[veuillez défiler vers le bas pour la version française] If you ask me, Wales’ culinary offerings are often overlooked. And yet, the humble Welsh cake (which in fact is not a cake, but rather a scone-like snack cooked on a griddle and sprinkled with sugar) and teatime staple bara brith (which is more than just a fruit loaf) are two of my favourite sweet treats. Currants and candied peel are steeped in sweet tea overnight, then stirred into a lightly spiced cake batter, hence the literal translation ‘speckled bread’.
[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] 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?
[veuillez défiler vers le bas pour la version française] A few weeks ago, I had a weekend that was filled with baking, for a number of reasons. One was simply that I fancied making shortbread. (Success! Now to experiment with a few other flavours . . .) Another was because my contestant in the office sweepstake crashed out of the Great British Bake Off in the second week, meaning I had to bake for the office. (At least he went out while I still had access to a multitude of kitchen utensils.) And finally, I had a few eggs that needed using up and we all know that cake is the way to go when faced with that situation. I didn’t want to overcomplicate things, so opted for a plain loaf cake with chocolate chips: perfect for my packed lunch, and also a treat that travelled well when I went down to visit my grandma that week.
[veuillez défiler vers le bas pour la version française] Lemon drizzle cake is a classic teatime treat, and one that can hold its own against Victoria sponges and Battenbergs at afternoon teas up and down the country. It’s tangy and tasty, and the icing on the cake – quite literally – is the crunchy lemon drizzle topping. I hadn’t made one for a while, but as it’s a firm favourite of Laurence’s, I decided to bake one a couple of weeks ago for us to enjoy over the weekend. Starbucks’ Lemon Loaf has been shown the door; I’m pretty sure he’s been converted to the (arguably much tastier) homemade equivalent. Whether you’re having friends round for coffee or need a no-faff bake for the office bake-off, this cake’s got your back. (On a side note, who else feels that GBBO just isn’t the same without Mel and Sue?)