Rosemary and Brie Soda Bread

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Cheese on toast anyone? Why not combine all the ingredients and make a sophisticated rosemary and brie soda bread instead? This actually looks a lot more sophisticated than it is to make. Soda bread is the easiest and quickest bread – it doesn’t even require kneading! This is a basic that is good to have under your belt and whip out when required!
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The texture is dense in a satisfying way, and is delicious toasted the next day with some chutney. The cheese and herb combination is always wonderful – brie and rosemary in particular. I love a good, strong cheese, so I would try something sharper next time around.
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I love the surprise chunks of cheese. Look at that ooze! Paired with the earthy flavours from the wholemeal flour, this tastes divine!
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Recipe adapted from Paul Hollywood (1 loaf)
Ingredients
  • 250g plain white flour
  • 250g plain wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tbsp of dried rosemary, chopped
  • 400ml buttermilk
  • 100g brie, chopped into pieces

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients.
  3. Slowly add the the buttermilk, and work quickly as the bicarbonate of soda reacts immediately with the liquid.
  4. Add the cheese and mix until just combined.
  5. Shape roughly into a ball and place on floured baking tray. Cut deeply into quarters, but not all the way through. This helps the bread to cook faster.
  6. Place in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Enjoy!
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Cookies vs. Biscuits – Healthy Anzac Cookies

Cookies or biscuits…another British vs. American language confusion! The word “biscuit” has completely different meanings on each side of the pond. A British biscuit is crunchy, dry and something that you might dunk into your tea. An American biscuit resembles what the Brits call a “scone” – soft, thick and dense. The only agreement is the term “cookie” for the large, slightly softer and round biscuit.

I’m sticking with the British meanings since it makes more sense to me (but I’m biased because I’m a Londoner!) I’m calling today’s recipe Anzac “cookies” since they have a delicious golden crisp exterior and slightly moist interior.

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Oats, bananas and coconut – a match made in heaven! And all natural ingredients! You can’t feel guilty munching down on one (or twelve…) of these!

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I have made these cookies healthier by halving the sugar from the traditional Anzac cookie recipe and replacing it with a ripe banana, and they were still sweet! This recipe is definitely a keeper!

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Anzac Cookies (makes 16 cookies)
Ingredients
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 3/4 cup flaked coconut
  • 3/4 cup self raising flour
  • 1/4 cup rice flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water

Method

  1. Mix oats, flour, sugar and coconut together.
  2. Melt the butter, mash the bananas and mix together. Mix the soda and the boiling water and add to the melted butter.
  3. Add the butter mixture to the dry ingredients.
  4. Place a tablespoon full of the mixture on baking parchment and flatten into a cookie shape. These biscuits don’t spread much, but grow slightly upwards.
  5. Bake at 180C (350F) for 18 to 20 minutes.

The Best Yoghurt Cake – Lemon and Blueberry

This is, hands down, the BEST yoghurt cake. Moist, springy, fragrant. Delicious! And so easy to make!
The cream coloured cake with dark purple blueberries, and flecks of bright yellow lemon zest makes it look all the more appetising.
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This is such an adaptable recipe – I’ve made an orange version by replacing the lemon zest with the zest of 3 oranges and omitting the blueberries. I like my flavours strong so I use more than the usual amount of zest quoted in most recipes. I have tried the recipe with reduced sugar (180g) and the sweetness was just perfect, but feel free to modify to your taste.Lemon, blueberry yoghurt cake 1

This can be made into a layered cake, or a loaf cake drizzled with some zesty icing, or enjoyed by itself with a cup of tea or in my case, coffee. I’m only slightly (I tell myself) addicted…

Ingredients
  • 2 large eggs
  • 200g sugar
  • zest from 2-3 lemons, finely grated
  • 280g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 250ml low fat greek yoghurt
  • 120ml/100g oil
  • About 1.5 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
Method
1. Whisk egg and sugar until pale, thick and creamy (about 3-4 minutes)
2. Add lemon zest, yoghurt, and oil. Beat for a further 1 minute
3. In another bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Fold into the above mixture, then add the blueberries.
5. Pour batter into a lined 21cm cake tin. Bake at 180C in a preheated oven for 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. I cover mine with foil after 30 mins as it just turns brown, but this depends on your oven
6. Leave cake in tin to cool for 10 minutes before transferring to a cake rack to cool.

Christmas Gingerbread Funfair

Merry Christmas all! I hope you all had a fun, food-filled holiday!

Christmas tradition in our house includes building gingerbread sculptures. Last year was the traditional gingerbread house, and this year we wanted a challenge: a funfair, with a moving ferris wheel! And I’m proud to say…it turns!

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I love the texture of this gingerbread cookie, which was crunchy, not the soft cake-like texture that most recipes create.

