The baking year ahead: 2013

Why, hello there! Happy new year. Sorry for my complete lack of blogging over the Christmas period, what with illness, Australian adventures and festivities, there hasn’t been much time for me to sit and type.

It being early in the new year, now is the time for people to make new year’s resolutions – you know, the well intentioned goals you set, full of vigour and hope for the year ahead. I don’t know if these resolutions are ever fulfilled, I’m guessing they often loose their steam by February. I’ve never been one for new year’s resolutions, but this year I do have some baking resolutions – things I’d like to try my hand at in 2013.

Now, this is by no means a comprehensive list of everything I plan to make, but it gives a flavour of some of the recipes and techniques I’d like to try. Warning: Do not read this list while hungry.

Marshmallows

Marshmallows

Raspberry Marshmallows by Not Quite Nigella

Homemade marshmallows seem to be growing in popularity at the moment. Are they perhaps the new macaroon when it comes to baking trends? I’ve only tried eating them a few times, and I love their soft, cloud-like texture. They are similar to macaroons in that they can be a great vehicle for carrying flavours. These Fresh Raspberry Marshmallows by Not Quite Nigella look delightful, and I plan on giving them a go. I’ve not worked with gelatine before, and will also be investing in a sugar thermometer.

Nougat

Pistachio and Rose Petal Nougat

Pistachio and Rose Petal Nougat

My first job was at a fantastic Italian bakery in my hometown, which is well known for its French-style nougat, packaged and shipped around Australia. I spent quite a few hours helping pack the nougat, ready for sale, into its neat wrappers, and can remember clearly the smell of roasting almonds throughout the bakery when a batch was being made.

I was lucky enough to be given a few bars of this nougat for Christmas, and they are currently waiting patiently in the cupboard for their time to be eaten. I’m saving them for a time when I really fancy a special sweet treat.

I’ve been thinking about making my own nougat for a while now, and while living in Australia cut out this recipe for pistachio and rose petal nougat from the Sydney Morning Herald. It’s another recipe I’ll be using a sugar thermometer for, and I’ve already purchased the edible paper and rose petals for it. Stay tuned for my attempt!

Croissants

Buttery croissant with jam

Buttery croissant with jam

2012 has been a year of baking with yeast – I’ve tried numerous breads, made baguettes, brioche and bagels. In 2013 I’d like to try my hand at buttery french pastries. I think I’ll start with croissants, although I know a lot of time/folding/patience is involved. Surely the result – a fresh buttery croissant made with my own two hands and warm from the oven – is worth it?

I have a recipe in my ‘How to Make Bread’ book by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou who teaches at the School of Artisan Food in Nottinghamshire. Wish me luck.

Macaroons

Rainbow macaroons

Rainbow macaroons

The lovely Kerry and I attempted Macaroons on New Year’s Eve – she was off to celebrate with Emma, who had recently been proposed to in Paris, so they seemed a fitting treat. We used this recipe from Delicious magazine. I didn’t get to sample the final product, but apparently they tasted good! I’d like to give them another go and see if I can improve on our attempt. Not sure I’ll ever make them look as perfect as the ones above, but no harm in trying!

Sugar-free and gluten-free

Sugar-free cheesecake by Sarah Wilson

Sugar-free cheesecake by Sarah Wilson

Sugar-free and gluten-free?! Yes, you heard right. Don’t panic – I’m not going all super-healthy on you, but I am curious to try recipes with alternative ingredients, and am also keen to get acquainted with some of the ‘healthier’ sweeteners out there.

Sarah Wilson is an Australian writer, blogger and media-type who has completely given up sugar. She even has a cookbook about it – I quit sugar. This month’s Cake Eaters Anonymous get together is a focus on healthier recipes, so I’ll be giving her gluten-free and sugar-free cheesecake a try. She uses nuts for the base instead of biscuit crumbs or pastry, and sweetens it with vanilla essences, coconut cream and rice syrup. I LOVE baked cheesecake, so am really hoping this one tastes as good as it looks.

What are your baking plans for this year? Anything you’d like to perfect or try your hand at?