IT'S the ordinary alchemy of baking that I like, the little bit of stardust among flour.
Almost literally. Something happens among the flour but it's probably, sadly, more linked to chemistry than to magic. We can pretend, though.
It is National Baking Week. This week's significance had passed me by until in the supermarket the other evening when an announcement was made over the Tannoy. I was, as synchronicity would have it, in the baking aisle scrounging together the ingredients for a Chocolate Guinness Cake, recommended by Nigella but not by your local GP.
Today I bear a penny-sized pear-shaped burn as badge of pride on my right wrist. The damage is payment for that cake but the results were worth it.
It seems we're all expected to be able to bake these days. It's becoming a competitive sport among women, particularly with Mary Berry's return and the success of The Great British Bake Off.
The unstoppable rise of the now ubiquitous cupcake (available for weddings, christenings, bar mitzvahs and to be found anywhere with stalls) seems to have started things off and now cake is rising in kitchens everywhere. I wholeheartedly approve. Cake is my favourite endeavour, a small, affordable, luxurious transportation to childhood or comfort or quiet.
Eating cake is my skill, baking something I've only very recently taken up. The things you can do with flour, egg, sugar and butter.
A dodgy dinner can be rescued but a failed cake is a failure. Baking requires an intuitive skill, a feel for chemistry and maths, calm under pressure and a respect for precision. I have none of these things. However, I have learned burnt bits can be excised with a small grater and icing covers a multitude of sins – especially when you slip some double cream into it.
It's nice to see baking, traditionally the preserve of females, adopted universally. And nice to see the skill inch closer in respect to fancy-dan, restaurant standard cooking.
Baking is all about passing down recipes and tradition, about hanging on to the past in a positive way. It's about the sense of achievement when something properly risen and plump comes out of the oven. And the surge in pride when it stays that way.
The proof, wait for it, is in the pudding.
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