On bread and birthday cakes

I cook a bit, and lately I’ve been giving food as gifts. I made two birthday cakes as gifts in January (fluffy lemon rosemary with citrus cream frosting for Lydia, chocolate cardamom with amaretto and candied ginger buttercream for Brandy). Technically, I made three cakes, but one burned slightly and tasted too much like a dense gingerbread, so it was discarded.

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Fluffy lemon rosemary cake with citrus frosting

 

Giving baked goods or from-my-kitchen treats in lieu of other gifts feels uniquely satisfying for me, and, I hope, for the recipient as well. For Christmas and other occasions over the past few months, gifts included jars of butter made from fresh cream and truffles, brandied cranberries, lemon curd, as well as anise-flavored caramels, lemon-rosemary finishing salt, and chocolate mendiants dusted with bee pollen and candied ginger.

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Lemon rosemary sea salt

 

But I think the most satisfying kitchen endeavor I have undertaken lately is baking my own bread. I use a fairly simple recipe that calls for flour, yeast, butter, sugar, salt, and a lot of time for kneading and rising to produce a white sandwich bread that is not too dense but which still holds its own when toasted or grilled or made into a sandwich.

My family likes the bread, especially fresh from the oven, with butter. And I want to experiment with wheat, rye, cinnamon variations. But right now, enjoying something so basic, so elemental, feels right. I love complicated recipes of Michelin-starred chefs, exotic or expensive ingredients like shaved truffles, the umami of rendered fat or fish sauce. And yet, bread. So basic that it is hard to pull off effectively, but satisfying to recreate in a way few other things can be.

Bread is a well-constructed sentence uncluttered by adverbs.

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