It’s hard to believe that we’re half way through February, the second month of the year. I am still trying to come to terms with the fact that it’s January 2013. The weeks have flown past and I have been busy but again I’m bursting my own bubbles and believing that I haven’t really accomplished anything.
It’s funny how I always do that to myself. I’m the biggest cheerleader going (minus ridiculously tiny clothes and gymnastic ability) for everyone else but I always knock myself down. It’s never enough. I always expect more, better from myself. Why?
I still don’t know.
I set myself from goals for January and I didn’t really make them. When I have been busy with other commitments then I’ve mostly been busy being Tired. It’s been a month where honesty with myself has been challenging, in lots of ways, especially when I comes to owning up and being entirely realistic about my health. My health isn’t good. It isn’t good when I ignore it but when I choose to be aware, conscious and self-sympathetic, it can be a somewhat tough reality check. For someone who has never understood the idea of doing just one thing at a time, being able to sit (and even lie down) with nothing doing is a little worrying, disturbing.
I have been too tired to knit.
That makes me miserable.
Knitting is how I express myself.
Knitting is how I enjoy myself.
Knitting is where I get material for blog posts.
Just too tired to work the needles, lift the yarn, never mind attempting to follow patterns.
I can count even worse when I am tired.
So I’m behind on the first goals of the year.
Have I failed?
I really don’t know.
I’ve done other things.
Made progress in other areas.
Does that compensate?
And I’ve been baking.
And in some ways, I’ve been find ‘me’ in that area too.
One of the first things that I tried this year was a friend’s coconut cake.
She made it for a day out a couple of months back and I was smitten.
Anyway, I should perhaps declare here that I don’t like coconut.
Or coconut doesn’t like me.
As coconut-loving husband didn’t come with us, he missed out. So I decided I’d make one for us at home.
It was also covered in buttercream.
I need to say something about buttercream too.
I hate buttercream.
I only occasionally met buttercream when I was a child and the whole not-mixed connection of lumpy, greasy butter and coarse, gritty sugar never did anything for me.
Husband has never met a bad buttercream in his life.
He can’t understand my surprise that buttercream can actually be quite good.
I now have a ‘thing’ for buttercream.
The recipe was sent through by email and I started making it up.
I got to nearly the end when I met the direction to ‘add the milk’.
No was there no milk in the ingredients.
I added a guestimated amount of milk, bearing vague memories of lemon drizzle cake in mind.
It didn’t turn out badly after all.
Possibly I added too much milk, but I only found out when friend kindly, and very eventually, sent through the correct measurement. It didn’t come out too badly or soggy.
It was then smothered in buttercream.
Husband doesn’t think it tastes of coconut.
I don’t how he could come to that conclusion.
You can even see the decimated coconut in the photo!
Because I don’t get on with coconut, I rarely use any in baking.
I seem to have had a little bit of a coconut spree this month.
Because next up was Australian Crunch.
Another friend gave me the recipe.
It is much coveted as it something of a local culinary institution.
(I don’t think the Australians know anything about it, actually).
It’s a schooldays delicacy.
A frugal recipe that probably was adopted simply because you just chuck everything in a bowl and mix, because it uses up all sorts of odds and ends and as I said, it only requires cheap, basic store cupboard ingredients. (Apart from coconut. It’s getting hard to find decimated coconut in the supermarkets now that I actually want some!)
My middle school made it.
My husband’s school in this town didn’t. He had never heard of it and really couldn’t get what the fuss was about.
However one of the other secondary schools in town did do it and several friends who attended that school, about the same time, are complete fans/addicts of the stuff. Another friend who went to the third secondary school in town, about twenty years before, also remembers it very fondly, served with mint custard. I know of another school, not too far away, that also made Australian Crunch.
To give you an idea of how desirable a foodstuff this is, I’ll tell you a story, a true story.
