Originally published on “Blaise the Baker” October 30th, 2016
The following special feature has been reprinted from “The Courier-Times” magazine “HER magazine” Fall 2016 edition. By: Blaise Doubman
Life’s Journey: Three Influential Women in, and out, of the Kitchen…
I look at my life as a long journey, like a road with twists and turns, a few bumps here and there, lots of surface and road signs along the way. Lots of people look at their lives in sections, chapters if you will, and most share the fact that life is all about the journey and to enjoy things as they come. I try to not worry about the future, the unknown, and take life as it comes. This philosophy in life was taught to me when I was younger by all three of the most influential women in my life. All three are wise, so I decided I had better listen, and follow their wisdom. Their words of wisdom have helped me a lot throughout my life, and my journey, especially my latest journey of “cookbook author”. It all started much earlier though, from about the time I was old enough to talk, and still continues with me to this day.
I was lucky enough to be born into a food loving family. My Mom, Darla Doubman, was always in the kitchen making recipes that had been handed down to her from her Mom, my Grandma, Deloris Bolinger, and my Grandma Deloris’ Mom, my Great Grandma, Viola Davis. Some of my favorite dishes that my Mom would make, and still continues to make, would have to be her Cheesy Potatoes with Sausage Casserole, Chili, Vegetable Beef Stew, Salmon Patties, Meatloaf and Baked Chicken just to name a few. She is also the Queen of side dishes, literally transforming the basic staples of all ingredients, into a mouthwatering side dish! I love her version of green bean casserole and I love the way she makes her mashed potatoes.
Growing up, six days a week, there would be a home cooked meal on the table for my Dad, Jamie, my brother, Damon, and I. It did not matter what my Mom had going on that day, she would always have a meal on the table just in time for dinner. For years my Mom worked as a substitute teacher at a local Christian school. Later on, she would become a sales associate for a large department store, as well as an independent beauty consultant. I remember wondering when I was younger how she found the time to create a from-scratch meal with her schedule! But she would work magic everytime and always delivered something memorable and delicious to the table, no matter what she had going on previous with the day’s events.
My Mom taught me a lot of what I know in the kitchen. My Mom’s a perfectionist, and the cooking and baking lessons got a little rocky – I like to clean up the kitchen when everything is done, whereas my Mom likes to clean up along the way – but we managed to work it out.
I remember her bribing me with chocolate cake to try and get me to go to school when I was younger. But I did not want to go to school! I wanted to stay home and bake, cook and eat! I already knew what the teachers were teaching and it bored me. Not a good enough excuse though, and I could not fool anyone – off to school I went, but to make a note here, I did most days come home to chocolate cake. This might explain why now, even to this day, I make a chocolate cake for myself whenever I feel like I have truly accomplished something.
Thinking back to my childhood memories, and my love for chocolate cake, brings me to the next influential woman in my life, none of them in any particular order because they have all helped me on an equal and balanced scale, my Grandma Barbra, Barbra Doubman.
My Grandma Barbra grew up telling everyone that her dream home would consist of “no kitchen” and that cooking was not really one of her biggest passions. Skip ahead to a marriage, to my Grandpa Junior Doubman, and three sons, Jamie, my Dad, and my two uncles, Brett and Troy, and her views in and out of the kitchen started to change. The more she was in the kitchen, the more she liked it and the better she got. The better she got, the more she enjoyed it! I still cannot believe that my Grandma Barbra once wished for a house with no kitchen! It is an inside joke in the Doubman family that if my Grandma is not in bed, she is in the kitchen. No matter the day, time of day, weather or mood, that is where you will find her.
My Grandma Barbra is a self-trained home cook, in every sense of the word. She prides herself on that, and that is exactly what I tell people I am, because I too pride myself on those words. Home cook. A home cook is more, to me and in my opinion, than a trained chef.
Now, you may be wondering why. Let me explain. When you’re a trained chef there are certain ways to chop, dice, etc. There are “rules” that you must follow. Not to say there’s not in being a home cook, but the flow and teaching in being a home cook are much more loose, personal and individualized. Nothing again chefs at all! I admire them, but in my view being a chef and being a home cook is like comparing day to night. There are similarities, sure, but they both stand apart in their own ways.
