Hello + goodbye

I can’t believe that it has been more than two months since I last posted!

Actually, I can. It’s been a while since I’ve felt the urge to bake and even longer since I’ve had the motivation to blog about something I’ve baked. While I’ve been busy and am trying my best to get vaguely healthy again and blah blah blah, I think it’s also time for me to admit that this blog has, unfortunately, run its course.

I didn’t really know where this blog was going to go when I started it in February 2012 – I’d started to bake quite regularly and wanted somewhere to deposit my recipes and have some sort of record of what worked and what didn’t. I’ve definitely succeeded in that respect; I refer back to my blog when I’m baking or cooking more than I thought I would five years later!

I’ve never wanted to make money, or even build a massive following for the blog (although it’s been so gratifying to see the visits grow month by month, with people from all over the world looking up recipes!). Now that I’m baking a lot less often than I used to – although I still cook a fair bit – and the world of food blogging has moved on considerably in the last five years, I think it’s time to hang up the, er, laptop.

I’m in the process of moving the site back to my old URL – theveryhungrybaker.wordpress.com – so none of my posts will disappear; they’ll just have a new URL. Who knows, I might even keep posting there every now and then if I come up some fantastic new recipes!

If you want to keep track of what I make anyway, whether it’s from a new recipe or something that’s already out there, please do follow me on Instagram where I’ll keep posting photos of things that I make. You can also keep an eye on the baking and cooking recipes that interest me by following me on Pinterest.

That’s about it. I do feel a bit sad about scaling back the blog, but it does feel like the right time. Thank you so much for reading and commenting on my posts and, most of all, making my recipes! It has meant a lot to me.

Fig, pear and ginger flapjacks + other bakes + an odd October

I can’t believe my last post was at the start of the month. A lot has happened since then! See below or skip straight to the bottom for my fig, pear and ginger flapjacks recipe.

Also, happy Diwali to everyone who celebrates!

Literary stuff

I had a great time going to three events at the Manchester Literature Festival. I’ve never been before, but there were quite a few interesting events on this year.

I went to events for The Good Immigrant (a collection of essays about what it’s like to be a second-generation immigrant in Britain); an anthology of short stories inspired by Jane Eyre called Reader, I Married Him and edited by Tracy Chevalier; and an examination of writing about the Lancashire coastline, featuring Andrew Michael Hurley (The Loney) and Jenn Ashworth (Fell). They were all really inspiring and gave me a lot to think about as someone who would like to write a book one day!

I also nabbed a free, signed copy of Jenni Murray’s A History Of Britain In 21 Women as part of a festival giveaway, which I’m rather chuffed about!

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Outside of the festival, I also went to see the wonderful Becky Chambers talk about her two books – The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet (READ IT NOW IT’S SO GOOD) and the newly released A Closed And Common Orbit (I’m waiting for the paperback to come out before I read it, but also READ IT NOW). She’s a really funny, intelligent woman, and it was a pleasure to hear her talk about video games, science and what it’s like to write a novel.

Goodbye, Bake Off

I did, of course, watch GBBO to the end, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried a little at the end of the final (it’ll never be the same without Mary, Mel and Sue).

I was originally rooting for Benjamina to win (that pina colada roulade… oof!), but I’ve also loved Candice throughout, especially since That Pub, so I threw my support behind her when Benjamina left.

Credit: Radio Times

Credit: Radio Times

I’m thrilled that she won in the face of a stupid amount of abuse on social media over her looks, as well as the fact that *gasp* she obviously wanted to do well in the competition – rather than being all British about it and pretending that it didn’t matter if she won or not. OF COURSE it matters when you take months out of your life to practice making ever more complicated baked goods in an effort to please Paul and Mary. Let’s not pretend that it doesn’t.

I’m rather gutted that there’s no GBBO at all next year, but I’m hoping that the BBC will film Candice and Jane’s baking road trip and screen that instead next summer!

As an aside, the final technical challenge was brilliant and exactly what a technical challenge should be (none of this ‘make something you’ve never heard of’ malarkey).

