69. Ukrainian Sweet Chestnut Babka

Sweet Chestnut Babka recipe

Sweet Chestnut Babka

Seinfeld introduced the idea of the Babka to me. It’s an enriched sweet dough usually flavoured with chocolate popular in Eastern Europe. The episode focuses on Jerry and Elaine’s desperation to get their hands on the last Babka in the bakery. I’ve wanted to find out what all the fuss was about for ages. It was definitely worth the wait.

Sweet Chestnut Babka recipe

Sweet Chestnut Babka

I love how beautiful the Babka looks in all it’s braided glory. Dark brown sweet chestnut stripes peeking through the sweet dough, glistening in their honey glaze. I also love how complicated and impressive it looks too! I’ve plaited bread before, before but this was my first attempt at a braid and it’s not as difficult as you’d think.

Traditionally Babka, which means Grandmother in Polish, is a comforting bread flavoured with chocolate and baked at Easter time. As I like to do things differently (and I had ran out of chocolate) I found a tin of chestnut paste in the cupboard and thought I would put it to good use.

Babka swirls

Babka swirls

It’s absolutely delicious with it’s soft light texture and not too sweet, although you can add more sugar if you wish. I added cocoa powder to my chestnut paste along with poppy seeds to give a nod to the traditional chocolate and nut versions. The cocoa added depth to the chesnut paste and poppy seeds feature heavily in many European bakes and give a lovely crunch.

Having never baked with chestnut before, I was so happy with the result. I bought the tin on an impulse and it’s lay at the back of the cupboard forgotten until now. It’s an unusal flavour, rich nutty and rather savoury. Do check your can to see if it’s sweetened or natural. If unsweetened you’ll need to add sugar to you get your preferred level of sweetness. You could add chocolate chips, or use chocolate spread or nutella (or anything you fancy!) if you prefer.

How I made my Sweet Chestnut Babka

  1. Mix ingredients together til fully incorporated
  2. Knead for 10 mins until the dough is smooth and springs back when pinched
  3. Place in bowl, cover with cling film and leave to prove for 1-2 hours till doubled in size.
  4. Knock back the dough.
  5. Knead lightly on oiled work surface and roll out to a rectangle approx 5mm thick.  30 cm by 20cm.
  6. Spread even layer of chestnut paste over the dough and sprinkle lightly with Poppy seeds and light brown sugar.
  7. Roll dough up from long edge to long edge to form a sausage of dough with a spiral of chestnut running through the centre
  8. Cut the dough sausage with a sharp lightly oiled knife lengthways all the way along the sausage. Cut all the way through the dough to spilt it down the middle and expose the filling.
  9. Seal the strips together at one end
  10. Twist the two halves together,  folding one half of the dough over the other keeping the stripes of filling in the outside
  11. Seal the other two ends together to form a braided ring. You can trim the ends of the Babka with sharp knife to seal the twists together before joining the ends to form a ring
  12. Lift carefully onto a greased and lined baking sheet.
  13. Cover with greased cling film and prove for 1-2 hours till doubled in size
  14. Bake for 25 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.
  15. Brush all over with honey syrup whilst still hot
  16. Cool and eat!

Things I used to make my Sweet Chestnut Babka

Dough

  • 350g strong white flour (you could use all white strong flour if your prefer)
  • 115g strong wholemeal flour
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 300ml milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • splash of water and vegetable oil if needed to bring the dough together into smooth ball

Sweet Chestnut Paste

  • 300g chestnut puree (unsweetened)
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 50 g light brown sugar
  • splash of milk to mix the paste together until smooth and spreadable (not too runny or thick)
  • *1 tbs sugar to sprinkle over paste
  • * 2 tsp Poppy seeds to sprinkle over paste

Honey Syrup

  • 2 tbs runny honey
  • 30ml water
    boil gently for 1- 2 minute to thicken syrup

68. Speculoos Kransekake Christmas Tree Cake – Norwegian Ring Cake

Vanilla Shortbread Kransekake recipe

Vanilla Shortbread Kransekake


Traditionally Kransekake (Norwegian Ring Cake) is eaten at Christmas or on special occasions.  It’s a stack of about 18 almond ring shaped biscuits held together with lashings of ornate royal icing.

Speculoos Kransekake

Speculoos Kransekake

Now as I can never leave a recipe alone I had to switch this up and make it even more festive with a (Speculoos Kransekake (recipe below) and Vanilla Shortbread Kransekake (recipe below) instead. The sweet spices blended together makes a moreish fragrant biscuit. I loved it so much I kept going and for Christmas day made an enormous shortbread version, which is closer in colour to the traditional almond version.

Although I’m straying from the Norwegian almond tradition my Speculoos and shortbread versions are much cheaper to make and meant I didn’t have to make another trip to the shop for expensive ground almonds. You can buy Speculoos spice already mixed but I enjoy grinding and blending my own fresh spices for an extra punch.

I always have an abundance of spices in my cupboard so this is a perfect Christmas bake for me. And as we just put our tree up. The combination of  pine needles and freshly baked Speculoos floating through our house is like a piece of Christmas Heaven.

The Kransekake is baked in a special set of tins, called Kransekake pans. I couldn’t get my head around how it would all fit together so ploughed on rolling out on the work top as many long Speculoos sausages by hand to press into the tin as i could eek out of the dough. You can make this without the special tin, if you feel like shaping the circles yourself and bake them directly on a baking sheet instead, but the tin makes it a bit easier. Each tin holds 3 biscuit rings.

Roll the dough into smooth sausages and place carefully in to the pans. Press the ends together to seal the ring.

Roll the dough into smooth sausages and place carefully in to the pans. Press the ends together to seal the ring.

The dough is a little crumbly and took a bit of perseverance to roll it long enough to fill the larger rings, but it’s worth the effort. It’s best to make thin sausages to get more out of your dough and also the dough puffs up as it bakes. If the rings are too thick they will merge, making it difficult to get them out of the tins and also leaving you with rough dishevelled edges.

Kransekake pans hot from the oven

Kransekake pans hot from the oven

In hindsight I should have doubled the dough recipe as I ran out so had to make do with 11 rings rather than 18. This meant that the rings didn’t quite taper off in size as they should and I had to employ some clever royal icing layering to get the rings to fit together.  So don’t look too closely at my piping skills please! (I’ve doubled the recipe for you at the bottom of this page so you’re good to go!)

Glue the rings together with a good slick of royal icing

Glue the rings together (starting with the largest ring on the bottom!) with a good slick of royal icing

I also probably should have decided on my piping pattern before launching headlong into the design on the kransekake. But I got a bit carried away as per usual and ad libbed. I think my favourite pattern is the zig zags as I wanted to make it look like a Christmas tree. I love the contrast of the stark white snow icing against the brown Speculoos hues.

I got a bit carried away with the icing patterns... zig zags, stripes, and polka dots

I got a bit carried away with the icing patterns… zig zags, stripes, and polka dots

My original plan was to use white chocolate to fuse the rings together to add to the decadence of the bake, however I forgot to buy any, so royal icing it had to be. Having only used royal icing to glue together the tiers of my wedding cake before (when I used the pre mixed merriwhite powder available from cake decorating shops) I wanted to try powdered egg whites to avoid using raw egg whites to bind the icing together. It worked really well, so well in fact I went on to ice a gingerbread house and my goddaughter’s christening biscuits with it too. (I used sachets of Dr Oekters powdered egg whites so pregnant ladies and children can eat as much icing as they like without the worry of salmonella.)

I also think dark chocolate icing would be stunning against the spiced biscuit. perhaps dusted with a little gold lustre powder/spray for extra festiveness.

