Sunday, 25 January 2015


After last weeks Golden Panettone marathon this was a like a quick jog to the mail box.  And my mail box is a flap in my front door.  And my house is small.  You get the picture.  These were made as I was making the boys dinner last night.  Start to finish, including washing up, in just over an hour (I may have cheated with the advised resting times...)

I made the UK version of this recipe, which had no additional egg white and slightly less flour.  I used plain flour and added the recommended quantities of baking powder and baking soda.  I am not a fan of Self Raising flour - I am sure it is fine, but it was one variable too far for me.

My photos are scant for this post - it came together so quickly.  I have made a few gingerbread recipes and the thing they all have in common is that they melt the butter and the golden syrup together.

Butter and golden syrup melting - scintillating, no?
Rose says that this mix needed to cool until it was no longer warm to the touch.  I waited for the sum total of the time it took to measure and whisk together the dry ingredients.  In this house, it is a case of now or sometime in no fewer than three hours time.  So the still quite warm to the touch butter/golden syrup mix went into the dry ingredients.  This made a damp sandy mess.

Then you add the egg - no photo of this.  And mix until it all comes together.  Divide into three equal parts and wrap in the ever faithful plastic wrap for 30 minutes before dividing into each third into 10 lots of 27 gram balls, except the last third gets an extra one.  I swear each of Rose's recipe is a maths lesson if you wanted it to be.  If you are a regular reader of this blog, or even if you read the last paragraph, you are safe in your assumption that I didn't wait the 30 minutes.

I am sure Rose and Woody have made these with and without the 30 minute standing time and there would have been a noticeable difference in those that were rested.  But resting is for other people.   I still have a portion of my Christmas Eve Ginger Bread dough "resting" in the fridge.  Dough takes a definite chance of not meeting its full potential if it opts for a "rest" in my fridge.
This is one third of the dough, unrested, ready to be rolled into 27 gram balls.
I did wrap and refrigerate two thirds of the dough.  Given that the first two batches baked for 12 minutes each, the last third would have reached the magic 30 minute mark.  My only observation about the impact of the recommended resting time, is that the rested batches browned more quickly than the unrested batches.  Or my timing could be out - a definite possibility on the second batch when I forgot to set the timer.  I am pretty sure my oven is the height of German efficiency and doesn't fluctuate in temperature.   Either way, I don't think ruminating on the consequences of the resting or not resting will keep me awake tonight.  After all, this is a quick and easy recipe, I shouldn't ruin that status by thinking too hard or too long about it.

The 27 gram balls are placed onto a baking tray 10 at a time by a helpful assistant, and then rearranged discreetly to ensure that those cheek by jowl are at a more socially acceptable distance of 2.5 inches.  The not so perfectly round balls then rise up and crack appealingly.  They are a quick bake - 5 minutes rotate and then 5 - 7 minutes to finish them off. My first batch went to the full 12 minutes are were mostly a light golden colour, then second and third batches were a darker golden colour.

The finished biscuit is a varying combination of chew and snap.  The lighter the colour, the higher the ratio of chew to snap.  I prefer towards the lighter end of the spectrum - more chew is better.  But that may be because I am on day 5 of a juice detox and this has been the only solid food that has passed my lips.  I had one bite of a light biscuit and one bite of a dark biscuit - maybe it is scientifically irresponsible to make a valid assessment on such a small sample?  It makes small odds, because light or dark golden brown these are absolutely fantastic, and so easy I need to buy a biscuit barrel to give them a permanent home in my stepford-wife kitchen.  Thanks Kate for sharing the recipe with Rose.  Thank you Rose for bringing it to us.  And I am sure that isn't five days of juice talking - see the other Alpha Bakers wax lyrical on these.

I will definitely have to make these again once my body has been restored to its business as usual status.  Next time I make them I am going to add in some diced stem ginger just like my once upon a time favourites.  A critical lesson learned, in addition to these fab biscuits, is that juice detoxes must run for no longer than five days and must always, but always start on a Monday.

