An Experiment in Cake Baking.

slice of cake and coffee

For once the Bank Holiday has been warm in much of the UK. Even more surprisingly I am in one of these areas – in previous warm spells the LSH and I have been up a fell in the Lake District where it has been cold, windy and wet. So I’ve been making the most of it.

To the casual observer it may have looked as if I’ve been drinking coffee and eating cake whilst sat in the sun with my feet up. In reality I have been a whirlwind of activity clearing my washing basket and baking bread for the coming week.

Thankfully both of these tasks are ones where time (and machinery) does a lot of the work for you which left me with no option but to eat this slice of homemade blueberry and white chocolate cake.

This is a bit of a baking experiment. I don’t usually do cakes and where I do I rarely change the recipe. However this week my local sandwich shop had slices of blueberry and white chocolate cake on the counter. Obviously I had to try it (for purely research purposes….) and have been musing on how to replicate it.

It tasted like a Madeira cake and I wanted it to have a loaf tin form so I used this BBC Good Food magazine recipe as the basis. I ended up adding quite a bit of milk to it as the mix seemed but thicker than described. I then roughly chopped 75g of white chocolate and added this to the mix along with blueberries coated in icing sugar (this supposedly stops them sinking in the cake mix). It was then baked for about 1:30hrs.

blueberry and white chocolate cake

This cake is probably not going to win any prizes at the WI show. It looks more like a school volcano project that a cake having made a break for freedom from its tin about halfway through its time in the oven (I was eating cake off the oven floor!) But that doesn’t matter. As I sit here munching contentedly through another doorstep thick slice all I can think about is how moist and fruity it is with just the faintest hint of white chocolate (more of a texture than a taste). All it needs is a larger tin……

blueberry and chocolate 2


Baking for a Sunny Day

stilton and bacon bread 2

At last! We have blue sky and bright warm sun. I’m able to wander around the garden in my bare feet and wearing a dress without thick wooly tights (first time this year!). So today is another session of gardening and the weed infested pots of my earlier post are now filled with begonias. This was followed by a “productive” session of lying on the back lawn watching swallows circling far overhead and drinking Bellini. Bliss!

But I have been baking as well. LSH has made a special request for his favourite bread – Stilton and bacon. I used to make this using the olive dough recipe from Richard Bertinet’s Dough but give the success of my recent “easy white bread” this is the recipe I’ve used for the basic dough. However I have reduced the salt a little as there’s plenty in the filling.

I grilled 5 rashers of unsmoked back bacon and left to cool. I then broke it into quarters cutting off any remaining fat (I have to have fat crispy on bacon). Once the bread has had its first rise I patted it out into a rectangle and cover with bacon. Then I crumbled about 150g of Stilton over the top.

Bacon Stilton bread

I rolled it up and made sure that it was sealed at the bottom. It was left to prove on baking paper for about 45mins. The final bread was then baked at 200c for 35min. I’ve also used the same method for sun blush tomatoes with mozzarella and pesto which was delicious! I think that caramelised onions might be worth a go as well. Let me know what ideas you have.

Stilton and bacon bread

As the weather was so nice we had this bread for lunch sat outside on the patio. LSH made very short work of it after a busy morning weeding but at least I got to eat my share of it this time (I’ve learnt my lesson on never leaving him alone with freshly cooled bread….).

What I see from my back door – a challenge.

Back Garden 1

Another gardening post (don’t panic – bread will be back soon!). Cecilia at The Kitchen Garden has posted a challenge for people to send in the view from their back door. So this is mine caught on a (fleetingly) sunny moment.

The main photo is of my climbing rose called Gertrude Jeykll. We bought it when we first moved here from Harlow Carr Gardens in Harrogate. It’s covered in tight buds and in a few weeks should be awash with fragrant pink blooms. Please try and ignore the weed infested pots – they will have flowery things in them soon!

Back Garden 2

This is the Bramley apple again. With a small Acer in a pot in the patio. This used to be at the front door but it was so windy at the front that the poor thing was constantly losing its leaves. So we’ve rescued it and it looks a lot happier back here.

Back Garden 3

Finally my Victoria plum tree. Alas it’s had no blooms this year at all. Maybe I’ll have a plum glut next year. Here’s hoping…


The Monday Baker Gardening Special


We seem to be tumbling towards June at a rapid rate of knots yet I’m still putting the heating on and using a brolly remarkably regularly. To make matters worse my plum tree hasn’t blossomed at all this year which means for the first time there’ll be no plum jam, sauce, vodka (insert favourite plum recipe here). But for once we had sun and warm weather this weekend. So there has been less baking and more sowing and weeding. In “celebration” of this fact here is a bit of a gardening special (with a small amount of bread…).

I’ve sowing fennel and salad leaves and I’m waiting for my French beans to germinate. Some plants are already well underway including my courgette plants. All 6 of them have sprouted and are doing well. I’m taking a bit of a risk and have potted 2 of them up and put them outside. The forecast at the moment is for no frost so I have my fingers crossed that it stays that way. If not I have 4 back ups still in the greenhouse.


