Baking is my happy place.
I can switch off from the world and its worries, and focus on beating butter and sugar so full of air it turns the palest of yellows; on the exact measurement of ingredients (crucial to sponge successe) and even on the process of choosing recipes.
There have been plenty of opportunities to indulge my habit: a friend in need; a begging missive from my shul asking (firmly) for contributions to the Chanukah market; my father-in-law's 80th.
My problem has been picking the right bake. A simple Vic sponge seems drab, cupcakes too fussy and biscuits boring.
I dug out the Primrose Bakery's Every Day by Martha Swift and chose to make a cinnamon loaf cake slathered in cinnamon cream cheese icing. I adore cinnamon — I heap it over my morning porridge and spoon it into apple crumbles. It is, however a Marmite of spices. On delivery I realised some don't share my love for it. The Vic sponge suddenly seemed a better option.
Today's bake is for synagogue. A banoffee loaf cake — simple banana cake topped with caramel icing. Easy to double up and hopefully popular on the Chanukah tea bar. I do feel the weight of working with food. The expectation is greater. Will people talk about my failed bake if it's not a showstopper?
Wanting to mix it up a bit, I toasted up some walnuts, roughly chopped them and threw them into one of the banana cakes. Banana and walnut is a classic combo. Isn't it? Isn't it?
Then I got to thinking... I don't actually like walnuts very much. With their bitter notes and tooth-catching skin, they are more penance than perk. I'd much rather find a pecan in my pie than a tannic, mouth-drying walnut. There are much nicer pairings for bananas — like chocolate chips or sultanas. Or I could have chopped up some fudge and thrown that in. Anything other than walnuts, which I've decided should be banned from baking. And, while I'm at it, in salads too.
But it's too late now. The loaves are baked and awaiting their salted caramel topping. I hope people don't talk. Perhaps I won't own up to them being mine...