January – the most depressing month ever, right? Discarded Christmas tress line the sides of streets, waiting to be disposed of (such a sad sight), rainy days continue which mean that even weekends are spent housebound and the thought of spring time seems years away. However, before going into hibernation until the cherry blossoms arrive, I try and find small things to lift my mood during this time of year, like having fresh flowers in the house, re-watching Friends for the 156th time thanks to Netflix and baking…although technically crumpets don’t actually involve baking, but you know what I mean!
Last weekend I attempted traditional crumpets for the first time and although they do take a bit of practice and patience, they aren’t too tricky. Here’s the recipe:
(Makes around 15)
- 175g strong white flour
- 175g strong white flour
- 175g plain flour
- 4 tsps instant yeast
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 350ml warm milk
- 150-200ml warm water
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp salt
- Butter for greasing
- Mix together the flours and the yeast in a bowl.
- Dissolve the sugar in the warm milk and pour onto the flour. Beat until you have a smooth batter.
- Cover with cling-film and leave for an hour, until the batter doubles in size.
- Mix the bicarbonate of soda and salt with the warm water and beat it into the batter. Add about ¾ of the water and keep adding it until you get a double cream consistency. Cover and rest again for 45 minutes.
- Heat a flat-bottomed pan and lightly grease the inside of your metal crumpet rings and the pan. Sit the rings on the griddle over a low-medium heat.
- Drop half a ladle of mixture into each ring. When the bubbles start to burst and the surface is set or beginning to get dry (should be around 5-7 minutes) turn the crumpets over and cook further for a minute or two.
- Serve hot with a big dollop of butter and a cup of tea to accompany it perfectly.
Last week my cousins and I spent a night in Oxford, otherwise known as Hogwarts. It was my first time here and after having been to Cambridge many times, I have been eager to see “the other one” and explore more of England’s oldest colleges and their history.
Our first stop was to see the famous Christ Church College and The Great Hall! Fellow Harry Potter fans may recognise this, as The Great Hall in the films was heavy based on the “the real one”. Even if you’re not a Potterhead, it’s impressive just knowing some of the great names of former students were who attended Christ Church College and sat in this hall. Prime Ministers, philosophers and even Albert Einstein! I walked around looking at the portraits on the wall, the fireplaces and the stunning stained glass window and I couldn’t help but feel completely jealous of the Oxford University students who basically have a feast at Hogwarts every night and call it dinner time!
Another highlight of the weekend was seeing the Bodleian Library, one of the oldest libraries in the country…and another film set for Harry Potter (we did other non-Potter things too, promise!). Unfortunately cameras aren’t allowed there but take my word for it that it is the most stunning library ever, plus it has that great old, dusty books smell!
Oxford is such a beautiful place to visit, with bikes on every street corner, the beautiful Bridge of Sighs and the Cotswolds brick buildings, which are enough of a reason to visit but add autumn colours into the mix and you won’t be able to put your camera down!
As soon as September hits, the first leaf falls and everyone is talking knits, tights and boots, its like we all suddenly migrate to autumn land…and I love it! Autumn is my favourite season as it gives me an excuse to stay in, (not that I need an excuse!) stick on a Harry Potter DVD and bake. I bake all year round but there’s something cosy and comforting about baking during this time of year. I tend to steer away from lemony, light desserts and focus more on autumn/winter flavours like apples, pumpkins and lots and lots of cinnamon…I basically shove cinnamon in everything I can!
This was my first attempt at cinnamon rolls, which do take a bit of patience but weren’t too difficult and turned out pretty well.
For the dough:
- 570ml warm milk
- 150g caster sugar
- 45g dried yeast
- 180g unsalted butter, melted
- 1 egg
- 1kg plain flour
For the filling:
- 100g unsalted butter (softened)
- 200g dark brown soft sugar
- 3 tbsp ground cinnamon
- chocolate buttons (as many as you want!)
For the glaze:
- 45g caster sugar
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- To make the dough, put the milk, sugar, yeast, melted butter and egg in a cake mixer and gradually add the flour (while the mixer is on) until it is all incorporated and the dough has come together.
- Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour, until it has doubled in size.
- Meanwhile preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6.
- Punch down the dough and transfer to a floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll it out until it is about 30x80cm and 7mm thick.
- Spread the butter evenly over the dough and sprinkle the sugar, cinnamon and chocolate buttons all over the top.
- Roll the dough up from the long side. Cut into 6cm rolls.
- Transfer onto the baking trays and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
- To make the glaze, put the sugar, lemon juice and 100ml water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until slightly thickened.
- Remove the buns from oven, transfer to a wire rack and brush the glaze over them.