Baking For Victory

I bet there are a number of people reading this (look at me getting all cocky that people actually read this!) that have been watching “The Great British Bake Off” on BBC 2. If you haven’t, you really should. Mary Berry is an absolute legend. But every Tuesday night it makes me want to try something new, the week before last it was pork pies that floated before my eyes like pastry sheep, counting my way to sleep, last week it was cheesecake, and this week I sat dribbling into my tea, watching these random contestants make some pretty epic croissants.
Parisienne Croissants
To say the amount of times me and my family have driven to France, and the amount of croissants I have consumed over the years, I really do not know very much about them. Other than it means ‘crescent’ in French and that if it made it from the bakery back to my tent with more than just a few crumbs and a buttery sheen on my upper lip, it was a minor miracle. So I went about researching, naturally. I found the basics from the British Bake off – thankyou very much – that the pastries were actually based upon kipferls, created in Vienna in the 1680’s to spite the naughty invading Turks. There was an infiltration, of sorts, upon the city late one evening in Vienna; a group of Turkish soldiers were trying to dig under the walls trying to invade the city, when a group of bakers heard the whole kerfuffle and went to the Austrian defenders. Ain’t that just peachy? To add insult to injury, they decided to attack the Turks in their own little way by creating a lovely little pastry in the shape of the Ottoman flag, just to gloat. I think I quite like their bare-faced audacity.

Some funky Ottoman flags; the first is the official flag of the Ottoman empire  from 1453 – 1844, the second is the flag of an Ottoman admiral from 1453 – 1793, the third is the flag of the Ottoman navy from 1453 – 1793.
It’s nice that the French bakers that adapted it decided to invent a whole new name, you know, translating the same word, crescent, from the German kipferl, to the French croissant, inventive, guys. That is a mere brush of the surface of the history but it’s nice to know the basics. It’s also worth mentioning that Pierre Hermé makes absolutely amazing croissants, he is just a bit of a pastry legend really. I mentioned his awesomeness briefly in Celadon Sweets, as well as being a macaron genius, he is equally as capable on the pastry front. How jealous I am! I did think though, after seeing that the ratio of yeast dough to butter when making croissants is 1:1, I think i’d feel a little sick by the time they’d actually cooked. 1 lb of butter to 1 lb of dough. And that doesn’t count the significant globs of butter I used to whack on afterwards, I dread to think how much in ingested, oh the delicious artery clogging goodness! One day I will get around to making them, but the very idea of folding, and waiting while it proofs, and more folding and waiting, then folding and waiting some more, it makes me a little tired just thinking about it. Oh how laborious the art of laminating pastry! I know it would be worth it and all, but I just keep thinking how disjointed I would feel knowing that it’ll never be as good as the ones you get from a French bakery at 6am on a beautiful Summer morn. But knowing me i’ll do it anyway, so watch this space for some sort of attempt of croissants, you guys can either laugh at my feeble attempts and my eventual emotional crisis (crises more like), or to find a decent recipe, win win I suppose.On a side note whilst on the topic of baking, British Baking Week is coming up in a few weeks and though I missed it last year due to a significant lack of funding, I urge those of you who enjoy cake to try and make your own, and I will make along with you. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and it can be really fun even to those who are most opposed to cooking. 17th – 23rd October. Remember!
Thankyou very much NBW website for your cheesy representational pictureOn to the next mini portion. This week in the UK has been unseasonably warm (17C this evening!) which is quite unheard of here. It is quite difficult to think of changing Summer-style food onto Autumnal comfort food in this heat I must admit. But I know as soon as the rain begins and quenches the ‘heatwave’ – I leave it in quote marks because it probably seems insignificant to anyone reading from a country closer to the equator – I will want soups and stews in a heartbeat, oh how fickle I am. So to prepare myself, I have found the first thing I am going to make when the weather decides to get it’s chill on.

Greek Haricot Bean Soup500g Haricot Beans

1 large brown onion, roughly chopped

3 carrots, sliced thinly
3 sticks of celery, peeled and chopped
3 tomatoes (or a can of peeled chopped tomatoes)
2 tblsp tomato puree
2 bay leaves
1 tblsp dried oregano (or 2 handfuls of fresh)
1 tsp dried parsley (or a handful of fresh)This is super easy to make!

– Drain the beans and wash, put in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil, skimming off any froth. 
– Add everything else and simmer for an hour and a half (if using fresh herbs by the way leave them until about ten minutes before the end of cooking)
– Cool is slightly, season lots with some proper salt and pepper and serve up.


Nice and simple, nice and healthy and everything too. If you fancy something a little more substantial, serve with cheese toasts (any strong cheese will do, cheddar, parmesan or even blue cheeses will do), keep ’em crispy lads and ladettes. 

Right, for now my lovelies, I am to bed. There is a program about dinosaur films on BBC 4, and I have a serious weakness for Jurassic Park and a bit o’ ‘zilla. Onwards to the social worries mirrored through the medium of film!