When I made Speculoos last time I made a soft dough so it could be piped in shapes directly onto the baking sheet. This dough needed to be firm and malleable so it would hold it’s shape and support it’s own weight. I didn’t add any liquid to this dough and left out the treacle to make sure it wouldn’t spread too much during baking. Although a little treacle might help to roll it out as it is quite a dry dough and had a tendency to crumble when molding it.

To add to the depth of flavour and darkness of the biscuit I used a combination of light and brown sugars.  Feel free to use your preferred sugar to reach the colour biscuit you prefer.

Things I used to make Speculoos Kransekake

Speculoos Spice Blend

  • 4 TBS ground cassia (or cinnamon if you can’t get cassia)
  • 4 TSP ground ginger
  • 8 cardamom pods (discard the pods and grind the seeds)
  • 2 star anise (grind the seeds only)
  • 1/2 TSP white pepper
  • 1/2 TSP pink Himalayan salt (or any salt will do)
  • 1/2 TSP black pepper
  • 6 cloves (ground)
  • 1/2 TSP nutmeg

Speculoos Dough

This is double the quantity from my previous version of Speculoos biscuits so it should be enough to make 18 rings!

  • 220g butter
  • 400g light brown sugar
  • 100g dark brown sugar
  1. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Bearing in mind you’re using brown sugars so the colour change won’t be as dramatic as when using white sugar. It looks more like a big lump of soft sugar…
Beaten brown sugars and butter

Beaten brown sugars and butter

2. Then beat the rest of the dry ingredients and speculoos spice mix in until it comes together into a ball. It is a slightly dry crumbly dough so it will take some work to bring it together.

  • 600g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 eggs
  • splash of almond extract
  • splash of vanilla extract
Slightly crumbly spicey speculoos biscuit dough

Slightly crumbly spicey speculoos biscuit dough

3. Chill in the fridge for an hour.

4. Roll the dough into 18 smooth sausages and arrange in the greased kransekake tins. Gently pressing the ends of the sausages together to seal the rings. If you have any dough left over you may want to cut a little star out and bake to adorn the top of your stack.

5. Bake for 10 -12 minutes at 190 degrees c until slightly puffed up and firm to touch.

6. While the biscuits are baking beat together the royal icing as described below.

7. Allow the biscuits to cool in the tin before coaxing gently out of the tin. You may need to separate some rings that have merged as they bake with a knife.

8. Starting with the biggest ring on the bottom apply a thin line of royal icing to the underside of each ring, gluing it in place. Stack the rings one on top of the other working your way from the largest to the the smallest ring.

Glue the rings together with a good slick of royal icing

Glue the rings together with a good slick of royal icing

9. Once the full stack is glued together and fully assembled take a deep breath and with a steady hand and fine nozzle on your piping bag slowly pipe your chosen design directly onto the rings. Maybe throw some (edible) glitter on it as you go for extra pazzaz.

10. Stand back and admire your creativity.

11. If you can bear to eat your creation depending on how many people it needs to feed… You can either pull a ring off the stack with a knife or cut straight into it with a sharp knife.

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Things I used to make Vanilla Shortbread Kransekake

  • 250g butter
  • 110g sugar
  • 360g plain flour
  • splash of vanilla extract

1. Beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.

2. Beat in the flour and vanilla until the dough comes together into a shiny ball.

3. Roll into 18 thin sausages and arrange in the greased kransekake tins as before. Gently press the ends of the sausages together to seal the ends.

4. Bake in the oven at for 15 – 20 minutes at 190 degrees c until slightly golden brown. (Keep an eye as you don’t want the biscuits to take on too much colour as they will look burnt and be dry.
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Royal Icing recipe

  • 250g icing sugar
  • 5g powdered egg white (one sachet of Dr Oekter’s powdered egg white)
  • 45 ml of cold water

*optional* you can add food colouring at this stage if you like but be gel or powdered colour would be best so it doesn’t add to much liquid. If using liquid colouring supplement some of the water with food colouring instead.

1. Beat the sugar powdered egg white and and water together for about 5 minutes on medium speed and then increase to high for 4- 5 minutes. The icing will be glossy and thick. If it is too wet or runny it will not set or be strong enough to support the weight of the kransekake.

Thick royal icing

Thick royal icing

2. Scoop your icing into and icing bag with a fine nozzle for piping your decoration. It’s handy to sit your piping bag inside a tall glass for this job to support the bag.

3. If using a plastic icing bag don’t forget to cut the end off the bag when you’re ready to start icing.

4. Put the largest Kransekake ring onto your plate/cakeboard first. Apply a thin layer (or pipe a ring) of royal icing on the under side of the biscuit to hold it in place on the board.

5. Pipe another ring of icing on to the top side of the biscuit so the next layer will stick to it. Repeat until you have assembled all of the biscuits in a tower, from the largest to the smallest. Don’t worry if any of the ring have break! You can sneakily glue them back together with a little icing. Once you stick the next ring on top no one will notice!

6. Apply even pressure to the bag with your hand and keep the nozzle about 1-2cm away from the biscuit. Squeeze the bag gently and with a steady hand pipe your chosen pattern directly on to the assembled Kransekake.

7. Whilst the icing it still wet sprinkle with a little edible glitter.

8. Allow the icing to harden and the Kransekake will become very sturdy and easier to transport. The biscuits will start to soften after a couple of days so cover it with tin foil if you’re making it in advance.

9. Impress all of your friends and family with the great reveal of your Kransekake. I liked using mine as a Christmas table centre piece before inviting everyone to removing a ring at a time to eat.

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67. Peruvian Corn Cake

The imperfect yet delicious Peruvian Corn Cake

The imperfect yet delicious Peruvian Corn Cake

So not all cakes are perfect. Despite the rather rustic appearance this Peruvian Corn cake it is extremely delicious. It’s traditionally eaten in coffee shops with enormous amounts of whipped cream and adorned with cherries. As I was transporting this to Cake Club at The Cookhouse I had to make do with squirty cream in a can…

Squirty cream in a can masks all manner of sins

Squirty cream in a can masks all manner of sins

You’d think by now, 67 bakes in to my around the world in 80 bakes challenge I’d be getting pretty good at this baking malarkey. Alas I still have the odd disaster and ruin a cake or two.

Is it because I can’t resist tampering with the recipe?  Is it because I’m slap dash in the kitchen?  Or is it because the sultanas all sank to the bottom welding the cake to the tin meaning I had to hack at it with a sharp knife to prise the last half from it’s bundty prison?

Perhaps I was a bit too roough with the Peruvian Corn Cake?

Perhaps I was a bit too roough with the Peruvian Corn Cake?

I guess it’s a combination of all 3 to be honest. Nevertheless I took it to cake club to share with my friends and enjoyed an enormous slice of it smothered in whipped cream. Which hides a multitude of sins and disguises the broken bits.

Shhh no one will notice it's a cake of two halves

Shhh no one will notice it’s a cake of two halves

The Peruvian Corn Cake is infused with Star Anise and stuffed full with coconut and plump sultanas.  It’s a perfect crumbly cake to accompany a strong cup of coffee.

The stars of the show - Star Anise seeds and Pink Himalyan Salt ready for grinding

The stars of the show – Star Anise seeds and Pink Himalyan Salt ready for grinding

Cornmeal gives the cake a wonderful golden yellow hue and an interesting texture.  Light yet crumbly to the touch with bursts of sweet moisture from the sultanas.

I’m a big lover of fruit cake and bundt cake and coconut and spice so this is an absolute winner for me. I bet if you soaked the sultanas in a little rum beforehand it would be sublime.

If you’re not a dried fruit fan feel free to leave the sultanas out (and you might have more joy getting the cake out of its tin!)

