My eyes stared in bewilderment as I read the words “I rarely bake on vacation”. This last week in North Truro alone, I’ve baked four loaves of bread, two types of muffins and a zucchini hazelnut quick bread. And yet, those words from three years ago, they were true. I wrote them on August 24, 2010.
This is our ninth summer in the same cottage. The location is perfect beyond words, the house nestled in the sand, just a few hundred feet from the bay. The kitchen, however, is better suited to cooking up simple meals. It’s stocked with pots and pans that show their scars from the many renters that have come before. I’ve learned over the years to bring some essentials from home, my kitchen bags always outnumbering the rest of my luggage. The year I snuck my cast-iron skillet under the front seat, I knew I was pushing it. Mikey rolled his eyes, but I stood my ground, demanding if his guitar got to go, then so did my favorite instrument.
I knew to pick my battles wisely, and never dared to pack the stand mixer. I’m pretty sure Mikey would’ve protested at even a glimpse of a hand mixer. I resigned to put my baking aspirations on hold for two weeks every year when we came out to the Cape. I also began to realize that seeing the potential in ingredients was only half the equation when creating recipes for home cooks. Not all kitchens are created equal. Not everyone has expensive equipment at their disposal, and so when I develop many of my recipes I try to keep that in mind. I remember the moment that light bulb went off, and it started with this peach blueberry cobbler cake.
That cake was on my mind a lot the past few days. I made it the last summer Mikey was out here with us. I wanted to make it again, but something about doing so didn’t feel right. I think it’s partly because I didn’t want to tarnish my tastebud’s memory of it. In my mind, it will always have the flavor of a lazy, summer afternoon, watching a storm rage, as we lounged about inside.
Part of my life now is trying to blend my past with my present. Each day is a practice in clearing out the emotional pantry. I decided to keep peaches in the mix, but pretty much changed everything else, instead making them into peach allspice muffins. I went with melted butter, a technique that makes a denser muffin which I’m learning more people prefer (personally, I like light, crumbly muffins, more like a cupcake texture, just not as sweet). I packed a bag of my All-Purpose Baking Mix before leaving for vacation which made pulling these muffins together even easier. I also stepped out of my recipe tester mindset when I decided to make these muffins in my new vintage muffin tin. It only has eight cups in it, but since I was creating this recipe for fun, I figured I’d play by my own rules.
Generally, I prefer pastries and baked goods the day they’re made, but decided to bake these the night before, so we could wake up to a homemade breakfast. They held up perfectly, wrapped in parchment paper. All I had to do was get coffee brewing the next morning. This is definitely going to be a tip I use once school starts up again. Until then, I’m going to savor the last bits of summer vacation, just don’t expect me to step away from the stove any time soon.
Music Pairing: Lazy Confessions by The Moldy Peaches
1 1/2 cups (225 grams) All-Purpose Baking Mix (page 20 in Homemade with Love)
1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated natural cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) allspice
1/2 cup (125 ml) buttermilk
4 tablespoons (56 grams) butter, melted
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
1 very ripe peach, diced
Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).
Grease the bottom and sides of an 8-cup muffin tin.
In a medium bowl, add the baking mix, sugar and allspice; whisk well to combine.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, add the buttermilk, melted butter, egg and vanilla. Beat with a fork until well-blended. Pour over the dry ingedients. Stir with the fork until just combined, and there are no visible traces of flour. Gently stir in the peaches.
Divide the batter evenly into the prepared muffin tin. Bake 17 to 19 minutes, until the tops are golden and the center springs back when touched. Remove from the oven, and place the pan on a wire rack. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.