Guimauves and Gelato

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This short break in France has been a lovely rest from all the hustle and bustle that is normal daily life. It also provides a myriad of new-food-spotting opportunities. In between peering at picturesque chateaux, and pretty patisseries, I discovered a flavour sensation that had been jumping for joy.

It started in the form of an amazing gelato in the picturesque town of Amboise.

And finally, I hit the jackpot in pure, pure edible gold by discovering speculoos spread. It really reminds me of the cinnamon-sugar dusted pretzels you can buy in London. I can imagine manifold uses for it in baking, from a luscious filling between cakes, in tarts, as a component of cookies, or sandwiching plain biscuits together. On the other hand, sometimes the simplest ways are the best, and I love this spread lavishly over a slice of thick crunchy toast.

Holidaying in France

On a fashion-related note, I have seen many Frenchmen wearing stripy shirts, black moustaches AND berets. Seriously. I genuinely thought that only happened in cartoons…

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The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

It’s been a year since I purchased the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. I’m a big devotee of the actual bakery, but it was a long time before I made the step to emulating the cakes I’d bought there. I can genuinely say that it was through this book that baking really took off for me as a real hobby.

This is a cookbook that really divides opinions, as can be clearly seen in the Amazon.co.uk customer reviews. After all this baking and making, I can safely say that now I have my own firmly set opinion when it comes to the Hummingbird Bakery recipes.

Firstly, the good. The cookbook is gorgeously set out, with mouth-watering photography. The recipes are clearly laid out, and there is a good range and quantity of different recipes. It makes you want to dive in and start baking straight away.

As many of the Amazon reviewers have said, the method for many of the recipes is definitely a bit strange, and it does take a while to get your head around that. I find that personally, it’s very much a game of luck whether the cupcakes turn out fluffy or not. I still can’t work out what I’m doing differently in the method each time. When they work, they are wonderful, but there are a lot of other non-Hummingbird cake recipes that I would say are equally as delicious, and give much more consistently successful results.

Chocolate Cookies

Also, these recipes are definitely not for anybody calorie-conscious! They are full of hefty amounts of sugar, butter and cream cheese. And by hefty, I really mean that. The rocky road recipe calls for 1.4 KILOS of chocolate (not including all the chocolate bars and marshmallows, and other bits that go into it).

Red velvet cake - stunning but stodgy

So what can I say? Some Hummingbird recipes are amazing. I love their frosting recipes, and their peanut butter cookies are divine. On the other hand, the black bottom cupcakes, brooklyn blackout cake, and their chocolate-chip cookies are terribly disappointing! Because so many of the recipes that I’ve made out of it have been so good, I think it was definitely worth buying, and I’m glad that I have such a lovely baking book to introduce me into the world of cakes. Now it just remains for me to bake through the rest of my vast collection and see what wonders lie in store!