Ease up is what I tell myself when I get stressie bessie. This easing allows me to open up to what is before me and naturally find a way through.
When I entered quarantine in Ireland it meant that all of my baking for others ceased. I have amazing friends checking in quite often, and it is so difficult not hand them some cookies or share a book I just finished as who knows if the surfaces of these objects also contains a trace of Covid. So, I have to accept their gifts, and not return the favor…yet.
The place I have moved into is less than ideal, but it is really an enjoyable space as I have: time, a window, and paint. The largest let down was the lack of stove. I have a toaster oven, with a hot plate. I have named him ‘Toastie’. The bonus of my space is a lovely pink chair that keeps me comfy and has proved to be a stable subject, or platform for added subjects.
Packing as simply as possible the one piece of kitchen equipment I brought was my trusted kitchen scale. Looking around at what I had in the cupboard I had no question that shortbread would be the first thing to be tested in my ‘oven’. The recipe is so simple: 3,2,1:Flour, Butter, Sugar. Not thinking about who these were for (or if they would work) I was craving to smell butter and sugar being creamed (by hand as I also lack an electric mixer). It was comforting to shape the circular discs, cut them as evenly as possible into six triangles, and press three dots using the back of my paintbrush into the surface of each one. I placed them in the freezer, planning to bake later.
Normally shorties bake for 11-12 minutes at 375F. So I turned Toastie on and knew this was true trial and error, I silently thought ‘be prepared for crap.’ Thanks to some friends who brought some banana bread wrapped in tinfoil last week I had something to bake them on, as I also do not have pans. I popped them in, tried not to stare at them praying for a positive result. Twelve minutes passed, and I carefully pulled them out, because I also do not have an oven mitt. Clearly not done. So, I put them back in. At this point I figured the best thing to do was to paint them baking rather than impatiently waiting for them to be done. I believe they were in Toastie for 35 minutes before I turned him off. The bottoms looked raw; the tops looked dark. When I turned Toastie off, I noticed that I had the so called ‘broiler’ on thus the results. I left them in the oven and figured any residual heat might do them good, and continued to paint them. That night I took one out and tasted it. Raw. Coming from someone who enjoys nearly underdone things of all nature, this was like eating flour from the bag. Luckily, I still had a disk in the freezer, and learning from this I would try again.
The next morning, I turned Toastie on to the correct settings, and placed the shorties inside. I have no clue how long they were in there. For extra precaution, I flipped them at one point to ensure an even bake. In the end they were brown top to bottom! I again let them cool inside Toastie, as I might also have a mouse problem in this place…but I’m trying to repress that thought.
That afternoon I tasted one, and the flavor was exactly right, however their ‘crumb’ was different as they came out a bit puffier, resulting in an almost cake like lightness; which with the humidity here only became more distinct over the coming day. I then realized I had six shortbreads, and no one to give them to.
I do believe my subconscious is constantly at work these days because I am taking the time for it to have more and more opportunity to appear in my daily life. There was a moment when I realized I never intended to give these away, the act of making them was pure entertainment, and comfort. This also allowed a new story to unfold in a painting, looking for peace and quiet in moments of action or impatience. But the most imporarnt thing, which I did not see coming was that this was for me. I didn’t bake for anyone but myself, and as I am a product of the ‘self-care’ era it was so enlightening for me to see this happening without me diligently pursuing to do something for myself, as I just did it.
Now let me connect dots, by changing direction.
When I decided to revamp and relaunch my website I knew I wanted something I couldn’t do myself, so I hired a professional who also knows my work well. She suggested we add a page for my passion of baking. I was delighted with this and couldn’t believe I didn’t see this as an obvious part of what I want my site to hold (this here is point and case in why I believe hiring someone for these tasks is so beneficial). When brainstorming on how to put this together she gave me a few prompts and then helped me formulate text that explains what ‘ie bakes’ is. A line I found critical was ‘The parameters and circumstances change based on my location, and needs’. The thing that keeps me painting, baking, growing is when I surprise myself. Little did I know that ‘ie bakes’ would do it for herself. And while company has been little these past 12 days I have found it in the inanimateness of my surroundings. On Friday my consciousness registered that the shorties were for me, so after having one, I placed the last one on a plate and put it on my new favorite chair and painted him for he kept me company when ie baked for herself.