Notes: I substituted the butter with spread as this was all that I had. This made the dough very soft so I added about 1 more cup of flour and froze the dough before rolling it out. This worked and resulted in crunchy cookies 🙂 Please note that you cannot always substitute butter with spread, especially when butter is the main ingredients such as in buttercream, or when you want a strong buttery flavour. But spread is healthier…

Gingerbread (enough for the ferris wheel, carousel and entrance)

Ingredients

  • 420g all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 4 tsp. ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • 225g butter, softened
  • 150g brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 100g honey

Method

Combine flour, soda, salt and spices. Whisk well to combine. In another large bowl, cream butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and add egg and molasses. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Scrape down sides again and then add flour mixture. Mix on low speed just until combined. Separate dough into halves or thirds, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour, or up to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Dust work surface and rolling pin with flour, and roll dough to ¼ inch thickness, sprinkling with extra flour as needed to prevent sticking. Cut into desired shapes and place on parchment or silicone-lined baking sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes, depending on size of cookies.

Royal Icing sugar

Ingredients

  • 9g egg white powder
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water

Method

Combine ingredients and whisk until stiff. Divide into bowls to mix in food colouring, and place in piping bags to decorate your gingerbread.

It’s been too long! Saffron Buns

Since going to New York and starting my new job, I have had NO time to be creative in the kitchen and write about it. But I miss it! And now that I’m getting back into my bread making, I feel like I need to document my trial and errors.

Firstly, saffron buns. I had never known what saffron smelt or tasted like before this as I’d only (supposedly) had it in paella in a restaurant, so it wasn’t distinguishable. As the most expensive commodity by weight, I was curious to experiment with it. It’s difficult to describe saffron – it is very fragrant (almost like a musky perfume), with a slight floral, honey scent and flavour. It tastes bitter when too much is used, which is probably why I did not enjoy my first experience in these buns! I got a little too excited as I wanted to be able to taste the saffron…boy, did I taste it! It wasn’t inedible, but the fragrance overpowers in the mouth!

I used my sourdough, which I refreshed twice the day before, just to ensure that it was active. Even though it takes patience to work with sourdough, I love the naturalness of it – it’s just flour and water…and it’s alive!

20141217_125750 copyLook at that shreddable softness! ^ Sourdough can be soft too!

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Saffron buns (adapted from txfarmer’s recipe)

Levain
Ingredients
  • starter, 15g
  • milk, 25g
  • bread flour, 41g

Method

  1. Mix and let fermentation at room temp (22c) for 12 hours.
Final dough
Ingredients
  • bread flour, 203g
  • honey, 55g
  • butter, 25g, softened
  • egg whites, 60g
  • salt, 3g
  • milk, 102g
  • saffron, half a teaspoon crushed (I used about a teaspoon which was too much!)
  • raisins, 60g

Method

  1. Heat the milk and add the saffron, let it sit for 10 minutes. Mix all ingredients until the windowpane stage.
  2. Bulk rise at room temp (22c) for 3 hours, the dough would have expanded noticeably, but not too much. Txfarmer’s recipe states to bulk rise in the fridge overnight, but I was too impatient.
  3. Punch out the dough, add raisins and shape into “S” shaped buns.
  4. Let them rise at about 7-10c overnight (some people say to leave bread in the fridge to rise, but mine never does – I find that 4c and below is too cold for any yeast to be active!). The buns did not rise much.
  5. Spray buns with water, and bake in preheated oven at 220c for 18min. Spray the oven with water every minute for the first 4 minutes to create steam for ovenspring!
Comments:
The buns rose very well in the oven (doubled in size!), but my oven is a fan oven so I had to cover them with foil to prevent the tops from browning after the first 8 minutes. The bottoms of the buns were a little burnt, and I still haven’t figured out why…is it the pan, the non-stick paper? Does anyone have a clue? As mentioned before, I used too much saffron, but when reduced, it pairs nicely with the sweet raisins. These buns are not sweet, so if you want sweet buns, double the amount of honey or use sugar.

Apricot, Sage, and Pecan Sourdough

I have a go-to base recipe for a sourdough loaf inspired by The Wild Yeast, which is so reliable and has great flavour. I tweak the recipe by adding ingredients to create different flavour combinations. Sourdoughs require a lot of time and patience but the end result is always so rewarding. To ensure a good texture (soft, well-cooked interior, and a crunchy crust), technique is so important. The Wild Yeast has great instructions, and I would emphasise the most important points as being the presence of steam in the oven for a good rise, checking the internal temperature with a thermometer at the end of the bake (you don’t want all that effort to result in an undercooked loaf!), and don’t cut the loaf until it is fully cool.

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Obviously, the flavour of your sourdough will depend on your starter and that is not always consistent, and this unpredictability is what I love about sourdough. Recently, in the warmer London weather, I’ve found that my sourdoughs have been tangier, which I will miss now that the weather is turning cooler.

