I love baking. It's my go-to happy place. There's nothing better than getting to the weekend and Mr P asking "are you doing any baking this weekend?". Within 5 minutes, I've done a full inventory of the cupboards looking for flavour combinations (usually determined by things getting towards their best before date). The oven is already pre-heating and my pinny is well and truly donned.
Over lockdown, baking became my savior. I became 'one of those people' who cultivated sourdough. I started out with Cedric (yes, I named him too). It was going so well with a good number of loaves and some rather good pizza bases. After keeping Cecil in the fridge, I think it was ultimately neglect that led to his untimely death. Next came Derek the sourdough. He didn't last long. Apparently feeding him with too-hot water quickly turns him into a putrid, acidic substance that resembled cottage cheese. Every day is a school day as they say! Finally came Eric and he went much the same way as Cecil. That was the end of my sourdough adventure. Like many things, I got bored. Oh, and for the record I didn't jump on the banana bread bandwagon. In my opinion, bananas should only be eaten in their raw state and never, ever cooked or baked.
Decades of baking
I've been baking for as long as I can remember. I was always the first to lick out the bowl (that was back in the days when we were allowed without fear of it causing some issues due to raw eggs). I used to love baking with my gran who was a classic wartime baker. She often made things from homegrown fruits and standard pantry ingredients like dried fruit and coconut. Unfortunately though, after all this time, I'm still not a fan of gooseberry pie. My favourite will, however, remain her currant pastry topped with sugar.
At Christmas, I used to help my mum make mince pies. We used to set aside a December weekend afternoon which turned into a mince pie production line. I was usually in charge of filling the mincemeat, popping on the lid and putting a fork mark in the top to let out he steam.
I can't quite recall why we made so many mince pies. I'm sure it had plenty to do with lots of elderly great aunts and uncles who were always so pleased to receive a tin filled to the brim. Then there were the visiting carol singers and festive visitors who were always offered a plate of mince pies finely dusted with icing sugar.
I would say I'm a relatively basic baker. I'm far happier turning out a successfully risen and tasty sponge than worrying about decorating it with a mirror-glaze. I think this approach is very much determined by my desire to eat it as soon as I've baked it. Once I've decided that I'm going to bake - whether it's a classic fruit cake, sponge or muffins, biscuits or tarts, I can almost taste the flavours on my tongue. That's probably why my bakes tend to get decorated very simply with some buttercream icing or if I really can't be bothered, a sprinkling of icing sugar. After all, the quicker the better when it comes to getting it into my belly!
A 3 day birthday cake in the making
There was one occasion when I went all-out on the decoration. In April 2020, Mr P was celebrating a special birthday. We had planned to spend it relaxing on a sun lounger with sand between our toes sipping on a cocktail or two. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and full lockdown, instead we spent the day sat on our sofa watching the rain drizzle down the windows with the central heating on. As we couldn't head to our planned trip to Atmosphere Kanifushi in the Maldives, instead I decided to recreate this in cake form.
This mammoth (in my world) culinary creation took 3 days in the making. Starting off with a suitable cake, I wanted the flavour to be reminiscent of what we should have been experiencing in the Indian Ocean. So, I found a recipe for a Lime & Coconut Sponge which thankfully really delivered on flavour. When it came to decorating, I probably made a schoolgirl error by making a round cake without thinking about covering it (crease free) with fondant icing. After watching a number of online videos, I managed to create a relatively smooth surface using blue fondant to represent the sea. Some blitzed rich tea biscuits made the perfect golden sand too. I set about making some characters including an octopus, squid, manta ray, clams and clown fish. It was only the palm tree that caused a little headache - nothing a bamboo stick acting as a dowel couldn't sort.
My successful (and not so successful) creations
Yes, there have been successes but sometimes there are failures too. Like this Easter when I decided to make flower shaped vanilla biscuits - less flower-like more splodge like. At least they tasted OK. Every now and again, I try and make something new. Whether it's a hybrid recipe like Cruffins or to celebrate occasions like Easter with a Simnel Cake or Christmas with Stollen Crinkle Biscuits.
Then there's always the opportunity to look at ways of adapting recipes to suit special diets like Easy Egg-Free biscuits.
I suppose my favourite thing to make is a sponge or cupcakes - probably because they're quick to make and therefore quick to cool and quick to eat. The most successful that I've made of late were some Cinnamon & Nutella Muffins.
Mindful Baking for World Baking Day
Mr P and I are trying to be more mindful eaters. Perhaps something to do with all of the baking I've done over lockdown and the added inches to our waistlines!
This World Baking Day, I decided to make a protein-packed, vitamin and mineral filled vegan flapjack. I wanted to make something that would improve with age so there wasn't the need to eat the entire bake whilst it was fresh! This will be the prefect thing to last all week. Why not check out the full recipe here.