Art of Baking Blind

“The Art of Baking Blind” by Sarah Vaughan

It’s no secret to my family and friends that I love to cook and bake. I have done since standing in my maternal grandmother’s kitchen, “helping” her to make pastry for her perfect pies.  This was followed by many hours of fun using an Easy Bake Oven, under my Mum’s supervision, of course. And then finally being allowed to use a real stove and oven, on my own, to create a variety of masterpieces.

Cooking and baking relaxes me. It’s something I enjoy from planning meals in my head to grocery shopping (in a large retail store, farmers market or my favourite gourmet store in UpTown Waterloo) to cooking in my small kitchen. Whether I am sharing a meal with my husband, my whole family, or bringing in treats to my colleagues, it’s all good.

However, no matter how much I enjoy food and cooking, I have never been interested in working in the culinary world or competing in the food world.  This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy reading about these aspects of the foodie universe, it’s just not for me.

I recently read “The Art of Baking Blind” by Sarah Vaughan. The book follows five very different individuals as they compete to be the new “Mrs Eaden”.  Kathleen Eaden was the Nigella of the baking world.  An accomplished baker who wrote a book which became the bible of all those interested in creating the best cakes, cookies, breads and pastries. Her empire included a chain of gourmet grocery stores.  It is these stores that are in need of a new “face” for their brand.

The story unfolds through the view of the four female competitors.  The fifth, a kindly man named Mike, seems a bit out of place at times. A “token male”, in a way.  As the contestants work their way through the challenges posed in the kitchen, it’s obvious that the challenges in their personal lives will prove the most difficult. Cakes may rise and there is the sweet taste of success in the kitchen but in life, there isn’t such a guaranteed sunny outcome.

This is the first novel by journalist Vaughan and I hope it won’t be the last. From mouth-watering descriptions of airy meringues and decadent cakes, to handling the challenges of relationships, it all made for good reading. I have to admit I was disappointed that the author didn’t share a recipe or two.  So, I will!

Visit the author’s official website or follower her on Twitter @SVaughanAuthor

In the book, gingerbread cookies are referred to repeatedly.  They hold special meaning for Kathleen Eaden.  As I am somewhat known for my gingerbread cookies plus the fact that Christmas is coming, I’ve decided to share my recipe with you.

Gingerbread Cookies

1 c. shortening
1 c. white sugar
1 egg
1 c. molasses
2 tblsp. White vinegar
3 ½ c. all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves

Cream shortening and sugar in large bowl until fluffy and light. Add in egg, molasses and vinegar. Stir well.  Gradually add dry ingredients. Stir to blend.

Cover bowl and refrigerate dough for 1 ½ hours minimum.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Flour a wooden baking board. Roll out ¼ of the dough until 1/8” thickness.  Cut cookies into desired shapes.

Bake on lightly greased cookie sheet for 8 minutes (this is for medium-sized cookies; reduce time for smaller cookies). Watch carefully to avoid burning.

When cooled, store in an air tight container or tin in a cool location. Stored in this manner, these will keep fresh and moist for 4 weeks.