There is so much disheartening to say about 2016. It was a tough year for the world, and in ways I’m having trouble feeling optimistic for the next one.
On the other hand, I guess it was a decent year for the blog, though the past few months have certainly been pretty spotty with the posting. As with last year, here’s a roundup of some of my favourite posts in which I’ve highlighted a few successes.
These were just great fun. The flavours were irrefutably decent: spinach, cheese and eggs (frankly, it would be hard to make an offensive combination of the three). Though, what really made these stand out to me were the shapes, inspired by a bread from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. They were simple to form and made a perfect container for the egg, a convenient all-in-one hearty baked good.
This is perhaps my favourite tart on the blog thus far. Where it shone was the use of pomelo, a winter fruit, and the balance between dry and moist components. The flavours were quite fun too!
I am completely sold on semlor and the classic filling. The use of spiced apple and marzipan however made for a slighty melty and warm filling. Beyond that though, I loved being able to try a classic and traditional baked good, one that is unique and iconic.
It is so rare that I actually manage to make sweet enriched breads that possess the desired texture–you know, the soft, tender, fluffy and rich sort of crumb characteristic of bakery milk breads. This one somehow or another did. While the smaller egg breads eventually dried out, the large bread retained its light and pull-apart wispy texture for days. Curiously enough, later sourdough adaptations of this recipe retained some fluffiness as well!
The tarts themselves tasted quite nice, but my favourite part was the rough puff pastry. While not to the flakiness level of puff pastry, and certainly improvable, the pastry revealed distinct layers that rose and separated in the heat of the oven. Later experiments with rough puff pastry were less successful in terms of flake, but confirmed that this pastry is a viable simpler and much, much quicker alternative.spiced bran muffins with rum-soaked raisins
This list would not be complete without the bran muffin–and not any bran muffin, but this one, which was just so exciting. It is a bran muffin that you (I) eat not for dietary fibre, but because you (I) seem to think that it tastes good. The spices and the excessive use of rum-soaked raisins ensure that. speculoos and peach éclairs
There were two things to adore about these éclairs. While I bemoaned the fact that one overwhelmed the other, it remains that this had 1. a delicious choux with browned butter and whole wheat flour and 2. a smooth and un-gluey pastry cream. I cheerfully wax further on both in the post, but as far as éclairs go, I found these quite solid.
As the tentimestea birthday cake, this had to make it onto the list. It also deserves its place by virtue of the simple and ubiquitous glory of the victoria sponge. It’s straightforwards and simple, and can be subject to sufficient variation for infinite renditions, each different from the other.
This riff off the icing sugar-coated snowball cookie used kinako, a deeply nutty roasted soybean flour instead. Out of some various kinako experiments, this was by far the most successful application of the flavour and powdered format.
I think the triumph of this cake was the tempered sweetness level, through a mildly sweet cake layered with tart fruit and plenty of unsweetened cream. It’s a reminder that some things, like deep red cherries and heavy cream and bitter cocoa, need only a bit of (if any) sweetness to complement, not to overwhelm.
Often I find that combinations of certain flavours are just fine together. They don’t particularly enhance each other, but it’s not as though they are terrible antagonists either. It’s so easy to make an inoffensive yet underwhelming pairing, such that it can begin to get quite dull. However, occasionally I’m pleasantly surprised. This was one example of a novel and purposeful combination, purposeful as in there is actually a good reason for rosemary and tarragon to spend a bit of time together. I also discovered how quick and convenient (yet intimidatingly creamy) panna cotta is as well!
Finally, I’m ending off with the last post of year–a prune and chestnut vanilla loaf cake that was also featured in a guest post for Suzanne of A Pug in the Kitchen. It’s significant to me because this finally prompted me to put up a post, and beyond that, it was a rather very good cake. I’ve mused about vanilla before, but this is a clear demonstration of what wonderful things can happen when vanilla moves from the background to the very assertive foreground.
I noticed that this year I tended towards simpler bakes and more standard flavours. I still love experimentation, but it’s really quite palatable in varying degrees. I’ve felt less desire to try to make things radically different. The Victoria sponge cake, the prune, chestnut, and vanilla loaf, and the black forest cake are examples of this. At the same time, I also enjoy the liberties I’ve taken with the blog–disasters are certainly an ode to that–as a log there’s a certain latitude for disasters which have plenty of lessons to learn and quips to say, and for the partial successes which sit in stasis for now, but are perhaps to be revisited in the future.
In the future, such as this coming year. Maybe.