Christmas, for me, is all about spending time with my nearest and dearest (who these days don’t live so very near to me), playing board games one after the other (Scrabble, Articulate, Monopoly – you name it, we’ll be playing it) and indulging in festive treats (especially sweet festive treats). When Laurence told me that Sainsbury’s were selling mince pie flavoured cookies, I couldn’t resist picking up a bag on my way home from work. (Could you?) I saved the packet, checked the ingredients and spent that weekend making some tweaks to my tried-and-trusted cookie recipe. Featuring a generous helping of currants, sultanas and mixed peel and a dash of cinnamon, they taste like Christmas in a cookie (if I do say so myself).
I’ve been a fan of The Great British Bake Off for years and while I’m not quite sold on the new judging line-up, I still can’t resist tuning in to see the latest batch of bakers demonstrate their baking prowess under the watchful (and piercing) eyes of Paul and Prue. This year, Laurence and I decided to ‘bake along’ and attempt a challenge each week – so today’s post is a run-down of what we made and how our bakes turned out.
[veuillez défiler vers le bas pour la version française] Marmalade, in my eyes, is synonymous with a certain bear from deepest, darkest Peru. Whilst Paddington slathered his on slices of bread and squirrelled said sandwiches away under his felt hat, I prefer mine mixed into a cake batter. (Let’s face it, cake might as well be my middle name.) Adding both marmalade and orange zest to the batter ensures you get the slivers of orange rind running through the cake and the zesty punch of a fresh orange; it’s a win-win if you ask me (not that you did). The result? A moreish snack to accompany my mid-morning cuppa on the weekend, and a tasty addition to my packed lunch for the week.
Easter conjures up memories of egg hunts, of stirring golden syrup, butter and cocoa powder together to make chocolate nests, of devouring fruity hot cross buns whenever the opportunity presented itself. I used to be one of those people who gobbled their hot cross buns up in a few bites, as they were: plain, sans beurre. These days, I’m more likely to wedge them in the toaster (if I’m short on time) or whack them under the grill (if time’s on my side), slather them in jam and enjoy them warm. Although there’s any number of flavours to choose from these days – including ‘Toffee Fudge and Belgian Chocolate’, ‘Apple and Cinnamon’ and ‘Mango, Pineapple and Papaya’, to name but a few of the traditional hot cross bun’s exotic cousins – I’d much rather have the original, full of juicy sultanas and mixed peel.
[veuillez défiler vers le bas pour la version française] When I lived in Lyon, I treated myself every now and then to a tarte au chocolat from Le Fournil de l’Artisan, an artisan bakery just round the corner from where I lived. (When I wasn’t treating myself to a chocolate tart, I was treating myself to a chocolate-banana tart, or a raspberry tart or a . . . well, you get the gist.) I consumed many-a tart during my time in Lyon, and the more tarts I ate, the more I began to think they couldn’t be all that difficult to make. Since returning to the UK, I’ve made it a couple of times and it’s been a roaring success. (I love the fact that it’s a no-faff bake. I’m all about the minimal effort, maximum reward bakes.) If you’re looking for a tasty festive treat and, like me, you’re not keen on Christmas pudding, then this’ll be just the ticket.
[veuillez défiler vers le bas pour la version française] Christmas is coming and already my festive socks are out, ‘Fairytale of New York’ has become the breakfast soundtrack and the first batch of mince pies has been baked. I love everything about Christmas: the twinkling fairy lights draped around trees; the scent of freshly-baked festive treats; mugs of hot apple juice; and the promise of snow. (Cambridge has already delivered on that last one. Woohoo!) When I was younger, I used to eat jam tarts while my parents tucked into mince pies; these days, I can’t get enough of these delicious little tartlets. (They’re also the subject of one of my favourite festive jokes: What creeps around the bakery at Christmas? Mince spies!) Once a meaty treat, the mince pie is now a buttery, sugary, citrusy morsel: a bite-sized crumbly shortcrust pastry case filled with a mixture of plump and juicy dried fruits.
[veuillez défiler vers le bas pour la version française] Fortunately, you don’t have be part of the 1% to indulge in this decadent dessert: we nine-to-fivers can dig in too. Baking is more than just an opportunity for me to satisfy my sweet tooth; it’s also an opportunity for me to recreate childhood favourites and unspool the memories associated with these sweet treats. My love affair with millionaire’s shortbread goes back a decade or two and has its roots in the little P&A Davies counter in my local newsagent’s. P&A Davies has gone, but the not-so-humble millionaire’s slice lives on. (Thank goodness!) What could be better than a slice of crumbly shortbread, featuring a thick layer of gooey, golden caramel and topped with chocolate? Two slices, perhaps?