Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan is the perfect retreat for anyone who’s ever worked their hardest and failed anyway. Polly and her former boyfriend Chris did everything they could to keep his graphic design business alive, and Polly is exhausted, from working so hard to save the business, and to uplift a a negative, critical boyfriend. When her entire life falls apart, she has to find the cheapest living space available: a second-story decrepit flat above a failed bakery far outside the city in a small fishing town, whose traffic and tourism are still defined by the high tides. But it couldn’t be a better place for this bread-loving baker, who gets an opportunity to do she loves, for the first time in her life. Before long, she befriends a handsome sailor, an American beekeeper, and a baby puffling who needs her as much as she does him.
Jenny Colgan has numerous funny, insatiable novels that will have you craving everything from chocolate to cupcakes, as well as more details of the intricate lives of her heroines. Her bestsellers are, beginning with the continuation of Polly’s story: Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery, Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, and her newest book, The Bookshop on the Corner. She also has 3 Christmas novels available.
Sarah Addison Allen’s novels are very similar in style and making you crave various delectable delights, including romance. Some of her most popular novels are: Garden Spells, its bestselling sequel, First Frost, The Sugar Queen, Lost Lake, and The Peach Keeper.
More books about the healing power of baking for a person putting the pieces of their life back together are: The Union Street Bakery by Mary Ellen Taylor, The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe by Mary Simses and The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert.
A few books mentioned within this book are Anne of Green Gables, What Katy Did at School, Alice in Wonderland, and there is a particularly hilarious moment when Huckle accuses Polly of reenacting Wuthering Heights.
When “marching along narrow shady country lanes with no particular plan in mind,” Polly walked past a large rosemary plant, which she promptly grabbed some of for her fresh-baked bread. She also sold some of Huckle’s honey alongside her bread. Polly also admitted to loving “pain d’epices,” which is a French bread usually made with rye flour, and spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and even orange zest. So for this book, I combined rosemary, honey, a little cinnamon and orange zest into the a savory-sweet spice cupcake, with a honey cinnamon frosting.
Honey Rosemary Spice Cupcakes with Honey Cinnamon Frosting
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 sticks (1 1/2 cup) salted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup, plus 1/2 cup milk, divided; I used 2%, but anything other than skim will work
- 1 1/2 teaspoons, plus 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, divided
- 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 cup, plus 1 1/2 tbsp honey, divided
- 1 large navel orange, zested
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped, plus extra for garnish
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- Begin by creaming together one stick of butter with the brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment on low speed, then add the honey. Once those are combined, add the eggs, one at a time.
- In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. Pour half of this mixture into the wet mix, and once combined, add the 3/4 cup of milk. When that is fully mixed in, add the last of the flour and 3/4 tablespoon of chopped, fresh rosemary.
- Bake at 350° F for 17-19 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean of raw batter. Allow to cool for at least ten minutes before frosting.
- To make the frosting, cream together two sticks of salted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, on medium speed for 1-2 minutes, or until both are smooth and creamy. Add the 1 ½ tbsp honey, 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, and 2 of the cups of powdered sugar. When all of those are incorporated, add the ½ cup of milk. When that is combined, add the rest of the powdered sugar. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.
- “When Polly was down in the dumps, she wanted comfort, and comfort reading..” such as Anne of Green Gables, What Katy Did at School, and Alice in Wonderland, which wound up being saved and borrowed by Tarnie. How did this set the tone for their relationship? Why do you think those books were her comfort reading, and why do you think reading was her comfort? Do you have any comfort books or habits other than reading?
- Why was Polly told not to give the puffling a name? How was that reason also the “story of her life” and in what ways was it a good thing?
- Why did Gillian get up and stand at the wall to the sea every night? Why did knowing Gillian’s reason and her losses make Polly want to make more allowances for her gruff behavior afterward? How were those two women alike, especially after later events?
- Why was “bad bread” the one thing Polly had never been able to stomach? Why did she consider bread one of the cornerstones of eating, and if you got that wrong, the rest of the day was going to go wrong too? Might Gillian Manse’s days been a bit better if she’d started them off eating good bread? How can that set the tone for the day?
- What were some of the humorous tricks and entertainments Neil learned how to do in the kitchen, particularly with the tea kettle or the flour? Why did Polly allow and even laugh at all of it, instead of being cross with him or concerned with contamination and kicking him out?
- Reuben’s philosophy in life was “You gotta follow your bliss…You gotta do what you love…getting paid to do it, that makes it more fun.” Why did Polly balk at first at the idea of baking bread for a living? Did it perhaps seem to her that following your dreams was a luxury Reuben, but not she, could afford? It that what stopped her from ever trying before? What did Huckle love to do? What would you do if you could do anything you loved and be paid for it?
- Why did Tarnie think the Gillian had “been so bitter for so long that everything kind of just sealed over”? Do you think it was possible for her to change, perhaps under different circumstances or living in another location, away from her memories? How do some people find ways to move on, even live in the same place where they’ve suffered loss, like Polly did, but others have to move away, and some never let go of their bitterness? Are there steps to healing, and do you have to want it, and if so, why wouldn’t someone want to heal?
- Why wasn’t Polly the same girl anymore when Chris came back and wanted her to go live and work with him again? What changed? Could she have changed back, if she really wanted to, and would she ever have been happy in that life again? What kinds of things make us change into different people, for example, from one relationship to another?
- Why do you think the vicar picked that particular passage from the Bible to read from at the funeral? Why did the men sing that particular song? Were these appropriate choices, or can you think of any better ones?
- How did Kerensa end up with who she did? Was it a fitting match? How?
- Near the end of the story, Polly admitted to not wanting much to change in Polbearne, and wondering is she was turning into Mrs. Manse. In some ways, was she? How did she still remain different?