Category Archives: Baking

MAKE IT: Foccacia


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Mmmmm.  Foccacia.  Delicious serves warm with some oil and vinegar for dunking.

I don’t know how authentically Italian this recipe is, but I do know that it tastes jolly good.

Here’s the recipe –

325g Strong white bread flour
150g ’00’ Plain flour (this is more finely milled as gives a really light bread texture but you can use normal plain flour instead)
7g salt (that’s approximately 1 tsp)
5g instant dried yeast (again, approximately  )
1 tbspn Olive oil
250ml warm water


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Nothing complicated here.  Dump all the ingredients into a bowl and mix together until they form a soft dough then knead with youre electric mixer’s dough attachment on low for about 10 mins or knead vigorously by hand until the dough is very smooth and elastic.

It should be quite a damp-ish dough so don’t add any additional flour in the kneading process if you can possibly help it.

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Then cover it with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place like a window sill or airing cupboard for about 40 minutes.  It might take up to an hour in winter temperatures,

Here’s mine (in a different bowl as I needed my mixer bowl for something else.)

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Once warm and nicely risen, plop it into a greased, high-sided baking tray and flatten it out with the palm of your hand.  You could roll it out with a rolling pin to make a tidier job of it but I was feeling lazy.

Leave to rise again for 20 mins or so while the oven gets up to temperature (200 C) then press your fingers into the top to make some deep depressions and sprinkle with olive oil.Foccacia (8)

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Bake in the oven for about 15mins.

Meanwhile, mix 2 tbsp of olive oil with 1 tbsp of water in a bowl and whisk until emulsified. Add a sprig of torn rosemary and let that steep while the focaccia cooks.

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As soon as the bread’s out of the oven, brush it generously with the oil/water/rosemary mix and sprinkle with a little salt.  (Erm, I was a bit heavy-handed with the salt, oops)

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Leave to cool  little in the tin and serve warm with some oil and balsamic vinegar.

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Try it topped with other herbs or maybe some garlic butter.  Roasted onions, tomatoes or mixed roast vegetable are good too – just pop them on the top before you place the focaccia in the oven.


MAKE IT: Beer Bread

???????????????????????????????Ok, so this is a bit of a weird one but my husband made a batch of homebrew and I wanted to try making bread from the yeast that was left over from the brewing process.

I did some scratching around with the help of Google and didn’t really find much inspiration so I decided to give it a try using a pretty standard bread recipe and substituting the yeast.  Here’s what I came up with:

1 1lb Strong bread flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp honey
4 tbspn’spent’ brewing yeast
1/2 pint warm water


This is what the spent brewing yeast looks like.  It’s the sludgy residue left on the bottom of the container once you’ve siphoned off the beer.  It smells pretty powerful, but in a good way.

I mixed all the ingredients together in the electric mixer with a dough hook attachment on low speed for 10 mins.  The resulting dough was alarmingly batter-like but I left it to rise on the worktop for 24 hours.  I knew this wasn’t going to be a fast-acting rise!


Actually, I wasn’t sure it was going to rise at all but patience pulled through and this was the ‘before and after ‘result.

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Because this was a wet dough, I decided to cook it using the Dutch oven method which allows for a good spring from the evaporation of the excess water.  It’s this that makes the big holes in the bread.

This is how you do it.

  • Put the dough onto a heavily floured worktop (and I mean heavily floured!)
  • Roughly shape the dough and let to prove for as long as it takes to heat up the oven.  It will be quite a sloppy mix but don’t worry.  I put mine in a basket to stop it spreading sideways too much.

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  • Put the oven on to heat to 220C.
  • Place a cast iron lidded pot in the hot oven for 20 mins to heat up – empty.
  • When the pot is up to temperature, remove the lid and drop the dough into it.  It doesn’t matter if it isn’t central, it will level itself in the oven.
  • Replace the lid and bake for 20 mins


  • Remove the lid or remove the loaf entirely and place on a pre-heated baking tray to bake for a further 15 mins and brown.


And that’s it.  It worked!

We had it with cheese and chutney.  It smells amazing and has a bit of a sourdough-like tang to it delicious but not boozy – sorry!

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MAKE IT: Pancakes


It’s Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Mardi Gras.
It’s pancake time.  Woo hoo!

