Baking just isn’t my thing. I try, really I do, but my successes are fewer than the hairs on a gooseberry. Although it is in my blood it certainly isn’t in my genes, I haven’t inherited that particular gene: the one my mother, two grandmothers, great-aunt and sister have. My mother is a dab hand at making almost anything. Her repertoire is impressive: scones, apple tart, rhubarb crumble, chocolate cake, brown bread, Irish soda bread (I could go on). Let me tell you what she creates does not resemble the countless bland varieties found in the food forecourts throughout the country. No, my mother is a pro – an unadulterated Irish mother who has no need for recipe books or the latest app – everything she needs is stored neatly like multi-coloured spreadsheet tabs in her brain ready to be summoned at a moment’s notice.
It is often said that genes can skip a generation. I believe this to be true for it has happened to me. During my embryonic stage, the baking gene took one look at my DNA structure, clearly found me to be an insufferable host, and thus went running and screaming up my DNA strand begging the Almighty to find a more suitable home. I did, however, inherit the gene for optimism: of the eternal kind! Each time I raid the baking cupboard I hope that I will hit the baking jackpot. But hitting the jackpot is a tricky business. Very. So, I try again, and in doing so I have developed the art of turning a blind eye to my baking failures.
I review my botched-up attempts and retrace my steps. Like any good detective I try and figure out where it all went askew. I blame the ingredients – the flour wasn’t fresh, maybe the eggs were too cold or the sour-milk wasn’t sour enough. Then some lucky, or rather unlucky person – usually my sister (who, by the way should seriously consider entering The Great Irish Bake-Off) will witness my rant and my musings but never really eat what I’ve just baked! She’s a great sister and will patiently go through the recipe with me – she’s my Watson, and together we piece the jagged baking jigsaw puzzle. Deduce is what we do best.
Sis: Did you weigh the flour exactly as it states in the recipe?
Me: Yes, of course – 8oz exactly.
Sis: Did you use self-raising or plain flour?
Sis: Did you add a pinch of baking powder?
Me: No, sure why would I? It’s self-raising isn’t it?
Sis: Yes, but it’s always good to add a pinch, helps the bake rise more.
Me: Oh, no one ever told me that.
Sis: Ok, so did you add all the other ingredients correctly?
Me: Yeah, even added a few extra.
Sis: Extra, what do you mean by extra?
Me: I thought some ground almonds would add a bit of a crunch and some orange juice, but I only used a smidgen.
That’s when she usually raises an eyebrow and her mouth sort of goes lopsided with a smirk.
Sis: Why did you think orange juice would work in this recipe?
Me: Dunno, just like the idea of almonds and orange essence together.
Sis: Orange essence, is that what you’re calling it?
Me: Well it is! Isn’t it?
Sis: No, not really. It’s orange juice, but I know what you mean!
Me: I put a few bits of grated orange peel in as well…just for effect.
At this point, she can hardly contain her amusement at my inventiveness and blatant disregard for following instructions.
Sis: OK, did you put in the oven at 180 degrees for 30 mins?
Me: Well, I used the fan oven so had to drop the temperature to 160 degrees, but I did leave them in for 30 minutes.
Me: Ha bloody ha!
Her line of questioning serves its purpose. Perhaps IF I followed the recipe things would pan out a lot better. But sticking to recipes is not who I am – it is not in me. So onwards and upwards I must go – until I have my very own Eureka moment…but in the meantime I think Watson will have her hands full with unsolved cases!
Here’s one recipe I have no problem following…get baking your way!
Recipe for Friendship
Start with smiles and conversation
Next stir in appreciation
Slowly add, in equal parts fun and quiet heart-to-hearts
Mix in honesty and trust
A pinch of patience is a must
Don’t make a mess, but if you should, apologies are very good
Serve it warm and loving care
And lastly, don’t forget to share.
There’s nothing like one good friend and two good cookies.