In my last post, I mused on my first year of life as a grown up in the big city. While it's certainly been an eventful and significant year, London remains a pretty new part of my life. Baking, on the other hand, weaves all the way back to my very earliest childhood memories. I'm descended from a long line of feisty women and, while I've only known two generations to learn from, cooking and baking is absolutely in the blood.
Of course, baking is a warm and nostalgic testament to a very lovely family and childhood. But to answer the opening question, it is so much more than that. It's a way for me to express the things that are most important to me - sharing, creativity - but it's also a process that brings routine and structure to an otherwise haphazard and fast-paced time of my life.
A lot of people conjure tiger-mothers and WI grandmothers when they think of home-bakers. Of course they're right, but I'd like to suggest that the thing that unites bakers lies a little deeper than that. Baking keeps me sane, strokes my creative ego and makes the people I love happy. And that, quite simply, is why I think that everyone should try it.
These madeleines are rich with cocoa and spiked with beautiful seasonal blackberries. Whip 'em up and you'll feel like you've created a masterpiece.
100g caster sugar
75g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
1tsp baking powder
100g butter, plus a little extra for greasing
Melt a little butter, then brush a clean madeleine tin with it. Dust with flour, shake away any excess then put the tin in the freezer for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 200C.
Melt 100g butter, then set aside to cool a little. Seperately, whisk your eggs and sugar together for 3-4 minutes, until pale, fluffy and thick. When you drag the whisk across the surface, ribbons should form. Pour in the cooled butter, and fold to mix. Sieve in the flour, cocoa and baking powder, folding once more to combine. Leave the batter to stand for 20 minutes.
Spoon 2 tsp of mixture into the frozen moulds, ensuring they are no more than half-full. Press a blackberry into each madeleine. Bake for 9-11 minutes - the madeleines need to rise a little in the middle, and be golden around the edges. Transfer the madeleines to a wire rack to cool.
Finally, you can fill these beauties up with fruit curd or caramel, if you have any to hand. I used my very own dulce de leche, which I'd really recommend if you have any.