Unless otherwise stated, recipes are my twists on classics or my attempts at creating something a little different. All photos are of my bakes; I am gradually re-photographing earlier bakes!
Welcome to my world of home baking: a world in which the challenges of the outside world are left firmly at the kitchen door!
Over the years I have scribbled so many recipe ideas on bits of paper and in the back of books, so I felt it time to put these ideas and recipes into a blog. I love the process of thinking through an idea to a finished bake.
The recipes, unless otherwise stated, are my own – apart from the classic base recipes for the standard types of pastries, cakes and the like, which are an important starting point, from which many exciting bakes can be created.
You are most warmly welcome to dip in and out as casually as you want. I hope you will get ideas for bakes – and if I can inspire just one person to “have a go” then I will be delighted.
The joy of baking
Baking is seriously great therapy.
It certainly never fails to make me happy and it always fills me with a sense of occasion: every bake means something very special, whether it is something I have baked many times before or if I am working on a new idea.
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?
But although I get much pleasure when I get to bake for others, there is always something extra special when I eat other people’s bakes.
Random baking ideas!
I often wake up in the night with an idea (often a mad idea, sometimes quite plausible) and I then scribble down some thoughts onto paper: I always have a pad by my bed for just this reason!. I then draft how I expect the different components for the bake to come together and how I think the finished bake should look. And if the bake doesn’t quite work out first time, I love tweaking the idea until I am happy with it.
Since creating the blog I was delighted to have created bakes for Sainsbury’s Magazine, along with BBC Good Food Magazine, Baking Heaven Magazine, Delicious Magazine and Brilliant Baking Magazine: as an amateur baker, having my recipes appear in these magazines alongside professional bakers and chefs I have looked up to for years is such an honour.
Simplicity often rules!
There is always the thrill in baking of just what can be achieved with relatively few ingredients and achieved quite simply; this is why I am drawn to breads and pastries most of the time.
Baking does not need to be complicated or hugely time-consuming; it can be, of course, and the more challenging bakes that take more time and focus are sometimes just what I need to unwind (or even lose thyself totally in the baking), but it does not need to be. This Maltesers birthday cake below, for example, is easy to put together, with the white chocolate “lace” effect taking moments to do: tips for the chocolate lace collar effect are in my key cake making & decorating post.
Often grazing on a few simple bakes that are fairly easy to throw together, along with a simple salad or fresh vegetables can be just as satisfying as a more full-on meal!
My greatest loves in baking
Of all the things I bake, breads and pastries are my greatest loves. They are the ultimate in comfort food for me! But making cakes to be cut and shared with others is high up there.
I love how thrilling bakes that can be created with just a few humble ingredients, often a great way to use up what is lying around in the fridge and in cupboards.
I have a particular penchant towards sourdoughs but I love baking any type of bread, which I have been doing since I was a boy. For me, it is great to add all manner of things to the dough to give whatever flavours you want, especially as the artisan breads you can buy can be very expensive. Mind you, an unadulterated bread, toasted and buttered, is a very satisfying thing to eat!
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. Whenever I make up a batch, I often freeze half of it for a speedy bake at a later stage.
I love working on savoury variations with laminated doughs, both yeasted (croissant dough) and without yeast (puff and rough-puff pastry); nicely warmed savoury pastries never fail to make me happy. Mind you, if I am after a sweet hit, it has to be something indulgent!
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, Afternoon Tea is like being a child again, waking up on Christmas morning, eyes lighing up as you delve into inviting packages in front of you! I love experiencing and preparing more unusual Afternoon Teas, and an Afternoon Tea with a more savoury slant is perfection for me!
Although savoury food is my preference if I am going to indulge, I love making and decorating cakes. While the simplicity and taste of a Victoria Sandwich, for example, is hard to beat, I aim for my more elaborate attempts to scream “eat me”, often using fresh seasonal fruit or fruit curds mixed into the butter cream:
Baking and other treats
My ramblings and my recipes in this blog 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 a simple snack of bread and cheese to dizzying heights of food delight, they are a perfect accompaniment to an endless number of cold and hot savouries.
And I could not be without a dollop or two of home-made jam with just-warmed croissants!
My recipes and my comments on these can be found via the Recipe Index at the top of the page.
Indulgence in moderation!
I enjoy the fun that comes with making cakes, particularly of the dessert-type or the indulgent chocolate creations. Despite not having a hugely sweet tooth, chocolate is nonetheless something of a weakness, and if I am in the mood for something sweet then I am well up for a fleeting pang of chocolate-induced guilt!
But whether I am going for savoury or sweet, even with a healthier slant*, you have to have at least a hefty hint of indulgence – otherwise, why bother? And healthier food can and really must taste good (grey, dull “healthy eats” that are hard work to actually get down have no place in my mouth!).
* yes, despite a lot of my recipes having what some would say naughty ingredients (cream, butter, sugar……) in there, I only eat the naughtier bakes now and then.
I also like to re-bake some of my favourites with a healthier slant but only if the healthier version can stand up to the original – and that is part of the fun of being creative. But the moment I bite into something that just has healthy ingredients but with no sense of joy or excitement, is the moment my heart sinks in despair…….
Happy baking!Follow @bakingfanatic1