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How to sell your house – and put on weight / rot your teeth at the same time

July 30, 2012

This post is brought to you by the lovely Reluctant Launderer, on whom I have quite a bloggy crush. I commented on her website (if you do not read it, you have a treat in store) asking whether she would mind coming up with a delicious British-type recipe, the better to make my house smell elegant, refined, and salable. I had in mind a baked good that would transform my down-at-heel abode into Downton Abbey. Subconsciously, at least. (We Yankees are such suckers for English accents.)

Here’s her response, plucked from the comment section of my last update. It warrants, I feel, an entire post of its own….

(begin reading in plummy voice)

I’ve got a few suggestions.
The first is by far the easiest and the cheapest. also it enables you to make as many or as few as you want. It’s not for cookies however, but for what we Olympic hosters call fairy-cakes – like muffins, but smaller – about 3-4 bites per cake. You can make em bigger if you want but I think the texture is better when smaller. It’ll mean finding smaller muffin cases, if such things exist in this land of plenty. It’s here:

(aw, this was one of my first ever posts!) The simplicity is that you just weigh out your eggs then add all the other ingredients (sugar, butter, and self-raising flour (or plain + one teaspoon baking powder) using the same weight per ingredient. One bowl, mix to a sludge. Preheat oven to 350F. Add whatever flavouring you want to them. I’d suggest for this exercise the juice and zest of a lemon or of an orange. Nice and fresh.

The others are from other sites, and are cookies. These are FANTASTIC and smell great. However it can get pretty expensive making them repeatedly.

Going back to citrus fruits, here’s a link to a lovely lime cookie recipe. Again, you can sub orange or lemon. Only downside is it requires chilling in advance, so not something you can just throw together at the last minute, but other than that is easy and smells and tastes great.

I was going to suggest a cinnamon / raisin chewy one, but actually, I think that cinnamon smell is a bit wintery for this exercise. Let me know if you’d like one, ok?

GOOD LUCK. And if all else fails (and it won’t) get your neighbours in for a cookie and gin party.

(End lovely accent. Recommence nasal American twang.)

I’ve already had three groups of people come through at various (always inconvenient) times, and I haven’t baked a damned thing. I suspect, however, that the need to procure a separate muffin tin will ensure that the fairy muffins, if they do get made, will be made in a very American SuperSize. The last time the house was on the market, I used the broker’s open house as an excuse to fink on a deadline for a piece I owed a lifestyle magazine–you know, the kind with recipes and decorating tips and helpful stylish hints. (My overdue piece, for the record, was about dogs.) “Good luck,” my exceedingly genial editor wrote, after granting me an extension. “Bake a batch of cookies and leave them with a note for whomever comes to look at the house to help themselves! That’s what I did, and our house sold right away! And everyone referred to it as ‘The Cookie House’!”

This will never happen, in part because I will never, ever have my shit sufficiently together, and in equal part because the new, house-showing me has a violent aversion to crumbs. However. The house right now smells a little mildewy, a little bit like Barkeeper’s Friend (the ceramic tiles in the kitchen are ready for their close-up), a little bit like sweat (my personal hygiene is atrocious–I am loath to mess up the shower by taking one), and a little bit like desperation. I am out of vanilla extract. It is very hot. I do not want to sweep the porch again, and yet I must. I suppose there are some people who live this way–my very own parents keep their houses remarkably clean, for example. But I am a slob, and this is not my preferred way to spend time. I want the cookie smell without the actual cookies, because I am lazy.

But! I have my boyfriend’s older daughter visiting, and she’s an ace baker. Fairy Cakes sound properly magical. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. Kate Smith permalink
    July 30, 2012 10:50 am

    An undoubtedly useless tip – if you are out of vanilla, you can use a teaspoon of brewed coffee instead. It works great! Fingers crossed for good results!

  2. Was Living Down Under permalink
    July 30, 2012 12:14 pm

    ooh I was in for a treat… Now I’ve got to go and read all her archived blogs -accent and all 🙂

    Hope the house selling is going OK. I think I’d rather have my teeth pulled than clean the house – if that’s any consolation?

  3. July 30, 2012 12:17 pm

    Relentless Laundry added to my RSS Feed. Much thanks.

    Shortbread: 12T softened butter, 1/4 C sugar, 1t salt. Mix really well. Measure 2C flour. Add in several steps until a decent dough forms. I usually get about 1 1/2+ mixed in. Chill for a few. Pat/roll into a square-ish shape 1/2-1/4″ thick on flour dusted surface. Use a pizza cutter to cut however you want (I do wonky squares and rectangles). Bake 350 till just golden between 15-20 or less if you rolled them super thin.

    Four ingredients you probably already have. And it’s technically British.

    Good luck!

  4. July 30, 2012 12:55 pm

    Hello. Can I wave a British paw here? I speak as one who has made (and, I have to say, occasionally fucked up) a few more fairy cakes than the average bear. If you mix to a sludge without A) incorporating the eggs slowly while mixing or B) adding compensatory baking powder, what you may find you have is… kind of a biscuit. An airy texture and lightness are key to fairy cakes. And by all means bung some zest in, but too much juice and you will change the wet/dry ratio, which will, again, impact on texture.

