Tag Archives: baking

Introducing our local Community Bakery!

13 Nov

One of the exciting things about moving to a new area is exploring the local shops and businesses and I’ll be honest The Man and I are pretty lucky, having moved near to some very lovely shops we are getting a little spoiled. As I harbour the dream that one day food will play more of a central role in my work life too I’m always interested in finding out how other people are making this a reality and support small local producers.

When I discovered Blackbird Bread on Twitter, I as keen to find out more about Twickenhams Community Bakery, and not just because of the name! After a flurry of tweets we took delivery of a wonderful foccacia which was eaten to quickly for a decent photograph but does feature here with figs and dolcelatte.


Our next order was a sourdough loaf and a lemon drizzle cake as a treat.

ImageImageI loved the flavour of the sourdough and like the focaccia it kept very well, refreshing nicely even after a few days and I found we were finding more creative ways to use the bread, not letting it go to waste. The lemon drizzle was great too and disappeared very quickly!

The Blackbird bakes three times a week from his home kitchen and I’m looking forward to trying more of the great range of loaves. You can have your bread delivered in the local area for a small charge but I really enjoyed the slightly covert feeling of picking my loves up from a house on a street not too far away.

When a lot a big supermarkets are stocking “artisan” bread and a local bakery can shift loaves without  price list seemingly regardless of where they are baked it feels nice supporting someone who is taking a different path; producing a small number of quality loaves for the local area. Sticking it to the big guys one loaf at a time!

If you live in Twickenham go and check out Blackbird Bread if not have a look around, the person next door might just be a a community baker…it could even be you!

No-knead brioche buns

25 Feb

This recipe was an attempt to redeem myself after my collapsing bread disaster; with no kneading apparently required and a very slow overnight rise I thought I would give it a go. The idea came from my very cool copy of Ideas in Food but is based on one from the BBC Good Food website.

I was a bit sceptical as to whether it would rise, be really heavy or taste like brioche. I have to say I was quite impressed, after peering at the dough nervously all evening as it didn’t seem to be “doing anything”, but the texture of the dough in the morning was much more elastic than I expected, and the buns did rise nicely.

They aren’t the same as a more traditional brioche, but then I did half the recipe  I’m posting as there are only two of us which made it a bit more fiddly (1 1/2 eggs is tricky to measure out, although you can keep the remainder to brush the tops with in the morning) but I would make it again as it was a lovely, super quick treat.


  • 200g butter , very soft
  • 2 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs , plus 1 beaten for glazing the next day
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • ½ tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 200ml whole milk


Mix the butter, sugar and eggs in a large bowl – they’ll look a mess rather than coming together nicely.

Add the flour, yeast and salt and pour on the milk. Stir the mixture to make a sticky dough (use you hands if you prefer), cover the bowl and leave somewhere cool for the whole day or overnight.

Heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Butter a 12-hole muffin or bun tin. Pull off lumps of dough the size of a clementine (flour your hands if it’s sticky) and form into a ball.

Drop into one of the holes and repeat. Brush the tops with egg and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.

Malteser Brownies

19 Feb

I’ve been a bit flustered recently with one thing and another and in those circumstances I need to keep myself busy, so I’ve been baking up a storm. This doesn’t always mean baking well, the bread I made on friday to calm myself down with some kneading collapsed totally after I let it rise too quickly. However, I like to think I redeemed myself with these brownies.

The recipe is adapted from Lorraine Pascale’s Baking Made Easy which won me second prize at the allotment association show in the summer, her victoria sponge won me a first so thanks Lorraine! Swapping the oreos for maltesers, some of which have been given a good whack with a rolling-pin (very therapeutic) gives the brownies a lovely malty taste as well as leaving nuggets of biscuits in the cooked mixture. They are very rich, but very good and won’t hang around for long!


