I’ve been on a bit of a baking binge. A couple of weeks of eating rather than baking has left me craving the feel of flour between my fingers. So the kitchen has been covered in a faint dusting of flour for most of the weekend. Yet despite this I have a distinct case of “flatness” which even baking isn’t managing to shift. A definite case of post holiday blues has set in to go with the bands of rain that have swept across the garden this weekend.
The upside of this wet weather is that the rhubarb in the garden has done well this year. Usually by now its starting to bolt but the inclement weather has been good for something at least with lots of lush green stalks and no sign of flower heads. In previous years I’ve made crumble and compote out of it but this year I’ve tried something different. I recently came across the British Food Trust website which has lots of interesting British recipes on it including this one for rhubarb and date loaf.
The rhubarb stalks are stewed to start with until they form a purée ( I added a couple of tablespoons of water as it cooked to make sure that it didn’t catch on the bottom of the pan). I blitzed the flour, baking powder and butter together in a food processor until they resembled breadcrumbs and then mixed them with the rest of the ingredients before putting into a loaf tin.
This is definitely more of a bread than a cake – the only sugar in here is through the dates so it isn’t as sweet as banana bread for example. I think it needs to be a bit more moist (I’d add a bit more rhubarb next time) and it could do with some spice (I feel that ginger is needed). But it has the makings of a good tea loaf, particularly when served with a decent dollop of butter and sometimes that’s just what you need.
I love toasted teacakes. There’s nothing to beat them with ice cold butter as a tearoom treat (assuming you can find one in between the ever expanding Costa and Starbucks empires!). But I’ve never tried making them at home until now. After throwing the last of my hot cross buns on the floor (don’t ask) I decided that I needed some teacake therapy.
A thorough search of the Internet resulted in the Hairy Bikers recipe which seemed to have the required amount of spices. I made a couple of changes- I had no orange zest so added a tablespoon of mixed peel and soaked the dried fruit in orange juice for about 30mins. I also increased the amount of milk to 200g as I found another recipe where the proportion of milk to flour was 53%. I had a slight panic when I realised that the Bikers’ recipe had an egg in it as well which would increase the liquid content, but resulting dough was still just the right consistency so I’d definitely recommend adding extra.
Teacake dough before resting
Instead of rolling out I shaped into rolls and then patted out to the right height. The tops were brushed with milk and they were baked for about 15 mins ( though I had to turn down the oven for the last five min to about 150 as they were going too brown).
The end result was possibly still a bit too brown on top (I won’t bother with the milk next time) but a lovely brown colour inside from all the spices. Obviously the main test is how they taste toasted and covered in butter and I’m pretty pleased with the result. Unfortunately I managed to “over toast” (I think it may be safer to let Long Suffering Husband make tea at this rate!) but they tasted very nice. Definitely one to be done again.
Hot Cross Buns
I love hot cross buns. Even in the days before I liked dried fruit I would eat them, carefully picking out the big squishy sultanas to leave on the side of my plate.
Now I eat every bit of them but I’m invariably disappointed by supermarket offerings which never seem to match up to the bakery bought specimens of my childhood.
So now I have the baking bug I thought that this year I’d have a go at doing my own. I decided to have a go at the Paul Hollywood recipe on the BBC Good Food site as I find that his recipes tend to be a bit more forgiving for the novice baker.
A quick trip to my local supermarket and I was ready for an evenings baking. I tweaked the recipe by adding some mixed spice as well and shortened the cooking time to 15 mins. Even then they were a tad darker than I’d have liked.
And it was a full evening baking – I started at about 5.30 and the buns were finally out of the oven at about 9.15! They were nice (despite the somewhat wonky crosses!) but next time I’d add more spice and make them slightly larger. I’d also soak the dried fruit before adding it- I needed more “squishy sultanas”!