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy

Being lazy I whacked everything into my kitchenaid knowing full well that if you want to distribute your dried fruit evenly you should roll it in a little flour first and fold it into the batter. Alas I was hasty and missed this step so I had sunken sultanas.  Although the cake batter is very fluid so I doubt it would suspend sultanas throughout the cake. Gravity is inevitable.

The beaten batter

The beaten batter

I adapted this recipe from a wonderful book which could have literally been made for me. Cakes from Around the World.

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Things that I used to make my Peruvian Corn Cake

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 30g butter or margarine (butter would be better if you have it)

Step 1: Beat together the sugar and butter until fluffy

  •  3 eggs

Step 2: Then beat in the eggs one at a time adding a little of the flour if it starts to spilt.

  • 240g Fine milled corn meal (not to be mistaken for corn flour which is white not yellow). If you only have coarse corn meal blitz it in the blender to make it fine milled.
  • 20g (2tablespoons) Baking powder
  • 40g plain flour
  • Ground star anise (I used 6 seeds from whole star anise or you could use 1/2tsp of ground star anise powder)
  • 40g desiccated coconut

Step 3: Measure all of the flours and spices together. Beat in a third of the dry ingredients followed by a third of the oil.  Repeat until all of the flours and oil is incorporated into the batter. Don’t forget to scrape the sides of the bowl down too!

  • 80ml olive oil (it’s supposed to be corn oil which I didn’t have but sunflower oil would also be a good substitute)

Step 4: Roll the sultanas in a little flour and fold them gently into the batter. (or of you can’t be bothered to dirty another spoon beat them in gently with your mixer there’s so much baking prefer in this cake it’s bound to rise so you probably don’t need to treat it too delicately worrying about keeping the air in the batter. )

  • 220g sultanas (golden if possible but they’re more expensive so I just used normal ones)

Step 5: Pour your cake batter into a thoroughly greased bundt tin.  You could add a little flour too for good measure.

Step 6: Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 45 minutes at 190 degrees Celsius (fan).

Step 7: Allow to cool before attempting to coax it from the tin. Slice and smear with whipped cream. Eat enormous wedges with strong coffee!

 

66. Finnish Apricot Cardamom and Pistachio Pulla

Braided Pulla infused with cardamom, orange, apricot and pistachio

Braided Pulla infused with cardamom, orange, apricot and pistachio

I realise that I’ve slowed down on the old blogging front in recent months sorry! Partly due to it being Summer and not feeling the need to have an extra cake layer to keep me warm and also due to breaking my phone (and camera) which meant I’ve lost quite a bit of data and worked my way through 5 faulty handsets in 2 months… Anyways I’ve salvaged enough to bring you my braided Pulla.

Apricot Cardamom  and Almond Pulla  recipe

Apricot Cardamom and Almond Pulla

I felt the urge to bake something delicious and not too sweet. This cardamom infused apricot and almond pulla braid is just what the phone doctor ordered.

Fluffy, fragrant, light and slightly sweet Pulla is an enriched dough that compliments a good strong coffee perfectly. Gently scented with cardamom and studded with dried apricots for extra pops of flavour. If you were in need of additional luxuriousness ribbons of water icing would transform this into an excellent iced bun too.

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Traditionally Pulla is served with coffee in thin slices or as individual buns. Leftover Pulla (if you ever get that far!) can be twice baked to create a crisp biscotti type biscuit to dunk in your coffee.

Prove the dough until doubled in size

Prove the dough until doubled in size

As with all other yeasted doughs bring the ingredients together and knead for 10 minutes to allow the gluten to develop. Once the dough is shiny, stretchy and springs back when pressed it’s ready to place in a greased bowl, cover with greased cling film and prove.

pulla recipe

Proven pulla dough awaiting it’s cardamom and orange zest

Enriched Dough proves best in the fridge overnight, allowing the freshly kneaded supple dough, permeated with butter, sugar and an egg to slowly rise and firm up. Making it much easier to shape the following day. But if you’re in a rush to get it in your face feel free to prove at room temperature for an hour then shape and prove it again.

pulla recipe Now to knead in the pistachios and dried apricots

Now to knead in the pistachios and dried apricots

Once you’ve kneaded in the finely chopped nuts, and apricots along with the grated orange zest and ground cardamom into the dough so the flavours are fully incorporated, split the dough into 3 equally sized pieces.

3 little dough balls pulla plaiting bread dough

3 little dough balls

Roll the 3 pieces into long thin sausages (making sure you pop any little air bubbles that sneak there way in) and gather the strands together at one end.

The beginning of a plait

The beginning of a plait

Push the strands together so that they stick to each other and plait them together to form a braid. Once you reach the end, carefully join the two ends of the plait together to form a braided ring. Squish the ends together to form a join and tuck any loose bits underneath (no one will ever know after it rises.)

Plaiting the pulla

Plaiting the pulla

Place your braided Pulla crown into a semolina sprinkled baking sheet or dish. Cover with greased cling film and leave to prove a room temperature for an hour or two until doubled in size.

Ready to prove it's worth

Ready to prove it’s worth

Bake it at 190 degrees c for 30 minutes until it’s golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Whilst still warm glaze your Pulla generously with runny honey. Whilst the honey is sticky sprinkle with flaked almonds to decorate. Or if you’re feeling extra indulgent feel free to use water/glace icing to make an extra rich white icing that would look oh so pretty against the plait.

The final baked Pulla braided Crown

The final baked Pulla braided Crown

This is such a gorgeous sweet treat. It’s fluffy and tender with an wonderful spicy warmth from the cardamom. Balanced against a chewy nugget of apricot and a crisp morsel of pistachio. I love this bake and enjoyed it au natural with coffee to bring out the exotic notes and subtle sweetness. Delicious! And perfect for a special breakfast.


Things I used to make my Apricot and Cardamom Pulla

Enriched dough

  • 350g strong white flour
  • 5g salt
  • 40g sugar
  • 7g yeast
  • 45g margarine/butter
  • 175ml milk

Flavours to infuse the dough with after the first prove

  • 31 cardamom pods (seeds taken out and ground to fine powder)
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 8 chopped dried apricots chopped into small chunks
  • 20g pistachios chopped roughly

Topping/decoration

  • A handful of flaked almonds for sprinkling on top
  • Honey to glaze the top whilst still warm
  • You could also whip up a thick sticky water icing with the juice of the orange and icing sugar to pipe on top of the pulla if you would prefer a sticky bun effect.

Method

  1. Knead the flour, yeast, salt, butter, sugar and milk together for 10 minutes to create a sticky dough
  2. Leave to prove overnight in the fridge (or until double din size at room temp)
  3. Knead in the flavours; ground cardamom, orange zest, chopped apricots and pistachios
  4. Split the dough into 3 equal pieces and roll out to long strands
  5. Join one end of the 3 strands together and plait it into a braid
  6. Join the two ends of the braid together to form a circle
  7. Cover with greased cling film and prove on a semolina lined baking tray/dish until doubled in size
  8. Bake at 190 degrees c for 30 minutes until it’s golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped underneath
  9. Whilst still warm glaze with runny honey and sprinkle with flaked almonds

2 Egg Lemon Almond and Elderflower Cake

Lemon, Almond and Elderflower Drizzle Cake recipe

Lemon, Almond and Elderflower Drizzle Cake

What do you do with your last 2 eggs? Boil them? Fry them or cake them?

I was frantically looking for a quick summery cake to bake but I only had 2 eggs left. Every recipe I turned to called for 3 so I decided to create my own cake with what I had to hand and share it with you.