  • 165g  butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 200g dark chocolate, grated or finely chopped
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 2 free-range egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 165g soft light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • pinch salt
  • 150g pack maltesers


  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease a 20cm/8in square baking tin with butter, then line with baking paper.
  • Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat. When the butter has melted, remove the pan from the heat and add the grated (or chopped) chocolate. Leave to stand for a few minutes, or until the chocolate melts, and then stir together. Alternatively, you can put the chocolate and butter in a bowl and melt in the microwave in 25-second blasts, stirring well each time.
  • Whisk the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla together in a large bowl until the eggs begin to get light and fluffy. Add the sugar in two additions, whisking between each. Pour it around the side of the egg mix so as not to knock out the air that has been whisked in. Keep whisking until the mixture becomes stiffer. Once the egg mixture is ready, pour the chocolate into it – again around the sides so as not to knock the air out.
  • Open one en of the bag of maltesers and hold it closed so they don’t go every where, place on a hard surface and give the bag a few good whacks with a rolling-pin to break up some of the chocolate.
  • Add the flour, cocoa powder, salt and a the malteasers and stir until fully combined, then pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25–30 minutes. The middle should be very so slightly gooey. Leave the brownies to cool in the tin.
  • Pull the brownies out of the tin and cut into squares.

Love Food Hate Waste: left over Christmas Cake

12 Jan

Do you still have a house guest left over hanging around after Christmas? No…check your cake tins, I once found a remnant of forgotten Christmas cake lurking in a tin in March! It probably had so much booze in it that it would have been edible but I just couldn’t face it. That story probably means I’m a very slovenly house keeper, but since I make my own Christmas cake I’m more keen than every to use it up and not let it go to waste.

If you have thrown out any left over Christmas cake shame on you because you are missing a real treat. Warm Christmas cake with Christmas pudding ice cream. Oh yes dear reader, it may be January, chocolate rabbits and eggs may have appeared in the shops already and this may not even be a recipe but you will thank me for it!

Ingredients & Method

For the Christmas Pud ice cream I used a tub of butter scotch ice cream but vanilla would be fine; allowed it to soften and then stirred through the crumbled remains of a Christmas pudding. Re freeze, and you’re done.  Don’t worry if you haven’t got any left, serve this with any ice cream you like.

Cut a portion of Christmas cake, place in a bowl and warm it (I use the microwave for speed).

Serve with a dollop of ice cream.

I find this a particular pleasure with a drop of whisky, when all the decorations have come down, Christmas and New Year seem a long time ago, the Weight Watchers ads are on TV and things feel a bit grim. Perfect pick me up I’d say! Thrifty too if you’re feeling the pinch after the festive season.

further adventures without the bread maker.

2 Dec

Since my fab bread masterclass with Warings I’ve been honing my kneading skills and playing around with different recipes. Recently I picked up some lovely local-ish apple and cinnamon bread mix from the Wessex Mill, down the road in Wantage. I’ve never used a bread mix before and the instructions on the packet were designed for the bread maker but said it could be made by hand without altering any of the amounts so off I went.

Following the instructions on the packet I mixed the ingredients together with 320ml of warm water and kneaded for about 8-10 minutes. At first I was a little worried that the dough would be too wet, the packet says that if  the loaf collapses in the bread maker and to use less water if this is the case, so I was concerned; but the dough came together nicely as you can see.

I left it to prove until it had doubled in size, knocked it back and the left it to rise again in a greased round tin.

As the packed didn’t have any baking instructions (assuming you know or are using a bread maker) so I used my Waring’s instruction sheets and gave it about 25 minutes at 200° ( or until it sounds hollow when tapped which I will admit is a concept I still don’t fully understand). I was pretty pleased with the results.

I even managed to slash the top properly, the structure of the loaf was pretty good too, by my standards anyway.

It rose very well and wasn’t overly cinnamoney (sic) or sweet, I did add sugar which was optional in the recipe and whilst I’m not sure it would work with savory foods it was a lovely breakfast loaf with butter, honey or jam.  I must confess I’m still enjoying making bread by hand when I have the chance, it’s a little bit magical which is a good job as I’ve got to loaves worth of this flour left in the cupboard!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

24 Nov

Having a mid November birthday I try to hold off doing anything Chirstmassy before it, and increasingly difficult task with Christmas sneaking in earlier and earlier, but I try. Once my birthday, and that of a very good friend even later in November are over I let myself start thinking about Christmas; I build up slowly otherwise I think I could get a bit carried away.

