Gingerbread Pancakes *
Adapted from a recipe found on The Galley Gourmet.
2 cups plain flour*
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/3 cup treacle
2 large eggs**
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup milk***
Sift (or whisk) together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices into a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk (or use a sturdy fork for those times when the whisk is in the wash or otherwise occupied) together the treacle, eggs, buttermilk, milk and butter. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until combined and smooth.
Heat a frypan / griddle over medium heat (personally, I like using my little non-stick one since I don’t have a dedicated “pancake pan” any more but I do wish I had a griddle since presently I can only do one pancake at a time which is very limiting when cooking for more than myself!)
If not using non-stick then grease the pan/griddle with butter.
Spoon 1/3 cup of batter onto the cooking surface for each pancake. (If you’re like me you just pour until it looks about the right size… But then these pancakes are probably better as slightly smaller rather than slightly larger.)
Cook until bubbles appear on the top of each pancake and the underside is golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Using a spatula, flip the pancakes and cook until the underside is lightly brown, another 1-2 minutes.
Serve immediately. (You could keep them warm in the oven but I’m lazy – and trying to be energy efficient – so I just place a folded, clean, tea towel over the stack on a plate.)
Toppings are always an individual choice – at Christmas we used fresh raspberries, cream and golden syrup^. Today we used fresh blackberries and honey.
* Can also substitute Self Raising Flour – and then omit the baking powder and baking soda.
** LARGE eggs. I used duck eggs. **
*** Full-cream, of course. Since low-fat stuff is an abomination. ***
^ In the USA you’ll be struggling to find this. Better stick to (real) maple syrup. Yum.
* It’s Shrove Tuesday–Pancake Tuesday–your last opportunity for forty days to spread butter all over each other and lick it off. I was vaguely aware of pancakes on the last day before Lent begins^, but in my middle class, first world way pancakes seemed like a pretty mild sort of blow-out^^, it should be foie gras and Domaine Armand Rousseau Pere et Fils Chambertin Clos-de-Beze Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits. I’m like no eggs? No butter? Are you kidding?^^^
But there are pancakes and pancakes. These pancakes look like a pretty good way to go into forty days in the wilderness. And I wouldn’t say no to a little Domaine Armand Rousseau etc.
^ Do you do this in the States? My background was generic Protestant and Lent was Papist which is to say an instrument of the Devil+ and so I have very little awareness of Lent ritual. Over here the Anglicans are so in your face–and the lack of separation between Church and States freaks me out just as much from this side of the line as it had done for the twenty-one years before the bump on the road to Damascus last September–that I knew about Pancake Tuesday because I couldn’t help it.
+ Isn’t it GREAT the way religion brings people TOGETHER?
^^ No, I am sorry to say I have never been to Mardi Gras
^^^ Yes, I am going to have a sort of thing about Lent. My mentors are mostly saying that giving stuff up isn’t required+ and that it’s more about taking stock and refocussing and recommitting and like that, and I’m saying I’ve only been here five months, what have I got to take stock about? But as I cruise on line I’ve seen several recommendations that you take something on as well as–erm–taking something off, which, as a beginner Christian anyway, was the way my mind was going about Lent. I haven’t decided what I want to say about it in public, so I’ll just hide down here in a pink footnote to a guest post about PANCAKES and quietly affirm that I am keeping Lent. But I’m not giving up eggs or butter.
+ And the danger is that it’ll just be a box-ticking exercise: Okay, giving up licking butter off people for Lent, CHECK–instead of bringing mind and heart to bear and engaging.
** Duck eggs?? Maybe it varies with your duck, but I’d translate that to mean three large chicken eggs.
*** So true.
Jodi Meadows, touring author, posted to the forum last night:
Getting here was kind of an adventure (Wherever she is right now, Robin just perked up and thought “guest blog?”)
Hey, I need cheering up.* Wild Robert had one of his semi-random upper-lower-level practises** tonight and I rang bob minor and Stedman okay, but I came unpleasantly and discouragingly unstuck on Cambridge. We did get through to the end, but that’s only because Wild Robert has two brains and six eyes. I rarely get to ring Cambridge, I lose anything I don’t use, and I never really had Cambridge to begin with, although I did spend some time at the point where I could straggle through a plain course more often than not (without being yelled at).
