Review: The Bakery Cafe.

A snapshot of Dorset’s most priviliged diners

I need to move to Sherborne. Pronto. I need to live near the Bakery Cafe.

That place is everything your friendly neighbourhood eatery should be: welcoming, warm, and full of wonderful things to gorge on.

Think bowls of golden homemade Muesli, communal tables decked out with Butter and Jam, as much toasted home-baked bread as you like, and a bakery stuffed with all manner of super-fresh treats.

On our recent visit, seduced by the sights in the window, the Man and I shared a Scone and a Bun – both of which were, quite frankly, blooming massive.

So massive, in fact, they could not be confined by a plate

The Scone would have been the biggest I’d seen were it not for those mutants in Ditchling I wrote about back in January. Even so, it was easily the size of a large clenched fist – Hulk Hogan’s perhaps, or Goliath’s.

Inside was a colourful riot of fruit: not just your average Sultanas, but cubes of Dried Apricot too.

I slathered my half in Butter, enjoying the various textures (a topping of toasted flaked Almonds – YUM) and marvelling that it had cost only five pence more than that controversially tiny specimen bought from the sewing cafe in Bristol.

Our Bun was a bargain £2 as well and turned out to be similarly juicy, with plump Sultanas, sticky white Icing and buttery Cinnamon innards (the core of which were scoffed by the Man before I could punch him hard enough).

Though not nearly as gooey or cloud-like as Cinnabon, it was nevertheless pretty soft, with a pleasant yeasty undertone that made it feel far more wholesome.

However, as undeniably flavoursome and exciting as both these Cakes were, a spontaneously-bought Chocolate Brownie was what really won me over.

First Place! Now collect your prize in my stomach…

We were already stuffed and on our way out, but as the last slice it instantly caught my eye, being larger than a single portion, yet not large enough for dividing. I took it away, convinced it had earned its £2 price on size alone.

But the taste, dear Ogglers – the taste!

This was no ordinary Chocolate concoction, but a special slab laced with Fennel and Caraway Seeds.

Goodness, it was delicious: not soft, but crisp and chewy – not to mention being moist in the extreme. Combined, these attributes made it one of the most exciting textures I’ve tried (and, believe me, I’ve tried a lot).

As for that flavour, who knows how much Butter had entered the mix, but the taste it gave out was superb. Salty, dense, sweet, spiced – it was, in a word or three, MY PERFECT BROWNIE (needs capping-up, don’t you think?).

Seriously. I almost moved house there and then. And, as we walked back to the station, I wondered why people were buying Cakes anywhere else.

People of Sherborne: you don’t know how lucky you are.

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Baking Breakfast: Sour Cream Cinnamon Twists.

Hot and fresh – just like Lex Leafy’s plaiting skills

Deary me. So distracted was I by the trials of Vegetarian Marshmallows, I almost forgot to write about the final recipe road-tested for last weekend’s Great Bakeroo.

As you may (or may not) recall, our plan was to hone our baking prowess with cookies, a sponge cake, and some kind of bun. Having bagged Zucchini Nut Bread Cookie Sandwiches and a Swedish Cardamom Cake to boot, at last we were ready to crack out the yeast.

As consummate Cinnamon lovers, it didn’t take long to settle on making Sour Cream Cinnamon Twists, using a recipe found on Pinterest. The plan was to let them rise overnight, then have them for breakfast the following morning (hence our reluctance to try making Cinnabon Substitutes – too much Cream Cheese Frosting for the tenderer hours of the day).

In a matter of minutes we had our dough, and were having fun punching it round the kitchen table.

Such are the joys of cooking with yeast. Hands on violence, fully-worked biceps, pummelling, stretching and beating things up. Like a stress ball with inbuilt rewards: tasty bready goodness.

Before we go on I’ll admit: I’m still a bit of a novice with yeast. Nevertheless, I know it needs time and warmth to make things rise. So imagine my confusion when I read the part of the recipe which said, “Cover dough and let rise in fridge for 2 hours to 2 days”.

In the hopes of preserving my yeast, I nervously ignored it, popping the dough in the airing cupboard instead. Within the hour it had doubled in size. Aha!

