Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Challenging Myself... with Macrina

I am going to bake my way through the Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook by Leslie Mackie. Cooking, in general, has always been something I love. When I was little I would pretend I had my own cooking show whenever I made something, even just PB&J. But baking... baking is my true passion. There is nothing like the feeling of taking something freshly baked out of the oven, the smell, the heat, the golden brown crust, the perfectly baked cake... it's like love in solid form. So why am I starting this adventure?

My job is stressful but it is not hard to do nor does it require a lot of brain power. Lately it has been a bit more stressful than usual because they are closing my office and moving my branch into another office to be shared with the team that is there from the company that took mine over. My boss is being moved to a different location than the rest of us, which leaves me as The One In Charge. So I've been working longer than usual hours and am a bit more stressed because of the extra responsibility and trying get all my work done while also doing all the things my boss normally does.

My point is that when I come home, I am mush. I don't use my brain at work, which I think is more tiresome than if I had to use a lot of brainpower. I do the crossword on my lunch everyday just so that I have at least 20 or 30 minutes of thinking to do during the day. I am not challenged at work. I do not have rewarding experiences at work. I mostly deal with complaints and problems, which can be wearing on the spirit. When I come home lately, I can't seem to get my brain to turn on to engage with Chris for more than watching TV. I'm cranky, I don't want to talk, I don't want to cook... I just want to put my pajamas on and veg out on the couch. Which is unfair to Chris and causes unnecessary stress on our relationship.

So what is the solution? Well, I can't just up and quit my job. It's a "good" job. So since I can't just quit, I've decided that I need to take matters into my own hands and challenge myself more. Do more things that require brainpower. (I also need to do more things that challenge me physically, but that's another topic for another day)

I've been reading through Carol Blymire's blog Alinea At Home, where she is cooking her way through the entire Alinea cookbook by Grant Achatz. She also finished cooking through the French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller. Carol is really inspiring. I really could go on and on about her blog but really you should just head over there and check it out.

So why Macrina? Because there are things in there that I have only dreamed of baking. Intimidating sour doughs, croissants and other pastries....Things that will be hard, possibly frustrating, might make me cry but will be ultimately rewarding. The breads in this book sound so inviting to bake. There are also cakes, cookies, muffins, tarts, pies... the works. I also love the section toward the back that has the Cafe Favorites with savory dishes that make your mouth water just by reading the title like Egg Scramble with Delicata Squash, Spinich, Smoked Provelone & Beurre Blanc Sauce and German Pancake with Apples, Rum & Brown Sugar.

So I am going to make at least one new recipe per week from the Macrina book on Sunday. I hope to come out of this adventure a bit more intuitive about bread baking, more confident about pastry and with experience in a broader range of baked goods. I also want to gain a sense of accomplishment and a better understanding of what my plans are for the future. I also, for at least one day a week, want to feel passionate about what I am doing.

Wish me luck!

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