Leek & Bean Soup

My baking mojo has disappeared.  The will is there, but the inspiration has vanished – if that makes any sense at all. But here we are, it’s November and whether we like it or not, autumn is in full swing, and the urge for comfort food gets even stronger.  Lacking in energy the idea of soup (minimal effort required) was very appealing.  My soup repertoire is quite limited – tomato, butternut squash, celeriac, chicken noodle and pea & ham are my go-to options when I make it myself but in reality soup is not difficult to make, and is very forgiving if you change ingredients. I saw this recipe in the BBC Good Food magazine and it was different enough to my other soups, that I decided to try it.

Heat 1 tablespoon of cooking oil (I used olive oil) in a large pot, and add 600g finely sliced leeks (about 4 large chunky leeks) and fry gently until soft.  Add one litre of hot vegetable stock (actually chicken stock would work fine here too) and 2 x 400g tins of cannellini beans, drained.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add 2 finely diced cloves of garlic and 100g of spinach.  Cook for 5 more minutes.  Add 150ml whole milk, season and blitz to smithereens, so you end up with a lovely smooth soup.

It’s good and healthy, but I think that some crispy bacon or pancetta crumbled on the top would be lovely too…. 😊

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing a wish you a peaceful weekend 😊

Cape Seed Loaf

We’ve had three days of non-stop, soaking rain and now my roof is leaking.  Isn’t life infuriating at times?! 

I needed to distract myself by baking and decided to bake a recipe I haven’t baked for ages.  I don’t know where the original recipe came from, but it is based on a loaf of bread called “Cape Seed Loaf” which I used to buy regularly in Cape Town.  It is a rough, chunky, hearty loaf of bread, and super easy to make as it requires minimal kneading.

Things to remember:  this dough is wet and sticky, which is why it is kneaded in the bowl.  Kneading time is short, all you really do is moosh (technical term!) the dough around for a while.  There is only one rise needed, and it is a much shorter time than for most bread doughs.

Ingredients:

500g strong wholemeal bread flour

50g pumpkin seeds

85g sunflour seeds

25g poppy seeds

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon caster sugar

7g packet easy-blend yeast

2 tablespoons of flaxseed oil (or olive, or sunflower oil)

350ml lukewarm water

1 egg, beaten

Sesame seeds to decorate

Method:

Mix together the flour, seeds, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl.  Drizzle over the oil and then stir in the water to make a soft dough.  This will be a wet, sticky dough, unlike other breads.  Knead this in the bowl for around a minute.  This really does need minimal kneeding, and you’ll see what I mean about the dough being wet………

Lift the dough out of the bowl and plop it into an oiled 2lb loaf tin.  Press in with your knuckles to fill the tin and make a shallow dent down the length of the middle of the loaf so that it will rise evenly.

Cover with a cloth and leave to rise in a warm place until almost at the top of the tin – approximately 30 – 45 minutes.

Heat the oven to 180°C (160° fan).  Brush the top of the loaf with beaten egg and sprinkle over the sesame seeds.

Bake in the oven for 45 – 50 minutes, and cool on a wire rack when done.

I didn’t bother with the egg and sesame seed bit at the end here, and I used a pack of omega seed mix instead of the seeds in the recipe, but it all works anyway!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing a wish you a peaceful weekend 😊

Torta di Testa di Prosciutto e Formaggio

My poor sourdough starter is no more.  Well mostly no more.  A hot night, an open window and a moth flew in, it managed to get under the loose cover on the jar and drowned in the starter.  I had no choice but to empty it all onto the compost heap.  I still have a small amount of the original starter which I did not revive, but I’ll wait until next year before trying to get that working.  A bit frustrating, but that’s life.  I was leafing through “Bread” by Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno and saw a recipe for a savoury enriched bread.  Why not, eh, I thought, that sounds delicious.  It doesn’t matter that I can’t think straight, I can do this….and so, dear reader, I baked “Torta Di Testa Di Prosciutto e Formaggio” (otherwise titled Golden Cheese & Ham Bread.

