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Money saving tricks for would-be bakers

Published Oct. 2, 2009

I wish I could tell you I was sensationalizing this piece. But I can tell you with 100 percent honesty that as I sit down to write this, my stomach is rumbling — audibly. Food column. Rumbling stomach. It's irony, get it?

It's just past 2 p.m. and the only thing I've had to eat today is one piece of bread (not two — that's wasteful) with a spoonful of Nutella spread across it and folded in half. Yesterday I got by on a fruit cup and a bagel courtesy of my employee meal benefit for working on campus. But let me tell you about my weekend.

This weekend I baked a decadent blueberry cobbler with a golden brown crust sprinkled with sugar and served with vanilla ice cream. I also made chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookies with Nutella, cooled them off in the fridge until they had a fudge-like consistency and presented them to friends and roommates. Next week? Well, my mini tart pans just came in, so you know my weekend's going to be full of debauched experimentation. I think I've got plans for rocky road fudge, too.

Now here's the sad part: I haven't really bought groceries since I moved into my East Campus apartment at the beginning of the semester. I've yet to eat three square meals a day and I think my last prepared meal here was a box of Pokémon macaroni and cheese. Come to think of it, I didn't even pay for that macaroni and cheese. I asked a roommate if I could bum it. That was about three weeks ago.

I still owe him.

Long story short, I'm broke. But I bake and give the resulting goodies away to friends, neighbors and co-workers like it's no sweat off my back. But this weekend it was about $56 worth of sweat, or about $55 when I use my friend's Gerbes Plus Shopper's Card (that thing is worthless).

I bake out of a tiny kitchen in a run-down East Campus apartment where the shower curtain falls in on you and previous dwellers periodically show up to claim belongings they "forgot" to collect before moving out, robbing us of our dining room set. But what can I say? I have an expensive hobby. From icing nozzles to baking stones, tart pans with removable bottoms "for perfect crust each time" and that dream Kitchenaid mixer with ice cream maker attachment I hope to someday own, a few minutes of deliciousness can burn a hole in your pocket.

My goal is to make baking more accessible to my fellow members of the broke college community. Whether it be replacing butter with a cup of applesauce EZ Charged at Pavilion or saving money with egg replacement powder instead of a carton of 12 eggs you'll never eat, this column will be a journey for all of us.

For instance, did you know that just 12 sugar packets is the same amount a recipe for sugar cookies calls for? Well now you know and, more importantly, have something to think about next time you're out getting breakfast at 3 a.m. I've learned a few tips and tricks to impart on you would-be bakers and it's time I share. (And, honestly, for some of you, it's about time you learn how to boil water.)

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