Monday, 17 September 2012

INTRODUCTION

Baking has always had a part in my life, even when I was around 5 and I remember trips to our local bakery, Shelton’s, or the enduring tradition of exchanging baked goods, such as lemon cake and flapjack, over the fence to my auntie who lives at the back of my house. Our bakery Shelton’s is the epitome of the baking I enjoy; no fuss. Wonky pastries and crumbly cakes fill the tiny room, all bursting with butter cream or jam, and the high point of decoration is hundreds and thousands. Over the past few years baking has had a massive revival, saturating every market with endless television shows, stacks of recipe books in stores and the image of the cupcake adorning vast amounts of products predominantly aimed at the female market. Although this has been fantastic for a keen baker like myself, the problem I have is with the latter image. Baking has become synonymous with super-sweet cakes, piled high with garishly coloured frostings and bizarre decorations, such as edible glitter which adds absolutely nothing to the flavour. Traditional bakery style treats, such as rock buns and custard tarts, which I remember from Shelton’s, are no longer the staple products associated with baking, and the simple pleasure of these have lost out an American baking style.
 
This baking also seems to exclude men from the pastime, not just the process itself but also the eating. Cakes at the golf club where I work are always ordered in and I remember once opening what was labelled a ‘strawberry gateau’ to find a pile of fluorescent Barbie pink swirls with little sight of a strawberry, and then having to serve this to a room full of 40 men. The first man remarked ‘what the chuff is this’ which, in reality, actually was a clever, valid observation. Overwhelming a sponge with a coloured, sugary substance is not baking. Transforming separate ingredients into one thing is.

My own inventions follow an old style of baking where you produce what you say you will and leave it as it is. This blog will showcase these, such as my cup of tea pudding, which does exactly what it says in the title. I also want to revive traditional Yorkshire recipes, such as Fat Rascals and Parkin, in which the fantastic taste is the selling point, not the finish. This is not to say that all my recipes reject decoration and will appear in a sea of beige and brown, toppings simply will always be a key part of the flavour, and if these can be made to look attractive, they will. I have tried to ensure that all ingredients are accessible and affordable as growing up in an old miner’s town in West Yorkshire means access to fancy, expensive ingredients is limited. I hope you get from my recipes what I feel Shelton’s embodies; a simple, honest and almost forgotten style of baking.

Ps, not everything will sound this formal, I wrote it on a food writing course and it got a seal of approval from Lindsey Bareham and Lulu Grimes, had to include to just mention that!

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