It is an enriched bread dough, with eggs and butter included, and the addition of Emmental cheese and Prosciutto to make it a lovely savoury loaf.   Unfortunately I over-proofed the dough and so it collapsed, making it a broader, flatter loaf than it should have been.  It was complete stupidity on my part, I accept the blame!  I can however say that it still tastes wonderful!  This would be a lovely picnic bread, or a great accompaniment to a hearty bowl of soup.  And of course, spread with cold salty butter it is a delight.

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons dried yeast

100ml water

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

125g softened unsalted butter

4 eggs, beaten

150g sliced, chopped prosciutto

150g diced Emmental cheese

Method:

Put the water in a bowl and sprinkle the yeast in, leaving for 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve.

In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, nutmeg and pepper.  Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeasted water, butter, eggs, cheese and prosciutto.  Mix together to form a soft sticky dough.

Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until silky and elastic, about 10 minutes.  Put the dough in a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size – about 2 hours.

Empty the dough out of the bowl, knock it back and leave to rest for 10 minutes.  Shape the dough into a round loaf, place on a lightly oiled baking sheet, cover with a tea towel and leave to prove until doubled in size – about 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 180°C (160°C Fan).

Bake in the preheated oven for 1 ½ hours until golden brown.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Would I bake this again?  Yes, most definitely.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing a wish you a peaceful weekend 😊

Biscoff Cupcakes

I made a chocolate and peppermint cheesecake last week. I searched everywhere but couldn’t find a recipe that I liked, and so instead I tweaked a cheesecake recipe which I’ve tweaked countless times before. It worked, it was delicious, but not quite right. It needs a bit more tweaking, and so you’ll have to wait.

Maybe I should avoid cheesecakes for a while……… I haven’t baked cupcakes for ages so I need to do this instead. I saw this recipe on the wonderful Bitches That Bake blog and decided this had to be done. Check out the blog for the exact recipe. Apologies, BTB, for the 50,000 views of your blog while I made sure I followed your recipe!!

Ingredients:

150g butter, softened

150g golden caster sugar

3 eggs

150g self-raising flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon mixed spice

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160° fan)

Beat together the butter, sugar and eggs until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla extract and fold in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ground cloves and mixed spice.

Spoon into cupcake cases and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.

For the buttercream beat together 150g butter, 175g Lotus Biscoff spread, 300g icing sugar until light and fluffy.  Add 2-3 tablespoons of milk so that the buttercream is of a pipeable consistency.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, smother them in buttercream (would you like a bit of cupcake with your buttercream?) Enjoy and feel smug at your creations 🙂

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 🙂

Sweet Rosemary Tomatoes

Yes, yes, I know this is not a bake, it’s not even cake in any form.  But hey, it’s hot, we’re all tired, and I’m struggling for inspiration, so you get a tomato instead.  But it’s worth it 😉

I saw this recipe years ago in a newspaper.  I can’t for the life of me remember who wrote it, it might have been A.A. Gill, but I’m not sure.  In any event, do yourselves a favour and try it, it’s sublime.

Ingredients:

450g cherry tomatoes

3 sprigs rosemary

10 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons water

50g caster sugar

75ml olive oil

Sea salt flakes, and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

In a medium sized saucepan heat the water and sugar until the sugar dissolves.  Ad the rosemary, garlic and oil.  Cook gently over a low heat, approximately 5 to 10 minutes stirring regularly.

Once the garlic has started to soften, add the tomatoes and stir so that they are well coated.  Cover with a lid and cook for a few minutes until they start to burst.  When they do, take the pot off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature in the pan.

This is a dish best served at room temperature rather than cold.  The quantities can easily be doubled.  Serve with a large salad, or with lamb, or with chicken………..this goes with so many things, just do it!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 😊

Sourdough Bread

Now that your sourdough starter is nice and healthy, you’ll be wanting to bake. What do you mean sourdough starter, what sourdough starter? C’mon folks, keep up…. here’s the link to the post on how to do it, and it also has the link to the original recipe I used – Sourdough Starter remember?!!

If you recall I never wanted to make sourdough bread. True story. But then I had to see if I could make a sourdough starter, and once that worked I had to see if the starter actually worked, and the rest is history.

