Wider Horizons

I have always loved cooking, especially baking. Perhaps loved is not quite the right word. Jennifer DavisLet’s go with obsessed, pathologically obsessed.

One of my earliest memories as a toddler is of sitting under the kitchen table with a bowl and spoon pretending to make bread, which I did a lot of with my Mom. When I was six, I suddenly announced one day that I was going to make cookies all by myself. I made cookies. I did not use a recipe. My father liked to tell the story of how he mentally prepared himself before biting into one, so that no matter how awful he would be able to smile and tell me how good it was, and how surprised he was that it was actually really good. I spent the rest of my childhood baking, a lot. Somewhere around my early teens I started actually using recipes. I had my fair share of disasters along the way, like the infamous Tang omelette of 1978, or that time, in 1981, when I didn’t get the bottom of the springform pan in quite right. But mostly things turned out OK, and every mistake I made, I learned from.

When it came time to graduate from university, I found myself deciding between a PhD program in Psychology (my major) or cooking school. I chose the PhD program, but I didn’t stop baking. Instead, I took my newly developed analytical skills and applied them to food. I would pick a dessert, like chocolate mousse or carrot cake, collect 10 or 12 different recipes for it, analyze the ingredient ratios, and make a test batch of each one to compare them and decide which ratios work best. I do this for fun.

Over the years I have had small baking gigs. I make wedding and birthday cakes for friends. When I lived in Germany I developed a few recipes for a Jewish bakery in Berlin. I was one of the recipe testers for the new edition of Joy of Cooking. I’ve published an article in Fine Cooking magazine on how to make caramels. And back when my daughter was born, I quit my tenure track university job to start my own chocolate company. I worked as a chocolate maker for nearly three years, before going back into academia as an instructor at Lethbridge College, where my students have pointed out that I use an unusually large number of food-related examples in class. I still make chocolates from time to time on the side, and my colleagues in my second floor hallway have been conditioned over the years to expect me to arrive at work every Monday morning with a red tin filled with homemade treats.

Sue B.'s Amazing Chocolate Cake

Wider Horizons
Jennifer Davis
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