4oz plain flour
1 egg
1/4 pint milk
pinch of salt


Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and break the egg into the middle.  Using a balloon whisk, mix the egg and as you do so, you’ll see the flour start to incorporate.  Take your time. Add a tiny bit of milk and mix again.  Repeat this until you have used all the milk and the batter is smooth.  (Alternatively, throw everything in together and mix with one of those hand blenders.  Easier but somehow not quite as therapeutic.)

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You should leave the batter to sit for at least 30 minutes to let the gluten do its thing, then stir again and you’re ready to go.

There is nothing difficult about making pancakes – there’s only a problematic pan to deal with.  You can use non-stick (if you must) but I find it just too non-stick – yes, you read that right, too non-stick.  The mixture slides over the pan too quickly and doesn’t set properly.

I like to use a stainless steel, heavy bottomed frying pan.  I know you’re probably freaking out about that but honestly, they don’t stick!  The trick is to prep your pan before you start frying your batter.  It’s really easy and only takes a minute to do.

Heat your pan and add a teaspoon of salt to it.  Remove from the heat and scrub the surface with the salt using a bit of folded kitchen paper.  (Try not to burn your fingers, obviously).  Then, tip the salt away, wipe the pan out with a clean piece of kitchen paper and put back on the heat.

You want the pan to be medium hot.  Not so hot that it’s smoking but hot enough that when you drop a little oil, say half a teaspoon, into it, it goes instantly super-runny and rolls around the pan easily.  It looks hot like it would really hurt if you dropped some of that oil on your hand.  Use a rubber spatula to make sure the whole surface is covered with a thin coating of oil, check again that it’s hot.  Test it with a tiny drop of batter and if it instantly hisses and sets, the pan is ready.  If you don’t have it hot enough or any surface of the pan hasn’t had the oil over it, it will stick.   Be brave and pour a small ladle of your batter mix in and tip the pan until it covers the bottom surface.  Try to avoid tipping it up the sides of the pan.


Put it on the heat and leave it alone until all the wet batter has set.  It should start to shrink slightly from the sides.  Help it along a bit with a spatula to judge whether it will lift easily from the bottom of the pan.  Loosen it gently on all sides, check the bottom for colour then lift out and gently turn it over.

Flipping is fun. Try it at your peril!


Once the other side it done, set aside in a warm casserole dish and make up the others or eat it there and then at the kitchen worktop with lemon and sugar or butter and maple syrup – whatever’s your fancy.  Our family tradition is dark brown sugar.

Flip ’em. roll ’em or fold ’em.  Doesn’t matter.  Just have fun with ’em!

NB.  From the second pancake onwards you won’t need much oil at all, just run a folded bit of kitchen paper soaked in oil around the pan and off you go again.



MAKE IT: White sandwich loaf



Here’s the list of ingredients –

1 lb strong white bread flour
1 sachet fast action, dried yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tblsp milk powder
1/2 pint warm water

I like to dissolve the sugar into the warm water and then add the dried yeast and give it a little shimmy with a teaspoon to mix it up.  After about 10 minutes left to its own devices, the yeast will have activated, frothed up and can be added to the flour.  Of course, you can just throw it in with the dry ingredients but this method does seem to produce a smoother dough for some reason.


I throw all the ingredients in a bowl, mix together and then either knead by hand if I need to burn off some aggression or let the KitchenAid do the hard work with its dough hook.  About 10 mins is usually enough until the dough is smooth and elastic (and still a tiny bit sticky to the touch).  Don’t underestimate the power of the milk powder.  Use fresh milk as part of your liquid allowance if you prefer but the milk powder does give a better flavour to this type of bread.

IMG_2359Then I cover with a damp tea towel and leave it to rise for about and hour to an hour and a half in a warm place like the airing cupboard, on the hearth (or weirdly on top of the fish tank) until it’s doubled in size-ish.  That’s not always an obvious measure of readiness but if it looks quite a bit bigger, that’s often enough.  As always, you can let it rise overnight in the fridge instead if that helps your schedule.

Remembering to turn the oven on to 220C, I then turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead it gently to get rid of any big air bubbles.


Now this next bit might seem a bit of a faff but it does make a difference to an evenly risen loaf so here goes – get out your rolling pin and roll the dough out so that it’s the length of your 2lb tin and three times the width.

???????????????????????????????Simply fold down the top third-ish and then over again.


