Ingredients, Schmedients

Family photo…most of the primary dry ingredients I use in baking (of course Mascarpone is an exception in this snapshot and the shelf-stable whipping cream has a six-month longevity).
When I started baking from scratch, I really understood that the quality of what went into the cupcakes had a direct effect on the quality of the finished product.  While, this is definitely not a new concept, I think the immediacy of the results caught my attention.  Instead of checking for quality results “down the road,” I was able to see the outcome of my choices right away.  Holds true for more than just cupcakes, right? 

Applying this paradigm to life, relationships, recovery, parenting, education means… what I invest by way of “ingredients” into my path has a significant impact on my journey.  I think my head knew this, but I don’t know if my heart had captured it.  I feel like the answer is yes in some areas and not-so-sure with other experiences.

Sooo…butter is a quality ingredient.  It’s different from margarine and oleo (I love this word; my grandmother’s handwritten recipes almost always call for oleo margarine).  I use salted butter because I don’t want to miss an opportunity to add flavor.  Other bakers will swear by unsalted butter.  Chef’s choice.  Someone asked me a few weeks ago if I noticed any taste difference between American butter and German butter.  I don’t.  Maybe it’s the salt.  :p
Oil.  I have used corn oil, canola oil, a blend of oils, but never olive oil nor any nut oils.  In my mind, olive oil is for savory dishes.

Flour. I use Gold Medal All-Purpose flour most of the time.  When a recipe calls for cake flour, I use Pillsbury Softasilk.  Cake flour has less protein and produces a light, moist, fine crumbly cake.  German flour is categorized by number according to the flour compound.  Cake flour is not available in Germany but a close cousin would be Flour 405 with Flour 550 being similar to all-purpose.  Yeah.  I get it.  I didn’t want to know this either.

Sugar.  Thank heavens we can agree on granulated sugar…or can we?  German and American granulated white sugar seems to be quite similar.  In researching recipes here in Europe, many call for caster sugar; this is a baking sugar somewhere between granulated white sugar and powdered sugar; it is available in the States and labeled superfine sugar.  Most recipes with this ingredient come out of the UK.  I want to ask my Irish friend if she grew up using caster sugar but don’t want to expose my ignorance to the politics of the Irish and the English.  When did baking become political?
Brown sugar?  Hardly used with cakes; it is necessary for making caramel sauce and some frosting.

Powdered sugar.  Also known as confectioner’s sugar or icing sugar.  I hope we can agree on its deliciousness and its airborne quality to stick to most anything once released from the cartoon.  In German stores, this product is sold in boxes about 1/3 the size of the smallest box available in the US.  This explains sooo much.

Vanilla.  My favorite ingredient and the most in need of an upgrade.  If your pantry is host to vanilla extract that is not from Mexico…do your taste buds a favor and throw out the impostor.  In 1993, when we were living in Satellite Beach, Florida, we were given a 32oz glass bottle of dark Mexican vanilla.  It.was.amazing. And I was sad when it was all gone.  In 2013 and baking was pulling me back from the edge, I remembered that Mexican vanilla.  I knew there was something better for my cupcakes… quality ingredients going into the batter ups the chance for quality results.  Online shopping lead me to Global Goods; they offer dark Mexican vanilla and clear Mexican vanilla.  Say whaaaaa?  Yes!  Clear vanilla does not add color to vanilla buttercream frosting and allows it to stay closer to white without adding white food coloring.  The best flavors available plus an improvement in color.  I’m gonna need a barrel full of this stuff…or maybe a starter 32oz bottle – in dark and clear. And it only took six weeks to get here.  Yep, that was snarky. And, yeah – I’m grateful as hell to have it!

Other stuff happens in the form that is needed and at just the right time.  The same goes for the other little bits of ingredients that makes each cupcake special in its own unique way. 

I’ve learned that I was attached to the results – in my life and in my cupcakes.  I feel it’s a better idea to recognize for myself what I’ve been sharing with clients and sponsees.  I am powerless over other people, places, and institutions (and cupcakes) and only have an itty bitty amount of control over me (and then only sometimes). 

Control…is an illusion.

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