Custom Made

Jon and I work for a week every year as helpers in a camp kitchen. While I love the equipment – giant mixers, walk in coolers, hot boxes, speed racks, oh my! – I’m always glad to be back in my own kitchen, which is small and laid out to my exact liking.

A kitchen that works for you is more motivation to cook than any piece of fancy equipment. While it would have been nice to move into a home with a clean and workable kitchen, the benefit of having had to remodel ours is that we were able to design it to function for the way we cook, eat, and clean up. Living with it gutted and unfinished for a few years (yes, we did) gave us time to understand the space and how we move in it.

The counter with the microwave on it is our baking station. Standing at it, we can reach everything we need to bake without taking more than a step in any direction. The largest base cabinet opens to reveal our mixer on a shelf that rises to just below counter-height.

All of our ingredients are in the cabinets to our right. Baking sheets are to the left. Measuring cups, spatulas, assorted bowls, and mixer accessories are close at hand.

Not everyone needs to, wants to, or is able to renovate their kitchen. But anyone can organize the one they have to make cooking easier and more enjoyable. Here’s how I’d do it:

1) Donate anything you do not use regularly. Don’t let things you don’t need clutter your drawers, cabinets, or counters. Keep what you need and love, and you’ll be happy to use, organize, and maintain it.

2) Make things easy to get to. You should not have to walk into another room and climb on a stool to get your mixing bowl. (I’m not naming any names.) If you need to store things in another room, make sure it’s the things you don’t need every day, and make them as easy to access as possible.

3) Place things in the way that makes sense for how you use them. Do you use one spatula every time you scrape your mixing bowl and another every time you flip pancakes? The first should be near where you mix, the second near your stove.

4) Group the things you need to do specific activities together: make a baking station, a chopping station, a cleaning station.  This does not mean you need a gigantic kitchen. Stations can overlap, and none needs to be enormous.

5) Look beyond the kitchen. The giant pot you use a few times a year for canning does not need cabinet space. It can go in the basement. Of course if you find your basement is overrun with kitchen supplies, you may want to revisit step one.

All done? Make yourself a treat.

Upside-Down Peach Cake

3/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup boiling water

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

3 1/2 Tablespoons butter

4 Tablespoons brown sugar

peaches, peeled and sliced (3-6 peaches, depending on their size)

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. (Sift if you like.)

Beat yolks til thick and light.

Add sugar to yolks gradually.

Add water and vanilla.

Add flour, powder, and salt gradually.

Melt butter in an 8″, oven safe frying pan.

Add sugar and stir til melted and combined with butter.

Remove from heat.

Layer peaches on top of butter and sugar. This will be visible as the top of your cake, so lay them prettily if you like.

Pour batter over peaches.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, til golden.

Turn upside down onto plate and serve.

(First photo thanks to Kyra Elizabeth Photography.)

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