We live in an old house. It’s lovely. It’s charming. …and it can be soul-crushingly cold in the Winter.
I may be unfairly biased, since my first Winter here coincided with the first trimester of pregnancy with my second child. I remember a desperate, lost feeling as I’d read instructions calling for ingredients at room temperature, followed by despairing sobs* as I looked up how “room temperature” was defined and realized it would be months before my house could attain such a goal.
My attitude has improved tremendously since then. A new Winter has arrived along with new ideas to continue baking without completely changing my house and/or tripling my heating costs.
For one thing, I’ve become a master at gently, cautiously, watchfully using the microwave to coax the usual suspects like, eggs and butter, to relative warmth in five second increments. A few minutes in hot tap water can also be very helpful for eggs.
There are other situations, though, that require more creativity.
If you’ve worked with modeling chocolate, you’ve probably developed an appreciation for how touchy it can be about temperature. While you absolutely don’t want to overheat it, working in too cold a space makes the stuff miserably difficult.
A few years ago, I bought an extra heat lamp for the chickens that I never wound up using. I stashed it in the pantry, thinking it might be useful for experimenting with sugar work. I got great results from clamping the lamp over my work surface while rolling out the chocolate and smoothing it over the cakes I was making. I just had to be sure to not leave it sitting directly under the lamp for too long.
I am not lucky enough to have a proofing feature or drawer in my oven. Of course, my old house had an oven with a warming drawer, but we left before I renewed my efforts to try to become a minimally competent bread maker. In that respect, this approach I just started using would probably be useful for me in any season.
Enter the heating pad… I’ve been putting it under my pans while proofing my bread under towel and getting a much better response than before.
I’m enjoying my new resilience in coping with the season and looking forward to more than just bleakly enduring Winter this year while putting serious baking largely on hold.