Not to big myself up or anything... But the fact that two of the three featured bakes were somewhat of a triumph makes me think that I should maybe reconsider the name of this article! Cazza B’s BIG BAKING BOSS-UPS might be more fitting – what do you reckon?!
... I can almost sense your eyes drifting to the cookie picture below; I can see the raise of your eyebrows, a look of utter horror spreading across your face. I can smell the judgement and disappointment oozing from you as you try to comprehend the sheer mess in the photograph.
Hey, I never claimed to be a cookie-creating connoisseur, OK?!
Cazza B’s Baking Blunders Part One: Mini Egg Cookies
... There are no words, I’m sorry. It really was as tragic as it looks. The top photo was the vision, and the bottom image was the catastrophic result.
Let me tell you now that this was NOT a good day. It was a certain time of the month and I was spotty, bloated, hungry and short-tempered.
I’d wolfed down three quarters of the Mini Eggs before I’d even got home from the Co-Op.
I then had a fight with a can opener and nearly ended up smashing the kitchen to bits.
I should really have gone to bed and spent the day feeling sorry for myself, watching The Holiday, but I was hopelessly determined to execute this Easter-themed extravaganza. No idea why; I’ve only just mastered the milk-to-cereal ratio without drastic consequence, for God’s sake.
My numerical-anxiety kicked in, and I started chucking cornflower and eggs around in a blind panic.
The online recipe claimed to be ‘super easy!!!’ which felt almost mocking, especially given the usage of not one, but three, exclamation marks.
Trust me, there was nothing ‘super easy (!!!)’ about coming head to head with my ultimate arch enemy of the kitchen: the weighing scales.
I have mentioned this a thousand times before, and I’ll mention it again: I detest numbers. Seriously, I still haven’t even passed my maths GCSE, and I left school eleven years ago (and no, I’m not joking).
Basically, to cut a long story short, it was a total disaster, which I’m pretty sure you’ve already gathered.
What ON EARTH happened?!
Where did you go wrong?
WHAT ARE THOSE?!?!
The shocked and appalled comments came flooding in no sooner had I posted a photo of my calamitous cookies.
Where did I go wrong? To be honest with you, I think even getting out of bed that day was a mistake.
One thing’s for sure, though: I think I’ll be sticking to toast from now on. (Even then I tend to get too heavy handed and end up violently ripping great chunks apart while attempting to butter with the finesse and grace of a drunken Viking.)
Cazza B’s Baking Blunders Part Two: Grandma Barbara’s Strawberry Summer Flan
This glorious slice of nostalgia transports me straight back in time to heavenly afternoons spent in my Grandma’s garden.
Shaded by the canopy of the draping fir tree, I’d lie back on the lawn, relishing the feel of the cool blades of grass between my toes. My ears would gift themselves obligingly to the purity of the birdsong overhead; an ensemble of divine presence.
Tapping on the kitchen window, Grandma would summon me inside.
It was the moment I’d been waiting for!
On the sideboard sat a bowl of fresh strawberries, halved, and sprinkled with sugar. This was the portion that hadn’t made the flan, and I was always allowed to devour the berries while I waited for the star attraction to set!
My Grandma Barbara made this flan every year to mark the start of summer. Being German, she was a hearty cook, regularly rustling up overflowing pans of stroganoff and endless bowls of rich potato salad. For me though, this sweet flavoured treat always stands out as her signature dish.
Once the flan was finally out of the fridge, Grandma would cut generous slices for her, Grandad and me. We’d sit on the bench at the top of the garden and tuck in.
What I wouldn’t give to step inside that memory right now...
A slice of strawberry flan and a glass of sparkling water with lemon slices and ice-cubes: it was the perfect remedy for a balmy day.
I’d always be sent home with a Tupperware full of leftover slices, which I’d be unable to resist picking at before breakfast in the days that followed!