We took it out and kneaded again, coating the whole lot with Cinnamon Sugar. Then came the creative part: shaping it into plaits, coils and twists; acting like children in Cookery Class (though, on the whole, without the snot and tantrums).

Our ‘art’ now fully formed on the tray, it was time to put our babies back into the cupboard.

Then, for better or worse, everyone in the Hog House went to bed.

Zzzzzzz

In the morning, after dreams of Cinnamon breakfasts – not to mention Twists so swollen that they burst through the Hog House roof – I skipped out of bed to discover our babies had not grown a single inch.

D’ough!

Had we left them too long? Should they not have been kneaded twice? Would our buns have preferred a night in the fridge? Or should I have paid more attention to my yeast packet’s best before date (September 2010, in case you’re wondering).

In truth, we may never know what caused our downfall – if, indeed, it was just the one thing.

What the heck though: the damage was done. We baked those bad boys anyway.

Now, as you’ll have already seen from this blog post’s very first photo, they weren’t exactly the puffy bun-anzas I fancied. Then again, nor did they seem too dissimilar from the consistency of the originals.

In fact, when it came down to it, they were actually reasonably tasty. They weren’t quite as sweet as you might imagine (that one cup of sugar didn’t get us too far – and was slightly offset by the Sour Cream tang) but were nevertheless pretty pleasant to eat hot and fresh – especially with a small basting of Salt Caramel.

On the textural side, they were much like scones or biscuits: crunchy and crisp on the outside, with a small bit of give in the middle.

I wouldn’t have liked to have eaten them cold, mind you – I expect they would have been tough as old boots.

All the more reason to scoff them down. As if an excuse were needed…

Review: Honey & Co.

I might never have sought out Honey & Co were it not for a few choice words from the Man. ‘We should go,’ he said. ‘They make Chelsea Buns with Sour Cherries and Pistachios.’

I didn’t need telling twice. However, the restaurant being a popular place – and not yet open on Sundays or after 7pm – we had to wait a little while to get there.

Despite being less than ten minutes from most of my daily haunts, I had not gone past the shop since it opened: a small and unassuming Middle Eastern cafe, just one street back from Euston Road. Run by a husband-and-wife team, with Ottolenghi and Nopi-based credentials, it’s no wonder it has been gathering lots of attention of late.

But was it worth the minor detour?

Now, this being the Pud-Hog Blog, I won’t bore you with details of mezze or perfect pittas (though I will say that the Orange Blossom-flavoured Iced Tea was the loveliest thing I have sipped in a while). Instead we’ll go straight to dessert.

With a counter full of house-baked cakes and buns, not to mention a rather appealing selection of puddings, it wasn’t an easy choice by any means. Thankfully, one of our friends had come for the ride. And more thankfully still, she was ready for a gorge-fest of desserts.

In the end, unable to whittle our choices down to just one pudding each, we decided to go all out: order four between us and work through them together.

And so it begins…

We started with the buns. First off was a glorious Cinnamon Swirl (£1.80, eat in), which glistened at us from beside the till.

Not gooey like its Cinnabon counterpart, it was nevertheless very flavoursome: packed with spices and crisp on the outside, with lots of cooked crusted sugar.

It was by no means the star attraction though. In the bun stakes, at least, that accolade went to the Fitzroy Bun (also £1.80, eat in) – the pudding that drew me there in the first place.

AKA The Fitzroy Temptress

This one was far moister – thanks to the large sour cherries and syrupy glaze – with the Man declaring it a masterpiece within moments of trying his share. I loved the pistacho crunch, and was thrilled at the overall concept, but would have preferred a warmer, softer bite (alas, we ate it late in the day – it had been in the open for quite a while).

In fairness, in any other context, the Fitzroy Bun might well have blown my mind. This time, however, it was destined to be overshadowed. As it happened, also on our table were two extremely strong contenders for the Pud-Hog Pud of the Year…

Contender No. 1

This beautiful dish was none other than a Cold Cheese Cake, layered on tendrils of Kadaif pastry, and drizzled with Regents Park Honey (£4.50, eat in). Topped with fresh raspberries, mint and halved almonds, after just one mouthful my world stopped turning.

