I love Easter so much. The religion isn't me, I swear the chocolate eggs deteriorate in quality every year, but a four day weekend with its reassuring semi-endlessness and total absorption of those late Sunday afternoon blues - it is unalloyed bliss. Catching up on sleep has been my main objective and I've been mildly successful, which is comparatively wildly successful considering how I usually sleep. It is great. Of course, not every day can be a restorative weekend, but it's a start. In other "it's a start" news, I bought some iron pills recently, suspecting that a downward swing in my mood and significant lethargy might partly have that to blame ("Tim, which of these iron pills are the best value for money, I'm too low in iron to work it out, I need some oh-the-irony pills hahahaaha but really") and I think they're helping somewhat in that vague way that iron does. I mean sometimes I just want to kick myself - I found myself saying to Tim that I felt like I was languishing and not achieving anything. To which he, with predictable logic, replied "you've written a cookbook which is being published later this year". And I said something to the effect of "yeah, but...gah." See? Hopefully iron pills can solve all of that. (Oh, I know they won't solve everything. That's what my omega-3 pills are for!) Anyway, that's enough of the weekly Laura's Brain Bulletin. Where was I? I love time off, ever so much.
I've ended up relatively busy this weekend, but with all this spare time one's thoughts can't help but turn to goddamn folly. And so, just because I felt like it and could do it, I decided to bake something from one of my very, very old cookbooks. I have a few of them, and I adore them for reasons that I've gone over before, but in case you're new here - it's their chronicling of history through what people ate or aspired to eat, it's the crisply knowledgeable language, the occasional sincerely-delivered but horrifying-sounding recipe, and the many truly brilliant recipes. Like these kisses.
Which I admit, I was largely motivated to make because of the name. Kisses. Just that. Up with kisses, I say. I mean, isn't kissing just the best? A top five, nay, top three activity? Not to be sweepingly generalistic: you might hate kissing for a number of reasons. To clarify, I'm simply musing rhetorically at myself. Like Homer Simpson with a thought bubble above his head. I then ignore the rhetoricalness and nod emphatically in response. So yes - I was drawn in for fairly shallow reasons, in that the cakes reminded me of stuff I like. But I wouldn't have made the recipe if it didn't sound like the end result would be as delicious as the name. Quickly mixed together buttery sponge, made helium-light with a lot of cornflour, spoonfuls of which are briefly baked and sandwiched together with jam. Just impractical and yet also just practical enough for me.
Shiny, untouchable table in the background.
Tim, who seems to be appearing an awful lot in this blog post, also saw an opportunity this long weekend, and has been sanding down and varnishing the old table that we bought second-hand earlier this year. This means many things: Our house was covered in a fine layer of dust for a while. For a couple of hours every day there are some strongly medicinal varnish fumes emanating from the table. And...we're not allowed to use it for a week. At first I was slightly put out ("don't you know who I am? I need my attractively distressed table to photograph food on!" was definitely not said) but the push towards not doing my same-old same-old attractively distressed table photography of food was no bad thing.
...Yes, I did move the flowers from the benchtop with the bowl of mixture and cookbook over to this table. Purely for the sake of the photo. I care not. (I care so much. Please like me!) (I actually don't care)
This recipe comes from an Aunt Daisy recipe book that belonged to one of my great-grandmothers. It is full of handwritten notes that I can barely read, because apparently inscrutable calligraphy was the style of the time. But still, I enjoy looking over those notes, trying to get more of a picture of this woman that I never met. The recipe for Kisses had something characteristically unfathomable written beside it. I considered my attention doubly caught.
From Aunt Daisy's recipe book. If you're not from these parts, Aunt Daisy is not related to me. I got thirteen pairs out of this, plus one rogue extra. As always, the recipe is simpler than I make it look.
225g soft butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup cornflour
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Jam of your choice for sandwiching together, about a heaped teaspoon per pair
Set your oven to 180 C/350 F and line an oven tray with baking paper.
Briskly mix the butter and sugar together till light and fluffy. Add the eggs and continue to beat the mixture till it's all combined. It will possibly look a little scrambled at this stage, but the flour will set it right, don't worry. Tip in the cornflour, flour and baking powder and carefully stir together - cornflour is lighter than anything and has a tendency to fly into the air in dusty clouds at the slightest agitation.
