I don't bake, Tracy bakes.
Tracy doesn't measure when she bakes. She just throws everything into a bowl and tosses it around and throws it into a baking dish and a short while later you are eating perfect cake, shortbread, scones, you name it.
On a cooler day this week, in between heatwave conditions, she turned out probably the best batch of muffins she has ever made, which is saying something because they are always good.
But since Tracy doesn't measure, it was difficult to extract this recipe from her.
- How much oil?
- A small to medium amount.
- What's a small to medium amount?
Orange and chocolate marble muffins.
Process a whole orange, skin and all. Combine with 2 cups self-raising flour, a quarter cup of vegetable oil, one egg, one-third cup of sugar, 10 prunes (make sure they are seedless) and enough milk to produce a batter that is ...
- How wet should the batter be?
- Not too wet. Just enough to ooze slowly.
- Like what? Molten lava?
- No, not molten lava; in between cake batter and scone batter.
We were getting closer. Enough milk to produce a batter that is wetter than scone batter but drier than cake batter.
- Just don't overwork it, she said. That's the biggest mistake people make. The bead turns out too fine, like cake. It needs to be coarse, with a crunchy top.
Fine. Don't overwork the batter. Just a few turns to combine everything roughly. Now halve the mixture and add, to one half, some cocoa powder ...
- About two tablespoonfuls.
- Well exactly two tablespoonfuls then. Whatever. And add some more milk to return it to the right consistency.
OK. Now we have our finished batters. Add them progressively to a lightly-oiled muffin tin so that they 'marble' together. Tracy uses the large Texas size tin.
- How long in the oven?
- Depends how hot the oven is.
- How hot was the oven?
- 350. But that's not what I meant. Ovens vary. Some are hotter than others.
- Then why do they have temperature dials if they're all different? Is everyone just guessing?
We went on inanely like that for 20 minutes, and then an aroma of citrus mixed with melting chocolate filled the kitchen and Tracy opened the oven and pulled out a tray of nut brown hills with crunchy but yielding tops that bore cracks breaking open to reveal paler, oranger insides flecked with deeper orange. She wrapped the whole thing in a tea towel for a few minutes and then upended the tin and the steaming hot muffins fell out and landed upright. How does she do that?