Monday, 26 December 2016

Malt Loaf

I'm heading off on a long, cold ride tomorrow...a ride run by a local bike shop called Velolife. My prep for this has mainly been baking a batch of my special cycling flapjack, and also fuelling up on some home-made malt loaf. I hadn't planned on this, however I found a jar of malt extract at the back of the cupboard, hiding behind a tin of black treacle, and at that point it seemed a bit rude not to. Not sure if I should be worried that I randomly have all the ingredients for a malt loaf just sitting around (actually, that's a slight lie...I didn't have any wholemeal strong flour, so I made it with just white flour...)

I haven't made this for ages (hence me forgetting about the malt extract...I mean, what else can it be used for? (I've just googled, and the only other things I can find are chocolate tarts, and biscuits...which might not actually be a bad shout!).

The main thing I've done with the recipe is change tablespoons into weight...I always find tablespoon measurements frustrating, especially with super-adhesive substances like syrup, treacle etc, as it's virtually meaningless! it's not like you're going to be able to get a level tablespoon of the mixture in (once you take into account the bottom and side, and the virtual impossibility of getting everything off). I've worked on 20g per tablespoon (though I'm pretty sure with practice I could get significantly more on one).

Malt Loaf - Recipe

  • Grease 2 1lb/500g loaf tins with butter


  • 25g butter
  • 20g soft brown sugar
  • 60g malt extract
  • 40g black treacle
  • 450g strong white flour (you can swap 100g of this for wholemeal bread flour)
  • 8g salt
  • 14g fast-action yeast
  • 225g sultanas
  • 250ml warm water (I did 30 seconds in the microwave)
  • Honey (to glaze)

1) Put the butter, sugar, treacle and malt extract in a small saucepan

2) Stir over a low heat until the sugar and butter have melted. Don't overheat it, as you then want to put it to one side to cool down (ideally under 40'C, as you want it to be cool enough to not kill the yeast)

3) Place the flour, salt and yeast in a stand mixer bowl with the dough hook attachment

4) Add the sultanas, water and cooled syrup mixture to the bowl

5) Mix/knead until a smooth dough is formed (I found that after ~4 minutes the dough started to come off the sides of the bowl, and formed a handleable dough

6) Transfer the dough to a well floured surface

7) Chop it in half (this involved careful use of a set of scales with flour on top!)

8) Form each half into a sausage the same length as the loaf tins, and put them in the tins

9) Cover, and allow to prove at room temperature for approximately 2 hours (1 bad Christmas movie!). The dough should be proud of the top of the tin

10) Pre-heat the oven to 180-190'C

11) bake the loaves in the oven for ~30 minutes...a skewer should come out clean when they are done.

12) Remove form the oven to a wire rack

13) Put a small dollop of honey of top of each loaf, and using a pastry brush spread it over the top to glaze it.

14) Remove the tin once it's cool enough, and allow to cool completely
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Sunday, 25 December 2016


Another Christmas day project, this time a bread I've never done before, and one that takes a long, long time! This recipe uses a "sponge", something I've never done before. The recipe comes from Paul Hollywoods book Bread. I made the sponge in the morning, and baked it in the afternoon after I'd been cycling, though it would have made more sense to make it overnight.

Ironically, the hardest challenge was finding a plastic container ~20cm x 20cm for the prove. I vaguely remember watching this on GBBO (I think it was set as a technical, though I'm guessing without the sponge stage), and I distinctly remembered the dough was very hard to handle. I ended up using a storage container that was a little long, but otherwise OK.

I also made a minor mistake thinking the dough was too dry, and adding another 30-40ml of water during the second mix. The end result was the dough was very, very soft...virtually un-handleable. I managed to get the 2 loaves on the baking tray by turning the proved dough out onto one prepared tray (covered on flour and semolina), cutting it in half, and then quickly flipping them both onto a second prepared was a bit messy, but a good save!

