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In which I challenge myself to a bake off.

And so it begins.

I've always liked to bake, but, if I'm being honest with you, I'm not really a "details" person. I used to forget every month to pay the water bill before I put it on auto-draft. I frequently forget to brush my hair before taking my son to school in the morning. When I'm making cookies or a cake or bread, I tend to ignore the directions and dump everything in the mixing bowl together and say, "Do your best, guys! I support you!" I'm not a perfectionist in baking or in anything else. I don't have the time to be a perfectionist. I'm too busy working and forgetting to pay bills and, frankly, flattening my weirdly poofy hair to have time to make a loaf of bread look picture-perfect. And, I kind of love the imperfections of homemade bakes. My bakes are rustic, like my hair.


My husband and I became addicted to The Great British Bake Off last fall when we watched it on Netflix. (It was the PBS version, which, for some reason, carries the incorrect title and doesn't number the seasons correctly.) We are serious, serious fans of this show, like, oh, every single person in Great Britain. How did we live for so long without this show in our lives? I'll never know. If I'd paid a little less attention to my hair, maybe I would have discovered the show sooner. WE'LL NEVER KNOW.


In December, I gave myself three challenges--start training for a half-marathon again, walk 1,000 miles in 2016, and start weight-training, which I'd never done before. I needed to do something NOT work-related that was also good for me, physically, but I was a little apprehensive about how I'd respond to the challenge. In the month of January, I discovered that I was actually up to meeting those three challenges (because I haven't contracted the flu, yet) and that working towards these goals was very refreshing. But I also felt the need to do something creative, AND I became lightly obsessed with Paul Hollywood's (one of The Great British Bake Off judges) How to Bake cookbook, which my husband gave me for Christmas.

My new challenge: make ALL of the bakes in Hollywood's book, the ones for which I'm able to find the ingredients, at least. I will fail at several of them. (If I'm very lucky and work very hard, it will be "several" instead of "most.") I won't want to eat many of them. (I tend to like "plain" versions of breads and cakes and cookies; I have the food preferences of a picky five-year-old.) However, the book is not only gorgeous but very informative; if nothing else, I will learn, and I will become my own version of a baking perfectionist. Actually, I probably won't become any kind of a perfectionist, but at least I'll be better--and that is the point.

I won't tackle the recipes in any certain order, as what I bake from the book will likely depend on my or the family's food needs or desires that day, but I will hit them all in the next year or so.

The challenge begins tomorrow, my pretties, with Basic White Tin Bread (a loaf of white bread, for those of us who aren't British)! Join me--we shall learn together.

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