The horrible bit

The biggest low this month was being mugged on my way home from the Becky Chambers event earlier in the week. I wasn’t hurt, but was rather shaken up by having my bag snatched and being pushed over by two blokes bigger than me who could just jump out of and into a car and speed off.

It’s made me quite anxious about leaving the house and getting home from work, especially as the nights are drawing in, but I’m hoping that I’ll get over it soon. I can’t very well stay indoors for the rest of my life!

The thing I’m most angry about is that they took things that wouldn’t have had any value for them (although they did manage to squeeze £45 out of my bank card), but meant a lot to me. I also resent going through the long and expensive rigmarole of having the locks changed, replacing my phone and other things that were in my bag, notifying the relevant people, etc. All so some low-lifes can no doubt buy some cheap booze and fags before doing it again to another unsuspecting soul.

Baking!

I have also been baking this month, so don’t worry! Unfortunately, all of the photos were on my stolen phone, so I’ve only got some snaps from Instagram to share.

Mary Berry’s lemon and poppy seed traybake

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This was a really easy cake to make. I settled on this after my husband requested something lemony for my next bake.The sponge was wonderfully light and soft, with plenty of flavour. I deviated a little from Mary’s recipe and put the zest of two lemons instead of just one into the mix – it really made a difference to the flavour, I think.

The recipe is on Mary Berry’s website.

Banana, raisin and rum drizzle loaf cake

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This is pretty the same as the banana, rum and raisin loaf I’ve made before, except that I made a rum drizzle (50g icing sugar mixed with 2-3 tbsp of dark rum) to pour over the top of the warm cake. This seemed to make the cake exceptionally boozy, which I’m sure Mary Berry would approve of!

Fig, pear and ginger flapjacks

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Last week I really wanted to bake something, but couldn’t be bothered going to buy particular ingredients, so I made do with what I had in – dried figs, a pear from my mother-in-law’s garden and my trusty store cupboard. I pretty much just jazzed up a basic flapjack recipe, with good results!

The flapjacks were wonderfully autumnal, if not a little soft due to the fruit – but still very nice if you don’t mind bits of flapjack falling everywhere! The recipe is below.

Makes 16 flapjacks

  • 1 pear, peeled and diced
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 175g soft brown sugar (I used 40g golden caster sugar and 135g dark muscovado sugar)
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup (I used 2 tbsp plus 2 tbsp of syrup from a jar of stem ginger)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 0.25 tsp ground cloves
  • 325g porridge oats
  • 100g dried figs, chopped
  • 1 ball of stem ginger, finely chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
  2. Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin with baking parchment.
  3. Toss the diced pear in a little lemon juice and sugar, and set aside.
  4. In a saucepan, melt together the butter, sugar, syrup, ground ginger and cloves, stirring frequently.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the oats, figs, drained pear pieces and stem ginger.
  6. Press the mixture into the tin and bake for 40 minutes, or until golden. It may still be soft in the middle at this point, but it should firm up as it cools.
  7. Cool completely in the tin, then turn out and slice into 16 squares.

Here’s to a more normal November!

What I’ve been doing when I haven’t been baking

Okay, so this post is a bit of a departure from the norm, but I’ve been thinking about writing something like this for some time while I’ve been doing very little baking to blog about. Truth be told, I don’t lead a particularly exciting life away from my oven, but I’ve been enjoying a few things recently to make up for my baking slump.

[EDIT: So, since I wrote the first draft of this, I have actually baked, which you’ll know if you follow me on Instagram. But I’m publishing this anyway because it’s done now! See next week’s post for baking details.]

What I’ve been cooking

spanishquesadillas
I’ve been trying quite a few new recipes recently to make up for the lack of cake in the house. These Spanish quesadillas with chickpeas and manchego were brilliant – so easy and tasty, and even better with a spicy chunky salsa. The recipe is on Foodandwine.com here.

cannellinibeandip
I love dips of all kinds, but I’d never tried cannellini bean dip before making this recipe. It’s really nice, especially with halloumi and pittas. I found the recipe on Diversivore here.

