Lemon Drizzle Cupcakes with Yoghurt Icing

cupcakes and fork

I am currently unemployed. The café that I was working at has changed hands, so I took it as an opportunity to move on, move out of home and get on with my life. However, for now I am still in fully-fledged holiday mode (which will only last a little while longer, or so I’ve told myself). This leaves lots of time to sit around in my onesie watching trashy daytime TV, eating toast and trying not to think about life. One of my many distraction techniques is to spend ludicrous amounts of time on Instagram. For the uninitiated, Instagram is like Twitter, but with photos. For those still dumbfounded, it’s an app that lets you post photos on a live feed, and follow other people doing the same.

lemons and bee pollen

One of the things that is (horribly 21st century word) ‘trending’ on Instagram at the moment is bee pollen. It is especially prevalent among the health-obsessed Instagrammers, the type of people who see a spinach, kale, kiwi and avocado smoothie as a desirable breakfast. Things like porridge topped with chia seeds, hazelnut butter and bee pollen (and yes, I did just quickly pop onto Instagram to do a search for ‘♯beepollen’) are appearing. Bee pollen is formed by bees when they gather nectar- apparently they roll pollen into balls then discard it. It’s supposed to be very good for you, allegedly containing all the nutrients that humans need, which balances out the large amount of butter and sugar in the cupcakes ever so slightly.

cupcakes

I thought I would sprinkle some bee pollen on top of these cupcakes, definitely more for aesthetic appeal than for taste. It’s fair to say it looks much nicer than it tastes – it has a pleasant chewy texture but tastes oddly savoury.    I also used honey rather than sugar for the drizzling syrup, to stick with the bee theme and to give a sticky moistness to the cupcakes, which is complemented by the slight sourness of the yoghurt icing.

yoghurt and lemons

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Cranberry and Orange Florentines

florentinesI have started feeling very festive all of a sudden. I guess it must be due, in part, to decorating the tree today. This was accompanied by the crashing overtones of Handel’s Messiah, not directly Christmas-y, but, being choral, it puts me in the festive mood nonetheless.  Having resisted the descending season with some effort for the last few weeks– even with the repetitious Christmas playlist pounding its way into my head at work – it now seems time to embrace the inevitable.

montage

I made the optimistic, blasé resolution way back in October to make edible Christmas presents this year. I already have the Rhubarb and Ginger Gin in the bag, along with some Quince Cheese, but need to supplement it with something else. I decided to take the plunge with Florentines, which I have never attempted before. More to the point, I’ve only ever eaten a nice on one occasion. I managed to eat a total of about ten in small little ‘tastes’, which I assured myself were for quality control purposes.

montage 3

montage 2

I underestimated just how many I would need (due to, unfortunately, having lots of friends and family to give them to) and the amount of time it would take to make around 100 Florentines. They are basically simple, but anything made in a large quantity gets a bit stressful, and you end up staring around slightly manically, covered in bits of whatever it is you’re making. I kept leaving trays of cooked Florentines around the house to cool, then forgetting about them. The tipping point came for me when I’d thought I’d finished, only to find a rogue batch on top of the washing machine a few hours later.

montage 4

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Cinnamon Sugar Biscuits

biscuits

I have had a lovely day off today. An upshot of working lots is that I really appreciate my time off. This morning, I wrote a letter to a friend in Boston – an actual letter, with a pen and paper, rather than a Facebook message- that I have been meaning to write for ages. Then I wandered up the lane to feed my horse, spending an idle few minutes brushing the twigs out of her mane.

spoon

Another activity I usually reserve for a day off is baking. It’s such a pleasure to bake slowly and carefully, with no pressures on time.  Today I chose to bake some cinnamon biscuits. I have a friend coming over shortly to help me eat them. We’ll sit in front of a fire that I have made, luxuriously and slightly pointlessly, at three o’clock in the afternoon.

biscuit dough

The recipe is from a book that I have featured on this blog before, called ‘Tea with Bea’. Bea calls these biscuits ‘Snickerdoodles’ – apparently a traditional Amish cookie. But this name is misleading, as my friend pointed out, as you might assume they have something to do with Snickers bars. Or at the very least be slightly baffled as to what they actually are. I decided to rename them ‘Cinnamon Sugar Biscuits’, due to the fact that they are dipped in cinnamon sugar before they are baked. I ate rather too many – another perk of a day off being pretty much constant eating.

biscuit in half

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Brioche

brioche on tray

One of the joys I remember vividly from childhood summers spent camping in a friend’s garden in the Pyrenees was the breakfast. We would wake up to find yards of thin, fresh baguette and fluffy brioche to dip in hot chocolate. I was surprised, and delighted, to find that this was a legitimate breakfast. Even with our parents present.

proving

I went to Paris recently, having been to the south of France many times, but never the capital. I composed a mental ‘food list’, which included snails, duck confit, Nutella crepes (all accomplished).  One of my first things to tick off was that lovely breakfast, evoking memories of lazy, sunny mornings with nothing to do for the rest of the day but eat.

Brioche and jam

Happily, we found this lovely bakery near our apartment in Montmartre. We had brioche rolls and hot chocolate, along with pistachio and almond croissants and pain au chocolat. It’s fair to say we returned to this bakery with obsessive, waistline-troubling regularity during our stay in Paris.

Paris

I arrived home intent on recreating the delicate little brioche rolls. Brioche works just as well as part of a savoury meal; these rolls are adapted from a recipe for brioche burger buns. I ate mine both dipped in hot chocolate (of course) and spread, a little smugly, with homemade plum and amaretto jam.

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