Category: Baked Goods

Waste not, want not: A teaser

When life is busy and all your waking hours (and even some of your sleeping hours) are spoken for, a rare moment of quiet stillness is a moment to revel in.  That hot cup of tea at the end of busy day, well-deserved and therefore sipped serenely without the suffocating pressure of things to-do; those brief moments curled up on the couch, eyes blurring words from stories of magical realism—those are the moments when you muse contentedly before dreamily drifting away that life is indeed good and not a moment of it is being wasted.

And when not a moment is being wasted—when every moment that is spoken for is a moment readily given—then you might find that you want for nothing.  Because even the moments of exhaustion, of physical discomfort (say, when rolling baguettes outdoors in sub zero weather, your fingers frozen and claw-like); moments of confusion, frustration or disappointment—they’re all worth it.  Why? Because you’re doing something you love.

I’ve never been one for idleness, be it idle chatter or idle activity.  I’ve never mastered the ability to engage in small talk or to whittle away time.   Luckily for me I have found myself perfectly positioned along a time-space continuum where opportunities I have dreamed of are within arms reach, seemingly almost too good to be true.  But I’d like to think I’m an optimist, and therefore I can only acknowledge that it really is true.

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Seeking out nostalgia: Breakfast banana bread

I’ve written before about my lack of baking-induced nostalgia.  The kitchen of my childhood was not filled with aromatic breads and pies.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t seek out these misty familiarities in the foods I eat.  An alluring slice of Italian bread dipped in a spicy olive oil can transport me back in time to the kitchen of my non-existent Italian grandmother as she pulls a fresh loaf from the oven, the scent of the olive trees in the backyard breezing in through an open window.  A deliciously crunchy baguette can weave me through a false memory of picnicking on a summer’s day along the Seine, a checkered scarf around my neck, the smell of a well-aged cheese under my nose and the lingering tingling of a rhubarb chutney on my tongue.

Nostalgia is a fleeting and blurred sensation, our memories inevitably having become milky and obscured with time.  Our imagination, however, often steps in to fill the gaps in the same way that it allows us to feel like we’ve existed within the frame of a film or the storyline of a novel.  On particularly dull and rainy days, when I find myself distracted by faint rumblings of uncertainty, I sometimes recall fabricated memories of meandering down the streets of 19th century England from Dickens’ Great Expectations.  On a balmy summer’s day when I’m feeling unusually whimsical, I might find myself daydreaming of the 100 Years of Solitude spent in time-warped and magical Macondo.

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In the dog house: Seedy and spiced red lentil crackers

I’ve been sleeping on the couch a lot lately. It’s not as though I don’t have a quaint little bedroom at the back of my sprawling apartment with a window overlooking the river and a newly acquired antique bed frame that I suffered over until in a burst of nervous energy I drove back to the antiques market and bought it. I may not have a proper mattress for it yet (it requires a non-standard ‘standard’ size called a three-quarter), and so my old mattress is precariously pushed up against the headboard. But it spoke to me as things that are visually unique, well-crafted and carry a history often do. I frequently find myself standing in the doorway in a daydreamy state, admiring it from afar.

The bedroom may have the bed frame, but the living room has the allure of a constantly roaring fire – the sole source of heat in the apartment.  Well, to be honest, it’s a gas fireplace so it actually doesn’t roar, but silently sends up shoots of flame from behind fake, though surprisingly real-looking, logs. But like many people, I prefer to sleep in a cooler room so the fireplace isn’t the draw.

Rather, it’s the excitement and energy with which I have begun to tackle my hobbies that drives me to the couch instead of my bed each night.  I have stripped the university library of their baking science books.  There are bread books open and scattered across every flat surface of the kitchen and dining room, and some even teetering atop flour scoops, and tart pans, pages gritty with flour and rumpled by careless drops of water.  There have been evenings stretching into the wee hours of the morning where I have awoken every half-hour to turn dough as part of a bread experiment which I had no hopes of success.  And I’ve spent countless minutes sitting entranced in front of the window on my oven, marvelling at the wonder that is oven-spring (my previous oven did not have a window so this is a real treat for me).

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