Everyone say "Yummy biscuit"
I asked the little boys to pose with their Gingersnaps and say "Yummy biscuit".  Thomas (in the blue) dutifully says "Yummy biscuit!" and Patrick says "Not yummy biscuit!" as he throws it across the table.  The photo below is Thomas reaching for the discarded biscuit with his empty hand, saying, "I'll have it".  So I can add Gingersnap biscuits to the long list of Sweet Things Thomas Will Eat to go with broccoli, sausage and potato.
But not everyone thinks they are yummy...
Patrick is still pining for the pink swirly cupcake.  And Isaac who has long been in the trenches is grateful for anything that stays in the house and doesn't head into the office - just like his Dad.

Next week is the Swedish Apricot Walnut Bread.  I am heading across to the US on a business trip on Tuesday - Princeton, NJ.  Hoping that I have some time to fit in a trip to a supermarket to fill up my luggage allowance with as much flour as I can.   I do so love those extended trading hours, but I do struggle to find supermarkets - why are they never in shopping malls?

Golden Panettone

A week later and I am finally blogging about the Golden Panettone.  This must have been the most Facebooked recipe thus far.  Days in the making.  I was in two minds about making this.  A five day recipe or £1.12 at Waitrose?  Panettone is probably Chris' favourite thing, so I pocketed my £1.12 and started reading the four pages of recipe.  Four pages of instructions may shock some, but in retrospect I am surprised the recipe only ran to four pages.  It took for fricking ever to reach the sliced article above.  To be completely fair to Rose, this was more to do with my rubbish planning and recipe comprehension.  If that recipe had been on any comprehension test I would have failed dismally.

Rose provides a warning very early on:  "this is an easy bread to make, and the actual work time involved is not long, however, the production time is lengthy so it does require significant advance planning."  Hence why Facebook was flooded with evidence of advance planning.  My advance planning involved reading the recipe three times the week before.  I am not sure that was time well spent.

Three days prior to making the dough, but note this is not necessarily the same day as the intended baking, we have to make a biga.  I have never made a biga before - the internet tells me that the biga helps to add flavour, texture and longevity to the finished article.

I didn't get a photo of it, but trust me it looked like a lump of dough.  The Biga is a mix of half bread flour and half unbleached flour mixed with a teeny tiny 1/16 of a teaspoon of instant yeast and some water.  The biga was supposed to double in size and be full of holes.  Mine continued to look like a lump of dough.  Albeit a slightly large lump of dough.  This doubling in size holeying process was meant to take six hours at 27 degrees celsius.  After about three hours on the bench, I moved it to my "proving cupboard" where the old cliche of out of sight out of mind meant that I didn't remember about it until breakfast the next day when I reached for a cereal bowl.  I shrugged my shoulders and just thought that maybe I had gone past the holeyness moment.  It smelled yeasty, so I duly stuck it in the fridge to wait for out the three days.
The almost perfect (28.3 degrees rather than 27 degrees) proving cupboard over the coffee machine with 1980's flouro light
Rolling forward to Saturday we come to the making of the sponge.  This was pretty easy.  The biga gets cut up into little pieces to mix into the sponge.  My biga had helpfully formed a concrete like crust, so I had to chip that off to get to something that had a hope of dissolving into the dough.  That meant that my biga was not the stated 78 grams and more like 60 grams (or something close to that - I was channeling inner aussie/kiwi zen at that point- she'll be right).  The sponge is basically a mix of the biga, flour, eggs, golden syrup and a bigger lot of instant yeast (single digit fractions!)
Lumpy bits of biga in my sponge

Then after the sponge, comes the dough.  Exhausted yet?  You can see why I ended up reading this recipe about 40 times.  Onto the dough (ignoring those little lumps of undissolved biga), we sprinkle the top of the sponge with the dry ingredients.  My personal favourite being 14 grams of non fat dry milk. I am now the proud owner of 340 grams of non fat dry milk.  Or 23 more panettones.  Chris is very excited, especially because now I have cracked the seal it needs to be consumed within six weeks.  I think he will very soon realise that I will not be dictated to by manufacturers recommendations and my life will not bound by use by dates.  What does this non fat dry milk powder do to the final mix.  I am tempted to try the recipe again without it, but that would mean I still have 23 panettones to make.

Now Rose says to let this ferment for 1.5 - 2 hours at room temperature.  I got distracted.  It was more like 3.5 hours.  I figured it didn't matter too much.  I figure it looked exactly the same at 1.5 hours as it did at 3.5 hours.  It hadn't grown legs, it was just bubbling away just like Rose said it would.

