From scratch: Putting in the extra effort - Denny Scott editorial
It was a baking holiday at the Scott house over the past couple weeks as I spent days with my daughter Mary Jane testing out new recipes, discovering the joys (and horrible smell) of molasses and then enjoying the efforts of our labours.
It started with gingerbread horse-head cookies (for my equine-obsessed wife and for Mary Jane who is learning to follow in her footsteps) and then followed with traditional gingerbread men, both of which were decorated with frosting, icing and sprinkles. Then came more of the same without the icing and sprinkles, mostly for me as I’ve never been big on icing, frosting or fondant.
From there we went to gingersnap cookies, cinnamon buns and some other experiments here and there.
It might not have been the best practice for my waistline, given the amount of snacking that traditionally follows Christmas, but with the lockdown in full effect for most of The Citizen’s holiday break, and my wife Ashleigh working through a good chunk of it, I was looking for new and unique ways to keep Mary Jane engaged while teaching her a little bit. Unfortunately, alphabetical and numerical worksheets from the internet only kept her busy for so long. Fortunately, she’s always loved helping out in the kitchen: from making breakfast to doing the dishes, she loves getting hands-on.
It was fun and the family finally got some sustained use out of some very nice appliances that Ashleigh and I got for our wedding years ago, though it inevitably led to a messy kitchen. Ashleigh would come home to multiple sink-loads of non-dishwasher-safe dishes for us to do and cooling racks strewn throughout the house with dozens of cookies on them.
With that mess in mind, when we approached the end of our holiday break, I stopped with the “from scratch” recipes and bought some of those pre-made cookies and cinnamon rolls that really only dirty a few sheets of parchment paper and a couple cooling racks.
It was when I was ripping into a pack of pre-made chocolate chip cookie dough that I saw something that really inspired this entire column: a splash of colour on the corner of the package that proudly stated the cookie dough could either be cooked or eaten raw.
I’ll be honest – I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a tube of raw cookie dough. Sure, I may have cleaned off a cooking utensil or five, but I’ve never split open a cylinder of cookie dough with the intent of eating it as is. When I was younger, people always said it would make you sick to eat raw dough and, when I got older, I realized that, aside from cookie dough ice cream, it was likely better to bake the product as intended.
It struck me as odd that a company would make its cookie dough edible uncooked because that seemed like the wrong way to do things, especially since it’s so simple and easy to make. We’re talking 30 minutes from opening the pack to enjoying the slightly-cooled cookies, not some half-day long process that starts with the horrible smell of molasses.
Regardless of the reason why, the whole situation struck me as wrong because it flies in the face of what we should be doing as a society: teaching these life skills to our young people so they have them for the rest of their lives.
Mary Jane’s got a good head start because she loves being in the kitchen. She enjoys cooking and baking, which I’m extremely happy about because working in the kitchen was something I came to later in life.
Learning to work in the kitchen was something I never paid much attention to in my youth and, if I’m being honest, something I wasn’t really prepared for when I left the nest and started living on my own. Before anyone comments on that to my parents: it wasn’t their decision that my kitchen experience was limited to making cereal and tea – that was all on me.
It wasn’t until my third or fourth month of post-secondary schooling that I realized that I really enjoy cooking, baking and experimenting in the kitchen. Like my holiday baking, realizing how much fun can be had in the kitchen likely had a negative impact on my caloric intake in general. Baking and cooking, however, led to some great moments and memories, including meeting my wife, being (jokingly) hit on by one of my favourite professors at a pot-luck meal and years of culinary experiences.
I’ve dabbled in everything from preserves to pickling, from pancakes to paninis and from casseroles to croque madames and I’m happy to pass on a love for working in the kitchen to my daughter.
So how does this all tie back to that “safe to eat raw” label on the cookie dough? It irked me when I noticed that label because pre-made dough is lazy enough, let alone not cooking it. The label did, however, lead me to my New Year’s resolution: whether it’s cooking or DIY projects, I plan on starting from scratch this year. Starting from scratch always makes the final product that much more fulfilling.