Category Archives: baking

Seeded loaf (Preparation time: +4hrs)

Making bread maybe a slow process but once it is baked and you cut the first slice it is incredibly satisfying.  I have recently taken to making the dough up just before I go to bed and placing it in the fridge to rise very slowly overnight.  When I get up in the morning I take it out of the fridge and let it warm up for about an hour before knocking it back and shaping it for its second rise, which means I have fresh bread in time for a late breakfast

Aside from making sure that your bread has sufficient time to rise one of the most important things when you make the bread is how you shape it before placing it in the tin.  I will freely admit that there have been many occasions where I have rushed the shaping and ended up with a hollow loaf.  My tip it make sure that you knead the dough properly before the second rise and make sure that it malleable and supple enough to easily shape then slowly and carefully work the dough into the shape that you need for your tins.

If you haven’t made bread before do give it a try! It is a very straightforward process and kneading the dough can be hugely therapeutic especially if you have had a tough week.  If that isn’t enough incentive then just think about the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through your house and being able to eat the loaf when it is still warm from the oven – heaven!!

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Baked apples (Serves: 3 – Preparation time: 45 mins)

Happy New Year!

I have decided to share a recipe that helps to use up one ingredient that has a tendency to be leftover after Christmas – mincemeat. The recipe below is super easy and can be eaten either hot for pudding with a little cream, or is great served cold as a topping for porridge in the morning for breakfast.

The inspiration for this dish came after a visit to East Sussex to see some of my friends who swear by a bowl porridge for breakfast, topped with fresh apple, yogurt, seeds, nuts and honey before a days hunting, shooting or fishing.  Not being one for porridge normally, I am well and truly converted and the recipe below is my take on their porridge toppings.

The simplicity of this recipe makes it an absolute gem, it takes a matter of minutes to prepare, the key really to this recipe is about how well you core the apple as you want to create a cavity that is large enough to pack all of the mincemeat in.  As the apple cooks it becomes beautifully soft and infuses with the spices and flavours of the mincemeat.

This is definitely a recipe to try and is absolutely fantastic on these chilly winter days.  Enjoy!

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Mini pork and cranberry pies (Makes: 36 – Preparation time: 1.5-2hrs)

Christmas is well and truly on its way with Christmas parties happening left, right and centre!  Lately I have been making a lot of mince pies and whilst I like them I have to admit I am more of a savoury person, so last weekend I decided to try out a new recipe more in line with an open topped pork pie.

 I have to give credit to Cockburns of Bedale who are the real inspiration for this recipe – for many years when I visited my eldest brother up in Yorkshire we would go to this butchers early on a Saturday morning to buy their open topped pork pies still warm from the oven for lunch (that is if they lasted that long…).  If you are ever on the on the A1 heading through Yorkshire, I highly recommend that you make a little detour via Bedale and visit this butchers to try one of their pies, I promise you will not regret it!

 Whilst the pies have similarities to a pork pie they are not made using hot water crust pastry. Instead this pie recipe uses a shortcrust pastry made with beef suet, the pastry case is then filled with spiced pork meat and topped with homemade cranberry sauce – delicious savoury sweet goodness!  The pies make great canapes at a drinks party as they are surprisingly light but absolutely moreish.

 The recipe below does have a lot of steps, however if time is not on your side and you need a quicker option, then simply follow the cheat options below.

 Cheats option / time saver:

  • Use shop bought pastry.
  • Replace the pork mixture with some festive flavoured sausages instead and simply remove the meat from the skins.
  • Use shop bought cranberry sauce preferably containing whole berries.

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Mince pies using sweet shortcrust pastry (Preparation time: 1.5hrs)

I was chatting to my housemate about making pastry the other day and she was telling me of a Hawksmoor pie recipe that used both eggs and suet in the recipe and it dawned on me that this would be a great way to make sweet shortcrust.  By making the pastry with suet it made the pastry beautifully light and more flaky than crumbly.

The concept of using two types of fat to make the pastry is not a new one, growing up the Delia Smith recipe that I used to follow for mince pies used equal amounts of butter and to make the recipe.  However I have found the in using suet you get a far better distribution of fat throughout the pastry which gives it a marbled look when rolled out and it helps to turn the pies a beautiful golden brown colour during cooking.

Now to the mincemeat aspect of this pie – there is absolutely nothing wrong with using shop bought mincemeat!  This is exactly what I do however I like to ‘pimp’ it up a bit by adding chopped walnuts, cranberries, glace cherries, plump sultanas and brandy.  So if you have some dried fruit or nuts in you cupboard that you would work chuck it in, not only will it add to the flavour it will add to the texture of your pies.  Enjoy!

