Friday, 8 February 2013

Hi Honey, I'm home!

Hello bloggy friends!
Long time no post. Did you miss me? (Of course not - blogs left ignored for seven months by their owners aren't likely to linger in the minds of others, I know. But humour me. I'm an invalid)
Sorry I disappeared. I've had an ... eventful few months. And by eventful I mean challenging. And by challenging I mean atrocious and never-to-be-repeated.
Between a depression so crippling I haven't been able to leave my room for days at a time, discovering that what I thought was just a different way of being fat was in fact a major hernia that had been tearing for 7 years, and having an additional stay in hospital a month after the operation because of infection, I've been Proper Poorly. I've tried to keep the business ticking along in the background as best I could but the surgery and subsequent infection have had me out of action for six weeks.
However, I'm on the mend now and ready to get back to my life. Well, from the surgery and stuff. Depression is a different kettle of fish. Let's not worry about that too much though; I've lived through it many times before and I know how it works. I need to keep faith that it won't last forever, get all the help I can, and one day I'll realise I'm out the other side. Until then it's just a case of 'Keep on keeping on.' Which I can do, incidentally, as I took the precaution of having an amazing partner, family and gigantic circle of friends.

Geez, I didn't mean to get bogged down in that stuff so much. My apologies, my lovelies. Let's get down to baking, shall we?

Something that tickled me pink last autumn was that I was invited to speak to a Church Ladies' Guild about baking. Me. To a sort of WI thing, composed of more mature ladies of the parish who'd no doubt been baking since Adam was a lad.  Did I mention they wanted to pay me?

I can only assume they had me confused with someone else.

I had a marvellous time. I love love LOVE to talk. I love to show people how to do stuff, just as I love being shown new skills. I get such a buzz out of teaching someone a new way of doing things, and seeing them get all chuffed with their competent, achieving, bad-assed selves. And I like talking about the science-y bits behind baking.

The Guild and I had agreed I would demonstrate making scones and covering a Christmas cake with marzipan, sugar paste and a few simple decorations.  I took along jam and cream too. The people were so positive and friendly. (Hmm, do you think the freshly baked scones, homemade jam and cream had anything to do with that?)  I realise that talking and baking must be a doubly ace way to make a living!

I also did my kids' primary school fair, have done two more sets of Baking Club with 8 and 9 year olds, and started another set of Family Cake Decorating evening classes at the high school. That is particularly fun to do. Just a few techniques and a little bit of guidance and people can do SO much. It makes me very happy seeing people proud of what they've achieved.

I haven't played around with recipes much for a good long time. I spent the autumn re-learning to knit and crochet so I could make Christmas presents for all my lovely friends, and doing bits of sewing as well. I think that making things - baking, knitting, sewing, planting, preserving - nurtures the soul. Doing something practical is a a great weapon against depression.  I take it as a Very Good Sign Indeed that I spent last night browsing muffin recipes to bake this morning.

So, here I am making plans, looking to the spring with some optimism, and smelling the lemon and raspberry cornmeal muffins bake in the oven while the coffee brews.

Happy new beginnings, my lovely friends.

Messing About Muffins

(slightly adapted from this recipe, after experimentation)

1 cup fine cornmeal
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp bicarb
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups sour milk (or milk with a dash of lemon juice, or milk and plain yog mixed in)
2 eggs
1 small glug (a tablespoon or two?) vegetable oil
zest of a lemon
1 handful of fresh or frozen berries, tossed in a sprinkle of flour

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C and line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners
Sift together all the dry ingredients
In a jug, beat the milk, eggs, oil and lemon zest until well combined. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir until only just combined. Muffin mixes need to be lumpy - weird but true.  Fold the berries in very gently. I found using the 1/4 cup measure as a scoop was about right for 12 muffins.
Bake for around 16 to 20 minutes - less with fresh berries than frozen.
These are not sweet cake like muffins. They are proper muffins like those I grew up on in Canada - best served split open with a bit of butter, a strong mug of coffee and a broad and friendly smile on your face.
Good day, eh.