I have been baking since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, both with my mum and my nan – in fact, it was my nan who let me lick the bowl for the first time! Like most children, it started with simple bakes like chocolate chip cookies and butterfly cakes. This soon grew to other types of biscuits and cakes, tray bakes, loaf cakes, layer cakes. When I was growing up, my mum was an amateur wedding cake designer, making wedding cakes for family and friends, so I was surrounded by baking for most of my young life. Soon, baking a simple Victoria Sponge wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to experiment and learn more.
Baking has meant more to me than simply making a sweet treat. Baking for me, has always been linked to my emotions and notable times in my life. I’m always the one who offers to bake for birthdays or Christmas celebrations, to see the joy on people’s faces when they’re presented with a home-baked cake. But most notably, baking has played a huge part in how I cope with loss and grief. I’ve been through a lot of loss, especially in the last four years, having lost my last grandparent, my dad, my uncle and a childhood friend in such a short space of time, and at such a young age. And when I grieve, I bake. The day after my dad died, I spent the whole day baking copious amounts of cookies and cakes to give to the nurses at the hospice. More recently, after losing my uncle, I took over the kitchen, baking all quantities of meringues, cookies, and savoury bakes. It’s my way of expressing my grief, my anger and my pain.
I can tick off many things that I have learnt to bake over the years: cupcakes, fairy cakes, loaf cakes, tray bakes, layer cakes, swiss rolls, chocolate cookies, shortbread, meringues, bread. Normally I take a recipe and improvise depending on what ingredients I’ve
got in the house at the time, but last year I progressed to writing my own recipe; a fig, chai and cardamom layer cake. And if I say so myself, it was beautiful.
But I don’t want to finish there. The top eight things on my baking bucket list are as follows:
I have tried and failed many times to make macarons and I don’t understand why. I have followed many different recipes to the letter, and they always look right when I’m making them, but they never come out right, and more macarons spend time in the bin than in my stomach.
#2 Filo pastry
I know even professional chefs say you should buy ready-made filo pastry instead of making it yourself, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to attempt. Alas, I do not have a work surface quite long enough, but I will make it one day. Even if I have to lay it outside on the floor to get enough room.
Once I have learnt how to make filo, I want to make baklava. I have never tried one before, but I have relatives who adore it, and the different flavours in a baklava just sound delicious.
I am not even a huge fan of panettone, but I want to learn how to make it. There’s something quite satisfying about the shape and the smell of a freshly baked panettone that just calls for me.
Unfortunately, I am unable to eat deep fried food and therefore, doughnuts are a no-go for me nowadays. But a few years ago, I bought doughnut tins so I could bake them in the oven, and yet I have not got round to using them yet.
#6 Any Pastry Snacks
This includes croissants, pain au chocolat, danish, strudels, turnovers – you name it, I’d like to learn how to make the beautifully decorated pastry sweet treats.
#7 Upside-down cake
I am not overly fussed what kind of upside-down cake, but I suppose if I want to learn the traditional way, I should start with a pineapple upside-down cake. This is a bake that is very simple and classic, but when it’s done right, it’s a beautiful thing.
I have made bread in the past, but only very simple white loaves or cottage loaves. I’d like to improve my bread-making skills with things like focaccia, baguettes, and soda bread.
Judging by the 50+ recipe books I have currently sitting on my bookshelves, I am sure there are many, many other things I would like to try and bake. Speaking of which, my oven is beeping; it’s cookie time!