Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Welcome to the baking counter

The idea of a dedicated baking counter has been calling out to me for about fifteen years now, and finally: it is a thing that exists in my very own home!

Hello beautiful.

In the old kitchen I had to careen my stand mixer over from one side of the sink that served as a paper dumping ground to the other side of the sink, where all the dirty dishes piled up unless it was a baking day.  I had about 30" of worktop into which the mixer had to fit, and if I was baking I had to do all the dishes and not be cooking supper at the same time because any veg chopping etc. would have to happen in the same place.

Okay... if you read Smitten Kitchen you will realize I had a gymnasium's worth of work top compared to a tiny NYC apartment kitchen... but still.  It felt cramped.

Admittedly it is not 100% easy to bake on a counter that is just about 18" deep, but because our kitchen table is immediately behind me while I'm working I can comfortably set baking pans on that.  Or I can cross an open area of four feet or so and set them on the counter beside the range.  The only real trouble is when you are knocking flour into the bottom seam from the tiles at the back of the counter, and then having to clean it out after.  That's a little bit Ugh!

I do have more gear than I can pack into the designated baking drawers; my egg separator for example lives in a drawer across that four-foot distance with the glass containers we use for small mixing and for leftovers.  But that's not exactly a long way off and what I've got here is enough to get on with for most recipes:

Measuring equipment and mixer attachments on the left, canisters (and bags) of sugar and flour on the right.

One of the top drawers has small-size essentials like muffin papers and baking powder and as-yet unopened yeast.

The other has recipes and my apron and some cookie cutters.

It is so nice to have a shallow drawer so all those things are easy to find!  I might change up the layout a bit actually, so that I can have measuring spoons in the shallow drawer alongside this one.  There is a lot of fine-tuning yet to do and I'm just so pleased that I finally have a little time in which to do it.

This is me setting up to mix up some bread dough over the Christmas holiday...

Note the recipe cards held in place by favourite model cars - priorities!

I love keeping my flour in that giant stainless steel compost bucket on the right.  It holds a 1kg bag of flour and has a loose-fitting lid, which is a terrible idea if you rarely bake such that the turnover is slow, but fantastic if you bake a lot and just want to scoop right in for the next recipe.

And I get a view!  (it's mostly of a giant blue trampoline, but if I look up high enough I do get an evergreen tree.)

Sadly, having a dedicated baking counter does not guarantee delicious results, but...

it is still fun to try new recipes.

It is ridiculous even to think about this since I live a ten minute walk from five excellent bakeries, but... I am still looking for my dream bread to make at home.  I lost count how many recipes I tried out over the break, aiming for 'overnight or fast rising' and 'not too many complicated ingredients'.  The final consensus was that based on current data you can have Good and Complicated or you can have Easy and Bland.  The tastiest was a brioche from Smitten Kitchen with all the interesting bits left out, and luckily, its four egg yolks match up neatly with the four egg whites I need to make chocolate chip meringues. 

In theory, I could plan a long baking afternoon that starts with bread to rise overnight and ends with meringues drying out in the oven till morning (with supper happening exclusively on the stove top.)

And in practise, it is a whole lot easier to imagine doing that now that I don't have to clear everything away just to try.  Thank you baking counter!!

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