Lemon, Almond and Elderflower Drizzle Cake recipe

Going, going, gone! Summery surprise birthday drizzle cake

You may also notice the new addition to our kitchen… My brand new double oven! I’m absolutely over joyed with it. This is only it’s second cake and I’m struggling to adjust to its efficency. I can actually put a cake in and trust it to do as it’s told! An uncharred cake has been a rare sight in our house for quite some time!

The new addition to my kitchen. Super Hans loves it too

The new addition to my kitchen. Super Hans loves it too

Things I used to make my 2 Egg Lemon, Almond and Elderflower Cake

  • 115g margarine
  • 175g sugar
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1tsp lemon oil extract (optional)

Beat together until light and fluffy then add

  • 2 eggs

Beat until even fluffier and it increases in volume (add a little of the flour if it starts to split). Then add.

  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 175g self raising flour

Beat/fold in. Then add

  • 5 tbs almond milk (or any milk you prefer)
  • 50g of mixed candied peel (you could substitute this for other dried fruit or fresh berries)

Beat/fold in until smooth and the batter reaches a fluffy thick dropping consistency.

Pour the batter into a greased 6 inch round cake tin. (Or a tin of your choice – adjust your baking times accordingly – smaller tin reduce would produce a thicker cake so it may take longer or a larger cake tin wil produce a thinner cake and should take slightly less time to bake). I poured one inch of batter into my tin and had enough left to make 4 small muffins. level and smooth the top with a spatula and sprinkle the top with flaked almonds.

Bake 180 degrees c for 40 minutes I baked the additional muffins for only 14 minutes.

Whilst the cake bakes make the syrup. Allow the cake to cool slightly in the tin before removing it from the tin to cool further.

Things I used to make my Elderflower and Lemon Syrup

  • juice of 2 lemons
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 30- 40 ml elderflower cordial
  • 50g caster sugar
  1. Stir gently til the sugar dissolves.
  2. Bring to the boil then without stirring…
  3. Simmer until the liquid reduces by at least a third.
  4. As it thickens the syrup takes on the yellow hue from the zest.
  5. Allow the syrup to cool slightly before drizzling it all over the cake.
  6. Whilst the drizzle is still sticky sprinkle on a few more flaked almonds for contrast against the now toasted top.

And enjoy!

65. Bazlama Turkish Flatbreads

Recipe Bazlama -Turkish Flatbreads

Bazlama -Turkish Flatbreads

I’ve eaten quite a few flatbreads in my time. The most memorable being the fresh Moroccan breads purchased from a family’s converted front window along with a couple of mini bananas for essential sustenance for our 13 hour trek and overnight camp in the Sahara. I can still taste that soft fluffy white bread as I devoured it during the extreme heat wave washing it down in between swigs of proper sugary coke. The only thing that helped with the dehydration before we slept out under the stars on the hot sand.

Camel trekking into the Sahara fuelled by flatbreads

Camel trekking into the Sahara fuelled by flatbreads

I’ve been searching for a recipe that could help me recreate that moment of sheer bread delight. The kind of delicious every day bread that meets every basic need. Versatility is one of it’s many virtues, it could be a meal in itself if required or the perfect accompaniment to any dish.

Bazlama the perfect accompaniment to any meal

Bazlama the perfect accompaniment to any meal

This recipe originates from Turkey and is an absolute pleasure to make and eat. It’s an enriched dough with Greek yoghurt and oil which helps to retain it’s moisture so it keeps a little longer than it’s Moroccan counterpart which had to be eaten entirely on the first day, especially when it was over 50 degrees C most days!

Beautiful Bazlama

Beautiful Bazlama

My previous attempts at flatbread making have been a bit hit and miss. (You will not find my hideous chapattis on here yet which were more like sofa cushions than delicate wholemeal wraps.) I blamed my pan, which has lost it’s non stick entirely and adds a beautiful dusting of metal to most dishes.

Cooking in cast iron

Cooking in cast iron

I longed for cast iron cooking equipment and discovered a small cast iron frying pan in Oxfam for £3 which is a joy to use. It reaches temperatures that other pans a simply can’t maintain and needs only the tiniest drop of oil to prevent it sticking. Armed with this pan I intend to conquer flat breads once and for all.

Mix all the ingredients together to a shiny dough

Mix all the ingredients together to a shiny dough

This recipe is enough for 6 – 8 hand sized small flat breads. Mix all of the ingredients together into a shiny dough (keeping the salt away from the yeast). Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth and springy. Then leave to prove at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours until at least doubled in size.

Leave the kneaded dough to prove

Leave the kneaded dough to prove

Prove the dough until doubled in size

Prove the dough until doubled in size 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth and springy. Then leave to prove at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours until at least doubled in size.

Knock the dough back and knead lightly

Knock the dough back and knead lightly

Knock the dough back and gently knead it on a lightly floured surface until it comes together in to a smooth ball.

Bazlama recipeDivide the dough into 8 equal sized balls

Divide the dough into 8 equal sized balls

Divide the dough into 8 equal portions, shape into a ball and cover with greased cling film.

Roll each dough ball out into a flat circle about 5mm thick Bazlama recipe

Roll each dough ball out into a flat circle about 5mm thick

Flatten each dough ball out onto a lightly floured surface . Using a rolling pin roll out each ball into a circle about 5mm thick. Cover again with greased cling film and leave to rest and prove for 15 mins, until puffed up slightly. You’ll see the yeast get to work pretty quickly when these are laid out in a warmish room.

Gently proven Bazlama ready for cooking

Gently proven Bazlama ready for cooking

Whilst the dough awàits it’s final prove, heat the frying pan adding a splash of olive oil until sizzling hot. Gently place a proven circle of dough into the scalding hot pan. It will sizzle on impact, so watch out for any splashes oil. The Bazlama will puff up even further with the heat from the pan and bubble up in some places.

Bazlama hitting the cast iron pan

Bubbling Bazlama hitting the cast iron pan

Cook the Bazlama for one minute and flip it over and cook it for another minute on the other side. It should start to turn a golden brown and crisp slightly on the outside.

Cooking in cast iron

Cooking in cast iron

You may want to flip it over again to check that the Bazlama is cooked evenly all over and reached your desired degree of brownness. I like a slightly deeper colour on my breads to add to the flavour and texture. Once it’s cooked remove it from the pan and cover with a clean tea towel to keep it warm and soft. Repeat, until you’ve cooked all the Bazlamas!

Bazlama recipe Check out that deep brown sizzle pattern

Check out that deep brown sizzle pattern

I love how each Bazlama takes on a slightly different charred pattern as it sizzles in the pan. The beauty of cooking in a cast iron pan means that if it starts to get too hot and you smell burning, just take the pan off the heat and it will continue to cook as the pan retains the heat. Once it’s cooled slightly you can safely return your pan to the heat to continue your cooking.

That pan spring! Pillowy soft Bazlamas

That pan spring! Pillowy soft Bazlamas

Cooking one side at a time gives the Bazlama the opportunity to spring up fully as the yeast activates fully reacting to the intense heat. You can see how much your Bazlama rises in the pan. Check out that fluffy white mid section at last an inch thick!

Beautiful Bazlama

Beautiful Bazlama

I adore Bazlamas. They have a wonderful chewy texture almost like a pretzel but much softer. Bazlamas are a perfect comforting addition to any meal or a meal in itself, as they are quite filling.  I served my Bazlamas with homemade Tabbouleh and hummus. Delicious!  They’re best eaten warm from the pan, but they also freeze extremely well. I defrost them in the toaster on a low setting, as I prefer to eat them warm. However they also make an excellent portable lunch and have eaten many unadulterated Bazlamas straight from my handbag whilst on foot in between meetings.

