From Books to Baking & Back Again

I have something to divulge/admit to you all… I love a bit of baking! Well when I say love, I should actually state I used to love it about a decade ago (maybe less) and then just stopped doing it completely – though oddly my love of cake and baked goods didn’t stop. In the last few weeks I seem to have reclaimed the love however.

It all started about two weeks ago when I woke up with the random urge to bake. This was possibly after The Beard had baked a delightful batch of fairy cakes (no pun intended) to take to my mother’s for their first meeting. (A quick aside story; my little sister is known for her baking in the family and the Beards baked good started a ‘bake off’ and she was promptly found the next morning creating a citrus marble cake, the kitchen gloves were off, well on actually, as it were.)

Well these ruddy cakes, how lovely they were and how his working in the food industry clearly showed through (I didn’t spoil it all by saying he had bought the icing – oops) went round the family and when we visited my aunty on a trip to see Gran I had the comment ‘you can’t bake can you Simon?’ That night when babysitting for said cruel (ha, joke) aunty we watched ‘Julie and Julia’. Oddly the next morning baking was just what I wanted to do and announced the fact within moments of waking up. To say that The Beard was sceptical was an understatement…

However he was wrong because within minutes of him leaving I had rifled through the limited selection of baking and cookery books we have on the kitchen window sill, which I feel needs illustrating…

…And had whipped up a list of ingredients, run (well walked) to the supermarket bought them all, come home and started to bake.

Was I going to do fairy cakes for a first bake, was I heck! I decided on doing something different…

Lemon and poppy seed muffins I felt were called for and despite me using cases that were too small and having far too much mix in each one I was quite thrilled with them.

Yet that wasn’t enough, my baking whim wasn’t quite sated and so, after a quick dash round the kitchen and to the local grocery I came back and started making something seriously chocolate based…

Within four hours I had not only got twelve muffins, I also had a chocolate and pear cake cooling on the side. Simon looked and saw it was good.

I then text aforementioned aunty a picture of the cakes with ‘and who says I can’t bloody bake?’ to which the response came ‘Impressive. Look pretty but do they taste like ****?’ Well the chocolate cake didn’t though I will admit the muffins were a teeny weenie bit dry and not lemony enough for my personal tastes, but I was blooming impressed. I should add we had so much cake we actually had to donate it to family members throughout the week.

It hasn’t stopped since, another chocolate and pear cake has been whipped up and thanks to the lovely Louise at book group I have, using her recipe, made what The Beard (almost begrudgingly) called ‘the best lemon drizzle cake ever’…

So the baking bug is definitely back. (Second story aside: I mentioned it to Mum the other day and she said that she wasn’t surprised. As a child I had forgotten I would often bake things, I once baked with my mum and she ended up taking mine to a friend’s party instead of hers as mine didn’t deflate and sink in the middle – a story I had also forgotten.) So much so that with The Beard opening a food shop in the Wirral imminently (he is leaving cheese which I have not quite forgiven him for yet) and us both loving cooking and baking, plus we are off to an Italian Cookery School next week, we thought maybe we should make up a blog about it?

What do you think? We thought it could be a blend of what we cook personally (and the fact we both make up meals), where we dine out, random foodie things we try, cookery book reviews/recipe reviews, the cookery school and even have a food based book group – hence why I asked about books with cooking or ingredients as the theme or in the title the other day. Naming the blog though, unlike the content, seems to be the problem… So far we have come up with ‘The Fabulous Bearded Baker Boys’, ‘Beat It, Bake It, Eat It’, ‘Savidge Eats The Beards Treats’ (but that might be seen as a euphemism, mind you cooking is full of those – we’ve all watched Nigella) along with some other rather silly ones (‘Bitchin’ in the Kitchen’ etc) but are having issues, any suggestions and would you want to see a site like that?

Also what cook books would you heartily recommend? I really want Paul Hollywood and his ‘How To Bake’, oh, I mean I really want ‘How To Bake’ by Paul Hollywood, along with anything by Lorraine Pascale, Lisa Faulkner and any Nigella’s we don’t have… but what would you recommend? Thoughts on great cook books and if you would like a sideline bakery blog too please.

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54 Comments

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54 responses to “From Books to Baking & Back Again

  1. This all looks incredibly delicious! My mouth is watering. I received a baking book for Christmas that I have yet to test; perhaps now is the time…

  2. Oh, yum! You are too cruel – I have such a sweet tooth and am trying to lose some weight here!

  3. OMG. you make such lovely bakes! Yummy! =)

  4. Loved those pics of those yummy treats you whipped up – delicious!! And I would definitely read your blog about foodie stuff. And my go to cookbooks are pretty much all the Ina Garten ones – you can’t got wrong with the Barefoot Contessa!

