'Begin at the beginning,' the King said, very gravely, 'and go on till you come to the end: then stop.'

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I've been slowly baking my way through Nigella's recipe books. Like a lower-budget and less ambitious version of Julie & Julia, I plan to bake all of her earthly delights as we progress through 2011. I don't want to boil a lobster alive or tackle the famous beef bourguignon (although I  might just, for the sake of adding it to my repertoire), but the baking... Oo ... the baking. It helps having an office full of friendly people who always appreciate a little baked good here and there.

I've had a good start, mind you. 

Remember the Chocolate Honey Cake

I've also baked her snickerdoodles:

Deliciously spicy baubles of soft-centred cake, perfect for the festive season.

... and her Lemon Gems:

The Lemon Gems were a particularly delicious union of shortbread and lemon curd, highly recommended. I must make these again soon! 

I've tried her Baklava Muffins (picture pending) and her delicious chocolate chip cookies:

The cookies were so delicious that I had to make a second batch.

Freshly baked, the chocolate is still melted and the dough is soft and sticky - just the way it's supposed to be!

I ran out of chocolate chip chunks for the second batch (the recipe calls for a whopping 326g of milk chocolate chunks!) so I substituted 100g of chocolate with 100g of mini marshmallows. The results (above) were decadently sweet with gooey marshmallow gems hidden inside. Yum. 

Here's Buki enjoying a chocolate chip cookie with tea. I'm not sure whether I'm more taken with her satin drapery or the fact that she posed for me, but either way - I love this picture.

So this weekend I tackled two more of Nigella's delights. 

I baked her chocolate-orange loaf cake:

It's a deep chocolate loaf cake that has a zesty orange aftertaste. Like a grown-up version of Terry's Chocolate Orange, this cake is a delicious addition to the kitchen and we both grab a tiny piece of it every time we walk past! I find that it's not very sweet, but I did have to make a substitution: we seemed to have lost our golden syrup in the move so I substituted the two tablespoons of golden syrup for two (very expensive) tablespoons of Pure Canadian Maple Syrup instead. It still has the right texture but it's not nearly as sweet as it could have been. Perhaps this is a good thing? Graeme is notoriously anti anything particularly sweet and he helped himself to a second slice of this cake, so we may have hit on a winner here.

My second baking attempt this weekend was perhaps more significant; I've never baked anything bready before and I really really want to start so I thought what better place to start than with a Nigella recipe for my favourite morning pastry? Bagels.

You're supposed to knead it and beat it and punch it down to a delightfully smooth doughy mixture. But guess what - ? All this baking is not for naught; I've bought myself the much-coveted Kenwood Chef which seems to be a family tradition and I have to say, Robyn, you were right, I don't know myself. How did I ever manage before the Kenwood Chef? How is it possible that I would have made this dough by hand, beaten with my horrible little hand mixer? The same hand mixer that decided my fingers ought to be mixed into cookie dough, or the one which constantly tries to eat my silicon spatula? Begone, hand-mixer, I banish you to the back of the cupboard or perhaps more permanently to Freecycle.org.

But I digress, back to the bagels. In my excitement I got the maths wrong (halved the recipe but didn't halve the tearing-and-folding instructions) and ended up with fourteen miniature bagels when I wanted seven large ones, so I re-kneaded the dough to make seven balls. Unfortunately, the dough was already past the resting stage so the bagels didn't turn out as perfectly smooth as I would have liked. They didn't stick either; lesson learnt - next time, pinch the ends together harder! The end results, however, were spectacular

They were crisp and brown and had the perfect bagel texture: chewy, dense and delicious. Perhaps the secret is in the pre-poaching, or the rope-rolled balls, but either way, this is probably the best recipe I've made yet. Nigella's bagel recipe yields fourteen or fifteen giant bagels so don't be afraid to halve it!

Here you can see how bitty the bagels turned out, but I must say, they're really delicious. I would have re-taken this photograph to include less croissant-crescent-shaped results, but Graeme has taken my camera with him to the Celtic Manor golfing event this weekend.

I love my new oven. 

I have two of her books on my shelf at the moment - the acclaimed How to be a Domestic Goddess and Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home. so, seven more to go before I have the completed collection. With hundreds of recipes to each book and only two weekend days per week, I think we'll just tackle the first two this year... Come round for tea?

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