So, back to business. In a large bowl you want to mix together 450g strong white bread flour, 50g strong wholemeal bread flour, 10g fine salt. Add in 100g of that lovely sourdough starter and 325ml warm water. Now, don’t be a wimp, use your hands and not a mixer. The best part of baking bread is the kneading, it’s therapeutic. Mix everything together in the bowl and tip the dough out on to a floured surface and start to knead. You can add a little flour at a time if the dough is too sticky, or a little warm water if it’s too dry. Knead for around 10 minutes, until the dough feels smooth, soft and elastic, you will feel the dough change gradually as you knead.

Place the dough in a floured bowl and cover with clingfilm. Put in a warm place to rise for 3 hours. Sourdough doesn’t rise as much as other bread does, so don’t panic. After 3 hours line a medium bowl with a clean tea towel and flour it really well. I would recommend using rice flour for this as it really makes the difference in stopping the dough sticking to the towel. Rub that flour into the towel so that the surface is covered.

Tip the dough out and knead it briefly to knock out any air bubbles. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and dust lightly with more rice flour. Place the dough seam side up in the bowl and leave to rise for another 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 230C (210C fan) and place a small roasting tin on the bottom of the oven and fill the tin with water (to create steam). Sprinkle your baking tray with flour (again, I recommend rice flour). Tip the dough out onto the floured tray. If you want a pattern on the top, slash it with a very sharp knife. I was really nervous about this, thinking I’d split the entire loaf apart, but really, you can be quite brave. If you slash it too gently, you’ll make very little mark on the surface. Practice makes perfect!

Bake the loaf for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown, and leave to cool on a wire rack. Now you need the patience to wait for it to cool long enough before you can taste that delicious first slice! A slice of bread and butter never tasted so good.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 🙂

Sourdough Starter

In 2018 I started my sourdough journey.  That sounds so motivational….”journey”….but don’t get your hopes up, it’s not! It was a work in progress.

I had always put off baking sourdough bread because you need a starter.  What a faff.  I prefer easy, who doesn’t want an easy life.  But in March 2018 BBC Good Food magazine printed an article on baking sourdough bread and……drum roll….making your own starter.  In essence a starter is only flour and water.  Could it be that simple?  After all, flour and water make glue.  I had to try it.  There were of course a few attempts which ended up in the bin, but finally I had success.  Once I knew my starter was good and healthy, I then felt obliged to bake sourdough bread as I had to know that the whole process actually worked.  Reader it did.  It’s a miracle!  It took me a few goes to get my bread right – the first one looked as though Batman had flown through the middle, but I now seem to bake a reasonably consistently good loaf.

As the year wore on, I got tired of feeding my starter (I’d make a good mum, wouldn’t I).  But I felt I couldn’t just throw the starter away, it is a living thing after all!  So, after poking about on Google I found that you can dry the starter and store it.  This was the obvious thing to do.  Basically, you paint the starter onto a non-stick baking sheet, or baking parchment, so that it is spread very thinly across the surface and then leave it to dry out.  Once completely dry, peel the starter off the surface and crumble up to store in a clean jar. I found a very good source for information on sourdough starters was King Arthur Flour, it’s definitely worth a read as it covers making, drying, and reviving the starter as well as recipes and tips. It is comprehensive without being overwhelming.

You might guess that having done that, I had to know if I had completely killed my starter, or if I would be able to revive it.  Roll on 2 years and we are now in 2020.  I had to wait a couple of months because everyone bought out all the bread flour from the shops (for heavens sake WHY?!?!).  But finally stock came in and it was back to Google as to how to revive my starter.  I based my method on the King Arthur Flour blog linked above.  I tried to follow the instructions as closely as possible.  Okay, I admit it, that lasted for a day.  In the end I reverted to the quantities I had always used in the feed, added to the starter each day without throwing any out, until I had a good and healthy bubbly starter – this took four days, a lot quicker than I thought it would.  I then went back to the normal feeding regime of throwing out half the starter and adding new feed to the remaining half.

