This summer I decided that I would learn to make bread. I think I have become enamoured with the idea of being fairly self-sufficient- in the sense of baking my own bread, making my own cereals, whipping up fresh and delicious nutritious meals for myself. I want the health benefits and money saving benefits of it. I want to know that I can take care of myself. Alas, the reality is that I am actually a little hopeless in the kitchen. It’s not something I want to admit, as it clashes so much with my images of what I want to be, but as much as I enjoy pottering around in the kitchen the results don’t always match the pictures, to put it in the kindest way. I have improved over the years. My desire to be a good cook and baker is something I’ve been struggling towards for years and as embarrassing as that is, at least where I am now is much better than when I first started- I can manage a few basic dishes and I am an adequate baker of biscuits and cakes, but I still have many limitations.I think I perhaps became comfortable in those limitations, and it only now I’ve given up dairy that I’ve begun to play around a bit, trying to become even better. (Not being able to rely on cheese kinda forces one into this position…)

It’s really not as easy as it looks, though.

To focus on the bread.

I began yesterday morning with a recipe pulled from the Internet and a lot of optimism. I followed the instructions and formed my dough seemingly as it should be, then set my little ball of dough in a greased bowl, all wrapped up and warmed up by the dishwasher running beneath. Five hours later and my little ball of dough had not risen at all. Worried, I began to frantically google and was forced to accept the truth about my bread- I had killed my yeast. I’d not only put them in too-hot water to begin  with, but left them hungry with no sugar to feed on. Reading through forum posts and recipes with their comments I realised that I’d probably not even kneaded it right. Annoyed, fed up, I threw the dough on a greased pan and shoved it in the oven just to see what would happen. The results were a lump of heavy, dense, gooey ‘bread’ that…actually tasted very nice.  My optimism was restored- all I needed to do was keep my yeast alive and everything would be OK. With the help of my frantic searches earlier I rewrote the recipe- adding in sugar at the beginning, making careful note of the ideal water temperature , extending times for letting the yeast develop and kneading. Today, I did it all over again. I made the water neither cool nor hot and mixed in a tiny bit of sugar. Then, I added the yeast and let them sit for 5 minutes, watching in fascination as the yeast bloomed before my eyes. They were alive! I added in the olive oil then slowly began to add flour mixed with salt, until the mixture became too stiff to mix and thus I began to knead. I kneaded and kneaded and kneaded- forcing myself to keep going for 10 minutes and only then did I ball the dough up and put it in a greased bowl, covering it this time not only with a damp cloth but a layer of clingfilm. I set it beside the stove as I cooked lunch to keep it warm and in an hour- it had risen! Hopeful now, I formed it into something resembling a loaf and stuck it in the oven. The results were much lighter and just as tasty but alas, it is still a little too dense, and it looks utterly deformed. although the first rise was successful, the second rise in the oven…well it did not seem to rise much in the oven. Neither did I shape it correctly. I still have a long, long way too go with this bread making business. It really seemed so easy, too.

I think its time to phone my grandmother.

One thing I have been doing a lot of now that I am home is bake. It is good to have a kitchen again. My first project was banana cake. They were selling banana cake at one of the cafe’s at uni which reminded me how much I love it (its one of my favourites actually). I therefore set out to learn how to make my own and it turned out very easy and very delicious. I even it with lemon icing too and it could have even been called pretty. My baking is never pretty. Always tasty, and always ugly. :| Clearly, I am improving.

Next up I made these cupcakes. Cupcakes are easy, so it wasn’t hard to make these. The butter icing is a new skill that I have learnt, and I’m now icing everything I can. (see above) I also saw these decorations at the shop and thought why the hell not. I’d actually never really planned to make cupcakes, but I remembered my sister gave me some silicon cupcake molds for Christmas that I hadn’t used yet and thought I better get round to making something with them. Turns out they’re fantastic. Very cute, easy to use, easy to wash, and eco friendly of course. I found some more at TK MAXX for and now I find myself wanting to bake more cupcakes. Although I also want to make carrot cake, and bran muffins, and biscuits, and basically I want to bake ALL the things. I am becoming very aware that I will be going back to uni in just a matter of weeks. Just 13 days left.

Vanilla Biscuits

Baked some biscuits this afternoon using a recipe from my Granny. I’ve eaten these throughout my childhood so safe to say, they’re a favourite. The recipe for these biscuits I had pinned on my notice board for about 3 years. Then I changed my noticeboard, put the recipe away in a safe place and of course, lost it. The things you put away carefully will travel to Narnia, whilst that you chuck on your floor or in the nearest available free space will get in the way and never be lost. It’s a law of the universe that isn’t it? Or is that just me being hopeless like always? Anyway, whilst on holiday I made sure to ask my Gran for her recipes, including these. These biscuits are just simple vanilla biscuits. They were terrible easy to make, though I had some trouble at the end using the biscuit press to actually form the biscuits. I had to call on my dad, who then phoned my gran, in order to get it to work. My dad and I had some minor arguments but we figured it out eventually. I love having a biscuit press. Even though at first it’s tricky, once you get how it works then it makes the whole process of shaping biscuits so quick and easy! I got a load of different templates but I chose a plain and boring one for today XD Then I cooked them and then I ate them and I can say they turned out pretty good. Almost exactly like my Gran makes them :D Next time I am adding cherries on top for a bit of extra decoration and taste though, and I also need to make the spice version and chocolate version of these. Yum.

