I flicked through the folder I've created for my baking recipes and nothing seemed to grab me. Everything appeared to be whimsical and fancy and sweet and without substance. I thought about chocolate cake but quickly moved onto carrot and then, before I knew it, I had come across the red velvet and the coffee and the coconut cake and then, there is the all mind-blowing parsnip cake that grows more moist by the day and the old reliable, pear and almond, yes, seasonal but formal and I even considered fudgy brownies, pulled from an old Bon Appetit magazine but they too, seemed too sweet and out of context. I did stall over an apple cranberry crisp, in memory of my mother-inlaw but we were clear out of brandy, an essential ingredient and so I moved on. No, nothing met the grounding I needed on this day and so I eventually opted to bake something that was not in my folder at all and settled for Gingerbread.
Gingerbread ticked all the boxes for me on this day but perhaps the ingredients have something to do with my choice. Black treacle. Golden syrup. The colours of the season. Brown muscovado sugar. Mixed spice. Ground ginger. Brown eggs. Butter. Flour. Solid, honest, wholesome goodness.
I set about by lining the tin with parchment. I love completing this stage of the baking process. It sets everything else up. The perfect home for what I am about to create. I set the tin aside and proceeded to measure out the treacle and the syrup. The colours are divine. They are the leaves about to turn beyond the kitchen window, the ones we will complain about when the lawn and the driveway become congested with the debris from the ash and the sycamores. The brown sugar complies with my touch, soft and sensual it seeps into the treacle and syrup like quicksand and I add the butter and put it on the burner to slowly melt and blend. All is well in my mind and I am lost in the process. I lightly whisk the eggs and milk together. Sift the flour with the spices and wait. Eventually the butter melts and I begin to blend and stir and beat and create. I pour my concoction into the parchment pan and then place the pan into the oven. Twenty minutes later there is the delicious aroma of ginger and spice filling the air. The home is back on track. Twenty more minutes and the Gingerbread rests on the counter like a gift from the gods.
My son comes home from rugby practice covered in mud, brown earth and grass stuck to his clothes and back and he is starving. I say, try the Gingerbread. I just frosted it with cream cheese. He sits at the table and eats it and says, Mom, that's the best and I feel like everything connects, everything is right. Not just because of what he says, his pleasure, but because he is home and strong and safe and that the Small dog is sitting beneath him at the table looking for unlikely crumbs and that I am standing there rejoicing in being alive. It is really that simple, it really is. Gingerbread. Dirty rugby boots in the porch. The smell of a good dinner on the way. Clean clothes. A solid base. What more do we want really? My hands. Sifting away - watching the lightness of flour fall into a bowl and the way the spices blend in. Blend in a gradual way depending on how you stir, on how you turn the spoon and sometimes on how you happen to turn the bowl.