ears ago, there was a bakery back home that has since become the stuff of legends for those of us lucky enough to grow up with it in the village. The building is a pizza place now, but during my childhood it was a sugar-laden Aladdin’s cave of cakes and pastry and huge triangle slices of the best caramel shortbread I’ve ever had. I mourn for what used to be whenever I walk past now and the street smells of grease rather than sugar and butter.
Perched beside the pavement, roughly at the halfway point on the walk to school, the village bakery smelt so good it was basically impossible to stroll past without at the very least slowing down to take in the aromas of fresh bread, cheese straws, and a plethora of biscuits. A tiny room, there was only just enough space for a small round table and two chairs, tucked underneath a pin board that covered all aspects of village life: craft fairs, church services dance classes. It was old-fashioned, without the pretense you get these days in bakeries that declare themselves “artisanal”; all crisp paper bags and motherly staff.
The loaves of bread I used to buy most mornings on the way to high school for about a year – I was chubby for a reason – were still warm at 8am, and perfect on their own. The marshmallow cones were a regular childhood treat, and those caramel shortbreads were out of this world. But for true decadence, it was all about the date slice.
Don’t get me wrong, the dates slices weren’t a sophisticated affair. A hefty slab, they were essentially two hunks of shortbread sandwiched together with a thick, sticky date puree, and sprinkled with sugar. Healthy? No. Delicious? Yes.
Years on, it’s up to us to recreate the treats from our childhoods. Here, the humble date slice is tarted up a bit, making the most of the end of Bramley apple season and taking on a flapjack-y twist with the addition of oats. Read More
In my head, these biscuits have always been Coraline biscuits. Since I first heard from Emma at Emma Jane’s Bakery, her range of adorable cookie stamps have been destined to become part of my mission to bring together two of my favourite things: books and food.
It’s my birthday this week, so cookies are back. It’s my party and I’ll gorge myself on browned butter if I want to.
It’s probably a symptom of having older siblings, but it’s hard to forget how old twenties always used to sound to me, how much I thought I’d have sorted by now. But then, I thought that at 18 and 21 too, so I suspect my heart and my brain will forever be playing catch up to the passing of timing and the aging of this bundle of cells. I also suspect we all feel the same way.
But these cookies are probably one of the most grown up things I’ve achieved so far. They’re dark and toffee-y and use fancy salt — when did I become a person who gets excited by fancy salt? — in ways that take them a million miles from Maryland’s excuse for cookies.
The making of them completely feels like magic — the process of browning the butter, then whisking it with sugar and leaving it for a bit means that you start out with a gritty mix but end up with a gorgeously thick, glossy mixture. And then! And then you add the flour and the chocolate and it becomes the most gorgeously rich, nutty cookie dough imaginable.
It’s not a cookie to hand out to children — it’s one to be served warm, and savoured, the crisp outside giving way to a soft chewy inside, studded with dark chocolate brought to life by smoked sea salt. It’s an indulgence that, dipped into coffee, makes grey Monday mornings at your office job a lot brighter. It’s most certainly a cookie for grown ups. Read More
This is a post about cookies, an astounding cookbook, and a teensy bit about boys. Skip to the bottom if you just want the cookies. I understand. The real issue here is infusing browned butter with chilli and then mixing it with big shards of dark chocolate.
Anyway. The sun is finally shining, and the spring cleaning is underway, but today I’m taking a brief trip back to December. It was Christmas morning – too early for everyone else, because I’d been awake for hours with excitement – and the seven of us, all long legs folded and squished into various corners of the living room, were diving into the frankly ridiculous pile of presents.
My mum was frowning, watching me tear open the wrapping paper on a gift she’d bought. Pulling it off like a 5-year-old, I revealed the Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book. I’d not requested it; she’d gone a little off piste, based on a love for the Cook’s Illustrated magazine. “Is it okay? It’s not in colour! It came and I panicked because…it’s not in colour. And it’s full of drawings!”
Of course it was okay. It was perfect – old school drawings are half the point of Cook’s Illustrated, along with rigorous testing and gloriously geeky scientific explanations. I put it to one side, carried on unwrapping other gifts, every now and then just resting my hand on its cover or flicking to the contents to see what awaited. Read More
I’ve been sitting on this post for a couple of days, trying to find something to say up here in the gap between pictures. Truth is, I’m in hibernation mode, so I’m just gonna make another batch of these truffley delights and curl up under my duvet for a bit, mmkay? Sometimes you’ve just gotta play The Sims for 6 hours straight and forget about standing on a cold kitchen floor, painstakingly creaming butter and sugar. Sometimes you need to smash up some biscuits, melt some chocolate, and be done with it. Read More