LAST week I ran my first ever informal baking class. It was deeply rewarding, if not a little haphazard. My audience hailed from Malaysia, China, Thailand, Argentina, Italy, Germany and Iran. To give a little background, I’m currently studying at a language school and spend most of my days learning amongst a vibrant gaggle of cultures, languages and customs. I bake frequently for class events and get-togethers and I’m always receiving undue praise for my creations. To me a home-baked tray of brownies or a batch of cookies is an afterthought but for many others it’s pure wizardry. I am not unusually talented; I was just fortunate enough to have grown up in a country where baking is considered a past-time. I knew how to make pastry at the age of 10 just as my classmates might have known how to make dumplings or flatbreads.

Due to a variety of cultural backgrounds many of my peers hadn’t baked before, some had never even used an oven. After repeated requests for recipes and advice we planned an afternoon of baking. What I had anticipated was that a couple of my classmates would accompany me as I prepared some brownies for the group. What I hadn’t expected was eight pairs of eyes watching me with interest as I measured, mixed and poured. Some were fascinated by my scales and my measuring spoons, asking me how necessary they were and where they could acquire their own. Others tentatively sniffed the vanilla extract and prodded the packets of damp, brown sugar. I discussed the importance of measuring the fats, eggs, flour and sugar and they listened as I explained leavening agents and the crucial role they play in all baking. Once the cake was in the oven they squealed with excitement as they witnessed its transformation from a pale batter into a golden dome.

After the ‘lesson’ several of the participants went on to bake their first ever cakes and biscuits. They were so proud. One of my classmates made the fatal error of attempting to ‘guess’ biscuit-dough quantities from memory. She was dismayed by the result and I was bemused by her logic. Through their questions, mistakes and successes I was given an interesting perspective into my own relationship with baking; I so often take my knowledge for granted but this experience allowed me to see it as a skill. Every rainy Saturday spent in the kitchen with my Grandmother, every baking disaster (and there have been many), every cookbook I’ve ever read have all played a role. These experiences have left me with a practical and instinctual understanding of the science of baking. Perhaps it is time I acknowledged these strengths and put them to good use. If sharing my knowledge means that others can fill their homes with the sweet scent of baking, then I must fulfill my duty.