The Baker’s Corner: Inspiration
This new segment of our blog, The Baker’s Corner, features insights from The Baking Journal’s host Stephanie. To view all content from The Baking Journal, please visit www.thinktv.org/thebakingjournal/ or www.CETconnect.org/thebakingjournal and subscribe to our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/channel/UC-pjrZPeeRenFKAF3kBuZcQ!
Bonjour Baker’s Corner Readers! Today I am writing to you from beautiful Paris, France. This is a work trip, so there is nothing dreamy or romantic about my visit to The City of Light except that in some magical way it is becoming quite inspirational. Many of you probably aren’t aware, but I oversee clinical research studies by day and bake all of the other hours of the day and night. I just started a new job and was invited to New Employee training in Paris (I know – tough gig!) On the long flight to Paris (when everyone around me was sleeping and I of course could not), I watched a 2021 documentary about Julia Child. After all, her love of French cuisine began in France after one of her first meals in the French countryside. It was a simple, yet delicious, sole meuniere that sent her on her way to become the woman known to have brought French cuisine to the American public. This leads me to today’s topic, “Inspiration.” What is it? Where does it come from? How do you capture it in a way that inspires you to take action?
Don’t worry, I am not going to write what could be someone’s doctoral dissertation on inspiration, but I know from the perspective of my own baking journey, I have often tried to reflect on that “aha” moment of when I knew baking was my passion. I can’t remember one particular point in time that I felt my soul open up and I knew that baking would define me, but rather more a series of moments over time that shaped my confidence and passion for baking.
Okay, let’s start with this: What is inspiration? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines inspiration as, “something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create: a force or influence that inspires someone.” Here in Paris, there are so many things that could serve to inspire a baker (especially as I sit here eating my croissant while looking out the window at the Sacre Coeur). The pastries in France are certainly worthy of admiration in their beauty as well as flavor and I was preparing myself, during this business trip, to seek every free moment to find boulangeries/patisseries so I could soak in the inspiration. But I discovered that although each type of French pastry is fabulous and enticing, it just wasn’t sending me that deep soul-inspiring inspiration that Julia Child felt while enjoying her buttered sole.
Which leads me to the next question, where does inspiration come from? Obviously, it comes to each of us in different ways and through different experiences. As I was admiring the beautiful pastries in the gourmet department in one of the galleries nearby, I wandered over to the Spice Shop. All of a sudden, I felt a sense of time standing still. The wonderful scents of the different spices, the beauty of the glass jars filled with whole nutmegs, star anise, and the longest cinnamon sticks I have ever seen. I was mesmerized by the pretty pastel shades of the glistening infused sugars. You might be thinking right now, oh poor thing…. she really needs to get out more…. but from a baking perspective, these sugars transported me from what I already knew to propel me forward to create new and delicious recipes using these infused sugars. What I mean by that is infused sugars are not new to The Baking Journal. I’ve demonstrated how to make ginger infused sugar and have used that and other infused sugars in some of our recipes (think Ginger Apricot Scones and vanilla sugar in the Chocolate Brownie Cookies). But for me the sugars in this Parisian spice shop were a sight to behold with their pastel colors reflecting the infused flavor: pink for the rose infused sugar, lilac for the violet infused sugar, pale yellow for the elderflower infused sugar, light brown flecked vanilla sugar, and more! I wanted to buy them all, but I was a little worried that the border patrol wouldn’t believe it was really flavored sugar (wink, wink), so I decided to show some restraint and only purchase the violet infused sugar (aka sucre violette). I was so pleased with my purchase you would have thought I just found the perfect Chanel bag (oh wait – different passion)!
And now my last question about inspiration, how do you capture it in a way that inspires you to take action? Yes, for those of you not feeling the whole sugar inspiration, I get it and that is why inspirations come to each of us in different ways…. but more importantly an inspiration without action is just a passing thought, a moment of time that is gone and forgotten. You capture the inspiration by doing. Taking your inspiration and creating something new is how to make it stick. Of course, I am not saying that every inspiration and every new idea that is put into motion is wildly successful. Trust me, in the baking process, those initial inspired moments and ideas often end up as epic disasters! But there is always victory in learning, whether from our mistakes or from our successes (and I would venture to say that I have learned the most from my failures). So…… now I can’t wait to get in the kitchen and start testing out my ideas for flavor combinations using my violet-infused sugar. Doesn’t strawberry and violet jam sound heavenly? What about violet shortbread cookies with a vanilla glaze, or maybe blueberry violet scones, or how about lemon & violet petit fours, or maybe a violet & gin cocktail? The possibilities are endless!
In a future blog post, I’ll let you know the outcome of my French-inspired violet sugar creations. Maybe one of them might show up on The Baking Journal. But for now, as I am finishing this blog entry, the rain has started to come down in Paris and even with all of the city’s beauty, I am even more inspired than ever to get home, take a moment or two to say hello to my husband and my Great Dane puppy, and start baking.
And so, I ask, what inspires you?
Au revoir until next time!