Yesterday, I baked for about six hours. Often when I begin my day in the kitchen, I lose track of time and space and reality and emerge hours later, shocked at how late it is and looking exactly how one would expect me to look after spending six hours in the warm, messy kitchen. While this habit is a wonderfully effective mental release for me, it’s not ideal for the near senile nature of my joints. So, when my mom called me mid-whisking my third bowl of the day and reminded me of the importance of doing that thing I hate called rest, I grumbled an acknowledgement of her advice and decided to plan something relaxing for later that afternoon.
Hours later, I took the last pan out of the oven and proudly admired the array of sweets that now adorned our table; after a relatively unsuccessful period of recipe development the week before, I was happy to see that everything I’d made was not just edible, but tasty. It’s always nice to end up with something people actually WANT to eat. Satisfied at last, I knew it was time to wind down and heed my mother’s request for getting off my feet.
Feeling a special sort of generosity for the knee and ankle that had literally supported me in my culinary endeavors, I pulled out a bag of Epsom salt and made the decision to take a hot bath. Me being the excessive person I am, I determined within minutes to make it not just a soak, but an experience. Drawing upon all my rom-com inspired bath knowledge, I rigged a setup for Netflix on my laptop to be positioned across the tub, prepared lotion to use afterwards, pulled out a freshly cleaned towel, found my warmest sweats; I even poured a glass of wine (it took tremendous courage for my clumsy self to trade the plastic cup for real glass, but I was committed to doing this thing right). All that was left was to actually fill the tub.
Funny, how simple that bit sounds. Because what should have been the easiest step ended up derailing my well-manicured plan of unwinding into a pathetic comedy sketch. The first hitch was that our tub didn’t have a stopper. Without hesitation, I looked up a solution online that involved filling a Ziploc with water and using it to stop the flow. I inserted my DIY plug, turned the water on, and went to retrieve my face wash. I also started boiling a tea kettle, thinking it would add a nice boost of heat to my bath. Upon return, I was shocked to find that nearly all of the water had drained out of the tub. I quickly grabbed a washcloth and shoved it down the drain, creating a successful but by then useless dam. It was only slightly disheartening–with the image of my tranquil soak to come still fueling me, I took a breath and turned the water on again. It was lukewarm at best. Knowing this temperature would not do, I quickly grabbed a 5 gallon bucket from our closet and went to my roommate’s bathroom (which has produced consistently hotter water all year). I began filling the bucket and then, remembering the tea kettle, retrieved it from the other room and dumped it into the near empty tub. When the bucket was full, I hoisted it awkwardly (there’s no flattering method to lifting one of those when you’re in a rush) and hobbled down the hall. When the irony of my heavy lifting encroached on my attitude, I stubbornly concluded that the bath would feel even MORE soothing after this hard work to prepare it.
The next ten minutes involved multiple buckets and tea kettles, lots of rushing between rooms, and absolutely zero relaxation. At last, after what seemed a small eternity, I took the last hissing tea kettle off its stand and excitedly–but carefully, as a scalding water burn could have shattered my efforts–made the last trip down our hallway. I poured it in the water, checked that my wine was positioned in my reach, pressed play on The Office, and took off my apron. It was finally time. This, I thought, was about to make every sweaty, strenuous minute worth it. This, I thought, is why we teach our children to never shy away from hard work.
Closing my eyes and exhaling, ready to relax, I got in. The water was…cold. Not warm instead of hot. Not 15 minute instead of 30 minute soak temperature. We’re talking get me out of here this is not meant for a human body kind of water. I sat in shock, my brain unsure of my next move. It had worked overtime for the last 7 hours and had already retreated into passive mode–it simply didn’t have the capacity to solve one more issue. As my stubbornness was the only thing unphased by the travesty, I sat in that tub for at least ten minute. A dinner table-esque motherly internal dialogue began in my head: I went through all that work to make this bath, gosh darn it, so you better enjoy it.
After I’d sat for a length of time that satisfied my ego, I eagerly stepped out of the tub into the relief of my towel. My sweats have never felt quite so nice. Chuckling from the events that had unfolded and realizing that I undoubtedly had a topic for my blog, I turned on my electric blanket, lathered myself in gingerbread lotion, and bundled up–finally, feeling more ready than ever, for actual rest.
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Pumpkin Caramel Cake (V)
- 2 chai tea bags
- 1 cup boiling water
- 2 cups sugar (vegan if desired)
- 1/2 cup vegan butter
- 2/3 cup almond milk
- 1 2/3 cup canned pumpkin
- 2/3 cup “buttermilk” (mix 2 TBSP apple cider vinegar with enough almond milk to make 2/3 cup; let mixture sit for at least 5 minutes)
- contents of one of the tea bags from caramel
- 1 cup sugar (vegan if desired)
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar (vegan if desired)
- 2 TBSP molasses
- 1/3 plus 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- Steep the tea bags in the cup of water for ten minutes.
- Set aside tea bags, and place tea in a medium saucepan. Stir in sugar.
- Turn burner medium-high heat. Cook until just under 340°F–it will be very dark in color and slowly bubbling throughout. It took about 15 minutes on my stove.
- Immediately remove from heat, and whisk in almond milk. Caramel will bubble rapidly.
- Whisk in butter.
- Return to burner, and allow to cook very briefly until totally smooth and butter totally melts. (Test consistency by dropping some onto a very cold plate or spoon.
- Remove from heat. Allow caramel to cool until ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9″ cake pans, and line the bottoms with parchment.
- In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, “buttermilk,” oil, contents of the used tea bag, sugar, brown sugar, and molasses. Mix well.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cloves, cinnamon, salt baking soda, and baking powder.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet gradually, mixing after each addition until completely incorporated.
- Drizzle caramel across the tops of both cakes. Use a knife or toothpick to swirl it around the surface. Save any extra caramel for serving.
- Bake cakes in preheated oven until toothpick comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for five minutes.
- Slice cake, and serve immediately–it’s best warm! Drizzle leftover caramel sauce on top of cakes.
- If you do have leftovers, heat them in microwave for a few minutes before serving.
**Serving idea: my roommate made an apple compote that we served with this, and it paired wonderfully! Just an idea 🙂