Comfort is a concept that gets a bad press. How many times have I been told, or read, that it’s important to get out of my ‘comfort zone’? Or not to get ‘too comfortable’? ‘Comfy’ shoes and clothes are not for ‘best’; they are lesser than their ‘Sunday’ counterparts. But comfort, in its correct definitions, means several, very positive things: a ‘state of ease or well-being’; ‘relief from affliction, grief’; ‘a person, thing or event that affords physical ease and relaxation’.
Ease, relief, relaxation are all lovely concepts and feelings. And, now that austerity is all we have to look forward to, I think such comfort needs to be relished, that we should in fact be diving into those much-maligned ‘zones’, not getting out of them.
I get into mine by baking. The smell of ingredients melding and blending into more than the sum of their parts, the glee at seeing the finished result and the prospect of sharing it; all of these make me happy. I’m sure that happiness stems from childhood, from the fact that something warm and baked was always a comfort. In one of my earliest memories I am standing looking out of the living-room window, anxiously waiting for my Dad to come home and watching the thunderstorm that I was convinced would swallow him up, van and all. My Mum had just baked a fruit cake and next to me on the window ledge was a plate of it, still warm from the oven. That cake was my comfort blanket and, as I stood watching the dark sky waiting for Dad to be safe home, eating it stalled my anxiety.
I don’t remember his return, just the waiting, the warmth and the solace of cake. I needed that solace this weekend. It was time, after far too long, to scatter my father’s ashes and, although the event itself felt almost anti-climactic, by the time I got home in the evening my head was spinning with good and bad memories. I went into the kitchen, got out my Mason Cash mixing bowl and started making a childhood favourite, melting moment biscuits, knowing that by the time I had finished the storm would have passed.
Melting Moments (adapted from The Homepride Book of Home Baking)
You will need:
100g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
150g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 (knock off 20C for a fan-assisted oven).
1. Grease a couple of baking trays and then line with baking parchment. The recipe makes about 20 biscuits so, in order to leave enough room for them to spread, you’ll need two trays.
2. Cut up the butter and beat until soft with the caster sugar (either in a big bowl with a wooden spoon, or in a food processor).
3. Beat in the egg with 1 tablespoon of the flour.
5. Now for the slightly tricky bit. You need to make the dough into walnut-sized balls and then roll the balls in the oats. The recipe recommends wetting your hands whilst making the balls and, though it sounds stickier, in fact it works really well. So tear off a bit of dough, wet your hands and roll it into shape, then roll it in the oats to get this:
7. As ever, the recipe’s timing depends on the reliability of your oven. It says bake for 20 minutes at 180C/350F/Gas 4 but I’ve taken them out at about 18 minutes and some were a bit burnt. So I’d suggest checking them at 15 minutes: they should be brown all over. Don’t worry if they’re still a tad soft to the touch; they’ll firm up when they cool down.