Thursday, 24 January 2013

A little bit of indulgence ...

Decorative gold leaf and decadent chocolate orange squares are just the ticket for the New Year.  This is the second recipe that I have tried from one of my Christmas presents.  If you fancy some lovely baking ideas then head over to Fiona Cairns to be inspired and try one of her wonderful recipes.  I love Fiona's baking books, they are full of delicious cakes and wonderful decorating ideas.  Fiona is the ultimate cake decorator and I wish that I could do things with even just half the finesse that she does!  Her TV show was pure bliss.  An hour that went by in a whirl of sugared flowers, ribbons, feathers and chocolate (that's not even including the cakes themselves) each Sunday.  Perfect Sunday afternoon viewing that not only looked incredible but made you want to go out and buy a heart-shaped tin and bake, bake, bake!

The first bake that I tried was a stripey coconut cake, which turned out even better than anticipated.  Well the taste did, I am just never happy with the overall finish.  No matter how hard I try, I also produce something that looks as though a 4 year old had "had a good stab at it".  I long to be as good as Fiona and am rather jealous of one of my lovely friends who has just recently embarked on a cake decoration course (not that she needs it, her whirls of icing are always picture perfect).  My baking is fine, I wish it wasn't let down by the outer layer.  Imagine producing wonderful creations that make people gasp (previously mentioned lovely friend, that is you by the way!) at the way they look along with that deep breathy "Mmmmm..." accompanied with the delighted roll of the eyes at the first bite.

I guess it is just a case of practise and having a determined outlook.  I, more often than not, produce childlike results because of my childlike impatience.  I think I am getting better, but I just want to have a beautiful creation right away!  Not in a few hours once it has cooled and been decorated and then cooled once again.  I tried really hard with these chocolate orange squares and was secretly quite pleased with the results.

I have also been really enjoying The Great British Bake Off Comic Relief episodes.  It is such a great programme anyway, but the Comic Relief version has added another layer of sparkle.  I love the fact that sweet Mary Berry always finds something positive to say and that Paul Hollywood has had to hold his tongue.  They are, at first glance, an unusual pairing but really they compliment each other beautifully.  Whilst Paul is technically excellent, Mary is such a dear.  Always a word of encouragement, a smile and a wink, not to mention an excellent line in floral bomber jackets.  (Who knew they'd be popular?  I haven't rushed out to buy one, just yet though!).  Those words of encouragement are so important.  I certainly don't respond well to someone being negative and would immediately shut down before being able to learn anything.  I would love to spend a few days in the Great British Bake Off tent (partly to get a glimpse of the infamous squirrel) and learn from Mary and Paul.  It struck me whilst watching it, just how much they know.  Mary mentioned what size of cake she would expect from knowing the number of eggs that has gone into it.  How marvellous is that?  I bake a lot, but details like that don't seem to stick in my mind.  How does Mary know these things?  A lifetime of handling ingredients, mixing and working dough.  To be truly that knowledgeable about ingredients and the forms that they can take, one must be immersed in it.  Not be afraid to experiment and find yourself the time to have a go and relax into it.  Hold the ingredients, feel them and get to know them.  Then, not only will you learn how to be a fraction of the greatness of the likes of Fiona, Mary and Paul, but you will also have a super dooper, fabulously scrummy pie, cake or scone (whatever takes your fancy) to taste.  And as your friend, I completely insist that you do indeed taste your baking, then taste again just to be sure and maybe again.  You can never be too sure that the baking is delicious.

Happy baking (& tasting)!

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