Bubbling up like a witches brew

It was about now that I realised I should have soaked my fruit in the triple sec, vanilla and orange oil.  I only had Cointreau (aren't we fancy - I think it was actually left over from some other Rose recipe.  An entire litre.).  I soaked a mix of raisins, normal and golden, and cranberries.  I have been emotionally scarred by mother who abhors orange peel.  My emotional scarring is so bad, I don't know whether I actually like it or not.  I decided to overcome this once and for all and made some from scratch, using the recipe in Rose's Cake Bible.  Much easier than going to the shops to buy it.

Home made candied orange peel - I will torture my Mother with it come July when she visits.
My peel didn't get soaked because I actually made this whilst mixing the dough.  The dough is enriched with more eggs and golden syrup and a lot of butter and the drained syrup from the soaking fruit.
The syrup from my fruit soaking
Given I had precisely no liquid from my parched dried fruit, I topped it up with more cointreau and a splash of vanilla

Once the dough is mixed until it is shiny (big tick here) it is meant to rest for 10 minutes.  I am not good with short
spaces of time, mine actually rested for substantially more than 10 minutes.  Probably more like 40 minutes, it was definitely pillow like as I formed my rectangle and laid on the fruit.
Shinier than a Pantene commerical

Probably more pillowy than it should be.

This fruit is then enclosed and stuck back in a container to rise until doubled - 1.5 - 2 hours.

Oiled up and under its shower cap

Doubled or near as dammit.
Then this was refrigerated for an hour so the butter didn't leak out before deflated and then refrigerator for another hour.  As I type this now, I have no idea how I stuck this recipe out for so long.  It is a freaking marathon!

Finally we get to roll it for the second rise.  This was all about the business letter folds and luckily for me not videoed. I really struggle with left and right and even more so when I try to think about it.  There was lots of muttering as I tried to work out 90 degree rotations so that the closed end is facing your left.  Well, probably more muttering about what the closed end was.  Like I said, best I don't think and just do.

No, it isn't over yet.  That greased up bag of dough then goes into the fridge (by now it was late Saturday night - I started about 7am on the sponge) and bizarrely we have to press down on the dough after the first hour and after the second hour.  No chanting prescribed.  It did feel pretty ineffectual pressing down on it, but I did it all the same.

Come Sunday morning and finally it comes close to baking.  Meanwhile I am remaking the chocolate cuddle cake - that is the ganache in the left handle corner of the shot.

Into the mould which I cobbled together from a six inch tin and some baking paper.  This then goes into the proving cupboard until doubled in height - for me this was about 3.5 hours later.
Note, I have chopped the paper down in this shot.
Then finally into the oven.

I wasn't expecting much through the baking process, other than, well, baking.  I am not sure if this is oven spring?  I only heard about this thing called oven spring through the facebook group.  Oven Spring or not, if your loaf is lopsided on rising, it will be lopsided all the way through.  Fact.

Hello there.
But don't think you can just take this out of the oven and call it done.  No, it then needs to rest its delicate bum on a pillow for eight hours.  Not sure why a pillow, it looked robust to me, but hey ho, I wasn't leaving a last bit of molly coddling to chance, so onto a towel covered pillow.

The leaning tower of Golden Panettone

And finally on Monday morning Isaac had Golden Panettone toasted for breakfast.  Chris was too scared to cut into it, so he had to wait until Tuesday morning.

So this Golden Panettone compared to the £1.12 Waitrose panettone?  I for one, was massively impressed that it tasted just like panettone.  And the other bonus is that I think I have finally reversed my emotional scarring on candied orange peel.  I don't hate it, I don't love it, I just think it has its place and I think it was perfect, if a little under represented in my Golden Panettone.  Even though this was  a long drawn out baking exercise, it kind of just ticked along under my subconscious - always surprising me in the warming cupboard at breakfast.