My Grandma Barbra is in every aspect a true home cook. She can literally take a handful of ingredients, add a few spices and turn it into something new and yet memorable in flavor. I often ask how she knows to add something acidic to this, or savory to that, or sweet to this and she just says “It just makes sense.” I credit a lot of it to trial and error I’m sure, but a certain part of that is magic to me. I’ve developed a taste and a feel in the kitchen that often reminds me of this. For example, I make a chocolate chip cookie recipe where I can literally “feel” the weight of the ingredients and know how much is there. I’ve made it so often, at least one thousand times, that it just comes naturally. I’ve also developed a “taste” for what a certain dish needs. For example, when making my fresh tomato salsa, more times than not, I’ll add white granulated sugar to take away some of that acidic flavor. I’ll also add in some lime juice and a sprinkling of black pepper.
Why? It just makes sense.
Repetitiveness is essential when developing your skills in the kitchen. There is no teacher quite like that of trial and error. I try not to take anything to seriously either though. If you fail making a batch of peanut butter cookies for example, what is the worst that can happen? You throw out the dough and start over? Yes, you have wasted some ingredients, but you have an experience, a moment, that you can take and learn from.
Do not give up. Another tidbit offered again and again by my three influential women. No matter what happens, have purpose, passion, follow through and do not give up or give in. Keep fighting.
This was proven true by my Grandma Barbra when I witnessed her fighting for her life over a year ago. Suddenly she was in the eye of the storm, fighting for her life, the unknown a fear for everyone. She embodied what it meant to have faith, compassion and understanding. It was a difficult time for everyone involved, but faith never wavered. Through faith, love, prayer and yes, food, we got through the difficult path and still continue to this day the fight and determination that is needed to live a healthy and positive life. There are so many times when all you need is a good life, good food and good company to get through some of the most difficult times. Her strength and determination have helped me through some difficult times of my own, and for that I will be forever grateful.
Her determination comes through in the kitchen as well. I remember one time we were making a new type of cake (a “bake and fill cake”) that required different cake pans. We read the instructions, made the cake and then discovered halfway through the baking time that we did not put in the “dome” part of the cake! The “dome” part of the cake was essential to “filling” the cake with candy later on, because it created a space in the cake to fill! It was a disaster. We finished baking the cake and I remember Grandma taking a spoon and digging out the center of the cake, where the “dome” should have been! I laughed and laughed and that got her tickled and she laughed and laughed. It was awful. Then to make matters worse, we put the second cake into the oven, went back to take it out after the timer had went off, and the cake was liquid! Grandma had turned off the oven completely after she had removed the first cake! That “bake and fill cake” didn’t have a chance. I was ready to give up, but Grandma kept on and finished the cake! It didn’t look very good, but we had finished it! It didn’t taste bad either so that was a plus. So many “accidents” like this in the kitchen can lead to great memories.
Another life lesson from another influential woman in my life comes from my Grandma Deloris, Deloris Bolinger. She taught me to always do the best you can with what you’ve got and never settle for anything less than your best.
I remember vividly when I was in the 6th grade getting an assignment to turn an igloo into some type of presentation. I was at a complete loss and was overwhelmed with what do to and how to do it when Grandma Deloris stepped in with an idea. She knew the project didn’t hold my attention, so to have it hold my attention; she turned it into a food type assignment. She took a large piece of foam board and covered it in aluminum foil. On top of the board she flipped a bowl upside down and placed it in the middle. Next, she cut in half a small paper cup and placed it outside of the bowl. I looked at her and wondered where this was going. Then, she got my attention. She brought out a huge bowl of sugar cubes and several tubes of vanilla frosting. She explained that to make an igloo we were going to cover the bowl, and the cut paper cup, with sugar cubes to make it look like ice. For the glue we would use the vanilla frosting! I had never been more excited and I started to work immediately. The project came together beautifully, impressed the teacher and got me an “A” on the assignment. It wasn’t known to many, but Grandma Deloris had to run to the grocery a little over half way through the project so she could buy more sugar cubes and vanilla frosting. Why? For every three or four I would place on the bowl, I would pop one into my mouth. Same goes for the frosting. There was not any doubt that I had somewhere along the line, developed a serious sweet tooth.
