Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Baking is Good for the Soul

Today was baking day in our house. I needed to make a cake to take to friends when we visit them tomorrow, so I quickly made a blackberry and apple cake, using blackberries from the freezer and grating some small apples which nobody seemed to be eating but needed using. I hate waste. D had a work-free day and requested fairy cakes, so I made him a batch of those, and then used up some of the nectarines I cooked up and froze last summer in a fruit crumble.

I had fun looking through a few of my - many - cookery books for inspiration for the cake, but fell back on a tried and tested recipe from the Country Harvest book. The fairy cakes were based on the recipe for vanilla cupcakes in the Hummingbird Bakery book, but without any icing on.

There is something very satisfying and rewarding about baking. Far more so - to me at any rate - than making an evening meal. I enjoy the process of looking through my books to see what I shall make. As I am working I think of my grandmother doing the same - she was a very skilled cook. Sadly it seemed to skip a generation in my mum! I enjoy turning a cake out onto the cooling rack and stripping off the used greaseproof paper (which goes up with a roar on the fire) and putting the cooled cake onto a pretty plate ready to give as a gift to friends (more appreciated as the lady of the house doesn't herself bake and thinks I am a magician!) I like to think that everything I bake is cooked with love, so perhaps that is why it feels so good when I have a baking session.

We needed bread, so I made a plaited loaf 2/3 white and 1/3 wholemeal flour. I had planned pizza for tea, so made another batch of the same dough, and let it rise as I quickly defrosted some ratatouille mixture, also made last summer with some of the courgettes from the garden, which was the topping for mine. My fussy menfolk turn their noses up at anything with tomato/onion/peppers etc in (all the more for me!) and just had bacon and cheese on their pizza, as someone had eaten all the ham! Pretty - not. Tasty - very. Some left for tomorrow night's meal too, and a portion of ratatouille to top some pasta.

Below is a beautiful but ravaged embroidery I found at a car boot sale near Aberystwyth a couple of years back. It was framed and I paid more than it was worth, so I could save it. At some point it had been in a damp shed and this had made the backing material very discoloured and frail. Someone had also just cut through all the embroidery to make the picture "fit" the frame at some time in the past. Anyway, I decided I would try and redeem it a little, and reframe it, but first I have cut away the stained and tearing back, where I could, just leaving the embroidered area. I have carefully sewn this to a stout backing of beige Irish linen, using nearly invisible stitches. I now intend to embroider in the flagstone pathway, and carefully matching the silks, carefully put in a few new stitches at the edges so I can blend it in better and hopefully make it look less like a bodged job. It's going no further than me, and I can live with imperfections, and I can also enjoy the mass of flowers sewn onto this piece - probably in the 1930s. I'll post another photo when it's finished.


  1. you title made me smile, baking is good for the soul (but not for the waistline). I dare not bake as I have no will power whatsoever and will eat the lot!
    I love your embroidery and your sensitive renovations. I shall enjoy seeing the finished project.

  2. Hi BB

    Hope you are keeping well. I can well see why you rescued the embroidery it is gorgeous and well worth the saving. As the saying goes beauty is in the eye of the beholder. When you cook, you cook with your heart and soul and its another silent way of showing people how much you care, as is everything you do. I love the picture at the top of your blog too whenever I see it, it seems to be smiling.

    Take care and keep snuggled and warm. Catch up soon.



  3. Your plaited bread looks SO good! Like Kath, I have to limit the baking I do as I have no willpower when left alone in the house with a home made cake....... I do try to make crumble or pudding once a week, to last for a few meals.

    You are very good at rescuing old and beautiful handicrafts. There is a real connection with the long-ago woman who spent her hours lovingly sewing. She would, I`m sure, be grateful for your efforts.

  4. My first thought as you described the embroidered piece was that it seemed a lot of bother for something rather far gone--on seeing it I recognize it was meant to be so pretty--and will be again--though its work beyond my skills and patience.
    Turn me loose in the kitchen instead--there is great serenity in baking.
    Can't imagine living with folks who don't relish tomato/pepper/onion--the combination enhances so many dishes.
    I am more apt to make pies than cakes--I'm good with pastry. I have a few tried and true cake recipes, but we tend toward cookies [biscuits?] for a treat.

  5. The baking all sounds delicious - I don't bake nearly as often as I did when my family were at home for much the same reasons as Kath:) The embroidery will take skill and patience but will be worth doing, it's a lovely picture and I hope you'll show us the front of it once it's done.

  6. I love to bake, but can't afford the calories, so I just read and drool over other folk's baking.
    You're doing a lovely job repairing the embroidery it will be worth all your work.