This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Oh there are just so many delicious things I could recreate from The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan – as you might expect from such a wonderful title – and it has been a difficult job to choose.
This mouthwatering story is about a group of people from various walks of life who come together in a baking competition to find the next Mrs Eaden. Many decades earlier in 1966, Kathleen Eaden, a cookery writer and wife of a supermarket owner, published The Art of Baking. It was a recipe baking book designed to nurture a family by creating wonderful cakes, biscuits and pastries. After her death, this baking competition is set up to find her successor.
The Art of Baking Blind gives us the story of Mrs Eaden along with the competitors from nearly half a century later. And it is gorgeous. Not just to look at and touch, but Sarah's writing is beautiful. She pulls you in, she captivates you and you just don't want to leave. Her writing creates such warmth; it really hugs you tightly. She describes the cakes and bakes exquisitely. And you can absolutely tell she has created them herself as invaluable research because at no point was I pulled out of the story, thinking, "oh, why have they done it that way?" (I know she did for a fact too, because she says so in this interview – not that I'm stalking her or anything.)
The following banner is an affiliate one. That means Writing Tips Oasis receive a small % of the sale if you purchase The Novel Factory, but at no extra cost to you:
The gingerbread was the bake that resonated with me the most. I had a discussion with Sarah on Twitter and told her I liked the battenburg, the beef pie, and the rabbit pie. These were the bakes with heartbreak behind them. They enhanced the character's back stories and made them more emotional and powerful.
But the gingerbread spoke to me. Kathleen Eaden makes gingerbread for her niece and nephew, her heart slightly sad, as she cuts out the various family members from the dough. Vicki, one of the contestants in the competition, makes gingerbread men with her little boy. Baking was something she did with and for her child. For her family. For love. Just like Kathleen Eaden. And just like me. Just like, I suspect, so many of us who like to bake.
There is no stress with gingerbread men. No worrying about how it is going to turn out and whether guests will enjoy them. With gingerbread men, they are baked, as Sarah writes, "not to impress but to provoke a smile of utter joy".
Just stop what you're doing today and bake these. For your family, your friends, or simply, just for yourself.
The Art of Baking Blind is published on Thursday July 3 (tomorrow!).
Nowadays, biscuits are liberally decorated with icing and there are some beautifully creative ones. But I decided to keep this simple. With just currants for eyes and buttons (ignoring my husband who says they look spooky). Hopefully, Mrs Eaden would approve.
Rolling pin, saucepan, lining or greased baking trays.
100g brown soft sugar
3 tbsp syrup
300g self-raising flour
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
splash milk (to bring it all together)
Currants to decorate
- Pre-heat oven to 140 fan.
- Measure the butter, syrup and sugar into a saucepan and heat gently.
- In a separate bowl weigh out the flour, salt and spices.
- Once the butter has melted with the sugar, stir, then pour over the spiced flour.
- Mix into a dough, adding a little milk, and knead lightly.
- Allow the dough to cool slightly.
- Sprinkle the work surface with flour and roll out to a decent sized thickness.
- Cut out your shapes and create mouths and buttons from currants.
- Place in the oven for 10 – 12 minutes.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack if you have one and they'll harden off.