I have always loved baking. It is like magic. You mix some ingredients together and they combine to become a delicious treat. I love the creativity of it. As a child, I would watch my Mam make tarts, scones, and brown bread every Sunday evening. She would then guess how long they would need to bake for, depending on the temperature of the oven that day!
These days we are bombarded with cookery and baking shows on TV as well as on social media platforms. The good news is, I reckon you only ever really need about ten fantastic recipes to fall back on. I do realise baking is not everyone’s cup of tea. But for those who enjoy it, here is my list of favourite bakes and tips that I have learned along the way. I am sorry there is not many photos here. I love cookery books with photos but with copyright I can only post my own. So, I have included some of the cakes which were baked very recently during lockdown.
Chocolate is such a favourite of so many people that I had to start with it. When I was first experimenting with different types of chocolate cakes, I made many that were far too rich for any sort of occasion. I also found some cookery books better than others. Nigella Lawson is very reliable with her chocolate recipes and Mary Berry is always dependable. A word about the quality of chocolate and cocoa. Children and even some adults do not like bitter chocolate tarts, so it is worth getting the best you can get. 70% Lindt or Greene and Blacks are on offer quite often and they are lovely. Aldi and Lidl have a great section for quality chocolate ingredients. So, to the recipes:
Brownies – there are many variations, but I always return to Nigella’s “How to be a Domestic Goddess” (not sure that book title sits easy with me!)
this recipe makes a big batch and I do love walnuts in brownies, but that’s up to you. Jamie Oliver has a recipe that is good for a smaller batch. It’s from the book “Cook with Jamie” https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/chocolate-recipes/bloomin-brilliant-brownies/
He also does great vegan brownies
Chocolate cakes for special occasions
For children, you cannot beat Mary Berry’s chocolate tray bake. it is really easy, and you can put anything you like on top. Maltesers are a favourite in my house. I would not use dark chocolate here. I have used regular Cadbury’s dairy milk and the ganache has been lovely. https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/chocolate_tray_bake_with_69567
Nigella Lawson has a myriad of chocolate cake recipes, but I find myself returning to this one from her Kitchen book. It is “devil’s food cake” and it is pretty sinful! My birthday last year coincided with the start of the first lockdown, so I felt I deserved this indulgence. I think I will do the same this year!
I sometimes make the sponge from that “devil’s food cake” for a children’s birthday cake using a white chocolate icing instead like this one featured in a cake by Mary Berry https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/celebration_chocolate_18175
To be honest, I am not a huge fan of icing, but I make an exception when it comes to chocolate icing or ganache, especially for special occasions.
- Theresa McNally’s blog on My Favourite Bakes will continue next week. For more ideas and tips in the baking world, you can have a look at Fingal Libraries online resources; https://www.fingal.ie/council/service/fingal-library-eservices-and-eresources-online