So let’s have a CHEERING-UP RECIPE in honour of the nearly four hundred quid I just paid for my new dwarf under-stairs refrigerator.***
I’m already seeing fresh rhubarb at the greengrocers, so here is something to do with it. The original recipe came from Rosie’s All Butter Fresh Cream Sugar-Packed No Holds Barred Baking Book by Judy Rosenberg, which you have often seen quoted in these (virtual) pages.
¾ c plain/unbleached white flour
¼ c ground oatmeal: whizz ordinary porridge oats in your blender or food processor. You can also leave them whole, but in this case I like the texture better ground.
8 T lightly salted butter, room temperature, chopped up in preparation to being smushed into the flour and oatmeal
5-6T icing/confectioner’s sugar
1 egg white for glazing
1 large egg, room temperature
½ c caster/granulated sugar. I know, caster is finer grained. It’s not going to matter here.
¼ c dark brown sugar. You can cut this down to 2 T and replace with 2 more T of the white. I like dark brown sugar.
2-6 T ordinary white flour
4 c sliced rhubarb. NOTE that both how thick you slice it and how much sugar and flour you use should vary with your rhubarb. If it’s young and sweet and tender, cut big fat chunks and trim the sugar. If the stalks look like the legs of sea monsters, slice more severely. If it’s really wet, add more flour. If it’s relatively dry, add less.
Optional: 1 tsp cinnamon
Or handful of fresh mint leaves, slightly shredded
If you have a food processor, you can make the pastry in it. I have one but I still make pastry with a knife or the back of a spoon and one hand.† Stir the flour and oatmeal and sugar (and cinnamon if you’re using it) together and then cut in the butter. You want to rub it together till it’s reasonably homogenous but don’t suffer over it. If you’re using unground oatmeal, add it last, after the pastry is mostly finished. Press this into the bottom of an 8” square pan and glaze with the egg white. The original recipe tells you to tip the pan back and forth. My egg whites do not behave very helpfully. I use either my fingers or a brush. If you have any egg white left over—this should be a glaze, not a pond—tip it out. Bake 350°F about 25 minutes. Take it out and let cool.
Whisk the egg. Whisk in the flour and sugar. Stir in the rhubarb. When the pastry is cool enough that you can pick the pan up in your bare hands, pour the rhubarb over, and put this in the oven for about an hour. Cool COMPLETELY before cutting, and chances are, rhubarb being rhubarb, you’ll still be serving it in bowls. Sprinkle mint leaves over, if you like mint leaves.
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* Guest blogs are very cheering.
** For ringers like me. I’m not a beginner, I ring inside, I want to scale a few of the modest heights of the method ringing craft. There are plenty of us erratic mid-level ringers. But why we belong in this category varies. Some of us are just passing through on the way to ringing Spliced Panjandrum Superlative Doohickey. Some of us are just TERMINALLY KLUTZY AND STUPID. ARRRRRGH. You can tell the latter subgroup by the condition of their method books, which are dog-eared and scribbled-in to disintegration. I really need to replace mine, before it completes its transformation into smudgy dust. Gemma’s, on the other hand, is very nearly frelling pristine. Can This Friendship Be Saved.
*** Speaking of ARRRRRGH. If my swift and delightful publisher doesn’t start disbursing funds here soon I’m going to pack my ninja kit, fly to NYC and start stealing all the vice presidents’ bicycles in protest. I shall create a Giant Bicycle Mobile and . . . well, New York is full of tall buildings. I’m sure I can find a suitable pair, hang my Giant Bicycle Mobile between them . . . and the Museum of Modern Art would probably pay me more for it than I was going to see for SHADOWS anyway, but unfortunately the entire plan falls down on trying to pack two hellhounds and a hellterror with the ninja kit. I can barely tuck the hellterror under my arm any more. One of these mornings I’m going to reach in to extract her from her crate at the cottage, and in negotiating the blasted 90° turn between the front of her crate and the rest of the kitchen . . . fall over.^
^ Getting her in the crate is much easier—I have of course put a little FOOOOOOOOOD on the crate floor, so she’s shinning up the chair legs for all she’s worth and she only needs an energetic heave. SPROING. But in the morning we’re all kind of sleepy and I don’t want her leaping down in the all-directions-at-once manner of a hellterror who suddenly realises she’s been in her crate for HOURS AND HOURS. She’d probably take out the tallboy.
