Baking Diaries: Salty, Lemon Shortbread As The Seasons Change

4 Nov 2023

Salty, lemon shortbread

 Plus, events with Bake Off contestants, that autumnal feeling and a wish list of food-scented candles. 

This post first appeared on Messy Notebook, Messy Kitchen. Please do come join and subscribe for monthly short stories and cosy food writing. 

It is imperative that I tell you about these salty lemon shortbreads. I sort of want to virtually push them into your hands and tell you to eat them now. Late summer/early Autumn saw us falling into a routine of heading out promptly on a Saturday morning to eat sticky cinnamon buns at our favourite bakery. It’s messy regardless of whether you’re a toddler or adult but everyone is happy with the situation. On one such Saturday, we were wandering around the market afterwards when I saw these lemons that looked really, well, lemony. Like vibrant yellow, enticingly yellow. What is it about buying fruit and veg from a market stall (handed to you in a brown paper bag that crinkles comfortingly in your hands as you walk home) and being used straight away in the kitchen, that makes you feel wholesome? Like you’re the kind of person who peruses market stalls in a floaty dress with a large basket in the crook of your arm filled with the yellowest lemons, reddest tomatoes, freshly baked bread…. I am not that person obviously. But these lemons gave me that vibe. I used them to make this shortbread. The smell when I zested them and combined in a bowl with sugar until the sugar was yellow too was unreal. Perfect for late summer, just as that warm air starts to fade. I would like that smell in a candle please and thank you. The zesty sugar goes on top of these lemon shortbreads and forms this gorgeous crunchy, caramelised topping that goes so well with the extra salt. Honestly, they were so good. Please do go make them.

Baking diaries

Baking diaries

Baking diaries

Elsewhere in the kitchen, I have made my own granola for the first time which is ridiculously easy, and I have no idea why I’ve never done it before. It was nut-heavy with a subtle level of orange zest; now that’s another smell I would quite happily have in a candle. Is there a business somewhere making candles that smell like various baked goods? There must be. If you’re in the know, please tell me. Also, on the subject of breakfast, I made some blueberry, lemon & oat muffins for the little person in our life. I was trying to offer him alternatives for breakfast, but he remains unconvinced that he should not just have peanut butter every damn day. It’s really quite hard to argue with him when I have peanut butter for breakfast every damn day. Still, they were nice muffins. Find the granola recipe here and the muffins here.

There has also been focaccia – my second attempt – and this one was exactly the kind of focaccia I was imagining in my head; crunchy, pillowy, salty, a generous helping of rosemary to finish it all off. It was an overnight recipe which I’m never that big a fan off (I’m impatient and hungry), but I think it was worth the wait. Find the recipe on the Waitrose website here.  

We had our neighbours round for tea and cake – okay, gin and cake – just before the summer petered out. It felt like a Victoria sponge moment. I went with the brown sugar Victoria sponge from Love is a pink cake by Claire Ptak. It was subtle but I think more flavoursome than white sugar. The thing that struck me most though was the super-quick jam element.  Mashed fruit, sugar pre-heated in the oven, a little simmering and boom, jam. I’m here for that level of efficiency.

Baking diaries

Baking diaries

Baking diaries

Baking diaries

Autumn has crept in, and I can’t help but associate it with baking. Partly because Bake Off is back on our screens but also partly because the entire season just lends itself to baking in a way summer never could. The smell (seriously, candle) and warmth of bread baking in the oven can never not make you feel wholesome and cosy as the golden leaves waft about in the blustery winds and the rain patters against the window. My local bookshop hosted Jürgen Krauss to talk about his new book German Baking and sitting in a church eating cake and listening to people discuss different types of flour felt like great way to kick off this baking-themed season. I bought a copy of his book with the discount from my ticket, and I cannot tell you how autumnal it feels, from the colours to the Christmas chapter. It’s going to be the perfect book to bake from over the next few months, particularly as I want to try more bread recipes. The first recipe I tried was the chocolate babka and whilst my braiding presentation needs some work, the chocolate swirls in the bread and the taste of orange, cinnamon & cloves was delicious.

To accompany the first episode of Bake Off though, it was the classic banana bread, mostly because I had two black bananas sat in the fruit bowl. This is my go-to recipe and it never lets me down.

Baking browsing:

Oh my how decadent does this chocolate mousse cake look? Anyone have a special occasion they would like me to make this for, because I can’t justify baking this just for two people. Or any of my friends want to come round for a cake eating party?

I spotted this rice pudding with maple apples recipe on one of the Waitrose recipe cards and it came home with me simply because anything with the word ‘maple’ in just sounds autumny. Plus, I am a sucker for rice pudding.

Jürgen’s book has a recipe for stollen which I have never made before. It needs to be made a few weeks in advance of Christmas so I’m setting myself a reminder in November to give it a go.

See you in the kitchen again soon x