pie, Alligator Pie

If I don’t get some I think I’m gonna die,

Take away the green grass, take away the sky,

but don’t take away my alligator pie.

I have always loved this poem, enough that I was able to type it purely from memory. Growing up it was always something that seemed so happy, which is something I really needed while I was trying to bake pies on the weekend.

I have started to notice something, even though I am always convinced that the recipe will not work out, it always seems to, or at least it does as I make adjustments based on how bad I am at following recipes.

I made three different pies; Apple Pie, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with a crisp topping, and Banana Cream, all of these will have a homemade pie crust.

The making of the pies was not my worse experience baking, but I did learn one thing. The recipes I found online using all recipes were really off on their measurements. Eight apples was more like four, one pound of rhubarb really needed to be one cup, and one cup of strawberries instead of 2 pints. The recipes did not state how to cut the apples, rhubarb, or strawberries which made it a guessing game.

If someone happens to know of a good strategies for rolling out pie dough, I would love to hear them because my arms really hurt the next day.

I figured out a way to combine all of my segments into one large video; however, my sound is slightly off and I am not sure why. If anyone has any suggestions on video editing that would be great.

Cupcakes… or something like them

This past weekend I made/attempted to make cupcakes. For the past few weeks I used YouTube, this time I decided to find recipes on people’s blogs to guide me. Fun fact, when someone uses the title “super easy to make cupcakes” they are actually lying. I spent a while researching the cupcake recipes I was going to use, for two reasons. The first is that I wanted something that tasted good, or at least tasted good to my very picky palette. I also wanted something that was not going to result in me having a complete breakdown, as I was already having a stressful week. I found three recipes that looked fairly easy, and they also looked good.

On Friday I sent my dad my full shopping list. Which included a variety of things, but it also included bacon. Now bacon may not seem like it is needed for baking…but when you are making bacon covered chocolate cupcakes, the bacon happens to be very important. To be more specific, non-frozen bacon is very important. When I got home I was smart enough to pull of the butter so I would become soft; however, I expected the bacon to be in the fridge (which it was not). This meant I had to spend an hour defrosting it, and than more time cooking it which put me behind schedule. The overall baking of the chocolate cupcakes went pretty well. The icing was more challenging as I never used a piping bag before. Also, part  of the recipe said to top with bacon and salt, I completely forgot about the salt until I started writing this post (oops). The review from my classmates was overall positive, but many of them were shocked by the bacon that they found on the cupcake. Much like my dad was when I say I needed bacon for my cupcakes.

 

 

The next cupcake for my learning project was Cookies and Cream. Which is exactly how it sounds. It was really easy to make. One oversight on my part was that I was trying to get everything done quickly  that I made the icing before I got the cupcakes into the oven, which resulted  in the icing being a little  dry making it harder to apply to the cupcake. These were my brother and boyfriend’s favorite, which would have been great if they made more than a dozen cupcakes. One thing that I want to know is why the recipe makes more icing than can go on cupcakes, it sucks throwing out icing :(.

 

The final cupcake I made was the Lemon Cupcake with Raspberry Buttercream icing. This was by far my least favorite to make, but my favorite to eat. I love lemon, and I love raspberry, so this cupcake has the best of both. However, it required me to make a raspberry Purée, which would have been great if I knew how to do that in advance. After guessing what a purée looks like, I felt a little more comfortable with the icing. The rest of the icing was complicated but manageable…except that it required 3 AND A HALF CUPS OF ICING SUGAR! How sweet does icing need to be? Also I ran out of icing sugar, but luckily I live in a small town. Which means I was phoning everyone I could think of trying to find icing sugar, not as fun as it sounds. Making the batter was alright except that the person who wrote the recipe was really bad at explaining her random thoughts, like do not over mix because it will be tough, do not under mix because it won’t cook… but at no point did she explain how to know if it was mixed just right. Like what does that even mean? Apparently it means something because I definitely over mixed, and the cupcakes were tough. If someone wants to explain to me what it means to “just mix” batter is that would be great.

The final part was icing the cupcakes…which was alright. I definitely need some practice on using a piping bag, if anyone could help with this it would be greatly appreciated.

 

 

Next week I am making pies… so wish me luck.