Whilst my plum tree has been a failure this year, elsewhere I have plenty of signs of a decent fruit crop, including my Bramley apple which has a decent amount of blossom on it.

Bramley blossom

There are also loads of redcurrants and blackcurrants already starting to form as well as these little beauties – alpine strawberries. I grew these from seed a few years ago and now they have self seeded everywhere in the garden. These are hidden underneath one of my climbing roses.

Wild Strawberries

As part of my general clearing up I’ve been moving a few pots around and this is how I found this little fellow – possibly the smallest toad I’ve ever seen! He soon hopped off into a secluded spot by the side of the greenhouse.

Very small toad

It hasn’t been completely bread free though. I made some naan breads with toasted cumin seeds in to go with our curry and another batch of the semolina buns I made a couple of weeks ago but this time in as burger buns. So here they are along with my new bread basket.

Semolina buns in basket

A Short and Sweet Post

Cheese BreadRegular readers will know that I am a bit of a Dan Lepard fan and am slowly baking my way through his Guardian recipes. However I didn’t have any of his recipe books…..until now.

It started with the news that the Kindle edition of Short and Sweet is now only £3.99. Now I love my Kindle but I don’t really think it works for recipe books but I thought I’d download a sample chapter to see what was in it. As I had the link on my phone I ended up downloading it to my Kindle app. I was expecting a lot of dry text but instead what I got were glossy colour photos and links in the recipes that took you straight to the relevant techniques at the beginning of the book. I could have it on my ipad and not only would it be flour resistant, LSH would never know that I’d bought “yet another” recipe book (he is of the opinion that you can have too many recipe books….)

So download it I did. First recipe was the Easy White Loaf. In the intro Dan Lepard says that you can add up to 200g of cheese to this. So I chopped up the last of a pack of cheddar (about 150g worth) and coated it in generous amounts of paprika and chilli powder. When the loaf had finished its first rise I patted it out into a rectangle, covered it with the cheese mix and rolled up like a Swiss roll.

It looked good with a heavy swirl of cheesiness looping through it. Unfortunately it also “swirled” out of it gluing the bread firmly to the baking tray so it became a 2 man operation to prise it free (note to self – put on baking paper next time). It was worth it though and went down well with LSH – too well in fact. I left pretty much a full loaf when I went to the hairdressers. When I got back this is how much was left.

Bread - the remainders

Guess I’ll have to make it again…..

Friday Night Pizza

Pizza slice
Now that the weather is starting to warm up a bit- I even saw some blue sky today! I’m starting to think about quick, light meals for (hopefully) sunny evenings. A homemade pizza is just the thing.

The version I prefer is a thin based one that I’ve been baking for a couple of years now. It’s easy to do and the dough freezes well. Take it out of the freezer in the morning, leave in the fridge in a bowl and it’ll be ready to bake by tea time. I’ve even defrosted it in the microwave when I forgot about it and neither the dough, nor us, seemed any the worse. You can find the full recipe here.

As long as I’ve got some mozzarella in the fridge and tinned tomatoes in the cupboard, I can rustle up something tasty in about 20 mins and I get to chose exactly the toppings I want. Today it was lots of crispy peppers and salty Italian ham, with a smattering of pesto.

Give it a go – once you’ve made your own pizza you won’t even think of getting another pre prepared one from your local supermarket. Roll on summer….

Morning After Sourdough

Well the party went well – possibly too well for any kind of productive day. So I dusted off an old sourdough recipe to give it an airing. This is a variation of a recipe that produced the first successful sourdough I made, which includes honey and spelt flour.

First the starter. Bertie had been warming up on the kitchen worktop for a couple of days by now after having a good feed when he came out of the fridge. I spooned 130g of him into a bowl. I realised at this point that sourdough is not a morning after bread. He smelt very strongly of beer – not a good thing to smell after a long pub session the night before….

I then added the rest of the ingredients – 200g white bread flour, 50g white spelt flour and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I dissolved 1 tablespoon of honey into 160g of warm water and then mixed it into the dry ingredients.

sourdough - dough 1

It is a VERY sticky dough so make sure you start kneading that you have a small bowl of flour nearby to clean your hands. I can safely say that your hands will be covered in dough along with everything else that it touches. Mine certainly were!

sourdough -doughThe dough was then put into an oiled clean bowl, covered and left to rise til it had about doubled in size. This took about 3 hours.

I floured my work surface with rye flour, shaped the loaf and popped it into a proving basket til it had about doubled again.

This is how mine looked at the start.

sourdough - before prove

And this is how it looked at the end

sourdough - after prove

I preheated the oven to its maximum temperature with a roasting tray in the bottom.

When it was ready, I put it onto a baking tray and slashed a cross in the top. I put it in the oven and added boiling water into the roasting tray at the bottom.

It was baked for 10min on max and then turned down to about 170C for the remaining 20mins or so it needed to bake.

The final loaf had very dark crust with a chewy and flavourful interior. Just the thing for a cheese on toast lunch after a long night.

sourdough top