Baking is different.

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In order to understand the significance of this post, you have to understand what happens when I cook. I can explode eggs. I can cause large columns of flame to erupt from frying pans. I could burn water, or at least melt cooking pots. Etc. I literally can’t cook to save my life, and I can screw up nearly anything. I have been banned from kitchens, both officially and unofficially, and technically I’m considered too dangerous in the kitchen to cook without supervision (and too unskilled to cook much at all).

Apparently baking is different.

Swedish tea ring

I made that this morning. When I say I made that, I don’t mean that I directed staff to make it, I mean that I made it. It is the third time I have ever baked anything in my life (and the first was also one of these, that turned out just as good, although this year I left off one of the icings because it was way too rich).

It’s a tea ring. My great-grandmother’s recipe. I was raised being told it’s Swedish, although I’ve heard of similar things from Norway and Germany (and of course Minnesota).

It’s a little bit uneven because my staff hadn’t bought all the ingredients, so she had to run out to the store for raisins, and the dough was trying to rise before it was supposed to, and I was in a hurry and couldn’t make it as straight as I wanted to. But otherwise it turned out well, and tastes good too. (I want to try making another one with all the ingredients around so I don’t have to rush.)

It seems that my horrible cooking makes an exception for baking. I’ve so far made three things, but several people have told me that the things I’ve made have seemed more like I’d been baking a long time. So I might finally actually have a useful skill popping up out of nowhere for once.

I’m assuming it’s related to the fact that there’s not as much time pressure and weird touchy things-have-to-be-just-right-at-this-moment bits when baking as when doing normal cooking, and to the fact that the more physical aspects of baking seem to resemble construction or sculpting projects more than they resemble cooking projects. But whatever it is, I’ve just been handed a recipe for dinner rolls from my neighbor and told to make them for us.

(Edited to add: She told me to edit this to tell you that the dinner rolls turned out really good.)

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

33 responses »

  1. That looks awesome!

    I can also bake a lot better than I can cook…I made and decorated gingerbread cookies last week and they came out rather good. However, when it comes to dinner-type stuff…let’s just say that I wasn’t allowed to use the stove in my parents’ house when I was 21 years old. I’ve recently learned that I can, in fact, make soup sometimes though — something where you just take a bunch of ingredients (like vegetables) and throw them into a pot and cook until hot. This is quite useful because soup can be saved and microwaved for days afterward.

    One thing I’ve also found about cooking is that trying to do anything in the kitchen with other people around is a lot harder than doing it alone, unless it’s a case of my needing a prompt to do something. Trying to deal with putting ingredients together and interact with someone at the same time (and coordinate my activities with theirs) can be quite a mess.

  2. It sounds weird but baking and cooking are so different. I can cook one item at a time but not more or I go crazy. (my soups are wonderful if I’m alone to make them)
    Baking is so much easier and there’s room to change ingredients.

  3. *drools*

    I love cooking. Love it… but something about using an actual recipe dooms me to failure.

    Mind you, I did manage to burn a pan of chard today. I’m pretty good at burning vegetables *grin*

  4. My mom doesn’t like cooking, isn’t all that good at it (for one thing, she doesn’t know how to treat a piece of beef properly), but she bakes well. When there were family gatherings, her sister-in-law would cook and my mom would bake, that would make the best spread of food. :)

    (Putting up preserves, she was fine except for the incident where the jars imploded, and once the physics of the situation was explained to her by my father, she never came anywhere near that mistake again.)

  5. sly civilian: Of course it’s authentic. My great-grandma (whose recipe this is, and yep she lived long enough for me to know her for awhile) grew up in a combination of Sweden and Minnesota. And it is really tasty, at least according to the only other person who’s eaten any.

    Regarding the other stuff people have said: Yeah, I’ve also noticed baking is easier alone. Although I just got help warming something up and now wish I hadn’t because I think the guy over-warmed it.

  6. Hey! you could sell those and raise tons of money for autistics.org!!!

    I want one! :-)

    Maybe you could auction just one? It looks deadly yummy. Do you drink coffee? It looks like it would be great with coffee.

