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Stress biscuits (continued)

I continued with my spree of stress-related cookery today. If you’re ever having a rough time, or feeling overwhelmed, I strongly recommend an afternoon of talking with my Nana while baking by instinct.  Rather than following recipes, I decided to follow instinct and my understanding of cookery to make a batch of scones and lemon butter.  In the spirit of self-inspection, I learned the following while cooking today:

(a) I consider demand no obstacle to baking;

(b) the happiness I get out of baking is independent of obstacles of supply, ingredients or even success.

In two days, I’ve made two batches of biscuits, a batch of scones, a pot of lemon butter and half a dozen enormous bran and pumpkin muffins. I don’t think there’s a roaring demand for baked goods around our neck of the woods at the moment, but frankly I’m past caring. I get too much joy out of the process of cooking and (at the moment) baking to care what happens to my endeavours after I have hauled them out of the oven and declared them successful.

Today I had planned to bake some bread, but the yeast wouldn’t proof.  Then I moved onto my next ambition: Macarons, the fancy, French, crispy-shelled sandwich cookies.  Unfortunately, upon closer inspection, I discovered a dearth of icing sugar, so essential to their manufacture.  I’ll get some tomorrow, but in the meantime, despite my disappointment…

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Homemade scones with lemon butter.  Yesterday’s cooking was a little more experimental; today’s cooking was, well, heritage cooking.  Instead of followin a recipe, I went with instinct.  To make scones, you work cold butter into self raising flour until it looks like breadcrumbs; then add a pinch of salt, two pinches of sugar, and just enough milk to bring it together into a thick dough.  Roll it out, cut out your scones and bake in a hot oven.  I love working by feel and hunch and instinct.

Stress-lemon-butter-4

Happy colours!

Lemon butter is straightforward, but a little involved. You whisk some egg yolks and lemon juice together; in another bowl, whisk plenty of melted butter with some sugar and lemon zest. Whisk the lot together in a bowl over boiling water, stirring constantly until it begins to cook and thicken.  Taste it and add more sugar or zest, as needed.  When you think it’s starting to reach “finished”, dip a spoon in it and leave it on the bench to cool.  As it cools, it should thicken into a very dense spread and then you know it’s ready to go.  It always takes vastly longer than I think it will, but I was really happy with how it came out.  I don’t eat it much: I left the jar with my Mum and Nan to enjoy on their breakfast toast.

While cooking these things, I talked with my Nan. She told me about what her life was like while she was bearing and rearing her six children, about life on the farm she lived on and hopes to have her ashes scattered over.  I spent a lot of time today thinking about my family, about where we come from, and all that nice stuff.  And then I left them with scones and lemon butter. I didn’t get to make any of the things I had originally thought I would make today, but that didn’t have any impact on how much I enjoyed the cooking I ended up doing.

I have another day off tomorrow, and I suspect there is more baking in the wind.  I hope so, anyway.

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