 Things I used to make my Bazlama 

  • 650g plain flour (not strong bread flour)
  • 8g instant dried yeast
  • 16g (1 tbs) caster sugar
  • 16g (1tbs) salt
  • 280g water
  • 120g Greek yoghurt
  1. Mix the ingredients together to form a dough
  2. Knead for 10 minutes til smooth and shiny
  3. Cover with greased cling film and prove until doubled in size
  4. Knock back the dough, knead and divide into 8 balls
  5. Roll out each ball to a flatbread
  6. Leave to rest for 15 minutes
  7. Cook on each side for 1 minute in a hot pan
  8. Remove from the pan and cover the cooked Bazlamas with a cloth whilst cooking the remaining Bazlama

64. Curly Churros

Curly Churros

Curly Churros

Considering how many small fires I’ve started in my kitchen recently I surprised myself by not inflicting any further injuries whilst venturing into deep fat frying for the first time. Churros have been on my got-to-bake list forever.

Going all in at San Churros, Sydney. Churros, Dark chocolate dipping sauce, ice cream, milk chocolate dipping sauce AND a giant chocolate milkshake, just for good measure. (I ate the lot!)

Going all in at San Churros, Sydney. (left to right) Churros, dark chocolate dipping sauce, vanilla ice cream, milk chocolate dipping sauce AND a giant chocolate milkshake, just for good measure. (I ate the lot!)

I first tried Churros in Sydney in the bohemian district of Glebe. San Churros is a late night chocolate cafe offering half a metre long cinnamon sprinkled churros, thick hot chocolate and ice cream. AMAZING. Newcastle needs one of these.

Dippy churros

Dippy churros

Churros are traditionally Spanish but also very popular in Mexico usually dipped in liquid chocolate for good measure. You could also add some chilli to your chocolate (or chocolate to your churros – substitute some flour for cocoa powder) if you want an extra kick.

Glossy chocolatey churros

Glossy chocolatey churros

The process for making churros batter is very similar to profiteroles. Heat the water, butter and sugar in a pan until the butter melts.

churros recipe Heat the water butter and sugar in a pan

Heat the water butter and sugar in a pan

Take the pan off the heat and using a wooden spoon beat in the flour and salt until it comes together into a thick lump.

churros recipe Beat in the dry ingredients

Beat in the dry ingredients – best not use a whisk opt for a wooden spoon…

Then beat in the eggs one by one until it’s a smooth and shiny batter.

churros recipe Beat in the eggs

Beat in the eggs – wooden spoon is a much better option

This is quite a precise process so it’s worth setting up your workstation to make it as stress free as possible.

  • Keep a damp tea towel to hand to wipe your hands when you’re covered in batter.
  • Line a plate with kitchen paper and keep it close to add more layers when needed to drain the churros on.
  • Fill a shallow and wide dish with cinnamon sand to roll your churros in whilst they’re still hot.
Roll the churros in cinnamon sugar whilst hot

Roll the churros in cinnamon sugar whilst hot

To prepare the chocolate dipping sauce, heat the water and milk in a pan until approaching boiling and point. Take it off the heat add half of the chocolate. Stir until melted. Then stir in the remaining chocolate until smooth and shiny. Pour your chocolate soup into a pot ready for dipping.

churros Chocolate dipping sauce

Chocolate dipping sauce

Heat the vegetable oil in a deep pot about 400ml in a 8 inch round stock pot will give you about 2 inches of oil to fry the churros in. Make sure the oil is hot enough before piping your churros in. Just pop a blog of batter in and if it sizzles you’re good to go. You will need a slotted spoon to turn the churros with and to scoop them out when they’re cooked.

Use a slotted spoon to scoop the churros out of the boiling hot oil

Use a slotted spoon to scoop the churros out of the boiling hot oil

Although the batter is thick it should be free flowing. Scoop it into a piping bag with a star shaped tip. Don’t overfill the bag as it becomes really unwieldly (gushing batter from both ends). You need as much control as possible when piping into boiling hot oil as you really don’t want to get splashed.

Scoop the batter into a piping bag. Stand your bag up in a tall cup - churros recipe

Scoop the batter into a piping bag. Stand your bag up in a tall cup

I’ve watched street food vendors preparing churros and they have special batter dispensers that cut off the flow and deposit long sticks of churros into a deep vat of molten oil. Great method but probably not something that you’ve got in your kitchen at home. TV Chefs have also demonstrated perfectly straight churros. Nigella piped hers into boiling oil using scissors to cut the flow from the bag. She made short churros. Jamie Oliver made a firm dough and rolled his churros and then fried them. My batter was very liquid and difficult to control so I mostly ended up with it all over my hands and in my hair but I did manage to get some of it into the pot.

Multi tasking with an upturned piping bag to stop the batter spilling all over the place and flipping the sizzling churros with the other hand

Multi tasking with an upturned piping bag to stop the batter spilling all over the place and flipping the sizzling churros with the other hand

My lack of precision and being covered in batter meant I piped rather curly churros into the pan which instantly puffed up into curious shapes. The batter has a mind of its own and using a shallow round pot does have some limitations. Despite their irregular appearance they’re pretty damn tasty.

Some weird looking churros curling into the pan

Some weird looking churros curling into the pan

They sizzle instantly as soon as they reach the oil (watch out for sizzly splashes) and take minutes to cook, about 2 minutes each side turning a golden brown.

A good cinnamon sand coating is required churros recipe

A good cinnamon sand coating is required

With your kitchen roll at the ready you can pop your churros straight from the pan onto the paper to blot any excess oil before transferring them to the cinnamon sand (caster sugar and ground cassia/cinnamon) for a good sugary coating.

Mountains of Curly Cinnamon Churros

Mountains of Curly Cinnamon Churros

Keep piping churros into the boiling oil, flipping them, scooping them out, blotting them off, rolling in sugar until you’ve exhausted all of your batter. This makes an enormous amount of churros, so you may need to friends to help… Be careful not to leave the oil on the heat for too long, for example if you’re messing around taking photos. Without any churros to absorb some of the heat the oil will continue to sore in temperature and scorch the next churros you pipe into the pan. Also make sure you scrape out any scraps from the oil before piping the next churros in to avoid burnt bits attaching themselves to your fresh batch of churros.

Dippy churros

Dippy churros

Eat immediately! The longer they sit, the more oil they absorb so they lose a little of their crispiness. You’ ll not be disappointed by these churros. I shared these still warm and cinnamon scented to my friends at a picnic and with my family. Every single one disappeared. They’re light and fluffy on the inside and just crispy enough on the outside, (with the added texture from the sugar) to be oh so moreish.

Glossy chocolatey churros

Glossy chocolatey churros

I quite like the contrast of the dark chocolate against the sweet churros, but my 3 year old nephew winced at the bitterness despite the addition of some milk to my chocolate soup. You could use a lighter chocolate or milk chocolate if you prefer more sweetness in your life.

Things I used to make my Curly Churros

Churros Batter

  • 470g/ml water
  • 45g butter
  • 45g caster sugar

Melt in pan then remove from heat

  • 440g plain flour (or if you want to make chocolate churros substitute 420g of flour and 20g cocoa powder)
  • 2g salt

Beat in with a wooden spoon

  • 2 eggs

Beat in with a wooden spoon

Pour the smooth batter into a piping bag with a star shaped tip

  • 400ml vegetable oil

Heat oil until sizzling hot. Pipe in Churros. Cook them for 2 minutes (ish) on each side. Remove from oil and to drain on kitchen paper

Cinnamon Sand Ingredients

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2-3 tsp ground cassia (or cinnamon powder)

Roll warm churros in cinnamon sand

Chocolate Soup Ingredients

  • 60ml water
  • 20ml milk

Heat liquid til just before boiling, remove from heat and add half the chocolate. Stir til melted

  • 100g good quality chocolate
  • optional sprinkle of chilli powder for extra kick

Add the remaining chocolate and stir until melted.

