The lead up to Christmas gets me excited for lots of different reasons, and in recent years it has helped to spark a creativity that had been lying dormant and unfulfilled. Planning a cake for a family gathering, baking edible gifts for friends or making decorations all give me a sense of calm that I can struggle to achieve otherwise. Although I do all these things throughout the year, Christmas combines one present-giving event for everyone with long dark evenings, perfect for cosying up with a project.
Christmas is a season full of delicious food, traditions and gathering friends and family to eat together. There is nothing better than a mug of mulled wine and some gingerbread to get you in the festive spirit. But having a nut allergy can make Christmas a little more stressful. Mince pies laced with various nuts, fruitcake and endless marzipan adornments all have to be avoided. Even drinks are a minefield; Sweden’s answer to mulled wine, gløgg, is made with almonds.
There are always points in my Great British Bake Off technical challenge bake along where my nut allergy thwarts me. This year the peanut butter molten middle fondants were a pretty big problem. I point blank refuse to make food I can’t eat (what on earth is the point?) so I needed to find something to replace the peanut butter to make that oozy centre. Continue reading
Sometimes cake ideas come to me fully formed, sometimes they come from needing to use up leftovers, and sometimes I get a fun new toy I can’t wait to play with. A few weekends ago on a trip to TK Maxx to buy some pretty pots for some of my plant jungle (is 27 plants in the living room too many? If it is I don’t care!), I spied some Halloween cookie cutters. My cookie cutter collection didn’t have anything spooky in it at all, so I decided to buy them as a little treat.
The second that I realised that Pasteis de Nata were going to be a technical challenge on The Great British Bake Off I was over the moon. Earlier this year I spent a long weekend in Porto with my two best friends, and we ate a lot of Portuguese Custard Tarts in a quest to find the best in the city, so I really felt prepared for the challenge of making them.
Stroopwafels are one of my favourite biscuits ever – gooey, crisp, caramel-filled and improved by sitting over a cuppa. Whats not to love? I’ve had the pleasure of many stroopwafels in my time, from the supermarket packets that light up an office when someone decides to splash out, to an incredible fresh honey stroopwafel in a hipster cafe in Amsterdam, but never even considered they they were an achievable dream at home.
Bread is one of those things that is still slightly mysterious to me. I don’t find kneading relaxing, I’ve never got to know the exact change in texture when dough is just ready, and who knows whether a loaf is over or under proofed. But when bread from scratch goes well it feels like crazy yeast-based magic. This means I tackled bread week on The Great British Bake Off with equal parts excitement and trepidation.