Chris and Isaac are massive fans and would like a loaf each week.  Now that Chris can no longer claim he can't bake, I will be adding this to his list.  I also baked the Chocolate Cuddle Cake, because when I got back from Australia the Chocolate Cuddle Cake was more like a cuddle from an ironing board than a cloud.  Happy to say that I can now concur that the Chocolate Cuddle Cake is a keeper (though Chris' caramel whipped cream was better than mine) - Thomas and Isaac have requested this as their birthday cake.  Patrick, ever the individual, stares wistfully at the White Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Mousseline and declares that to be his birthday cake.  I better start practising my icing before the middle of June...
Isaac anticipating Mum's Chocolate Cuddle Cake

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Black and Blueberry Pie

Just a health warning - this post is not going to be funny, especially not as funny as last week's guest blogger.  Reading Chris' post whilst I was waiting for my connecting flight in Kuala Lumpur definitely helped pass my five hour wait.  I think I may have inadvertently unearthed a baker.  We need a bigger kitchen.  Win:win.  How lucky am I that the long haired youth I fell in love with twenty odd years ago would continue to turn out so great?

There were so many Facebook posts about the Golden Panettone (GP), that I thought for sure this was the week of the GP and I would have to skip baking.  After all, there is no way that Panettone is going to pull together in a day.  Fortunately for me it was only early skirmishes on the process to produce the GP.

I am not sure if the Black and Blueberry Pie is on the Quick and Easy list, but it should be.  I think Rose may need to add a recipe listing called Maximum Wow for Minimum Swearing.  This pie is seriously impressive, and I don't think that was my jet lag talking nor was Chris reflecting his deep appreciation that Malaysia Air returned me home in one piece.  I think the only pies I have made before now were all of either apple or savoury persuasion.  Pies are a bit like cookies - more of a North American speciality, rather than something I would bake with any regularity.  Rose is turning me into a North American, more surely than my youthful addiction to Days of Our Lives and the litany of other American shows that aired on Australian television.

So, what about the pie - enough dirty confessions to DOOL.  As I alluded to earlier, this is simple.  Simple with a couple of caveats.  The caveats being a food processor, a decent rolling pin, pastry wands and a ready supply of blueberries and blackberries (preferably fresh).

Cream cheese mixed in until sandy
Butter mixed in until pea size bits
Then process liquid until pea size bits
The Perfect Flaky and Tender Cream Cheese Pie Crust may not roll off the tongue as easily as it comes together.  There is a UK saying, "it does exactly what it says on the tin" which basically means that there is no false advertising in the title.  Definitely Rose's motto.  There are a couple of tricks introduced in The Baking Bible - roll pastry between two sheets of plastic wrap, roll and cut the pastry to the right size before putting it into the pie dish and the upside down on a cake tin trick.  This week we just did the cutting to the 12 inch template.  I rolled my pastry to 1/8th of an inch which barely gave me two 12 inch disks.  No idea why this was a everyone else seemed to have acres of pastry left over.  Rose instructs you to refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling - I only refrigerated the top layer before rolling, and just immediately rolled the base layer.

The filling comes together in about three minutes flat.  Sugar, corn starch, lemon zest and juice as well as the fruit are gently mixed together and put into the lined pie dish.  This is then covered with the top layer of artfully decorated pastry before resting in the fridge for an hour - this is to prevent shrinkage and maintain the flakiness of the pastry.

I suck at any sport that requires hand eye coordination (well, any sport really) and I think this is why I also suck at the nice pretty edges.  And I couldn't get onto You Tube to see a demonstration.  You Tube is just for home made lego animations and mind numbing minecraft videos and bow ties.  I tried the pinch method but in the end opted for a haphazardly welded fork.

Baking is recommended to be on a baking stone to prevent the dreaded soggy bottom.  Pies are a challenge I think - get the bottom cooked but don't burn the top (the perpetual conundrum of the tanning set).  Rose suggests a foil ring, which I duly modelled and tentatively placed on top.  But my life is devoid of a baking stone - not sure I need it just yet, because I was okay with the bottom of my pie.

Forty five minutes later, the pie sailed forth from the oven.  Some bits slightly darker than desired, but we value diversity in this house.  It cooled on the bench, but unlike all those cartoons of my youth nothing bad befell the pie. 

Our equal opportunity pie.  Unconditional love is offered to all pie, irrespective of attractiveness.

There was a bit of ooze on cutting, but it was a definite "ooze" and not a "flood".  I think the fresh berries helped.  Rose has suggested draining the frozen berries and thickening that liquid before adding back into the pie mix.  Given the UK is the land where no fruit or vegetable will be thwarted from the shelves due to the season, I will probably always use fresh.  Mine were sporting only marginally more food miles that I was this weekend.