Dip your warm churros in your chocolate soup and enjoy!

63. Ugandan Groundnut Cake (Peanut Cake)

Ugandan Groundnut Cake recipe

Ugandan Groundnut Cake

Smothered in a thick dripping coat of dark chocolate this is one hell of peanut cake. (The recipe didn’t call for chocolate but I figured it was the logical combination.) Not one for the faint hearted or those watching their calorific intake. It’s fudgey and delicious.

Groundnuts are hard to come by so I’ve substituted them for peanuts, which is apparently what most people do as peanuts are easier to grow too. It’s probably the sweetest cake I’ve ever made. And I LOVE it.

Ugandan Groundnut Cake

Ugandan Groundnut Cake

This recipe is a large one and I found it was enough to make 2 6inch round cakes and 1lb loaf too! So I hope you’re hungry. (Or you could use larger round cake tins if you have them maybe 8 or 9 inches – adjust/reduce your cooking time accordingly.)

I never usually bother toasting nuts, but I thought I would pull out all the stops to make this cake as authentic as possible. Toasting the peanuts helps to release the oils, creating a moister (if that’s a word) cake with a deeper peanutty flavour. Spread skinless (blanched) peanuts evenly on a baking tray and toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes at 200 degrees c. Keep an eye on them in case they burn. Once cooled chop them roughly with a big knife.

Mellow yellow stage of egg beating - fluffy, frothy and runny - groundnut cake recipe, peanut cake

Mellow yellow stage of egg beating – fluffy, frothy and runny

Whilst the peanuts are gently toasting, beat the eggs until lights and fluffy. They will reach a mellow yellow stage after about 4  minutes of beating with an electric mixer.

groundnut cake peanut recipe Gentle brown batter all fluffy and light full of sugar, honey and oil

Gentle brown batter all fluffy and light full of sugar, honey and oil

Then beat in the sugars, (brown and caster) along with the honey and vanilla extract. Once the sugars are fully combined, beat in the vegetable oil. The mixture will take on a gentle brown hue and increase in volume.

Fold (or beat) in the dry flour, salt, cassia and baking powder groundnut cake recipe

Fold (or beat) in the dry flour, salt, cassia and baking powder

The batter will become light and fluffy. Then to beat/fold in your dry ingredients. (I’m lazy and continued to beat in the ingredients using my mixer, but if you want to have a lighter cake you could fold it in with a metal spoon). I use ground cassia as I love it’s sweet cinnamonny notes. (Feel free to stick with cinnamon if you have it). Fold in a third of the dry ingredients followed by a third of the milk. Repeat until it’s all combined.

Fold in the toasted peanut - ugandan groundnut cake recipes

Fold in the toasted peanuts

Then fold in the cooled chopped peanuts into the thick glossy cappuccino coloured batter and it’s ready to bake! Pour the batter into your greased and lined baking tins. I used 2 x 6 inch round cake tins and a 1lb loaf tin. You could bake it in 2 larger cake tins, 8 or 9 inch rounds would require less time in the oven. My cakes took between 40 and 55 minutes. If you’re using a bigger tin your cake might take around 30 -40 minutes. The trick is to keep checking, once it’s safe to open the oven without causing your cake to deflate. I checked mine at 30 minutes and although the top of the cakes were firm to the touch the skewer didn’t come out clean when I tried it.

Golden brown groundnut cakes

Golden brown groundnut cakes (the flat bottoms)

Once the cakes are firm to the touch and when you insert a skewer and it comes out clean. (They should be looking slightly caramelised on the top and take on a darker brown hue.) Then you know they’re done. Cool them on a rack covered in grease proof paper to stop the rack branding them with stripes. This cake freezes well uniced (wrap them in greaseproof paper first). I baked mine in advance so I could assemble and ice it for Cake Club later in the week and still have fresh moist sponge.

Peanut buttercream is a revelation. I could eat the entire bowl with a spoon. But resisted long enough to get a smoothish coat on the cakes. In hindsight I had enough to be a bit more generous (particularly in the middle of the two cakes) but regrets don’t suit anyone so be as frugal or free with your icing as you like.

Peanut Buttercream is my new favourite frosting

Peanut Buttercream is my new favourite frosting

Beat your room temperature butter and smooth peanut butter together until they’re fluffy and light. I used a health food store peanut butter which promises to be natural and unprocessed. This did mean it was more oily than other peanut butters and more grainy. Give your peanut butter a good stir before measuring it out so it’s not too oily or dry. Then beat in your icing sugar and salt until it’s a smooth peanuty cream. The recipe called for honey but frankly this cake has enough sugar in it so I skipped it. Adding only a splash of milk to loosen it up and give a smoother finish.

how to ice a cake with buttercream

Smoothing the buttercream with a palette knife all round the cake

I slapped on a layer on peanut butter for food measure before adding a layer of buttercream to sandwich the cakes together. Then using a palette knife apply a thin ‘crumb coating’ of buttercream around the sides and top of the cake to fill any gaps and encase the crumbs so they don’t peek through your final finish. Chill the cake uncovered for an hour in the fridge to allow the buttercream to set before applying a thicker coat all over. Cover the bowl of remaining buttercream with cling film to stop it drying out in between uses. Smooth the final layer with a palette knife as much as possible. Then return to the fridge.

Pour a generous coat of melted choclate all over your cake and coax it down the sides with a teaspoon... droooooool

Pour a generous coat of melted choclate all over your cake and coax it down the sides with a teaspoon… droooooool

 

While the cake sets melt 50g dark chocolate in the microwave 30 seconds bursts until it’s almost all melted. Stir inbetween between. Stir in the remaining 20g of chocolate and stir until melted to temper the chocolate and achieve a glossy finish.

peanut cake - chocolate icing

Drool

Use a teaspoon to coax the chocolate down over the sides of the cake and to swirl the chocolate over the top of the cake. Leave it to set at room temperature to retain the glossy finish. I took inspiration from Pinterest for this decoration (I lose hours looking at pretty cakes but I like this style, it reminds me of a chocolatey dripping paint tin). Refrigerating the cake will dull the sheen of the chocolate but you may want to store it in the fridge if you want to keep it for awhile or try to transport it! Firm buttercream frosting travels well and keeps the moisture in the cake too.

The Ugandan Peanut Cake in all it's glory

The Ugandan Peanut Cake in all it’s glory – check out the chunks of peanuts speckled throughout the cake

Serve it with a flourish and a sharp knife! This is one tall cake with chunks of peanuts to chop through too. And it is gorgeous, jam packed with peanuts and flavour. A friend likened it to ‘a cake version of the nougat in a snickers bar’ and that sums it up perfectly. It’s moist with a subtle hint of cassia permeating the sponge. I managed to keep a slice in the fridge for 3 days and it was just as delicious, not a dry slice in sight. I love this cake and will be making it again for sure!

Clandestine Cake Club pushing the boundaries of cakeClandestine Cake Club pushing the boundaries of cake

Clandestine Cake Club pushing the boundaries of cake

My Ugandan Groundnut Cake was very well received at our Clandestine Cake Club meeting at Waterstones. This week we were pushing the boundaries of cake. It was amazing. We had savoury cakes, Tiffin Cakes, extraordinary ombre 8 layer cakes and a magnificent ice cream cake (unfortunately that one was out of shot in the fridge).