Okay, so this easy-make flan isn’t exactly baking as such, but it’s still a summer showstopper that deserves a place amidst the hustle of any BBQ.
Consisting of flan base, strawberries and jelly, this dessert looks impressive, yet it’s so simple.
(Top tip: I bought the flan base ready-made... I have no doubt that my Grandma would have tutted at this revelation, executing her trademark snap of, “Ach, nein!”)
Cazza B’s Baking Blunders Part Three: Nadiya Hussain’s Tiffin
08:25 on a Saturday morning. I’m 16km into a 17km run, and all I can think about is my own poor decision to pack away my gloves with the rest of my winter clothes. It might well be May, but Jesus Christ, I genuinely believe that I’ll have lost at least six fingers, the majority of my toes and an ear by midday.
The rain whacks me across the face with every step I take. The wind rugby-tackles me as I try to fight my way home.
I love running, but this isn’t fun. All I can think about is the day my Mum and I have planned; the day that will start as soon as I’ve meretriciously hit the 17km mark on my tracker, pacifying my anorexia.
I burst through the front door, an almighty gust of wind stalking me in and rattling the house.
My Mum appears at the bottom of the stairs brandishing a bag of pretzels, a jar of jam and several bars of Dominican dark chocolate.
“Time to make tiffin!” She calls, and suddenly, just like that, it’s the best day ever.
When you have anorexia, the implications surrounding food are far, far greater than anybody cares to realise. A bone-rattling fear of eating leads to sheer isolation, cracks in a multitude of relationships, a loss of friendships, and a rapidly seeping despair.
Food is such a massive part of our lives, and not just essentially to survive. Food is at the heart of family traditions, socialising with friends, and even dating! It’s the centre of our memories, both old and new, as we literally live, laugh and love over its humble presence. Food is the fuel to a rich life.
My Mum and I are BIG fans of Nadiya Hussain. Not only is she humble and warm, but she is also a fantastically prime example of somebody who has laughed in the face of their demons. Nadiya’s strength in both dealing with and talking so frankly about her own struggles with mental health is admirable and inspiring.
Her beautifully unique strategy in infusing her own stories, traditions and culture into dishes while giving her fans an insight into her life and own personal memories is a wonderful way to celebrate food. Every Saturday, Mum and I watch Nadiya’s TV shows, and seeing food made in so many positive ways has really helped to break down the blocks I have surrounding it.
Mornings like such – baking with my Mum – are invaluable.
Sharing laughter and chatter as we piled the bowls high with ingredients and love was a real form of therapy for me, despite so many of my food based anxieties. The desire to share precious simplicities like this with my Mum by far outweigh my eating apprehensions.
For so many years, food was my nemesis, and anything remotely relating to it made me shut off and withdraw completely. I missed out on so much, from simple things like cooking with my Mum, to meals with my friends to celebrate engagements, pregnancies and promotions.
I refuse to let anorexia restrict or chip away at the precious time-bomb of the presence of loved ones any longer.
This USA-inspired tiffin recipe was taken from Nadiya’s American Adventure.
Even the ingredient list is enough to send one to heaven on a river of peanut butter. Combining melted chocolate, jam (AKA ‘jelly!’), peanut butter, salted nuts, crushed biscuits and dried cherries, this is literal utopia in a tray!
Mum and I decided to do our own take on the toppings, and opted for an American theme to compliment the base. We used rainbow cookies, pretzels, and red, white and blue chocolate balls to decorate.
Honestly, it’s been two days since I gobbled down my last slice of this bad boy, and my life has felt considerably empty ever since. I’m not even sure I know who I am anymore. I feel like half a person. This mourning is on par with the time my favourite cacti fell down the back of the bookcase during a particularly rigorous yoga sesh (never attempt The Tree while listening to The Prodigy - that's my advice).
Nadiya's tiffin recipe HERE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/peanut_butter_and_jelly_26809
Cara Jasmine Bradley