Have you heard?
Baking is the new chic!
Unless someone’s making you do it!
I haven’t had a full-time job since November 2011 when I was a director of a daycare center. I stopped working to take care of my mom and aunt who were hit at the same time with debilitating mental and health problems. If you’ve ever tried to work a demanding full-time job while taking care of two old ladies, you know there’s a choice you’ll have to make sooner or later. Oh, it wasn’t anything like Sophie’s choice where Meryl Streep’s character has to choose whether it’s the son or daughter who gets gassed. Of course, they all get the shortest straw in that story. My choice was more of me coming to the realization that I couldn’t work two full-time jobs at the same time with any good results.
But, in truth, there was no choice about it. If I didn’t take care of the Old Ladies who would? As it turned out, in my new role as nanny, I had stumbled upon a new domesticity. I was cleaning for them, shopping for their groceries, and cooking their meals. And I was trying to do this for me and the Boyfriend too, but that didn’t work out so well and we ended up ordering a lot of take-out.
Cooking and baking (and keeping your house sort of clean) is REAL work. In between a part-time job, I was going up to the Bronx to take care of the Old Ladies and by the time I got home to Brooklyn, I couldn’t look at a pot without wanting to throw it out the window.
But this new domesticity really is the story of my wanting to nurture the Old Ladies and the Boyfriend the best way I knew how: with delicious food made from scratch. Burnt out or no, I wanted to take care of them by baking (no pun intended here) oatmeal raisin cookies, cinnamon buns, and lemon cakes, and roasting chickens, braising oxtail, and preparing as many Korean dishes as I can. Eat my love, not my shorts!
Nothing is more Super Woman than putting in that extra elbow grease to put dinner and dessert on the table. And I mean on the same night.
Can a batch of gooey cookies and moist cake signify success in one’s life? Well, it ain’t a Nobel Peace Prize or nothing, but in the face of my mother’s imminent mental demise and my aunt’s certain mortality, I find myself taking comfort in the small incidentals of my life.
And though I am aware of the nasty history of women and domesticity, I will allow myself solace in this new domesticity as there’s nothing wrong in finding satisfaction in lemon loaves well done.
(adapted from Sweet Gratitude by Judith Sutton – you should just go and get the book!)
2 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 lb unsalted butter at room temp (2 sticks)
2 1/4 cups sugar – or 2 cups if you want a little less
4 large eggs
2 tsp packed grated lemon zest (I used Meyer lemons because I am obsessed with them and they were on sale at the market. Keep your lemons for another use, like to make a lemon glaze, recipe below)
2 tsp pure lemon extract
16 oz sour cream
1. Preheat oven to 350° F and place a rack in the middle of your oven. Butter and flour 4-6 mini loaf pans (the recipe calls for six, but I used four 5 3/4 x 3 x 2 inch pans).
2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a bowl.
3. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed in a large bowl. Beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides, add eggs one at a time and continue beating after each egg. Beat in lemon zest and extract. Switch to low speed and alternate in the flour and sour cream, in three and two additions, respectively. Beat until everything is just incorporated.
4. Scrape the batter into the pans, smoothing the tops. Bake for 32-34 minutes or until an inserted chopstick comes out mostly clean. Cool for ten minutes.
5. Run a knife around the pan to loosen the loaves. Invert them onto a rack/plate to cool completely.
Optional: Lemon glaze
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 – 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Whisk the sugar and 1 tbsp of lemon juice together in a small bowl. Whisk in more juice, a drop at a time to make a smooth glaze. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of glaze down the center of each loaf and let stand until glaze has set.