Tea leaves, herbs, and flowers begin blooming in hot water, their transformation visible through the glass pot. A rustic cornmeal cake, warm out of the oven, sits on the counter—scenting the room with fresh thyme and Meyer lemons. The fully bloomed tea leaves have created a golden elixir to be poured over drinking crystals, honey, or sugar cubes, in a translucent tea cup. A slice of cake is slipped onto on the plate, where a pat of salted butter melts, mixing with a drizzle of creamy, whipped honey.
The first sip, the first bite—this is restoration. This moment to yourself is practicing the art of slow living.
An hour devoted, even once a week, to making a pot of tea and baking simple quick bread does wonders for the spirit and reminds you that you always have time for yourself, if you choose to make it.
Tea time is restorative in so many ways. Making the tea is meditative—I love using glass teapots because watching the tea bloom is beautiful (especially if the blend has bits of flowers in it!). Plants have been used as medicine for many generations, and some of our modern medicines are still derived from these plants. Most teas have beneficial healing properties. Making and drinking tea is meditative medicine, a healing ritual that we all have access to.
Add a bit of homemade cake to your tea, and you can create a little moment that acts an oasis, even in the middle of a busy week. I love quick breads for the simple reason that they live up to their name; this baking doesn’t clash with busy. Even if you have little ones running around, quick breads are a perfect treat to make because they can easily help. Dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another. Stir. Pour into the pan, and done. When you use a baking scale to measure, you’ll have only three dirty dishes: those two bowls and the pan, so clean up is also a snap. I describe this cornmeal, lemon, thyme bread as a marriage between cornbread and cake. It’s lightly sweet with a tender crumb that resembles cornmeal, without being too coarse. I use a finely ground cornmeal for this, but a coarser grind will create a more rustic texture.
CORNMEAL MEYER LEMON & THYME CAKE
125 grams all purpose flour
125 grams finely ground cornmeal flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
100 grams granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (roughly chopped)
zest of 2 Meyer lemons (regular lemons can also be used)
juice of 1 Meyer lemon
125 grams olive oil
250 grams buttermilk
2 large eggs
1. Heat oven to 350° F and grease a loaf pan or spray with organic cooking spray. In one bowl combine the flours, baking powder, sugar, salt, thyme, and lemon zest.
2. In a second bowl, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, buttermilk, and eggs. Stir the wet ingredients until completely the mixture has a uniform consistency.
3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix gently, just until no dry bits remain. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean (with no wet batter on it). Let cool for about ten minutes, slice, and serve with salted butter & whipped honey.
Photography, story and recipe by Beth Kirby, who journals on her website Local Milk.
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