Friday, 24 October 2014

Baking At Midnight and Other Crazy Things

Work has gobbled me up the past few weeks.  This week in particular has been, to use my teammate's  term, "hellish".   I know, I know I have no right to complain.  I should count my blessings and all that schtick.  It´s just that most days I am just too tired to do the things I used to have time for.  I no longer do my evening walks.  I can´t find the energy to write, and worst,  I even sometimes sleep through Skype calls from family and friends.  And   I have not baked in close to a month.  My current  place  in the sun is a  tiny bubble crammed with work and to-do lists.

Some Sort of Pampering
My one small indulgence the past month is a  weekly massage session at a salon and spa owned by a Filipino couple in Madrid.  The massage therapist at the Spa is actually the wife-owner who was once a religious missionary. She has that refreshing kindness that makes one open up to her. But of course,  her  best feature is those utterly nimble hands which knead unfailingly to untangle tight muscles and ease my usual complaint of  sore back muscles. She uses hot stone massage and oh, it is heavenly! The spa´s massage room is soothing and conducive to relaxation: a table top water fountain provides the calming sound of water streaming down .  The lighting is  muted, scented tea light candles providing both atmosphere and aromatherapy.  There´s instrumental music too, toned down low enough to not be intrusive.  At 30€ a week for  70 minutes of bliss it is a splurge, but then it is the one thing that I look forward to week after week.   I tell myself, I earned this.  I need this hour of pampering to help me prepare for the week ahead.

Blasted Good News
This week´s high point is the blasted good news  I got which will definitely change my plans for the next few months.  For fear of jinxing it, I shall keep mum for the meantime, but it surely helped me deal with the week´s stress and  put things in perspective.

Down with Sleep
Fridays correspond to spending only half a day at the office.  Today, feeling unusually tired, I went home at 2 PM and went straight to bed.  A friend I have wanted to meet up with for a month or so now, asked me if we could finally have our girl talk moments, and I said, Sure, but just let me get my much needed sleep first.  But I proceeded to sleep for five straight hours and woke up at 8 PM!  Too late to go out, considering that I have to be up by 7 AM tomorrow for a trip with another set of friends, and so while most people were readying for bed, I  was doing my weekend chores --  laundry, folded my clothes, washed the dishes and amazingly I still had enough energy and time to bake.

Midnight Baking 
Midnight. I realised, hell, this is the perfect time to bake.  A check in the pantry yielded an opened pack of dried cranberries, some leftover toasted almonds, an opened pack of chocolate chips, flour, sugar and exactly two eggs.  Perfect!  Just the ingredients I need to make Chocolate Chip Cranberry Muffins.

Here´s the recipe I used: Chocolate Cranberry Muffins
(Of course,as expected, I tweaked the recipe, using water instead of milk, because I had no milk. Milk chocolate chips instead of white, and topping the muffins with some toasted, caramelised almonds.  This is what I love about baking and cooking, the freedom to tweak and make do with what´s available.  BTW, the muffins still turned out great. )

I have always thought of muffins as one of the least fussy things to bake.  Most often, you only need two bowls ---one for the dry ingredients (flour, leavener, salt) and another for the wet ingredients (oil/butter, eggs, milk/water, flavourings such as vanilla or lemon juice).  You also don´t need an electric mixer to make muffins.  A whisk and a wooden spoon would do just fine.  It´s easy peasy.  The only thing to remember about baking muffins is to only mix the dry and wet ingredients until combined.  The science geek explanation is that overmixing muffins will  overwork the gluten in the flour making the muffins denser.  To be honest,  it will not really change your muffin´s taste but the texture would vary.  Just mixed muffins will have a more tender crumb with small uniform holes while an overmixed muffin will be denser and will have usually big irregular holes.

So anyway, I baked a batch of muffins to give away.  Truth: I do not eat wheat-based products at the moment because my food intolerances have flared up these past few weeks so most of the goodies I bake, I give away to friends, officemates and to my apartment building´s guards.  Half of these muffins I´ll bring with me tomorrow on a trip for our snacks.   The rest I have set aside to give to my favourite massage therapist on Sunday.

Make Time
So there.  Nothing much is happening in my life at the moment. Some great and possibly life changing news, lots of work, a weekly pampering session, and sometimes, when I find time, little spaces to do my passions --baking and yes, blogging.

So Cheers! I hope that despite life´s buzzes and demands, you´ll find enough interstitial spaces to do what you love most.  Let´s find time to do the little things that make our lives happier. Enjoy the weekend!

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