I stopped watching The Great British Bake Off when it moved from the BBC and Mary Berry et al left. I realise that is probably silly, but I feel like Paul Hollywood was the least of the programme. I do keep meaning to buy a Nadiya cookbook, but haven’t yet got round to it. She was definitely one of my favourite contestants.

Bagels came up in a couple of comments last week. I bake them and I did a batch this morning, so I thought I’d post some pics. The recipe, which I found online, is easy to follow and usually turns out quite well (this batch certainly did, though mine don’t tend to be completely smooth and round). I am old school when it comes to bagels – ie, savoury only. So, mine usually get caraway seeds, sesame seeds and salt. I sometimes attempt an Everything topping, but I haven’t yet mastered that.

Baking bagels reminds me of living in and visiting New York. When we were with my father in Park Slope, I’d pick up bagels from his local place, 5 minutes away: an Everything slathered with plain cream cheese. Oh, and iced coffee – whatever the flavour of the day was with half and half. Sublime. Not really something you get here. You can find iced coffee drinks, but shops don’t have bubble machines (or whatever you call them) with iced coffee going all day.

Decades ago, on the way home from secondary school with my mother (she taught at the school I attended), on a Friday night, we’d sometimes do a circuit of Zabars on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for bagels, lox and cream cheese and then zoom down to the Lower East Side to visit Russ & Daughters (my father was very partial to bialys and we loved the small onion baguette things). If my mother was feeling relaxed, we might even stop at Yonah Schimmel’s for a potato knish.  School was on the UWS and home was north, in Westchester. So, it was a bit round-about, but a really pleasant extension to the journey home.

When I lived in NW London the house was a 10 minute walk from an awesome bagel bakery. The softest, most delicious ones I’ve had in the UK. Far better than the famous Brick Lane Bagel Bake in East London.

I don’t bake a lot of different things (ie, there isn’t a constancy of breads, cakes and cookies coming out of the oven in this house), but I do bagels fairly frequently and my soft pretzels (far more labour-intensive than bagels, which themselves are fairly labour-intensive – I have a heavy-duty stand mixer with a dough hook for kneading) are fairly good. I also am pretty good at banana bread using James Beard’s recipe, but Sara’s, at the bakery in Topsham, with walnuts is even better.

Beyond being able to eat the results of baking, the house smells awesome for a day or two. I love the smell of yeasty stuff doing its thing. I totally get why food-based fragrances are so popular, particularly things with vanilla — especially in our current strange times, when soothing things are so welcome.

So, are you baking? If so, what? Do you have a specialty regarding which you no longer need the recipe? Is there a foody perfume you love or are just enjoying at the moment?


  • maggiecat says:

    My husband is the family baker – he’s been doing sourdough bread for, I think, about 6 years now. We’ve kept the starter alive for that whole time. He bakes a number of loaves, which we freeze and then toast a piece or two when needed. I also love the way the house smells during and after the baking process!

  • March says:

    We’ve cut way back on the baking around here after losing our minds earlier on in COVID lockdown…. there’s an amazing French bakery about 15 mins away (walking) and I use that as an excuse to go get something wonderful, as we’re not supposed to have a bunch of tempting carbs sitting around here. When I do bake it’s mostly the quick-and-dirty varieties — cookies, brownies, cornbread in a skillet. I love cornbread!

    • Cinnamon says:

      I should not be eating as many pastries/cakes as I am but I justify it based on I’m supporting the bakery and helping to keep her open (and people employed). Cornbread!! Recipe please!

  • Musette says:

    and I agree with you re Paul Hollywood. He’s … I dunno… he’s now unfettered (for lack of a better word) and it’s unappealing. It’s become too much about him and less about the actual bakers, who are the heart & soul of the entire program.


    • Cinnamon says:

      He could get that way (and ‘unfettered’ seems a good description) in the original Bake Off. Sometimes he’d just go off-piste on something or someone and you wondered why they didn’t edit it out — he sometimes got so weird and unpleasant.

    • SamanthaL says:

      I don’t like Paul Hollywood at all..I’m not normally a fan of the male mid life crisis, but I love Noel Fielding so I have to watch!

  • Musette says:

    my sister and I were just chatting about the fact that neither of us are baking these days – in fact, I’m having trouble even eating baked goods, odd as that sounds. xoxo

    • Cinnamon says:

      Is it food ennui? I am the opposite at the moment and wish it would shift. I’m hungry almost all the time which I think has to do with being stuck inside mostly. I’m better after dog walks and visits to farm shop, etc (which are my only outside activities really — plus the bakery in the next village), but if I can’t get out or I’m working a specific shift I get very twitchy and hungry.

