Tag Archives: cooking

Unspoken (But Necessary) Academic Skills, Part 1: Baking

One of the things I’m learning this semester: there are lots of things I never would have thought I needed to be good at as an academic that I need to be good at. That sentence was awkward. Put another way: this job requires expertise in more trades that I had previously anticipated.

This is part one in what (I hope) will be a series of posts over the next few months on skills they never tell you you’re going to learn while you’re in grad school trying to get a PhD. Other skills I’m contemplating: overcoming social anxiety, introducing oneself in one of twenty ways depending on who you’re meeting, being an exceedingly good listener, writing down one thing while listening to something else and thinking about something else, and so on. The list continues to grow.

Today’s post: Baking.

Let me be perfectly clear. I am decidedly NOT a baker. I am a cook. I love to cook. I may sound like I’m gloating, here, but seriously people, my food is good. I have worked at becoming good at cooking. I can braise. I can roast. I can sear. I can saute. I can broil. I can grill (though usually that’s Kristoff’s job, cuz either bugs are out there or it’s cold). I make some killer casseroles, and my mac n’ cheese is to die for.

But yesterday, I made these:

spritz sandwich cookies with homemade jam filling

spritz sandwich cookies with homemade jam filling

Eh? Eh? Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. And they tasted good, too. I made them for a few of the English teachers at my research site, who had a professional development day today to learn about using screen capture and course management software. They requested a day with the district tech guru to learn how to integrate these software in order to “flip,” or least ELA flip (cool blog on that here!), their classrooms. It was awesome. But that’s another post.

THIS post is about my baking. So far this semester, I have baked:

  • mini muffins. these were relatively successful.
  • caramels. these were unsuccessful. these were thrown away.
  • full-size muffins. these were sort of successful, but a little gooey.
  • these cookies. these were entirely successful.

Why am I doing all this baking? The short answer: people like food. And teachers who are famished at the end of the day really like food, especially good food. When I was a teacher, my stomach started growling at 2:30 on the dot. Sometimes a little earlier. At the end of the day, after snarfing down lunch in 15 minutes (because even if a teacher gets 25 minutes, she spends at least 15 of it getting other things done), you’re friggin hungry. So I want to bring people food. Both because I like feeding people (hence, my love of cooking) and because I want them to like me.

But you can’t cook for people when you’re doing things like visiting them in their classroom and thanking them for taking the time to tell you about their work. It’s a little weird to bring people your homemade tzatziki or hummus, even if your homemade tzatziki or hummus is awesome. It’s similarly odd to bring a tray of mac n’ cheese to a PD day.

I find it somewhat ironic that my husband is the baker of the family, and he works in a lab. Cells don’t care if you can make a killer homemade Reese’s peanut butter ice cream sandwich. Protein doesn’t get really excited when you bring in a three-layer cake covered in buttercream. (He actually makes these things, btw.) He’s also a cook — I shouldn’t misrepresent. But if one of us is more of a baker than the other, it’s him. I’m the one who works with people, and what can I make? A really killer pasta salad. Some awesome vinaigrette. Of course.

Anyway, I’m becoming a better baker — slowly but surely, and with a little help from my better baking half. He helped with the jam filling yesterday, firming up our homemade jam with some gelatin so that my cookies wouldn’t be a gooey mess. And at the request of a couple of the teachers who got to sample these suckers today, here’s the recipe (don’t worry, this isn’t turning into a food blog):

Spritz Cookie Sandwices

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 sticks butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp either butter flavor or almond extract
  • 3 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar, add egg, vanilla, butter/almond flavor, and combine. Add flour, baking powder, and salt (after sifting them together) until just combined.

Load cookies into a cookie press (or you might be able to roll them out and cut them, but they’ll be sticky! Cool batter first). Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, watching for them to brown around the bottom. Let cookies cool, then spread your favorite jam in the middle and sandwich together.

Enjoy. Or give to a bunch of teachers 🙂