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Chapter 3: Honey Cookies of the Beginning

Tina and I harvested the honey with huge effort. We returned to our village with a water container densely packed with that honey.

Our house is a shabby looking small room erected on the ground.

As we’re reclaiming new lands, naturally building settlements was done in a hurry. Quantity is prioritized, resulting in similar buildings anywhere in the pioneering villages. Even if I’m the eldest son of a Baron house, I don’t have more luxury than the others.

However, this is enough. I’m together with Tina, and we’re sheltered from wind and rain. I don’t wish for anything more.

“Huft, we’ve finally arrived at home. This water jug is really heavy, but it’s the kind of heaviness that makes me happy!”

“You’re right, since it proves that the container is fully packed with honey.”

Both of us laugh together. From now on, we can harvest a lot of honey every year without worry, the reward of our three years worth of effort.

Next year, let’s add more bees and flowers. It’s true that beekeeping is the start of my dream, but it can turn into money too. I have gone to a big town, which is extremely rare in the south. At that time, I saw honey lining up in the shops there, which had reasonably good price. Selling honey as it is should be good enough, but if we could sell special sweets products on top of it, our profit will definitely skyrocket.

“Now, I’m making sweets from the honey we harvested today. Since we’re hungry, let’s make something that won’t take much time.”

“Should I help you?”

“I don’t want you to.”

She giggles. “As I expected, you won’t let me help you on making sweets. Then I’ll tidy up around the house while waiting.”

Tina leaves the place while still wearing a smile. I rely on her for our daily meals, but sweets is the only thing I couldn’t hand over. From the start to the end, not doing everything by myself is inexcusable. Flour measurement, how many stirs and how much power, how long to bake and setting the heat level, the most trivial mistakes could become fatal in sweets making.

There’s also the air temperature, humidity, and the ingredients’ condition. Those delicate differences change the most suitable work. I couldn’t hand it over to someone else.

“Now, shall we begin?”

I decided to make cookies. Letting her wait too long would be too pitiful. Baking cookies won’t take that much time.

First, I put fire woods into the stone hearth in my right. This should be done first because it takes time to increase the hearth’s temperature.

From the outside, I could hear thumping sounds. Tina should be chopping some fire woods there. She works hard for me. I have to make the sweets as the reward for her hard works.

I take out wheat flour from the sack, then I put it through a net-like sieve. Actually, wheat flour has different grain size. I need to only use the small grains, making it hard to form separate lumps and easy to mix with air.

I do that twice, returning the remaining grain to the sack. There’s no way I’d throw them away; they’re simply not suitable for sweets but they’ll still get eaten later on.

Then, I swap the sieve with a bowl to contain the fine flour. I lick some honey, identifying the sugar content. It’s about 75%. The mixing ratio between this honey and water should be 9 : 0.7 to make the best cookies. Using a ladle, I scoop the water and mix it with honey. First rate chefs have senses in both arms. They know the exact gram unit just by scooping with a spoon or ladle.

I lick to taste the water-diluted honey. The preparation is superb.

“Tastes good. Indeed, using that flower is the right choice.” Once again, I felt satisfied by the honey.

The honey’s taste obviously depends on the variety of the bees, but it also comes from the taste of flower’s nectar they consume. Fundamentally, once the bees collect from a flower, they will keep sucking from the same one. Thus, I can control the taste to some extent by choosing the flowers they suck on.

Choosing raspberry doesn’t merely come from their ability to bloom twice a year and their strength against sickness. The huge factor is that they make honey without any peculiar taste and can be used in most sweets.

...As an experiment, I have another facility located separately with some hives to let the bees suck on different flowers so that I could find the best flavor. But that’s for another time.

“Now, I’m sure we still have some butter.”

I take some butter out of the bottom of the shelf. In a settler’s village, butter is a valuable item. There are few domesticated goats. These butter are made from their milks.

Since there’s not enough for the whole village’s daily use, each house takes turns to get some milk. I turn the milk into butter and store them. I only take the amount that I need and warm them up near the fire.

