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Baking season has begun…

And this winter’s pet project is to recreate recipes from my childhood, back when bakers shops had rows and rows of loaves on shelves high up behind the counter and glass cabinets of goodies at just the right height for a child to see them clearly. Sticky buns, teacakes to toast. Chocolate chip shortbread. Jam and cream-filled palmiers. Scones filled with clotted cream and jam. Belgian buns, Gingerbread men with smarties down their fronts, and, if it was a Saturday, there’d be bigger cakes for the weekend. Dorset apple cake, obviously, but coffee and walnut or chocolate cake too.

Maybe it’s a sign that I’m getting older (and I’m very glad to have the chance to do it) but I don’t like the modern cup cakes which are all icing or the fancy and incredibly expensive cream-filled gateaux that all too often come from the local catering wholesaler. (I know this because I have an account with one, and it’s fun playing ‘match the cake with where I see it on sale’ and saying ‘ouch’ when I see the mark up.)

So, armed with old Women's Institute and Good Housekeeping cookbooks and my newly reorganised kitchen, I plan to expand my range, especially of the breads. I love my bread machine but I want to learn to make professional-looking rolls and loaves, so over the bank holiday I started with learning how to make a bloomer. It turns out it’s really simple. You roll out the bread dough (I did a seeded white and a half and half white and wholemeal seeded with honey on two different days.) then roll it up like a Swiss roll. Then you put it seam side up on your baking tray, let it rise for 15 minutes, then turn it over, tuck the seams and ends in and make 3 deep slashes in the top. Then let it rise as usual, spray with a little olive oil and bake for 20 minutes at 200c and 15 at 180c. You put a tray of water underneath the shelf it’s going on so there’s lots of steam and the result, as you’ll see, doesn’t look like I made it.

Because that, you see, is my goal. I want to recreate that cake shop at home because if I’m going to have cake (which I still do even though I’m losing weight steadily) then it’s got to be the good stuff, made with good eggs and butter. No more ultra-processed stuff for us! And it’s a good hobby because my family support me wholeheartedly and have shared happy memories of old favourites, and looked through the cookbooks as we discover potential new favourites…

So here’s a picture of my second bloomer. I plan to try the same recipes in the breadmaker and set the crust control to see if I can get crisp bread laced with lovely healthy omega 3 seeds. The next thing I want to master is a French-style baguette. I’ve got the Subway bread recipe from lockdown, but I want something light and airy to serve with homemade soup once I’ve learned to do that too…

Do you bake? Have you any good recipes to share?

So now on to the week’s special offers.

In the US, at 99c, we have

A Prayer for Peace To Have and To Hold and Let the Dead -

Three Amy Hammond mysteries, in which we find out more about Peter and start to understand why Amy finds trouble and their relationship develops. 1 wedding which was never going to be simple, and 1 set in autumn, where Amy meets Peter’s cousin and discovers a beautiful area of Wales which is pretty much my second home.

Writing as Eleanor Neville, there’s Knight’s Move and Pawn to Knight.

These are a little naughtier, and have a spot of bondage in them, but nothing too shocking. They’re from the Shadows series that follow the exploits of the agents of the ultra-secretive MI27 who exist to stop things happening. They tackle the weird cases, and if a politician narrowly escaping death after someone fires a crossbow bolt at his car one dark knight on a country road, then how about them using an historical reconstruction complete with knights in shining armour as a gathering place while they plan an attack on a political conference? Luckily, Andrew Stannard is an avid reconstructor, and his squire, Maria Jordan is an experienced rider, but he still finds himself a long way out of his depth…

In the UK at 99p there’s the 2 Eleanor Nevilles, Let the Dead and the Wrong Twin, which is a lovely, gentle Oldcastle cosy romance with a cute toddler. See? I’m not always a bad girl!

Have a great week, and don’t be good all the time till we meet again. Otherwise people will take you for granted and that’s no fun at all, is it?

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