Hmmm, it’s grown a bit long there but no matter.  Smack the ends in a bit and put into the tin, fold-side down.  I’m not worried about its stretch marks (or mine for that matter) because they’ll disappear once its had its second rise.???????????????????????????????I generally pop it on the stove top (let’s not be confused here, the stove top isn’t on…) while the oven’s heating up and the gentle heat helps it on its way.  The second rise can happen quite quickly – maybe even as little as 30 mins but basically, you’ll want to pop it in the oven as soon as it rises to the top of the tin.  It’ll spring a bit further once it hits the heat of the oven.


15 mins at 220C then take it out of its tin, knock the temperature down to 180C and bake for a further 30mins.  Leave to cool and slice for sarnies.



Delicious and easily sliceable!

MAKE IT: Pumpkin loaf cake


It’s October again and time to do something useful with the beautiful bright orange squashes and pumpkins we’ve grown over the winter.

In previous years I’ve made the classic pumpkin pie and, while I rather like it, hubby isn’t keen so this year, I’ve been busying myself trawling the internet looking for an alternative.

The first attempt was a Pumpkin Pound Cake recipe and, frankly, it was hopeless.  The flavour was lovely but the texture was all wrong.  It was an American recipe and my ‘cup’ of flour measurements must have been way out because the resulting cake was thick, stodgy and, although perfectly edible I wouldn’t want to offer a slice to a guest!

Many recipes seemed to be a basic carrot cake recipe made with pumpkin instead of carrot.  Nice, but not what I wanted.  I needed something that used home-made pumpkin puree.

Then someone gave me this –

250g pumpkin puree
2 eggs
125ml sunflower oil
300g caster sugar (sounds a lot but it is accurate)
225g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarb
1 1/2 tsp mixed spice.

First up, pumpkin puree.
Quarter the pumpkin and scrape out the seeds. Save those to make some toasted pumpkin seeds (again a recipe for one as my husband wrinkles his nose at them too!)



Then either pop them to roast in a slow oven until they’re soft or throw them in the slow cooker on high for 2.5 hours.  I don’t put any water in with them as they have enough of their own.
Cut or scrape out the flesh and blend it.




Eh voila, pumpkin puree which you can divi up into freezer bags and freeze.

And so to the cake –

The method couldn’t be much easier.
Mix the wet ingredients together (pumpkin, oil and eggs) with the sugar.

Then mix the dry ingredients together – flour (sifted), bicarb, salt and spice.
When the oven’s up to temperature (180oC), mix everything together until combined but don’t beat it – a bit like a muffin recipe. Then pour it into a 2lb loaf tin lined with baking paper.  I like to buy the pre-cut ones as it saves on faff.  It will be very sloppy and probably a bit lumpy but fear not.

Bake for 50mins to an hour or until a skewer poked in the centre comes out clean.Pumpkin21

Mine was a little dark on top (probably the large quantity of sugar) but after the previous disaster, I wanted to make sure it was cooked! It looks worse on camera than it did in the flesh.  Next time I’ll keep a better eye on it and pop some foil on the top if it looks like it needs it.

I reckon a bit of vanilla extract would be a welcome addition but it passed the taste test with hubby and so all is well.   And, as I have a load of pumpkin puree in the freezer for further experimentation maybe I’ll add some pumpkin or sunflower seeds, a glaze or icing  or perhaps even go a bit wild and throw in some coconut.  Yum.



Any suggestions welcome.  What are you doing with your pumpkins this year?


MAKE IT: Cinnamon Rolls

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Oooh, yummy, sticky, buttery, spicy little buns of naughtiness!  Cinnamon Rolls.  A bit like Chelsea Buns but with a buttery-sweet cinnamon filling instead of fruit.

Here’s the recipe –


14 oz    strong white flour
1 oz        caster sugar
2 oz        softened butter
1/2 tsp  salt
2 tsp      ground cinnamon
7 floz     milk
1 pkt      dried yeast


3 oz        softened butter
2 oz        caster sugar
1 tbsp    ground cinnamon


2 tbsp    icing sugar
plus sufficient water to produce desired consistency

  • Mix the flour and butter together in an electric mixer or rub in by hand.
  • Add the sugar, salt, cinnamon, yeast and milk (feel free to warm the milk if you want to) and
  • knead either with the dough hook attachment on a very slow setting or by hand for 10 mins until the dough is soft and smooth.

I did mine the night before and popped it in an airtight box to prove overnight in the fridge.   ???????????????????????????????

If you’re doing it the same day, cover It with greased cling film or a damp cloth and put in a warm place for about an hour.

