Monday, 8 November 2010

Batch baking

by Francesca


On baking day, my small kitchen looks like a mess, but there's a method behind the apparent madness. Cool baking sheets sit on chairs, awaiting their turn to go into the oven, while piping hot ones are cooling on the table or the stove-top. The countertop, where all the kneading and mixing takes place, is dusted in flour and cluttered with baking ingredients and implements. And my sink? On baking days, you can't even see it for all the dirty pots and pans and mixers piled up there!


The method is: batch baking. On the day when I need to make bread, every 5 days or so, I also bake one or two pizzas, a main dinner dish (like the lasagne verdi shown above), and often a cake or some cookies, too. I slip in odds and ends, too, like the stray potatoes that I keep finding in the garden after we harvested the main crop, or the hot peppers that I'm drying out before grinding them to make chili powder.

I bake in a batch to conserve electricity - I save on pre-heating, which takes up to 15 minutes with my oven, and do most of my weekly baking in the two hours or so that my oven is on. But I also like this system because grouping all my baking in a batch is a more economical use of my time.

In all the years I've baked in a batch, I've only had one mishap, when I tried to bake pretzels and bread at the same time. That day, I learned that some baked goods, like pretzels, need a hot and dry oven, while the bread I tried to bake with them was filling the oven with humidity. Since then, I've baked pretzels first, on their own, and everything else right afterwards.

Baking in a batch has also stood the test of time: it's how most baking was done until not too many years ago, when a frugal lifestyle wasn't a choice, but a necessity (here).