I have done significantly better this week, I am really pleased about it. I only had one transgression: one pepernoot in a café with my coffee. If you’ve ever seen them you’ll know that they are small, kind of like a mentos candy, so I won’t beat myself up about that.
I have also done something I probably should have tried a while back. I explained to my kid that we will only have sweets during the week-end, and even then, not everything in the house. Of course, that means that every morning, he asked me if it was the week-end yet. Let’s see how long that one lasts. And when the week-end finally came, he asked for candies, juice, cake, jam, everything and anything he could think of. So I had to explain again that Holy Cake Day is not a day when you eat and drink everything you can get your hands on; we still need some moderation.
He had requested banana bread, so this will be my first cake for the holy day that I will share here. Anyone who has been around me while I bake knows that I take recipes as guidelines. I know baking is an exact science and I should follow everything to the last dot; but who out there can guarantee that any 2 eggs in the world will always be the exact same size? Hence, for me, you should be allowed to keep an open mind when baking and change if things don’t look right. If I don’t like what the recipe says, I will change it. One of the things I have done in the last couple of years was to reduce the sugar in any cake that I have made. I have also, many times, replaced sugar with maple syrup. I know it is still full of sugar, but there is one big difference: the pack of sugar that you buy is a processed product. The maple syrup that I get is just that, nothing has happened to it, apart from being bottled and shipped. To me, that makes it better by definition.
The banana bread that I make is also an adaptation. It started with me looking up recipes online, like most people do nowadays, finding one featuring honey instead of sugar (yeah, I use that one sometimes too for the same reasons as maple syrup), more than halved the quantity of honey added to it and the result was that my family was happy with it. Good! Now my banana bread also calls for all the bananas in the house, whether it’s 2 or 5, I just add extra flour if it feels too runny, or extra liquid if it is too dense; or simply stop adding flour it feels just right. So the biggest challenge for me is to quantify exactly how much of anything I have put in my final sludge that goes in the oven to end up as cake. You can check out the end result here.
As you may have guessed, I am not a serious baker. I prefer taking things lightly in the kitchen, or else I will stress out too much and end up hating both the process, and the result. Some of my best baking, and this was also the beginning of my solo career as a laughable baker, was making the traditional Christmas or Easter cake, cozonac. This is a serious endeavour, requires mixing, raising, kneading, more raising, shaping, even more raising, before you finally get to the baking. The recipe we were using came from my grandmother, whom we suspected left out some parts so she wouldn’t be dethroned from the cozonac-queen position. Every time we produced a cozonac, she would find some serious flaws with it. So when making cozonac, I would just joke around and make fun of myself for my lack of skill, and in the end, I’d have fun for most of the day and we would have some rather good-tasting cake. Did it match the original? No. Did it respect all the requirements? No. Was the recipe set in stone? Absolutely not. (You should actually see that original piece of paper, it is not only full of stains from every cozonac ever made following that recipe, but also of notes altering the original quantities quite drastically.) But I wasn’t going to enter it into a cozonac contest, it fulfilled its mission: it was a very special treat that we would have only twice a year, and I have fond memories of that.
So what was my holy day part, you may ask. Well, not as I had hoped. The week-end was rather busy, what with a birthday and our hunt for a bed that wouldn’t break our backs, and one sick kid, and some serious snowing and some even more serious wind. At the very least, we did get to share the banana bread. A friend of mine helping us out with the interior design of our house came over with her kid. The boys made a huge mess, as they always do when they are together, and us adults talked about our house. But the best part was decorating the house a little for Christmas. In between the toys and the mess that still reigns supreme, a bit of Christmas magic did manage to creep in.