So I’m a good baker. I may not be the best baker, but I rarely have a cake that doesn’t rise. As a young girl I made a cake every Saturday before I went ice skating, usually chocolate, let’s be honest, and I’d have a massive slice of it when I got home, having first spent my 50p on a massive chip butty at the ice rink. Ah, the seventies – what a decade of fine childhood nutrition that was.
For Christmas I got the second best Christmas gift* ever – a raspberry red stand mixer. I finally went for the Kenwood Kmix, because a) British company and b) that Kitchenaid’s almost twice the price innit? Sheesh. Anyway, I’m sure they both make a fine cake, but I love my Kenwood, because it’s mine.
(Interestingly, before Christmas Mr J sent me a link to a different Kenwood, which had more attachments and more watts and stuff like that, thinking he ought to get that one, because technically it was better. It was only marginally more expensive than this one. But, as I said to him, this one is RED, a fact which is seemingly lost on him. Tsk.)
(*Best ever Christmas gift is still the kindle. I think it might only be toppled by a new and improved kindle.)
We’ve been baking a lot from Short and SweetÂ by Dan Lepard, which I love not only for its density and completeness, but also for the fact that it is the first cookbook I’ve felt compelled to scribble in, adding my own notes as I go along. I think perhaps it is something to do with the fact that, unlike a lot of modern recipe books, every recipe is not given a photograph or even a whole page to itself. There is more of a jumbled in feel to the collection. The paper is also very tactile, not shiny and smooth, and it takes pencil marks exceedingly well (I still can’t bear to make marginalia in anything but a pencil).
It was the turn of his cupcakes recipe today. Turning aside from my dear Nigella‘s tried and tested fairy cakes recipe made me nervous but kitchen gambles are never irreversible. Dan suggests throwing the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract into the bowl of your delicious mixer all at once and beating for 3 minutes. Now the recipe does say to make sure the butter is soft, which it was, but I have added a note to say ‘do not try on extremely cold winter days’, or you will end up looking at tiny shards of butter being flung around in an eggy sugary mixture with not a hope in hell of coming together into anything like cake mix.
We started again, beating the sugar and butter together in a more traditional way, and everything was fine. And the cakes are fairly delicious, though I imagine if their liberation from the oven had not been held up by the liberal sprinkling of wolf porridge (a mixture of red lentils and pearl barley) all over the kitchen floor, they might be even nicer.
Baking seems to have become a staple thing in the house again, which was happening even before the arrival of the red beast, and this week was the first week in four that I actually bought a loaf of bread, as the dough hook makes chucking a loaf together a work of moments. Also it’s expedient with an impatient two year old, who likes measuring, flinging ingredients about, and licking his hands, but not so much spending ten minutes watching mum knead dough.
Our hours in the kitchen today were borne of desperation and necessity – stuck in the house with both snuffly colds and the bitter cold outside – but they were some of my favourite hours of this whole week. Finishing off by letting the boy pour lentils all over the place while I washed up from our cake adventure was delightful for him and me, seeing his growing confidence in pouring with small cups and bigger jugs, and inventing wolf porridge along the way. After all, it all sweeps up doesn’t it? It’s only a little bit of mess.
Nice to be back by the way.