Christmas Gifts for the Bread Baker

Hello my lovelies! Who knew I’d be handing out advice on gifts. I’m fairly careful to make sure that I clearly signal any food related gifts that I actually want or need. I have been given some terrible cookbooks by well-meaning folks in the past. So this advice is to be used in conjunction with a little snooping or subtle questioning to make sure you’re on the right track and not doubling up on items already owned. These are all things that I use regularly and love and recommend for good bread baking at home. They vary in spendy-ness so there is something for everyone in there. To be fair I don’t yet own the last item. But I’ll take donations… Or obviously put this list out as a hint if you are after some great tools to help with your bread making! The estimated prices are in NZD. These are all things that can be picked up in stores or online (with the exception of the second hand books which need a bit of online digging).

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Christmas Cake Part 2 – Decorating Ideas


Hello my lovelies! Ten days to go! The perfect time to get those beautiful cakes you’ve made dressed up for the party. My decorating skills are fairly basic so these ideas are all simple and require no fancy equipment. Bonus. They are based on my childhood Christmas cakes and offer differing amounts if icing coverage depending on your taste. The iced cakes all use plain white and almond flavoured fondant. This is both nostalgic and practical. Fruit cake is one of the only cakes that I like fondant on as I find it too heavy and sweet for much else. In NZ for the longest time there was one brand of ready to roll icing, King. I still believe it has the nicest flavour of what we can get here. The gloriously fake flavour of their almond icing tastes of Christmas to me but please feel free to use actual marzipan if you have it or prefer it. Three different options with differing levels of sugar and effort follow. Allons-y!

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I make ugly, inedible fails too

Hello my lovelies! There is no recipe today *offended gasp* but we’re gonna talk about something important. One of the most common things I hear from the readers I talk to is that they don’t have much confidence when it comes to baking.

I think one of the reasons for this lack of confidence is kinda our fault. It’s so easy to see the beautiful pictures from food bloggers and websites and feel like those results are normal and effortless. Trust me, they are not even close!  All of the pictures you see are the final point in a process of recipe development, baking, re-baking, photographing, lighting, re-photographing and photo editing. We do it to make the food look as good as possible. We mean to be inspiring and appealing but sometimes it can be just plain intimidating! In real life food doesn’t look like that all the time.

I make ugly inedible fails. I bake things that are pretty much there but not the way I’d like them. I try to cut corners and suffer for it. I make things that look great, and I get excited and then cut into them to find they aren’t cooked properly and it’s too late to fix them. I’ve cried over things that don’t turn out. I’ve thrown pots at the wall in frustration. This sh*t is totally normal. Except for the pot-throwing part. You probably shouldn’t do that…

I believe there is an amazing baker inside everyone – it’s just a deep breath and a bit of practice away. Here are my 5 top tips for approaching baking feeling confident and in control:

  1. Prepare – read the recipe, check you have the ingredients and make sure you have the time to complete the recipe without feeling rushed. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting halfway through a recipe to find you don’t have a key ingredient or piece of equipment.
  2. Break it down – sometimes recipes can seem long and intimidating as a whole, but they are usually made up of a series of things that you already know how to do. When you read through the recipe identify each step and then work through them. This goes hand in hand with tip #1 – when you’re prepared you can easily move from one part of the recipe to another.
  3. Practice – just keep baking. The more you do it the better you will get. The more you learn, the more confident you will feel. You will be able to approach recipes and recognise techniques, and know from experience that you can get a great result. it took me nearly 15 years to make good scones because I just avoided them for most of that time. After I decided to just keep making them until I got it right it didn’t take long at all!
  4. Buy an electronic scale and use it – this is the #1 technical tip out there. If I could march every reader to a store and stand over them until they bought a scale I would do it. Accuracy is king in baking and weighing your ingredients is the fastest way to improve your results. Confusing failures where you follow the recipe exactly but it doesn’t turn out because we scoop flour differently will be a thing of the past.
  5. Own the fails – so it didn’t turn out, why? Go back over the recipe and see if you can find where it went wrong. This isn’t about finding a specific reason to blame yourself – it’s about learning for next time. There is a lot of science in baking and as you practice you will start to recognise the cause and effect of ingredients and techniques and it will help you work out why something turned out the way it did. Remember you can always ask me for help or advice – I love to help!  Jump in the comments of the recipe and let me know what happened. That way your experience can help other readers too.

Please please please keep baking! It’s so rewarding to make things – especially delicious sugary things. You can do it, I know you can. I’d love to see the things you make – just snap a pic and tag it with #thewinsomebaker on Twitter or Instagram! In exchange I will stop destroying the evidence and share some of the things that I make that don’t work out so well – look out for #bakefail coming soon!