The first step is making a Christmas cake, a bit of a faff yes but always in my experience nicer than a bought one and while people are want to joke about turkeys lasting far to long, but a large Christmas cake soaked in enough booze will keep well into the New Year, whether you still feel like eating it then is another matter! But here is the best recipe I have found and one which has drawn the most complements for Jamaican Black Cake; a rich, fruity, boozy cake which everyone seemed to enjoy. I don’t know if this is authentic, a search of the internet shows up a variety of methods, some involving soaking fruit for a month or longer, but this recipe suits me.


113g mixed peel

113g glace cherries

227g prunes

454g raisins

grated rind of 1 lemon and 1 lime

2 cups dark rum

1 tsp vanilla essence

227g margarine or butter

227g dark brown sugar

2 tbsp caramelized brown sugar (browning sauce)

170g plain flour

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp mixed spice

½ tsp salt

1tsp baking powder

4 eggs


  • 24 hours before baking finely chop the fruit, zest the lemon and lime and place in a large bowl with 1 cup of the rum and vanilla essence and leave to infuse.
  • Grease and line a 9 inch round cake tin
  • Pre heat the oven to 180°
  • In a large bowl cream the butter, sugar and caramel until light and fluffy
  • In another bowl sieve the dry ingredients together
  • Beat the eggs and last cup of rum together then add to the creamed butter mixture in two halves, adding a spoon or two of the flour mixture if it looks like curdling.
  • Fold in the remaining dry ingredients and pour into the tin.
  • Level the top of the cake and bake in the centre of the oven for approx 1 ½ hrs, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool in the tin and store in an air tight tin, you can feed the cake with an additional shot of rum every week until it is needed.

Make no mistake this is a very rich cake, and ideally it should be made a month in advance so it can be topped up with rum and to allow the flavours to develop. However, I think you could make it quite a bit closer to the big day and still get away with it. It also ices very well, although I did over do it with the edible glitter!

Treacle flapjacks

17 Nov

For the past few years I’ve make my own Christmas Cake…but this post isn’t about that, it focuses on an annual problem; what to do with the left over ingredients from making the Christmas Cake. Which ever recipe I use there are always a few things left over.

Glace cherries tend not to hang around for very long as both The Man and I will happily eat them from the packet, raisins etc are also eaten swiftly. Candied peel usually lurks in the cupboard until some time in the summer, and this year there is treacle too. Trying to cut down on food waste I don’t want to throw these things out if I can help it so I am on a quest to use them up. First up, treacle flapjacks.

I used to hate treacle with a passion, Mum would make treacle toffee every bonfire night and watch as her ungrateful daughter spat it out or turned my nose up at it. I have since made my peace with treacle, good job as there is the rest of a large tin in the kitchen; and this recipe is quick, easy and delicious.


  • 150g butter
  • 75g dark brown soft sugar
  • 75g dried fruit of choice (I used sultanas)
  • 75g  black treacle
  • 225g porridge oats
  • pinch salt


  • Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas mark 5.
  • Melt the butter, sugar and syrup or treacle in a saucepan, but be careful not to let it boil. Stir in the porridge oats and the salt and mix thoroughly.
  • Press the mixture into a 20cm (8 in) round baking tin and bake for 25 minutes, don’t be tempted to leave them in the oven for longer or they will set solid and be really difficult to get out of the tin!
  • Remove from the oven and mark into slices. Lift from the tin and leave to cool before cutting. Store in an airtight container.

TA DA! Not the best picture in the world, but they are much darker than standard flapjacks too. You could replace the treacle with golden syrup, but these had a very comforting old-fashioned taste too them. They aren’t very healthy either, with all that butter and sugar; but as a treat or an energy boost I don’t think you can beat a good flapjack. Luckily there is plenty of treacle left so I think we will get through plenty of these.

Welsh Cakes

20 Sep

This summer I spent a week with my family in Cardigan, West Wales I grew up in Wales but pretty close to the border and with English parents so I had a sort of Welsh “lite” upbringing, which means I don’t speak Welsh but can read the road signs, I can sing a passable version of the national anthem if pressed and I had to dress up in National Dress for St Davids Day. That traumatic annual experience might have been enough to put some people off but since I’ve been away I’ve grown to appreciate Wales much more that I did when I was there. Cardigan really feels like being in Wales (sorry Chepstow) and after a week of walking past bakeries selling Bara Brith and fresh Welsh Cakes I couldn’t wait to cook them again especially as I had nabbed a cast iron pan from my Mum, the closest thing to a traditional bakestone I could get without spending money.