  5. The Bread Bible by Beranbaum is not for an introduction but Bread Alone by Leader is a great way to get yourself into savoury baking (one cannot bake cake only! well, they can, but the stones accrue)
    I love Moskowitz & Romero’s Cupcakes Take Over the World mainly because if you master vegan baking (and the art of substitution), you can basically bake any cake no matter how complicated or esoteric and Moskowitz & Romero’s cakes have worked every time I make them.

  6. Sarah Cubitt

    Mmmmm looks delicious! I would love to read a food blog as well as your book blog. Maybe you could set yourself a Julie Powell-style challenge? What did you think of the film? For cook books I can recommend the Great British Book Of Baking (the first spin-off from the TV series). Can’t really recommend any other books unless you like vegetarian food! I’m starting a new job in August which is only 3 days a week (yay!) and so will have time to cook and bake more, which I’m really looking forward to.

    • Haha we thought about the idea of a challenge. We were thinking Nigella’s Domestic Goddess, Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood. Or maybe Delia, she seems to have gone quiet of late.

      Cannot wait for the new series of The Great British Bake Off.

  7. They’re looking rather scrumptious Simon! I do admit, I have lost my baking mojo. Like you I went through a phase of muffins, cakes and all sorts of savoury things (bread was my specialty). Maybe it’ll come back soon.

    What’s the recipe for your muffins then? They look rather moreish.

  8. tortoisebook

    Oooh – books and baking, my favourite combination. I’ve often wondered whether to venture into the land of cookery-blogging, tortoisecook perhaps. I recommend the Great British Bake-off book – lots of good ideas in there. I made the Victoria Sponge for my daughter’s 6th birthday this week with lemon frosting – just run some lemon curd through butter cream icing, yummy. Your cakes look great but where I live poppy seeds are illegal so I’d have to leave them out!

    • I wish I knew more cookery blogs, I need to do some research into those I think. That idea of lemon curd in the icing sounds gorgeous.

      Poppy seeds are illegal? Why?

      • tortoisebook

        I think because poppies are also the raw material for opium. I also have to buy my vanilla extract in the UK because it contains traces of alcohol though that is safe to put in my suitcase as I have an alcohol licence. Can’t get a poppy seed license though!

      • Oh blimey, I feel like I have been baking hash cakes… not that I know what those are.

  9. Melissa Nowinski

    Simon, everything looks lovely. I also enjoy baking. I used to buy lots of cookbooks, but I would only end up using one or two recipes from each, and it seemed a waste of money. I now look up recipes on the internet.

    On an unrelated topic, thank you for introducing me to Nancy Mitford. I read Love in a Cold Climate on our family vacation, and my kids kept asking what I was laughing about. Also, please keep us updated on Oscar. What is it about books, cats, and baked goods? They just seem to go together.

    • Oh Melissa I am always so thrilled when I hear that people have gone and read Nancy and loved her, she is wonderful isn’t she. I had the same reaction reading The Pursuit of Love when I was laughing all the time.

      I will keep posts of Oscar popping up every now and again. As I type this he is gearing up to pouncing on my fingers, he thinks my new laptop is the devil.

  10. The chocolate cake looks F I T.
    Sounds like you’re nest-building. A furry baby and now you’re in the kitchen!

  11. Oh, I love baking, too, but I go through phases: don’t do it for years and then get all fired up and make cakes and muffins, usually when the weather is rotten. My sister and I used to have bake-offs when we were kids — we still laugh at the time my sister baked about 100 rock cakes that went as flat as pancakes and she was stuck in the kitchen for hours and hours putting batch after batch into the oven. Actually, she used to have a foodie blog — but she merged it into her normal blog. She is a brilliant cook — see here: http://melody-biglittlesister.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Recipe

    As for cook books, I highly recommend those very cute little Good Food magazine cookbooks — at just £5 a pop they’re such value for money and they cover everything from cakes and slices, to chocolate goodies and biscuits etc.

    Good luck with it! :-)

    • I have never had a bake off with my siblings but they are staying this weekend and so it could happen. We are doing pizzas and cakes on Saturday night. My sister is a brilliant baker so it could be gloves ‘on’ again.

      Thanks for the link to your sisters site and the books. I will investigate both, and sorry I didn’t get to see you this weekend. I was rough!

