Thursday, November 29, 2007

Baking with Grandma

My grandma, the one who cooked dinner to death, was a fabulous baker. She was also brilliant and scientific and completely unusual for a woman her age. She even had a Master's Degree in Math from Harvard. Technically she went to Radcliffe (the women's school), but from my understanding Radcliffe didn't have a math program, and her diploma says Harvard. Anyhow, Grandma taught me how to bake. Grandma is probably the reason I passed Organic Chemistry lab. She taught me how to measure precisely.

For example, I am simply unable to measure flour now without carefully scooping it into the measuring cup with a spoon and then leveling it off with a knife. I just know if I were to scoop in the measuring cup into the flour container it would pack in and I would get more than exactly the amount needed. And if I don't level it off with a knife then it won't be exact. I may let my OCD tendencies run wild while baking.

Grandma also showed me neat things like measuring butter by displacement. First you fill a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup about half full with water. It doesn't really matter how full with water as long as there's more than the amount you want to measure. Make sure you know how much water is in the measuring cup and then add the butter, or oleo, or Crisco, until the water in the measuring cup reaches however much butter you want more in the cup. For example if you start with 1 cup of water and you want 1/2 cup of butter then you scoop the butter in until the water level hits 1 1/2 cups. It's pretty easy and an interesting way to teach kids about physical properties of fluid dynamics. (it's the only way I would understand something like that.)

Grandma also let us do something forbidden in my mom's house. She let us lick the beaters. Mom would yell about salmonella, but Grandma licked the beaters. I had no idea about licking beaters or tasting batter before Grandma let me bake cookies at the cottage.

Grandma also taught me to let my cookies cool on cut up paper bags. Call me crazy, but cooling the cookies on paper bags does something special to them. This year, I've been using cloth bags for groceries, so I don't have the overabundance of paper grocery bags I usually have at Christmas. I also have a limited amount of counter space, and these really cool stacking cooling racks. So for the first time since I started, the Christmas cookies will be air cooled on racks.

Grandma died at the ripe old age of 91 the summer before I met my husband. I'm grateful that she showed me how to bake and I think of her every time I pull out my trusty kitchen aid mixer.

1 comment:

Zylo said...

I like the butter trick. I'm usually too laissey-faire to do it, but yeah. Also, my flour is crazy packed and leveled with a finger. My OCD comes out in lots of other ways though. Only one more post! We've made it! Congratulations is advance.