    You don’t need a new tin! (Unless you want them all exactly and perfectly uniform. In which case: you, ummm, totally need a tin, dude.) Just the paper cases’ll do. 1&3/4inches diameter at the bottom and 2&1/2 inches at the top is a standard fairy cake size. If you want flavour & a bit of scent, why not mix icing sugar (You call it… confectioner’s sugar? White, powdery, class-A drug lookalike, yes?) with the juice from a lime or orange, and drizzle over the top when they’re cold?

    You are making me hungry, btw.

  5. July 30, 2012 1:04 pm

    If I lived closer I would totally come over and bake snickerdoodles in your house and clean up after myself, crumbs and all.

    Good luck! Thinking of you and hoping the house sells soon.

  6. July 30, 2012 1:19 pm

    Buy the roll of premade cookie dough and when someone is coming to see the house you can just whack them into the oven. Takes about 5 minutes and your house will smell wonderful and their are no prep dishes to wash.

  7. July 30, 2012 2:22 pm

    Yes, you can even get cookie dough frozen as individual cookies. You need only put on the oven and pop them on a tray. You can also get muffin dough.

  8. July 30, 2012 2:24 pm

    Are fairy cakes popovers, this side of the pond? Have just had stunning revelation.

    • July 30, 2012 7:26 pm

      Fairy cakes = cupcakes (but small and not necessarily loaded with frosting) and that recipe will make a victoria sponge, which is like a pound cake.

      I was surprised when I first began baking (after moving to the UK) to find that British cake pans are (relative to US pans) really small, and the recipes make surprisingly little batter.

      Sorry – I realise that this has nothing to do with your situation. Good luck with the sale!

  9. July 30, 2012 3:29 pm

    Oh Ms Broken, you have made my day. Thank you for your kind lovely words. A few points. First, I have a confession / /announcement to make. I am not actually British. Just that with the Olympics and all, and living in London (when not sweltering in, and pissing all over*, Florida) I thought I’d jump on the British Bandwagon. I am in fact Irish, and as such do not sound plummy at all. Think more… Sinead O’Connor. With more hair and less tattoos. Imagine her yelling, not at the Pope, but at her children. There you have me. Secondly, Hairy Farmer Family is absolutely right on all counts. Listen to her, not me. Thirdly, my original suggestion to your request was for the ready-made cookies, so am v pleased I am not the only lazy bones who would reach for that as the first option. Go support Pillsbury, and buy a nice scented candle while you’re at it (go expensive, they last longer and the natural oils they use aren’t as cloying as the synthetic ones used in cheapy versions). Something Limey or Jasminey. Finally – no, they’re not popovers. This is what they are meant to look like – mine, it goes without saying, are never decorated. xx
    (*for the benefit of non RL readers – because I have a CONDITION (some call it pregnancy), not because I’m a raccoon or tomcat, or similar)

    • July 30, 2012 6:03 pm

      Remember when someone–it may even have been SNL–did a spoof wherein the Pope tore up a picture of Sinead O’Connor?

  10. kay permalink
    July 30, 2012 8:29 pm

    If you want your house to smell like cookies without the cookies, get one of those scented oil warmers. They make all kinds of scents that smell like cookies, cinnamon rolls, blueberry muffins, etc. My mom has some and when I’m at her house I’m hungry the whole time from smelling them!

  11. July 30, 2012 10:42 pm

    Oh, I just clicked on the BBC link above, and my little heart leapt with joy: “Ask a grown-up helper”! That’s my favorite instruction of all, indeed I shall!
    But seriously, what’s caster sugar? Honestly, it’s like you English have a different word for EVERYthing.

    • July 31, 2012 6:41 am

      Panic not, I shall explain! Caster sugar is just granulated sugar milled a little finer for easier dissolving.

      What’s granulated sugar? Ahh. It’s… kinda just… sugar, you know?

      Am loving this post.

      • July 31, 2012 6:42 am

        And Reluctant Launderer: magnificent!
        “You never brought me to Portugal.” 🙂

        • July 31, 2012 3:05 pm

          He fucking didn’t, either. It was his stupid fat (for which read “hot, swedish” grrrr) ex-girlf who got all the freebies. What did I get? 2 (and a bit) children, varicose veins and an uncontrollable bladder.

  12. July 31, 2012 3:45 pm

    Ha! I’ll take you to Portugal, my pet. You are hilarious.

    • July 31, 2012 10:29 pm

      I will be plaguing you til the end of your days on that offer. Lucky for you I am going to be largely incapacitated (and thus, untravellable) by parenthood (A NEWBORN IN 11 WEEKS HOLY SHIT) for, um, ever.

  13. September 15, 2012 9:50 pm

    But when it comes to meant influencing of Luck, its much powerless locked in in the heads of single persons.

  14. March 2, 2014 12:04 am

    Wow…!! It’s very interesting… I am really impressed with your post.. Thanks for sharing it..
    How to sell your house

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