  • Calrayo says:

    I bake a lot of cookies and quickbreads and things, but not a lot of yeasted doughs. I just bought a complete set of In Search of Lost Time, so I might make myself a batch or two of madeleines to go with it.

    • Cinnamon says:

      I love the way Madeleine tins look. What sorts of quick breads?

      • Calrayo says:

        Oh, pumpkin bread and banana bread, the occasional yogurt or pound cake. I use recipes from Smitten Kitchen and Orangette for the most part. You’re right, it always makes the house smell wonderful!

  • Dina C. says:

    My best bagel story is a dim echo of yours Cinnamon. In May 2008, my husband and I took our two kids, 11 and 8, up to NYC for a 5 day stay to see all the sights and experience the city for their first time. I researched thoroughly beforehand, and we went to a real deli one morning for the authentic Jewish bagel experience (not just a tourist trap). So delicious, so fun. Nowadays, I buy bagels at the grocery story bakery. When I bake, it’s stuff like cakes and cookies for special occasions.

    • Cinnamon says:

      Which deli did you go to? There’s always been so much good food in NY. There are some very good bakeries here including one in Exeter called the Exploding Bakery which offers a lot of gluten free stuff (their salted caramel brownies with almond flour are phenomenal).

  • Diana says:

    I actually just purchased my first Kitchenaid stand mixer and a book called “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” with the intent to start baking. Up until now, I’ve spent years moving around for work and haven’t gotten to know anyone very well to share baked goods with. (I live alone and certainly don’t need the calories!) However, I’m relocating back to the Philly area this summer where I have friends/family so I’ll have people to share goodies with again. Figured I’d get practice in now so I’m ready to host dinners and holiday celebrations next year as my ‘welcome home’ celebrations. I don’t generally use foodie smelling scents for perfumes but I do like using foodie scents (especially apple-cinnamon in the fall and various vanilla-based scents year round) for candles whenever company is over. I plan to use vanilla cupcake candles when I put my house up for sale in May to give it a more “homey” feel before people do their tours.

    • Cinnamon says:

      I’ve got a heavy Kenwood. I think baking can be so soothing and like a good book etc can pull you out of yourself. I don’t have any vanilla candles. I think that’s a hole that needs filling. Best wishes on house sale.

  • Portia says:

    Hey Cinnamon,
    I haven’t baked since my Mum died 20 years ago. I was lucky enough to live with her for her last 5 years on earth. It was like we knew the time would be short. We baked cakes & cooked together in general, gardened and talked and bickered and talked over cups of coffee.
    In Sydney we had a bagel house for about a decade 80-90s. One of the gays had lived in NYC and brought them back. It changed the way we brunched here. Whenever I see bagels that’s the time it reminds me of. The best and worst of times I ever lived through.
    Thanks for the reminder. This week I’m going to look for bagels at the grocery.
    Portia xx

    • Cinnamon says:

      So sorry about your mother. Mine died a bit over 20 years ago too and I spent a lot of time visiting and doing the cooking so she and my father had stuff in the freezer (they lived in the midwest; I lived in the east). I recall making fresh pasta with my father as it was one of the things she found easy to eat.

  • Ariel says:

    Alas, I think I may always need recipes for baking. I’ve used the same sourdough recipe weekly for almost two years now, and I could probably remember most of the ingredients…but multiple minor brain injuries have rendered my memory unreliable for numbers (of any kind). Boo.

    I love Kulfi’s cardamom perfume. So so so so so so much.

    • Cinnamon says:

      Sorry to hear about the injuries. I actually can’t eat sourdough very often. No clue why, but I feel odd if I do too much. Kulfi. Will have to look it up.

  • ElizaC says:

    My husband just baked the most amazing oatmeal cookies. The secret is to toast the almonds – it gives it an amazing flavor! Only time I’ve made bagels was when I was a child at an arts event in Aspen. They had a huge community meal with all of the food in different colors. So I’ve helped make green, blue and purple bagels. Never tried to make them at home but sounds like a fun project this year. Gourmand perfume is definitely the Lutens vanilla perfume 🙂

    • Ariel says:

      Toasted almonds + oatmeal? Sign me up!

      I’m hard pressed to think of a time when I wouldn’t toast almonds. But, I also toast quinoa, farro, rice, nuts, seeds, spices…so many ingredients benefit from a little solo sauna time 🙂

    • Cinnamon says:

      Love oatmeal cookies, especially when they are soft. Community meal sounds a wonderful thing. I imagine children really enjoyed doing the different colours. I have actually never smelled that particular Lutens, in all my time as a perfumista. I feel a sample order coming on.

  • Tara C says:

    I bake challah bread weekly, other desserts irregularly. Bagels sound daunting but I may try some day. Gourmand perfumes are a staple here – pretty much any vanilla, caramel or chocolate scent is a favourite.