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Written by Angela Pawlik. Visit her on Instagram at @a_ct_baker

Does the pandemic have you considering a new cookbook project? Or curious to learn about others’ journey to baking? Learn from a local food influencer like Angela Pawlik the blogger behind @a_ct_baker

Cookbook Project: How my Journey Baking Began

I am not a ‘pandemic baker’ in that I did not just start baking during isolation. I have been baking (and cooking) on my own since I was 8 or 9. The first thing I remember baking is brownies from scratch to earn my baking badge for – ironically enough – Brownies, (as in Girl Scouts).

As I recall, I quickly moved on to a honey yeast bread from a children’s book, Italian cookies with my grandmother’s supervision, and various other recipes from the cookbook my mom used in her high school home economics class.

Baking is something I have always done well. Sometime during my mid-twenties, I went from being ‘the girl who brought the beer’ to ‘the girl who brought the cake’ (or cookies, etc.). In my thirties I began entering local baking competitions at annual agricultural and fairs.

My passion lead me to Success

I took home a few blue ribbons at the local level, but never placed higher than second or third in the State Baking competition or the King Arthur competition. I was, however, subsequently and frequently asked to donate baked goods for community fundraisers and church events.

In August 2019, I won first place in The King Arthur competition by baking a perfect Cinnamon Star Bread and went on to take tenth place (out of 20 entries) at the state level the following October. It was the inability to compete during the pandemic combined with my sudden awareness of the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion that prompted me to begin baking with the purpose of completing every recipe in that tome and documenting it all on Instagram @a_ct_baker.

Lesson Learned: There are No Guarantees in Baking

Baking is an activity I find relaxing yet challenging at the same time. There are so many factors to consider. Even if you are following a recipe to the letter, there are no guarantees. Outdoor temps, indoor temps, humidity, aridity, whether your oven is electric, gas, convection, as well as the age and accuracy of the oven can all impact your recipes.

And, of course, enthusiasts of the Great British Baking Show know to not over-proof or under-cook if you want to avoid that raw middle or the dreaded ‘soggy bottom’. I think the reason King Arthur recipes are perfect for a competitive baker is because they are not just about the ingredients. These recipes are detailed. They require attention and precision.

Learning the hard way: The Beaten Biscuit

Yes, I have learned this the hard way. In the same way I make the sign of the cross over pizza gain before closing the oven door simply because my grandmother wrote that into her recipe, I would turn counterclockwise three times on one foot wearing tap shoes while waving my rolling pin in the air if King Arthur told me to. It might not be evident, but there is a reason for it. Do not question it.

Allow me to illustrate. My very first recipe of this project was the Beaten Biscuit. Why that recipe? I needed a starch to accompany dinner and thought, ‘Biscuits. Easy-peasy’. Forget that up to that day I had never successfully made a good scratch biscuit… or that my food processor had recently crapped-out and the recipe specifically says, “If you don’t have a food processor, it would probably be best if you didn’t try this recipe’. ‘Pfft. Silly, inconsequential details’, I thought, ‘I’ll just use my Martha’ (my nickname for my KitchenAid) ‘and it will be fine’. The result was most definitely not fine. What I ended up with was 2 dozen flat, rock hard discs that crumbled into tiny bits when I tried to slice them. They would not have even made good hockey pucks due to their fragility. Hashtag: Fail. I posted them anyway. Whether you are an experienced baker or a novice, you will have bad baking days and I think it is important to show that right along with the successes. 

My Cookbook Project

I am roughly 70 bakes into the 450 possible recipes contained in the Baker’s Companion. Most have gone swimmingly. I enjoy reading the comments and I appreciate the supportive foodie-bakers-cooks community I am now a part of. I am baking at a rate with which my family cannot keep up.

My daughter and her boyfriend have accused me of trying to fatten them up a la the witch from Hansel and Gretel. Friends and neighbors just happen to pop by more often – outside and at a safe social distance of course, and I have a freezer full of baked goods for ‘when company comes’.

There is something rewarding and joyful in surprising an appreciative friend or relative with something homemade from your kitchen. I treat my #CookbookProject like a job, but I do not think it could feel any less like work. 

Interested in connecting with Angela about her cookbook project, connect with her at:

Angela Pawlik

IG: @a_ct_baker

bakinginct@gmail.com

Next: Sweet Chili Ginger Chicken, an Easy and Delicious Party on your Plate