If I use cold butter, they won’t mix well with the wheat flour, but if I warm them up too much, the flavor will fall. The prescription is crucial. I also warm the mixture of water and honey at the same time. If I add cold mixture into the melted lukewarm butter, it won’t mix well either.

“Well then, I’ve finished the preparation.”

Finally, I’m making the sweets. First, mix the butter and honey with water. Then, add flour and knead it by hand. The essential part of making a cookie dough is to avoid kneading too long. If I knead it longer than necessary here, the butter will melt from my body warmth and lose its flavor, the viscosity will have more gluten, it will break apart and lose its texture, then become a flat firm dough of senbei, rice cracker.

So it won’t become lumps in short time, I have to take care to mix it thoroughly. Even though cookies are simple, they’re actually profound. The sensation takes the image of cutting through.

“I should rest it for a bit.”

It’s important to rest the dough for about 30 minutes in shaded place. While resting the dough, I write up the report about pioneering advancement of the village for my father, the feudal lord. This is my obligation as the village head. I must periodically report our progress.

“This should be enough. ...Well then, it’s about time.”

By the time I finished the report, the cookie dough has turned into a good shape. I put it on top of a cutting board.

I must stretch it thinly with a rolling pin. With the wheat flour of this quality, 4 millimeter thinness should be appropriate. This depends on the ingredients used.

It’s important to be careful, but the more I touch the cookie dough, the more its flavor will fall. For example, after I cut the dough, the remaining dough is going through kneading and stretching again. However, due to the kneading, gluten will form and the crispiness will decline. I’ve seen the method to roll and smash the remaining dough, but I think to do that to cookies is a blasphemy.

As a general rule, I can only touch the cookie once: when I’m stretching the dough. And that is to make the thinness perfectly uniform, to prevent uneven browning. Failure is unforgivable.

“Yosh, it looks good.”

I cut the stretched dough into square portions using stone kitchen knife. The truth is, I really want an iron set of cookwares, but I’m holding back since iron is still very valuable and thus highly priced.

I line up the cut cookie dough on stone plate in equal space. Then, I put the stone plate with cut cookies on top in the well heated hearth. The optimal temperature to bake cookies is 170 degree of Celsius. In this era, I have to maintain it by adjusting the fire woods in and out.

It’s a tremendous effort. I can’t take my eyes off even for a second. It takes about 10 minutes until the cookies are baked. I devote myself to the fire, concentrating all my nerves.

“Huff, it’s done.”

Around the time the cookies are done baking, I was drenched with sweat. Even a simple pastry like this needs hardship with this world’s civilization level. However, I could counterbalance that hardship.

I take out the cookies from the hearth. The baked cookies come out in beautiful kitsune-color. The fragrant savoriness of butter and alluring sweet smell of honey blend together, filling and spreading in the air.

“Wooow, it smells really good.”

Suddenly, a voice call out from my back, making me startled. Without being noticed, Tina was already behind me.

“You surprised me. Since when?”

“I’ve finished chopping the woods for a while and returned here since. I’ve been watching the hearth and Kurt-sama who was looking after it.”

“It’s better if you call out to me.”

Muu. But whenever I call Kurt-sama when you’re making sweets, you’re always mad at me.”

“Ah well, that’s true.”

I shouldn’t get mad when I get called in the middle of making sweets where a millimeter difference of your grip can ruin everything.

“And also, Kurt-sama’s serious looking face is so cool. I wanted to keep looking at that face.”

“It’s embarrassing to hear that.”

Right as I said that, there was a cute growl from her stomach. When I look at Tina, her face turns deeply red with her kitsune ears fluttering down.

“Uh. Uhm, Kurt-sama. I’m so sorry. That’s because I can smell something really delicious, so.”

I’m chuckling from how cute she’s acting.

“Ah, no, it’s all right. I can tell how much you’re looking forward to my sweets. Then, let’s wait no further and give it a taste.”

Tina’s eyes sparkle from my words...

“Yes!” She gives an excited reply.

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