Let them eat biscuits

It has been a while since I last wrote.  I am not sure why I haven’t written other than my health has not been good for a while and rather than coming home from work and writing my blog and doing other things, I have been going straight to bed.  Running has been out of the question most of the time.  This is a bit ironic, given that I have recently become an ambassador for Just Strong Clothing.  I hopefully put things to right by running a 8.2 mile round trip to Lynwood & Co in Fairford for smashed avocado, feta and sumac on sourdough toast and a loaf of Sourdough Revolution bread on Friday  last week and a 9 mile run to Bibury and back on Saturday.  I should mention, possibly, that the Friday run was done in the Beast from the East, so it was done in freezing temperatures, falling and drifting snow.

In the Lynwood & Co kitchen, I have been able to do some experimentation, which has been good.  I also almost had a very unhappy mistake.  Let me talk about the very unhappy mistake first and then some of the experimentation .  After a couple of days off last week and on return to work on the Friday, I was advised that a customer had ordered a lemon, almond and polenta cake.  The cake is normally done as a tray bake, but the customer wanted it as a round cake and almost double the height of the tray bake.  All seemed to be going well.  I baked a large round cake, extending the cooking time and checking that it was baked by using a cake tester.  I finished it off with the lemon syrup and lemon sugar glaze with a sprinkling of toasted almonds.  As the customer was coming in at 3 pm to collect the cake, I thought I had better take it out of its tin and move it into a box to take it away.  As I did, the middle of the cake sunk and I realised that the cake, despite appearances, had not cooked properly in the middle.  With mild panic setting in, I sheepishly went through to the front of house preparation area to inform the Head Chef of my disaster.  Not sure what to say, I felt that he left me to my own devices and with an hour to go I had to remake the cake.  Bearing in mind that the tray bake takes 40 to 45 minutes to cook once prepped and a round, deeper cake takes longer to bake, I was definitely up against the clock.  Although the customer came in at 3.30 pm, the cake was still in the oven when they arrived.  While they went away for 5 minuted to complete a few errands, I finished off the cake and prayed that the cake was cooked through.  I left the cake on the base of the cake tin as I couldn’t risk the cake falling apart again.  We advised the customer that it needed more time to cool before removing the base.  I half expected to receive a call from the customer over the next day or so to say that the cake was a disaster, but the call never came.  A couple of days later, the cake tin base was returned by a happy customer saying that the cake was absolutely delicious.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief – relief that the customer was happy and relief that I hadn’t let the Head Chef and Lynwood & Co down.

Absolutely loving John Gregory-Smith’s Orange Blossom and honey cookbook, I decided to try ghoriba (almond cookies) at Lynwood & Co for the Fairford cafe.  According to the Manager at Fairford they went down well.  One lady bought two and then came back for two more.  When Jo and I were there last Friday, two customers bought the almond biscuits.  One customer bought 4 and the other ate the last of the biscuits.  I didn’t hear any complaints so hopefully all was good.  My post of the ghoriba on Instagram got the comment ‘nice’ from John Gregory-Smith himself.

With Easter coming, the Head chef suggested that I try hot cross buns at the cafe.  Having looked at a recipe for hot cross buns, and with a preparation, proving and cooking time of around 4 hours, I suggested to the the Head Chef that it may not be the most effective use of my time in the prep kitchen.  Still wanting to investigate the Easter theme, I looked at the simnel cake, which as I thought, in its pure form, is a little too traditional for the Head Chef (and to be honest, me as well).  I then happened across a recipe for hot cross muffins, which I thought I would try as an alternative to hot cross buns.  I made them Thursday last week and then had my two days off work.  Having tried them before I left on Thursday, I thought that their flavour and texture were excellent.  For me, the only thing I didn’t really like was the icing cross on the top of the muffins – it was a bit more obvious than the cross you find on regular hot cross buns.   Anyway after my two days off, I plucked up the courage to ask the Head Chef what he thought and he said that they ‘were not his sort of thing’.  Fighting back my disappointment in his comment, I just let it go, realising that they would not be sold at Lynwood & Co.  With his comment in my mind and knowing that it didn’t really tell me what he didn’t like about the muffins, I finally plucked up the courage to ask him what he didn’t like about the muffins.  He thought they tasted good, but when it came down to it, he just doesn’t like muffins, except for my cherry Bakewell muffins.  This is despite one of our regular customers regularly asking when we are going to make muffins again.

On the same Thursday, and with our homemade biscuit biscuit supply rapidly depleting, I decided to make some Bakewell biscuits.  I had been looking for a recipe for almond biscuits, having been inspired by the Ghoriba, and came across a recipe for Bakewell biscuits.  Having some glace cherries left over from my Cherry bakewell muffin and slice days, I thought that the recipe would kill two birds with one stone.  I would use up the glace cherries as well as replenish the cookie jar.  Well I followed the recipe as stated, taking heed of the yield – I weighed the mixture and then divided the total by the suggested yield of 16 to get an individual yield of  50 gram per biscuit (my normal recipe yields 40 gram cookies).  Well as they say, hindsight is a brilliant thing as the 50 gram portions resulted in biscuits of unprecedented portions – delicious, crisp but unprecedented proportions.  One of my colleagues suggested that the biscuits were the best biscuits I had made to date.  I haven’t as yet received feedback from the Head Chef as to whether he liked them or not (I guess I should just ask), but if I do, I may just stick to 40 gram portions.  I am sure our customers haven’t complained about getting more bang for their buck.  I loved these biscuits so much that they have taken pride of place as the featured image.

With some lemon curd left over from pancake day, the Head Chef asked me to think of something to make with it.  My first attempt at using it up was in the form of lemon curd thumbnail biscuits.  These are a delicate biscuits, which complemented the lemon curd beautifully.  The Head Chef’s comment on tasting them was ‘delicious lemon curd’.  I can’t deny that the lemon curd was delicious, but I was also quite happy with the biscuits as it was my first attempt at making these.  If I am honest, the biscuits were most probably too delicate for him.  They did go on sale at Lynwood & Co and to be honest did literally fly out of the door.  With more lemon curd left over, I made lemon curd bars with a lovely shortbread layer, a generous layer of lemon curd and a crumble topping, with shaved coconut and oats.  These took a bit longer to sell, despite the fact that they met with greater approval from the Head Chef and if I say so myself, were pretty delicious.

Lastly, I tried Russian tea cakes at the request of the owner.  Before I read the recipe, I thought that they would be similar to British tea cakes, but then realised as soon as I read the recipe that they were more like biscuits than traditional teacakes.  They are described as ‘a kind of pastry, often eaten around Christmas in the United States – a form of jumble, a pastry common in England during the Middle Ages’ (Wikipedia).  They seemed to come out as they should, another delicate bake, but the icing sugar, which was supposed to be dusted over them when they were still warm kept on being absorbed into the cakes – they are supposed to have a generous coating of icing sugar on them.  However this was Tuesday and at the end of the day on Tuesday, my health had started to deteriorate again and my stomach cramps were back, so I left work with a request that the Head Chef applied a final dusting of icing sugar.

I haven’t been at work since.  I was supposed to work Wednesday and Thursday, but I was not in a fit state to do so.  I am now in Glasgow (delayed by a day because of my ill health) visiting our sons, who are studying at Glasgow University, pondering whether working at Lynwood & Co is the right thing for me to do, despite loving the job and the people, as ever since I started working there, my health has been deteriorating.  I have some serious decisions to make.


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