For my first attempt in 15 years and without parental supervision I don’t think they turned out too badly, although I could have rolled them more thinly. The recipe I used is from Elizabeth Luards wonderful book A Cooks Year in a Welsh Farmhouse, they aren’t as sweet as some and don’t include mixed spice as some recipes do. They were wonderful but I did miss the slight spicyness so would add a little next time. Luard also doesn’t dredge her Welsh cakes with caster sugar, something we always did and I prefer. However, these cakes did go very well with cheese (a successful experiment by The Man) as well as being eaten plain or with butter (as Luard suggests) so they were a bit more versatile than very sweet / spiced ones.


500g self-raising flour
50g butter, diced plus extra for greasing
125g sultanas and/or raisins
125g caster sugar
2 eggs plus a little extra water


Put the flour in a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips as if making a pastry. Mix in the fruit and sugar. Whisk the eggs with their own volume of water (measure with an eggshell) and work the liquid into the flour mixture till you have a soft rollable dough – I needed a little more water than this.

Tip the dough onto a well-floured board and roll it out to the thickness of a couple of £1 coins – about 5 mm. Cut into circles with a  biscuit cutter or sharp-edged teacup

Gently and thoroughly heat a griddle or a heavy frying pan. To test whether it’s hot enough, sprinkle the surface with a pinch of flour – if it toasts golden within 4-5 seconds without burning, the heat is correct; if it smokes and blackens immediately the metal is too hot. Wipe with a buttery cloth then slip the cakes onto the hot metal. Wait till the underside is browned and the surface begins to look dry, then turn them gently and brown on the other side. Allow 6-8 minutes in all. Best eaten fresh and warm, but they re heat quite well in a toaster.

Spelt Soda Bread

8 Sep

I’m  a fan of Soda Bread, some people aren’t. A bakery in Windsor once refused to sell me a loaf on the grounds that the assistant “didn’t understand why so many people liked it”.  I think fresh soda bread is a thing of beauty and it is one of the first things I cooked with my Mum who developed a taste for it living in Norther Ireland. Soda bread also has the advantage of being blinkin’ easy to make and quick to bake. This recipe uses half spelt flour which I picked up at Y Felin in St Dogmaels while I was away, and half white flour. It’s lovely stoneground organic flour and I got a tour of the mill with the miller himself so I hope it does the flour justice.

Makes 1 large loaf.


280g Spelt flour

280g white bread flour

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Pinch of sea salt


400ml buttermilk or 400ml milk with juice of half a lemon added.


Pre heat oven to 230°. Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add the egg to the butter milk and whisk until combined. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the buttermilk mixture, quickly combining into a rough dough, don’t hang around with this bit speed is of the essence. Shape the dough into a rough ball and place on a baking sheet. Cut a cross in the top to help it rise and quickly place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes at 230°. Then turn the oven down to 200° and bake for a further 20 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when the base is tapped.

The end result should be a well risen loaf with a firm crust that is still soft inside. Soda bread is best eaten fresh, preferably with a little salted butter but, wrapped in a tea towel and kept cool this loaf kept well for a couple of days. Think you can’t make bread? Go on try this.


Pretty in Pink Victoria Sponge

28 May

Up until now one of the chinks in my culinary armour has been sponge cakes! The Victoria sponge has been a particular nemesis, if the batter doesn’t curdle I get over excited and open the oven too soon and watch my gorgeous pillowy cakes sink! That is until my Mum bought me Baking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale. I’ll be honest, I haven’t cooked much from it yet but I’ve high hopes after having a go at her Victoria sponge recipe. Ta da..

This one has been adapted with some added elderflower cordial as a practice run for a Clandestine Cake Club event I’m going to in June. It looked like a Victoria sponge*, tasted like one, and was light and fluffy with not a hint of curdled batter insight. Result! The non standard icing is a mixture of 2 tbsp of freeze-dried raspberries and 1tbsp icing sugar pushed through a sieve over the cake. A fruity, tangy alternative to the traditional sugar topping.

*Purist would argue that it isn’t a true Victoria sponge because of the elderflower, non standard sugar topping and even for some because the jam wasn’t raspberry. I however was too proud to care!

%d bloggers like this: