A pinch of flour-dust for baking magic
Blowtorching the final caramelized sugar layer on the crème brulée is no challenge for the pint-sized baker from Bolton Primary.
Since January, Violet Gowdy, 10, has challenged herself to make 50 different desserts in 52 weeks to learn the art of baking. She has baked for occasions like West Linn High School varsity football dinners — her brother is on the team — holiday parties and Teacher Appreciation Week. So far in 2018, Violet has crafted 41 different desserts including Baked Alaska, French macaroons, bread pudding and ice cream cake.
And Violet isn't the only one in her family of nine that bakes.
Tami Gowdy, Violet's mother, remembers setting 2-year-old Violet on the counter to help make cookies.
"I'd let her eat the cookie dough when she was still eating baby food," Tami said. "She's always baked."
But when Violet turned 9, she really started to learn how to bake.
"I would be the main person and she'd be helping me," said Tami, adding that she now only helps Violet pour boiling liquids and light the stove. "Then it became she was the main person and I became like the sous chef, running around, chopping things for her, doing the dishes behind her. Now, I don't even have to be in the kitchen. So that's a big shift over the year."
Violet's favorite baked goods — which she spent almost two hours making — were white dinner rolls from scratch for a family dinner.
"I like baking, so it was fun," she said.
Though Violet isn't a fan of crème brulée, she enjoys using the blowtorch to create desserts like the crème brulée and the Baked Alaska.
The hardest challenge Violet has been tasked with is making 120 sugar cookies in two days for one of the football dinners. Violet made the cookies in the shape of a football and a jersey, and painted the players' numbers in icing on top.
She's baked for a total of four football dinners and has made chocolate mousse and vanilla toffee trifles, mocha cupcakes and frosted brownies.
While Violet hasn't experienced any cooking injuries or disasters, the donut holes she tried to make flattened out in the deep fat fryer, and the kitchen tends to get a little messy.
"We are practicing cleaning as you go, like when things are in the oven, cleaning up. Usually she totals the floor with flour," Tami said.
"I think it's impossible for me to make cookies ... without spilling something," Violet added.
Violet and her mother like how baking unites the family. Most of recipes are inspired from a British baking show Violet and her mother watch.
"It's something we can do together; everyone can do it. We can all be (in the kitchen) together and it makes the house smell good," Tami said. "The only way to get the boys to come in is food. Food is my love language of the kids."
Even on Thanksgiving, Tami takes a step back and lets the children prepare the food.
"It's something we're doing together, so there's those memories (Violet) will always have and when she's a grown up and can bake, she'll be able to say, 'My mom taught me to bake.'" There's something special about that," said Tami, adding that baking has taught Violet valuable skills. "There's a lot of math and science in cooking, and precision. ... She's got to learn to use her own judgment and it's also creative and there's art in there. Some of the things she makes are really pretty. She's also learning to give because she makes it for people who are sick."
For the 50th baking challenge, Violet wants to make a wedding cake.
"It's a lot of food," Tami said, adding that she's looking for an event that wants a donated amateur cake. "I can't have a 50-pound cake in my house."
While Violet plans to continue baking as a hobby, she does not want to own a bakeshop. Instead, she'd like to be a teacher because she likes working with young children.
Violet will also embark on an online adventure soon. She plans to start a video blog — a vlog — on YouTube and Facebook called, "Baking with Violet," where she will teach others to bake. Her motto? "If I can do it, so can you. So let's get baking!"
"It's just nice to have something she gets so excited about," Tami said.