The Ultimate Demise of Scratch Baking

Those babyboomers out here will remember the Pillsbury Bake-Off Cookbooks sold at the grocery check-out for 25 cents many, many, many years ago. Okay so I'm dating myself, but during those days women and men really baked from scratch. There was no prepared cookie dough, bread dough or cake mix. You had to know math, flavoring techniques and have strong arms since most recipes called for you to beat the batter 250-300 strokes with a wood spoon to form the cake batter.

Yes, for those "babybakers" out there the word Kitchen Aid® was non-existent; and there was no such thing as an electric mixer, we had plain old egg beaters, that again, ran by good old fashioned muscle power. As I think back on those days I can now appreciate the knowledge I gained from having to do things from "scratch." When you bake from scratch you learn about the texture of a product, the smell, taste, color, knowing when it is wrong and when you have hit pay dirt.

I do not use boxed mixes, or bread machines, I am a purist and I admire and cultivate to other purist(birds of a feather). It's easy to toss ingredients in a bread machine and dump out dough. I know the bread will bake up beautifully and taste divine, but there is something about getting your hands in that dough and making the bread from scratch, plus if the machine ever breaks down, I can still produce wonderful bread for my family and friends. I am not knocking folks with bread machines, use what you like. I am of that generation that just appreciated the work that goes into using physical labor, hands, sweat to produce a delicious product. One of the students in my micro business class said it best, "There's something about going to sleep at night knowing you have produced with your own hands a product that not only fed the hungry, but also "your" soul, you just seem to sleep better at night."

Well it's time for the 44th Annual Pillsbury Bake-Off and another person will win one million dollars for creating some sweet or savory concoction from preservative laden pre-prepared doughs and mixes. What does this tell us? We are continuing to dumb down American cooks and bakers. Why can't we go back to the days when people made these delicious baked goods from scratch? What's wrong with scratch cooking? Don't give me the excuse about saving time either, because I know all the garbage (preservatives) put in these prepared mixes has to affect our health.

Scratch cooks and bakers around the world need to rise up, take note and protest! This is an abomination, right?
Alright, I got that off my chest, back to my I working on a new brownie infused with Butterscotch Liqueur ...from scratch...I might add.

Did you enjoy reading this? Read more from Denay.

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Comment by Judy Celeste on August 11, 2009 at 8:24pm
Bravo Denay! I agree with you whole heartedly. Our society has become a group of instant gratification seekers. I am, however, encouraged by those bloggers who have jumped in and recounted learning basic baking from grandmothers and using the old method of beating batter by hand or with a hand-powered hand mixer. My business partner and I have built our business on the belief that baked goods should be made from scratch and we could all do without all those chemicals, preservatives and artificial flavors!
Comment by Ryan Cornwall on August 9, 2009 at 1:06pm
Hello everyone, I just wanted to add that I grew up on cake mix and canned vegetables. Probaly part of the reason I ended up in culinary school. I agree that scratch is almost always better and more satisfying, however, I was just considering the idea that this phenomenon is in one way helpful to those of us who don't want to be the crdboard cutout/mainstream/molded/conformist that betty crocker, sarah lee and duncan heinz have created. I bake artisan bread in an urban area where a good artisan loaf is hard to come by and I am loved for it. Having the bad with the good really helps us shine. I am recently making a change from chef to pastry chef and I am glad of the fact that I will be a novelty in this area where the only place to get a "fresh pastry" is at the local suopermarket, where premade/freezer to oven "pastries" are the norm. It has been a little frustrating for me as a chef that so many culinary programs exist in this country, that chefs are almost a dime a dozen. Maybe thats part of the reason I am moving to pastry chef. Pastry chefs are harder to come by than chefs, at least in my part of the world.
Comment by Denay Davis on July 10, 2009 at 5:32pm
Hi Kisha,

Thanks for your comments...and ditto! Happy Baking.
Comment by Kisha on July 10, 2009 at 5:17pm
I am so grateful for this! I have always baked from scratch. I grew up on everything scratch....AND THERE IS NO OTHER WAY! Let food be Real Again!
Comment by Denay Davis on April 29, 2009 at 9:19pm
Thanks's always nice to be around like minded foodies. Chow.
Comment by Robert Murphy on April 29, 2009 at 8:12pm
Yes I must confess I do use a KitchenAid mixer ,,,and love it.But the first cake I ever baked was from scratch and I stop reading any recipe that mentions using cake mixes. Wheres the fun in that....some of my best moments are wondering if what I just put in the oven will be edible and look awesome too.Even something as simple as whipped cream from scratch or popping open a can of reddi whip....there is little comparison.Long live scratch baking.
Comment by Tina Cubille (cheetochick) on April 7, 2009 at 1:53pm
Amen! I am fairly new to this wonderful website and happened upon this discussion! I cannot tell you how disappointed I have become over the fact that people/consumers have come to like, even love, "baked goods" from a box/freezer/refridg. section of their supermarkets...UGH! Let's take back scratch baking!!!!!!!!!
Comment by Denay Davis on January 27, 2009 at 6:57pm
Hi Caitlin,
Yes, those should be the bakeries we support. Here in North Carolina there are a number of home-based bakers that bake from home and sell incredible baked goods to the public at the local Farmer's Market. There is a little family owned bakery in town that just sells delicious scratch cakes and you just never know what they will have from Red Velvet to Coconut Custard, but they are a dying breed. I just don't know what would or could turn things around...maybe this is the way it should that is quick, fast and prepared in a hurry?
Comment by Caitlin on January 27, 2009 at 6:03pm
I would have to agree. The art aspect of the whole industry, and home baking is lost thanks to mixes and cans. Don't get me wrong the convience is nice but wheres the passion in troughing something in the mixer and walking away. People used to spend time with what they were making putting their sweat, love, tears and sometimes blood into it. As disgusting as it sounds. They cared and their product showed that. Still to this day my fondest memory is of making cookies with my grandmother and my mom, just mixing everything was a treat. I can understand why scratch bakeries are suffering now with the economy but shouldn't those bakeries be the ones we support?
Comment by Denay Davis on January 27, 2009 at 11:23am
Wendy, I must agree with you 100%. I also know that if we do not start children tasting food in its purist form, when they do taste the real thing, they won't like it. I remember my mother making Danish Pastry with homemade preserves. When she had none, she would purchase store bought and the preserves were always too sweet to us and the fruit pulp was not a prevalent. I often take my daughter to the Raleigh Farmer's Market to purchase honey directly from the Beekeeper. There is a world of difference in what you get from the grocer and what you get directly from the farm. I just really hope folks wake up and understand that all we have that is natural, occurring naturally, prepared naturally e.g. from scratch is precious. I hate to quote Martha Stewart, but "It's a good thing!" As for Food TV Network, what I would like to see is a reality show where novice cooks take lessons over a period of time and then showcase their knowledge and skills. How great would that be? Just like the biggest loser, the biggest culinary winner! How motivating!



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