I also have fond memories of my Grandma Deloris and Grandpa Max working tirelessly in the kitchen for days leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas. New Year’s Eve was my thing and I would bring the maple and brown sugar bacon wrapped smokies, cheeseballs, party mix, punch and cupcakes. The Holidays were always a time for love, food and laughter at the Bolinger household as well as the Doubman household. Similar foods would be served at each, but each being made and severed in their own unique ways. Homemade dumplings for instance! My Grandma Barbra makes her dumplings in “drop” fashion, meaning that you literally take the dough and “drop” it into the boiling stock. The dumplings cook and puff up and are eaten that way. My Grandma Deloris takes her dumplings, like my Mom, and rolls them out onto the table, slicing them into long strips and then stirring them into the hot stock. These also puff up some and cook completely in the hot liquid. Both are totally different tastes and textures, but both are equally delicious and both are a wonderful Holiday memory for me.
One thing is for sure, my Mom, and both of my Grandma’s have been unwavering in their support in my career as a food writer and recipe developer. Blogging and networking is a difficult, sometimes confusing and time consuming thing to discuss. So I will just skip right to the fun stuff. I write about food and develop recipes for my job! How cool is that? I post some of the recipes on my blog (blaisethebaker.com) and some of the recipes I use for my twice monthly food column “Chew This” that appears on the first and third Sunday’s of each month in “The Courier-Times”! What do I do with the other recipes? Well, up until about two months ago, I was saving them for my cookbook!
My cookbook, “Blaise the Baker Dessert First”, my first cookbook, came out September 9th, 2016. It was a labor of love that is for sure! Two-hundred recipes! One hundred of those recipes, never before published anywhere else. It took me about five years to develop, test, analyze, sample and write about the recipes. My family stood by me through thick and thin, through cake and pie, and through nights when everyone I knew came over and had ranch dressing and pickle taste tests! Some of the food lifestyle is glamorous, other parts, not so much. It is something where the good parts outweigh the bad or negative.
Writing my cookbook was a fun and memorable experience. So far, it has gained several top position reviews and people have been raving about the cookbook’s simple, yet friendly and warm, memorable family recipes. Nothing makes me happier then when someone comes up to me and shares a story about how they have tried a recipe of mine and love it. It warms my heart to know that my memories are creating new memories for someone else!
My cookbook is $15 total and can be purchased by mailing a check or money order to, Blaise Doubman / Box 47 / Kennard, IN 47351. You can also purchase online via PayPal. My email account there to use is email@example.com. My cookbook is also available at New Castle’s own “The Book Nook”, located on G Avenue. Call ahead for days open and hours.
All three of the women I have mentioned and talked about here have supported me, encouraged me, stood by me and even shared with me some of their secret recipes. One of my personal favorite recipes from my cookbook is the “Honey Bun Cake” (page 7). Every time anyone in my family makes this, people go crazy! It is the most flavorful, moist, rich cake you will ever put in your mouth – I promise you that! I try and come up with an excuse to make this cake, not that you need one, and it always satisfies everyone! I am lucky enough to share my life with the three most influential women I know, and I’m lucky to be able to share their stories, their memories and recipes, along with all of mine, to all of you. Enjoy!
Honey Bun Cake
For the cake…
1 Betty Crocker “Butter Recipe Yellow” cake mix
1 small box vanilla instant pudding mix
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
8 oz sour cream
2/3 cup whole milk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
For the crumble…
5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
For the glaze…
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
4 tablespoons whole milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray with flour. In a large bowl combine the cake mix, vanilla instant pudding mix, 4 large eggs, sour cream, whole milk and vegetable oil. Pour half of this mixture into the prepared pan.
Prepare the crumble mixture by mixing together the ground cinnamon and light brown sugar until throughout combined in a small bowl. Take half of the crumble mixture and sprinkle evenly over the batter. Gently take a knife and swirl the crumble and cake batter together. Pour the remainder of the cake batter over the top, spreading out evenly. Top the cake with the remaining cinnamon and brown sugar mixture.
Place in preheated oven for 43 minutes. While the cake is baking, make the glaze by whisking together the confectioner’s sugar, whole milk, pure vanilla extract and salt in a large bowl until smooth and lump free. Once the bake has finished baking, remove from the oven and immediately pour the glaze evenly over the entire cake.
Allow the cake to sit for about 30 minutes before cutting and serving.