I have been using these past few weeks to experiment. Like a mad scientist in a frilly floral apron, I have been pouring over books and manuscripts, researching ingredients and methods... and at last I have come to the conclusion that...
Yes. I could see myself truly pursuing the art of making sweets.
I am uncertain of whether I should say I'm pursuing baking, pastry arts, confections or just "nummy things". I'm certainly not ever going to be a pâtissier, simply because at this point in my life I can't afford the cost or the time it would take to pursue full pastry chef schooling. Still, I'm pursuing sweet and dainty things that have a specific aesthetic... alluding to childhood sweets, appealing to subtle and refined tastes. Within these sweets I intend to combine the freshest and most local of ingredients possible - Michigan grown/milled flours, home grown fruits, local honeys.. I even found a supplier of locally grown, GMO-free soybean oil, for those times that really call for vegetable oil rather than less processed fats.
I have been truly experimenting, starting with base recipes and making serious alterations. Baking batch after batch after batch until I have a recipe of my own that is up to my standards.
The best thing is, I'm having a great time doing it and I've accepted that sometimes it's best to just throw the whole thing out and try again! It's almost liberating to be baking for baking's sake, rather than for a person or an event. If it doesn't turn out, nobody has to eat it.
So far I have tried several cake recipes, cookie recipes, tea cakes, frostings... I've even been working on a sweet skillet bread (spotted dick - yes, that's what it's called) that is moist, crusty and fantastic! I hope you understand that I'm not going to pretend I'm something that I'm not. I am not a trained professional; I am a dabbler. Still, baking has sparked a passion and obsession in me that I haven't felt since I started training horses so I would imagine this is going someplace good.
To take good, fresh ingredients and to make them into something that invokes a physical and emotional response reminds me of when I was in school for art. I've always loved to create things, but I've always made art for myself and cringed at the idea of doing it for the pleasure of others. With baking it's totally different; I bake because I want to share the experience of my finished piece with others.
I've been taking samples to pretty much any gathering I can, to shove into the mouths of unsuspecting friends, family, students and clients... It's awesome to see their responses, and people have been very honest with me. I can't wait to share more of my adventure with them and with you... like a mad scientist I cannot wait to take over the worrrrrld! (or at least a few of my local markets...)