I am a stress baker. The greater the emotional torment, the more prolific my carb heavy offerings become. Cakes, muffins, slices and cookies, all whipped, creamed, beaten and blended into golden brown and risen submission.
In a form of dietary self flagellation, I will then eat the cake whilst simultaneously cursing my lack of calorific restraint. So. Much. Butter.
In my early days of fledgling motherhood, I’d assembled quite the compendium of loaf recipes and could, depending on the behavioural vagaries of my infant daughter, churn out several in a day. In what was to become a barometer for exactly how bad things had been, the freezer was quickly lined with row upon row of cling film wrapped cake bricks.
It’s been a three loaf day, I’m afraid. Would you like butter on that?
I daresay there was some low grade PND going on, but in the absence of anyone noticing or a “Ten Signs You Might Have PND” internet article, an oversupply of cake and occasional oven burn proved an effective distraction.
Several weeks ago our landlords announced they’d be doing a property inspection for the first time in the four years we’ve been living in their inner-city Superannuation Townhouse. Other than the “Great Leaks and Moulding Ensuite of 2011”, any minor issues with taps or shower heads have been attended to by spouse. Handy AND clever.
Wandering through a miasma of Glen 20 and Pine-O-Clean disinfectant, we quietly pointed out some of the property’s more obvious failings to our increasingly dismayed landlords:
- The non-functioning security entrance or rather, unrestricted access for the general populace
- A bathtub tap plastered into a void and hanging on by a corroded nut
- An en-suite ceiling fan that channels shower steam into a roof cavity where it re-liquefies and seeps back creating a topographic map of mould
- Rooftop decking laid in the wrong direction and directly onto beams causing a swamp above the family room ceiling.
All these rental issues paled into insignificance beside the most vexing of all grievances however, which was that the oven was a dodgy piece of shite with a thermostat that fluctuated between barely tepid and Dante’s inferno.
Raw or cremated, your choice.
Recognising the wild eyed countenances of people wondering whether they’ll ever experience an evenly browned sponge again, our landlords purchased and had installed a new oven. A shiny stainless steel Smeg.
I spent the first few days poring over the instruction manual and warily circling this Italian marvel much as I imagine Medieval man must have done around some of Da Vinci’s whackier inventions. Robotic Knight?! Pffffft! Un pazzo!
It looked ruthlessly efficient, which was not, if I’m being totally honest, a quality I’d previously associated with your Italian anything; Stylish? Si! Efficient? Non cosi tanto…
Eventually I bit the bullet and dragged out Nigella for some Domestic Goddess baking action. The well used book flipped open to a recipe for baby bundt cakes and thus, the inaugural offering to the culinary gods was decided. They emerged, some 35 minutes later perfectly risen and palely golden. A triumph.
Flushed with this success and mad with appreciation for the Smeg, I continued to bake my way through some family favourites over the next week. A lemon syrup cake, a tray of coffee nut tea-cake, banana muffins, a lemon and almond cake and a batch of brownies – I was a one-woman cake stall.
Recognising that this amount of cake was too much for our current household of three, l began to farm off the excess to our next door neighbours, handing plastic containers over the fence between our two balcony’s. Given the fence obscured our faces, these exchanges had an amusingly Tim and Wilson Home Improvement quality about them.
They seemed to appreciate it at first, thanking me profusely and telling me how much their friends had enjoyed the cakes. After day five, however, the handover had begun to take on a certain strained quality.
“OH-KAY… More cake? Wow. I don’t know what to say. Look, we’re really trying to cut back on, well, sugar and stuff…so, you know….if you could just….”
They were silently screaming STOP, of course, but I was oblivious, caught up in the euphoria of evenly burnished cake tops. Having thoroughly road tested the Smeg for baking purposes, my only excuse for continuing to cream butter and sugar, was stress or distraction.
Fortunately one of my best friends has become quite the dumpling aficionado and has offered to show me the wonders of the wonton. This seems like a much healthier obsession and may go some way to repairing the diabetic havoc I’ve potentially wreaked on my lovely neighbours.
I certainly hope so.