This is an enriched dough so you won’t see the spectacular types of rise you see with ordinary breads so don’t worry if it looks a bit tight – the yeast just has to work much harder to push up against the butter.


The next morning, I took it out the fridge and rolled it out pretty thinly. It measured about 60cm long and 30cm wide.???????????????????????????????Cinnamon rolls06

Then I mixed together the filling ingredients to form a stiff paste…???????????????????????????????

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…and spread it as evenly as possible over the dough.

Then I rolled it up using the long side and cut the resulting sausage into 5cm sections.  Mine were thicker in the middle than at the ends so no points for consistency there!??????????????????????????????? Cinnamon rolls11

I popped them in a pyrex dish (where they looked a bit pathetic – check out those tiny end ones!) and let them rise for an hour in a warm place. Thankfully, they filled out and squashed together the way they needed to. Using a high sided cooking dish helps to prevent them expanding away from each other as they rise.


Glaze them with beaten egg (I forgot!) and then into a hot oven at 220C for 12 to 15 mins.

Ta dah!

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Once cooled a bit, I mixed up some glacé icing and drizzled it over the top.

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Delicious and all done in time for brunch!

Don’t be scared, give it a go.


MAKE IT, Carrot Cake

I dug up a mahoosive carrot from the veggie patch. It’s certainly a big one, and probably a bit big for normal use as it might be a bit woody. Carrot cake sprang to mind.

This is my recipe –

3 beaten eggs
6 oz self-raising flour
6 oz soft, light brown sugar
1 tsp bicarb
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
6 floz light vegetable oil
3 oz raisins
2 oz chopped walnuts
6 oz grated carrot
grated rind of 1 orange
7 oz full fat cream cheese (I use Philadelphia)
4 oz icing sugar, sifted
2 tsp orange juice
  • Mix the eggs, oil, sugar, flour and bicarb together until smooth.
  • Mix in the raisins, walnuts, orange rind, carrot and spices.
  • Pour into a 2lb loaf tin or 9″ square tin
  • Bake at 160c for 40 mins or so (or until a skewer push into the centre comes out clean)
  • Cool in a wire rack
  • Mix together the icing ingredients and beat until smooth.
  • Smother the icing over the top of the completely cold cake.



Delicious! It’s very moist and keeps brilliantly.

Pop it in an air-tight container and enjoy a slice with a cup of tea day after day!???????????????????????????????








MAKE IT: Easy bread


This is my easy-peasy standard white loaf recipe which can be adapted by adding all sorts of bits and pieces.  My favourite variations are poppy seed, sunflower and pumpkin seed, cheddar and rosemary, sundried tomato and olive, dried fruit and mixed peel… you get the picture.

Bread ingredients

1 lb strong white bread flour
1 pkt fast action dried yeast
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
300ml warm water
1 tbsp olive oil


Mix the flour, salt and sugar together first and then mix in the yeast (you don’t want the yeast to sit directly on the salt) and pop it the bowl of an electric mixer with the dough hook attached.  Add the water and olive oil and mix on a low setting for 10 mins.  Alternatively you can roll up your sleeves, get your hands in and knead like crazy for approximately the same length of time.

Once the dough is smooth – it should be elastic, a bit sticky and sort of translucent when you thin a bit between your fingers – pop it back in the bowl and cover with cling film or a damp tea towel and stash it in a warm place like a window sill or airing cupboard.  Alternatively, pop it in the fridge overnight for a long slow rise.   I like to put mine in this jug so that I can clearly see when it’s risen.



Yup, that’s definitely risen.

Pop it out on the work top and press the air out of it, knead it lightly  incorporating any extra ingredients and gather into a tight round or oblong.

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Put it on a lightly-greased baking tray and slash the top a couple of times with a sharp knife so it can expand easily.  It’ll take between one to two hours depending on the room temperature but once it’s risen again and is sluggish to spring back when you press your finger on it, it’s ready to bake.


Into the oven at about 220c  for 25 – 30 mins.

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Yum, yum, yum!

If you want a soft crust, rub it with some butter as soon as it comes out the oven.  If you prefer a really crunchy one, spray the inside of the oven with a bit of water just before you put the loaf in and shut the door.

You can divide it into rolls, plaits, sticks – whatever takes your fancy.

What are your favourite additions?



MAKE IT: Crackers

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Today I had a bit of time on my hands whilst my nearest and dearest busied himself building a Shepherd’s Hut (more about that to come) and decided to try something I’ve never baked before.  Crackers.

