Friday, September 7, 2012



There is no substitute for hard work. 
Thomas A. Edison 

She sighs heavily, dropping to the ground, flopping down exhausted onto the spot where minutes ago she had been vigorously pushing the worn metal scraper. Every centimeter of old, dried glue has now been lifted away revealing the raw wood, unveiling long, slim, pale slats of parquet, and all of her hard, painful, concentrated work is rewarded by a gorgeous stretch of livingroom floor. Sunlight floods in and across the glowing pine, a near angelic golden warmth wrapping around her. She pushes herself up and wanders room to room amid the echoes of “You all done?!”, contentedly surveying a job well done, basking in the pride of their having achieved so much, even at their age.

With a satisfying scritch scritch of the Velcro, she yanks off the now worn yellow and black work gloves and tosses them onto the nearest radiator. Her pink sneakers are enveloped in an ethereal dusting of white powder, her knees are a lovely shade of bruised, the color of aubergine, her clothes smudged and smeared with weeks of manual labor. Battered white paper masks now streaked with the brown of wood dust are scattered across floors where they have been pulled off willy-nilly and left to retire. She glances into what will one day be a sparkling new bathroom all in shades of black and white to see how the men have advanced. Dust and grime coat old tiling speckled with bits of plaster as holes where walls once stood are filled. Pencil marks delineate bathtub and shower and light fixtures. Plumbers wander in and out, analyzing, pondering, debating. Through the open window, she listens to the noise of boards being crowbarred off of the balcony slats, boards to be replaced with insulated panels. A new laundry room!

The kitchen has become the universal holdall, tool shed and general dump; the last of the bags of wood dust and gravel, the old industrial vacuum cleaner, ramshackle, jerry-rigged tables and shelves holding a world of tools and equipment at the ready. Half-drunk cans of soda, boxes of cookies and other various paraphernalia of a construction site fill in the gaps. She squints and works her imagination, envisioning this space as a gorgeous open kitchen all in creamy shades of white, brown and gray. But first, the floors must be looked after. Her job is done and now it is time for Men and Machines.

 Add a bit of electricity into the game...

3 days of sanding ensue: heavy machinery whirs and buzzes and roars across the parquet, shaking the building, resonating through the entire neighborhood. Industrial sanders pushed heavily, patiently back and forth, back and forth as the dust billows around his scruffed sneakers. Son follows, leaning over the tiny edger, pushing it into corners and up against the woodwork. She scurries after them, broom in hand, gathering up the sawdust, leaving the wood clear for yet another turn of the machines. One day and two, three days of muscle and sweat and now the wood is stripped completely bare. Now swathe those boards lovingly in sheets of plastic, carefully pushed up against the woodwork and taped, sealed against any wayward spattering of paint. For now the painting must begin.

All things are difficult before they are easy. 
Thomas Fuller 

And she hurries home to bake, something gentle, homey and calming, to soothe sore bodies and sour souls (which sometimes happens in such situations). A tea bread. Chocolate, of course. Light and airy, less dense and moist than usual. With the snap, the pliant crunch of chopped nuts. Nothing complicated, no gooey dessert. Just something to slice and pick up with the fingers, those fingers now scraped, worn and calloused, an ideal cake for any time of the day, from breakfast to snack. Sit and savor a slice or two in the early morning when the sky is fading from black to gray, dunked in a steaming bowl of café au lait. Just to brace the nerves and build up energy for yet another day of work. Or snitch a slice quickly as one passes through the kitchen late in the afternoon, swallowed down greedily, hungrily, washed down with a tall cool glass of milk.

We wash off the grime before dinner, and spread a cloth on the coffee table in the livingroom. Dinner together, as a family, forgetting the sore muscles, putting off disagreements until tomorrow, just for another evening. Pass around thick slices of Chocolate Tea Bread lightly dusted with powdered sugar and place a scoop of ice cream atop each one. Or a froth of whipped cream. And make it a special dessert.

Until tomorrow.

Adapted from ideals Hershey’s Chocolate and Cocoa Cookbook, 1982

1/3 cup (75 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200 g) sugar
3 large eggs
2 ¼ cups (315 g) flour
1/3 cup (40 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup (185 ml) milk
About 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Generously grease a 9 x 5 x 3-inch standard loaf pan.

Cream the butter, sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl until smooth and creamy.

In a separate bowl, whisk to combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. On low speed, beat the dry ingredients into the butter/sugar/egg mixture in 3 additions alternating with the milk in 2 additions, beating just to blend, no more. Using a spatula, fold in the chopped nuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake in the preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes or until well risen and just set in the center.

Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before sliding a knife blade around the edges to loosen and remove from the pan.

Tea breads are slightly drier and cakier than regular quick breads and are best eaten the day of or within 2 days of baking. This is a wonderful chocolate bread to eat with a mug of tea or coffee or a glass of milk simply dusted with powdered sugar. Although a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of freshly whipped cream never hurt anybody. The perfect treat to decompress, a soul-soothing snack after a long, hard day of work.


Rossella said...

I had just few moment and I wanted to read without stress your post.
I fall in love with this sentence:"We wash off the grime before dinner, and spread a cloth on the coffee table in the livingroom. Dinner together, as a family, forgetting the sore muscles, putting off disagreements until tomorrow, just for another evening. "
Marvellous. You gave me the idea of that moment. Putting off disagreements, just a table and a great bread: What else after hard work?!

