I’m a good baker. A really good baker.
Just ask my friends and co-workers. They love me for the cakes, cookies and pies I share with them. I have been told I make pumpkin cream cheese muffins that will change your life.
The other day, I was completely out-baked by a group of Guatemalan girls (and a few boys). It wasn’t even a competition.
They began by making a circle of flour, their hands as quick and experienced as mine were slow and clumsy. There was not a single KitchenAid mixer in sight. I had a bad feeling.
The girls teaching me to bake were part of a baking class at the Compassion student center I was visiting in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. As part of the class, they make snacks for the nearly 400 students at the center. They also make baked goods they can sell in the community. With that money, they have been able to construct new classrooms at the center.
In other words, these were some serious bakers.
After the flour came butter. They handed me several sticks and mimed pounding it on the table until it was soft. Not a microwave in sight. Next, I creamed it with sugar. With my hands. Did I mention there was no mixer?
Would these skills help these children one day? Would they know how to cook nutritious meals for their families? Or bake goods for a living?
One of my baking friends began cracking eggs into my lumpy butter and sugar mixture. I mixed it into a gloopy pile, and felt sweat forming on my forehead. Another girl pointed to a clump of yolk I had missed.
Next they mimed adding the flour. I swept it inward and it poofed toward me. One grinning girl helped me slip an apron over my head. It was like she knew me.
It was amazing to watch their confidence. How good it must feel to start with flour, sugar and eggs, and end with bread, cinnamon rolls and cookies. It may seem like a small sense of accomplishment. But in poverty, children learn they can’t accomplish anything. Even the accomplishments of dough that rises or cookies that don’t burn mean more than we can imagine.
The sticky dough coated my hands and I mixed and mixed until finally, a ball formed. They showed me how to roll it out.
Then they showed me how to re-roll it out when it all stuck to the table.
Finally, we pressed cookie cutters into the dough, making snowmen, hearts and teddy-bear shapes for snack time.
One girl brushed a smudge of flour off of my cheek. Another led me to the sink to wash my hands.
Never have I been so happy to be out-baked in my entire life!