Welcome to my world of home baking: it is very much a world in which the challenges of the outside world are left firmly at the kitchen door! Please feel free to dip in and out as casually as you want, and I hope you will find something to try out, whether it is something new or something more familiar.
Exciting and always relaxing, I find baking to be the best way to lift my spirits at any time; it never fails to put a smile on my face. No matter how many times I have baked something from my repertoire of favourites or if I am creating a new recipe, often from a mere crumb of an idea, each bake means something very special to me.
As well as the thrill of creating and planning each bake, the excitement begins in earnest as soon as I weight out the ingredients: there is a terrific sense of occasion, whether I am baking something quick and simple or something more challenging. And how can words do justice to that buzz of anticipation as the enticing aromas come from the oven and the oven door is about to be opened?
Having so many scribblings on bits of paper and on various files on the computer with no particular sense of organisation, I felt it time to put my ideas and my favourite recipes – all of which I have either created myself or have tweaked – into one central place; hence this blog.
Baking is an important aspect of my life and my baking does fit in with the busy and highly rewarding life of a teacher! In fact, no matter how busy things are in a typical week at school, I am always thinking of ideas for the next bake and can always fit in time to bake.
One of my underlying aims in baking is to make and, where possible, improve upon what can be bought; preferring to use locally sourced and home-grown ingredients as much as possible, I like to have complete control over what goes into my food, not to mention the flavour benefits.
There is always the thrill in baking of just what can be achieved with relatively few ingredients and achieved quite simply: baking does not need to be complicated or hugely time-consuming; it can be, and the more difficult bakes that take many hours are sometimes just what I need, but it does not need be! And often, grazing on a few simple bakes that take moments to throw together can be as satisfying as a full meal!
Of all the things I bake, pastry and bread are my greatest loves. I have a particular penchant towards sourdoughs but I love baking any type of bread. I am currently trying to bake my way through as many different types of bread as I can find but I always like to add my flourishes and tweak the ingredients somewhat.
I have long been fascinated with laminated doughs:freshly baked croissants that shatter as you bite into them, giving way to a buttery honeycomb interior, form my ideal breakfast – especially when eaten with home-made strawberry jam and freshly ground coffee. However, I love working on savoury variations on laminated doughs and for me, a warm savoury pastry never fails to make me happy!
In recent years I have developed a love of macarons and I often bake batches of these sweet treats, many of which find their way quite willingly into the mouths of friends and colleagues, although I have been experimenting with savoury macarons, which are becoming a staple canapé for me: the mixture of sweet and savoury notes can, with the right fillings, create a stunning taste explosion.
I’m very much an admirer of Afternoon Tea which is a food event in its own right: there is nothing like an Afternoon Tea to create a real sense of occasion and give a warm satisfaction as you tuck into the treasure trove of goodies on offer. For me, it is like being a child on Christmas morning, eyes lighing up as you delve into inviting packages in front of you! I love experiencing more unusual Afternoon Teas, and an Afternoon Tea with a more savoury slant is, for me, the pinnacle of indulgence!
I also love making and decorating cakes and I aim for my cakes to scream “eat me”! Even though I do not have a very sweet tooth, there are few greater feelings of pride to be had than when a cake is devoured happily by others.
My ramblings and my recipes also flirt with other areas of cooking that appeal to me. Key among these is preserving: home-made chutneys and mouth-wateringly crunchy pickled shallots can not only lift the humble bread and cheese snack to dizzying heights of food delight, they are a perfect accompaniment to an endless number of cold savouries. And I could not be without a dollop or two of home-made jam with just-warmed croissants!
In the gallery section are images of my favourite things to make, and my recipes and my comments for these can be found on this blog.