Part one: Cherry on top
Of course, there had to be cherries before the summer was through.
These particular cherries are big, juicy British cherries from Sainsbury’s, and I’m going to make a confession: I thought cherries were smaller than this. And shinier. And more fluorescent.
Okay, so I guess I’ve only really paid attention to glacé cherries before, and by pay attention I mean carefully pick them off whatever perfectly good ice cream sundae they are ruining.
But these look totally different. I’m quite excited. I’m a cherry virgin, but I’m ready to pop.
(I’m so sorry.)
I have taken the week off work to enjoy the summer holidays before the school term starts and my education-based job gets busy again. As luck would have it, on the day that I decide to try the cherries, Hattie is also home from work – unfortunately that’s because she has the plague, as you may remember from last week.
Being the excellent best friend that I am, I risk almost certain death by joining her sick bed and helping her to marathon The West Wing. I bring the cherries. She needs vitamins.
I’m a bit wary about the stones inside these things (what if I accidentally choke on one?) but it’s very easy to bite around them. And best of all, the cherries taste amazing. They are juicy and sweet, with all the best flavours of fruit, and none of the nastiness. The dark juice stains my fingers, so I lick it off and try not to get it on the bedsheets.
And if that’s not sexy enough for you (cut to Hattie coughing up a lung next to me) here’s a gif of Beyoncé.
“Have you eaten any more fruits lately?” asks my brilliant nan on the phone a couple of days later.
“I have! I ate cherries!” I respond proudly.
“Ooh, lovely,” she says. “Did you wear them as earrings?”
“Oh, we all used to do it in the sixties,” she insists. “Everyone had gone a bit mad, you know. That was the best decade, I think.”
And then we started talking about how rubbish the government is. And that, my friends, is why she is the best nan in the entire world.
Part two: Great British BABE Off
I assume that as civilised human beings of earth, we can all agree that there is nothing – NOTHING – better than the giddy excitement of seeing Mel and Sue standing in a field making convoluted puns about cakes.
This summer, as the media hysterically prophesises the end times in the form of a bearded Islington MP, as Boris Johnson chuckles to himself around a deadlocked union negotiating table, and as the sun gives up at noon every day, Wednesday nights have become a beacon of hope.
What awkward face will Nadiya pull next? Which soft-spoken husband will melt Mary Berry’s heart with a sprig of rosemary? How long before Flora mentions a trip to Florence or her family’s Aga? The warm-hearted, non-threatening tension is a mid-week gift.
How better to celebrate the delights of this, our one true national treasure (soz Stephen Fry), than to try my hand at a recipe by Paul Hollywood himself?
Specifically, this one: a chocolate and cherry loaf.
There’s a lot of waiting around for things to prove in this recipe, but as I said, I actually have some real time to play with for once.
And as most of the difficult parts just involve being patient, this recipe is surprisingly easy.
Step one: Put your 500g of plain flour in a bowl. Add salt and oil to one side, and yeast to the other. I bought eight sachets of yeast for this one recipe, so if you have any yeasty recipe recommendations, let me know.
Step two: Slowly add water, mixing as you go. Paul specifically tells you to mix with your hands, and I am only too happy to oblige. I’ve never understood the appeal of baking without getting your hands dirty. Where’s the fun?
Step four: Knead the dough for 4-7 minutes. At first I thought the mixture was too wet, but the flour on the work surface soon sorts that out.
Step five: Add the cherries and the chocolate. This is actually quite difficult, because the dough has become so springy and smooth that the cherries just sort of… roll off it. In the end, the solution seems to involve just enveloping the dough over and around as many of them as possible.
Step six: Put into the mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for an hour or so.
Step seven: IT HAS RISEN.
Step eight: Split the new, bigger dough into two strands and plait them. Think that sounds like witchcraft? Me too. This video helped a little.
Step nine: Put on a baking tray, put in a plastic bag, and leave to prove for another hour.
Step ten: IT’S TWICE THE ORIGINAL SIZE AND SCIENCE IS AMAZING.
Step eleven: Bake.
Not gonna lie, the end result was great. Hattie ate hers with butter (of course) but it was just as good without. If you have a few hours to kill and you want to make your kitchen smell amazing, this is a lot of fun.