If you were thinking of us last week, imagining us slogging on a wet mountain trail, hiking over wind battered passes and roughing it in run-down huts, well, we have a confession to make … While it IS true that we spent the last week ‘high’, it has less to do with altitude and more to do with our intoxication from the pleasure of baking. Last week we immersed ourselves in the joy of baking. In a big way. A very big way.
Breakfast was fresh baked date scones, prepared by Daniel’s fair hand. Lunch was fresh brown bread (brown soda bread if it was me baking, or yeast bread if Daniel). After dinner dessert was chocolate muffins, or chocolate pudding. On average we are – no kidding – baking three times a day. We have turned into such baking snobs that now we only eat produce that is still warm from the oven. I don’t know how long more it can go on; i presume at some stage we will lose interest, or the pressure from our waistbands will enorce a stop. But right now, we are in the throes of a baking frenzy. In fact, we are vying with each other to be the one that bakes. The morning scones have become Daniel’s domain, but we both want to bake the afternoon bread, or the evening treat.
All the recipes we follow involve quantities of ingredients that make it worthwhile to go to the trouble of baking. Say a dozen scones, or muffins. Or a family’s bread supply for a couple of days. And as baking is an exact science, we haven’t risked trying to halve or quarter the recipes. So we blithely just bake the full recipe and feast on the results, until empty plates are looking back up at us.
Speaking of recipes, even at our current baking pace, there is a lifetime supply of recipes available on the internet, or at the library. In fact, our only constraint is ingredients, as we don’t want to burden ourselves with obscure ingredients that are good only for 1 or 2 recipes, as ultimately we have to use everything given the limited space in our backpacks. Our core ingredients are flour (wholemeal and plain), raising agents (we have baking powder, baking soda and active yeast), milk (regular and buttermilk), butter, eggs, brown sugar, cocoa and vanilla. (There was a big discussion before we bought the vanilla, with Daniel insisting we needed it in his quest for perfection, and me arguing it’s hardly the most common or critical baking ingredient. Ask yourself when you last used it …). White sugar and salt are normally available in the hostels. And that completes our ingredients. Sadly, we have had to walk away from recipes we desperately wanted to bake, like ginger cake, or double chocolate cake, because it meant ingredients we just couldn’t justify such as golden syrup, or treacle. But we are determined that one day we will have a kitchen and a home for long enough to allow us to stock up on those ingredients.
The urge to bake had been brewing for some time, born of the monotonous dried food we ate while hiking. When we found ourselves in a wonderful backpackers (more on this paradise in an upcoming post) equipped with 2 kitchens and a full complement of baking paraphernalia (including measuring spoons and cups, oh, the JOY!) we put down roots and have literally baked till our tummies ached! The owners look at us warily as we skip to the kitchen several times a day, thinking no doubt of next month’s electricity bill. While paying this morning for the room for the week ahead, i half expected to be charged a power supplement. It didn’t materialise though, so maybe the softening up we have been doing by regularly offering them fresh scones and bread has worked 🙂 The kitchen we have adopted as our own is the smaller of the 2 kitchens, located in the garden, away from the hostel’s main kitchen and lounge. It means we can bake to our hearts content away from the hungry eyes of other hostellers. And it means we then eat our baked goodies in the garden, surrounded by nature, with a gentle breeze and sunshine enhancing the flavour. Unfortunately though that allows the sweet smell of baking to waft through the garden, tickling the noses of the owners as they sit in their nearby office ….
It is hard to remember those years where our ambitions were to climb the corporate ladder, or build a sophisticated financial model. Right now, our aspirations don’t extend beyond a light and fluffy scone, or a well-risen bread. Even photography ambitions appear to be on hold, apart from the ideal placement of scones on a plate so the camera can best capture their beauty …