Tag Archives: baking

In which I am extremely rash.

18 May

Sometimes I wake up in a very particular sort of odd mood.  I feel slightly on edge, slightly discomfited and just ever-so-slightly rash.  Now I’m pretty sure that it is in these sorts of moods that many people push their boundaries, make wonderful discoveries and generally improve themselves or the world around them.  Not so me.  On these sorts of day I tend to either seriously endanger my relationship with someone or physically injur myself in some way.  It was on one of ‘those days’ that I chose to actually respond honestly when a friend asked me if I liked her new dress, on one of those days that I managed to break the camera that is my mother’s pride and joy, and on one of those days that I fell into an open fish tank aged four and blackened both of my eyes.


It is highly probable that any normal human being would have learnt from their mistakes; that, on waking with a metaphorical “danger” sign flashing above their heads they would simply choose that day as a ‘bond with duvet’ day.  I, however, remain convinced that the disasters resulting from said mood on all previous days were simply aberrations, and on every such morning hope springs afresh that on this day I will do Great Things.


I had one such day last Sunday.  I woke up earlier than normal (probably due to a subliminal sense of foreboding relating to the day to come) and wandered through into the kitchen, where I caught sight of a couple of fat, juicy Guinea mangoes.   A ‘brilliant’ idea struck me; I would make mango muffins!  For what could be more grown-up or more effortlessly Nigella Lawson-esque than to be ready with a tray of delicious-smelling baked goods when my housemates finally emerged yawning from their respective rooms?  It is, you see, another character trait of ‘that mood’ that I become eternally optimistic and blithely unconcerned with past failings; I am not a good cook, and the branch of cooking at which I excel least is baking.


Things started well.  Although I was sad not to have the perfect Cath Kidson apron, I buzzed happily around the kitchen gathering ingredients and chopping up mangoes.  This last is a particular joy; we are currently slap bang in the middle of mango season, and baskets many varieties of hits glorious fruit sit weightily on most street corners.  My early forays into mango eating were half-hearted tentative affairs, in which I would sit with a plate and penknife and daintily nibble  at perfectly chopped slices, but I quickly learnt that 80% of the joy in eating a mango is in ripping the skin open with your teeth and then seeing how large a proportion of your face you can cover with the sweet, sticky pulp.  This latter was the chopping approach I used.  I hacked off the skin willy-nilly and then attacked the soft flesh from all angles, before contemplatively sucking the stone and pondering my next step.  As I fished my around in the cupboard for the final ingredient, baking soda, I remember distinctly thinking to myself “I don’t know why I don’t do this more often…”.


The mixing too initially went well, but about half way down my carefully written out instructions I came across the phrase “combine the oil with lightly-beaten eggs”.  Lightly beaten eggs?  I have just enough cooking knowledge that this threw me into a panic.  What does that even mean?  Do I merely mix the yolk and white, am I looking for frothy, or are soft peaks the order of the day?  I looked around desperately for someone I could ask, but the only living creature in sight (the cat) was not in the least helpful.  I seriously considered.  I seriously considered waking my domestic-goddess friend Allyson to ask advice, but had just enough awareness of the time to resist doing so.  My panic was mounting, but this first dilemma was de-facto solved when I discovered that we do not, in fact, own a whisk, and my only option therefore was to content myself with a little light beating with a fork.  Walking around the kitchen doing so made me feel awfully professional, and therefore went some way to calming my shattered nerves.


Not long afterwards I realised that I had combined all the relevant ingredients (double checking the sugar/salt thing, obviously – seventeen times bitten, eighteen times shy), and accordingly swelled with pride.  Until I read that the final mixture should be ‘barely damp’ and evenly textured.  Mine was distinctly sloppy, and rather lumpy.  I chose not to let this fully register, and jammed the mixture into a couple of little loaf tins.  (Anyone who actually owns a muffin tin at my age should be condemned to death by Katie’s cooking for the great crime of ‘showing the rest of us up’).  This is the part of cooking that I always hate the most.  My mother is a famous burner of dishes, and therefore instilled in us from a young age that the most promising dish can go from perfectly golden brown to fully charcoaled in the blink of an eye.   I took this for heart, and am therefore entirely unable to stop myself from opening the oven door every 10 seconds while something is cooking to ensure that I don’t miss the all-important window.   I realised fairly quickly that my ‘muffins’ were not enjoying this attention; after 15 minutes they were not noticeably risen, and small bubbles of gas were periodically rising to the surface and then bursting with an ominously damp ‘pop’.  In a desperate bid to keep the heat in I stopped treating the oven door like a yo-yo and instead contented myself with sitting cross-legged in front of the cooker and staring fixedly into its sooty depths.  It was in this distinctly not-domestic-goddess-esque position that I was found twenty minutes later by the first of my housemates to awaken.   Even in my nearly-comatosed-with-stress state I was mildly surprised by the look for horror on his face, but with hindsight that expression was highly appropriate; he had emerged, hungover and in search of bacon, to find the surfaces awash with miscellaneous ingredients (I’m not really a ‘tidy up as you go along’ sort of cook), flour all over the floor and his normally sane-ish housemate crouching protectively against the oven with mango pulp in her eyebrows.


He gently steered me towards the sofa, and pointed out that this was actually a win-win situation; either I would end up with lovely muffins and would be admired and praised by all my housemates, or I would create a disastrous chargrilled goo and be forcibly prevented from again putting myself (or the kitchen) through the terrors of the last hour or so.  This logic appealed to me, and I just about held it together enough to retrieve 4 perfectly golden brown and decently risen loaves from the oven a short while later.  I was overjoyed!  I was the domestic whizz that I had always secretly suspected!  All memory of the trauma I had just passed through was instantly erased as I proudly presented my friends with these little miracles.  


Does this sound too good to be true?  It was.  On turning my muffin/loaf out of its tin I found that the bottom was black.  Completely black.  I had somehow managed to create a cake with a golden top and a chargrilled bottom.  All my housemates were suitably impressed; they, like myself, had no idea that this was possible.  One of them even ventured that I must be a very talented cook to have managed this.  Once the bottom had been sliced off (and occasional pocket of unmixed flour had been removed and the undercooked sections had been avoided) they actually did taste quite nice.


I don’t know why I don’t bake more often…