Although I have no real interest in cooking (I’ll admit though, one of my New Years resolutions is to learn how; I’ve asked Santa for a cookbook), I do love to bake. And let’s not beat around the eggs on this one: the reason I love baking is that it produces cakes, cookies and cupcakes, and once they’re made you get to eat them. It’s the perfect hobby, if you ask me, and Christmas is the perfect time to indulge in it, as (a) it is generally expected of you and (b) you can force feed your visitors your delicacies so the calories pile onto their hips instead of yours.
Banana nut bread, oddly, always reminds of me of Orlando, because whenever I stopped off at my local Starbucks I picked up a slice of it to go with my venti latte. The beauty of banana bread is that it’s not so sickly sweet that you can’t have it on the side of your morning coffee, but add some cream and it’s magically a dessert. YUM. I first made it using a recipe I found online that had about a trillion five star reviews. (Slight exaggeration – but only slight!) It was called Extreme Banana Nut Bread or EBNB for short and it had so much sugar in it I could practically feel myself getting diabetes just mixing it. But it was gorgeous – very banana-y, wonderfully moist and a shade sweet. My dad told me not to make it anymore because it was too nice to resist, and as I said it did have about three bags of sugar in it… (Slight exaggeration – but only slight!)
Then a few weeks ago I caught the last few minutes of that Nigel Slater cooking program that’s on just before The Apprentice, and he was making Black Banana Cake. (The more ripe the bananas the better, apparently.) This makes only half the amount the recipe above does, and I didn’t roast my own hazelnuts – you’re kidding me, right? – but bonus: it has chocolate chips! (It’s the one pictured.) I have to say though that even although it’s a tad sweet, the moistness and banana-ness of the Extreme Banana Bread cannot be beat.
Who doesn’t love a good cupcake? These were easy to make (using this basic cupcake recipe from the magical interweb, substituting lemon juice for milk and adding two tablespoons of grated lemon zest for the lemon cupcakes, and swapping out two tablespoons of flour for cocoa powder for the chocolate ones) and a bloody nightmare to decorate. But it was fun. I think. Although I spent about five hours doing it, all in all, and now my back aches. And there was an unholy amount of washing up to do. And I’m not sure you could really eat them, what with the green icing alone containing enough sugar to keep a small child awake for days.
But don’t they look pretty on my lovely new cake stand?
While I find watching her cook completely cringeworthy, you can’t beat Nigella Lawson for Tasty Treats That Are Very, Very Bad for You, and one of them is my absolute favorite: Toblerone cheesecake. Luigi Malones (Cork and Dublin) does an astounding Toblerone cheesecake – with fudge! – that started a love affair between me and cheesecake flavored with brand name sweets. (Snickers and Malteasers cheesecakes are my favorites, if you were wondering.) When I found a recipe for making it at home, I knew my waistline wasn’t safe.
You can find the recipe here. It involves no baking, and you get to crush a whole packet of digestive biscuits AND a couple of Toblerones. It’s almost as good as eating it. (Although – warning – it’s very rich. The filling is made from cream cheese, cream and melted chocolate bars, so you can hardly say this comes as a surprise.) The only problem is that you have to leave it chill for at least three hours, preferably overnight. That takes some serious patience.
I also made chocolate chip and hazelnut cookies (above), although if there’d been vanilla ice-cream anywhere in the house the raw dough wouldn’t have made it anywhere near the oven…
Did I make anything healthy, you ask? Are you serious? It’s Christmas!
And yes, the diet starts in January.