Thursday, April 3, 2014

My Grandmother Would Be Proud

My Grandmother Would Be Proud

I have mentioned before how we have started cooking after 46 years of not cooking.  That is going very well and we are enjoying various recipes I have downloaded from the Food Network and other sites.

Now we are entering a new phase, Baking.

This phase started with my seeking out pies to eat in my attempt to do Due Diligence for my role as a judge in the Pie Judging at the American Pie Council/Crisco contest in Orlando.  

Unfortunately I was singularly unsuccessful in finding decent pies to eat and judge.  At first I could only find one place that had decent pies, the rest of the bakeries (and there are very few of them around) are not making pies because it had become uneconomical.  The supermarkets are selling pies at very low prices and people are buying them even though they hardly rise to the level of mediocre.

I recently came across a new pie bakery that has just opened and it is great.  They even have a Reuben Pie which I have been buying and eating for dinner (it consists of Kosher corn beef, cheese and saurkraut).  Much better than store bought chicken pot pie.

Nevertheless, I was determined to make my own pies and desserts.  Barbara was surprisingly hostile to this notion.

“Are you trying to make me fat?”, she exclaimed when told of my plans.

“What about your triglycerides, huh?”

I smartly avoided that particular discussion and the decision was postponed while I tried to convince her we needed a standing mixer.  She was having none of it, especially since the cheapest standing mixer (Kitchenaide) was $199.

Some of our friends tried to persuade Barbara to allow me to bake, and I added to the discussion by mentioning a family history of bakers in the family in Europe.

My Grandmother, who lived with us when I was growing up, would bake every Friday.  She would make Challah, sugar cookies, Babka, and apple strudel.  I would sometimes help her with the dough and of course with the eating.  Her family in Europe were from a long line of bakers, so I wasn’t lying when I used that argument on Barbara.  Strangley, she wasn’t convinced by that argument.

For months Barbara fought me on the standing mixer.  

Finally I was in Kohl’s, a department store that offers prodigious discounts and saw the mixer at an unbelievable price.

First let me say, I like Kohl’s for their marketing approach.  I get coupons and offers from them every day.  Their offers sound too good to be true, but oddly are true.  I don’t understand how they make money.

Often I go in there to buy something, buy $70-$80 worth of goods and wind up, after discounts and “Kohl’s Bucks” only paying them $5-$15 in cash (charge actually).  I don’t understand it, but if they are willing, I am willing.

Occasionally I ask the check out person what Drug Cartel they are laundering money for.  This usually elicits a sly smile, giggle, and in my mind, a furtive glance, while they try to deny it.  

Recently my sister-in-law went to Kohl’s for the first time at my urging, and had the same reaction I have about the money laundering.  Maybe I should keep quiet about it now, for fear of retribution.

Anyway, I happened to be in Kohl’s and they were offering the standing mixer, after discounts, rebates and credits, for the sum of $110!  

I hurried home to inform Barbara of this wonderful opportunity.  

She was surprisingly unmoved by this information, and vetoed the idea.  I bided my time.

That night we were going out with a couple who liked the idea of my cooking and baking.

I inadvertently let slip the news that the mixer was currently on sale for that unbelievable low price.  They were “aghast” at the price and ”they” insisted we go to the store to confirm it.

When we got there, we confirmed the price and they urged Barbara to allow me to buy the mixer.  I think my promising to make dessert for them, may have influenced their support, but maybe not.

Barbara, miraculously, in the face of this united front gave in.  

At home, I looked around for things to bake.  We were invited to a dinner party and I told the hosts I would make dessert ( the same couple from Kohl’s).  I found a recipe for Oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip cookies, a healthy and delicious choice at the same time.  Barbara insisted I prepare another dessert that didn’t require baking since this was my first time.  I also made a poached pear, dates, apricot and prune dessert that was delicious, thank you Ina Garten.

The cookies came out great and I was off to the baking races.

I have made Black and Whites cookies ( I never got to eat the first batch, they seemed to disappear before I could get a taste), Linzer Tarts, Apple/cherry Turnovers, Pineapple/cherry/vanilla/coconut pie, baked donuts and a Chocolate Torte with Raspberry sauce for Passover.  All of which have been delicious.  I am particularly happy with the Chocolate Torte for Passover, since I can’t remember the last time we ate a cake for Passover that didn’t taste like cardboard.

We have shipped the Black and Whites and Linzer Tarts to my daughter’s family in Connecticut, after she complained of not sharing the spoils of my baking with her.  They were gone by the next day after she got them.

My neighbors and friends have profited from my baking as the recipes call for large quantities and I give them away rather than eating all of them or letting them get stale.

I am waiting for my cousin, Elphaba (aka Rocky) to come over to make a Chocolate Babka like our Grandmother.  She is here for the winter, and it was her idea to make it. I have offered to get her a chefs hat, but so far she has refused to join me in baking.  Probably worried we would get into a flour fight.

Every time I begin to bake something, Barbara strenuously objects on the grounds I will make her fat.  And, every time, she eats the cookie or pie I have made, often twice in one day. I guess “no” means “yes” in this case.  She is also “reluctantly” eating the pies I bring home from the Pie Bakery.

She has allowed me to buy various baking equipment including a hand mixer for when I have to use two mixing bowls for the same recipe, and secretly lusts after my desserts. 

A rum tiramasu is next, who knows what will follow?

My Grandmother would be proud.

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