“Why do you call yourself a baker and not a cook?” was the question I was asked by a Podcast host recently.
It made me stop and think.
Whilst I have always loved cooking and still do, for me baking is my creative expression and almost meditative. It is one of the tools I turn to when my mind is in turmoil, to help me focus and get centered.
After a busy day, or when my mind is churning, I enter the kitchen to bake, driven not by a craving to eat, but to create. I find the whole process therapeutic—browsing to select a recipe, taking out the ingredients, combining them in different proportions to create the batter, which when baked turns into a delicious treat.
Other than the odd bit of baking I had done before, my skills really started developing during the winter of 2000. I had just had my daughter, and was living in London. It was cold, grey and wintery outside and with a newborn, it was easier to stay warm indoors at home. When my daughter napped, I would cook meals and experiment in the kitchen.
I have a bit of a sweet tooth, but had never really baked for myself, as I felt it was a bit indulgent, especially as I would only take a tiny portion and wouldn’t want to waste the rest. Harks back to my childhood, and not being allowed by my Grandmother to leave the dining table till I had finished everything on my plate. My children, who are now grown, tease me when I suggest we have dessert after a meal; they tell me I will have one bite and then they have to finish the rest!
That winter of 2000, one weekend the Daily Mail - a national newspaper which published a weekly magazine titled ‘You’ on Sundays, with an assortment of lifestyle articles and recipes, carried two of Nigella Lawson’s recipes for biscuits—her Granny Boyd chocolate biscuits and Lemon Gems. I followed the instructions and made the biscuits, which were a great success! Her tip on making the dough and keeping it in the fridge appealed hugely to my sense of being organized, as I could whip up a batch of biscuits for guests coming to visit or take to friend’s homes. With a newborn, being prepared was everything!
That first success sparked a love of baking, which I nurtured over the years.
Eventually my baking developed into a little commercial sideline for me. Previously I had baked casually for social gatherings, but now I was receiving orders from friends and their network, which grew through word of mouth. After a day spent in my corporate job it was a pleasure to get home and be creative with food. Friends visiting would always comment on how delicious my kitchen smelt. I explored my dream of opening a café, looked at spaces, created cash-flows and balance sheets and worked on menus.
When the time came, I was unable to take the plunge and leave my career to focus on opening an eatery. I was the family breadwinner and financial security has always been important to me, maybe given the lack of it in my childhood; it wasn’t a risk I was willing to take.
My dream of owning a cafe is still alive; I am sure it will become a reality when the time is right.
In the meantime, I think I will continue to call myself a baker!