Drop spoonfuls about the size of a walnut in its shell onto the baking tray - the mixture is very soft, so you won't actually be able to get them into a perfectly spherical shape, but using one spoon to scoop up the mixture and another to push it off worked fine for me. Bake them for ten minutes, until the balls have flattened somewhat and are a little brown around the edges. Give them a little space to spread - which does mean you can only bake half the mixture at a time. It's kind of a pain, but on the other hand, that ten minutes does go fast. Allow them to cool before placing a spoonful of jam on the flat side of one cake and sticking the flat side of another one on top of it.
There's nothing like cake and jam to make you feel like you're in an Enid Blyton novel - the good bits, where they had picnics and midnight feasts and camaraderie and talked of vocations and "putting on a show" and had names like Darrell, and Wilhelmina "Bill" Robinson, and Daffy Hope. Not the old-timey sexism/racism/classism bits. The cornflour makes the cakes tender and a little melting upon the tongue, but these are sturdy creations, an indelicate handful of buttery cake giving way to sweet, sweet jam and back to buttery cake again. I used the two jams I found in the fridge - Te Horo raspberry jam, and plum jam made for me by a materteral family friend. If you're not into jam, there's nothing stopping you sticking these together with any number of things - thick lemon curd, whipped cream, ganache, and so on.
Also: the mixture itself is really delicious. Its deliciousness is indubitably the reason that there was a solo cake without a pair when I'd finished baking these. The lesson being, "if you're going to eat the mixture, try to eat just the right amount so you're not left with a leftover cake without a pair which you can then eat anyway, so really do whatever you like". Probably easier to not eat the mixture at all, but it does taste particularly good and there's something about Aunt Daisy saying "bake in a quick oven" without even specifying how long for (ten minutes was a lucky guess on my behalf) that makes me confident the mixture can stand having its quantities tampered with by my eating some of it.
So recently Google Reader shut up shop. I ignored it entirely till last year, finally started using it in a flurry of new-car-smell novelty, and then ended up subscribing to far too many blogs and ignoring it again. But darn it if it didn't have its place in my life, since it has taken me an embarrassingly long time to remember all the blogs I used to read on it now that it's gone. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, basically reading a lot of blogs can be a little taxing to the modern brain, so Google Reader lets you view them all in one place - a bit like subscribing to a lot of newspapers and magazines which then arrive on your doorstep every morning, rather than having to go to the shops every day to buy them all individually. Useful, no? Anyway, in case you're shuffling around listlessly in its absence, I recommend Bloglovin. I don't love its name (it's no Kisses!) but it's a lot cleaner and better looking than Google Reader, and something about it makes me want to read a lot more blog posts than I ever did. And if you want to subscribe to hungryandfrozen.com using it, she says waggling her sunglasses, why simply click here! Don't miss a single self-absorbed paragraph or strategically placed vase of flowers!
Title via: I'll Cover You, a song from RENT, the musical that I named this blog for. It's one of the lovelier songs not only in that musical but also in the existence of song. And I never, ever exaggerate.
Etta James, Something's Got A Hold Of Me. I'm going to sound a bit ancient when I say this, but as people are always mistaking me for being ten years younger than I am I think it'll all even out: there's a modern, dancy-type song that samples the first bit of this, and it's really pretty cool. But oh damn, there is nothing like Etta's boundlessly soaring voice and utterly sexy growl when she sings this.
Alma Cogan, Never Do A Tango With An Eskimo. Speaking of folly, or genius, I rewatched all twelve episodes of The Hour on Friday with some friends. We did not stop. We drank whisky. It was utterly excellent and also unsurprisingly kinda draining. Anyway, this song is performed in it and while it's completely absurd, as befits a novelty song of the fifties, it's also...it just embeds itself in your brain. I looked up the original version and found one Alma Cogan, a very interesting woman with a seriously endearing laugh in her voice. Which can embiggen even the most ridiculous song, it seems.
Next time: took an easter break on the I Should Tell You interviews, but there'll be another one next Friday. Not guaranteeing that I'll get my act together and blog before then, but I'll try.