Love the "tangy recipe variety" label

This pie is sensational.  It was marred only a little by the undercurrent of bitterness from the lemon.  I think this was from the lemon zest.  My scales are a bit flaky.  If I zest two lemons, my scales will always register it as zero weight - the recipe says 6 grams.  I stopped at two lemons.  Next time I will not even start.  Lemon zest is staying out of my next pie. 

This was a resounding success with all who have eaten it (not with those who have just looked at it), and by day 3 I am hardly noticing the lemon zest, especially when paired with ice cream.  Eating too many pies may result in people asking me when my next child is due.  Sigh.  How come this book doesn't come with a gym membership?  Or a muzzle?

Next week the infamous Golden Panettone.  And maybe a gym membership?  And maybe I will post within the deadline...

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Chocolate Cuddle Cake

Hello Alpha Bakers, Nicola's husband Chris here. Due to some travel and her responsibilities as an executive for a multinational, much-adored mother of three demanding boys, and much-adored wife of a demanding husband, she is occasionally overcome by time pressures and falls behind on her blogging. So I heroically offered to step in this week. The look on her face was exactly that of a distressed damsel seeing a dashing knight riding to her assistance and, overcome with gratitude, she said "Um really? Have you ever baked a cake before?" For the record I have, thought admittedly the recipe only had three steps and one of those was "shake well".

So Chocolate Cuddle Cake. How hard could it be? I turned to page 136 and scanned over the recipe. For once I was not worried about having the right tools, since half of our cupboard space is devoted to baking equipment (and half of the remainder is baking ingredients), but since I couldn't find the rose nail I decided to make one by hammering a nail through the lid of a tin can, slicing open my thumb in the process. So far so good.

1. The Batter Cocoa, boiling water and oil? I can manage that and duly did so. The next bit required the mixer so I was starting to feel a bit out of my depth, but fortunately it tripped our mains circuit breaker and then wouldn't turn on. Broken electrical equipment I am far more comfortable with. It turns out the plug on Nicola's Kenwood is from the 1970s when folks were more relaxed about electrocution then they are today. After making some minor repairs and slipping on some rubber-soled shoes we were back in business. 

Note the digital scales, can I mention how much I love them? Vastly superior to fumbling around with a bunch of metal cups or spoons on a keyring which is missing the one you actually need. Although I did have a bit of an issue when the battery died whilst I was pouring in the sugar. Um, close enough hopefully. I used King Arthur flour, which means very little to me but I often hear bakers discussing flour so wanted to sound knowledgeable. 

The dry ingredients were mixed and a well made in the centre, into which I poured the cooled chocolate mixture. And then I noticed the egg yolks and vanilla still on the bench, said something in Australian that loosely translates as "Oh bother", and wondered if the point of making the well is that you can still sort-of whisk things in it if you discover you forgot something. I gave it a try, and figured it was worth photographing for the annals of baking horrors. 

I was quite glad to have a second mixing bowl, and felt a tinge of smug compassion for the poor souls out there that had to struggle by with one. But this didn't last very long, because it turns out our second mixing bowl, the one with "Kenwood" written on the bottom, doesn't fit in the Kenwood. I again said something in Australian, and set about scraping, washing, rinsing and drying.

Now, I am embarrassed to say I never knew meringues were made from egg whites, I also though cream of tartar was the stuff people made tartar sauce from. So this whole section was very new and exciting - it really did go foamy like Rose said it would and it really did form soft peaks. And having re-read the recipe whilst writing this it appears I was too excited to notice the bit about forming stiff peaks. There are several puns that spring to mind here, let's steer clear of them and quickly move on. 

I had an enthusiastic young audience whilst folding the meringue into the batter, all cheering me on with comments like "smells delicious" and "can I try some?". I really did like the texture, definitely something I'd cuddle if I could. Pouring it into the pan over my ingenious-but-dangerous rose nail was quite satisfying and I was feeling pretty good about myself as I shoved it in the oven, blissfully unconcerned that we were out of parchment (baking paper to us) and anyway I probably would have been too lazy to cut it into strips. I greased the sides of the pan instead. After about 15 minutes I noted with approval that it had started to rise, and headed to the living room to await the timer and head off an impending brawl over Super Mario Bros. 