Where I’ve been

Lyme Park
My husband only has Mondays off work at the moment, so I booked a day off work a few weeks ago and we went to Lyme Park, which isn’t very far from us.

Lyme Park
We only walked around the grounds and didn’t get to look inside the house, but it was a lovely day and there were lots of gorgeous views to be had. We stopped off at The Hope Inn for some very good ales on the way home, which is always a great way to end an outing!

What I’ve been reading

Books I've been reading
I’m a huge bookworm and always have a book on the go. I have quite an eclectic taste in books – I love Victorian novels, fantasy, science fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, children’s books… as long as it’s well written and has great plot and characters, I’m not picky!

I finished Hester by Margaret Oliphant the other week. Oliphant is a relatively unknown novelist from the Victorian era who wrote an astonishing number of books, and was notable for being the sole breadwinner for her family and an array of relatives – not really the norm for women in the 19th century!

Hester focuses on two similarly strong female characters and is particularly interesting for being more focused on character development and the inner thoughts of the main characters than on plot (although there is a plot – it just moves a little slowly!). I really enjoyed this, although it felt like it took me quite a while to get through.

I bought The Diet Myth a while ago when I was thoroughly bewildered and depressed by my body’s inability to shed some ruddy pounds despite doing ALL the running. I started reading it last week, and it puts forward a really interesting argument for eating based on what your good gut microbes want, rather than following a fad diet (don’t get me started on bloody gluten-free, fun-free clean eating) or starving and exercising yourself close to death.

The best thing is that the author basically orders you to drink red wine and coffee and eat cheese, dark chocolate and full-fat yogurt! I wrote a review on LibraryThing, which you can find here if you’re interested.

I started reading A Little Life yesterday and I love it so far. I hear it gets quite distressing further into the book, but I haven’t got that far yet! At the moment, I’m just enjoying the writing style and being transported into the main characters’ thoughts and lives in New York.

You can peruse my book collection and make friends with me if you like on LibraryThing. I read 50 books last year and I’m aiming to beat that this year, but we’ll see how long it takes me to get through A Little Life…!

What I’ve been buying

tablecloth
I do love to shop, especially when it comes to elephant-related items. This gorgeous tablecloth was made by one of my very talented in-laws (it’s still weird that I have in-laws), Amanda, who runs an Etsy shop called Bunting Etc.

I’d really recommend checking out her shop if you like quirky home accessories (you can put in requests for specific prints/items too). I cannot WAIT to use our new tablecloth when we next have a dinner party!

darkchocolate1
I had a real chocolate craving on Friday. I’m trying to cut down my sugar intake at the moment, so I took myself off to Hotel Chocolat and treated myself to some bars of posh dark chocolate to see if this could calm my brain down without the fat and high sugar of milk chocolate. And it did! I’ve had most of the Vietnam bar so far and it’s lovely. Can’t wait to try the others! You can find this range online here.

NYX Studio Liquid Liner
I’m a proper make-up junkie – I wear it most days and love investigating new colours. I have a ridiculous number of eyeliners, but couldn’t resist this bright purple number from NYX (Studio Liquid Liner) a couple of weeks ago. I’ve also recently bought a couple of NYX lipsticks (their Soft Matte Lip Creams are BRILLIANT) and a startling blue eyeliner from Laura Mercier. Understated, neutral make-up isn’t really my thing!

What I’ve been watching

Stranger Things
If you have Netflix but you haven’t watched Stranger Things yet, what are you waiting for?! This show has had a lot of hype recently, but I’m happy to report that it’s all very much justified (unlike the hype for Breaking Bad, which bored me to tears 3 episodes in, and Jessica Jones, which I abandoned 4 episodes in). It reminds me a lot of Stephen King’s supernatural stories, which is no bad thing. The soundtrack is awesome, too.

