I used to love baking fresh bread. In fact, I baked bread so often in my house that I never needed to buy yeast – there was enough in the air that some warm water and sugar would attract it to my bowl. During my law school years I started baking cookies and got mired in attempts to make biscotti – anything to avoid having to actually work at law school.
But, baking is an art. And, I was never an artist. I was a dabbler. I was to baking what paint by numbers is to MOMA.
Now cooking – that, I can do. I can be driving home and taste the idea of pork shoulder in my mouth and the rosemary seasoning that I want to put on it and the cherry and port reduction that will be tart and sweet and make the rosemary pop. That, I can do without the recipe.
I have committed myself to the Paleo diet (mostly) – which I enjoy quite a lot. Aside from that commitment, it turns out I have a gluten allergy – when I eat gluten my throat swells shut and my body attempts to drown me in mucous. So, bread is no longer something I do and baking not really in my repertoire any more – even as limitedly as it had been.
The Paleo diet consists of no wheat products, no grains, no legumes – and just as a vegetarian is drawn to attempting to make things taste like bacon, so is a Paleo dieter (Paleoter?) drawn to baking things without flour. Unlike a vegetarian attempting to make things taste like bacon, a Paleoter (which sounds like Ray Liotta) often is successful in making baked goods taste like baked goods even without flour. Also unlike a vegetarian the Paleoter gets to eat bacon.
A friend of mine sent me a Paleo fig newton recipe. I started making it and got all the way to the part where I had to put it together. By this point, I had been to three grocery stores looking for almond flour (I ended up making my own with blanched almonds); I interrupted the process and had to run out to another trip to the grocery store to get more maple syrup; at the point I was supposed to start putting the cookies together I had to make more almond flour and cool the dough for another 30 minutes because it wasn’t the right consistency to roll out.
Finally, despite my obvious ineptitude, I rolled the dough out in parchment paper and put the fig filling down then I rolled and cut like the recipe says. All of that sounds so easy when I type it but in reality that alone took me about 40 minutes. And it wasn’t pretty, literally – it wasn’t pretty, it was mushy and not really nice to look at. I put it in the oven for 15 minutes, and I was spent.
But there were three more batches – at least.
I was exhausted. Instead of making another messy attempt at following this rolling and cooking debacle, I made three different kinds of cookies that took way less time and I bake-tested them. The winner was mixing the filing with the cookie dough and just baking the cookies that way. It took 5 batches, but most of the time was in the actual baking instead of the prepping.
In the end, instead of fig newtons I made fig Eulers (thanks to Andrew for possessing enough geekery to come up with the name).