Summer baking: three summer baking recipes for crises & hot days

Peach & apple cake / milk & honey cake / lemon and vanilla butter cookies / summer baking three simple sweet and light baking recipes for summer - more on summer baking on my blog Our Story Time

A few days after my father’s funeral I baked a tray of star shaped vanilla cookies. And then another tray and then another after that. I must have baked hundreds of them. People stopped by at my childhood home to offer their condolences and I countered with a cookie on a plate, flour in my hair. I baked for days. They may have come expecting a house full of tears but I suppose the smell of sweet cookie dough hanging in the air did us all good.

Years later I did the same thing after I left my job at the newspaper to go freelance. In the uncertainty of suddenly being self-employed I baked instead of sitting down at my laptop. I spent hours in my tiny horseshoe-shaped kitchen. I baked and baked. I made trays of lavender shortbread and tins of lemon cake and banana bread and those vanilla cookies again. I handed them out to bemused neighbours whose names I did not know, posted them in little boxes tied up with string to my friends, even left a whole plateful at my gym fully aware of the irony of it.

I guess in a crisis or its immediate aftermath, I bake.

***

The start of this summer was marked with a family crisis as my youngest little boy fell sick. I am relieved and thankful to say he is so much better now. And as we come out of this crisis, I find myself baking once again.

Baking feels productive. Feels good. The act of weighing, mixing and pouring and then turning out something sweet from the pan feels like a small but simple triumph. There’s familiarity in the routine, the method, the smell wafting through the house. There’s comfort in the joy of it, the silence as first the children lick the bowl (such show-stopping silence!) and then later take mouthful after mouthful of whatever we may have made that day. Sweet crumbs linger on their lips. I can still taste them come bedtime kisses.

Our baking has been floral, light, fresh. We’ve been decorating our bakes simply, topped with edible flowers. Here’s three recipes we’ve been particularly enjoying this summer:

Lemon and vanilla butter cookies

Peach & apple cake / milk & honey cake / lemon and vanilla butter cookies / summer baking three simple sweet and light baking recipes for summer - more on summer baking on my blog Our Story Time

Lemon and vanilla butter cookies

(Adapted from an original recipe by Jana Zumbaum)

Ingredients

300g flour

200g cold butter cut in cubes

80g sugar

1 egg yolk

20ml cold water

1 pinch of salt

Vanilla and/or lemon zest

Honey & edible flowers to decorate

Method

Put the flour, sugar, salt, vanilla and lemon zest in a bowl or in your food processor together with the butter cubes. If you use a processor, mix using short pulses, if you do it by hand, mix the ingredients quickly with your fingertips until you get a consistency of wet sand.

Add the water and yolk and mix until it all comes together. You may need more than 20mls of water but be careful to add anything extra with caution - you don’t want the dough to be so sticky that it does not roll later. Shape together into a clump of dough and wrap in cling film/ beeswax paper. Let it stand in the fridge for a couple of hours at least.

Heat the oven to 190 degrees and prepare two baking trays with parchment paper. Take the dough and spread it on a lightly floured surface. Cut the cookies into shapes, place them on the trays and bake for 8 minutes. Rotate the trays and bake for a further two minutes but keep a close eye on them - they will be done sooner than you think and only need to turn a golden brown on the edges.

Once cool decorate with the edible flowers, sticking them down with a drop of honey.

Milk & honey cake

Peach & apple cake / milk & honey cake / lemon and vanilla butter cookies / summer baking three simple sweet and light baking recipes for summer - more on summer baking on my blog Our Story Time

Milk & honey cake

(Adapted from an original recipe by Di Bibby)

The original recipe for this is a beautiful and grandly luxurious four-layer cake, filled with plum mousse and topped with white chocolate frosting. My interpretation is nowhere near as spectacular and has neither layers nor filling but it is simple and moist and light and makes for an excellent picnic treat.

Ingredients

4 eggs, at room temperature

180g castor sugar

60ml (1/4 cup) honey

5ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract

300g (2 cups) cake wheat flour (all-purpose)

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

250ml (1 cup) milk

125g (1/2 cup ) butter

Honey & edible flowers to decorate

Method

Preheat the oven to 180º C. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin (although the original recipe says to use four tins, I simply use one).

Place the eggs, castor sugar, honey and vanilla in a bowl and beat (either by hand or with a mixer) until pale. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and beat again.

Heat the milk and butter in a saucepan. Once the butter has melted, remove from the heat. Slowly add the hot milk to the batter and beat on low speed until the milk is incorporated. The mix is a little more liquidy than, say, for Victoria Sponge but that’s okay.

If you’re in less haste, then by all means split into two or three or four tins and bake each for 20 minutes. Or, if like me, extra pans just means extra washing up then simply pour all the batter into one pan and bake for 30 minutes and then check with a skewer to see if it’s baked all the way through. If not, give it another five minutes.

Dot with honey and stick on edible flowers. Tastes particularly beautiful the day after.

Peach & apple cake

Peach & apple cake / milk & honey cake / lemon and vanilla butter cookies / summer baking three simple sweet and light baking recipes for summer - more on summer baking on my blog Our Story Time

Peach & apple cake

I couldn’t decide between apples or peaches so through them together in an adaptation of this recipe by the wondrous Erin at Reading My Tea Leaves. Erin’s recipe is delightfully and refreshingly simple but happens to be in American measurements which somehow still throw me. I have no idea if my cup conversions into grams are accurate enough but it turned out lovely even with my estimations.

Ingredients

1 large, chubby ripe peach, roughly chopped

1 apple, peeled and sliced

30g butter

80g golden caster sugar

1 egg

110g self-raising flour

1tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

Method

Grease a baking tin and preheat the oven to 180 C.

Beat the sugar and butter together until thick and creamed. Add the egg.

Next, sift the flour and baking powder on top and then combine. It will be quite thick at this stage, but don’t worry about it.

Mix in the chopped peach with all its ripeness and juice. The batter will still be thicker than a sponge cake mix, but it will soften with the addition of peach.

Spoon the mix into your baking tin and then top with the sliced apple. Bake for around 30 minutes or until golden on top and cooked through.

There you have it. Three bakes. Sweet and simple, just the way I like things.

Did you know you can still buy and download Postcards Home, my summer writing course? It’s available to purchase until the end of August, to print off or upload onto your device and take with you on holiday. For summer writing inspiration, read more about my summer writing course.