Occasional Limericks Only #39

Yes, chef!

Despite this year’s Christmas festivities getting off to a bright start, courtesy of the BBC’s Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s Christmas concert at Aberdeen’s Music Hall, things have gone downhill since.

You see, it is a modern tradition in our house that Firstborn and/or The Tall Child bake a birthday cake for the Paterfamilias (ie, me) on Christmas Eve. Well, it’s after 5pm on the 24th and not an egg has been whisked by an offspring or any flour weighed out.

Fortunately, not all is lost! After (literally) decades of trying to replicate the taste and texture of my Czech grandmother’s festive vanillekipferls (crescent biscuits), I think I’ve finally cracked it!




Here’s the limerick:

On a cold Christmas Eve this year
It’s become transparently clear
That I’ll soon have to bake
My own birthday cake
‘Cos the cooks have failed to appear!

A limerick a week #242

Hmmm, nice buns!

I woke up this morning – ALAW publication day – with no limerick in mind. Fortunately (or, perhaps, unfortunately given what it gave rise to) a quick read of today’s Graun elicited the fact that lockdown has seen the number of British naturists ‘soar’.


British nudists’ group reports exponential growth in participation in online events since pandemic restrictions came into force“.

A nude bakery class seems to be popular, Naked kitchen with Pam, no less, but one in which participants’ webcams must be switched on to avoid “lurking perverts” – perish the thought!

Anyway, thus inspired (as an occasional-but-fully-clad baker myself) a quiet, contemplative walk in some woodland avec mon chien resulted in this week’s less than memorable ALAW.

One of the posters I put together a few years ago to publicise my old work team’s coffee club and home-baking extravaganza. Perhaps a revamp into ‘Home Baking for Nudist’ is called for?!

A baker was really quite lewd
When baking some bread in the nude
‘Cos to knock the dough back
He gave it a whack
With a tool that’s exceedingly rude.

A limerick a week #174


I like towns (and cities) with their own character rather than homogenised, lookalike town centres filled with same old chain stores, betting shops and charity outlets.

All of which means that I’m not a great fan of shops like Greggs, the ubiquitous UK bakery chain. Consequently, I was amused to read that its only outlet in Cornwall, a concession within a service station, has closed. Apparently it was much ado about pasties.  The Cornish, it seems, prefer the real thing:

“It’s obvious that Cornish people will use Cornish bakery’s where they can get a Cornish pasty rather than the s**t pasty slice from Greggs. They were never going to survive here.” [as quoted in the Daily Telegraph, including its misuse of the possessive instead of a plural. Groan!]

The real thing

If only the good folk of Kendal had the same attitude I might still have been able to buy a decent slab of sly cake on my occasional forays to visit the Matriarch!

Anyway, as this is a retail-orientated ALAW (and with some economy with the actualité) here is a limerick BOGOF offer…

A bakery once tried to expand
In the south-western parts of the land,
But the Cornish aren’t patsies
And want their own pasties
So Greggs, it appears, has been banned.

There once was an outlet of Greggs
Whose pasties were really the dregs
Of the pastry-shop art
So it had to depart
With its tail firmly tucked ‘twixt its legs. 

Not the real thing!


This is just to say…

Nice plums! 

Our plum bush gave us a surfeit of fruit for the first time, so what to do with them?

Zwetschgenkuchen, that’s what, German plum cake. Ours aren’t the recommended plum variety for this recipe, but the pre-cooked cake looks ok…

According to the Graun’s weekly column on ‘How to cook the perfect…, the big question with Zwetschgenkuchen is whether to ‘streusel’ or not.

I streuseled!

And added whipped cream.

Kaiserschmarren with plum sauce next…

Postscript: A couple of years ago a short poem about plums, This Is Just To Say by William Carlos Williams, became a meme:

The poem in its entirety.

‘Twas the yeast I could do …

… and some other things you knead to know:

A successful day at the Bread Ahead bakery school in Borough Market on the full-day French baking course (boulangerie, non pâtisserie).

The tutor remembered me from my last visit 20 months ago, possibly due to the living and breathing realisation of a ”northern meme” that clearly amused a bunch of Chelsea Girls on that course.

Sadly, no Chelsea Girls to entertain this time. Maybe they go to the new Bread Ahead bakery school in, er, Chelsea. Still, it was fun this time too.

Les Croissants. A lot of time spent learning the correct lamination process. Time well spent!


My Pain de Compagne. Baked in a Dutch Oven, aka a Le Creuset steel casserole.


… and my piéce de resistance, a plaited brioche that was singled out for praise. Merveilleux!

Unfortunately, the Madelaines that comprised our fourth bake of the day didn’t survive long enough to be photographed  – ils ont disparu; simplement trop dèlicieux.


‘Tis Kanelbullens Dag

or … Oh, cinnamon, the devil is a-waiting!

The fourth of October is Sweden’s national cinnamon bun day. Yup, it’s that day that you’ve never heard of, but would just love to celebrate if you had.

Why is it so? Well, the cinnamon bun (kanelbullar) is a staple of the Swedes’ devotion to fika, or coffee break, so much so that they decided to devote a whole day to it.

I’ve tried two recipes and the second one turned out fine courtesy of the  Swedish Food website. (I used the alternate recipe given for the filling and baked the buns for 20 minutes in a fan-assisted oven at 160°c, before lowering the temperature to 130°c and baking for another 8 minutes with foil over the buns. I made my own nib sugar and used freshly ground cardamom seeds).

Devilishly good!

Very gently melting butter into milk before adding a beaten egg.

Mixing the dry ingredients of the dough.

The rough dough after adding the wet ingredients.

The risen dough after 10 minutes of hand-kneading and 2 hours rising.