I am not an expert, but I do know what works for me.  I do not seal the jar which the starter is in, I just put a piece of paper towel over the top. I use a half-half mixture of white and wholemeal flour.  I keep it out of the kitchen (so no damp atmosphere), and I use a fairly stiff (as in not too much liquid) feed.  I always put the starter in a clean container after each feed.  I still find the whole process amazing – the starter consists of flour and water, and the bread itself is also just flour and water with a bit of salt.  These basic ingredients make the most amazing loaf of bread.

Here is the recipe for the starter (with my adaptations):

Whisk 50g strong white bread flour and 50g strong wholemeal bread flour together with 100ml lukewarm water until smooth.

Transfer to a large jar or plastic container and leave in a warm place for 24 hours.

For the next six days you will need to feed it.  Once a day, tip away half the original starter.  Whisk together 25g strong white bread flour with 25g strong wholemeal bread flour and 50ml lukewarm water.  I actually use 40g of each flour and I couldn’t tell you the quantity of water, I just pour in what I know works.  It’s probably around 80ml of water.  Whisk the new feed into the remaining half of the starter and set aside.

After a few days you will see some bubbles on the surface and it will smell yeasty.  Room temperature is definitely a factor in how quickly your starter will activate and be ready to use.  You will notice that over the course of the 24 hours the active starter rises, and drops (you will see the marks on the side of your container).

On approximately day 7 (depending on temperature etc) the starter will be a lot more bubbly and smell sweeter.  It is now ready to use.

There are many recipes for sourdough starter on the internet, but this one is so easy and simple, and it works.  Remember the process is trial and error, you might need to bin a few starters before creating one that works.  Once you know what works for your starter, keep at it and enjoy your baking. Next time I’ll post about baking the bread.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 😊

Flapjacks

COVID19 has really cramped my baking style.  What an insanely stupid problem to have, in the greater scheme of things.  But anyway, the lack of availability of flour, both cake flour and bread flour have reduced my options. That, plus the fact that I am not allowed out of the house due to being shielded and have to rely on someone else to do shopping for me, so it’s simpler just to stick with the absolute essentials on the shopping list. Truly, it is most important that we all remain safe and well.

I have been craving something sweet to eat though, and after a good rummage through my cupboard I found I had the ingredients to make flapjacks.  And, as they have oats in them, I tell myself smugly that they are healthy.  To be fair there are a lot worse things to eat than these.  But we all need a little treat in life, don’t we.  Of course we do.

This is Lorraine Pascale’s recipe and whilst I followed it without deviation (unusual, I know) I didn’t put the lemon zest or the ginger in (I had neither).  They are however, still delicious when they are plain.  The recipe is super easy and quick and this is what I did:

Ingredients:

175g butter

175g golden syrup

175g light muscovado sugar

350g porridge oats

Method:

Preheat the oven to 150°C (130° fan) and line a 20cm square baking tin with baking parchment.

In a medium sized pan over a low heat melt the butter with the sugar and golden syrup, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Once the sugar has melted, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the porridge oats, mixing well. Pack the mixture into the baking tin and squash down.  Bake in the oven for 40 minutes. 

Once cooked remove from the oven and let it cool in the tin.  Once cooled, turn out from the tin and cut into squares.

Enjoy and feel smug at your creation!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 😊

Maple Vanilla Sponge Cake with Coffee Drizzle and Spiced Maple Buttercream

Lockdown baking.  It’s a thing.  So much so that everyone is buying all the flour.  All I can say is what’s wrong with you that you don’t bake all year round?!!  I’ve been doing bits and pieces, using up ingredients I still had in the cupboard.  I slightly adapted the hot cross bun recipe I baked a short while ago, and made cranberry, ginger and orange buns.  I made focaccia (to be fair I make this a lot, it’s so useful to have a supply in the freezer), and I made confit garlic.   This always sounds posher than it is, but in terms of having readily accessible garlic, it is a winner.

A combination of factors however has reduced my baking frequency.  Lack of ingredients in the shops – bring back flour, especially bread flour, I am dying to restart my sourdough bread!  And of course in lockdown I can’t feed everyone that I used to share out the results of my bakes with, and whilst I can eat all my cake, it’s probably not the best idea! Tempting, though, but not a good idea.