Ciabatta - Recipe


  • 400g strong white bread flour
  • 8g fast action yeast
  • 300ml cool water (I added another 30-40ml, but this was not required)
  • 10g olive oil
  • 8g salt
Note - you'll also need plenty of flour and semolina for dusting

1) Place 200g of the flour, 150g of the water, and 4g of the yeast in a bowl and mix together

2) Cover with cling-film, and leave in room temperature in the dark for 5-6 hours (I just covered mine with a tea towel and left it to one side in the kitchen.

3) After 5-6 hours, take the sponge and scrape it into a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment.

4) add the remaining flour, salt, yeast, water and oil

5) Mix for 10-15 minutes until you have a very soft, stretchy dough

6) Generously oil a square plastic container (something roughly 20cm square, and quite deep)

7) Scrape the dough into the container, and leave to prove for an hour. You should find it rises fairly quickly!

8) Liberally cover a surface with flour and semolina. Do the same to a baking tray.

9) Tip the dough out of the container onto the surface. You want it to come out as a square/rectangle

10) Cut the dough in half, using a floured knife (I also found it helpful to pour flour into the cut)

11) Transfer the 2 loaves to the baking tray (carefully!), stretching slightly to form elongated rectangular loaves

12) Sprinkle flour and semolina on top of the loaves as well

13) cover and leave to ride for ~15 minutes

14) Pre-heat the oven to 220'C

15) bake the loaves in the oven for 30 minutes

16) Remove to a wire rack to cool. You can also probably brush off any excess flour/semolina.
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Jaffa Torte

A bit of a Christmas day project, to keep me busy in the kitchen while various bad movies went off in the background. The base was a Dobos Torte, which I made way back in March, but using the "christmassy" flavours of chocolate and orange (what could be more Christmas than a chocolate-orange?). There are also influences from the classic jaffa cake (hence the name), with the jelly layer on top.

The core structure is actually quite simple to make, and (much like last time) if I'd been in a hurry, I could have made the meringue buttercream at the same time as I baked the cakes. This is a recipe that ends up using a lot of bowls and saucepans, so has a habit of getting the kitchen messy (I seem to hit a critical point where my ability to keep my work area tidy fails, and suddenly I'm buried in washing up!)

Things I'd change....I should probably have used 70% chocolate in the buttercream rather than 50%, as while the texture is glorious, the flavour is not quite there. Otherwise, I think the cake has a nice decadent look, with the ganache dripping down the sides. There are a couple of partially used ingredients (egg yolks and orange flesh), and if I'd planned it out a bit more I think that could have been converted into an orange curd for inclusion somewhere...

Added - I've been having a few more thoughts about this, and rather than a curd, I think an orange syrup brushed onto each layer would really make this, adding more of a citrus kick.

Jaffa Torte - Recipe

Jelly Ingredients

  • Juice from one orange (~75g) (zest it first, and put the zest aside)
  • 50g tap water
  • 35g caster sugar
  • 4 gelatine sheets
1) Line a 20cm cake tin with tin foil, making the base as flat as possible

2) Put the juice, water and sugar in a small saucepan

3) Put the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water, and leave to bloom for 4-5 minutes while you heat the other ingredients

3) Put over a low heat until shimmering (not quite boiling). Stir occasionally to help the sugar dissolve

4) Remove from the heat

5) Take the gelatine sheets out of the water, wring them, and stir into the hot orange juice mixture

6) Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin, and place in the fridge to set

Sponge Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • zest of 2 oranges
1) Pre-heat the oven to 200'C

2) Place the eggs and sugar in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment

3) Whisk hard until pale and thick (when you pull the whisk out, it should leave a ribbon impression on the surface)...this will take 8-10 minutes normally

4) Carefully fold in the flour and orange zest

5) Line a baking tray with baking parchment, and draw 2 circles 19-20cm in diameter on it (I find this is the most you can fit in a typical home oven at a time) (I use a 19cm cereal dish as a template)

6) Spoon 1/6th of the mixture into each circle, and carefully spread it out using a spatula (I do the mixture by weight, and it should be approximately 90g per circle)

7) Bake in the oven for 6-7 minutes

8) Remove to a wire rack to cool, peeling off the paper as soon as you can

9) Repeat 5-8 twice more, so you have 6 thin cake discs ~19-20cm in diameter

10) Trim each disc to a neat circle using a suitable template (I have an 18cm diameter saucepan which is perfect)

