For whatever reason, my hobby in Sokolov has been to bake. The beginnings of my current baking addiction started when I baked snickerdoodles for my Karlovy Vary orientation. We had to go in on a Sunday, so I thought it would be prudent to have a sugary snack to boost our energy and bolster our spirits. They weren’t the best snickerdoodles I have ever baked. The tastiest were in my senior year of college in the on campus apartment of some of my best college friends. I remember the beautiful domed shape, coloration and the never-to-be-recreated mix of crunch and chew perfectly. I was proud (and still am) of those cookies!
The next weekend I decided to bake American style chocolate chip cookies. Unfortunately, I could not find any actual chocolate chips and U.S. brown sugar doesn’t seem to exist. Brown sugar outside of the U.S. is cane sugar or natural sugar and just happens to be brown and thus I think it is brown sugar like in the U.S. Brown sugar from the states has molasses in it…or so I have read on the internet, and thus gives baked goods a slightly different texture than cane or natural sugar. Two crucial ingredients were not to be found. I took a chocolate bar and beat the hell out of it. Rather fun actually. Reminded me of my chocolate cookie experience in Georgia- those turned out tastier to me somehow. While I did not think this batch turned out very well, they disappeared very quickly once brought to the office on Monday.
Now, baking cookies every weekend is not the best of ideas for anyone’s waistline or general health (maybe for emotional health it is a good thing, but that isnt’ what I am refering to), so I needed a way to relieve my baking desire and not rot my teeth out and gain seven sizes. I would make people think I cared about them by baking them things while really I just want everyone else around me to get fat so that if I get fat I wont feel so bad! Haha….genius….no I actually do really like to bake for people. I like to think it makes people happy.
I was getting sick of baking cookies and also could not think of a good cookie to bake. I decided to try a cake. A Lemon bundt cake (I decided on a bundt cake because the two girls who had lived in the apartment a few years ago left a lot of really nice baking supplies, inculding a bundt cake form. A shame not to use it- along with the pie pans, bread pans, cookie cutters…etc). I was surprised with the ease that the cake was made and baked. Sadly, I did not butter the bundt form enough and the cake broke into two pieces. Luckily though, one half looked fairly whole and undamaged. That was the half that ended up at the office smothered in powdered sugar/lemon juice glaze. It was also devoured rather quickly. I thought my first ever baked from scratch cake was a superb success!
The next time the baking bug bit (probably the very next weekend after the bundt cake), I was inspired by the many apples my boss had brought in from her garden. Apple pie time! Home made crusts were nothing special, but were also not a disaster. The apple pie was too delicious to be sacrificed to the whole office (according to the Irishman), so I only took in two slices for my British and American coworker. It was a special pick-me-up especially for my fellow foreign coworkers. That caused a bit of a stir at the office! Oops…
It is now pumpkin season. I HAD to make a pumpkin pie! I bought a 2.5kg pumpkin and let it sit in the refrigerator while I got up the courage to bake a pumpkin pie from scratch. While researching the various ways to make pumpkin puree, I came across different ways to cook the pumpkin. I settled on steaming the pumpkin, because it reminded me of the delicious steamed pumpkin in Georgia. It was a small green pumpkin that was bright orange inside and with a bit of sugar on it while hot, was yum!
A one weekend after buying the pumpkin, I decided it was time. I had been visiting my family in Prague, so I did not start the baking process until a Sunday afternoon (I still had to lesson plan, so timing was important). After an hour of steaming the pumpkin, waiting for it to cool and then mashing it, I was ready to add spices and make the pie. (I had made the pie crust during the in-between times.)
After mixing everything according to the recipe I found online, I realized I had enough pumpkin filling for two pies. Lucky me, the pie dough recipe I had made made four crusts! I decided to bake one pie and freeze the other. The baked pie was tasty, but much more savory than what I am used to. I did not use condensed milk which has a lot of sugar in it. Maybe that had something to do with it That pie I took into the office. It was there last time I was in the office.
I had enough pumpkin mash leftover to make a pumpkin/banana bread which I have fondly dubbed banumpkin bread. That ended up staying at home and out of a large loaf pan most is already gone only two days later!
This same weekend I realized I had many of my bosses apples going mushy on me- since I was baking and had the dough, I made an apple pie! That pie stayed home and is being enjoyed ala mode. Three pies and one banumpkin bread…hmmm, what will be baked next week?