Sitting in my kitchen, I watch my sister drizzle melted, dark chocolate on fresh oven-baked eclairs. She spins around, opens the oven door and moves her head quickly as heat escapes. She checks on her earl grey tea cake baking inside. Closing the door, she spins around again and moves a rhubarb cake that she made earlier, farther from the ledge. I smile at her. She grabs her eclairs and puts them in the fridge.
“Are you going to eat one today?” she asks.
I nod my head.
My sister has been baking since she was 10, maybe even earlier. She’s 17 now. She’s an excellent cook, but baking is her passion. Primarily, she bakes from a recipe, tweaking it as she goes, adding less sugar here and more butter there.
I’ve sat in the kitchen for years, watching her mix and whip and blend a variety of different creams and custards and cakes.
“What’s your favourite thing to bake?” I ask.
“To bake? I like to make cakes,” she says.
“Because you can decorate it both on the inside and the outside.”
I watch her again as Karina takes her earl grey tea cake out from the oven. She slides it out of the pan and drops it on a cooling rack. She opens the fridge, grabs her pre-made vanilla creme and stirs it.
“Why do you like baking?” I question.
“I don’t know, it’s fun,” she replies.
“Why don’t you go to school for baking?”
“I can’t get a job with this,” she laughs.
Karina is going to school for science and math. She’s good at technical and mathematical studies. She doesn’t know what she wants to do after school- but as her sister, I know one thing for sure- her eyes don’t light up when she’s talking about physics than when she’s actually baking and creating.
“I think I’ll put jam in this,” she says.
She’s referring to her earl grey cake.
Karina is a pastry chef regardless of whether it is by formal education or experience. Her talent, her passion and her love to bake qualifies her as an unofficial pastry chef. And who knows, she’s young and she might decide to open up a business one day. If she doesn’t, her family will still enjoy her pastries and treats for many years to comes. I know I do.
“Haha oops, I think I accidentally made earl grey hard candy. Want to try it?” Karina asks.
She moved quickly. She’s stirring something on the oven.
“What was it supposed to be?”
“Earl grey syrup. What should I do with it? I think I’ll sprinkle it on top of the cake like sprinkles,” she laughs.
I laugh too.
She reminds me of a Julia Child quote,
Her infectious laugh and personality were as influential as her deep knowledge of the principles of good baking.
She takes her eclairs out of the fridge and offers them to the family. I take one. The pastry is soft and fluffy, the chocolate on top is sweet and the cream inside is fluffy.
It’s delicious. Good job Karina.
From the archives of June 26, 2016