Probably the main thing I’ve watched recently has been the Olympics. I’ve so enjoyed seeing Team GB grab a huge haul of medals, and I’m counting down the days until the Paralympics!

I’ve also recently started watching The Gilmore Girls on Netflix, which I never saw the first time round. It’s very funny and a pleasure to watch – definitely one for women who are sick of romcoms and like their comedy a bit smarter.

I did of course, see the first episode of Great British Bake Off, which I enjoyed despite the tears and what seemed like very harsh judging for the first round. I think I enjoyed The Chronicles of Nadiya more, though – Nadiya is such a star on screen, and her experience of growing up in Britain but having another ‘home’ country to visit really resonates with me.

What I’ve been listening to


Me and my husband have been going to the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia for a few years now. It’s brilliant if your music tastes lean that way, and also if you hate camping! The festival’s organisers create a Spotify playlist each year to introduce you to some of the bands that will be playing that year, and I’ve enjoyed quite a few songs on this year’s playlist.

The festival has been getting more and more popular every year, to the point where this year’s headliners are Super Furry Animals, which is very exciting! I think they were the first headline act I ever saw at a festival way back when I used to go to V, so it’ll be particularly nice to see them in Liverpool next month.

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My wedding cake + what I ate in Sri Lanka

So, the wedding has been and gone and our honeymoon in Sri Lanka already seems like a lifetime ago… but I’m not quite ready to let go of these happy times just yet, so let me inflict upon you the blogging equivalent of the dreaded holiday photo slideshow (sorry!).

The wedding cake

Of course, I have to start with the wedding cake. Let me just say that I found wedding planning incredibly stressful all round, and at one point I was contemplating making my own wedding cake because I was getting quite frankly ridiculous quotes for something that would be demolished within an hour or two.

Luckily, a good friend told me about a friend of hers who makes wonderful cakes for living, Lisa from Lily and Dilly. She was really easy to work with and managed to do exactly what we wanted for a reasonable price. Et voila!

Wedding cake
We knew that we wanted a red and purple cake to fit our colour scheme. We also wanted to incorporate elephants – another key part of the theme – but we weren’t quite sure how until we spoke to Lisa. She suggested copying the elephants and paisley pattern on our wedding invitations onto the side of the cake, and also helped us choose our flavours.

Each tier was a different flavour – from top to bottom, they were traditional fruitcake, rose and pistachio, Victoria sponge, and mango and coconut, thus reflecting both of our cultures in one cake. I only tasted the Victoria sponge and mango and coconut layers on the day, but they were bloody lovely, and I’m looking forward to trying the fruitcake we have in the freezer on our one-year anniversary.

The elephants on top came all the way from India with my cousin, and I think they made a rather nice finishing touch!

All in all, we were delighted with the end result, and I’m pretty sure our guests loved it too! It was nice to have something different from your standard ivory wedding cake, and it was a big reflection of my own passion for baking (and the husband’s passion for eating cake!). It was a million times better than anything I could have done. Thank you Lily and Dilly!

Sri Lanka

Our honeymoon was bloody amazing. It was the best holiday we’ve ever been on, and I want to go back! We went on a chauffeured tour (organised by Audley Travel) of mainly the central part of the island, taking in major sights like Sigiriya, the Dambulla cave temples and two national parks, where we saw lots and lots of wild elephants.

One of the main highlights was definitely the food. We’ve had Sri Lankan food before, and have a cookbook that we’ve made a few things from, but it was so wonderful eating the real thing! Sri Lankan cooking is dominated by coconut, chillies and aromatic spices like cardamom and cinnamon, as well as by the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables grown on the island. We certainly got our five a day and then some!

@sundara_jivitaya had an egg hopper for breakfast

A photo posted by The Very Hungry Baker (@mooingzelda) on May 15, 2016 at 9:06pm PDT

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A proper Sri Lankan breakfast! I had string hoppers (rice flour noodles) with potato curry, lentils and spicy coconut chutney.

