Real men bake stuff

Cake

After we booked mums cremation and moved her stuff out of the nursing home we decided to stop for lunch. We went to a local pub for a bite to eat and while, for me, the temptation to get absolutely shitfaced was very strong, I just had a soda and lime. That sort of behaviour, the behaviour I grew up with, the getting shitfacedness must stop somewhere.

Mum had died on the Monday, and all week forty million different emotions coursed their way inside, outside, around and about me, pricking at my conscience, igniting the dying embers of memories both good and painful, making me feel sad and angry. I needed something to take me away from all that was going on inside.

Something good came from the day, thanks to both my girlfriend, who I will never be able to thank enough for being so supportive, but also, and somewhat randomly, to the chef at The Crown and Anchor, Barugh Green who served The Best Steak Pie I Have Ever Had.

This was lunch. With a capital F.

Sublime pastry, tender steak in an ale gravy, with mushy peas and hand-cut chips. It was the pie people dream of. It was the pie other pies dream of being.

All for a fiver.

Yes, £5.

Crown and Anchor, Steak and Ale Pie

If you’re around Barnsley way, then do go to the Crown & Anchor for the ultimate pie-gasmic experience. You won’t be disappointed. My clumsy words haven’t described adequately just how glorious this pie was.

All yours for five of your Earth pounds.

Anyhow, I digress.

I’m not sure if it’s an accident of fate, a coincidence of events such as the one described above, the seasons changing, or just a great big PR effort on behalf of those involved in The Great British Bake Off but I’ve had a hankering for baked products of late, and so I’ve started to bake the shit out of stuff.

I used to make bread daily, and I’ve made pastry in the past with mixed success but I went with my instincts this weekend and decided to bake my tits off. So I made a pithivier and peanut butter chocolate squares on Sunday. I made a birthday cake on Monday. Today is Tuesday. What, or who am I going to bake today?

In addition, all of my baked offerings have been made without labour-saving appliances like mixers, blenders, whizzers or doofers. Blood sweat and tears have gone into these things. Not literally of course. That would be unhygienic, but anyhow, I digress. Again.

Pithivier

I’m convinced that baking is as close to scientific endeavour as you can get without going into a laboratory or going into space, but twice as hard. Making pastry is not just a simple matter of putting stuff together and seeing what sticks, or doesn’t. It’s a careful process, a slow process, one which shouldn’t be rushed. Like doing chemistry and stuff. Prolly.

There should be a Nobel Prize for Baking.

Ordinarily flour, lard or butter, water and salt aren’t a meal, but put them in a bowl, mix them together and you’ve got yourself a pastry baby! Fill that pastry with tender steak, and rich gravy, or chicken in a white sauce, or mushrooms, sweet potatoes, carrots and you’ve got yourself a pie.

Real men bake.

Real men don’t eat quiches.

Real men BAKE quiches.

Question. Put together flour, sugar, eggs, butter, chocolate, lots of melted chocolate, cocoa powder and, oh my days we’ve got ourselves some cake mix to bake and shut the front door but a CAKE IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN!

The thing I’ve found though, is maybe do it as a surprise. No-one wants to be told this is what’s going on and then… nothing. Plus, it’s less pressure.

‘I’M GONNA MAKE A BIRTHDAY CAKE’ you shout from the rooftops, put on Facebook, tweet and then instantly regret as the pictures of what you’re going to make all shout at you ‘YOU WILL NEVER MAKE ME. YOU ARE SHIT.’ The pressure is on. The pressure is immense. World Cup Final penalty shootouts are nothing compared to the pressure you’re under when you’ve promised a birthday cake to a 3-year-old. Believe me, I know from experience, as I missed one for Italy in 1994.

You get the right recipe, go shopping, get all the ingredients together, and you start making that most important of cakes.

One hour later you’d better have a goddamn birthday cake made or somewhere in the house is gonna be a child whose face will crumple from an excited smile into a pained grimace, and that sight is gonna be etched on your consciousness forever.

It’ll be the last thing you see before you die.

When you pull that cake tin out of the oven it had better look good, and that cake had better be edible. That buttercream had better be smooth, not powdery. That cake had better be light and fluffy. It’d better have candles on it.

Otherwise.

Otherwise you’ve just been some bloke fucking about making a mess in the kitchen for the afternoon, and you’ve ruined a child’s birthday.

Are you a real man? Are you a real woman?

Do you bake?

***

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

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12 Comments

  1. John Clayton

    One of these days I’ll branch out from the bread I’m baking a few times a week and start on cakes, pastry and the like. I find baking very therapeutic – got stress to work out? Knead that dough until your hands ache. It also forces you to calm down – nothing can be rushed. So yeah, real men bake,

    Like

  2. My Dad taught me how to make pastry. He said you needed cold hands. Then he said Cold Hands Warm Heart. So when I hear that expression now I always think of him and making jam tarts in the kitchen with him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s lovely. I’m the other way. I have hot hands which ain’t so good for baking and means I’m callous and cruel. 😉

      Thanks for taking the time to read and share your lovely story.

      Like

  3. Hell yeah I bake! Love it! My usual baking consists of cakes and pies but I have just branched out into bread! Nothing quite like warm crusty bread with slatherings of butter! My next challenge is a Peppa Pig cake for my daughters 2nd birthday! I get to use my posh cake tins which causes me more happiness than it should!

    Like

    • Freshly baked bread is da bidniss. That might be next on my ‘to do’ list, shortly followed by ‘eat all the freshly baked bread. ‘

      Like

  4. I love to bake, but pastry always turns out grey…I’ll stick to cake.

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    • Sounds good. The world can’t ever have too much cake. 🙂
      Thanks for reading.

      Like

  5. Sorry about your Mum and sorry it’s been a while since I’ve read much.

    I agree baking is the way to go for chilling out (just made a batch of cupcakes for one of my team at work because she’s going on maternity leave tomorrow.) It is a destressing thing in my view. Apart from my ex, the man who, after decorating a Christmas cake, cried (at work) because it didn’t look as good as he wanted it to.

    Baking = manly
    Crying about a cake = not manly.

    Like

  6. Your meat pie looks delicious! I don’t worry about the birthday cake looking perfect, because as hubby says ‘it is made with love’. lol
    My favourite recipe is Coquembouche, a little something I make each Christmas. I will post it on Instagram for you, I’m pretty sure you can do it with your “real man bake” attitude, which I think it fabulous. It is basically pate a choux puffs filled with whipping cream than arranged in the shape of a Christmas tree, and drizzled with caramel.

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  7. First of all, sorry to hear about your mother. In answer to your question, I’ve baked with the kids twice this week. Only cup cakes, but baking none the less!

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  8. I bake I love baking cakes that’s when I get the time to bake lol. I’ve not made bread ….. Yet nor have I really made a pie a nice pie to go with homemade chips errrrm yummy. Oh BTW I eat quiches so I mustn’t be a real man lol

    Like

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