The International Writers Magazine: Sweets
The Sweet Tooth
We are all familiar with that beautiful bakery aroma that in addition to tantalizing our taste buds has also often been instrumental in bringing back nostalgic childhood memories from Mama's kitchen. And for anyone who has walked the London streets, its that same aroma wafting out of the supermarket stores like Tesco's and Sainsbury's that engulfs you in its richness each time you walk past.
I somehow always end up spending most of my time in the Bakery sections here even if its just groceries on the shopping agenda. And Inever come back disappointed ,which is not to say that I come back loaded with a month's stock of those lovely cakes and puddings. Each visit is a revelation that brings forth the richness of the food, the varieties in which it is baked and the diverse places it comes from.
Take for instance Bakewell Tarts. I'd often come across that name during many of my shop browsing sessions, but wasn't quite aware that the tarts actually are a variation of the Bakewell pudding, a speciality from its namesake village of Bakewell tucked in the English countryside of Peak district. A chance visit provided me a glimpse into the town's rich sweet heritage with those numerous Pudding and tart shops staring at me from every nook and cranny. I particularly fancied the Cherry Bakewells. That spongy icing within a pastry case and layers of raspberry jam underneath it coupled with a traditional cherry topping made for my perfect tea time treat. The story goes that the pudding recipe was accidentally discovered by a kitchen assistant who instead of stirring the egg mixture within the pastry poured it over the strawberry jam topping. For dessert hankers like me, that one small mistake sure turned out to be a big blessing in disguise.
Another of my favourite picks were the hugely popular and much adored Krispy Kreme doughnuts. In my five months of stay here in the UK, I usually found the Doughnut racks almost polished off every time I visited Tesco's. That didn't deter me from trying them all out and zeroing in on my favourite Glazed doughnuts. The lightweight,sugar crusted texture completely bowled me over with that signature softness that is so Krispy Kremey. There are several theories floating around the origin of doughnuts but for Krispy Kremes it is the founders based in North Carolina who discovered the original recipe from a French pastry chef and gave it that secret twist. They have certainly come a long way mustering a worldwide visibility to their credit with ardent fans waiting in queues to welcome the openings of new stores in their vicinities. Being a fan myself, that doesn't surprise me a wee bit.
My penchant for sweets always had my eyes prowling for that perfect dessert or pudding on my various travel and shopping sojourns. One such occasion took me to the ISKCON temple near Soho street. The temple has its own branch of a vegetarian restaurant known as Govinda's and is quite a popular haunt, especially amongst the vegetarian communities here. I had the traditional thaali accompanied by a lemon cheese cake for dessert. The choice of dessert was more out of my inquisiteveness since I couldn't quite visualize a cake made out of cheese, let alone the taste. The soft creamy cheese topping over a crunchy biscuit base and the lemon adding that tangy zest to it left me asking for more. Needless to say,it now figures somewhere top in the list of my all time favourites.
When it came to cakes, there was another one that had me quite smitten - the chocolate crispy that I first set my eyes upon in the office cafetaria. It's true when you mix together chocolate and butter,the end product is bound to be good. It's when you add the rice crispies to that batter that it becomes purely divine. Thats how it felt each time I took a bite of my crispy.The unique combination of a soft ,yet crunchy texture coupled with a chocolate topping just touched my taste buds right. And with a cuppa to accompany,things got a tad more pleasurable. I would normally alternate between crispy cake and the caramel seeded flapjack from our cafetaria's gourmet kitchen.The classic flapjack needs no introduction,a delicious filler be it as a snack or a breakfast replacement for the good old porridge,it dons the kitchen racks in most English homes. But what made this one stand out was the caramel spread and the red raisins topping. Not only did it add to the taste,but rendered it that gorgeous look that one couldn't help resist.
I was fortunate in that I got to experience the Easter fanfare whilst in London. A time when all you see and hear about is that Easter Egg hunt. Its a traditional game played during Easter where the egg is considered symbolic of a stone on the tomb from which Christ arose. Just like a bird hatches from the egg,Christ arose from that grave is the symbolism attached. And of course the fact that it gives us foodies another excuse to gorge on some delicious chocolate. The hunt for my Easter egg took me no farther than the shop next door - Golden Vineyard in Greenwich. A huge egg ,swathed in nothing but chocolate with a milky white texture tucked within it that just melted in the mouth without much ado. In hindsight,it was a wise decision to have bought only a handful of them as not only were they irresistible ,but quite addictive at that.
||Scottish shortbreads,chocolate brownies ,oat-raisin cookies are some of the other treats I was introduced to here and quite came to relish. But if I were to pick the best of the lot, it has to be the heavenly Strawberry Trifle from Sainsbury's. A chance encounter with the trifle that I just happened to pick randomly from the racks one day unleashed a treasure house of some of the best savouries all tucked inside a small cup. A layer of that delicious English cream as a topping with a creamy custard layer underneath alongside crumples of cake and a strawberry jelly layer to culminate the pleasure. One minute it was soft and creamy and the next minute it went all tangy. Not only did it leave me overwhelmed but also quite guilt free since it was a touch less sweet than its most other counterparts. I liked to call it my mini feast of sorts.
In our quest for healthy eating we sometimes tend to completely cut out these sweet savouries from our lifestyle. I am no exception to the rule. But what I have also realized is that at times it doesn't really harm to take a breather. Life after all is too short to miss out on these little boons and the sweet pleasure they have to offer.
Hazelnut shortbread,here I come!
© Neha Sharma June 2012