† Note that I have cold hands. I’m told this is critical to a hands-on pastry-maker.
I’m better. No, really. This time I really am better.
I had thought I went to bed last night at least a little more cheerful, even if I still couldn’t breathe and I think my back hurts quite so relentlessly and godsblattingly as much because of sleeping sitting up as because flu always makes me ache in places that the rest of the time I mostly forget are places, although the forgetting part does not in fact include my back, which has been a ratbag since I started falling off horses at the age of eleven. Anyway. I ache like fury, in both remembered and forgotten places, and the only reason to look forward to going to bed is to keep reading, since sleeping is an issue like global warming or the destruction of rainforest or the Republican nomination for president is an issue, and therefore if I was somehow feeling a little more cheerful this must be a good sign.
I got out of bed first try this morning.* I was, furthermore, hungry. How great is that. My stomach has been convinced that we have been involved in a highly unpleasant storm at sea the last week or so, involving much pitching and yawing, and has behaved accordingly. Calm seas today.** I got dressed. I had a cup of tea. I had an apple. I had . . .
. . . I wasn’t hungry any more. Oh. Well. Okay. Hellhounds and I went for a hurtle. We’ve been going out for about the right amount of time, the last few days, but somewhat less than the right amount of mileage. Today we were hitting nearer the mark. Yaay.***
Went down to the mews for lunch. I’m HUNGRY. And . . . I won’t eat anything. What. The. Frell. It’s like I woke up in the body of a hellhound or something.† Fed hellhounds. Even they are eating. Me . . . nah. Food. Nasty. OH COME ON. I’M OLD, I HAVE ME, I’M JUST GETTING OVER FLU, I NEED FOOD. I NEED PROTEIN.
Come any nearer with that olive/frond of dill/blameless scrambled egg and I will grow violent. Why yes, thank you, I would like another cup of very strong black tea.††
So I was thinking, okay, what do you do when you have some stupid little cow who’s been sick for so long she’s forgotten how to eat? What might not only tempt her but provide something nearly enough resembling nutritional value as might draw her further back toward sanity . . . and protein? How about . . .
Even with my history of telling you to judge your own ingredients and your own batter, this one is a bit mad. I’ve got notes all over the margins of wildly varying quantities. Note that both grated carrots and honey can have SPECTACULARLY variable water content. If your batter is runny, stop. Do not bake. Add flour or oatmeal. You want the batter sticky. These are drop cookies. They should behave like drop cookies.
2-3 c flour. Half wholewheat/meal is good
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
pinch to ¼ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon (I round it up pretty generously)
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
2-3 c quick oatmeal
1 c raisins (I like golden in this recipe)
1 c chopped nuts (I recommend pecans)
½ c soft butter
1 c grated (raw) carrots
½ to 1 c honey, depending on how sweet you want it, including how sweet your carrots are. No, really. Taste your batter.
2 eggs, beaten frothy
Mix the dry stuff together: I’d start with 2 c flour and 2 c oatmeal. I don’t think I ever start with the full cup of honey; I usually start around the scant ¾ c level. Now beat the honey into the butter. Usually I’m a little carefree about the whole ‘soft’ butter thing, but if you want to beat it into honey your life will be a lot easier if it’s genuinely soft. Then beat in the eggs. Then the carrots. Now beat in the flour mixture gradually, as your arm or your electric whizzer can stand the strain. (If you’re using electric, you want it on slow enough it doesn’t pulverize your raisins and nuts. Ask me how I know this. I think food processors are a mixed blessing and I’ve mostly gone back to the wooden spoon technique, but then I don’t bake a lot any more.) If the texture is right, taste. If you need to drizzle another ¼ c of honey into the batter, it’s not rocket science, just do it, and beat it in, maybe with a few more flakes of oatmeal. If it’s too runny . . . well, you’re going to need more honey too because of the more flour/oatmeal you’re going to be adding, and if you’re adding more than a sprinkly handful you’ll probably want to cast in a little extra cinnamon.††† Practical Physics in Your Kitchen. You just want instructions, right? Sorry.
