Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Little Beach Street Bakery" By Jenny Colgan, Served Up with a Recipe for Fabulous Sweetcorn Fritters

"Polly was very specific about bread. She loved it. She had loved it in fashion and out of fashion; as a child, as an adult. It was the favorite part of going to a restaurant. She loved it toasted or as it was; she loved bagels, and cheese on toast and pain d'epices and twisted Italian plaits. She loved artisan sourdough that cost six pounds for a tiny loaf, and she loved sliced white that molded and soaked up the juices of a bacon sandwich."
-Little Beach Street Bakery, Jenny Colgan 

Ahh, bread! The staff of life. I don't actually have bread for you today, but I do have a review of Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan, a novel full of those delicious carbs. For today's TLC Book Tour stop, I am pairing my review with a recipe from the book, a tasty biscuit-like Sweetcorn Fritter. These little fritters are perfect for dipping into honey accompanied by a cup of tea, or as a side dish for a flavorful fish dinner.   

Publisher's Blurb:

In the bestselling tradition of Jojo Moyes and Jennifer Weiner, Jenny Colgan’s moving, funny, and unforgettable novel tells the story of a heartbroken young woman who turns a new page in her life . . . by becoming a baker in the town of Cornwall.

A quiet seaside resort. An abandoned shop. A small flat. This is what awaits Polly Waterford when she arrives at the Cornish coast, fleeing a ruined relationship.

To keep her mind off her troubles, Polly throws herself into her favorite hobby: making bread. But her relaxing weekend diversion quickly develops into a passion. As she pours her emotions into kneading and pounding the dough, each loaf becomes better than the last. Soon, Polly is working her magic with nuts and seeds, chocolate and sugar, and the local honey—courtesy of a handsome beekeeper. Packed with laughter and emotion, Little Beach Street Bakery is the story of how one woman discovered bright new life where she least expected—a heartwarming, mouthwatering modern-day Chocolat that has already become a massive international bestseller.

Paperback: 448 pages 
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 31, 2015)

I am always a sucker for stories where the lead character by choice or necessity, chucks it all and starts over. In this case, it's necessity as Polly's life crumbles when her long-term relationship with Chris is over, they have no money, and their shared business goes bankrupt. Forced to downsize, she finds herself renting the upstairs flat of a decrepit shop/bakery on the tidal island of Mount Polbearne on the Cornish coast. Connected to the mainland by a causeway during low tide, it is small fishing community filled with quirky characters and lacking decent bread which is how Polly ends up delving back into her old hobby of baking. Unfortunately, Mrs. Manse, Polly's new landlady and the proprietress of the only bakery in town (with just one kind of bread and pastries brought in from a commercial vendor), is none-to-happy to have Polly's skills threatening her livelihood, so Polly soon finds herself sneaking in bread sales and trades to her new friends as she looks for a job. 

Polly is a great character, kind and optimistic, despite getting knocked down--she bounces back. At first I thought she lacked a bit of a backbone, but I quickly grew to love her. And speaking of love, Polly rescues a baby puffin on her first night in town and although advised by the local vet, not to name him or become too attached as she will need to release him back to the wild, Neil quickly works his way into her heart. How can you resist a baby puffin?! Named Neil?! I want one. Also hard to resist are local fisherman Tarnie and ex-pat American beekeeper Huckle, who bring some potential romance into Polly's life. The book is full of great and lovable characters, the kind you would want for your friends and neighbors--especially Polly's sarcastic best friend Kerensa, Huckle's swaggering millionaire friend Ruben, and Tarnie's loyal fishing boat crew. 

I needed something light and fun to read and Little Street Bakery is just that. It's a sweet book, as inviting as a slice of bread, warm from the oven and slathered with butter and honey. It is fun and engaging, especially the relationships between Polly and the other characters and their witty banter--with just the right amount of snark. It has its poignant moments too, and manages to be romantic without being too sappy. A great book to escape, the over four hundred pages just flew by and I found myself wanting more. Goodreads says that there is a sequel--here's hoping it releases soon to the United States. This is my first Jenny Colgan book and I am eagerly looking to read more of her work.

Author Notes: Jenny Colgan is Scottish born and bred, born in Ayrshire in 1972, but currently lives and works in London. After graduating from Edinburgh University, Jenny worked for six years in the health service whist moonlighting as a cartoonist and doing stand-up in the outer fringes of London’s comedy circuit.

