As a newly married, eager-to-please preacher's wife, I panicked the first time a parishioner asked me to bring "dainties" to a church potluck. Rather than gracefully agree, I blurted, "I don't make dainties. I make clumsies."
I spoke the truth. I was a mess-maker, flat-cake baker, sloppy dessert chef. Worst of all, almost every time I baked anything, I burned it. Until that moment, I'd hoped to hide it. With my cover blown, I decided to laugh at myself and to tell others that I'd prefer to bring soup or salad.
In spite of that clumsy start, I'm grateful for a mother who allowed me to spend more time reading and writing than focusing on the art of domestic skills. Years later, I'm still a clergy wife and an author. I'm not afraid of sharing my mistakes, but I try to help others avoid them.
I have since mastered most necessary domestic tasks, but for years, I struggled with burnt baked goods, especially cookies. I burned them every time. Then my husband brought home an AirBake pan. To my delight, it worked perfectly.
My burnt offering days were over. I had only one problem. I liked the pan, but now I had to spend extra time in the kitchen because of only having one "safe" pan. We couldn't afford another, but one afternoon I thought about that principle of trapped air pans and wondered if I could make my own "trapped air pans."
I stacked two of my old, identically sized cookie sheets atop each other. On the bottom one, I placed four evenly spaced stainless steel table knives. Then I baked my cookies as usual. To my second delight, that worked, too. (Desperation is always the mother of invention!) I've used the same trick with cake pans when baking bars and squares and saved a peck of money by avoiding the high cost of the trapped air pans.
This technique will darken your stainless steel utensils, so pick up a few at garage sales. As with all trapped-air pans (bought or homemade), extend the baking time for most recipes.
Kathleen Gibson is a freelance writer, and the author of several books, among them West Nile Diary: One Couple's Triumph Over a Deadly Disease. Visit www.kathleengibson.ca today!
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