If I ever needed evidence of how cool and community-building Twitter can be, the last couple of days are a case in point. I exchanged a couple of not terribly meaningful Tweets with thinkspace (a company in the Seattle area that is a kind of office space/tech accelerator). I had heard of them but had no real reason to interact. But yesterday having crossed paths on Twitter thanks to the Mink 3D printer story making headlines in the tech world, I checked out thinkspace (awfully cool the work they’re doing in my old stomping grounds – western Washington).
But one of the coolest finds was an article in the thinkspace blog about how “baking builds community” – and this is something I can attest to – having started this blog back in 2009 or so because of my own baking obsessions and inclinations. Earlier parts of the blog are all about baking, recipes and pictures of cookies – 2014 has been almost bake-less, but somehow seeing the mention of baking mania on the thinkspace site makes me think it might be time to come out of hibernation.
Bear with me a minute – I am going to reach a point but before that will discuss a bit about the operational side of my weekly commuting life, a very impersonal and faceless grind. Each week, I spend one night and two days in Gothenburg, Sweden (where I work). Almost every week now, I stay in the same spare, no-frills hotel on the edge of the city. I don’t mind it; it is one of the least expensive options and the staff is pretty friendly. I would never go so far as to say that most Swedish companies, even those squarely in competitive consumer markets, are particularly friendly or service-oriented, but this low-end place has actually been friendlier and offered better service than I got at a lot of the city’s more upscale places.
Generally, in the year+ that I have been doing this “commute”, I have stayed in at least half of Gothenburg’s 90-ish hotels and in all parts of the city. In many cases, I have stayed in the handful of places that are actually whole apartments, which is always more comfortable for slightly longer-than-overnight stays – but they are generally expensive and impersonal, if you can actually book a flat (they are often sold out, as is almost always the case with one specific place in the city center).
This week I got an apartment that is a tiny bit off the beaten path but is nevertheless quite central – a really beautiful flat with the most personal and attentive service possible. The people running the flats (there are, I think, four or five flats there for rent) are personable and really strive to make the stay at their place fantastic. And it was. I fell in love with the apartment I stayed in (it is not one of the more spa-oriented flats that they have fashioned on the lower floor) – it was compact enough that it was not a huge amount of space but had high ceilings and skylight windows and a small loft just for sitting in natural light. It made me feel almost sad that I never found a flat just like it when I was looking to buy a flat in Gothenburg (not that I would have managed to win a bid in the cutthroat real estate market here).
The whole reason I digress and go off into this story was because I had a long conversation with the proprietress of the place – a gregarious Australian woman, and we got onto the subject of baking – my industrial-level baking habit/hobby and how I give all of it away. How it builds bridges, opens doors and of course (as she noted) probably gave me away as an American like nothing else does. Haha. I commented that Australia Day had just passed and I felt bad that I had not made any Anzac biscuits for the first time in years – and she lamented that she had not even had an Anzac biccie in 20+ years.This exchange – discussing baking – yes, just discussing, opened the door to further conversation and personalization. That really made a big difference – a human connection. And it makes me want to fire up the oven and make some cookies right now. Peanut-butter-cup-stuffed chocolate chip cookies anyone?
Baking really does build community – whether you are offering up 20 different kinds of cookies and cupcakes to the office or whether you are just discussing what you like to bake with the people you happen to meet in your daily life. Suddenly I feel inspired to get back in the kitchen.
I am blessed because I have almost always had friends and colleagues who keep me supplied with some of the hard- (or impossible) to-get baking supplies (that is, impossible to get in Sweden – they bring back some of the more toxic or unusual American products) that sort of define my unique baking repertoire.
One good friend recently returned from the States and very kindly brought me peanut butter chips – which are wonderful, but what I had actually wanted was miniature peanut butter cups. I like baking massive chocolate chip cookies with a mini peanut butter cup baked inside. It’s overkill to some, heaven to others. Alas, I won’t be making the stuffed cookies but am dreaming and plotting about creative ways to employ the peanut butter chips. (I still have some peanut butter chips from the last time the same friend’s husband went to the States and was like a dedicated baked-good-supply mule for me!)
Even people who claim not to like peanut butter can sometimes get behind a cake like this. The peanut butter’s intensity is softened by its being whipped with cream cheese and vanilla, and it takes on a soft cake-like texture once baked inside a very moist, dense and dark chocolate exterior.
Last week I made three of these cakes to take to the office and followed up with one more for one of my Thanksgiving guests. I finally managed to take some new pictures to supersede the ones I took years ago when I first attempted this cake – find the chocolate peanut butter bundt cake recipe by clicking the link.
I realized while looking through past chocolate-peanut butter blog posts that I made this peanut butter chocolate bundt cake for the first time some November ago … and discovered then that November is bundt cake month. Here we are again, in November, and I have made this cake about four times in the last three days.
I dropped three off at my office and have some here for my Thanksgiving guests (since they are here for more than just the actual Thanksgiving holiday, I have to feed them things, like cake and cookies, on other days as well as just Thanksgiving).
I think I took a picture of the latest attempts at this – but for now will just put a picture of the last time I made this cake (since you can see the inside. The new pics are just general pictures of the whole cake before being cut into. Recipe is available at the link above.
Oslo folks, so deprived all summer, will welcome the return of my obsession with baking. Probably. 🙂
I did not get as far as I wanted with my baking plans. It amazes me, though, that I got as far as I did. I really did not have that much time but still managed some of the plan. The final list is below with my wishful-thinking plans crossed out (undoubtedly to be baked sometime soon).
Oh and how Canadian of me to have both Nanaimo bars and maple frosting!
Watching Al Jazeera English program Witness: Truth on Trial about an international war crimes tribunal, prosecuting a Rwandan priest for allegedly perpetrating acts of genocide.
Sometimes when I watch things like this or think about things like what happened in Rwanda – and things that happen all over the world all the time, I wonder how it is I can bother with baking or care about some of the petty things I bother with.