Chocolate Buttercream Ingredients

  • 100g dark chocolate (50-70%), chopped up
  • 2 egg whites
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 225g room-temperature butter

1) Melt the chocolate over a bain-marie, then leave to cool

2) Put the butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, and beat until very soft (you may need to scrape the sides down a couple of times

3) Place the sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl

4) Whisk the egg whites and sugar over a bain-marie until a firm meringue is formed

5) Leave the meringue to cool (you're going to add it to the butter, so you don't want it to melt it)

6) While beating the butter, add the meringue in, and mix until just combined

7) Continue to mix, and add the cooled chocolate. Mix until smooth

Orange Buttercream Ingredients

  • 100g room-temperature butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Juice from half an orange
1) Place the butter, zest and sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment

2) Beat until smooth

3) Add the juice sparingly until a smooth, pipe-able buttercream is formed

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients

  • 80g dark (50%) chocolate
  • 55g milk
  • 15g butter
1) Chop the chocolate up, and place in a small heatproof bowl

2) Heat the milk in a small saucepan until shimmering

3) Pour the hot milk onto the chocolate, and leave for 4-5 minutes (I put the bowl on top of the still-warm saucepan to add a bit more heat)

4) Stir the mixture to form a smooth, glossy liquid.

5) Stir in the butter until completely melted

6) Allow to cool and thicken slightly while you assemble the cake


1) Place one of the cake discs of a cake board

2) Place a dollop (about 1/8th) of the chocolate buttercream on top, and using a palette knife spread to the very edges

3) Place another cake disc on top, pressing down gently. Repeat for all the other discs

4) Using the remainder of the buttercream, cover and smoother the top and sides of the cake, using a palette knife. You want the surfaces as smooth as possible

5) Take the set jelly disc, remove it from the foil and place it on top of the cake
note - don't worry too much if you tear it. I did! Try and get the largest bit in the middle, and fill in the rest of the top with sections of jelly as you can.

6) Trim the jelly so that the edge is level with the edge of the cake

7) Put the orange buttercream in a small piping bag with a small nozzle attachment

8) Pipe rosettes of icing over the top of the cake (hiding any splits in the jelly). Pipe 8 vertical lines up the side of the cake, and rosettes at the bottom

9) Take the ganache and spoon dollops of it into gaps on top of the cake. Encourage it to dribble down the sides

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Friday, 23 December 2016

Pain de Savoie - Miniatures - Attempt 1

I'm in a bit of a savoury phase, I think the run-up to Christmas has given me a bit of a sugar overload, and so I'm finding myself looking at bread and savoury recipes much more...

I've done this recipe a couple of times before, it's a really good savoury bread with loads of flavour. You could call it posh cheese-and-ham on rye bread. Delicious, but not exactly the most glamorous recipe. I decided to work out if it could be miniaturised, so I set about making a batch, and then trying it in various different sizes. the recipe comes from Paul Hollywood's Bread book.

The final dough was about 900g, and this is normally for a 20cm springform tin, however for this I split the batch into 3 parts (one half, and 2 quarters).

The first half was split into 4 (so ~110-120g per batch) and used to fill small loaf tins. one quarter was then used to fill 3 holes of a 12-hole mini cake tin (~75g per hole). I quickly realised these were being over-filled, so for the last quarter I did half weights in another 3 holes of the tin (~40g per hole).

The method of making the bread normally is to create 3 layers of dough, and then place the cheese in chunks in-between... I did a similar thing for these, and chopped the cheese up smaller (normally you'd do 1cm cubes, however in a small bun tin, this would be massive!). I then went a bit off-recipe, egg-glazed the loaves and put some poppy seeds on top, before baking them (20 minutes for the bun tin, and 25 minutes for the mini-loaves).

