This month was so, so difficult in a plethora of ways. Turner and I both got sick for over a week and haven’t been sleeping well for months, and it’s been catching up with us physically. It inhibited when I could bake and how well a couple bakes might have gone. I also had two expensive and very complicated bakes this month, and despite trying to prepare for them and read the recipes several times leading up to the bake, I was not entirely ready for them.
Cookies/Biscuits: Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies
I used this recipe and tripled it so that we would have enough for ourselves and to share. My only modification was adding candied ginger bits. I had meant to add ground ginger as well, but I forgot until it was too late.
The texture turned out differently than the recipe’s photos showed, but it was fine. For some reason though, they tasted exactly like the chewy Chips Ahoy. I wasn’t super fond of them, but there weren’t any left at the end of the day, so they were a big hit.
This one was hard enough without the unexpected difficulties that arose. I used this Mary Berry recipe that I found originally by watching Great British Bake Off. Thankfully, the one I used had far more details than the one given to the bakers during their technical challenge.
The first problem: I couldn’t find mascarpone at the stores, so I had to make my own! I doubled this recipe and used a tea towel instead of a cheese cloth. It was a bit runnier than it should’ve been. This made the frosting very difficult to make. I had read not to let the frosting get too warm or to beat it at too high of a speed. Even after following those tips, it came out like soup. I cried, put it in the fridge overnight in hopes that it would firm up, woke up to soup, and then whipped it at a high speed. By some miracle, that worked.
The second problem: Sifting in all the flour at once instead of in small amounts. I knew better than to do this, but oh well. Thankfully, the clumps weren’t noticeable after baking the cake and applying the coffee mixture.
The third problem: Cutting the sponge. My word! That’s a thing sponge to cut in half horizontally. Turner had to help by lightly pressing the top of the cake so that is wouldn’t slide around. The layers weren’t very even, but it was cut!
The fourth problem: No tin to assemble in. I ended up assembling it free-form and then trimming off the sloppy sides to get the sharp edges. Don’t worry, Turner and I ate the scraps.
It tasted *delicious* despite all the problems and was gone only halfway through the day. My coworkers kept asking if there was more.
Bread: Lavender and Rose Bread
This is an old favourite of Turner’s and mine. Slightly savoury, a touch sweet, and wonderfully floral. I used the same recipe for the base as I did with the Olive Bread in December.
I added about ⅛ cup of lavender flowers and ⅛ cup of rose petals during the initial kneading. Just before putting it in the oven, I brushed it with olive oil, sprinkle sugar on top, and dropped a few petals and flowers on it.
I had a lot of fun trying different types of braiding. Two loaves were regular three-strand plaits, one was a regular four-strand plait, and one was a flat eight-strand plait (I folded the ends underneath to add volume and ensure it didn’t come unraveled). I thought it was a tad dry, but otherwise, it was beautiful.
Wow. Okay. This is *so hard*. I had so many issues and never would’ve finished without Turner’s help, even with these wonderfully detailed recipes for the phyllo and baklava.
The biggest issues were intense fatigue and a migraine. I couldn’t stand for long, was feeling light-headed and nauseated, and could barely keep my eyes open. After getting sick last week and recovering, the fatigue became apparent as something beyond bad sleep and anxiety. We’ve started some routines and rituals to help combat it and are saving up for a doctor’s appointment if it gets worse. Even without these, baklava is hard to make from scratch.
I also had to finely chop all the nuts by hand. I used 8 ounces of pistachios and 8 ounces of walnuts. With a few brief interruptions and my low energy levels, it took my nearly two and a half hours.
I think I added too much flour to the dough when first mixing it too. So I spent a lot of time trying to add enough water to make a soft dough and ended up overworking it a bit.
Then rolling out the dough was incredibly difficult, and we couldn’t get it to paper-thin no matter how much we tried.
Despite being an incredibly stressful bake and having so many things go wrong, it still tasted pretty dang good. I never want to make phyllo dough and roll it out by hand ever again.
I had a few moments when I hated baking this month because of the immense difficulty of some bakes, but I still itched to get back in the kitchen and bake after it all, so I’m still going (and still loving it).