Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Speak, Memory

On a recent wintry day, I made orange muffins for an afternoon tea at our house. I had first tasted these as a child at Mrs. V's house and found out how delightfully moist they were. Mrs. V, a close family friend, was a great cook and an even better baker. Just thinking about her famed Buche de Noel, the focal point of any Christmas dinners I attended back then, can send me into spasms of rapturous cravings; incredibly rich buttercream frosting melted in my mouth as I attempted to make my allotted slice of cake last just a little longer. Sometimes, wheedling my sister out of her piece bore fruit, as she herself lacked a sugar addiction trait. Sadly, I never learned the recipe of the Buche de Noel from Mrs. V, but my mom, who was no stranger to my insatiable sweet tooth, did obtain the recipe for the equally toothsome orange muffins and started baking them for us at home.

Recipe for Orange Muffins
(makes a dozen)

Cream for 10 minutes in a mixer at high speed:
2 sticks of butter
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs

Combine in another bowl:
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 cup of buttermilk or regular milk
2 cups of flour

Mix at low speed the combined mixtures from the bowls above, and add to this, grated rind from 2 oranges.

( As you can see from the photo of the orange muffins above, I inadvertently added the grated rind after the muffins had finished baking so that a festooning of orange sits atop them. They actually still tasted good this way.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place the batter in muffin molds and add golden raisins, submerging them in the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Remove from oven. Spoon glaze over muffins.

To make glaze, squeeze the juice from 2 oranges and stir in 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.

Serve warm.

Anticipating with pleasure the arrival of our friends for tea, E and I bustled about the house, getting ready. I pulled out the long-neglected muffin pans while E artfully arranged freshly-trimmed flowers. The cats ran about with excitement, sniffing at unwonted baking aromas and the temporary rearrangement of chairs.

I set out for the tasting, three teas: the White Peony, the Ancient Snow Sprouts, and the always festive genmaicha. Start out with the sweetly demure white tea, I thought, and end with the robust roastiness of the genmaicha.

A wonderful medley of warming tea, sweet morsels. and great conversation ensued. I thought of the inevitable convergences of the past and present in everyday life. Taste and smells of childhood, inextricable with the present, populate my consciousness with their piquancy.

As our friends left with the sun setting, I dug into another orange muffin with gusto.


Veri-Tea said...

Cha Sen,that sounds marvellous! Those muffins look delicious and the teas you served with them also sound delightful. I shall have to try making them myself!

cha sen said...

It was great fun. And to think, your recent post on your own tea party partly instigated me to do something similarly. :)