Romany Creams
Ugly but delicious biscuits! These biscuits are called Romany Creams and they are wonderful: two fat chocolate+coconut biscuits sandwiched together with milk chocolate. It was my first time making them, so I was a bit nervous, but I succeeded! It took me over two hours to make them on Saturday and they’ll be gone in a week, if that, and in the end they aren’t exactly healthy. However I had great fun making these up and I can take some in to uni for a not-so-healthy snack to look forward to eating on the train. Romany Creams are the third of my Granny’s recipes I’ve used actually- thus another South African type thing. Mine taste almost exactly like my Granny’s biscuits too, which makes me think of home and makes how difficult (and messy!) it was to make them worth it. I’m not sure what to make next yet but I’m definitely enjoying recreating the tastes of my childhood. I think I have another of my Granny’s biscuit recipes- maybe they’ll be my next project! :D

“I want to be as empty as the sky”

A collection of random thoughts and not-very-major events for today:

— My dad is currently on a business trip to south Africa. He left last night. I never ever wake up for him, because he leaves at like 4am but last night was different. Last night I went to bed at 1:30am, though I had wanted to keep reading longer I tore myself away from my book and switched my light off. At 3am comes a knock at the door. I am just falling asleep, in that nice place where you’re not quite asleep but rested and comfortable. I waited for someone to get it but nobody got it and then the phone rang. So I blearily got up to answer it, and turns out it was my sister outside home from the party she went to last night. I had no choice but to drift downstairs to go answer the door. My dads alarms went off 10 minutes later and thus everyone was up and I was completely awake. I went back to bed but quickly realised there was no way in hell I was falling back to sleep. Went downstairs where my mom was sitting on the couch, and my sister and dad were at the table eating cheesecake. I ended up joining them; despite the little voice in my head telling me that there was no way that it was going to be digested. Straight to the hips. the voice in my head told me, but I ate anyway and in the end I felt sick (served me right really). There was something strange and surreal about gathering together at 3am to eat cheesecake. I was so tired but at the same time so awake. It felt like I should go and eat breakfast, even though I’d slept barely an hour my brain still registered that it had been asleep, and now it was awake and light and thus time to begin my day. My dad left at 4am and it must have the first time that all three of us (my mom, my sister and me) were there to say good bye to him. And you know what I might as well have continued reading before, because I ended up reading until 4am when my dad left, and then until 4:30am after that. I went to bed at 4:30am and eventually fell asleep, waking up at 2pm this afternoon. I feel perfectly crap. I have such a bad headache :x

— Tried to bake a carrot cake this afternoon and it turned out horribly. It tasted like earwax, and I wish I was joking but I’m not. It was the most gross cake ever. It could be seen as an achievement that it was that bad. This cake is the sort you’d use on variety shows to test endurance. It wasn’t even edible. My pride was bruised, I got even more pissed than I already was (I have been in a bad mood all day; see above) and thus I set out to bake another cake, one I knew would turn out good. It came out the oven now and it seems edible. My pride is still somewhat damaged due to the unfortunate carrot cake incidence but I am reassured: I am not a bad baker, I just can’t make carrot cake to save a life. Also I saved my mother a piece of the unfortunate carrot cake (threw the rest way) and I warned her, to eat it and get it over with because it is so terrible but she is saving it for tomorrow. Tomorrow holds an unpleasant surprise for my mother…

— I start university in a week. ONE WEEK. I am all sorts of petrified. My sister is home at the moment so I did get a chance to ask her what I’d need, which means I no longer need to panic about not having the right stationery (these are the sorts of things I panic about, yes) but I still feel all AHHHHH I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING about it all. I’ve never been to university before, obviously, so I have no idea what to expect. Also I’m studying engineering. ENGINEERING. It’s what I want to do but that doesn’t make it any less daunting. I am so worried :/ Also there is that whole little thing called interacting with new people. I am shy and awkward and I make weird not-funny-at-all jokes and blurt out the first thing that comes to mind when nervous (and I get nervous when surrounded by people I don’t know so put two and two together and you can imagine what peoples first impression of me would be). I most likely won’t be able to join any clubs or societies either because I am not living in Liverpool, which puts another damper on any social life I might gain. I am so nervous about the social aspect as well as the academic side of things. :( Also I have gotten into the routine of going to bed at 1am and getting up at 10am. This is not good. I will most likely have to wake up 6am to get to Liverpool for 9am, which means going to bed at 22pm. Very much so different from how things are now. I don’t know how I will cope with the new schedule :| I just don’t know how I will cope full stop. I AM PETRIFIED. Only one week now D: