One of our major preoccupations at the moment, is making sure that PP gets enough calories every day to avoid weight loss.
Six months ago we had the opposite problem, and were waging a constant battle against weight gain, although, to be fair, PP was doing much better than I was.
Now though, she is struggling to maintain her current weight, and each quarter pound loss is met with dismay. So she is in the possibly unique position of her dietician advising her to eat as much of calorie dense foods as she can manage.
In the spirit of helping her achieve her daily calorie target, I've decided to take up home baking again. I say 'again' as I used to bake regularly. My grandfather was an enthusiastic baker and as a child I was often propped on the end of his enamel-topped table in the kitchen to help. It's there where I learned how to make all kinds of pastry, feather-light sponges, wonderful fruit cakes and delicious biscuits. I baked through my teens and into my 20s and early 30s... but around 30 years ago my baking gradually tailed off until it became non-existent.
When I decided to take it up again recently, I imagined that it would be like learning to ride a bike and I'd soon find my forte again.
My first attempt at scones a few weeks ago was disappointing as they had weight and texture of rock cakes. I put it down to the self-raising flour being out of date, and to be fair, they did taste fine. Not classic scones perhaps, but perfectly edible when served with clotted cream and jam.
Since then I've bought a baking recipe book and today decided to try these.....
It all started off fine and dandy....
I'd bought new flour (won't be making THAT mistake again) and assembled all the ingredients. I don't have a posh baking mixer thingy so it had to all be done by hand, but I've made no end of cupcakes (or as they used to be known back in the day.... fairy cakes) before and there's no crumbling or kneading so I thought it would take no time at all.
2 hours later (yes, TWO. WHOLE. HOURS) I ended up with these.....
I know what you're thinking..... what's my problem? Well, for a start the recipe, which I followed religiously, maintained that it would make 12 cupcakes. I ended up with 22. Perhaps my cake cases were too small.
Also, and I'll accept that this is no fault of the recipe, the kitchen looked like a bomb had hit it. I used every container, bowl and spatula, all of which were covered in the chocolate mixture. When pouring it into the paper cases the mixture inevitably dripped all over the place, requiring me to wash all the worktops and mop the floor. I honestly don't remember baking being quite so tiring or labour intensive.
While they were in the oven, I made a start on the chocolate buttercream, which I intended to pipe onto the cupcakes, in a Great British Bake Off styley.
This is sort of what I was aiming for...
I'd watched a video on how to do it, and it didn't look too tricky. My chocolate buttercream seemed to be the right consistency.... not too stiff, not too runny. I even managed to get most of it into the piping bag. However my piping skills were sadly lacking and they looked way too much like a cowpat, with no definition.
More of a splat than a swirl.
So I scraped the buttercream off and spread it on instead, aiming for an artlessly 'rustic' look, which, if I say so myself, was much more successful. Although it took another hour to ice them all.
The final pièce de résistance was to be a scattering of assorted chocolate balls and sprinkles, which I fondly imagined would elevate them to a thing of beauty. However, they wouldn't stick to the buttercream and rolled off the cupcakes, off the table and all over the floor.
By that time I'd definitely had enough and decided that further embellishment was unnecessary so after I'd crawled around to pick up all the renegade balls and sprinkles then tackled the veritable mountain of chocolate encrusted washing up I felt no sense of achievement or satisfaction. Just sheer exhaustion.
Back in the day I used to have a designated 'baking day' and in the same time as I managed to turn out 22 decidedly lacklustre cupcakes I'd have created several batches of bakes, including biscuits, flapjacks, muffins and at least one larger cake. Possibly also some bread, or focaccia.
Either I was some sort of super-baker, or, as is more likely, in the intervening years my multi-taking skills have taken a serious downturn.
I'm not completely disenchanted though. I just need to appreciate that my baking skills need a thorough re-training, and to set myself more achievable expectations.
In the meantime, we're going to have a cupcake each after dinner this evening. At the very least, at probably eleventy hundred calories per cake, they should fulfil the brief of providing a calorie dense sweet treat for my ailing PP.
EDIT: We each had two (well... they were quite small) and they were delishus.