2014-08-17 13.08.31I love experimenting with flavour, so when I read about the combination of apricot and sage, I was fascinated. The floral notes from the sage pair very well with the sweet dried apricots. However, even though I used approximately 2 tsp of chopped dried sage (from my herb garden!), the sage flavour was not evident enough for me. Next time, I might double the amount of sage. I love nuts and seeds in my sourdoughs, which provide texture and earthiness to the bread, so I added pecans. My parents (who are my current food critics) loved this flavour combination, and if they’re happy, I’m happy. I’m always on the lookout for new flavour combinations so if anyone has any suggestions, feel free to let me know!

2014-08-17 Apricot, sage, pecanThis recipe makes 2 large 1kg loaves – each loaf perfect for a family of 4. I usually freeze the other loaf.

Ingredients:

  • 900 g white flour
  • 120 g whole rye flour
  • 600 g water, 23C
  • 360 g mature 100% hydration sourdough starter
  • 22 g salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 2 tsp chopped dried sage
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Method:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flours, water, and starter on low speed until just combined, about one minute.
    Let the dough rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes.
  2. Add the salt, sugar, apricot, sage, pecans and continue mixing on low or medium speed until the dough reaches a medium level of gluten development. This took 6 minutes in my bread machine.
  3. Transfer the dough to an oiled container.
  4. Ferment at room temperature (~22C) for 2.5 hours, with folds at 50 and 100 minutes.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Divide it into 2 pieces. I usually make two 1kg loaves, and freeze one loaf after baking.
  6. Shape into batards and place seam-side-up in a floured banneton or an oiled container.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap and proof at room temperature for 2.5-3 hours. Alternatively, the loaves can be proofed for about 2 hours at room temperature, then refrigerated for 2 – 16 hours and baked directly out of the refrigerator; this will yield a tangier bread with a lovely, blistered crust.
  8. Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 240C. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
  9. Turn the proofed loaves onto parchment. Slash each one with two overlapping cuts that are almost parallel to the long axis of the batard.
  10. Once the loaves are in the oven, spray the sides of the oven with water and turn the heat down to 230C. For 1kg loaves, bake for 15 minutes with steam, and another 35 minutes without steam. I cover the bread with foil after 25 minutes to prevent the crust browning too much. Nearer the end of bake, you can take the foil off if the crust is not dark enough. The crust should be a deep brown and the internal temperature should read 96c.
  11. Turn off the oven and leave the loaves in for 5 minutes longer, with the door ajar, to help them dry.
  12. Cool on a wire rack. Don’t cut until the loaves are completely cool, otherwise it will be sticky! This takes about 2 hours.

Gluten-free Clementine & Almond Cake

First world problems – too much choice on the internet. I was originally going to try Nigella’s clementine and almond cake recipe, but extensive browsing on the internet swayed me for an alternative version that involves whisking the egg whites to stiff peaks and then folding into the batter – I’m impartial to a light and airy cake.

2014-08-02 18.55.15The use of the whole fruit, peel and all, fascinated me, as I like strong flavours in my cake. Isn’t it so disappointing when you bite into a lemon or orange flavoured cake and all you can taste are faint hints of extract? Well this cake takes fruity flavours to a whole other level. Cooking the clementines first brings out the sweetness of the fruit and reduces the tart flavour. The fruit adds a sweet and not overpowering flavour to the cake, and the citrus pairs so well with the almonds.
2014-08-02 18.54.31The ground almonds gives the cakes some texture, but it remains very light and moist from the beaten egg whites. Don’t be deceived by the photo above, I can’t emphasise enough how light the cake is despite it being gluten free.2014-08-02 19.04.06However, I’m still curious to try Nigella’s original recipe, which looks denser and more satisfying… 2014-08-02 Almond, clementine GF

Notes:

  • Cake rose well and then sank, possibly from opening the oven before it was set, so leave the cake in the oven for at least 30 minutes
  • Since this is a nut based cake, it browns quickly so cover with foil after about 30 minutes, once the cake has set.

Ingredients

  • 370g clementines, with skin on
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 225 g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • sifted icing sugar to decorate
  1. Wash the clementines, cut a cross shape at the top of each fruit to allow steam to escape, and place on a plate in the microwave for 6-7 minutes until soft. Once ready, cut into small pieces and discard pips. Allow to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 9-inch cake tin.
  3. Place clementines in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add egg yolks and sugar until it doubles in size. Fold in the ground almonds and baking powder.
  4. Whisk egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff peaks form. Add a third of the egg whites to the clementine mixture to loosen it. Fold the rest of the egg whites into the mixture, and pour into the cake tin.
  5. Bake at 180C for 50-55mins. Cover with foil after 30 minutes.

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