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.
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.
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!]
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.
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 theSwedish 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).
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 …
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.
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?
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 🙂
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!
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’.
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!
Best sausage of the year:
Another Viennese delight – mit brot und senf, of course
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!
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.
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?
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!
Synonyms:ineptitude, ineptness, inability, lack of ability, incapability, incapacity, lack of skill, lack of proficiency, amateurishness, inexpertness, clumsiness, ineffectiveness, inadequacy, deficiency, inefficiency, ineffectuality, ineffectualness, insufficiency.
Well, that pretty much sums up our attempts to deliver a longstanding colleague into a splendid retirement by providing him with some home-baked memories of his youth; a competitive bake-off that was themed on his Geordie roots. We had borrowed the idea from an earlier attempt to broaden the social horizons within our workplace. The highlight of our previous gatherings was a ‘Traybake of the Month’ competition in which anyone could offer-up their version of a particular pastry which was then tasted and judged by all. The entries were usually terrific with only an occasional misfire, but that was then.
This is now …
Boss: “We could have a Geordie-themed bake-off before his retirement lunch. And he can be the judge!”
So that was that, a one-off ‘Geordie Traybake of the Month’ competition was conceived. We hit an immediate barrier. Despite trawling the internet and contacting various Geordie’s that we knew, we could only come up with two non-savoury home-bakes that were specifically linked to England’s northeast: Stottie cake (a kind of loaf) and singin’ hinnies (a sort of griddle scone). I ‘bagged’ the singin’ hinnies for my entry and left the others to their own devices and what ingenuity they showed.
The Hairy Bikers’ chocolate cake was a half-good idea, but only half-good insofar as one of the biker duo actually hails from England’s northwest (Cumbria in fact, like me) and couldn’t possibly be considered a Geordie. I thought about submitting a protest and seeking the cake’s disqualification as ‘not entirely Newcastle’, but suspected that it would be in vain as my boss was cunning enough to present only half the cake anyway, and she could always argue that she had brought along the Newcastle fraction and not the Cumbrian bit which she considered worthy only to be trashed. In truth, the cake had apparently self-destructed after being filled with a poorly conceived butter icing and only half could be salvaged.
The next entry was a straightforward iced sponge cake; its northeast credentials satisfied by a customised rice-paper photograph of Cheryl Cole as a topping. I thought a trick was missed by using the topper to make a Geordie cake; representing it as a Geordie tart would have been funnier, but the cake certainly had more taste than the muse that inspired its decoration. Nevertheless, it also had its problems. That the topper wished its recipient ‘Happy Birthday’ rather than ‘Happy Retirement’ could be overlooked, but the teensiest issue remained – it was not baked by one of us, but by a ‘ringer’; a surrogate maître pâtissier. If it had won then a protest would have been inevitable.
An engaging bit of lateral thinking led to the third competitor’s entry. Nixed by the lack of native Geordie traybakes, he had discovered a chocolate brownie recipe that included Newcastle Brown Ale as an ingredient. Inspirational stuff! Nevertheless, if one considers a published and tested recipe to comprise a sort of standard operating procedure to produce traybakes, then, as the experienced and professional quality assurance expert that he is, how could he confuse degrees Fahrenheit with degrees Celsius and bake his brownies at 275°C? And why did they not burn to a cinder? It turns out that his day may have been saved by his partner’s suggestion that his oven temperature was a tad high. So, I ask myself, where is the fairness in our traybake competition when someone making chocolate brownies gets outside help, and not just any outside help, but assistance from a person that coincidentally just happens to be a chocolate brownie expert herself? Sadly for my hopes of victory they tasted particularly fine and included a dob of caramel within them; sweet and gooey is always a winning combination.
Finally, my singin’ hinnies. Twenty minutes to prepare and twenty minutes to cook. I could make double the dough and use half of it for a practice run and the other half to knock out a dozen expertly-crafted Geordie-based griddle scones to secure a sweet victory. If only. Several hours later my singing hinnies comprised a soloist not a choir. A single, solitary artiste. The rest had been under-cooked, over-cooked, unevenly cooked or simply crumbled to nothing on the griddle. (I’m still struggling to understand what kind of recipe includes lard as half of the fat in the dough and then calls for the heated griddle to be smeared with even more lard to cook the damn things). At the tasting, ‘Boss’ thought the flavour of my sole surviving hinny evoked bubble and squeak, an easy mistake to make as ‘bubble’ is fried in pure lard and my hinny tasted of nothing else either. (I should add a mea culpa – when the first of my hinnies crumbled on the griddle, I thought it wise to add a bit more lard to the remaining dough to make it bind better!). Clearly I was not going to be a contender, but if a chap is going to fail, he may as well fail magnificently.
The Brown Ale Brownies won and rightly so, but I like to think the hilarity invoked by the taste of my singing hinny and the story-telling of the ineptitude of all our bakers was the real prize and one that was shared across the board. Self-detonating chocolate cakes, surrogate bakers, appalling quality control and lard. Oh god, the lard!
Postscript: Singin’ hinnies are so named because of the squealing sound that they are supposed to make when being cooked on the griddle. None of mine ‘sang’ which should have set the alarm bells ringing, but the experience did inspire a limerick which will be added to my ‘Little Book of Bollocks’, so not all was lost:
I was hoping I’d be able to bring A traybake that was fit for a king. ‘Cos it’s not every day That a chum goes away, But my hinnies? They just wouldn’t sing!