Drop in biggish globs on greased cookie sheets. 350° F, about 15 minutes.
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I wish to note for the record that I ate a large piece of fish for supper. I’m sure strength is pouring back into my valiant cells. Feh.
* * *
* There was some whimpering and clutching of bedposts, but we can’t have everything.
** I might even try putting my belt back on. This would be a good thing, since I’ve been eating so little the last few days my jeans are showing some alarming signs of falling off.
*** Mind you, I still can’t breathe, and I am terrifying on the phone.
† I thought I was having more trouble typing than usual . . .
†† How many hours before I can start on the cider?
††† Or you can shout, Wrangledabnag it!, and then pack the whole sloppy mess into a big baking dish. I think 13 x 9 will do it—I know I have done this but I didn’t bother to write down what size pan I used. It’ll probably take kind of forever to cook and be a trifle fragile. But it’ll taste just fine.
Before I forget: here’s the definitive photo record of the signing at Forbidden Planet last week from our forum’s CathyR: http://www.flickr.com/photos/marmitelover/sets/72157627054561095/
She’s also @CambridgeMinor on Twitter, so if anyone wants to ask her for a copy of any of the photos, please tweet or DM.
Shattered again. How boring. Today’s excuse is that I took Peter and me to see Tabitha, my Bowen massage lady, and I always come out of one of these sessions feeling like overcooked oatmeal.* Happy, peaceful overcooked oatmeal, but still, speaking/blogging in complete sentences and walking upright and all that is a strain, and I keep wanting to subside gently into a nice bowl-shaped piece of furniture. A hot bath, say. An American friend said to me dubiously, presumably you feel like a million dollars** the next day or something? There has to be a reason you keep going back? No, I just like pain . . . It’s nothing as spectacular as being able to leap tall buildings with a single bound or drive the horses of the sun across the sky***. It’s more like having fewer pebbles in your shoes or fewer unmitigated morons giving you blood-pressure headaches. Over the course of the next few days you realise that your shoes are comfy again and most of the morons are only morons and you can ignore them. It’s subtle enough that I periodically fall out of the habit of going, and it’s not till I rack myself up again and have to go back so she can tease my spine out of its granny knots and level my pelvis till my legs start behaving like they’re more or less the same length again—or the ME starts shoving me back on the sofa—that I remember why I go even when I’m not crippled.
I’ve off and on tried to persuade Peter to go to Tabitha too but he belongs to the Stoic No Fuss category of British male—but I got him while his defenses were down a few months ago after that bad fall he had. For a while I took him along oftener than I needed to go, and lately we’ve settled into a nice monthly double act. The last two appointments I’ve brought hellhounds too and we are exploring a fresh new piece of Hampshire countryside I’ve previously only driven through while Peter is on Tabitha’s table. And then if she’s running late I knit. Mmm. What a pity this only happens once a month.
Meanwhile it’s high summer, and the fabulous, paradisal, dizzying glut of high-summer fruit is upon us. I’m eating handfuls of cherries, nectarines and peaches for breakfast every day and it makes getting out of bed WORTH it. Which is saying a lot. I mean, caffeine is crucial, but the joy it occasions is a rather grim, real-world variety. Summer sweet cherries . . . convince me that the Elysian Fields and Valhalla and so on do exist. Nothing to do with swords and willing virgins though—but it’s a lot about food. Some of you may or may not remember that when I first started posting recipes I said that this was going to be a good opportunity to dust off old once-loved recipes of things I can no longer eat . . . but in fact I almost never do post any of these because as I’m leafing through my books and notebooks I get all cranky and resentful about my limitations. Also, summer fruit is so amazing fresh off the tree or the bush or the wings of the angel that it’s mostly criminal or at least superfluous to mess with it. But I did use occasionally to make cherry ice cream and I’m feeling so mellow after a dose of Tabitha that I thought I’d post the recipe.†
Cherry (Almond) Ice Cream
2/3 c milk
1 egg plus one extra yolk
½ c granulated sugar
¼ tsp vanilla
1 lb sweet cherries
1 ounce slivered almonds
2/3 c whipping cream
Scald milk, set aside to cool. Mix the egg and the yolk in the top of a double boiler/bain marie with the sugar and beat like mad, till it turns pale and ribbons off the spoon. (Your electric mixer is your friend.) Pour on the slightly cooled milk; place over gently simmering water and stir till thick. Stir in the vanilla and leave to cool.