Lisa said...

You finally got all of the glue off! Oh, what you can do to that beautiful parquet floor is full of possibility! This is so much fun seeing your progress with each post! I love how you settle down for dinner on the floor - all the hard work, irritation, snapping forgotten as you break bread. As for THIS bread..I'll take the whole jar of caramel, the whole loaf and the spoon. Don't mind me in the closet..I'm just thinking ;) The bread 'and' the floor look great!

Lana @ Never Enough Thyme said...

What a long, trying, tedious process these sorts of renovations are. I always start out enthusiastic and by mid-day am anything but. Usually grumpy and wanting it to be finished *now*. I admire your tenacity. And your tea cake looks divine as well. I'm not sure I'd have it in me to bake after a day of stripping floors.

Baker Street said...

Renovations are so tedious and tiring! I bet a slice of your delicious tea cake would be the ultimate treat at the end of long day.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

That tea bread looks amazing! Perfect with some caramel sauce...

Good to know that you are getting on well with the renovation of the apartment. In the evening, you must be knackered and just fall into bed from exhaustion!



Denise @ TLT said...

What a work, what a work. Somehow you've transformed the huge process of renovations into an inspiring story, don't know how you do that every time:)

This tea bread looks exactly like my kind of baking. Must make this soon!

Helene Dsouza said...

Thats some work Jamie..

I would have taken out the flooring and put a new one. Renovations are no fun, I hope i wont need to do any house building work soon!

Courage Jamie...

Now that's a pretty interesting bread. I got an oven finally, and now I am back to baking! However I wouldn't mind giving you a hand in your work if I can have a slice or two! ;)

Jamie said...

@Helene: Hurry over! We need a hand painting this weekend and I'll definitely bake for you!

dervla @ The Curator said...

oooh this tea bread seems like the perfect reward for exposing some amazing looking flooring. Congrats on all that hard work.

Deeba PAB said...

And once its done it's gonna be the best thing ever! You are wonderful the way you express, in the way you bake ...and in the way you keep the men together! Big hugs!

Barbara Bakes said...

My family would love snitching slices of this while working too. It looks delicious! Looking forward to seeing the finished pics.

Jill @ MadAboutMacarons said...

I second Rossella: I also love the "..putting off the disagreements until tomorrow." Gosh, we've just started on a renovation project but haven't got to this stage yet. I'm needing a slice just thinking about it! Bon courage - you'll get there!

A Canadian Foodie said...

What a perfect compliment to the Turtle Cake. I can't imagine going home to bake this after sanding a floor all day, though. Nope. What grueling work! I sure hope to see the finished floor!

Anonymous said...

Jamie - what a rewarding sight. those floors look gorgeous & I can't wait to see what they will look like once they are finally all done.
I think you deserve far more than a slice of cake - although that looks to be a good one to start with.

Amanda said...

Sorry Jamie - that last comment was me - pressed the button too quickly.

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

Chocolate is always the right comfort food for tired muscles. Your remodeling is really coming along well.

Cake Duchess said...

I really admire you all for taking on the very long and tiring job of renovating that floor. I would've begged F to have someone else do it for me;) Baking this tea bread was probably a much needed kitchen break. I need a slice now for dessert:)

Maureen | Orgasmic Chef said...

My muscles are sore just thinking about what you've all been doing. You'll never walk on those floors without appreciating the effort.

How you had it in you to make this cake is unbelievable. It's beautiful.

mlaiuppa said...

OH, man. I *love* reading about home improvement.

I hope you continue to keep us up to date with words and pictures of the progress.

Especially interested in seeing the new bathroom and kitchen.

But I want to see those floors after they've been refinished.

Man, I just *love* this stuff.

Oh, and the recipe sounds divine too.

Bunkycooks said...

How exciting your new home will be when it is complete! I love watching the process. While I know it's hard work, it truly is a labor of love.

Lora said...

Love this tea bread! My mom always said after a long day in the garden or remodeling project "It's a good honest day's work", however backbreaking.

Rambling Tart said...

Oh Jamie, you have SO much to be proud of! WELL DONE!! :-) How exciting to see things get crossed off the list, one by one, to look at your scrapes and bruises with pride. :-)

Fresh Local and Best said...

It is so true that quote - there really is no substitute for hard work. Such labor must have made dinner that much sweeter.

Junglefrog said...

O boy, it's hard work isn't it? I keep seeing your comments and photos on facebook so in my mind I can see it all come together. What I also spotted was that delicious chocolate pecan bread which I am sure will keep everyone going! That's just lovely!

Lorraine Joy Alegria-Vizcarra said...

I love love this recipe. I'm totally pinning this so I could try it.

tasteofbeirut said...

What an exciting project and thank God you are there to think of baking such a lovely bread! reminds me of a hershey cookbook I had with all the recipes bookmarked!

Jeanne said...

Hurrah!! The end is in sight (well, the end of the scraping anyway). This looks phenomenal - I think it was the caramel sauce that hooked me ;o)

Meeta K. Wolff said...

How you find time to bake between all that scrapping and painting beats me!! But I am glad you do .. because this looks rich, sticky and sweet. All the things i love in a tea bread!

Kelly at Flavours of Africa said...

Wow, this looks so delicious! Thanks for shairng, I'm going to give it a try!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...