making a house magical & baking
Last weekend I was doing a little baking. Of course, out loud I will pretend that it was for the benefit of the school lunch boxes. But actually, it was more to satisfy my own sweet tooth. For my birthday I was lucky to receive the new Ottolenghi cookbook ‘Sweet’. Honestly, everything in this book is so tempting, I feel I could give myself the equivalent of a Julie and Julia mission and bake my way through it from start to finish. However, first up, I opted to try a recipe for some truly decadent looking chocolate cookies.
A little fiddlier than your average chocolate cookie, and ten (!) ingredients in the icing, but I felt I was up for the challenge. I have to say that at first I didn’t think things were going all that well. Although I was carefully following the recipe, and was not brave enough to try any of my usual shortcuts, I just couldn’t see how this cookie dough was going to work. After the dough had firmed up in the fridge for an hour, the instructions were to roll it out and then to use a cookie cutter to stamp out the cookies. Well my dough was a solid log one minute, and then a crumbly mess the next, and I couldn’t possibly see how it could be rolled out, let alone how anything could be cut out of it. However, I persevered, and got my rather uneven, slightly odd-shaped trays of cookies into the oven.
The water ganache icing required first, an infusion, then a caramel, then the infusion added to the caramel, then this mixture added to the chocolate mixture, then butter, and a lot, a lot, a lot of continuous stirring, and all the while I was thinking that this strange mix of salty, sweet and spicy couldn’t possibly work.
And yet it did. And the combination was both delicious and intriguing, and a little bit magical.
It occurs to me that making a house magical is a bit like baking. It is never just one ingredient that makes it great. But a combination of ingredients – vintage and new and colour and texture and heart and handmade and soul. And much of the magic has to do with the time, and the care, and the love you put in to it. Like these cookies, there is no shortcut. You can’t make house magic overnight. It’s part of an ongoing story that you write a little at a time. And sometimes you rewrite parts of it, as and when you can. Plus, truly great homes have never just been about the architecture or the paint colour or the furnishings – the real magic is made by those who live in them and how they live – the conversations around the dinner table, the jumble of family and friends coming and going, the laughter, the squabbles, the daily doings, and the crumbly but delicious and magical cookies.
(photography and styling by Amanda Holland for perfectly imperfect living)