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.
I have a list on my iPhone notes of places I want to visit in the U.K. and in recent years I’ve been trying to tick off as many as I can and see more of this beautiful country.
Stay-cations are the best; no hassle of airports, stress of flying (fellow nervous flyers will appreciate!), exchange rates etc. Just do a quick booking.com search, pack, jump in the car and head off for the weekend. We are spoilt for choice here in the U.K. as there’s so much to see but this time we went to The Cotswolds, which has been on my iPhone notes for years.
We rented a small apartment in Cheltenham and spent 3 days driving from village to village, exploring each one and discovering their different character and charm that they have to offer, stopping occasionally for a spot of tea & scones – oh so British!
To add to the typical British theme, it rained on and off all weekend, but instead of crying into our cups of tea, we just put up our brollies and continued to explore Cotswold’s merry olde towns.
As a history buff it was incredible to walk around the unspoilt, old, chocolate box villages where families still run the local bakeries, the olde post office is still in use and the village church and town hall host events for the local community.
The villages have a timeless quality to them, so if you ignore the smart phones and the swarm of people talking pictures with their selfie sticks, you can almost imagine what it would have been like in the good old days of letter-writing and assembly room dancing. It’s no wonder that countless movies and period-dramas have been filmed in The Cotswolds; War Horse (Castle Combe), Bridget Jones (Snowshill), Harry Potter (Gloucester Cathedral & Lacock) and the BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice (Meryton is filmed in Lacock).
We drove through countless villages but if you are thinking of going, I’d recommend not missing Bibury, Lacock, Lower Slaughter, Castle Combe and Stow-on-the-Wold. I’m already day-dreaming of my next visit there, staying in an old inn or cottage that has a four poster bed and spending my weekend roaming the villages.