Stone your cherries. Ugh. This is the worst bit. You will need more than a pound, of course, because you’ll eat some of them to sustain morale. I’m not sure how to allow for this, since the original weight includes the stones, which you are discarding. Make your best guess. The original recipe tells you to put the stoned bits in a food processor and buzz them to puree, but I think this is unsporting. I just kind of rip them up some in the stoning process. You do want enough pulp to turn your ice cream red, but I don’t think you can avoid this with dark expoding-sweet high-summer cherries. Stir them, in whatever form, into the custard. Whip the cream till it forms soft peaks. Fold into the cherry mixture. Pour the lot into your ice cream maker and do what it tells you to do to produce ice cream.
While your custard is becoming ice cream, toast your almonds. The original recipe tells you to fold them into the finished ice cream, but unless you’re going to eat it all in one go, I wouldn’t; the almonds will go soft. I sprinkle them on per serving. This will, I admit, probably mean that you need more almonds, but hey.
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* She looked back in her big fat McKinley folder today and we realised I’ve been coming to see her for ten years. Intellectually I know this; someone had recommended her as a straightforward physical massage therapist when I was having repetitive-strain trouble with my hands as a result of the ME.^ But—ten years! I know there are people who live their entire lives within a few miles of where they were born, but I’m a Navy brat and my reincarnation as a middle-aged stay-at-home still regularly amazes me. And I’m coming up on my twenty year anniversary here—with Peter as of 26th of this month, with England the end of October—and our 20th wedding anniversary is the 3rd of January. I actually do love looking out at the same landscape year after year—groundedness, what a concept, I like it—but it’s one more thing that makes me feel that my life before the age of 38 happened to someone else.
^ Not only am I extremely relieved that my ME has turned out to be the negotiable-with variety but I’m very glad not to have to go through that early learning-to-negotiate phase again. A lot of you, unfortunately, will know what I’m talking about: that first really harsh running-into-a-wall experience. I went from being someone who ran 25-30 miles a week, rode horses, hurtled hounds, rang bells, and dug up old tree stumps in order to put more rose-beds in, to someone who couldn’t get off the godsblasted sofa. Dear heavens. The shock and bewilderment are almost as bad as the fact. And with the zero energy comes a whole lorryload of other nonsense, which in my case included aching hands.
** That would be £631,592.12, which doesn’t quite have the ring to it. But then a million dollars doesn’t really have the ring to it any more either. A trillion dollars. £631,592,128.80: Feel like six hundred thirty-one million, five hundred ninety-two thousand, one hundred twenty-eight pounds and eighty pence. . . . No, it’ll never catch on.
*** I have hellhounds. I’d do a better job than that vainglorious wuss Phaethon.
† I have a chocolate cherry ice cream recipe somewhere. Although it may not be suitable for a family blog.
It’s more of the sunny blue/falling wall of water business today, and very annoying it is too. We went on what ought to be one of our favourite hurtles this morning and . . . it was raining when we got there so we sat in the car a little longer while the roar of the meteorological tumult drowned out Radio 3, which didn’t disturb the hellhounds so much but didn’t improve my temper any. When we finally started off anyway it was rain = sulky hellhounds. Then steambath sun = sulky hellhounds. Then more rain = sulky hellhounds. More sunny sauna = sulky hellhounds. AAAAAUGH. The weird visuals included sky so black it really looked like Thor or Odin or someone was about to clap the lid over us alternating with a fuzzy white sun about half the size of the sky—plus the ankle-level theatrics. When the rain was coming down in thwacks if you were on a hard surface you were walking through a tiny geyser-garden as the water-balloons of rain hit and burst upward again. When the sun came out everything did promptly start steaming—probably including myself and the hellhounds, but I wasn’t at a good angle to see this—I can vouch for the steaming sheep however, and steaming sheep are . . . bizarre. Plus the dry-ice boa constrictors of murk coming off the road and the trees, including fallen logs. I was starting to worry about barrow-wights. It was totally possible that some of that wreathing smoke drifting off the bigger logs was going to solidify, stand up and come after us. Maybe the hellhounds really had our best interests at heart. They didn’t give the impression of having our best interests at heart. They gave the impression of having gone more or less limp in their harnesses and requiring me to frelling carry them. *
Of course I have been thinking of Ajlr’s bees. I hope the weather has been better where they are and they are not already telling each other the story of their origins in a bright and beautiful place from which they were evicted without warning for displeasing their gods . . . in some manner they wot not of, which is usually the way with displeased gods. Despairingly they wonder, what can they do to regain their gods’ favour? Pssst—make honey. Make lots and lots of honey.
