This post was supposed to be called strawberry cream puffs… light, airy choux buns filled with a perfectly balanced pungent strawberry cream, and topped with a white chocolate and strawberry ganache. Delicate, delicious, summery morsels. But not all my baking adventures end as I intend. I think as a rule baking lends itself very well to recipes turning out as they should – they are precise formulas that if followed exactly usually produce the desired result.
I have been wanting to make these for weeks and weeks (having been slightly obsessed with summer and strawberries in a vain attempt to affirm that despite all the rain it is actually summer), but having struggled to find the key ingredient – freeze-dried strawberries. And so the weeks have slipped by whilst I fannied about sourcing the deep red berry powder on the internet. For some bizarre reason this ingredient cannot be found in shops in London – not specialised delis, nor major supermarkets, nor health food shops stock it.
The last three weeks (bar the jubilee sponge) I’ve tried to ignore all things baking and or blog related. The reason? I’ve been on a rather extreme detox. Twenty-one days without caffeine, alcohol, wheat, gluten, dairy, fruit (besides bananas), red meat, sugar or anything processed… Apparently even sauces like vinegar and soya sauce constitute ‘processed’ foods. So it’s been a rather bland few weeks crammed with lots of fresh leafy green veg, legumes, soya, chicken and fish. It’s been an absolute test of willpower – and quite a few nights in the pub sipping water. Today is day twenty-one.
I sat on the couch this morning, fingers tapping impatiently, as the sweet scent of creamy scone and sticky baked strawberries wafted out of the kitchen. The sweetest thing I’ve had in the last few weeks is 100% natural, dried Ugandan banana bits (without added sugar) from the health food shop and my mouth was literally watering, waiting to sink my teeth into soft, warm strawberry scone slathered with sticky sweet jam and whipped vanilla cream.
Once they were out the oven and slightly cooled, I pried a butter knife into the side of one and gently split the crumbly scone. Impatiently I dolloped ruby jam on it and topped it with freshly whipped vanilla cream. I had just one bite, and it was sublime. It’s hard to tell whether this was down the quality of the scone, or my anticipation of something sweet and forbidden. That aside, I think baking ripe strawberries and cream into scones creates an additional layer to this simple pleasure. Don’t be afraid to use overly ripe, slightly squidgy strawberries – they will just become stickier, sweeter and more melty.
The window is streaked with fast falling raindrops as the chive blossoms in my window ledge herb box are battered by the rain. It’s the last day of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations – the somberest day of cathedral services and processions, mimicking the weather. A cup of tea steams in front of me and I shudder as my eyes flick from the rain soaked street to the tv – throngs of people line Pall Mall, cheering and waving flags amid bobbing umbrellas as the Queen steps out onto the balcony at Buckingham Palace. She waves, and the crowd erupts.
London has been hijacked for four days of spectacular pomp and celebrations, like only the English can, to celebrate Her Majesty’s 60th year on the throne. And celebrate, London has. The city has been clad in red, blue and white bunting – with street parties, tea parties, 1000 boat flotillas, processions, concerts, trumpeters, firing squads, singing, cheering, and flag waving and heartfelt patriotism across a diverse nation, come rain or shine.
This is undoubtedly my worst time of year – and can really only be described with one word – bleak. Everyone is partied out after the festive season, and generally skint as a result, spring isn’t here yet – and the grey days bleed into one another with a monochrome chill. I exist through the days with an almost permanent frown on my face – and like an angry bear all I want to do is hibernate until spring breaks with the bright yellow daffodils.