The end result was that none were quite right in terms of appearance (all tasted great)...I think that the mini-loaf tins were best, however the layering meant that you didn't get a pleasing shape on the top...I think that rolling it would be better (effectively forming a small ham-and-cheese rye swiss roll). I'd also use more dough (about 150g, which works out well, as that would create a batch of 6 with the 900g dough mixture). Other things to consider is possibly grating the cheese, and making the lardons/pancetta smaller, to fit with the smaller loaf (maybe thinly sliced bacon?). I strongly recommend sticking with Comte cheese, it has an incredibly nutty flavour, and goes really well in this recipe.

The other thing to note is that I once again carefully added water until a dough was formed, and I ended up putting in 60ml less than the recipe used...the flour I use is really not very absorbent!  need to get in the habit of under-watering dough at the start of the mix, and adding it in sparingly until a smooth dough forms, or I'll never get decent shaping.

Pain de Savoie mini-loaves - Recipe


  • 400g strong white flour
  • 100g dark rye flour
  • 10g salt
  • 8g fast-action yeast
  • 20ml olive oil
  • 270ml cool water (the recipe says 330ml, however the flour I use is not that thirsty)
  • 150g pancetta/lardons/chopped bacon
  • 200g Comte cheese
  • Beaten egg (to glaze)
  • Poppy Seeds (to decorate)

1) Place the flours, salt, yeast oil and 2/3rds of the water in a stand mixer with the dough hook attached

2) Begin to mix, and watch as the dough begins to come together

3) Slowly add the rest of the water until the dough forms a single ball. Rye is a thirsty flour, but it will be dependent on the flours you're using.

4) once the dough has formed, mix on a medium speed for 8-10 minutes

5) While this is happening, fry off the bacon in a small frying pan

6) Once browned, leave to cool (I put it on a plate on a couple of ice packs to cool it quickly)

7) Once the dough is kneaded to a smooth dough, add and mix in the bacon pieces so they are evenly distributed. To do this I split the dough into 7-8 small balls, and then added them and the bacon back into the stand mixer, and kneaded it for a couple more minutes

8) Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film, and leave to prove for 2 hours in a warm place (until doubled in size)

9) While you're waiting, chop up the cheese into small pieces

10) Once the dough has proved, knock back, and then split up as per the loaf sizes you want to make
  • a) For mini-cake tins, use ~50g balls (about 18)
  • b) For mini loaf tins, use ~150g (about 6)

11) To line each tin, split each dough ball into 3.

12) Line the base of the tin with the first third, then sprinkle with some pieces of cheese

13) place another dough layer on top of the cheese, and repeat the sprinkling. Top off with the third piece of dough. Repeat this for all the other loaves

14) cover, and leave to prove for another hour, until the dough is level with the top of the tin

15) Pre-heat the oven to 220'C

16) Once the loaves have proved for the second time, brush the top of each one with beaten egg, and sprinkle on some poppy seeds

17) Place in the oven, and put ½ litre of water in a tray in the base of the oven)

18) Bake the bun tins for 20 minutes. Bake the loaf tins for 25 minutes. Keep an eye on them, and if they start to go too dark, turn the temperature down to 200'C

19) Remove to a wire rack to cool.

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Sunday, 18 December 2016

Onion Sodabread

Now that racing has started again, I sort of lose Saturdays, and on Sundays I'm feeling pretty battered right now, or I will until I get my race legs back. As such, it's nice to have fast fall-backs for some comfort food. I didn't have the time to do a proper yeasted bread, so went for a soda-bread instead (or quick-bread as they are sometimes known). These often call for buttermilk, however you can get the same results using a blend of yoghurt and milk...for this I actually used zero-fat Greek yoghurt and skimmed milk (with a dash of lemon juice to give it some acidity to react better with the bicarbonate). While that would have meant that the fat content was a little down, the onions were fried off in butter and oil, and the addition of that meant you ended up with a nice, soft loaf.

The main thing to remember (and the same thing applies to scones) is to work quickly, as the bicarbonate will begin to react as soon as the wet mixture hits it, and that is your main raising agent.

I "served" this with baked beans, and it was a delicious, and only slightly decadent lunch!

