We all love to eat cake. Baked goods are like flour temptresses, luring and seducing you into the depths of deliciousness and wonder, in the form of a well risen Victoria Sandwich. Who better to talk to about baking than a baker?
A few years ago, Dublin local and resident Rosanne Hewitt Cromwell was looking for a hobby. On remembering the sights and smells of her childhood, she decided on baking. But why begin to blog about it? The answer; fun. “I had started to read some blogs around the same time and I decided it might be fun to blog about how I was getting on”. When she started out with her blog Like Mam Used to Bake in 2009, food blogging was not really a staple in the Irish cyberspace mixing bowl. There was a dusting here and there but there wasn’t a culture of it. In fact, one of the blogs that inspired Rosanne was not even about food, it was beaut.ie, a fashion cosmetic and general life blog.
Now however, food blogging has caught Ireland in its net and is whipping us into blogging shape. Over 500 blogs are listed on the Irish Food Bloggers blogroll, ranging from blogs dedicated to cake to ones for Lactose intolerant children. With all this food chatter online, does Rosanne follow any of her contemporaries? You can be sure that she does, “I try to read as much as I can” she says of other blogs, some she’ll subscribe to, others she’ll see links popping up on twitter and curiously have a gander.
The blog as well as being successful in Ireland, is also seemingly, quite far reaching, the idea for the cookbook didn’t come from Rosanne herself, but from across the large pond of the Atlantic. “Someone actually approached me about it. I got an email from a literary agent from New York asking if I’d be interested in writing a book based on the blog”. Interested she was! After mulling it over Rosanne took the plunge, and with it, took on the arduous task of narrowing down what to put into the book. The blog itself has over 150 recipes on it, but the majority of the book is actually new recipes “I wanted the book to be fresh content, for people who had read the blog from the beginning”. As a result only 15% of the book is from the blog taking the most popular recipes and Rosanne’s personal favourites. The other 85% are new recipes, determined by writing list after list and cutting them down to size to fit the book.
A fan of cookery television, the Great British and Irish Bake Offs are on Rosanne’s watching list come summer, as you always learn something new from them. However it is the Great Australian Bake Off and Australian Masterchef that would be her programmes of choice as often countries further away have different ingredients, different ways of using the same ingredients and might also have different techniques.
For Rosanne, the best aspect of her work is how incredibly creative and varied it is. She’s “never really doing the same thing”. While it might all be baking, it varies from testing and perfecting a different recipe to then decorating, styling or photographing, and of course, writing for the blog. Each day is a new oven driven adventure. One activity is also creating recipes of her own. While the blog and book may be called “Like Mam Used to Bake” it is not just her mother’s recipes that are printed between the covers, but some of her own too. “I would never really bake something straight up, I would always look at it and take it apart and put it back together in my own way”. Deserts in restaurants and cafés are also an inspiration of course. Not everything you eat will you be able to find a recipe for so ingenuity and imagination are needed to try and recreate something from scratch.
Flourless chocolate brownies are top of the baking list. If only allowed to bake one thing for the rest of eternity, for Rosanne it would the brownies that feature both in the blog and the book. And where would the brownie tin come from? TkMaxx apparently. In terms of cookie cutters, pastry cases and baking tins, TkMaxx has a good selection of good quality and importantly, for a good price. And other little more unusual bits are sourced from small independent shops here there and everywhere.
Rosanne seems to be on a meringue peak that’s only getting higher, Like Mam Used to Bake is abundant with foodgasms and cravings for some homemade deliciousness.