 

 

 

 

Why I buy birthday cakes…

I enjoy planning events, this is especially true when it comes to events for my friends. For as long as I can remember I have planned birthday parties for my friends. Every single one of these parties includes a very delicious cake… made by Dairy Queen. I do not make cakes, I burn, undercook, and misread directions for cakes. It is much easier to buy a cake than to make a cake. However, since I am trying to learn how to bake I felt that I would benefit from being able to make a cake.

I decided on make three different cakes; angel food (it’s my favorite), chocolate skor cake, and strawberry shortcake. Part of my learning to bake mentality is that I will learn to make everything from scratch, or at least the majority of it. Which means that I had to learn to bake all three of these from scratch.

I started with looking up YouTube videos, and I found many things. (1) angel food cake has a lot of tricks to baking it, (2) chocolate skor cake is different depending on country, and (3) videos of people baking include a lot of having specific equipment.

The first video I found for making angel food cake made me realize that I need good timing, and to know cooling strategies; since I knew absolutely nothing about either of these I decided to do a trail run with a boxed angel food cake so that I could practice the technique and not be worried about any complications that could come from the batter.

I started with the boxed angel food cake because I felt  that I would need to get my timing figured out before making fancy batters. I recorded the creation of making the boxed cake, however my computer decided that it was a perfect time to do an update and I lost the first 15 minutes of the video. Which sucks because I had an awesome introduction to my plan for the day. The cake did not bake long enough, and it fell while it was baking. Since finishing the first cake, I have learnt that golden brown, actually means slightly burnt to be properly baked. During my second video, I pulled the cake out of the oven to show how it was almost ready, I should not have  done this because I believe it is why the cake fell.

Once the first cake was done, I started the batter for the chocolate cake. Earlier in the week I found a YouTube video that teaches me to make chocolate cake from scratch, and than I used the guidance of my parents to make the chocolate cake into a skor cake. This is the first time I have ever made/ attempted to make a skor cake so I prepared for the worst. Overall the cake turned out well, the caramel sauce that goes on the skor cake however was way too sweet, which makes the cake hard to eat in large amount. I used cool whip, but I would have rather used real whipping cream. I was shocked that there was coffee in a chocolate cake, but you couldn’t taste it. The video suggests using a toothpick to test if the cake is done, which is a strategy that I have used in the past. It works…unless you don’t have toothpicks in the house. Which made knowing when the cake was done a guessing game.

While the chocolate cake was baking I started on the batter for the shortcake. This was an easy recipe to follow from the YouTube video. The batter is very similar to shortbread cookies. This made it easy to know when it was properly baked. Something I would like to try in the future is the make large cake into smaller cakes, similar to the side of an English muffin. This would make it easier to prepare each mini cake individually with whip cream and strawberries to prevent the slight sogginess that occurred the next day. The strawberry shortcake was my best of the day.

The final cake I made was the angel food cake from scratch…which could have went better. The YouTube video used a lot of technical terms, but did not show a lot of explanations of what the words meant. One part of the recipe calls for mixing the batter until it is stiff, I had no idea how stiff it needed to be…but  after baking the cake I knew that I did not have the batter nearly stiff enough. The stiffness is what makes it super fluffy and while the cake tastes good, it is more dense that an angel food cake should be. A homemade angel food cake also bakes differently, it doesn’t get the cracks in it like one made in the box does. This makes it look nicer but it also makes it harder to tell when it is cooked.

Overall the cake baking wasn’t too bad. My family all state that the cakes taste pretty good. But I think in the future I’ll stick with the delicious Dairy Queen cakes. The video editing was more successful, minus the first 15 minutes being deleted by a computer malfunction. I chose the do the video in only two parts, which required way less editing. I am getting better with the video recording and editing, I am hoping that if nothing else, at the end of this process I am at least comfortable with the video aspect of this learning project. The third part of the baking cake day can be found here.

Cookies, Cookies and More Cookies!

On Saturday May 14th, I attempted my first day of baking. I found that it took a lot of self-convincing to start the baking process. I found lots of excuses to avoid starting, such as spending 30 minutes unloading the dishwasher, when it normally takes me 5, and doing all the laundry in the house. By 2pm I had ran out of things to do, so I forced myself to start baking.