I have wanted to do something for ages using maple as the flavour, and I couldn’t find a recipe that floated my boat.  In the end I decided to tweak (who, me?!?!) a recipe, and it turned out surprisingly well.

I chose to base the sponge cake on the recipe for vanilla sponge with raspberry buttercream which I baked a while back – sorry, but I’m a techno-dud and I can’t find the way to link to previous posts anymore 😦 but that recipe was based on the easy vanilla cake recipe from BBC Good Food.  I replaced some of the sugar in the recipe with maple syrup, and reduced some of the liquid.  Whilst the cake turned out fine, there was a point where I thought it might end up in the bin.  The cake rose like Vesuvius in the oven and at the end of the baking time when I put a skewer in, it was still mostly uncooked inside.  I put a piece of foil over the top of the cake to stop it burning and left it in the oven for a further 15 minutes.  Luckily it was done then, and I decided to go the whole hog by drizzling a coffee syrup on top and covering it with a spiced maple buttercream.  In spite of the dodgy moment, the cake turned out well, but I give the standard sponge cake recipe below and am leaving out my tweaks.  In all honesty I don’t think adding the maple syrup to the sponge mix made a difference, next time I will stick to the standard sponge recipe.

Ingredients:

250g butter, softened

250g golden caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

5 large eggs – cracked into a jug and lightly whisked

85g plain flour

250g self-raising flour

100g plain full fat Greek yogurt (or plain Greek style yogurt)

3 tablespoons semi-skimmed milk

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160°C (140°C fan).  Grease and line a round 20cm baking tin with nonstick baking parchment.

With an electric whisk, beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla and ¼ teaspoon salt together until light and fluffy.  Pour in the eggs a bit at a time, whisking well to incorporate.  Beat in the yogurt.

Mix the two flours together and then fold them gently into the cake batter and mix in the milk.  Spoon into the cake tin and bake for an hour and 20 minutes, or until well risen and golden – a skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean.  Leave the cake to cool for 30 minutes in the tin.

Meanwhile, make your coffee drizzle:  In a small pot put 50g golden caster sugar with 50ml water and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.  Add two tablespoons of coffee granules and mix well.

Use a skewer to poke holes all over the cake, going right to the bottom.  Pour the syrup over the cake slowly, letting it completely soak in after each addition.

Leave the cake to cool completely and then cover with frosting.  I don’t have a recipe here, but choose your favourite vanilla buttercream recipe.  Make the frosting up according to the recipe but instead of adding vanilla, add two tablespoons of Monin Maple Spice Syrup.  Cover your cake with the frosting and breathe deeply.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 🙂

Whisky Caramel & Banana self-saucing pudding

Self saucing puddings are great, aren’t they! The ones I know best are the chocolate one, and the lemon one, but there are many variations on the theme.

I saw this recipe in Olive Magazine and thought I’d have to give it a go (it’s not pretty, I know, but taste is more important!

Ingredients:

175g plain flour

100g golden caster sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 very ripe bananas, mashed; plus one extra banana sliced

300ml whole milk

85g melted butter

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Caramel topping:

150g soft brown sugar

4 tablespoons golden syrup

2 tablespoons whisky (I used bourbon instead)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan). Butter a 7cm deep by 26cm wide baking dish.

Put flour, sugar, baking powder and a pinch of salt into a large bowl and stir to combine. In a separate bowl put the mashed bananas, egg, melted butter, and vanilla and whisk well to combine. Gradually whisk the liquid mixture into the flour mix until combined. Pour into the baking dish.

For the sauce part, put the sugar, golden syrup and 250ml of just boiled water in a pan and heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a simmer and then take off the heat. Add in the whisky. Pour this over the pudding. Slice the remaining banana and arrange on top of the batter. I don’t need to remind y0u that this doesn’t look very nice at this stage!!

Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes until there is a cooked sponge on top with the sauce beneath it.

Serve with cream or a good vanilla ice cream.

To be honest, this pudding just didn’t float my boat. I love all the flavours individually, but the pudding was just too much. Having said that, everyone else loved it and so I will definitely be making it again. I’ll just have a swig of whisky whilst they eat the pudding 😉

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 🙂