 

Things I used to make my Ugandan Groundnut Cake

  • 200g of blanched peanuts – toast for 10 mins in medium hot oven and chop up roughly. (Save these for the end)
  • 6 eggs – Beat til fluffy. Then beat in…
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 170g light brown sugar
  • 270g runny honey
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 170g (3/4 cup) vegetable oil

Beat sugar and eggs til light and fluffy. Then beat in a third of the the dry ingredients, followed by a third of the milk

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 and a half tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cassia
  • 650g plain flour

Wet Ingredients

  • 270ml milk (I use semi skimmed)

Once all the wet and dry ingredients are fully incorporated, fold in the toasted peanuts.

Bake in 2 x 6 inch round cake tins (greased and lined) and a a 1lb loaf tin at 170 degrees c for 35 – 50 minutes. Depending on your oven you may need to check if your cakes are cooked sooner. I took the loaf cake out first after 40 minutes and the last 2 round cakes needed a little longer.

Peanut Buttercream

  •  200g butter
  • 50g peanut butter (I used smooth wholefood peanut butter but you can use your favourite brand) – beat the butters together until soft and smooth before beating in the other ingredients.
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 400g icing sugar – beat in the sugar until it’s smooth and no longer grainy
  • a splash of milk to loosen it up if it starts to dry out

Chocolate Coating

  • 70g of dark chocolate melted – I used 70% cocoa chocolate but use whatever you have to hand.
ugandan groundnut cake

Yum

If you like nutty cakes you may also enjoy my Iranian Pistachio Cake too!

 

62. Russian Black Bread

If you suggested that I put chocolate, coffee and onions into a loaf of bread a year ago I would have probably checked if you were feeling ok. It sounds vile doesn’t it? But then often the most unexpected ingredient combinations produce the most interesting results. Intrigued by the traditional Russian Black Bread I stocked up on espresso, caraway and fennel seeds ready for this strange bake.

Russian Black Bread recipe

Russian Black Bread

I was not disappointed. This is an extremely flavoursome and dark loaf. I found this recipe originally in a Jamie Oliver magazine but adapted it (as per usual) to fit my ingredients. It was supposed to be for 2 loaves. As I was expecting this bake to be a bit on the odd side, I wasn’t convinced that I could consume 2 entire loaves of it. So I scaled it down. (Feel free to double the ingredients if you would like to stockpile Black Bread.)

Russian Black Bread recipe

Who wouldn’t love a slice of Russian Black Bread?

Considering how much sourdough bread I’ve been baking recently I have transferred some of my newly acquired bread skills into this bake as I like to split my bread baking into manageable chunks to fit in around work and enjoying life. Using the fridge to prove my dough overnight is a great help. This means the flavours develop slowly and deepen. it also makes the dough easier to handle, especially if the dough is a wet and sticky or enriched with butter. Fridge proving produces a firmer more pliable dough, that needs very little kneading! Result!

Russian Black Bread Recipe

  • 7g instant yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp/70g treacle (molasses)
  • 40g butter
  • 40ml espresso
  • 13g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
  • 350ml water
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 30g strong wholemeal flour
  • 200g strong white flour
  • 200g rye flour
  • 70g bran
  • 10g salt
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 small shallot (diced)
  • * approx 100g Rye Flour (you may need more or less) to help bring the dough together if it’s too sticky when kneading

Russian Black Bread Method

1.  Heat butter, espresso, treacle, and water in a pan until butter is melted

Heat butter, espresso, treacle, and water in a pan until butter is melted

Heat butter, espresso, treacle, and water in a pan until butter is melted

2.  Add cider vinegar

3.  Measure all of the yeast, flours, bran, salt, sugar, diced shallot and seeds into a large bowl.

Russian Black Bread: Measure all of the yeast, flours, bran, salt, sugar, diced shallot and seeds into a large bowl.

Measure all of the yeast, flours, bran, salt, sugar, diced shallot and seeds into a large bowl.

4. Pour in the chocolate liquid and mix together either with a wooden spoon or electric mixer. You may not need to add all of the liquid, or if the dough becomes too sticky, gradually add a little more rye flour until it comes together into a ball, (or a slightly less sticky mess.)

Russian Black Bread: Mix the wet and dry ingredients together, adding more flour as necessary before kneading for 10 minutes

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together, adding more flour as necessary before kneading for 10 minutes

5. Knead for 10  minutes (by hand or using an electric mixer – I used my Kitchenaid dough hook).

6. Cover your dough in a large bowl with cling film and prove either overnight (up to 24 hours) in the fridge or at room temperature for 1-2 hous until it’s doubled in size.

7.  Knock back the dough after it’s first prove. Knead it on a lightly floured surface and shape into a smooth ball

Russian Black Bread: Knead it on a lightly floured surface and shape into a smooth ball

Knead it on a lightly floured surface and shape into a smooth ball

8. You could prove it directly on a baking tray if it’s firm enough so it won’t spread too far. I wanted to make mine pretty so I proved it in my round banneton basket, which I coated with wholemeal flour first.

9. Cover your loaf with a shower cap or oiled cling film and prove for 2 hours at room temperature.

Ready to prove in the fridge over night

Ready to prove in the fridge over night or at room temperature for 2 hours

10. Pre heat the oven (and a casserole pot with a lid) 30 minutes before the end of your loaf proving time at 250 degrees C. (See the Hot Pot sourdough method for more details)

Russian Black Bread: Second prove done. Ready for baking!

Second prove done. Ready for baking!

11. Sprinkle the bottom of the hot casserole pot with ground semolina and gently tip the proved loaf from the banneton into the hot pot. Use a razor blade to score a design into your loaf to help it cook evenly. (I went for a heart shape but you could try a few other designs.)

Getting creative with the razor blade. Heart shaped Russian Black Bread

Getting creative with the razor blade. Heart shaped Russian Black Bread

12. Bake with the lid on at 250 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn it down to 220 degrees for the final 40 minutes. Check that the bread is baked by tapping the bottom of the loaf. If it sounds hollow it done. If not, pop it back in the oven in the pot with the lid on for 5-10 more minutes.

Russian Black Bread baked in a hot pot

Russian Black Bread baked in a hot pot

I love how the wholemeal flour (that I used to dust the banneton with when proving the dough) bakes into the loaf, providing the perfect contrast against the rich brown bread peeking through the heart pattern. It even holds onto it’s circular imprint.

Russian Black Bread

Russian Black Bread

Apparently Russian Black Bread is best served with lashings of butter or caviar! The Russians sure know how to live! This bread is soft, pillowy and very rich. It’s a very unusual bread with hints of aniseed and licorice from the caraway and fennel seeds. The treacle also adds depth to the licorice tones without making the bread overly sweet.

Russian Black Bread recipe

Who wouldn’t love a slice of Russian Black Bread?

It’s a wholesome, fluffy and filling bread. The bran, rye and wholemeal flours are balanced with a dash of white flour giving an unexpected light texture. I could imagine this bread being a perfect accompanyment to a hearty stew or soup with a thick coat of butter. It is very rich so, as predicted, I didn’t manage to finish the loaf this week, it’s resting in the freezer for my next round of extra special sandwiches.

Pickled herring and seaweed caviar on Russian Black Bread

Pickled herring and seaweed caviar on Russian Black Bread

It just so happened that I purchased some pickled herring and seaweed caviar (a much more affordable caviar at £2 a pot!) from Ikea last weekend so I had to hand some pretty impressive sandwich making ingredients. In hindsight, pickled herring may be a bit of an extreme pairing for Russian Black Bread which is almost a entire feast all by itself. The herring overpowered the flavours somewhat, but the caviar works very well indeed.

Hot Pot Sourdough

Hot Pot Sourdough recipe

Hot Pot Sourdough

Since my first Sourdough success I’ve continued to experiment and tweak my recipe (which is now mainly in my head and variable) I change it every time I bake, depending on what flour I have to hand and how healthy I’m feeling…

BUT I think I may have cracked my staple sourdough recipe now using quite an ingenious method. Hot Pot Sourdough!