A photo posted by The Very Hungry Baker (@mooingzelda) on May 9, 2016 at 9:38pm PDT

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The other thing that dominates Sri Lankan cooking is rice. It seems that the traditional Sri Lankan meal is a big pile of rice with anything from 3 to 10 curries (we even saw ’17 curries’ listed on a menu once!), as well as salads, pickles, chutneys and so on. Whenever we had this for lunch it only seemed to cost us around £3 or £4 each. Bargain!

Last night Sri Lankan feast.

A photo posted by Dave (@sundara_jivitaya) on May 18, 2016 at 8:29pm PDT

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I know, I know… you want to hear about the cakes. As is the case in Indian cooking, cakes and desserts aren’t quite as a big a thing in Sri Lanka as they are in the UK, but we did try a good range of sweet treats anyway…

Something I had earlier in Dambulla: honey and yogurt cake, which was essentially a Sri Lankan cheesecake. Nom!

A photo posted by The Very Hungry Baker (@mooingzelda) on May 10, 2016 at 6:31am PDT

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Sri Lankan desserts! Wattallapam (coconut milk, jaggery and vegetable oil) and passion fruit cheesecake. Phwoar.

A photo posted by The Very Hungry Baker (@mooingzelda) on May 10, 2016 at 8:42am PDT

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Tonight’s desserts: mango, marmalade cake and a “creamy glass”, according to the buffet card.

A photo posted by The Very Hungry Baker (@mooingzelda) on May 12, 2016 at 8:59am PDT

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In terms of traditional Sri Lankan recipes, jaggery featured a lot – wattalapam (watalapam? Unsure of the exact spelling!) cropped up a few times, while kalu dodol was very similar. The other traditional sweet treat that we kept seeing and which I tried once was curd and treacle – a rich buffalo milk curd (similar to yogurt but not as acidic) topped with a runny treacle that is related to jaggery. It was delicious!

Free sweet treats in our room

A photo posted by The Very Hungry Baker (@mooingzelda) on May 14, 2016 at 4:39am PDT

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My amazing dessert: coconut and jaggery panacotta with a burnt coconut and jaggery crisp. Phwoar.

A photo posted by The Very Hungry Baker (@mooingzelda) on May 14, 2016 at 4:45am PDT

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Passion fruit cheesecake (sorry @shannonagain58!)

A photo posted by The Very Hungry Baker (@mooingzelda) on May 14, 2016 at 8:19am PDT

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Just received a special delivery!

A photo posted by The Very Hungry Baker (@mooingzelda) on May 15, 2016 at 5:39am PDT

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(I had the above cake at breakfast one day. No shame whatsoever.)

Mango ice cream

A photo posted by The Very Hungry Baker (@mooingzelda) on May 16, 2016 at 9:11am PDT

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Fresh fruit was probably the king of desserts (and also of breakfast – Sri Lankans seem very keen on a fruit platter first thing in the morning) – bananas, coconuts, pineapples, passion fruit, guava, papaya and, most excitingly, in-season mangoes were everywhere, from the hotel buffets and menus to the market stalls we kept passing as we travelled from place to place.

Everything else seemed more western-inspired, and I sadly didn’t see any love cake (which I’d read about a lot beforehand), but I do have a recipe for it in our Sri Lankan cookbook, so I’ll have to give it a go one of these days. I also suspect that I’m going to try to replicate the banana and cumin cake pictured above – it was such as unusual combination but so delicious!

I could go on and also describe the delicious cocktails we had, but I’ll leave it there for now. It’ll be business as usual from next week – I actually only just this minute finished baking my first cake since we got back (I’ve been too jet lagged and ill to do it any sooner!) so you’ll be able to read all about it next week.

PS I did the Great Manchester Run as mentioned last time, and managed to beat my target time by two minutes to run it in 1 hour and 13 minutes, despite the aforementioned jet lag! I raised an amazing £215 for the British Red Cross and donations are still welcome!

A cake I didn’t make + some news

The chocolatiest birthday cake in the world
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? And then I come back with a post about something I didn’t even bake. Sorry. But it’s been a pretty amazing few weeks!

