Seasonal baking is something that often seems to pass me by. Although I’ll eat the occasional mince pie (mostly for the pastry and an excuse to eat an extra spoonful of brandy butter), I’m not the biggest fan of mincemeat, while boozy Christmas pudding, marzipan-filled Simnel cake or stollen leave me pretty cold.
Rewind the calendar a month or so and Halloween, for me, has always been about the bags of sweets gleaned from a trick-or-treating spree rather than any great tradition of pumpkin-based treats. Not surprising then, perhaps, that until last week I’d never eaten, let alone attempted to make, a pumpkin pie. Continue reading
After three straight weeks of sunshine (ok, plus the occasional shower, this is England after all), it feels like we’ve actually achieved a summer of sorts. As with anything weather related, this is a hot topic of daily conversation, discussed at length amongst friends, colleagues and at almost any social occasion (especially if there’s some sort of awkward silence to fill).
Some people are praying for cooler weather to make their commute more bearable, some pessimistically suggest that this isn’t going to last while others simply soak up as much sunshine as they can get while it lasts (I’m firmly in the final category). The only thing we all seem to agree on is that they just don’t make summers like they used to. Continue reading
Crisp pastry, sticky jam & almond sponge
With spring just around the corner, winter doesn’t seem quite ready to relinquish its icy grip. The mornings are bright, sunshine streaming through windows and skies clear and blue. By evening, the clouds have descended, rain transforming into snowy shards, shivers and umbrellas the order of the day. Continue reading
Chocolate almond pastry, chocolate frangipane & sweet, fresh cherries
How many times have you wanted to bake something only to be thwarted by a store cupboard shortage or lack of ingredients in your local shop?
This post is less of a recipe than a series of ideas and suggestions around a theme. While making drunken plum tart several times over Christmas, I fell more than a little in love with frangipane and have been looking for other ways to use it ever since. Previously I’d associated frangipane with the sickly sweet almond filling you often find in croissants – a heavier, altogether different beast from the light, sweet simplicity of the version I made at home. With a new-found favourite and a new technique added to my baking repertoire, I was keen to get experimenting.
Soft, sweet frangipane studded with drunken plums
After all the festivities of the past week or so, it might seem a little indulgent for my first post in 2013 to feature ‘drunken plums’. But rather than being anything overtly boozy, this fruit is roasted in just a little brandy, butter and sugar, improving on the flavour and sweetness with such subtlety that it’s pretty difficult to detect. So difficult, in fact, that I could have simply called this ‘Plum Frangipane Tart’. However, there’s something wonderfully satisfying about the sound of a drunken plum . . . Continue reading
Brown butter, maple syrup & ground almonds make up this gluten free ‘pastry’
First up, a quick note to say that thelittleloaf is now on Facebook! If you read this blog and would like to see more recipes, photos and links, I’d love it if you’d head on over and ‘like’ my page.
I can clearly remember the first time I tasted maple syrup. My brother had a friend from Canada and one year he came back from his holidays with a little glass bottle of viscous amber liquid for us. I’d never tasted anything quite like it: silky textured and distinctively flavoured, like honey, but not and sweet as sweet can be.
We treasured that tiny container – this was a treat from all the way from across the pond with little likelihood of being replaced – and eked it out in little portions. My favourite way to eat this syrup, bizarrely, was straight up, poured over raw porridge oats and left to macerate for a few minutes until the mixture became beautifully soft and sweet. I’m sure my dentist – and my Mum – would have any number of objections but in my defence, this odd concoction probably wasn’t so very much worse than any of the sugar filled breakfast cereal options out there nowadays (it’s a tenuous excuse, but I’m sticking to it). Continue reading
Toasted pistachios, crème d’amandes & sweet apricots fill each delicious little tart
Summer is coming to an end.
While the last few days have seen warmer temperatures and clear blue skies, there’s an autumnal note in the air. Darkness draws in earlier each evening and there’s a coldness first thing in the morning, a reminder of frosts to come in the not too distant future. Holidays in Spain and Italy are fading to a distant memory of long, lazy days, hazy heat, bare limbs in the evening breeze.
But I’m not letting go without a fight. Continue reading
Flaky pastry, sweet, smooth filling & cool, creamy ice cream
For the last few days we’ve been eating our way around a small portion of the North of England. Our helping sizes, on the hand, have been rather large.
It all kicked off with a family wedding in Yorkshire on Thursday. In the unexpected (but wonderful) warm weather we feasted on three courses of stomach filling stuff – think greedy servings of soufflé, rare roast beef with Yorkshire puddings and thick lemon tart – before retiring for an afternoon of champagne and sunshine followed by an evening of even more food (in the form of dainty canapés, think crispy bacon scallops, miniature meringues and everything in between. Continue reading
A pile of beautiful, buttery homemade croissants
How far would you go to find the perfect croissant?
With so many wonderful bakeries in the city, Londoners like me are lucky enough to have some pretty amazing options on our doorstep. Fancy venturing a little further afield? France is your obvious answer, synonymous with the very best croissants in the world and only a couple of hours away. Doable in a day, definitely, and not so completely crazy if you’re really on a mission to find that perfect pastry.
I’m going to throw another option into the mix. How about we travel for twenty two hours, averaging around 500 miles per hour, covering nearly 11,000 miles and ending up in Surry Hills, an inner-city suburb of Sydney, Australia? We’ll head for Bourke Street, number 633 to be precise, and before you can even begin to feast your eyes on the incredible array of bread, cakes and pastries displayed in the window, you’ll detect the irresistible smell of butter and baking that draws Sydney-siders to Bourke Street Bakery like moths to an irresistible, edible flame. Continue reading