Alas the initial rising I observed was in fact the full extent - it never really got an inch below the top of the pan let alone above. The wooden-skewer test seemed to suggest it was done, and leaving it in any longer wasn't going to achieve anything so out it came onto the wire rack. I've probably made pancakes that rose more than that. I must confess at this point I was feeling a little "deflated" and my dreams of blogging glory (or at least impressing my wife) were fading away. Later that night I lay in bed, questions floating through my mind. Could it be that the purpose of the well isn't really for belatedly mixing in forgotten ingredients? Is King Arthur flour not as impressive as I though it was? Were my meringue peaks not stiff enough? Do the 3-inch parchment strips create a frictionless sleeve that allows effortless superfluid-like behaviour? Did my amateur electronics somehow super-charge the Kenwood? I went sleep thinking tomorrow is another day.

The Peaks The Pour The Mix The Pancake The Horror

2. The Ganache As usual, tomorrow was another day but no-one told the miserable London weather. After the morning school run I bravely turned to the ganache and fired up the Magimix. The last time I used Nicola's food processor I was making habernero sauce after a bountiful harvest - the room had to be evacuated and the mixing bowl had to be disposed as hazardous waste. That was about 8 years ago, unsure if I've been forgiven. Anyway, with help from a little assistant the chocolate was basically powdered because it's a lot of fun playing with the pulse button. I actually can't tell which twin that is, because he's pulling such a crazed expression in response to my "OK that's enough!". We didn't have any Kahlua, but I did note Rose's attention to detail in putting the accent on the u. Starting to think attention to detail might be an essential part of this baking gig. Anyway, as a substitute I poured in a shot of espresso, and added a dash of an 18yo single malt. All too easy really. Pouring it into the strainer reminded me of a famous experiment at my alma mater that demonstrates pitch is a liquid at room temperature - 9 drops in 83 years. Fortunately much pressing with the spatula meant I didn't have to wait that long.

Espresso Drop Ganache Drop

3. The Caramel (completed). I was starting to get into the swing of things here, and contentedly watched my sugar mix turn a deep amber, the magical colour of beer. The thermometer I use for frothing milk turned out useless for the 188°C target because it only goes up to 100°C. Guess when I discovered that. It did indeed bubble up furiously when the cream was added, it's quite a confidence boost when things turn out like the book says it should. In with the butter and it was done. There was a little bit left over after the 150ml was set aside, but it tasted very good so was eaten before it could be stored. I scalded cream for the second time in my life (yeah, yeah, periphery bubbles, got it), and let it cool to something that probably wasn't 21°C.

I've never done anything with gelatin before, it is weird gluggy stuff and whilst mixing it into the cream I thought it was just going to congeal into something I could seal the bathroom with. I managed to find beaters for a hand-held mixer but not the mixer itself, and after a futile 10 minutes with a hand whisk resorted to the hand-held blender which whipped the cream to within an inch of cheese. After mixing in the caramel it certainly seemed the soft peaks were a little stiff.

Amber, my favourite colour We ate this straight A touch stiff?

4. Composing. I'd avoided looking at my chocolate pancake since removing it from the oven, and it certainly was looking a bit pitiful a day later. At least it was going to be concealed behind a layer of ganache and caramel cream, but given my complete ineptitude when it comes to anything "artistic" I wasn't sure how much it would be improved. My ganache was pretty firm by this stage, so I stuck the metal bowl into some hot water for a bit. For a moment it looked like it was going to separate (does ganache do that), but as it cooled it seemed ok so I got to work. Mine was not the most ambitious of frostings, but it sort of looked ok by the end. Do you like my opulent swirls? I wanted to do the chocolate shavings like in the book, but they kept disintegrating so I just grated some chocolate over the top instead. How do you make those things anyway?

Finally it was time to actually eat it. Given my pessimism when the cake first came out of the oven I was expecting to have to scrape it off my palate with a spatula, but in all honesty it wasn't that bad. In fact, if I hadn't been eating Nicola's baking for the past two decades I probably would have thought it was quite good. Sure the three flavours didn't really blend harmoniously together like I expect they should, but they didn't clash either. I thought the 70% cocoa chocolate I used in the ganache was probably a bit strong for a cuddle.

Anyway, that concludes the chronicle of the first real cake I've ever made, I think I am much better suited to eating them and will leave the baking to alpha bakers when possible. Nicola is back tomorrow so normal service will resume, although the boys and I missed her quite a lot so she might find it hard to grab a spare moment, even if the jet-lag permits.