Eating By The Book

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A yarnstorm in a tea cup, reminiscences and the perfect vaguely whimsical but unquestionably delectable recipe book

Long before the rabbit hole of online distraction, there was the even-more-appealing distraction of books*. The allure of creating your own world rather than marvelling at what’s already been created for your various entertainment and befuddlement is something that the interwebs just don’t really compete with.

Like almost everything, it can be brough back to food. When I was small, so many of the classic books had descriptions of mouthwatering food, from Michael Bond’s Paddington to Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. The food was incidental to the plot, but just as important in the enjoyment of the books. Descriptions of sticky buns, steaming cocoa, pork pies, ginger beer, freshly cut rounds of sandwiches, boiled eggs, toasted tea cakes, hot buttered crumpets and lashings of whipped cream lingered enticingly long after what everybody was actually up to was forgotten or grown out of. Like lots of memories from being small, they lurked quietly off to one side, dusted off occasionally when having nostalgic-before-our-time conversations with friends, or when feeling a particular type of hungry for something difficult to find.

For some now utterly irretrievable purpose, I was looking for pictures of sticky buns...

Sticky buns from Good Eats 'n Sweet Treats
Sticky buns from Good Eats 'n Sweet Treats... The glazed sticky bun is the kind most frequently found among the food blogs and, while it looks delicious, I can't help but think that buns need to have pink icing and jam as well as being sticky...

Best ever cinnamin buns from Craving Chronicles
Best ever cinnamon buns from Craving Chronicles. Sometimes, icing stops them looking quite so sticky... I can't figure out how that works! Although I'd be more than happy to sample one (or two) to check...

Strawberry cream puffs from Entertaining Anytime
Strawberry cream puffs from Entertaining Anytime (like the entertainment value of a bear with a sticky bun, I wonder?). They have the jammy quotient, but are they sticky enough?

Decadent Lenten buns filled with marzipan and raspberries from Nami Nami
Decadent Lenten buns filled with marzipan and raspberries from Nami Nami... these are getting closer to what I have in mind - gooey pink filling and (squee!) marzipan! But they're just not quite right without icing, too...

Sticky buns of a stuffed-with-cinnamon-and-heaven-knows-what-else-rolled-up-and-drenched-in-syrup buns were available by the tray**. Sticky buns with cream in the middle were in abundance (sorry, couldn't help myself). Sticky buns as I’ve always imagined they should be – plump, light, round, jammy and with pink glace icing – are, unexplicably, thinner on the ground. Chelsea buns come close, but are in relatively short supply themselves...

Chelsea bun with pink icing from Willis Bakery
The Chelsea bun (jammy and with pink icing... getting closer!). This one's from Willis Bakery, as photographed (and eaten) by the Sticky Penguin

And somehow, along the way, there was a bun filled not with jam, but with marmalade. It looked just right. Very sticky. Very tasty. Perfect...

Marmalade buns from Jane Brocket at Yarnstorm
Marmalade buns from Jane Brocket at Yarnstorm (author of the book). Finally! A sticky bun worthy of a duffle-coat-wearing bear!

But just a picture wasn’t enough. Where did it come from? Some tiny hole in the wall on the other side of the world... or was there a recipe? Gingerly (or perhaps orangily) clicking the link brought the gleeful discovery of a recipe for marmalade buns, and the intriguing revelation that they came from a book called Cherry Cake And Ginger Beer. Which isn’t the sort of title to be waffled past in a hurry.

Cherry Cake And Ginger Beer turned out to be the sort of book which creates a range of feelings one after another until they pile up in an icing drizzled heap. How fabulous that it exists. How stupid I was not to think of it earlier myself and look for such a fantastical thing. Or try to write it myself. What else is in it.... Where do I get one?

The book is a collection of recipes for all the fondly imagined food from the books that generations of children grew up on in the days before xBoxes and Nintendos***, when climbing trees was a perfectly acceptable thing to do on weekends and you didn’t have targeted tween magazines telling you what to wear to impress that boy in the back row of class.

I decided the book was something to keep an eye out for on the travels last year. It would give me an excuse to potter in recipe book shops (if any could possibly be needed). With hope and a nowhere-near-empty-enough suitcase, we set off. And looked. And looked. And looked. It was a bit like the hunting of the Snark. Everybody seemed to have heard of it, but nobody actually had one. Whether to hunt for it among the English cookbooks, the baking section, the children’s recipes or the culinary narratives was also a rather fraught consideration. It was eventually tracked down in the superlative collection of Kitchen Arts & Letters on the Upper East Side of New York, on a cold and drizzly evening after an afternoon keeping warm and interested in the Met.

Cherry Cake And Ginger Beer by Jane Brockett
Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer - my very own copy! You can also get one via here

It hasn’t yet been read. It’s being carefully saved for just the right sort of a weekend afternoon. With a cup of tea. And possibly a bacon sandwich or a sultana scone. Until then, it can be eagerly anticipated. Along with those marmalade buns.

* There still is, of course – it just has to compete a little for ever-diminishing available time
** A more evocative collective noun for buns is surely required. Preferably involving bears...
*** And hopefully still do. Although the opening scene from the Princess Bride leaps to mind as a reminder that it may require either duplicity or force.

Sonia on February 4, 2011 at 1:27 AM

This is an awesome recipe, I just cant resist to get the stuff and try it for my family. Thanks for sharing lovely posts .... !

Anonymous –  on February 5, 2011 at 7:10 AM

Marmalade instead of jam? Amazing! I sooo want to try that!

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