This recipe began life using milk and maple syrup. I stopped using milk a long time ago and then when I moved over here maple syrup became gold dust and the Fountain of Youth**. Which is when I started using tea and honey. Yes, tea. I make it STRONG, but even so you’re getting comparatively little per muffin and unless you’re very susceptible to caffeine I wouldn’t have thought it would buzz you. One of the pleasures, to me, of these muffins is that they’re different every time because both tea and honey vary so immensely. Well, okay, I like messing about with teas of character† . . . and there are teas that are good with honey and teas that, in my capricious opinion, are not. But then I like honey with character too, and when you get two assertive entities together you have to be a little careful. So if you’re going to go down this route, you’re going to want to do your own experimenting. Which is part of the fun. I will point out however, before you decide instead to pop round to the corner shop and buy some doughnuts, that the fact that there’s flour and so on involved in the actual muffins means that the match between the tea and the honey does not have to be perfect.
3 T butter
¾ c strong tea
1/3 to ½ c honey: this is going to vary both with how sweet you want your muffins and how runny your honey is. I’m always going on in my recipes about how individual ingredients vary††. Honey more so than most. Honey is actually fairly tricky to bake with, but muffins are pretty accommodating.
Melt the butter, let cool; beat the egg, add the honey, then the tea, then the melted butter.
1-2 c wholemeal/wholewheat flour. You want about 1 ½ c flour total, but if you want to use some white flour to lighten it, use up to ½ c.
½ c (dry) oatmeal
1 T baking powder
If you like cinnamon (I often put cinnamon in my tea), you can add 1 tsp ground
Mix all this dry stuff together, then stir in quickly to the wet. I recommend using a whisk. It’s true that lumps will (probably) bake out, but they make me nervous.†††
Plop in about 12 muffin cups, which you’ve either buttered first or put paper muffin cups in.‡ About 20 minutes at 400°F. They should puff up beautifully, and the tops should be pretty hard. And if you wanted to brush them, when they come out of the oven, with a little honey thinned with a little water, that would be good too. If you want to you can run them back in the oven again for just about a minute more, to get a nice crackly effect from the honey wash.
And you want a good book to read while you eat your muffins, right? And what more suitable . . . Look what a friend in Cambridge (. . . Massachusetts) sent me‡‡:
* * *
* Speaking of not being at a good angle to see if they were steaming. My eyeballs were probably steaming.
** Yes, all right, you can buy it in the shops here. At £100/thimble. And you can only get the pale polite grade A, not the darker more interesting ones.
*** For example, the following. I’ve been a teaholic for forty years, but the serious fannying around began about twenty years ago when a friend living in Paris came to visit us at the old house bringing several tins from Palais des Thes. Wow. My world changed.
† And let us not forget one of my favourite Wondermarks: http://wondermark.com/557/
†† And that it makes me furious that cookbooks rarely acknowledge this. I wonder how many nascent cooks and bakers had their nerve wrecked early on by recipes that were a disaster despite having been followed exactly, down to the last basilisk eyelash. In the real world there is no exact. There’s only a general principle applied to your basilisk.
††† I personally think the whole ‘don’t overbeat your muffin batter’ is kind of a bugbear. But it’s true you beat only minimally, unlike a cake batter, say, where you want to see the batter change colour.
‡ Hint: I think paper muffin cups are one of the great discoveries of modern science.
‡‡ And yes, if you’re having trouble reading it on your monitor, that does say Harvard Book Store.