‘Buttering’ the rolled-out dough with a butter, sugar, cinnamon mix.

… rolled up ‘swiss-roll’ style

… then sliced and left to rise again.

Glazed and sugared before baking … et voilà

A limerick a week #50


It’s not always easy to think of something sensible to write on a colleague’s You’re leaving to have a baby card. So I wrote this instead:

On Parenthood

I’m sure (s)he will turn out quite sweet
(Despite all the things (s)he’ll excrete!)
But in time mum and dad
Will be driven quite mad
Watching kiddy-cartoons on repeat!

Postscript: Some folk made cake for the pre-maternity leaving do; I made tiffin …

Crumbled digestive biscuit and chopped raisins and glace cherries

Butter, cocoa powder, golden syrup and caster sugar



That was my year that was

I’m quite pleased to see the back of 2016,  but for what it’s worth here are some pics for my ‘best of’ compendium for the year …

Best new experience of the year:

A bread-making course at ‘Bread Ahead’ (Borough Market, London). Just me and a bunch of Chelsea girls loafing around …

You know you’re in trouble when your sourdough goes a-rye

Best ice-cream of the year:

Beating Zanoni’s of Vienna by a short head was the first ice-cream pit stop of the year.

Cycling on a sundae …

Best blog idea of the year:

A limerick a week. How else can one show one’s proficiency at celebrating #TeamDemelza in verse with an anapestic meter and strict rhyme scheme?

Why a limerick? Because ‘There was once a man who wrote poems …’

Best cycle ride of the year:

Finally, at the age of 24, Firstborn scraped her knee whilst participating in a physical outdoor activity. Her mother was so proud 🙂

Blood, sweat and gears …

Best health tip of the year:

… and from the Graun: Bike rides and hot baths – a fitness match made in heaven and it’s official!

Oh dear, I’m in hot water again!

Best impression of a marine mammal of the year:

Management performing dolphinarium tricks (we’d boycotted Marineland Mallorca whilst on holiday) with Firstborn as the ‘trainer’.

Does this trick make my bum look big?

Best meal of the year:

The most hotly contested category of all. It could easily have been the baked brie at the Crofters Bistro, Rosemarkie, or the scallops at the Applecross Inn or the mega-breakfast at the Hatton Locks café or the liver and bacon at the Tigh an Eilean Hotel, Shieldaig. But by a country mile, ‘hats off’ please to the Gasthaus Ubl in Vienna for keeping traditional Austrian cuisine alive and at its best. Roast pork, sauerkraut and dumplings like my Grandma used to make. Großartig!

“Il semble que la perfection soit atteinte non quand il n’y a plus rien a ajouter, mais quand il n’y a plus rien a retrancher” – Antoine de saint-Exupery.

Best sausage of the year:

Another Viennese delight – mit brot und senf, of course

Absolutely the wurst experience that we had on holiday …

Best new toy of the year:

A micro-campervan. According to the Daily Mash, “as a form of accommodation it is slightly more expensive than The Savoy, but I think it’s cool.

Priscilla at rest (at the Clootie Well)
As aficionados of the movie ‘Priscilla; Queen of the Desert’ will tell you, calling it Priscilla certainly puts the ‘camp’ into ‘campervan’

Best fresh air of the year:

As sensitive bio-indicators of atmospheric pollution, these lichens growing on a wooden bench seat next to the main road through Lochcarron attest to the freshness of its air. Unusually for Scotland the air was still on the day this picture was taken, making it the best fresh air of the year!

I’m lichen it …

Best concert of the year:

No real competition here. Bellowhead on a Saturday night at the London Palladium during the band’s farewell tour. Simply awesome.

Folk music ‘rebooted’ or as I would say,”traditional music given a kick up the a**e!”

Best offspring pose of the year:

Firstborn and The Tall Child ‘having a moment’.

I never called you a mushroom. I said you were a fun guy!

And finally …

Best roof picture of the year:

Eavesdropping from the top of Stephansdom, Vienna

… a bad case of shingles?







Only in Arbroath …

We travelled to Arbroath today so that ‘Tall Child’ could get his annual fix of the Red Arrows aerobatic display team. Once there we took time out before the main event to top up our caffeine levels and indulge in some homebakes in a local café … but Arbroath, I ask you, marmalade on a fruit scone! Really?

The reason we travelled to Arbroath
The reason we travelled to Arbroath

Brown Ale brownies or Dog brownies?

It seems that I was wrong to suggest that the winning entrant to our recent ‘Geordie Traybake of the Month’ competition (Newcastle Brown Ale brownies) had been illegally aided by his partner’s suggestion that his oven temperature was too high (275°C instead of 275°F – see posts passim). Seemingly, no such help was given as at that time our victorious baker was highly stressed and, as his partner casually put it: “… not really receptive to any suggestions!” (what a great line; I think we know what it means😄).

After the event the ‘leftover’ winning brownies were clearly coveted by the victor’s partner who returned them to their home only to lose them to the low cunning of their family dog who, apparently, tucked into them clingfilm and all. Her observation that it was an interesting experience as it passed through their pet’s system did, however, make me think. Just imagine if separate portions of dog food and clingfilm could be consumed and gastrically engineered in such a way that, on passing through its innards, the clingfilm enveloped any waste to be pooped out pre-wrapped for disposal in a doggy bin. Classic!

Finally, it should not have been a surprise for their pet to think the brownies were hers and hers alone. The English northeast vernacular for a pint of Newcastle Brown Ale (the essential ingredient in these brownies) is a ‘bottle of dog’. So, really, they were not Newcastle Brown Ale brownies at all, but dog brownies. Clever of the mutt to realise that!