Lockdown Bakes We’re Dreaming About Daily
How many delectable desserts have you bookmarked on Insta since lockdown began approximately 6000 days ago? If you’re like me, you may well have a whole new bucket list of bakes to try, or places to visit to get your sweet treat fix when we can venture out and about properly again.
So many of Ireland’s pastry pros have been churning out truly mouthwatering content and recipes over the last few months, far more impressive than all our home attempts to use up all our blackening bananas.
Think of the absolutely laborious and time consuming works of art we daydream about recreating to pass the day away. The resulting treats are usually well worth the hours spent – think of the chew on your sourdough crust, flakey, buttery croissant shards shattering on your lips at first bite…
Let’s start with the obvious – Lockdowns 1 and 2 saw many who had never considered nurturing a ferment for days on end a worthy or likely pursuit turn into positively yeasty boys or girls. I blame the residual fear post Beast from the East, and the terrifying possibility that shortages would leave us bread-less.
Having something to tinker away with at home kept many sane and Dublin favourite Bretzel Bakery even gave out free sourdough starters for aspirant bread bakers…for the first time, we were united in our pursuit of a common goal – the perfect, ever so slightly tangly, crackle topped sourdough loaf of dreams.
If and when we failed, we could always rely on the pros like Bretzel to hit us up with a loaf. Well worth queuing around the block for if you were lucky enough to be within their 5/20km, surely.
Bakery? If its not a Viennoiserie, do I want to know? The true baker’s badge of honour, distinct layers, are the result of honed skill and pain-staking lamination. Do I have that level of patience? No sir. But the dough dons at Sceál Bakery certainly do, as the countless happy customers of the Fumbally Stables will attest to.
Croissants, raw, rolled and ready to burst into browned behemoths, or cut cross section for the perfect layered close up must of course be mentioned. It is Sceál’s snaps of twice baked beauties crowned with great big ridges of flaked almonds or stuffed with an oozing stream of chocolate hazelnut cream that get me every time.
It is difficult to pin point one product that made Bread 41 a must follow during Lockdown, because everything they create makes me want to drop whatever I am doing and hightail it to Pearse Street.
However, one thing that has etched a craving in my memory has to be last Summer’s cruffins (croissant muffin hybrids, of course) pumped full of soft-serve ice cream. Because frozen custard was the obvious next step on the scale of deliciousness, with genius ice cream infusions like miso and sesame sourdough.
Consider this a petition to ensure soft-serve cruffins make their absolutely necessary return once the sun decides to come out this year.
When it came to taking things into our own hands for a home challenge, the literal rise of the soufflé was a bold choice for bakers who were seeking a dose of excitement. Soufflé bakers either saw their spirits raise to delicious,aerated heights or fall into sunken (but at least largely edible) despair.
Mark Moriarty’s Chocolate and Whiskey Soufflé in a Mug is as good an evening activity as any in these times, and comes with a step by step recipe highlight so we can all pretend to be Michelin Star pastry chefs at home.
A bit of edible nostalgia is a tonic in hard times, and even more so when a bite of a sweet treat can magically transport you back to your childhood, and begging for access to the biscuit tin.
There is scarcely a single bake on the Cupcake Bloke’s Insta feed that I don’t wish to face plant, but it was the arrival on the scene of his Mikado creations that really made a run to Rialto seem essential.
Last summer’s 99 Mikado (just a casual vanilla shortbread with jam, vanilla marshmallow, sprinkles, wafer and a chocolate flake!) has been matched only by the arrival of the Valentine’s Day heart-shaped classic raspberry and coconut Mikado we all know and love.
This gives me hope that there’s more Mikado magic to come from the man who managed to bring a smile to all our faces with a frankly stunning collection of cupcake tributes to Moira Rose a reality for awards season.
With Ladurée so far away, being able to lose ourselves in the art of macaronage was quite comforting for many during lockdown, not least because you could spend days finely sifting, counting your turns, letting the shells dry, leaving them to age, finally filling and decorating them…I’m tired just thinking about it, but for dessert die-hards it is a pastime worth investing in.
I particularly admire the efforts of Chapter One’s Darren Hogarty, who has documented his efforts in the form of all manner of magnificent macaron combos: Irish Coffee, gin and vanilla, blood orange and white chocolate and a recent siren red Valentine’s strawberry chocolate delight.
The best part? He reminds us that even the best of the best don’t actually nail it every time, and shows us his botched batches as well as his masterpieces. This is the kind of lockdown encouragement we all need when shovelling cracked macaron shells into our mouths to hide the evidence.
WRITTEN BY DARINA COFFEY