Posts Tagged ‘Baking’

Cooking, Karaoke, and Crisp Prose

May 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Courtesy of BJ Jones Photography

SAD is in full-swing this month. That’s my MNINB group’s May challenge: Submit a piece A Day. So far I’m batting a thousand.

I’d just finished sending off a piece of Flash Fiction to Ether Books this morning when I became time conscious. What’s that? It means I got a closer look at the time and realized I still had zucchini bread to make before going into anything further.

You knew about the cookbook I’m writing, didn’t you? I’m just now getting around to putting together the recipes I’m responsible for in the book. We need to have all of the modified and personally designed recipes finished in a couple of weeks so that I can get them plugged into the manuscript. Anyone who thinks writing a cookbook is easy should watch Julie and Julia. It has nightmare potential.

I’m fortunate. I only have responsibility for a few of the recipes, aside from doing the editing. My two partners have borne the brunt of the cooking endeavors, and one of those—sister of mine—is doing all the photos. Can’t beat that with a stick, to quote grandpa.

I was using a newly developed recipe for my Zucchini-Oatmeal Nut Bread and it turned out beautifully. The whole-ground wheat flour kept it a deep golden brown as it rose in the oven. The apple sauce replacing the oil in our healthy version sent its aroma wafting across the kitchen seeking nostrils for appreciation. That nuttiness of crushed walnuts lent its own aspect to the bread’s prospective deliciousness.

Back to the point: the bread was doing its thing in the oven along with a tray of tiny Bundt pans of bread batter. While they baked, I rode the recumbent bike, listened to the radio playing in the background, and thought about those items still on my editorial calendar for the day.

Karaoke thoughts entered the picture when the radio came on. We don’t have such a machine. We do it the old-fashioned way, personal memory and raw voice. We choose not to use a microphone. No one in his right mind would want to hear us sing anyway.

Which brings me back to the bike. I try to do three plus miles a day on the bike. When I’m pedaling, I use the time to plan out stories, read writer’s magazines, or plot schedules. Getting organized will bring about such aberrations of thought.

And what I was considering today was how much like cooking writing really is. A recipe is nothing more than a plot, with a beginning, middle, and ending.

The ingredients list represents all of those necessary characters, each with dimensional measurements and traits. The setting and plot twists appear in the directions for combining all of those ingredients. Bowls are involved. Mixers take precedence over the future of the ingredients, all the while a specific order of action must be followed, so that the plot is satisfied, and the outcome is assured.

Great care comes in how hot to have the oven and how long to let the bread bake.  Specific directions ensure that nothing unforeseen can ruin the baking. And when the loaf is pulled from the oven, the cook must carefully judge when to take the loaf from the pan and how long to allow it to cool before cutting and consumption can begin.

I’d baked a loaf of bread. I’d changed half of the ingredients from a basic quick bread recipe because we don’t use sugar, white flour, or oil. I’d change measurements of some of those ingredients; three-quarters the amount of wheat flour and one quarter amaranth flour. I’d made adjustments to create a personal loaf of bread.

In the same way, writers put prose together, whether fiction or non-fiction. They learn how to cook with myriad ingredients and how to manipulate and combine those ingredients to get different outcomes. They learn how to bake, not with precision of time or temperature, but with intuition and experience. That’s what good cooks do most of the time.

Now, let me ask you. How do you cook your stories, poems, or essays? Do you use a recipe or wing it? Share your method of assemblage here. I haven’t yet met a cook who doesn’t enjoy a good chat over a cup of tea or coffee. Pull up a chair, and get comfortable.

So, tell me, how do you…?


Zucchini Oatmeal Nut Bread (from “Get REAL in the Kitchen—coming out in 2012)

3 eggs

1 ½ C. Stevia

1 C. unsweetened applesauce

1 Tbsp. vanilla

1 C. quick oats

1 ½ whole-ground wheat flour

½ C. amaranth flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. sea salt

¼ tsp. baking powder

2 C. unpeeled, raw, grated zucchini

1 C. chopped pecans (optional with walnuts or hazelnuts)

1 C. chopped raisins (optional with other chopped dried fruits)

Beat together eggs and Stevia. Mix in applesauce and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients into egg mixture and mix thoroughly. Add zucchini, nuts, and fruit (if desired.)

Pour into 2 greased and floured 4-8-inch loaf pans or split between one loaf pan and muffin tins.

Bake at 350° F. for 1 hour. Muffin tins will be ready to remove in 25-30 minutes.

Note: 5 small foil pans will work for individual loaves instead of larger loaf pans.


I hope you’ll drool well over this recipe. It’s going to become a favorite around our house. It will freeze wonderfully, too. Enjoy your cooking lesson.