What’s up with this new house, I ask myself over and over. It’s giving me this desire to bake. Bake? I haven’t baked for years, probably since my kids lived at home.
Yet again and again, I find myself considering what to bake next. In fact, Carlos decided he wanted to have fish yesterday for lunch and I immediately volunteered to bake fish pie. Listen, I’ve never baked a fish pie in my life but I was excited to roll that sucker up in pastry. What’s up with me? Relax, though, I didn’t do it.
Why? Because I’d baked shortbread that afternoon. Enough is enough, right? I’d been invited to a cookie-swap party (another first) and right away I pictured baking either Janet’s McKay’s Millionaire Shortbread (her South African recipe called for crushed biscuits, stiff caramel and hardening chocolate) or Alfajorcitos de Maicena (an Uruguayan recipe from the makers of Royal Baking Powder, little lemon biscuits filled with dulce de leche and rolled in grated coconut.) Then I realized too much time would be involved, too many ingredients I didn’t have, way over the budget.
That’s when Dave’s delightful story about Mizzy triggered the memory. Mizzy, our mother’s mother, lived alone for thirty years after her husband of forty years passed away. She expected us every Sunday and she baked shortbread for tea.
Mizzy wasn’t a cook, she was a free spirit and a gardener. She didn’t like being in the kitchen, definitely an advocate for “less is more” in that department. Plus her pantry was never stocked with things like chocolate or ginger or rare spices. However, there were three glass jars with rounded cone-shaped tops on her tiny kitchen counter. They were never empty of flour, sugar and salt.
That’s when the idea of shortbread popped into my head. Duh! Less is more! She had shortbread for our tea every Sunday and while I’d never baked shortbread before I guessed it wouldn’t take too long to prepare.
It didn’t. What took time was the part where I started to be fancy by trying to make cute little heart shapes that fell apart when I attempted to transfer them onto the baking tray. Although the recipe called for wax paper, I buttered the bottom of the pan instead. That's what I always do. The shapes that finally made it onto the pan, ended up breaking when I tried to unstick them after baking.
It took me three frustrating trays of broken hearts to realize perhaps I needed to change strategy.
Enter the 50 pence-sized circles and wax paper. Ahhh. Idiot! Success at last. I baked the five dozen plus cookies I needed for the cookie-swap. Perhaps I should pay more attention to recipes and not be quite so pig-headed. Perhaps...
Mizzy, on the other hand, had no desire whatsoever to bother with shapes or rolling pins or anything of the sort. She mashed the dough into the pan with her fingers, sprinkled the top with sugar and popped it into the oven. Back to the garden. Her shortbread squares were memorable.
And my broken hearts? Carlos came in from working in the garage and sniffed the air, “Smells so good,” he said, making a beeline for the kitchen counter.
“Yeah, well they’re all broken and burned” I grumbled.
“Really? Let me taste. Mmmm, they’re delicious,” he sighed, taking two more and with that and a hug he took care of all my broken hearts.