At first glance it might seem that I am just a happy, normal girl who loves to bake and walk her dog. However, I have suffered with an eating disorder since I was 13. It was only in May 2014 when I realised that this Voice in my head was slowly but surely trying to kill me. And so began the long, hard, and painful journey which is recovery...

I want My Cocoa Stained Apron to be a special place...a place for reflection, memories, shared stories...and of course a little bit of cocoa-staining ;) Recovery might be the hardest thing you ever choose to do in this life. But it is also the bravest and best decision you will ever make.:)

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Before we resume… ANOTHER baking update

I mean it now, this time I promise you, I will be quick. Honestly! Because, shock horror, Ganache Elf has not been quite as busy in the kitchen over the past few days due to a very uncommon and extraordinary occurrence in her exterior environment: that being, the sun - you know that big yellow golden ball thing, that oh-so-rarely makes its appearance in the Irish summer sky? - did in fact emerge from all those thick fluffy grey clouds that essentially dominate the skyline here in Ireland at this time of the year. And so accordingly, Ganache Elf’s cake production has not been quite so intense as usual. For one thing of course, I wanted to make the most of this rare opportunity and soak up some rays, and also, on a more poignant note, Ganache Elf cakes and such like are less in demand during sunnier weather, as her family and friends are more inclined to request ice cream and milkshakes and such like rather than steaming cups of tea and buns or coffee and biccies ETC. (Even though…that’s a point. Homemade icecream?? That’s something to bear in mind…)
BUT. Of course, just because it is sunny…that doesn’t mean all baking activity is completely and utterly put on a hold. What a terrible thought! Oh no. In between the sunny spells, or even at the crack of dawn or at the dead of night when the rest of the household slept…Ganache Elf I suppose lived up to her namesake, creeping out of her sunbathing-type-sluggishness and swapping shorts and crop top for her beloved choclate-stained apron which was looking oddly clean and uncreased for once.
So, onto the important stuff - what did Ganache Elf decide on making during this miniature heatwave. Well lemon cheesecake for one thing. Zesty lemon always reminds me of Mallorca, where citrus trees seem as populous as dandelions and ragwort are here in Ireland. The juice and zest of three whole lemons went into this particular cheesecake, along with a whole can of condensed milk, cream, and of course the soft cheese, on top of a biscuit crust of crushed digestives, melted butter, and demerara sugar.
Also, cheese and herb bread also materialised itself, being kneaded OUTSIDE on the patio table by my own hands - I’m sorry, but I don’t think I will ever be able to resort to using an electric mixer for bread kneading. I mean, that’s the best bit!!! Kneading!!! Nothing like venting out all your irritations and grievances by giving your lovely, hand crafted bread dough a good old pounding - secure in the knowledge that the rougher you are, the better your bread will turn out, due to the gluten being developed or something. It’s not quite like pastry when one has to be so careful and gentle and worry about a hundred trillion things - it mustn’t get too hot; it can’t be overhandled or it will be grey and greasy and tough; everything must be kept cold…you get my drift. No, the breadmaker doesn’t have to be quite so meticulous. This bread, which has become a staple in our household, is particularly fun to make; for after the first proving, the dough is knocked back then divided into twelve or fourteen pieces depending on how generous you want the slices of bread to be. Then with cupped hands these pieces are shaped into smooth balls, which ae then flattened into discs and sprinkled over with grated cheese and chopped herbs; before being stacked together and placed in a loaf tin for its second and final rising. Oh…now if I had to compose a list of my favourite smells in the world…ooh, homebaked bread HAS to be up there. And as the sun finally began to disappear and dusk crept in on yet another barmy summer’s evening in sun-soaked Ireland…this wonderful aroma made my house smell like a true French bakery. What with the sunshine, the warmth, the buzzing of insects and that gorgeous smell…it was almost as if I was abroad. A piece of paradise created in my very own home.
On taking the my golden-brown, risen loaf from the oven, I carefully wrapped it in a teatowel (the reason for this being yet another one of my so-called secrets which I am sure hundreds of bakers out there already know…yet which I stillfool myself into thinking I am the sole person aware of) and ten minutes later, when my lasagne was ready to serve, I tenderly uncovered my creation and pulled apart the “slices”, which separate from one another very easily because of the individual ball-rolling and stacking that I had engaged in earlier. And on each piece, molten, gooey cheddar cheese nestled itself temptingly, prettily intespersed with the neat specklings of herbs. Every bite of this heavenly bread reminded me that it had been a very, very good decision indeed to literally force myself to retreat from the warmth and comfort of my sunchair that afternoon in order to make my way into my favourite place in the house, where magic takes place every day in the form of baking and cooking. I stand true to my view on that. Baking is magical and to be a baker is an enchanting and wonderful thing.
There WAS more…really, really chocolate cookies (umm…I used about 200g of chopped milk chocolate if you must know. And THAT was only for the chips.), numerous summery main course dishes, and even croissants. Well the latter was made when the weather finally did break, and the exquisite blue sky reverted to its usual grey, and that wet stuff known as rain began to patter against the kitchen window once again. I was sad, but not overly so: I had expected this after all. The Irish sun never sticks around for that long - unlike Ganache Elf’s baking obsession, arguably - and it was now time to catch up on some serious me time with my oven and my Kenwood mixer, and fill up all those empty cake tins. For wellies and rain jackets, having been hastily thrown into wardrobes in a frenzy of ecstatic excitement on the very first appearance of a sea-blue sky, have suddenly appeared once again in unsightly piles all around the house; and the kettle is boiling merrily away, ready to transfer  steaming hot water into the teapot from which numerous warming mugs of tea will be poured very shortly. But tea without cake or biscuits alongside..? That’s like an Irish summer without rain, right? It’s just…unthinkable.

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