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Banana and date cupcakes (sugar-free and dairy-free). Preparation time: 30/40 minutes

My sister-in-law set me a challenge to develop a cake that is suitable for my nephew, Leo.  Leo is 8 months old and a truly happy baby who I am pleased to say seems to love his food!  My brother and sister-in-law are in the process of weaning Leo at the moment and are following the ‘baby led weaning‘ method.  Baby led weaning is a fairly new concept to me, but strikes me as a sensible way of introducing a baby to food.  Put simply baby led weaning is the where you give food to a baby and they feed themselves.  So far as I can tell one of the major advantages is that they eat what you eat (within reason) and subject to a couple of basic principles to ensure that your baby’s diet has a very limited amount of salt and sugar.

Now then back to the challenge, to develop a cake suitable for baby led weaning.  My sister-in-law asked me to create a cake that did not contain refined sugar.  My first thought was what about using honey, however after a bit of research it became clear that this would not be a suitable substitute on this occasion as the general consensus is not to introduce honey to a baby’s diet until they are a year old.  Not being a fan of sweeteners I set my mind to what I could use as an alternative.  My solution – dates and banana pureed in a little boiling water.  Using that as a sugar substitute I tired a couple of different recipes.  The first attempt resulted in a dense but very moist sponge more like a muffin.  The second attempt is the one I am going to share here as it produced a much lighter fluffier sponge that rose beautifully.  What I should point out it that I made cupcakes instead of a cake as it was a better portion size for a baby.  The other benefit of cooking them this is it means that you can freeze them individually and use them gradually rather than worry about them going stale.

I suspect that you are wondering what it tasted like – unsurprisingly it is nowhere near as sweet as a typical cake but as mentioned it has a lovely light texture.  I asked my family for their thoughts on the cupcake and the comments were as follows “Where’s the jam?” and “Any chance of some cream with this?”  I think these responses boil down partly to the fact that instinctively they expected something much sweeter and secondly that it is unlike me to serve a cake without icing.  So if you are making this for both adults and babies perhaps treat it a little like a scone for the adults and serve with a little jam and cream on the side so those of your family with a sweeter tooth can satisfy their cravings.  Enjoy!

Tip:  if you have bananas that are going black and you are thinking about throwing them away don’t!  Peel and freeze them as they will be perfect for this recipe as it works best with ripe bananas.

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Gluten free nectarine and almond summer pudding (Serves: 8 – Preparation Time: 1hr)

Summer is upon us and soft fruit is at its best and can be bought very cheaply.  Whilst I absolutely love a fruit salad served with a little Greek yogurt and honey, sometimes you need something a little bit more decadent…

This recipe below is a little gem and is very easy to make.  The longest part of the whole process is waiting for the cake to cook and cool.  So if time is tight I would suggest making the cake the day before and leaving to cool overnight.  Whilst I have suggested that you use nectarines and pomegranate seeds for the topping, many other fruits would work just as well.

Alternative topping ideas:

  • peaches and redcurrants
  • blueberries, strawberries and raspberries
  • apricots and redcurrants
  • mango and red chilli, lime juice and fresh mint

As the sponge is made using ground almonds it will mean that the cake once cooked will be quite dense and moist.  So don’t worry about the cake not rising, it isn’t meant to.  The mascarpone cream makes this pudding wonderfully rich and silky and fruit not only acts as the decoration but gives the just enough acidity to prevent this pudding becoming too sweet.  Enjoy!

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Herb ‘tear and share’ buns (Makes: 9 -Preparation time: 4hrs)

The herbs in my garden are flourishing at the moment and most weekends I make a herb pesto or salsa of sorts to keep them under control.  There is no right or wrong way to make a pesto, just use the herbs that you have available and adjust to your own tastes.  My preference is to make a straightforward herb pesto and add different ingredients to it depending on what I am eating.  By adding a little white vinegar, gherkins and capers you get a sharper almost salsa verde type dressing to go with lamb, or If you add pine nuts and parmesan to the mix then you will have a more traditional pesto.

The herb pesto recipe makes roughly a jam jar full and will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.  You can use herb pesto in all sorts of ways as it is particularly versatile, for example it can be used to flavour bread as below, as a dip, as a sauce for pasta or simply as an accompaniment to grilled chicken.

The herb buns are a great tear and share food to have with a barbecue or as an accompaniment to a salad.  This bread recipe is simple and makes light, fluffy buns, just make sure that you do knead the bread properly at the outset until the dough springs back when you touch it and then just be patient and wait for it to rise. Enjoy!

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