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?
[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?)
[veuillez défiler vers le bas pour la version française] After a blissfully sunny weekend, the heavens opened just in time for my birthday and I’ve been experiencing a classic (aka rainy) British summer ever since. Fortunately, the drizzle eventually dried up and our plan to hike up Moel Famau and enjoy a slice of cake at the summit wasn’t rained off. Back in the UK, I have ready access to a wider (and crucially, cheaper) range of ingredients, so the lime and coconut cake that had spent the best part of a year on my to-bake list was now well and truly overdue. Although I’m partial to a slice of cake any day of the year, a birthday needs a cake – an ideal opportunity to trial a new cake, if ever I needed one. While my parents and I enjoyed every crumb, my sister branded me a freak for my choice of cake. (She wasn’t actually around to sample it, so she doesn’t know what she’s missed out on – which is a lot, if my levels of cake satisfaction are anything to go by.) If you’re in need of a cheap getaway to the tropics, pick up a bag of desiccated coconut and some limes and have a tropical afternoon tea with this recipe!
My life in Lyon was punctuated by visits to the city’s many boulangeries. Had a terrible time battling the infamous Administration? Or a bad day at the office? Need a bite to eat for that interminably long bus journey? Boulangeries are, in my experience, the answer to many of life’s problems. There is, quite simply, nothing a pain au raisin/ chausson aux pommes/ torsade au chocolat (delete as applicable) can’t fix, or at least remedy somewhat. The boulangeries have gone head to head in the Battle of the Boulangeries, and the results (following months of dedicated sampling) are in. (Disclaimer: 80% of these are located in the 6th arrondissement, as that’s where I lived. If you’d like a broader range of top-notch bakeries, check out this post by CatherineRose.)
[veuillez défiler vers le bas pour la version française] First and foremost, Happy Easter to those of you that celebrate it! I’m crossing my fingers (and toes) that some Mini Eggs have made their way across the Channel with my family this weekend, but I digress. A few weeks back, I had some leftover eggs from Pancake Day. The obvious solution – since I don’t eat eggs in their natural state – was to add oodles of chocolate and lashings of sugar to the mix and bake a batch of brownies. I’ve made brownies with Terry’s Chocolate Orange before, but this time I wanted to use orange zest for a more natural flavour. Having seen a recipe for lemon cake on What Jessica Baked Next, which suggested rubbing the lemon zest into the sugar for a more intense flavour, I decided to incorporate this technique into the brownies – which resulted in orange zestiness in every mouthful!
[veuillez défiler vers le bas pour la version française] After a balmy February, gales are now blowing ferociously in Lyon and it feels like the clock’s turned back a season or two. A couple of weeks ago, I was in desperate need of some creature comforts. (I miss England. Life abroad isn’t always a piece of gâteau.) Apple crumble was a staple dessert of my childhood; its cousin apple pie made a guest appearance every now and again, but my loyalty to the trusty apple crumble never wavered. Since kitchen supplies are – ahem – limited, I decided to combine the crusty crumble topping with a classic sponge. A light sponge topped with a (hefty) sprinkle of cinnamon crumble and a couple of layers of sliced apples were all it took to transport me back to the vast dining table of my childhood, devouring spoonful after spoonful of sugary apple-y goodness.