You never know when your tea is going to end up in your muffins. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

You never know when your tea is going to end up in your muffins. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Sarah Simpson column: Quest for effiency yields mixed bag of results

Why was there a loose peach tea leaf in my cornbread muffin, you ask?

Those brown bananas on the counter could mean only one thing: it was time to bake. Having just made cornbread mini-muffins the day before to go with our turkey taco chili soup dinner, I was in absolutely no mood to be cleaning out the tiny holes of mini-muffin tins again so quickly. I hate that part of the job.

So, instead of my son’s usual favourite banana bread muffins, I went for a more traditional loaf of banana bread. (To be honest, it was exactly the same recipe as the muffins, but dumped into an easier to clean pan. Don’t tell the kids.)

Because for a time they were all one of my kids would eat, I know the recipe by heart and have found absolutely every shortcut and time saving step possible to make it as quick and tidy as humanly possible.

I do not have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but I do spend a significant amount of time focused on trying to figure out the most efficient way of doing things. I have done this ever since I can remember. When I was younger, it was just so I could get the things I had to get done done, so that I could go back to doing nothing. Now that I’m older, I like to think it’s for the same reason but if adulthood has taught me anything, there’s never nothing to do. Nowadays I finish what I have to get done as quickly and efficiently as I can, and then start all over at the beginning.

Anyway, back to baking.

I assembled the wet ingredients first and then dumped in the dry. I weigh my ingredients if I can. It ensures the end result will be true to the recipe. Really though, it saves me having to wash another measuring cup. Efficient, right?

In went the flour, a bit of salt, cinnamon, and then the baking soda. Then the wet stuff.

After a bit of a mix, then a pour, I chucked it in the oven. No, what? I’d only used one bowl and one spoon. I washed them of course and then had some time on my hands. Naturally I grabbed a leftover cornbread mini-muffin because who doesn’t eat while they bake? It can’t just be me. I bit into it and along with the obvious cornbread, I could taste — and see — a hint of peach tea.

I smiled.

Why was there a loose peach tea leaf in my cornbread muffin, you ask?

It all began with Chinese 5 spice.

For those of you not baking-inclined, the Asian seasoning is a staple of Chinese cooking and merges star anise, Chinese cinnamon, cloves, Szechuan peppercorns and fennel seeds to include all five tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and savoury.

I needed it for a recipe I was making: a char siu pork dish that my husband loves.

Needless to say I didn’t have any. That was easy to see because, in an effort to be more efficient, I’ve followed my mom’s lead and organized my spices alphabetically and in matching jars. I’ll tell you about my spice cabinet another time. Let me tell you now, though, that one way to gauge adultness is the number of spices one has accumulated. I appear to be really grown up.

In the pre-COVID times, my daughter and husband loved to go on a sushi date every now and then. My daughter is keen on the tea served. I’d told her the next time we had to go buy bulk food, we’d get some of that type of tea and I’d pull out my Japanese tea set and we could make tea.

Chinese 5 spice was our ticket to the bulk food department. (It’s all coming together now, isn’t it!)

My daughter and I set out in search for the spice blend and, after a quick stop in the candy aisle, which for some reason we can’t seem to avoid, we found it. We didn’t find the loose tea we were after so my daughter picked out a peach green tea instead.

The whole time we shopped, I was explaining to her why it’s cool to buy certain things in bulk and how it keeps things organized and reduces waste and whatnot. Our last stop in the bulk department was for some baking powder. We’ve baked a lot during COVID. Training, you know, for my little muffin maker’s “Spatulove” bakery of the future.

So, as I was explaining my methods of order and organization and how efficiency is cool and blah blah blah, I was absentmindedly scooping the baking powder into the bag I’d just filled with loose tea leaves.

“Mom!” my child shrieked! “Those aren’t supposed to be in the same bag!”

Oops. Definitely not efficient.

Stifling my inner critic, I laughed as we tried our best to separate the two products into two ends of the same bag.

“No problem,” I told her. “We’ll just sift the rest of the tea out when we get home.”

And so we did.

Or so I thought.

Every now and then though, and it’s usually when I make cornbread muffins, somebody will find a tea leaf, reminding me I’m not as great as I thought.

Even so, I can’t help but smile.

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