Seriously, Ogglers: if I could have frozen time right then and there, I would have. All I wanted to think about was what was on my tongue. So many complementary textures and tastes: juicy and crisp shredded pastry, bursting berries, solid almonds, cool and creamy curd-like cheese, with a subtle swirl of honey that came in like a light breeze through an open window.

You might think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. It was wonderful. Sweet, light, and perfectly balanced.

Nevertheless, almost as soon as I’d given this pudding my undying love, I found something else to distract me.

If the Cold Cheese Cake was an angel (complete with honey-coloured halo), our final cake – the Chocolate and Hazelnut Loaf (£3.60, eat in) – was the sexiest, naughtiest slut you could find to take home and debauche you.

*Swoon*

Not only was it enormous (to eat it side-on would have led to a jaw dislocation), but this beast was rich to the extreme. Those dark brown swirls weren’t spots of cocoa-saturated bread: they were bounteous pools of gloopy, softened chocolate. Better still, there were absolutely loads of them.

We’re talking a loaf in which every bite was a moment of melting bliss, studded with fresh, whole hazelnuts.

If it hadn’t been so indecent, I’m sure I would have been in heaven. As it was, I was somewhere far, far better.

Take me now, Monsieur Loaf. I’m all yours.

Pretzel M&Ms.

Since the end of November, a ‘Party Size’ (i.e. gigantic) bag of M&M Pretzel Candies has been calling to us from the top of the fridge. Every now and then I’ve been taking it down to sniff at the edges, eyes rolling back into my head. It was a pleasing, calorie-free relationship, that seemed to be working quite well. Until last weekend that is, when the Man suggested that the presence of a salty chocolate smell might be down to a hole in the bag.

Party size. Just right for a party of two.

All of a sudden, it was time to take things to another level. After all, is there anything worse than saving something for ages, only to discover it’s past its best? I don’t think so, my friends. Oh no.

And so, after months of postponement, we cracked the bag open and started to munch. Holy balls. The texture alone was addictive enough: large chunks of salty pretzel, enrobed in firm milk chocolate, all covered in a crispy sugar shell. It was hard to stop, I tell you.

Except, this is our one and only bag. For some strange reason, utterly beyond my comprehension, the only M&M combos we have in this country are plain or peanut.

Plain. Or peanut.

Not the most exciting of choices.

Even the fabled M&M’s World in Leicester Square only does the two flavours. Four floors, 35,000 square feet, and ONLY TWO FLAVOURS. And in case you’re wondering: yes, I have been there myself – and no, it is emphatically not worth a visit (unless you are a huge fan of moulded plastic, and consider different coloured plain-filled M&Ms the most exciting prospect known to man). 

Now, our Party Size bag (that of the Pretzel variety) came straight from the States: the land of a million flavours. Out there, you can get all sorts in your M&Ms: coconut, peanut butter, dark chocolate, mint crisp – and plenty more besides. But why should the our star-spangled cousins have all the fun? Why not share the love?

The door to the Promised Land. Alas, the way is shut.

I don’t just mean M&Ms either, folks: let’s get some new Ben and Jerry’s while we’re at it. I’m fed up of Phish Food and Cookie Dough. In San Francisco I saw with my very own eyes a fridge full of Cinnamon Buns flavour, Cake Batter, Peach Cobbler… varieties more wondrous than I’d ever even dared to imagine.

Sadly for me, however, unlike Pretzel M&Ms, ice cream doesn’t travel very well (not on a 9-hour flight, at least). So no special ice cream for me.

For goodness sake. If those flavours were only in English shops, I would BUY them. By the BUCKETLOAD.

Ben, Jerry, Messers M and M: you’re missing a trick. I and the Man alone could make the export of your goods well worth it. Nearly all of our disposable income goes on food (especially that of the pudding variety). And I’m sure we’re not the only ones.

For the moment though, we’ve just got the one bag to see us through. One giant and delicious bag which will probably last us… all of a couple of days.

It’s a First World problem, I know. But it’s not right, goddamnit. Us Brits are people too.