x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Martha's latest baking pupil

I never thought the first time that I would try my hand at baking would involve relying on an ex-convict to teach me. Should I even believe her?

I never thought the first time I would try my hand at baking would involve relying on an ex-convict to teach me. Should I even believe her? Is it all just a game? (OK, I'm slightly exaggerating here).

For reasons still unexplained, I found myself with an overwhelming urge to make ... wait for it ... an apple pie. The task may not seem as mammoth as I am making it sound, but believe me, it takes serious dedication.

So, there I was leaning on the kitchen counter staring at the laptop and sifting through the hundreds of recipes on Martha Stewart's website. Yes Martha Stewart, the woman once named America's third most influential woman, by Ladies' Home Journal, which was first published in 1883 - the multimillionaire businesswoman who had to serve five months in prison on charges of improprieties relating to details about her company's stock.

Still, none of that mattered as I gazed and became hypnotised with the cookies – from chocolate, gingerbread to oatmeal in all shapes and sizes, and don't even get me started on the cupcakes.

I had to focus on the task at hand, though: apple pie. There was the deep dish, chai spice, classic and even apple pie pops with an option at the bottom to "load more". How many variations can there possibly be? In the end, I clicked on the old-fashioned apple pie and studied the ingredients to make sure I had everything. All the while, I was wishing I had Meryl Streep's kitchen from the movie It's Complicated, in which, incidentally, she played a successful bakery owner.

So, apples – check, sugar and cinnamon – check, fresh lemon and egg – check, ground nutmeg – oops, sanding sugar – no idea what that is, and bingo I'm "somewhat" ready to roll with eight out of 11 ingredients required. Surely it will be fine and I try to reassure myself that not following all of the instructions of the so-called "homemaking queen" will not be too disastrous. I had to make the pastry from scratch and forgot to buy a rolling pin but somehow managed (seriously, I'm not sure why I thought it was a good idea to start this). Once everything was ready and the whiff of cinnamon had filled the room, it went into the oven.

When the pie was golden brown I took it out, pretty pleased with my creation, then let it cool. I cut a slice and gave it to my little nephew to try (no that's not evil at all) and after a brief moment of silence and tension, the rare nod of approval meant dessert was ready to be served.

The next experiment was banana bread, which also received positive reviews, so naturally, I'm now feel like a bit of a baking diva. After all, cooking can be very therapeutic and meditative with the power to activate all of our senses and relieve stress.

The American author Norman Kolpas, who has published more than 40 cookbooks, is quoted as saying: "Food, like a loving touch or a glimpse of divine power, has that ability to comfort."

melshoush@thenational.ae

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