I started with sugar cookies because I knew they had a certain wait time between making the dough and baking the dough. I made these with the help of “How to Make Rolled Cut-Out Sugar Cookies for Decorating“, which was a fairly easy to follow, however trying to both listen to the video and bake as well as recording the baking was really difficult. The overall process of making sugar cookies was alright, since it was the first recipe of my baking journey I found that I was frustrated easily.

I broke the baking of sugar cookies into two parts. The first part shows me creating the dough for the sugar cookies, and the second part demonstrates me cutting, baking and icing the cookies.I was shocked with how much the cookies poofed-up, my parents thought I should make the dough a 1/4 of an inch thick, but the recipe really pushed only an eighth of an inch. I’m happy that I chose to stay with 1/8 because they came out being a good size.

The next recipe I attempted was Chocolate Chip cookies, which is a favorite of mine! I have made these a few times before and usually they result in one giant, slightly burnt cookie. My goal for baking these was to focus on spreading the cookies out so when they melt I would have individual cookies. Some of my cookies got a little dark around the edges, but overall they were a reasonable success…except for my first batch which slightly lit on fire (I edited this part out the video due to colorful language).

The final recipe that I attempted was shortbread cookies. I have never had a shortbread cookie before so making these felt like a guessing game. I didn’t know what they looked like or how to make them have the fancy designs that they always seem to have. After my first batch I started to figure out the cooking time, as they take a while to cook. I also made them a little smaller because the first batch had some larger cookies.

The biggest struggle with this week’s baking experiment was the video editing. In some parts the video looks really choppy, or it looks like I moved my entire body without actually moving which is a little freaky. I did lots of practicing with cutting out unnecessary parts and played around a bit with the sound, especially decreasing it when I had the mixer going. I also found it difficult with my family constantly needing into the kitchen or trying to have conversations with me while I was baking. I edited these out the best I could. My final challenge was getting the videos on to YouTube, the recording and editing program that I used put the videos into a weird format which YouTube does not recognize as a program. Converting it required a lot of re-saving until it saved in a .avi file. Eventually it worked, but I think that next time I may try something new to record and edit.

Next week I am making cakes…wish me luck!

 

The Frustrations of Baking

When my dad was younger one of his first jobs was in a bakery. My mom learnt how to bake when she was a kid. My sister has always been able to bake, and when my brother tries it comes naturally for him. Every single one of my aunts, and cousins can bake and all of my grandmothers on my mom’s side were amazing bakers. I cannot bake. This does not mean that I have never tried, it means that all of my baking ends in burnt food, or some other mess that could have been avoided if I was more patient or was able to avoid multi-tasking. I have neither of these traits; I multi-task all the time, and I have absolutely no patience with how long baking takes, or following a recipe.

Besides the fact that I enjoy eating baking, the other skills associated with baking such as measuring, patience, time management, organization and efficiency. All of these skills can in one way or another be part of my own teachings, and baking is just one of the ways were I can strengthen these skills. Over the next seven weeks I will spend each Saturday baking something new. My tentative plan is as follows:

Week 1: Cookies

Week 2: Cakes

Week 3: Cupcakes

Week 4:Pies

Week 5: Meringue

Week 6: Layered Desserts

Weeks 7: Cinnamon Twists/ Buns

Week 8: Classmate’s Choice

Each of these require different skills, all of which I can bring into my future classrooms both with the actual baking itself and with the secondary skills acquired throughout the process.

My overall plan for each week is to decide mid-week what recipes I plan to use, most weeks I will do three or four different kinds of desserts within the same category.Once I decide what recipes I will use, I plan on using YouTube to find different methods of baking the chosen recipes. These methods are combined with many of the strategies that I learnt from my mom and her family over the past few years. I will be recording all of my baking sessions, and attempting to video edit them into a reasonably length video which I will post on my blog each week.

I am both excited and nervous about my plan, I worry that I will struggle too much with the baking and since it will take up a lot of my time on Saturdays it will be more of a commitment than I can handle this semester. Video editing is a new skill that I will be experimenting with throughout the process, if I do not succeed with baking, I hope that I at least succeed with video editing. I expect that the first few weeks the videos will look a little choppy, but hopefully by the end they will look well put together.

Eight weeks, more than 20 recipes, and I’m sure lots of personal learning… Let the games being!