I love crackers.  Ryvita, Carr’s Water Biscuits, Cheddars, Jacobs’ Cream Crackers, Hovis etc.  Love ’em all. They’re just handy to have in the cupboard ready to smother in pate, marmite, or cheese and pickle and the smaller ones can be popped in as a “hole in one” as my husband would say.  I find them indispensable for lunch as I rarely buy bread and of course home-made bread doesn’t keep well and is only really serviceable for sandwiches on the days it’s made. Pretty impractical to be making bread at four o’clock every morning in time to make sandwiches for a lunchbox!

Anyhoo, I found this recipe at,  thought it looked fairly straight-forward and so this morning I gave it a go.

Now, I’m a fairly seasoned baker so it’s fair to say that the methods weren’t a complete mystery to me but after the first couple of batches, I’d found a few simple tricks that helped to make the last batches better looking and much closer to the type of water biscuit that I often buy.

A word on oven temperature.  This was a US recipe and the oven temperature given was 450C which equates to approximately 230C.  If you have a fan oven you’ll need to either reduce the temperature by 20 degrees or drastically reduce the cooking time – a dangerous game.  A good rule of thumb is to stick to the timings given in the recipe, (checking on progress a few minutes early just in case) and always set the oven 20C lower than the given setting.  It saves having to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions (who actually keeps these?) and then, some potentially complicated mathematics which probably involves a calculator. Credit to Delia Smith for that little gem!

I used –
1 lb plain flour
60 ml olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp granulated sugar
9 floz water

and followed the method described on the site.

Cracker ingredients

Here are my extra notes –

I threw the ingredients in the Kitchenaid with the dough hook attachment and ran it on the second slowest speed.  Lazy? Yes.

I found it quite difficult to roll the dough out thinly and evenly enough and the first two batches were probably a little thick and not quite crunchy enough in the middle.  Time to bring in the pasta machine!

The pasta maker was an obvious attachment to get for the Kitchenaid as we keep chickens and have a lot of eggs to deal with.  Making pasta, either to eat fresh or to dry and store for later is a beautiful thing, though it scared me half to death when I first tried it.  But, with a bit of practice, a pasta machine can be quick to use and a lot of fun.  It made the next few batches of crackers a doddle and I’ll definitely use it again next time.

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I didn’t dampen them before I cut them out simply because I was using a pastry cutter to make circles and wanted to be able to re-roll the dough to make more. Brushing it with water would have created a soggy, mushy mess so I left that until I’d transferred them to the baking sheet.

I used baking parchment rather than dusting the trays with flour because I’m not keen on floury bottoms on my bread or biscuits.  I wouldn’t recommend using greaseproof paper instead because it’s not the same thing.  Greaseproof works well with recipes that have a lot of oil or butter in them, like biscuits or cookies, but it sticks like a limpet to bread-based stuff and I didn’t want to run the risk of ruining these little babies.  Once you’ve spent half an hour picking greaseproof paper off the bottom of your beautifully baked loaf of bread, you won’t confuse the two again!

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When pricking them, a fork is fine but a skewer is better if you have one.  It’s important to take a bit of care over your prick marks (ha ha) because not only will they look much prettier, but an even distribution of holes will stop them puffing up.  See what happens when you get lazy?

Ok, so this recipe makes a lot of crackers here and it’s easy to be a bit blasé but, if you’re looking to impress, it’s worth taking a bit of care.

Similarly, if looks are your thing and you want an even shape, try not to pick them up with your hands as they inevitably stretch a bit and look wonky.  I don’t worry too much ‘coz that’s how you know they’re hand-made.  On the latter batches I swapped to using a baker’s…what on earth are these things called?  A scraper, divider, pick-er-up-a-rer?  Anyway, one of these –


If you’re going to ’sprinkle’ with seeds and the like, you might want to press them into the dough a bit otherwise they just fall right off after baking.  Grrrhh.

Final note:  Don’t answer the phone while they’re in the oven as they’ll happily overcook while you chatter away.  Oops!
Happily the dogs will generally polish off any rejects and can be relied upon not to tell tales.

Eh voila!  Crackers…made, and without too much kitchen calamity.???????????????????????????????
I’m off to try them out with some cheese, pickles and a cuppa.???????????????????????????????

Let me know if you try them out and if you have any tips to share.