They say that baking is a science, merely a chemical reaction between ingredients but to me it’s not that simple. The best bakers I know also have a gentle touch, an innate passion and a perfectionist streak.
In the tea room kitchen our whole team love baking which is probably just as well as that plays a very large part of our role. May is queen of the scones, Charlotte’s pastries are delicious, Jen’s a dab hand at shortbread and Hylton makes a mean flapjack. For me its got to be cake; I love making, decorating and (obviously) eating cake, although I try not to do the latter too often!
I consider myself very fortunate that I do something I love everyday as a job and although some days are a little manic I never tire preparing food, cooking and baking. However the washing up on the other hand is a whole different matter!
My love of cooking and passion for food and flavours comes without doubt from my parents. Some of my earliest and clearest memories are making fairy cakes with my Mum and of the house filled with the delicious smell of aromatic spices toasting for Dad’s Saturday night curry feast. I loved to sit and flick my way through their many recipe books picking out ideas to try.
I’m extremely grateful that I was introduced to such varied tastes at a young age as its given me the desire to continue discovering new techniques, ingredients and flavours. Now years later I have my own family who I love cooking for and eating with and I’m chuffed that both of my children seem to have inherited my enthusiasm for food. In years to come I’d love to go travelling and sample a whole host of new dishes and tastes but for now I’m happy to be right here in the kitchen at Cragside whipping up another batch of bakes.
I’ve given it some thought and I’ve decided it’s just too difficult to pick my favourite of our cake recipes but here’s a moreish loaf that’s simple, delicious and a favourite among our customers.
Old Fashioned Cherry and Almond Loaf
8 oz/225g butter or baking margarine
8oz/225g caster sugar
9oz/225g plain flour, sifted
3oz/85g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
7oz/200g glace cherries
Zest of 1 lemon
A drop of almond essence
flaked almonds and Demerara sugar to sprinkle
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees celcius then wash and dry the cherries (to help prevent them sinking to the bottom of the cake) and chop into quarters, then set to one side.
Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs one at a time adding a little flour after each egg.
Add the rest of the flour along with the ground almonds and baking powder.
Finally stir through the milk, the ground almonds, the lemon zest and the cherries.
Pour into a lined loaf tin and sprinkle with flaked almonds and demerara sugar.
Place into the middle of the oven and bake for around 45mins – 1 hour or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.
Allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing.