When stress comes knocking, there are a number of tried and true things I do to manage it. I exercise. I practice yoga. I take frequent walks. I breathe deeply. I call a friend. I blast Lady Gaga on my iPod. But my favorite thing to do when I’m feeling under the gun is to cook.
No surprise there. What is genuinely surprising is that I, who never liked baking before this year (and in fact used to find it stressful) have come to find that the therapeutic powers of a pair of oven mitts and a whisk are often just as powerful as the relief that comes from cooking a great meal.
In fact, they’re sometimes more so: there’s something intensely calming about the precision of baking. It’s methodical and ceremonious. Quantities are predetermined and knowable; results, if you do what you’re supposed to do, are guaranteed. Compare that to the spontaneous art of cooking, which seems to mimic more closely the unpredictable nature of real life. I love baking for some of the same reasons I love to read metered verse: there’s always room for creative genius to creep in, but the structure and form are indelible, a brief respite from the chaos of everyday existence. (As a more somber side note, it comes as no surprise to me that women with ED histories, who often are drawn to control, love the baking process.)
So anyway, my second chem midterm is tomorrow, and I’m nervous: if our quiz today was any indication of how I’ll perform on the exam, I may be writing another black and blue post tomorrow night. As I attempted to manage the stress of a bunch of deadlines yesterday, I thought I’d pour some of my nerves into a batch of summertime muffins. Sugar plum muffins, to be exact.
I know what you’re thinking: it’s 105 degrees in the shade in DC, Gena. Why are you giving your recipes Nutcracker-themed titles? Well, because plums are all over the local farmers markets. So why not use them? After all, they’re not so very different from their cousin stone fruits, peaches, and those are practically the lords and masters of the late summer fruit kingdom. Yesterday, as I attacked some evil titration problems, I also set aside four perfectly ripe, deep purple plums, a bag of grainy demerara sugar, and two cups of flour, and these guys were born.
Brown Sugar Plum Muffins (vegan, can be GF)
2 1/2 cups flour of choice (I like to bake with whole wheat pastry flour, but you could also use white flour, or a gluten free mix)
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tbsp cinnamon
2/3 cup + 3 tbsp granulated brown sugar (I like demerara here)
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup melted Earth Balance or vegan shortening, or coconut or vegetable oil
2/3 cup applesauce
3/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 chopped plums (skins on is fine!)
1) Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, 2/3 cup brown sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center.
2) Whisk the vegan butter, shortening, or oil, the applesauce, the almond milk, and the vanilla, and add them to the dry ingredients. Mix till just combined, then fold in the plums. Scoop into muffin liners (or a nonstick tray) and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar.
3) Bake at 375 degrees for 15-18 min, or until nice and brown on top. Serve warm, with some raw whipped cream if you like!
What a scrumptious morning treat. I felt much less stressed after baking them.
And enjoying one of my own, naturally.
With that, I have a chemistry textbook to attack. Wish me luck at 8 tomorrow!