It’s mid-November, and therefore I am allowing myself to start to celebrate Christmas. Slowly. I love Christmas a lot, but I kind of need to ease myself into it, lest I explode into a cloud of magical sparkles.
This will be my second Christmas season in Brighton (although I will be spending Christmas proper in Rome this year), and I have these conflicting feelings about the affair. On the one hand, it feels familiar to me this time, whereas last year it was all brand new. On the other, I’m still not used to it being this mild at this time of year. It is very difficult for my brain to get into the Christmas spirit when I am often having to remove my coat because it is 14 degrees, and much too stuffy to wear it.
Everything is still a bit on the cusp, in Brighton. But bits of Christmas are beginning to pop up here and there, as I saw while I was out for a bit of a stroll earlier.
I ended up in Brighton Square, which has some Christmas lights that I definitely need to go back to see when it is dark outside.
Currently in Brighton Square is the Brighton Etsy pop up shop! I had a bit of a browse and got a few great ideas for gifts for some of my friends. I would tell you more but 1) I don’t want to risk spoiling anything and 2) my friend Rosie went to the launch of the Etsy pop up shop told us all about it on her blog!
Finally, we all know how I love a good tea shop. I was lured into Taj’s Tea Parlour (which I have always wanted to try) by a combination of vintage Christmas songs, adorable decor, and a sign that proclaimed gluten free goodies to be available! Those, my friends, are words that are so special to me.
Taj is so lovely and friendly! She had a sample of the gluten free brownie with white chocolate and raspberry available, and I simply had to have it. It was moist, chocolatey without being overpowering, and the blend of raspberry and white chocolate was perfect. While I was there, she was actually working on a few bakes, and got quite excited over a Baileys filling that, quite frankly, must be amazing if her other food is anything to go on (I also heard exclamations over a particularly delicious sandwich, from a fellow customer).
I am such a sucker for mismatched floral china patterns! So adorable.
Now I feel as though I am fully prepared to take Christmas on and make the most of this busy, sparkly season! Now I am off to curate a special holiday playlist and figure out how I wish to decorate my flat!
I have not had a doughnut in over a year. Canadians love doughnuts. Doughnuts with coffee (or hot chocolate for me!) is one of our “things.” We have an entire section of our cultural identity based around one doughnut chain in particular. Both times I’ve been home since moving to the UK I have been unable to eat one of these delicious national treasures (I miss you, maple dip!).
Lately it’s been bothering me. Last night, I dreamt about making doughnuts. So, today, I did it. I took another step in my quest to relearn baking.
The recipe I based this on is from a great blog called I Am Gluten Free. Linnaea is seventeen and has been baking gluten free goods for nearly a decade, so she has really taken the time to perfect her recipes, and if you’re going to follow one, I would suggest hers. For that reason, I’m not going to list out a recipe or method, because she should take the credit! Although I did make some substitutions and have some general thoughts for how I, personally, would improve upon the recipe to suit to my tastes. We’ll get to that.
These are the ingredients I used, apart from the maple syrup which I forgot to put in the photo (but I did put into the dough). My recipe deviates from the original in a few ways. 1) I used xanthan gum as my stabilizer rather than guar gum. This was just a supply issue. 2) Rather than buying a rice flour, I decided to use a flour blend that I already had on hand. 3) The molasses vs. treacle thing.
Basically, molasses is not a term used in England. A quick google search while in the baking aisle at Sainsbury’s suggested that the British equivalent of this is treacle. This seems right. They seem similar in concept. But I would guess the darker treacle would be a closer match and in my haste I just went for the regular one.
In any case, I love treacle. Have you ever had a treacle tart? It was new to me last year, but suffice to say, I am on board! I am not as on board with the name though. “You’re slower than treacle in January!” does not have the same ring to it.
However, I wonder if there is a difference in sweetness between treacle and molasses because I did end up hoping the dough would have been a bit sweeter. In the future, since it was a rather wet dough, I would probably add a little more granulated sugar to the mix, just because I like my baked goods to put me into some kind of sugar coma.
For some reason my hand mixer is TURBO CHARGED. I have no idea why, but seriously the lowest setting is SO fast I find it difficult to handle. It’s like my arm is going to come right off. For this reason, I think the dough was a little overworked and stickier than it should have been, which resulted in not getting the rise that I would have liked. It still rose, I just think it could have done better!
Time to get my hands dirty…
To make the doughnut shapes, I flattened dough on to a counter covered in hella cornstarch, using my hands that were also covered in hella cornstarch. Then I had to check the next step in the recipe on my phone, and also I responded to a message on Facebook, so my phone is now also covered in hella cornstarch. Life of an amateur baker.
