Nigella Eats Everything

Writing on food and France

This sad, sorry baker

I am currently engaged in a baking hiatus. Not through choice, I’ll add, those who know me or are aware of my frequent baking escapades would understand I must be ill or have a very good excuse as to why I can’t bake. I’ve been, rather pathetically, attempting to fill this gaping hole through desperate Pinterest stalking. It’s not succeeding unfortunately, instead merely making me resentful and hungry.

My baking days have come to an abrupt end because I presently don’t have use of an oven. A minor, yet understandable, set back.

The oven in my flat is stuck on the grill setting and due to the missing dial or knob there is no way to turn it back. Thus, I’m now accustomed to staring at cake rather than making one.

So, when my friend Tony suggested we bake a cake together at his house, I jumped at the chance. I needed to fulfil those warming, stodgy cravings of which I have been deprived. We planned our baking date over a month in advance and every time I glanced in my diary a little shiver of excitement took hold of me: sugar… cinnamon… weighing ingredients… licking raw batter off the spoon!

At last, the long-awaited night arrived and, like a drug addict with withdrawal symptoms, I marched to Tony’s house, laden down with all the equipment to fuel my addiction: weighing scales, a cake tin, baking parchment.

Before this evening, Tony had never baked before. Hearing this I laughed merrily before realising he was serious. He has always lived an active life full of sport or busy days at uni or the office. Me, returning home from work, ready for the sofa and a cup of tea would then spontaneously spend the entire evening rolling out brioche dough to stuff with chocolate. We clearly have different priorities. Baking is intrinsic to my life, from just filling little pastry cases with mincemeat at Christmas or watching my mum whisk butter and sugar with electric beaters when I was young. (I wasn’t allowed to use the electric beaters.) For someone who had never baked before, however, Tony was a natural and arguably one of Britain’s finest undiscovered bakers (his words, not mine), even coming up with an inventive use of the potato masher to purée the bananas. Together, we weighed and mixed the ingredients for Ruby Tandoh’s Cinnamon Banana Tea Loaf, and as he stirred the mixture Tony exclaimed, ‘I’m really enjoying baking!’ As it baked and filled the room with sweet banana scent we gobbled down pizza and wine, essential to any social baking session. Once risen and springy to touch the loaf was left to cool before it was coated in thickly spread salted caramel sauce.

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Friends and family are here for me at this time of need as I battle this baking abstinence. Fiona, like Tony, has suggested baking sessions to ease the pain. After work I would arrive at her flat laden down with stale croissants from the bakery, a jar of Nutella and we would proceed to make chocolatey bread and butter pudding, sandwiching the croissants with dollops of nutty chocolatey spread and coating in creamy custard. Not only that, after a walk in the crisp cold on Hampstead Heath last Sunday, we eagerly bought the ingredients for a crumble; two large Bramley apples, a punnet of plums and some hazelnuts, along with a tin of Ambrosia custard, utterly devilish and sublime simply eaten out the tin with a spoon.

apple, plum and hazelnut crumble

Mixing the wedges of apple and pitted plums with sugar and cinnamon we coated the fruit in a thick layer of crumble mix and roasted hazelnuts, even doubling the recipe for an extra stodgy layer of topping. It baked in the oven until golden, syrupy and bubbling and Fiona scooped out steaming helpings, the fruit soft and dyed crimson from plum juice. Crunchy from the hazelnuts and creamy from the custard pool surrounding the crumble like a smooth sea around an island, the baked dessert was like a dream come true for this deprived baker.

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8 responses to “This sad, sorry baker”

  1. […] I last wrote I waxed lyrical like a lovesick teenager about my one true love: baking, and how deprived I am without a cookie jar of homemade treats to hand. I can now say, dear reader, […]

  2. […] is the time of year when we think we must endlessly spend to engorge our waistlines. My friend, Tony, has already attended at least four Christmas parties, drinks and dinners, and I have been the most […]

  3. […] enjoy eating! Choosing my food gifts this year has, naturally, not gone to plan due to the slight issue that I don’t have an oven, so ideas have been altered and there’s been more thinking outside the box than I can handle. […]

  4. […] recipe is based on the fact my oven is utterly useless so if you have a functioning oven you can either try it this way or roast the carrots halved […]

  5. […] Not that I don’t simply love the noise of screaming children. Or the bustle of ‘New order please!’ and dashing to the fridge for more bacon. Now, I have time to return to my one true love. Baking. […]

  6. […] not 100% satisfied after this spontaneous treat I convinced my unofficial baking partner, Tony, that it is essential we make treacle tart. Always eager to bake (my favourite kind of person) he […]

  7. […] I have moaned endlessly about the idle oven but as a grill, it’s not half bad I tell ya. Sausages were lined up like fat little soldiers on a baking tray and, alongside mounds of bacon rashers, slid under the scorching grill to cook slowly until everyone was present. I began flipping pancakes as the first guests arrived, gently buttering the frying pan on low heat, letting it sizzle and foam before pouring in a mugful (for the want of a ladle) of batter. […]

  8. […] in December, Tony texted me: ‘Al, would you be up for helping cook something on […]

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