I’ve been fairly busy balancing my (relatively) new job with freelancing on the side, plus I was trying veeerrry hard to be healthy and lose a few pounds ahead of a holiday in the Lake District, so I haven’t really baked much. And then I went on holiday, ate all the food and just so happened to get engaged, which I’m extremely ecstatic about!

It was also my birthday a few days ago, so my boyfriend fiancé made the most fantastic cake to stop me making my own: The Chocolatiest Cake In The World.

The chocolatiest birthday cake in the world
This beauty of a cake is basically the sponge from Felicity Cloake’s perfect chocolate cake recipe sandwiched with chocolate buttercream and covered with ALL the chocolate. I believe there are Galaxy Minstrels, Galaxy Counters and Galaxy Caramel buttons plus chopped up Crunchie, Galaxy Caramel and Double Decker bars on top. AND melted chocolate to finish.

Words cannot describe how good this cake is. It’s so very, very chocolatey! Unfortunately, the richness of the cake means I can only eat it a slice at a time without getting way too full. Fortunately, this means the cake is going to last me a while! Unfortunately, I need to get healthy again after it’s gone.

The chocolatiest birthday cake in the world
Hopefully it won’t be too long before I get back into the swing of baking and blogging. Please don’t expect anything too decadent for my next post, though…!

My top 5 coconut baking recipes + 5 on the to-bake list

This post heralds the start of what I hope will be a series of occasional round-ups of some of my favourite baking recipes, each with a different theme. Today, I’m kicking things off with one of my most beloved ingredients: coconut!

1) Mango and coconut cake

Mango and coconut cake

This was my second attempt at a cake combining two of my favourite ingredients – and it was definitely a charm. This is the perfect summer cake and one that won’t last for very long!

2) Lemon coconut cake

Lemon coconut cake

This is one of the most popular recipes on this blog, and for good reason. As if the beautiful combination of coconut and lemon isn’t enough, the whole thing is finished off with a decadent cream cheese icing. The perfect Easter cake!

3) Coconut layer cake

Coconut layer cake

This is a wonderfully versatile cake that you can sandwich with whatever you fancy – you could go for pretty much any jam, some kind of chocolate buttercream, lemon curd, more coconut… you get the picture. This post is also a good example of my tendency to get over-excited and throw in more coconut than required by the recipe.

4) Orange macaroon cake

Orange macaroon cake

I initially wanted to make this cake to combine both mine and my boyfriend’s favourite flavours to celebrate his return from a long summer away with work last year (pass the sick bucket, eh?!). It’s incredibly more-ish and makes a lovely change from the more traditional pairings of coconut with various types of berry.

5) Bounty cake

Bounty cake

The daddy of ’em all, this is my most recent coconut-related success – and it’s bloody gorgeous. Not for the faint-hearted, there’s more coconut than you can shake a stick at, and you can tweak the flavours however you like. Just don’t skimp on the coconut.

And here are 5 more that I want to bake…

1. Coconut and lemon bakewell tart (John Whaite)

I’ve never baked a tart, but I’d really like to start with this one… yum!

2. Coconut quindim (BBC Good Food)

Never heard of a quindim? I hadn’t, until I came across this recipe. It’s a Brazilian dessert and looks bloody lovely.

3. Coconut and cardamom bread and butter pudding (Good Food Channel)

You start reading the name and you’re thinking: ‘oooh… exotic’. Then you get to ‘bread and butter pudding’ and you’re suddenly all ‘oh’. But I do like bread and butter pudding, and combining a quintessential British pud with lovely Indian flavours is a nice idea.

4. Fluffy coconut and lime cake (olive magazine)

I love coconut with lime. This looks so very tempting, and could be a nice special occasion cake.

5. Lemon, almond and coconut friands (Made From Scratch)

I’d really like to bake these for a sophisticated afternoon tea with a twist. You can’t go wrong with coconut and almond together!

Do you have any favourite coconut-related bakes?