Onion Soda-Bread - Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 200'C
  • Line a baking tray with baking parchment


  • 1½ onions
  • 20g butter
  • 20g sunflower oil
  • 1tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 3tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 170g self-raising wholemeal flour
  • 170g plain flour
  • ½tsp salt
  • 1tsp dried thyme
  • ½tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 215g fat-free Greek yoghurt
  • 75g skimmed milk
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
1) Put the butter and oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat

2) Peel and chop the onions into large chunks

3)  Put the onions in the frying pan, and toss to coat in the oil and butter

4) Add the brown sugar to the frying pan, and stir in

5) Cook the onions over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are starting to golden.

6) Remove from the heat, and stir in the balsamic vinegar

7) Leave to one side to cool

8) In a large mixing bowl, add the flours, salt, dried thyme and bicarbonate of soda. Stir with a whisk to mix

9) In a large jug, mix the milk, yoghurt and lemon juice together with a whisk

10) Add the cooled onions to the flour mixture, and stir in

Note - you need to do the next steps quickly, as once the wet mixture and dry mixture are combined, the bicarbonate of soda  will react

11) Pour the yoghurt mixture into the mixing bowl, and fold into the dry mixture. I used a spatula to quickly get rid of all the dry pockets, and form a thick, chunky dough

12) Using your hands, roughly shape a ball, and place on the prepared baking tray

13) Using a sharp knife, cut a deep cross on top of the dough, cutting about three-quarters of the way down

14) Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown

15) Remove to a wire rack to cool
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Thursday, 15 December 2016


I had a rare work-from-home day, as I was selling my much-loved, but now rarely used table football table. I decided to take the chance to do a loaf of bread...something nice and simple, which doesn't really take any time, but involves a lot of waiting around.

One problem I've often had with bread, especially with non-tin bread, is getting the mixture too wet, and it not holding it's shape. A typical loaf of bread has 500g of strong flour, and normally recipes look for 300-350ml of water into that. For this bake, I decided to add the water bit-by-bit, and stop once the dough formed, as I had a suspicion the flour I used (nothing fancy...Waitrose Essential Strong Flour), might not need much water... turns out I was correct, as the dough formed at about 220ml of water, and was the consistency I wanted at 240ml.

The bake itself is very simple, a very simple, basic bread dough...I did the first prove in a warm area (airing cupboard), and the second one was done at room temperature (~20'C). As I had no real time-lines, I was able to do nice, long prove times, and the end result was a good-looking loaf of bread. I shaped it as a basic bloomer (an oval loaf, with some diagonal slashes). This dough is basically a prototype that can be used as the base for any bread recipe...

Bloomer Loaf  -Recipe


  • 500g strong white flour
  • 40g sunflower oil
  • 10g salt
  • 7g fast-action yeast
  • 240ml tap water
1) Place flour, salt, yeast and oil in a stand-mixer bowl with the dough hook attachment.

2) Add half the water, and begin to mix

3) Slowly continue to add the water until the dough forms. You may need a little more, or less water, dependent on how thirsty the flour you're using is.

4) Continue to mix for 10 minutes, until you have a smooth, firm dough.

5) Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and cover with cling-film. Place in a warm location for 1½ - 2 hours until at least doubled in size.

6) Line a baking tray with baking parchment

7) Take the dough out of the bowl, and place it on a lightly floured surface.

8) Knock the dough back, then fold the dough over itself a few times to form a firm, oval loaf with the join on the bottom. What you're looking for is "surface tension" on the loaf, to get a nice smooth surface.

9) Place on the prepared baking sheet, cover and prove at room temperature for 1½-2 hours, until doubled in size

10) Pre-heat the oven to 220'C

11) Lightly sprinkle water over the loaf, and really gently rub it over the entire surface.

12) Sprinkle the dampened loaf with flour, and gently smooth it over the surface (this is how you get the really rustic looking crust to the loaf)

13) Cut 4 diagonal slashes across the top of the loaf

14) Place in the oven, and pour 500ml of water into a tray at the bottom of the oven.

15) Bake for 25 minutes

16) Reduce the temperature to 200'C, turn the loaf and bake for a further 10 minutes

17) Remove to a wire rack to cool
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