Last night I made muffins. Pear and ginger muffins -- oh glee!
I adapted a pear gingerbread cake recipe to muffin form, which is not at all hard to do because a recipe for a soda bread or loaf cake is often the equivalent, in batter volume, to a dozen muffins. In this instance, the recipe called for large pear slices to line the bottom of the cake pan, which just wouldn't do in the small muffin molds, so I threw in a pear and a half, finely chopped. The muffins that resulted were moist and fragrant, smelling of molasses and ginger and sweet pear. They were last night's dessert and doubled, this morning, as breakfast.
Sometimes I like the heft of sweet nutty breads, but other times their proportions are overwhelming, and I find that I often prefer such concoctions in miniature, in muffin form. For what are muffins but little cakes? -- And yet they twice as nice, with all of the fruit and spice and nuts that you can think to throw in. I even add a little freshly ground black pepper, for that extra picante note.
I only recently purchased my first muffin tin -- I previously led a gluten-free life, but now that those sensitivities seem to have cleared up somewhat, I am free to try all of the baking recipes that I please. Although I am mostly just baking for my husband and for myself, it is interesting to see how baking for him differs from baking for me or baking for us.
First, I love baking for myself, mainly because I haven't been able to eat wheat for these last few years, but also because, even before then, I was so afraid of baked goods in general, and my cravings for them, that I gave them as wide a berth as possible. Not so now -- and how I am enjoying this liberty to eat wheat and bring baked goods to parties. Last week, we invited a group of friends over to watch the second of the presidential debates, and I made an amazing pumpkin loaf from October's Gourmet (strangely absent from epicurious or Gourmet online) that was promptly gobbled up by nine willing accomplices. It is satisfying to cook for myself, and know that other people will also delight in my bounty.
The principal other in my life is my husband, who shares a similar fascination, if not familiarity, with baked goods. My husband comes from a Chinese family where almost nothing was ever baked, and the idea of us actually being able to produce a cake or muffins in our own oven is very novel to him. Ingredients that have never before been seen in our pantry, like yeast and vanilla extract, baking powder and molasses, have made their appearance in recent weeks, surprising my husband, who has never had need of such things before. To really astound him, I love saying "Let's make bread," or "Let's make oatmeal cookies." He'll reply, "Can we really do that?" Of course we can! We can make anything at all we want, as long as the two of us are hungry for it.
That's where baking for us comes in. He is my mate, this man, and together we form a small household. Baking for us reminds me that we are in this together, this business of life and love and sorrow and redemption. We are here for each other, to make bread and break bread together, to tell each other of our cares, and to count our many blessings. A warm oven and the smell of bread consecrate our lives together, within these narrow walls, in borrowed space, in the heart of the city that never sleeps.