Baking to Cope
Posted 01 Apr 2011 by Amanda DiGiondomenico
When someone passes away, it's understood that food must be made. The community that surrounds the family comes together to feed them because we have yet to find a better way to cope with things. I'm not an advocate of eating your feelings, but I also can't deny that it helps.
If we were to analyze this grief reflex, we'd find that there are multiple levels. The first is the cooking of casseroles and the like because this relieves the family's burden of grocery shopping and cooking dinner. It can also provide a distraction. I'll never forget the night of my father's funeral. I was eight years old and my aunt taught me how to make scrambled eggs. Of course, that whole ordeal is imprinted in my memory, but that's one of the things I remember most vividly because it was the first time I had successfully cooked for myself, a point of light in a mostly dark memory. Finally, there's the idea of baking for the sheer comfort that calorie-rich treats can give a person. Baking for people doesn't fulfill any primal need other than the need to make friends feel better.
I have to admit that I bake in order to be useful to others. I rarely, if ever, eat what I bake, simply because when it's all said and done, I'm over it. I give away what I can of what I bake, or else it sits abandoned on my kitchen table. Baking helps with my feelings of inadequacy, I suppose, but I have yet to find anything that comes from my own two hands more useful or satisfying than homemade baked goods, except for maybe money, but more often than not, that's an inappropriate gift. I could paint a picture that will inevitably be put in a corner on the floor to be buried under more practical things. I could knit a scarf that will be started in September when the idea of cold weather first strikes, only to be finished in June when it's only use is to add to the disorganization of a coat closet. Needless to say, my creativity is only needed to feed people and I'm fine with that since nothing is more appreciated than a batch of walnut brownies or a hefty chocolate cake. And in the times that we need to remember that life is worth living after all, nothing helps us appreciate that more than warm pecan muffins and a glass of cold milk.
Take 1 stick of butter and melt in a saucepan, adding 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar and stirring until it’s all melted together. Then stir in 1/2 cup light corn syrup, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of orange zest. Remove from heat and pour into a large mixing bowl. Now add 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon baking powder and 3 eggs. Add one egg at a time, mixing throughly after each addition. Now place a ginger snap in the bottom of each well in your muffin pan for the “crust.” This recipe makes about 20 muffins, so you’ll need about 20 ginger snaps, give or take. I use Sweetzel’s Spiced Wafers because they’re really hard, but have a great flavor. So when they’re baked they become nice and soft, not soggy how Nilla Wafers and the like tend to get. The batter will be super sticky. I use an ice cream scoop to get the batter into the pan. Also, use muffin liners if you’d like, but for my muffins, I’m a big fan of Baker’s Joy spray. I don’t know know what is in it, and I should probably do some research into that before I go recommending it, but it works. Finally, top each muffin with a generous helping of chopped pecans, sprinkle each with more brown sugar, and then drizzle some honey on top so the sugar doesn’t fall everywhere. Also because, why not? Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes.