Category: Pastry

Double chocolate raspberry tart

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ou know what’s a great idea in 30C summer heat? Laying around in the sun with a good supply of drinks. You know what’s not such a great idea? Making pastry.

So naturally, on Saturday afternoon/evening, the scene was me standing in my kitchen, swearing at an uncooperatively melty pastry case while I desperately tried to cool myself and it with a standing fan positioned next to us. Read More

The lady behind The Dinner Bell! I’m that person who doesn’t let you leave their flat without eating something, and will probably press a parcel of cookies or cake into your hands as you head to the door.

I’m a sub-editor by day, avid book-reader by night, and octopus fan always. I live in north London, but little bits of my heart still belong to Norfolk, where I grew up, and Sheffield, where I went to uni and finally lost my bumpkin accent.

Rum & pecan apple tart

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aaaaaaaaaaaand we’re in! We have an oven that works! That tart up there is one of the first things I’ve baked here, and it didn’t burn on the bottom or anything. It’s all about the little victories, right?

A week and a half in, the kitchen stuff still hasn’t been unpacked. If you employ tunnel vision, you’ll find corners that are almost Pinterest-worthy – I couldn’t rest until I found a big jar to keep pasta in – but if you stop squinting you might spot a few still-wrapped plates, or a book that’s not quite in the right place. We’ve got our priorities sorted, though. The first time we came to the flat, we brought the essentials with us: kettle; mugs; teabags; and Hobnobs, always pronounced without the H. We moved the tea supplies in before we’d even been given the keys.

RumPecanAppleTart2It feels right, finally. We – three of us, now – have grown as people considerably in the last year and a half, and this flats feels like it reflects us better than the flats we could never quite bring ourselves to call “home” ever did. The first few days, we’d nudge each other every now and then just to say, “Hey. Hey. We live here.” This is where we have a biscuit jar to dip into, and little bits of each of our personalities perched on every shelf and worktop.

Regardless of the boxes hastily shoved into corners, we’ve had friends over for dinner. Obviously I volunteered to make dessert, and obviously this ended with me botching together a recipe on that day that, thankfully, worked, so I didn’t have to pull my “sorry guys, here’s some ice cream” trick. You probably can’t go far wrong, though, with apples, cream, pecans, and rum.

Usually, I have a don’t-waste-drink-in-food policy. You know how recipes are often all, “add 250ml [semi-expensive] white wine”? When you don’t have spare twenties to throw around willy-nilly, you see that the same recipe with something else replacing the wine is almost as good. If you quantify the price of a bottle of wine by calculating how many weeks’ pasta, or cheese, or vegetables that’d be, you’re not as likely to throw a “glug” of the good stuff into a risotto. Food snobs, I’m sure, would be horrified. Read More

The lady behind The Dinner Bell! I’m that person who doesn’t let you leave their flat without eating something, and will probably press a parcel of cookies or cake into your hands as you head to the door.

I’m a sub-editor by day, avid book-reader by night, and octopus fan always. I live in north London, but little bits of my heart still belong to Norfolk, where I grew up, and Sheffield, where I went to uni and finally lost my bumpkin accent.

Pear & honey mini galettes

This time last week, I was waking up from a nap, with a pounding headache and a strange sense of home that contradicts everything I wrote about in my past post.

Pear & honey mini galettes // The Littlest BakehouseIf you’re expecting this to be a romantic story about friendship and discussing deep issues under the stars…you’re going to be disappointed. At a friend’s place, we were far enough out of London to actually see the stars, but bank holiday Friday was a night of tequila shots and pizza, cookies baked at 1am and so many ridiculous stories that will become part of the lore of our group. The weekend has been the subject of a number of flashbacks throughout the week that have left me burying my face in my hands, half in laughter and half in disbelief. In short, it was excellent. Read More

The lady behind The Dinner Bell! I’m that person who doesn’t let you leave their flat without eating something, and will probably press a parcel of cookies or cake into your hands as you head to the door.

I’m a sub-editor by day, avid book-reader by night, and octopus fan always. I live in north London, but little bits of my heart still belong to Norfolk, where I grew up, and Sheffield, where I went to uni and finally lost my bumpkin accent.

Balsamic strawberry galette with ricotta

Balsamic strawberry galette with ricotta // The Dinner Bell

It’s April, and I sneeze at least five times every morning, right when I wake up. Pollen’s in the air. We’ve cracked out the light jackets. Summer is coming for us.

Summer is the time for falling in love: with cities, with food, with freezing cold showers. It’s suncream, hot tarmac, and that unmistakable smell of strawberries, an aroma that hit me unexpectedly a few weekends ago, giving just a hint of things to come, before the UK was once again blanketed in grey.

London has never been my home – I never yearned for the big city like other teenagers did, and for too long after I moved here I lived in a bubble, terrified that I just couldn’t do it and yet too stubborn to give in. At no point has it been love. London and I are like the married couple that stays together for the sake of the kids.

Balsamic strawberry galette with ricotta // The Dinner BellPeople still say, Ooh, London eh? Good place to live while you’re young. You must have so much fun. And every time, I smile and nod and think, Well, sort of. The economy is harsh, meeting people is difficult and honestly I would rather cook for my friends and pack them off, giggly and stumbling, with a fist full of cookies, than hit the nightlife. 

But just when I think it’s too much – the isolation, and the cost – something good happens. A gaggle of strangers offers to help a women with a buggy, or a museum visit turns out to be particularly good. In this case, it was a trip to a local grocery stall – the one that’s not part of a market, and where you get called “babe” as standard – that saw me laden with almost more fruit and vegetables than I could carry.

I’m still not in love, but it helps. It’s more bearable when you can go home and say, Okay, so a pint might bankrupt me but damn it, I can buy 750g of strawberries for a quid and I dare you to beat that. These are small pleasures, and it’s almost worth it. Summer is a little slice of sunshine breaking up the unrelenting grey, and I suppose this posh jam tart is my sunshine. Read More

The lady behind The Dinner Bell! I’m that person who doesn’t let you leave their flat without eating something, and will probably press a parcel of cookies or cake into your hands as you head to the door.

I’m a sub-editor by day, avid book-reader by night, and octopus fan always. I live in north London, but little bits of my heart still belong to Norfolk, where I grew up, and Sheffield, where I went to uni and finally lost my bumpkin accent.

Viennese mince pies

There are still nine days till Christmas and I am preemptively festively plump. I’ve drunk cocktails and sprained my ankle and danced on it anyway already. The tree is up, wrapping paper has been purchased, and still it does not feel like the season, because none of these things, in this city, are part of the traditions.

Viennese Mince Pies // The Dinner BellIt’ll be almost time for the real festivities when I catch the train home, listening to “Driving Home for Christmas”, carrying a suitcase containing far more pairs of shoes than are at all necessary.

It’ll feel like December when I get the chance to sneak-peek at the presents.

It’ll be Christmas when I’m at home, sat in front of the fire with one of my mum’s boozy mince pies, watching Miracle on 34th Street yet again.

The best mince pie I’ve ever had remains a mystery to me – it was eaten during the sweltering part of summer 2012 in a test kitchen, where I was part of a team sampling dozens of Christmas puddings and mince pies. It was tough work. The one I loved was flaky, and buttery, and had just the right amount of booze and…I have no idea who made it. It will forever remain a mystery to me.

So rather than go around every supermarket trying to find it, I thought this year I’d break with tradition just a little bit. I put my own twist on it to make a festive variation that keeps in with one of 2013’s biggest baking trends, the hybrid dessert. Bottom half mince pie, Viennese whirl top, 100% delicious. Read More

The lady behind The Dinner Bell! I’m that person who doesn’t let you leave their flat without eating something, and will probably press a parcel of cookies or cake into your hands as you head to the door.

I’m a sub-editor by day, avid book-reader by night, and octopus fan always. I live in north London, but little bits of my heart still belong to Norfolk, where I grew up, and Sheffield, where I went to uni and finally lost my bumpkin accent.