‘It looked like something I had already eaten!’ The 15 worst reader bakes of lockdown

Lifestyle

White sandwich loaf
Dave Tyler, writer, Monmouth

My daughter bought me a breadmaker but my early attempts were marred by a temperamental electronic scale. At least, that’s my excuse for this monstrosity, which looks more like a 70s Doctor Who villain than a white sandwich loaf.

Beer bread
Anna Stanford, PR and communications manager, London

Like everyone else, I thought I’d give baking bread a go during lockdown – not because bread was scarce, but simply to fill the time and make my flat smell nice. I spotted a recipe for beer bread online that looked super easy and used a can of beer instead of having to do anything fiddly with yeast or starters. But the loaf took on a life (and limb!) of its own – I call it my arm bread. It tasted dreadful. Baking bread is not for me.

Sourdough loaf
Liselle, Newark

I joined the sourdough revolution during lockdown after seeing a friend’s amazing loaves. My first loaf, however, was a total brick. The starter wasn’t lively enough but, because I was attending a Zoom online baking class, I had to just crack on. When I started making the dough, it just got stickier and stickier. I felt very disheartened and my second attempt was no better. The dough was still sticky, but I read that you could turn it into focaccia, so I tried that. It was still awful.

Cherry clafoutis
Michael Laurino, language assessment consultant, Beijing

With too much time on my hands and a recent gift of a huge box of cherries, I thought I’d try making a cherry clafoutis. Despite following the recipe, perhaps with just a couple of improvisations, I ended up with what my niece described as looking like something I had already eaten! Even a sprinkling of icing sugar failed to redeem it, but a dollop of vanilla ice-cream did help it go down.

Funfetti cake
Natalie, medical statistician, London

My oven broke at the start of lockdown, leaving me and my flatmate to get creative using the hob for a few weeks. (Fried frozen pizza, anyone?) As soon as it was fixed, I went on a baking spree, which was mostly successful, but with two notable failures: the world’s flattest scones (I blame the recipe) and a funfetti cake. The cake was going well until I added the buttercream icing before it was fully cool. Cue melted pools of butter and soggy blobs of cake.

Pistachio bars
Arlene Lahey, English teacher, Ankara

It seemed easy enough: make pistachio bars from scratch, rather than using the packaged bright green pudding. It looks lovely in the photo, especially with the sprinkling of crushed pistachios on top, but instead of the pudding being an appetising shade of green, it best resembled poured concrete (in colour, thankfully not in consistency) sandwiched between two layers of cream cheese. I started baking a couple of months ago as a form of therapy/mindfulness and have mostly been successful. I usually share my baked goods quite proudly with friends. This time, I waited until the cover of darkness to hand it out – it tasted fine, just looked terrible! A dessert best enjoyed with one’s eyes closed.

Crumpets
Emma, civil servant, London

My sourdough-discard crumpets proved disastrous. I got a bit overconfident having finally figured out how to bake a decent sourdough loaf during lockdown – I even made crumpet rings using beer cans to be mega–sustainable – but it became a squidgy, half-burnt mess. They didn’t taste bad though, all things considered.

Vegan meringues
Ruth Hadley, civil servant, London

I was experimenting with vegan baking and decided to try meringues using chickpea water. Covid-19 has made me acutely conscious of food waste and I wanted to make the most of my tin of chickpeas. Sadly, I didn’t whip the aquafaba and sugar for long enough (you need to do it until your arm aches … and then some) so they disintegrated in the oven. It looked like I had microwaved a ghost.

Lemon drizzle loaf
Mary Dobson, charity worker, London

This is not my bake, but my fiance’s. I had a lockdown birthday, which was mostly fun, and Tom decided he would make his first-ever cake for the occasion. I checked in on him at one point and warned him not to overbeat the mixture – despite it looking like he might have already done so. Our oven also cooks quite hot … It was meant to be a lemon drizzle loaf and I was obviously effusively grateful, but as cakes go, this was definitely a first attempt. Dense, claggy, burnt. That’s love!

Scones
Gerard Boyle, London

I decided to make some cheese scones but they tasted really dusty. It turned out our flour was more than 10 years out of date – and had even moved house with us more than seven years previously.

Sourdough bread
Anne Twynam, Shropshire

I named my sourdough starter after my late dad, as it produces something nice but crusty. This seemed appropriate. I’ve trawled through recipe books and am now speaking a new language of leavens, levains and autolysing. The kitchen is covered in a fine dusting of flour and my husband has put on a stone. I’ve made one passable loaf and one that was as flat as a pancake. I had one that refused to leave the warm embrace of the floured tea towel and this one, which stuck resolutely to the cooking pot. I’m now on to loaf five and if this one doesn’t work then Dad will have to go in the fridge and lie dormant until I summon up the enthusiasm to bring him back to life.

Cake
Kelly Hartstone, business systems manager, Kent

Never a confident cook or baker, I have in recent years – now being a parent to a three-year-old – begun to be more adventurous and bold with my kitchen endeavours. I had been enjoying some moderate success in the muffin department. Suitably encouraged, and bolstered by a recent 3kg delivery of then-rarer-than-gold-dust flour, I set out to bake my first cake from scratch. I measured, I sweated and I watched as it baked; words cannot describe the pride I felt when I brought out a perfectly baked cake. Worried that I might damage it in my excitement to put it on the cooling rack, I made the fatal error of giving it to my partner to extract … who promptly tipped it all over the floor.

Seeded loaf
Alison Cawley, Taunton

This is Ruby Tandoh’s seeded loaf, or rather seeded brick. I think I let the second prove go on too long and it collapsed with a disappointed sigh when I slashed it. Definitely my fault, not Ruby’s – her walnut cob has been among my top lockdown bakes. Surprisingly, the brick tastes OK when toasted, so I’ll try again. Like yeast, I rise!

Cheesecake
Philippa Fernley, primary school teacher, Manchester

I thought making a layered strawberry, raspberry and vanilla cheesecake would be a piece of cake. However, the recipe and instructions differed slightly to my usual recipe and I was torn as to which to follow. I went with the new recipe, but didn’t add gelatine, as I’ve never done this. When I tried the mixture, I could not taste any of the fruit flavours, so (without thinking) I added more fruit. I think it was this that led to my disaster of a slopped cheesecake. The flavour was delicious, but the base was so hard that I couldn’t even pull it off as summer fruit mousse. I will be following my usual recipe next time.

Scones
Bridget, subeditor, Exeter

I somehow managed to score an enormous bag of flour, so decided to satisfy a serious craving for a proper Devon cream tea. This is my first (ever) attempt at making scones. They made a lovely jam and cream sandwich …