I have been getting cabin fever lately, spending way too much time inside. So last Wednesday I decided enough was enough, I was going to get out.
I decided a trip to the V&A for some inspiration for my projects would be a good plan. However on my journey to the museum I saw this fantastic display for National Baking Week….
I was in shock. How could national baking week have passed me by for the last however many years. What have I been doing with my life?!
In order to rectify this great wrong I decided drastic action was needed. So I hit baking like the Treaty of Versailles – HARD
Now it was already Wednesday so I had lost 3 precious days of baking week and thus decided that some major baking needed to happen in the next few days.
Thursday morning as a result was heaven… The ultimate reminder of why I no longer spend my days in a crowded office doing mind numbingly empty tasks when I could be at home in my sunlight filled kitchen baking to the sound of Gershwin. If people want to argue with my lack of achievement I think that having baked a cake and 3 separate batches of biscuits all by 11am shows I am not messing about. What greater sense of fulfilment could there be?
Thursday was quite simply a celebration of how great it is to be alive and baking.
My first creation was an orange, almond and chocolate chip cake – pure genius, in fact I might have a slice now…
**several scoffs later***
Orange Almond and Chocolate Chip Cake delight
2 oz Self raising flour
2oz Ground Almonds
zest of 1 Orange
100g of dark chocolate cut into chunks
- Preheat your oven to 180C
- Cream the butter and sugar together, until it’s soft
- Whisk the eggs until they are fluffy and light
- Add the eggs slowly to your butter and sugar
- Combine flour and almonds and sift into the mixture
- Chop your chocolate and zest your orange then add it to the mix, stir well.
- Pour into a greased baking tin and place in the oven.
- Bake for 25 mins, check the cake is done by placing a skewer into it, if it comes out clean it’s ready, if not place it back in the oven for another 5 mins
- Once cooked allow to cool on a wire rack and then serve
Then came my Cold Biscuits, named so not because I transferred all my germs to them (I do have a minor cold) but because Lemon Shortbread, honey biscuits and ginger cookies when eaten together become the perfect cure for the common cold, (that may not be medically sound, but it beats Lemsip)
9oz Plain Flour
2 tbsp Ground Almonds
Zest of 1 large lemon
- Preheat the oven to 180C and prep a baking tray with some greaseproof paper
- Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy Sift the flour and ground almonds in
- Add the lemon zest and then combine the ingredients into a dough, this is easiest to do with your hands
- Spread the dough out on the tray and bake for 15-20 mins
- Once cooked, leave to cool and then chop into squares
1 tbsp Honey
1 egg yolk
180g Self raising flour
- Preheat your oven to 180 C
- Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
- Whisk the egg yolk and add the honey
- Combine the egg and honey to your sugar and butter
- Add the cinnamon to your flour and sift into the mixture
- Combine the mixture into a dough and roll into small balls and flatten (beware this can get very sticky so put some flour on your hands!)
- Place your biscuits onto the baking sheet and bake for 10 mins
6oz self raising flour
4 oz soft brown sugar
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 oz butter
1 heaped tsp ground ginger
1 rounded tsp golden syrup
- Preheat the oven to 180C
- Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl then add the butter and Golden Syrup
- Whisk your egg then add that to the mixture little by little and beat everything together
- Roll the mixture into balls about the size of a walnut
- Place on a baking sheet and flatten slightly. Then bake in the oven for 15 mins
- Leave to cool and then get eating!
Now I was pretty proud of this bake, but so far whilst being creative I wasn’t leaving my comfort zone. In the spirit of feeling more alive I decided to push myself and go along with the ‘do something every day that scares you’ school. Which in baking terms means Baguette and Puff pastry.
So scared of these two tasks it took me until Sunday, my last chance, to actually get around to making them.
However, luckily I had an empty house and all the time in the world to get on with it.
So the Baguette – what a sticky nightmare – but I survived. Hurray!
15 oz Bread Flour
½ tbsp salt
1 rounded tsp yeast
- Add the flour and water to the bowl of food processor with dough blade
- Mix up for a minute or two. Then let rest for 20 minutes
- Add salt and yeast, then knead for about 5mins You should get a firm, slightly sticky, dough (Mine was incredibly sticky at this point and it got very messy)
- Place in a bowl and cover. Leave it for 45 minutes
- Remove the dough from the bowl and flatten it slightly and roll it up then turn 45 degrees and roll again so you have a ball
- Place the dough back in the bowl, cover and leave it for a further 45 minutes
- Repeat the roll from step 5 and Place the dough back in the bowl, cover and leave for 30 mins
- Remove from the bowl again, repeat the roll and place the dough on the side and let it rest for 10 minutes under a towel
- Divide the dough into about 3 portions, then let the dough rest for 10 minutes under a towel.
- Shape the dough into baguettes and place the loaves on a baking sheet
- Leave to rise for 45 minutes, cover with a tea towel and occasionally spritz with water
- Heat oven to 225C, then bake for 15 mins, Turn the loaves to ensure they bake equally and place back in the oven for a further 15mins ( you can lower the temperature to about 200C for this)
- Turn the oven off and let the loaves sit in the cooling oven for 5 minutes. Remove the loaves from the oven and allow to cool
Then grab some cheese, butter or Jam and stuff your face.
Having finished this by 2pm next it was the turn of the Puff Pastry. It shares some similarities with the croissant, e.g. lots of fat and lots of layers. So I felt I already held some knowledge, which helped spur me on.
1 lb strong white flour
Pinch of salt
8oz margarine ( cut into small chunks)
8oz butter (cut into small chunks)
10fl oz iced water, then remove 1 tbsp
1 tbsp lemon juice
- Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, then add the margarine and butter (don’t rub them in just flick them around so they are coated in the flour)
- Make a well in the centre and pour the ice water and lemon jucie in.
- Using a palate knife cut across the mixture turning as you go to bring the ingredients together, as soon as most of it has come together turn it out on a floured board with any remaining flour
- Shape the dough into a brick shape and use a rolling pin to make three quick depressions. Then roll the pastry out to about 30 cms by 20cms
- Fold one third to the centre and the other third over (now do you see how its like a croissant) press down the edges to trap the air and leave to rest for 5 mins
- Flour the board again and turn the pastry a quarter turn and make 3 depressions
- Repeat the process 3 more times and then wrap the pastry in foil and chill in the fridge for as long as possible, preferably over night
- When you are ready to use roll out to a reasonable thinness and use (in my case this was for a beef pie and sat on top.
The results weren’t perfect but they both tasted good and I think I did capture some of the point of baking week, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone tried something new and felt an immense sense of achievement as a result.
Maybe we need a National From Scratch Week – anyone in?