  7. The recipe actually calls for coffee icing. I didn’t make it with that this time around, because the coffee icing is… well… you’re the one who used the word deadly. It’s good, but deadly. And no, I don’t drink coffee (at least not much).

    Even if this were practical for autistics.org, I don’t know how I’d get one to whoever wanted one. Although I do want to try making more of them.

    Although this place appears to sell tea rings from a distance (although all the weird oils in the ingredients of that make me nervous).

    If anyone visits, I could make them one if given enough advance notice.

  8. That does look delishious! I’m the opposite. I can’t bake bread, pastrys, cookies, etc…worth beans, but I’m really good at cooking meals.

  9. Aspie boy loves baking, especially bread kneading. I taught him how to “proof” the yeast (curiously something not taught at school) to make sure that he has a batch of goodly live yeasties, and so long as that factor is okay, it’s hard to really bake a bad loaf of bread.

    That IS a fantastic looking tea ring. Isn’t it wonderful to find unsuspected skills?!

  10. wow………..the PICTURE looks tasty……..I can only imagine how good the actual tea ring tastes…….

    I think it would be a very good, even BRILLIANT idea, to try and make those tea rings to sell for autistics.org

    Would you tolerate being videotaped by a staff member while making the tea ring? That way you can have a tool to dismiss any doubts that you made it…..from potential buyers…..

    My other persona (Athena) is almost drooling too………

    Ivan

  11. I’ve had Charlie do some of the stirring when I’ve baked—his motor skills have made pouring precise measurements a bit of a hit or miss, but I think he can do better now. He really likes to watch me cook as it is a process, with a definite goal, and having to wait for a pot of rice to cook or for something to bake in the oven means he has to “delay gratification” and wait. Now that I think of it, he’s been liking to use modeling clay in art at school and batter is pretty much the same thing…….only meant for eating.

  12. Those probably either have to do with (a) the person in question would’ve been over a hundred years old by now, or (b) changes in geography and therefore fruit selection throughout her life (she also substituted all kinds of other things for lingonberries for instance).

  13. I agree, that looks yummy. I’d ask for the recipe but I know I would never attempt to make something like that. It looks somewhat complicated to me. I would buy one in a heartbeat but I doubt it would be as tasty. I also think it would go well with coffee.

  14. I can recall when I was very proud of myself for figuring out how to prepare ramen noodles. that was only a few years ago. So…………needless to say I can’t really cook. I do like to help my mother when she makes things (well, Athena does…)

    Ivan

  15. That looks scrumptious, gooey, cheesy, and in short, rather good.

    I’ve never had luck with pastry, but sugar cookies (shaped with a cutter) usually turn out well. I’m always burning myself in the kitchen (“forgetting” how long something’s been out of the oven and burning myself touching the pan, usually), so I try to avoid baking and instead make things on the stove.

  16. Yum!
    It’s funny I want to be able to bake but alas my kitchen is a mess.
    I eat way too much lentil soup….I almost blinded myself one time
    when I put a glass something on a stove still hot. I then proceeded
    to put this glass something under the cold water and it exploded.
    No glass in my face but glass all over the kitchen!

  17. I find that cooking gets harder the hungrier I am. Also, baking deserts is easier. It’s hard to explain, just less of a barrier to starting to make it if it’s sugary.
    Ettina (who just posted a syndrome description supposed to be written during December on Christmas Eve)

  18. I am impressed! It looks great! Wish i can have some. Yummy! I agreed with Ms Clark. Make it for autistics.org. U will be surprise how many people will order from u. Ur business are gonna rocket. Of course, I would love to order from u. Anyway, thanks for sharing ur story with us. U are really amazing person. I have 6 years old autistic son. I worry about his future. Hoping he knows how to take care of himself when he gets older. He is already in special education. I have so much to learn about his world. Well, anyway, just hope u consider own a business. I don’t know if there were other autidtic owner? Wouldn’t be nice if u are the first autistic owner? People are gonna impress with you! Wish u the best of luck!

  19. That looks delicious…and yes, also like you’d been baking for a long time already and had a lot of experience. I’m not sure I’d get it right if I tried.

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