I used some pretty high tech baking tools to make the doughnut shapes. First I used a glass from Ikea that I turned over for the outer edge. Then I used my 1/4 teaspoon to sort of dig a hole in the centre, which I reinforced by patting more cornstarch in the circle.
Next, everyone got to have a break! These guys went into an oven that I had warmed up a bit, then turned off, so they could try to get a bit of rise (which kind of happened, but kind of didn’t. Oh well!). And I diligently cleaned up my workspace and did all of the dishes and… hahaha, just kidding. I went on the Internet. The dishes are still alive and well in my kitchen, covered in cornstarch.
After an hour, or so, came the most fun part of this sort of thing for me… frying! I became fairly obsessed with frying things after making Algerian borek over the summer. I am a frying nerd. I was happy that the doughnuts seemed to have a lot of structural integrity, because I was able to pick them up with tongs! I am pretty bad at using a spatula. I’m sure if I had it would have resulted in many burns. Using tongs, I only got one burn! Woooo.
As I removed each pair from the pan, I returned them to their original baking sheets, and then sprinkled each of them with cinnamon sugar. I looove cinnamon, so I actually just keep a shaker of cinnamon sugar around because you never know when you might need it.
Yum! These taste really great, I must say. As I mentioned, I probably would prefer them a bit sweeter, but the cinnamon sugar does help. And if I get a bit more desperate to add a bit more sweetness, I could always whip up a bit of a glaze to drizzle on top!
In any case, it’s safe to say that I will never go a year without a doughnut again. I can’t wait to curl up with a mug of Timmy’s hot chocolate and one of these bad boys tonight!
The rumours are true: British people love tea. And Brighton loves little cute and quaint shops, so of course these two concepts are very easily married to ensure that you’re never too far away from a cup of delicious leaf water in a suitably cozy setting.
While I try to go to as many local places as possible (sitting in Starbucks is only acceptable when on the run or in need of a Wifi connection, in my opinion), I definitely haven’t even begun to graze the surface of the offerings in this town. There are a few higher profile shops that I’ve not yet visited. So, this isn’t necessarily a list of my favourite tea shops in Brighton, but rather an idea of a few places that serve a nice cup.
The Mock Turtle
I told myself I would try not to pick favourites but… The Mock Turtle is definitely my firm favourite. I’ve been here a few times, and it’s where I like to take friends from out of town, like Hanna and Clementine. The oldest tea shop in Brighton, apparently, it is just so cute and quaint with jam jars lining the shelves and the original till (they don’t take cards but will accept a cheque for anything over £10). Their cakes sit in the window and look super inviting… or they would if they had a gluten free option. That’s their one downfall! Again, I tend to favour the house blend (I need to expand my horizons), but I recall Hanna having and enjoying a green tea. And Clementine’s rosehip tea was simply stunning. I could not stop staring at the pink liquid when a bit of milk was splashed in.
The Creperie is a staple for me. Whether it be for tea, a gallette or ice cream at breakfast, lunch or dinner, I come to this cute little shop right near the seafront. Opened last year on Shrove Tuesday, the ladies that work here always seem chipper and they can serve up both sweet and savoury creations. I know, I know, this post is supposed to be about tea. Well, what better to go alongside a cup of tea than a delicious crepe?
Lewes Tea Room
Obviously, Lewes is not in Brighton. That is why this blog entry’s title includes the word “around.” It’s not a far journey at about 15 minutes by train. We popped into this shop while my parents were over visiting after we had been roaming the streets of the picturesque little town. This tea shop was a bit strange in that the front of it is very much a… florist. Through the back of the Lewesiana florist, however, is a bright and airy room. I cannot fault having tea surrounded by the scent of flowers! My parents had a high tea with sandwiches, scones and dessert. I’m used to having to sit this part out but luckily the Lewes Tea Rooms have gluten free options available, like the delicious salmon, dill and cream cheese sandwich shown above. Yum!
That Little Teashop In The Lanes
I remember popping into here with Katy and Emma for a cup of tea to wind down an afternoon of being tourists around Brighton. We were definitely drawn in by the cute name. Obviously it is kind of tucked away in the Lanes, which makes it a bit off the beaten path, while still being incredibly central. As with most teashops I went for the house blend and it was quite pleasant. The servers wear black and white old-fashioned uniforms that are apparently a bit of a throwback to the 1920s. I believe I remember gluten free cake options available, but it was too close to dinner for me to try anything.
Those are my four faves so far! If you live in Brighton, please let me know if you have any more recommendations. If you live elsewhere, I could always use suggestions for when I travel (I will be in Rome at Christmas!) or for teas I can buy and make at my own flat.