Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bake Exchange

So my two friends and I participated in our first "bake exchange". And, while a little disappointed with the results, I still absolutely LOVE the concept. We're thinking of maybe organizing our own next year.

OK, maybe disappointed is a little understated.

I was invited to participate by an acquaintance and sat on the fence about joining for a while.... until my friend asked me if I wanted to spend a day Christmas baking with her and I mentioned the exchange invitation. She loved the idea.... sign up in a group of 10+ other bakers, spend a day baking 20 or so dozen (2 dozen per participant) of your favorite Christmas baking, square, dainty or specialty item.... and then swap! After the exchange you have 20+ dozen of various baked goods to use as teacher gifts, set out for guests during the holiday season, or just share and enjoy with family.


Or at least the concept is perfect. What we've learned, the hard way, is that the success of a bake exchange is entirely dependant on the quality of the items being baked - or more so, the effort being put forth or expected from the bakers involved.

Since my friend and I rooked a third friend into our day of mass baking, the three of us decided to put our name on the list twice - bake two items, take home twice the goodies to split between the three of us.


We spent 6 solid hours baking our two items: Chocolate/Coconut Macaroons and those Peanut-Buttery Marshmallow squares. That would have been 18 hours for any one of us.... and the ingredients alone cost us over $150.00. But, when we worked out the total cost at the end of the baking day, we figured it worked out to spending around $3.70/dozen on all the goodies we'd be bringing home in exchange. We could have used a cheaper recipe (the butterscotch chips in the marshmallow square recipe were a KILLER), but it still seemed a fair enough deal - and we had a great time baking together (which could be partially attributed to my wonderful husband supplying us with mixed drinks and the odd shooter all the while, lol).

(don't worry - there are no restrictions in place against drinking & baking - and our items all turned out perfectly!)

But after driving our beautiful and generously portioned dozens out the exchange, we were all little disappointed with what we received in return.

Don't get me wrong - there were a few good items: The organizer made this amazing pineapple cheese cake and obviously put lots of time and effort into the portioning and setting all the pieces into their own cupcake wrappers, the whipped shortbread from another participant is absolutely perfect, and someone else contributed some nice magic squares (Hello Dollys) - oh, and there were some really nice, big smarties cookies.

But so much of the rest left SO much to be desired.

One person contributed these awful "peanut butter squares" - seriously? They are clumps of oatmeal (?) with peanut putter smeared on top. And they're so bland and dry that you can't really produce enough saliva to actually swallow a bite - uggg.... my friend and I actually had to spit it into the garbage because we couldn't choke it down. If you're supplying your "baking" to others, don't you think it's at least fair to make it something edible? Obviously no taste testing went on here....

Another girl, we think, just basically took whatever was left-over in her cupboards and fashioned some "rice-crispy mixed squares". Interesting. Rice crispy squares with raisins, peanuts and the odd chocolate chip mixed in.... we think we saw some cheese in there too but can't be certain. The funnest part about this "baker" is that she chose to do these wonder-bars as only half of her '2 dozen per participant' share - the other half was even BETTER. She made Bacon and Eggs "candy".

I know, you're thinking: Bacon & Eggs candy? What on Earth is that?

Let me share: Bacon & Eggs "candy" is AWESOME.... if you're looking for a cute craft to do with your kindergarten class. It's three pretzel sticks with hard white sugar candy representing the whites of the egg holding them together at the middle and a smartie placed on top of the "whites" to represent the colored yolk.

Oh yeah. All that. Just what I was looking for to set out for guests or present as a gift.... jeez, even the kids wouldn't touch the stuff!

Right. Maybe I should just be thankful that she didn't force two dozen of either delight on us... but seriously, she probably didn't spend $30 on the entire mess - it was awful.

A couple of the other items we received included bits so small they wouldn't even be considered a single bite, or tiny snips of corners etc - just obviously being really cheap with portioning and doing the bare minimum to pass off as their two dozen requirement.

Shit, if we had know that we could have cut each of our dozens into three dozen too! Saved big money that way....

So while I feel a little sorry for my acquaintance, the organizer (who obviously put a ton effort into her selection as well and must also be disappointed), I think next year we're going to organize our own.... with a few parameters in place: like portion sizes - or maybe even recipe selections to choose from.... something to weed out parasitic bakers and make sure it's fair for all. Because the concept is great - and I would really love to try it again sometime.

Just not with Bacon & Eggs girl, or anyone like her, in the mix!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like the "weeding out parasitic bakers" ... nice phrase ... I'm glad you and your friends had a good time and did all you could to make your stuff awesome ... but I really thought we would get a picture of the Bacon and Eggs ... :)