Some of the local bakeries have cottoned on to the fact that making and selling Australian Crunch would make them extremely popular with their customers. I have friend who knows exactly which bakeries do it and what she thinks of them.
The other day, we were out together and stopped for her to buy a snack. Faced with an entire panoply of freshly baked goodies, she chose Australian Crunch. And before eating it, she photographed it with her mobile phone (isn’t technology great?!) and sent the photo to another Australian Crunch fan/addict. I believe that the accompanying message was something along the lines of: Naha, I have Australian Crunch and you don’t.
(We’re all highly mature adults round here).
My friend who gave me the recipe didn’t grow up round here so was oblivious to the status of the recipe she’d acquired. She couldn’t quite understand why I was so excited to be given a copy!
Making Australian Crunch makes you very, very popular.
One of my other friends, a cake-hater and who thinks that my brownies are ridiculously rich and inedible actually ended up having three pieces of it. We couldn’t believe it.
Like some of the best things in life, it isn’t entirely photogenic.
But it’s good stuff. Really good stuff.
Oh, and husband is now a fan/addict.
I made a second (double-sized!) batch shortly afterwards to fulfill demand.
There have been other culinary highlights.
They were the best we’ve had all year. It wasn’t a good summer for soft fruit. And these were reduced too.
There is something unbelievable gorgeous about a sun-ripened, firm-fleshed, fruity, meaty strawberry.
I made red velvet cake.
From a packet, admittedly.
But, hey, honesty and realism do allow for ‘cheating’ now and then.
I honestly have tried to make it from scratch before but English food colouring and beetroots (even combined) failed utterly.
(If anyone has a decent recipe for an English version, please let me know!)
And made cream cheese frosting to put on the top.
And thus started another ‘thing’.
(Baking Tip: Always straighten up the edges of your cake, this will give you morsels to ‘test’ your frosting or icing with).
Because I’d made quite a big batch of frosting, I had to make a chocolate cake to use it up.
And discovered that my friends also have a ‘thing’ for cream cheese frosting, quite a serious ‘thing’.
(Oh and if you want to have a whale of an evening out, have one of those occasions where everything doesn’t go to plan, end up going out for impromptu meal then finish up by eating chocolate cake (with cream cheese frosting, naturally) in the car in a dark car park, cutting it up with a penknife. (No guesses who has a penknife on them!) To add to the entertainment stakes, the frosted cake needs to have be turned upside at some point so it looks something like a crash now).
This is the second chocolate cake:
We wisely put two layers of frosting inside the cake and put a thin layer of melted chocolate on top.
(I hate it when there’s like an inch of chocolate on the top of a cake, it’s nearly impossible to cut through and then completely shatters when you finally force the knife blade through).
Oh, and some tinned cherries and cherry jam in the middle too.
However, because this could only happen in my world, our world, the chocolate was setting faster than we could spread it. (It didn’t feel that cold but apparently the chocolate did). So what do us little geniuses do to remedy the problem? Hairdryer. Hairdryer, my friends, is the baker’s best friend.
Anyway, in case you come to the unhealthy (and inaccurate) conclusion that we only ate cake in January (there was a lemon drizzle too, at another point), I’d like to share with you another first.
My first homemade soup!
(I know, it’s utterly shocking and scandalous that I could have got to this old age without ever having made soup).
Do you remember those chillies we grew?
The ones that were never jalapeño after all and so didn’t grow quite as big as expected?
Well, they pack quite a punch.
We’re having to use them carefully and sparingly.
I garlic-pressed two wee chillies into my giant (I’ve been living on it for the last week!) soup batch. Most of the skin was left behind. And it didn’t taste too spicy.
Not then anyway.
It’s definitely ‘infused’ since.
It sneaks up on you.
And then kicks.
But what else can a girl do when life hands her a humongous butternut squash?
(By the way, husband is refusing to eat it. Why? Because sweet-toothed husband thinks it’s too sweet. No, I don’t get that either).