Find out more about Jenny at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

This is definitely a foodie read, particularly heavy in the baking of bread. I do not remember a cupcake reference in the book which makes the cover, while striking, an odd choice in my mind. Based on the storyline, I would have pictured bread, perhaps a loaf with a cut slice drizzled with honey. But, I digress, let's get to the food that is in the book. Bread--simple white bread, sesame, whole wheat, and honey and flax seed to name a few. There is focaccia fragrant with rosemary, cheese straws, bagels, pissaladière with caramelized onions, sweeter treats like sugar bread rings, brioches, and pains au chocolate, and cream horns. There is plenty of honey from Huckle's bees, along with tea, coffee, and iced tea with mint (Polly's first) and the mead Huckle brews from the excess honey. Since it is a fishing village, there is the classic fish and chips, and the fries and Fanta that Polly and her BFF Kerensa get after nights at the pub. There is the cod given to Polly by Tarnie--he tells her to "Fry it up in a bit of butter and lemon and it'll be right good." Later on their fishing date, Polly catches a large herring and Tarnie adds butter, lemon and parsley, wraps it up in tinfoil and cooks it on the fire. Polly makes some socca--little pancakes made of chickpea flour to go with Ruben's langoustines with garlic and lemon and rocket salad. I thought seriously about making those as my book-inspired dish, but lacked the brick oven to make them as good as Polly's socca.   

There are even seven recipes at the back of the book. Since most of them were for bread or bread-ish things and not only am I not a much of a baker, I have a fear of yeast and bread baking, I chose the recipe for Sweetcorn Fritters. In addition to being the favorite of the author's husband, they were mentioned along with chorizo and "anything that looked even vaguely like pizza" as things that worked well and sold out quickly in Polly's Little Beach Street Bakery. I had some leftover fresh local corn that I used instead of canned, and I served my fritters two ways--as more of a breakfast or snack with local honey for dipping, and as a side dish for a fish dinner. For the dinner, I used local monchong, lightly fried and topped with a compound butter of local sweet cream butter, lemon, and parsley. In fact, with the exception of the flour, pepper, and oil, used for frying, it was pretty a local food dinner. 

Jenny Colgan says, "These are my husband's absolute favorites so he gets woken up with them on his birthday. Actually, I should make them more often now I think about it; they're lovely and tasty and easy."

Sweetcorn Fritters
Adapted from Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
(Made about 6 small cakes

Beat 1 egg.
Add a tablespoon of water, 1 cup of flour, 1 small can (7.5 oz) of sweetcorn (or half a standard size, or double everything else and use the whole can) and 1 teaspoon of baking powder. 
Season to taste (in our case, we use lots of salt and pepper).
Form into cakes and fry on medium heat. Take off and drain on a paper towel. Yum!

(Note: I made a few changes to the recipe. First, I used fresh local corn that I lightly steamed beforehand. In stead of all-purpose flour, I used mochiko flour (sweet rice flour) because it is what I had on hand. My mixture was a bit too dry--maybe due to the mochiko flour, so I added a second tablespoon of water. In addition to the salt and black pepper, I added about 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh marjoram to add a little green and some herby notes.)   

Notes/Results: These are fun little fritters, almost biscuit-like in texture so I shall think of them as 'friscuits.' ;-) I loved the sweetness of the corn and the little herby touch of the marjoram in the tender batter. Although they worked really well accompanying the fish and salad, I will confess that I couldn't get enough of just the warm fritters dipped in honey. A little bit of heaven. I can see why the author's husband is so fond of them. I will definitely make them again.

I am linking this foodie book review post up to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking Event. This is my first time linking up to this event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "Little Beach Street Bakery" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here



  1. This book does sound like the perfect beach read and I am loving those little fritters with the honey.

  2. Both the book and the corn fritters look amazing!

  3. friscuits is such a fun word!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  4. Yes, I might have to patent that friscuits! ;-)

    Thanks for having me--this was a really enjoyable book.

  5. Thanks Kris. They were both really good! ;-)

  6. An excellent beach read--although I think the honey on the fritters will be problematic if the sand is blowing! ;-) Hah!

  7. I do love corn fritters, made as you did with fresh shucked corn. And your book review had me totally sold. Will be looking for it at the library.

  8. I love those characters who chuck it all and start over, too. That is why I am really love Wedding Bees for CTB's next round. :)

  9. Gluten Free A-Z BlogApril 10, 2015 at 2:37 AM

    Love your book and recipe posts. Your reviews are a pleasure to read ! Your words and photos make me want to dig right in ( to both the book and the recipe)

  10. I added this link to Weekend Cooking. It's okay to link more than one post :) Love these kind of foodie books--they are usually fun to read. And those fritters look awesome. I'm going to have to give them a try.

  11. Thanks for fixing my mistake Beth! ;-) I appreciate it and having both posts linked to your event. Foodie books are some of my favorites too. ;-)

  12. This was a fun book. I reviewed it on my blog this past weekend as well. There were so many great recipes in this book, although by the end of it, I was craving fish and chips and bread more than anything else.


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