Friday, 24 February 2012
I have some news.
I’ve been avoiding telling you for a while. I’m not entirely sure why. I guess I’m worried that you will be disappointed.
The truth is that since I finished my finals – even as I was tucking away each folder as my exams progressed – I’ve been missing the topics I studied, missing the medieval world and words.
Though I always enjoyed my course, the bug only truly bit in those last few months as everything started to slot into place, to create a bigger picture. I actually enjoyed revising, happy in the knowledge that I was going to be a pastry chef and nobody would care what grade I got – so I could learn the topics I loved and take risks as I scrawled out essay after essay.
Then my results far exceeded my expectations and opened doors I hadn’t even noticed. And so, even before I started at Cordon Bleu, I started to think about possibly returning to university.
At first I wanted to study part-time (after I had finished at CB), while I set up a business selling wedding cakes. I'd been drawing up careful plans of the business I wanted to create for many months by then, looking at many of the practicalities and dreaming about designs. I had a lot of ideas. A lot of opinions.
Under 'Any plans for the future?' in my college yearbook, I wrote: "My dream at the moment is to set up a bespoke wedding cake business". Now I look back and note that even then I included 'at the moment'. Tellingly, I didn't mention it here.
On our very first day at Cordon Bleu the chef asked what we hoped to do when we left. I stood there in the then-unfamiliar kitchen, a strip of my back chilled by leaning on the frosty marble, surrounded by my new classmates (the infamous Group G), waiting my turn. When it came, I didn't mention anything about wedding cakes. I spoke about this blog and about writing, recipes and photography. Maybe it was the nerves, maybe I knew by then.
So I can comfortably say now that I have put that dream to one side. I would love to make a wedding cake one day - but I don't want to make my living out of it.
As the months ticked by and my wedding cake plans started to crumble, I became more and more serious about studying again. In January I sent in three applications to study full time – I recently received two unconditional offers (I’m waiting on the last result).
So now I know that when the leaves fall and autumn arrives, I will be studying again. I will get to immerse myself back in the bewitching world of medieval languages, culture, history, religion, art and above all, literature. I’m incredibly excited.
This all leads to the final choice I've recently made – this one is only a few weeks old. I have decided to not take the third certificate at Cordon Bleu. I’m therefore leaving at the end of this term (the end of March).
I'm really content with the choices I've made. I hope you will be happy for me too, even though it means stepping away from pastry for the moment. I don’t know where life will lead me, what paths I’ll take, so maybe I will still spend some of my time in a professional kitchen of some kind. I'd like to try it out. I have every intention of continuing to blog - my love of eating, cooking, writing and taking photographs hasn't changed.
I will always be grateful for the support, encouragement and enthusiasm you - my readers and friends - have shown towards me, the course and this blog.
These cookies taste incredibly familiar and unusual all at once. The timeworn sweet flavours of butter, sugar and lemon intermingle with cumin, the second most used spice in the world after black pepper (according to wiki, anyway...). I love the little stripy seeds in savoury dishes - particularly mixed with olive oil and salt then tossed with cauliflower florets and roasted.
When I saw the recipe I knew I had to try it - though I have to admit I was a little skeptical. I'm a convert. They're chewy while warm but crisp when cool - a buttery riot of flavour.
I didn't change anything major in the recipe (by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the Guardian) and as it's online I decided to not write it out - you can find it at the bottom of this article.
Make sure you cream the butter very well - I did mine for quite a while in the stand mixer. I then cut the flour in by hand to make sure it didn't toughen. I rolled mine into a sausage, chilled it, sliced it and pressed it onto a sheet (leaving the rim you can see) - another time I'll make it longer and thinner as these were a bit big. I think another time I'll also reduce the cumin to 2 teaspoons and put it all in the mix itself, though the seeds do look pretty on top. I only baked half the dough - I've frozen the other half in slices.