Unless otherwise stated, all photos and recipes are my own
Welcome to my world of home baking: a world in which the challenges of the outside world and any feelings of food guilt are left firmly at the kitchen door!
You are most warmly welcome to dip in and out as casually as you want. Whether you are starting out on your baking adventure or are well seasoned, I hope you will get ideas for bakes and discover a few interesting or different bakes along the way.
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.
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.
I have given full guidelines and step-by-step instructions for techniques needed for pastries, cakes and bread, among others, at this link: key baking tips
The joy of baking
Baking is seriously great therapy. It has been of huge importance in my life on so many occasions when I have needed an escape, and it never fails to make me happy.
As soon as I step into the kitchen ready to start a bake, I get this wonderful feeling of everything being well with the world. Baking always fills me with a sense of occasion and every bake, whether simple or complex, means something very special.
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 there is much pleasure when baking for others, there is always something extra special when you get eat other people’s bakes: I often think food tastes better when someone else has made them.
Random baking ideas!
I often wake up in the night with an idea (often a mad idea, sometimes a more plausible idea) and I then scribble down some thoughts onto paper: I always have a pad by my bed for just this reason!
And if the bake doesn’t quite work out first time, I love tweaking the idea until I am happy with it.
Simplicity often rules!
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, of course, and the more challenging bakes that take more time and focus are sometimes just what is need to unwind (or even get totally lost in a glorious world of baking), but it does not need to be.
Often, just grazing on a few simple things that are easy to throw together 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, being the ultimate in comfort food for me. They never fail to evoke happy memories and I particularly love the fact that you can make great things using very few ingredients – often with just what is lying around the fridge and the cupboards.
And a slice of simple home-made bread, toasted and buttered, is a very satisfying thing to eat!
For decades I have been fascinated by 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.
I love working on savoury variations with laminated doughs, both yeasted (croissant dough) and without yeast (puff & rough-puff pastry).
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 when it comes to eating (well, excluding anything chocolatey!), I love making and decorating cakes: the cutting of a cakes to be shared with others is a terrific social joy.
While the simplicity and taste of a Victoria Sandwich, for example, is hard to beat, I aim for my more elaborate cake attempts to scream “eat me”, but my primary goal is for the flavour to shine.
Baking and other treats
My recipes and my general food ramblings on 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 warm croissants!
Indulgence in moderation!
Despite a lot of my recipes containing what some would say are naughty ingredients (cream, butter, sugar……), they are not necessarily the sort of bakes you would eat all the time: I will probably only have a rich cake in the house once every few weeks. And butter-laden pastries are very much an occasional treat.
But what is life without wicked treats?
I 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 I love this creative challenge.
Fortunately there are many great blogs that celebrate healthier food, with a key emphasis on flavour. After all, baking and eating should be pleasurable, and healthier food can and really must taste good: those dull “healthy eats” that are hard work to actually chew, let alone enjoy, have no place in my mouth!
The moment I bite into something that just has healthy ingredients but with no sense of joy or excitement, (and I’ve made quite a few things in my time that fit into that category!) is the moment my heart sinks in despair…….you need a hefty whack of indulgence in some form – otherwise, why bother?
Whatever your baking interests are, enjoy the baking, the eating, the experimenting and the sharing.
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