  12. Kate

    Your treats look so good!! I love to back more than cook, but I use random recipes from different places, my go to baking book from my teens is woefully out of date. And now for a question from an ignorant American: What are fairy cakes? I have also seen thme mentioned in sveral British novels, but never knew what they were.

  13. Yum! :) this all looks so delicious! I’m actually spending all day tomorrow with my mum baking cakes for my birthday next week. I like the idea of lemon drizzle and apparently chocolate and pear go really well together! Thanks for the ideas.

    And I love the blog idea – do it!

  14. sharkell

    Food for thought (I couldn’t help myself)! I kind of like your idea about a baking blog. How about “Two Bearded Bakers”? But what happens if one of you shaves????

  15. Alison P

    Forget the food blog – if your cakes taste as good as they look, open a cake shop instead!!

  16. Mimannee

    I love ‘bitchin in the kitchen’ – definitely use this one!

  17. I love Gizzi Erskine’s book ‘Gizzi’s Kitchen Magic’ – all the recipes feel like a real treat but nothing is too difficult!

  18. Louise

    I have a thing for cookbooks…they’re pretty and I collect them, I have around 170 of them. I have everything by Nigella, Jamie, Gordon, Gino, Delia, marco, Heston, Simon Hopkinson, Lorraine Pascale, Rachel Allen,etc.. the more famous chefs. I do like the River Cottage books. Lisa Faulkner has a nice cook book. Anything by Good Food are usually very good cook books. The Great British Book of Baking are also really good. Goodhousekeeping do very good books too, which cover loads of different foods.

    I also have lots of smaller cook books from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s… some of them came with kitchen appliances others not, they have some fabulous recipes in and some use gross ingredients, but they were passed down so I kept them. Cakes, cupcakes and muffins are the thing at the moment so I have about 30 books just for cupcakes etc… they’re very cute!

    Out of all my cook books, I’ve used Nigella’s the absolute most ( I love her) and her writing is fabulous. Rachel Allen, Lorraine Pascale and Nigella are all very similar and their books are so lovely. If you have The Works on your high street, go and have a look in there, they usually have lots of cook books, I’ve bought quite a few from there.

    Would you believe that I have all these cook books, hundreads of baking trays and tins, kitchen gadgets galore a most gorgeous oven and I barely bloody cook lol!

    Ooh, for sort of fiction books with food, I do like Andrea Camillari’s Montalbano series, I think they’re also set in Venice, they have an Italian vibe. There a some cute, quirky cosy mystery books based around food, eg, The Buttercream Bump off lol! Another, Like Water for Chocolate by Laura somebody, and Poppy Z Brite’s Liquor, Prime and Soul Kitchen books I also love.. I love all things New Orleans, the’re food is amazing. There is always Anthony Capella and those foodie books of Joanne Harris’ that I mentioned in one of your others posts… I think it was a bout sequels?.. anyway… OMG! I’ve soooo rambled!!

  19. I would heartily recommend Mary Berry if it’s baking that you’re specifically after. I’ve rarely gone wrong with her.

  20. AJ

    I am more a cook than a baker but Baking with Julia [Child] has never steered me wrong. The challah bread is terrific.

  21. CarolK

    Can’t cook a ____! but would love a podcast of what you’re cooking, eating, doing! Who dosen’t love food.

  22. Great idea! I got ‘How to Bake’ in Sainsbury’s for a tenner on Saturday. Another great book for Scottish baking is the Glasgow Cook Book… And no it’s not got deep fried Mars Bars in it, but if you want to make potato scones…

    • I received it in the post, which I need to tweet about and say thanks, just the other day randomly from the publishers. I was thrilled. I have never had a deep friend Mars Bar, yet I have always wanted to try one just once.

  23. Please do the blog. It will be riveting I am sure.

  24. dot

    My sister and I have just opened our first cake shop so I would love you to do a foodie blog! I think that Jo Wheatley’s book, A Passion for Baking is great, there’s a review up on my blog at the moment!

  25. Didi

    Hello, Simon. I love your blog. First time commenting. Your baked goods look wonderful. Definitely do the food-related blog! I like your suggestion “The Fabulous Bearded Baker Boys” as a title. I’m w/the commentor above re: cookbooks — used to buy so many and then ultimately would only like one or two recipes in the entire book. These days I dload cookbooks in PDF from the library.

    • Hi Didi, thank you so much for pressing the comment button. Lots more people lurk than comment so its nice to get to know some of them!

      I don’t kow what I think about downloading recipes, hmmm.

  26. Dan Lepard’s ‘Short and Sweet’ is very good as is Geraldine Holt’s ‘Cakes’. Enjoy the baking :)

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