Seeded Sourdough Boule

Seeded Sourdough Boule

I realised that the sourdough strength (how active it is) and thickness (or rather the ratio of flour to water if you want to get all technical about it) plays a massive part in how successful a loaf is.

It's all about the hot (casserole) pot

It’s all about the hot (casserole) pot

Making a true sourdough loaf (not adding any instant yeast at all) can be a bit hit and miss. But after a lot of experimenting (or disasters) I seem to have cracked it! Here’s how…

1. Pour most of your starter away before you feed it. Leaving one quarter of your starter to add flour and water to. (As I explained in my last Sourdough post.)

2.  Feed your starter at least 8 hours before you want to use it!

3.  Feed it a lot! You need a lot of sourdough starter to make this loaf so feed it 400g flour and 400g water (about 2 cups)

Feed me: Stir in your flour and water til smooth

Feed me: Stir in your flour and water til smooth

4.  Leave the rubber seal on the jar of sourdough starter. This means when you close the jar lid it’s airtight. (It seems to help keep it more active and fresher for longer.) BUT you will need to open the lid to release the built up air once a day (especially after its been fed as its most active!) to stop the jar exploding.

Frothy Sourdough starter ready to use

Frothy Sourdough starter ready to use

4. Wait until the starter is frothy (8 to 24 hours after feeding it).Then you know it’s ready to use.

Oh so hungry and unhappy sourdough starter

Oh so hungry and unhappy sourdough starter

5.  If your sourdough starter starts to split and gather a layer of water/black liquid on top it’s hungry! Pour most of your starter away and give it a good feed.

Hungry Sourdough has a layer of darker (smellier) water on the surface

Hungry Sourdough has a layer of darker (smellier) water on the surface

6.  I give my starter a good (400g flour and 400g water) feed once a week, the day before I want to begin my bread. I leave it at room temperature everyday and try to remember to feed it when it’s starting to look hungry/spilt (usually once every 2 to 3 days). I would feed it every day if I was baking a lot of bread. But half a cup of flour and half a cup of water will suffice as a mini feed to keep it active in between big feeds. Try to feed it a small amount every couple of days.

Just fed sourdough starter - smooth and thick

Just fed sourdough starter – smooth and thick

7. Invest in a banneton (proving basket) or two – I have a rectangular and a round one for different style loaves. When working with a wetter sourdough loaf the proving baskets help the loaf to keep its shape.

Proving in my round bannetone basket with a cotton liner to prevent it sticking. You can place it directly into the basket if you prefer to get the pretty swirls imprinted on your loaf

Proving in my round bannetone basket with a cotton liner to prevent it sticking. You can place it directly into the basket if you prefer to get the pretty swirls imprinted on your loaf

8.  Flour the banneton with an even and thick layer. (It helps to leave the pretty swirly patterns). Or if using a cotton liner inside your basket, flour the liner to prevent the dough sticking. Use a shower cap or cling film to cover the top. Prove the loaf in the basket over night in the fridge.

Ready to prove in the fridge over night

Ready to prove in the fridge over night

9.  Score it with a razor blade –  Get creative with your patterns, creating swirls and slices to help the loaf expand in all the right places as the yeast reacts to the heat of the oven. Scoring your loaf will prevent it splitting and it looks so pretty too.

Score your proved loaf with a razor blade

Score your proved loaf with a razor blade (and a chopstick)

10. Bake in a hot pot! When warming the oven put a casserole pot with a lid in to heat through. I whack my oven up to the hottest temperature for 30 minutes. Sprinkle an even layer of ground semolina on the bottom of your pot and gently tip your proven loaf into the pot from the banneton basket. Careful not to knock all of the air out of the loaf as you do so and not to burn your hands on the very hot pot. (Unfortunately you cant bake the bread in the basket so the loaf needs to be removed). I use a round banneton to prove my loaf in and a round pot to bake in.

  • Pop the lid on the pot and place it in the oven at the hottest temperature for 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to about 220 degrees C for the final 15 minutes. I use a glazed terracota casserole pot which can take the heat and protects the bread from scorching.
One Corn Ear patterned sourdough boule

One corn ear patterned sourdough boule

Keeping the lid in place means all of the steam is retained in the bread, which adds extra moisture and softness to the bread AND results in the most amazing ‘oven spring’ you will ever see in your bread. I guarantee it! It will double in size.

Play around with your recipe until you get it just how you like it! Here’s some of my attempts so far…

My Sourdough Family

Staple Sourdough Recipe

  • 500g flour (I usually use 250g ish of white flour 150g rye 100g spelt or wholemeal)
  • 250g water (You may need slightly more water if using a drier flour such as wholemeal, rye or spelt.)
  • 400g frothy sourdough starter
  • 10g salt
  • A splash of olive oil (approx 1-2 tbs depending on the flour, enough oil to bring the dough together into a shiny ball but not to much making the dough wet and sticky).
  • 1 tbsp barley malt extract (optional)
  • 50-100g mixed seeds (optional: linseed, flax, poppy, chia, sunflower, pumpkin)

How to make Hot Pot Sourdough

  1.  Pour the salt, flour, sourdough starter, barley malt extract (if you’re using it) and water into a mixing bowl.

  2. If using an electric mixer, put it on a low speed for 10 minutes, pouring a splash of oil in as and when required to bring the dough together into a smooth and shiny ball. (Or if doing it by hand, mix together with a wooden spoon until it comes together. Adding a drizzle of oil to help it along. Then knead for 10 minutes.)

  3. Cover the bowl with cling film/shower cap and leave to prove overnight in the fridge or for 2- 3 hours at room temperature.

  4. Knead and shape your loaf on a lightly floured surface to knock out the air bubbles. If you want to add seeds, now’s the time to knead them into the dough.

  5. Place into a floured banneton (or loaf tin), cover with a shower cap and prove over night in the fridge or for 2 hours at room temperature.

  6. Pre heat your oven and hot pot at the hottest temperature for 30 minutes

  7. Sprinkle ground semolina on the bottom of your hot pot

  8. Gently tip the proven loaf from the banneton, moving he basket as close to the hot pot as possible. Don’t worry if you’re slightly off centre, the loaf will sizzle as it hits the hot surface, firming the base of the loaf up. It can then be gently slid around the pot if you tilt it to one side. Don’t try to move it with your fingers as you’ll knock the air out and probably burn yourself!

  9. Score the loaf with a sharp knife or razor blade.

  10. Pot the lid on the pot and bake it at your oven’s highest temperature for 15 minutes. (250 degrees c) Turn it down to around 220 degrees c for the final 15 minutes. You can check the bread is cooking by taking the lid off.

  11. Remove from the hot pot when it looks fully risen (30-35 minutes of baking should do it, but check it sounds hollow when you tap it’s base. If not, leave it in for a few more minutes.)

  12. Looking for a soft crust? Wrap your hot loaf up in a clean tea towel to hold in the moisture and soften the crust. Leave it to cool fully in the tea towel.

  13. Looking for a crisp chewy crust? Take the lid off the hot pot for the final 5 minutes in the oven. Leave your loaf to cool on rack.

  14. Slice it up and enjoy! I often eat this bread without any butter at all, as it’s so moist it really doesn’t need anything to liven it up. Just pure unadulterated sourdough joy!

  15. Once cooled I pop the loaf back into my pot to keep the air out and keep it fresh. It lasts for at least a week.

  16. If I’m not going to get through a whole loaf I like to slice it up thinly and freeze half. Then I can defrost a slice at a time as I need it.

  17. Eat and repeat!

P.S. My original sourdough experiments can be found over on my post ‘Starting Sourdough with James Morton’.