Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Chocolate Sorbet with Almond Biscuits

 Jonathan came to pick up Frankie the dog; Frankie has been staying with me while his family has been in Italy for a couple of weeks. I thought lunch, therefore, should have an Italian feel to it in order to provide decompression for Jonathan on his return to Cambridge.
The greenhouse is providing lots of tomatoes on a daily basis, there is also basil, chilli and garlic in the garden and the chickens are laying so what better than home made pappardelle with a simple sauce of tomatoes, garlic, chilli and basil and to finish some of my chocolate sorbet with an almond biscuit or two.

This sorbet has a rich texture with an intense chocolate flavour and unlike the chocolate ice cream I make which uses cocoa powder, this actually contains chocolate. It's particularly good with the little almond biscuits and a cup of espresso, best of all it's Gluten Free!

You will need:
350g of sugar
400g of good quality dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids
2 teaspoons of Xantham gum (optional)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
500ml of freshly brewed Darjeeling tea made with 2 teaspoons of tea leaves

Brew the tea, meanwhile break up the chocolate and place in a blender along with the remaining ingredients. When the tea has brewed for 3 minutes, pour onto the contents in the blender and switch on for 1 minute. This should be sufficient time for the chocolate to melt and the ingredients to become thoroughly combined.

Pour the mixture into a jug and leave to cool completely before churning in an ice cream maker. this mixture makes a litre of sorbet and I churn it in two batches.

When the sorbet has been churned, transfer it to a litre sized container and place in the freezer.

The xantham gum ensures the sorbet doesn't become too liquid as it melts but I find the sorbet doesn't stay uneaten long enough for this to happen, so it isn't essential.

You can try using different teas in order to alter the flavour, I sometimes use a tea by the French company Thé Mariage called Pleine Lune, it has a subtle almond flavour which works very well with the chocolate, a ginger tea would work equally well.

For the Almond Biscuits you will need:

200g of ground almonds
200g of icing sugar plus extra for dusting.
1 medium egg
2 pieces of candied lemon peel (optional)

Heat the oven to 200degrees C and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

If using the lemon peel which imparts a subtle lemon flavour to the finished biscuit, place the peel in a food processor and process for 20 seconds, or finely chop. Add remaining ingredients and blend to form a cohesive soft mass. Tip the mass out onto a work surface dusted very liberally with icing sugar. Divide the mix in two and roll each portion out into a sausage shape roughly 30c long. Cut pieces on the diagonal roughly 2c wide and transfer to a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Bake the biscuits for 10-11 minutes until golden brown.


The lemon peel can be replaced with 3 pieces of stem ginger in syrup, simply drain off the syrup and pat the ginger dry on a kitchen towel. You can also use candied orange peel or simply make the almond biscuits with no extra flavouring.

Be liberal with the dusting of icing sugar, it not only makes rolling this rather sticky mixture in a sausage shape easier, but adds to the look of the biscuits once they are baked.
Frankie resting

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Spelt Crumb Bread

I baked a batch of bread last week using 50% wholegrain spelt 25% white spelt and 25% Strong white flour; excellent flavour of course, nutty and perfectly matched with the slightly sour flavour imparted by using my sourdough starter and a long fermentation. The only issue was the texture of the crumb, it was just that bit too dense for me. When I got down to my last 200g I decided to turn it into breadcrumbs and add it to my next batch of bread, all white sourdough.

For activating the starter
100g of starter from the fridge
100g of Strong white flour
100g of water

For the ferment
All the activated starter
200g of Strong white flour
200g of water

For the final dough
All the ferment
1,000g of Strong white flour
500g of water
200g of breadcrumbs from my Spelt loaf
20g of salt

Activating the starter; take 100g of starter from the fridge, add 100g of Strong white flour and 100g of water, stir well and leave covered for 2 hours.

When the surface is showing some activity, a few bubbles, add the remaining ferment ingredients and mix well to introduce some air. Leave covered for at least 4 to 6 hours, this will depend almost entirely on temperature.

Fig 1
The stage you are looking for, in order to add the main dough ingredients, is when the ferment is at its most active, a surface covered in bubbles and signs of bubbling up and caving back in on itself, forming little "valleys", see Fig 1.

At this point add all of the flour, the breadcrumbs and the water for the main dough but omit the salt. Leave, covered, for 8 hours or so, at which point the dough will have risen well and the gluten will be well developed. Add the salt and knead for a few minutes to ensure even distribution.

Leave the dough, which should be soft but not too sticky, covered, to rise for an hour, tip the dough out onto a floured surface and stretch the dough out  and fold it back up, this develops and strengthens the gluten. Repeat the stretching and folding process another two times at one hourly intervals.

Fig 2
Divide into three and shape into batons, place seam side up on a well floured linen cloth folding the cloth up in between each loaf to separate. leave for an hour then bake in a 220 degree oven for 30 minutes. Slash each loaf before baking, see Fig 2

Fig 3

On reflection I could have added more breadcrumbs to this mix in order to impart more of the original spelt flavour, I have to say though for white bread it certainly has extra flavour.

One of the particularly pleasing things about this batch of bread was just how lofty the loaves were after baking, I have baked enough disappointing "D" shape loaves, flat on the bottom but these loaves rose so well in the baking they were almost entirely round when I cut into them, see Fig 3. I think the secret must be catching the ferment at the optimum time when adding the bulk of the flour, that and not over proving and of course shaping, the more I bake the more I learn how important shaping is to the end result.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


Making brioche for the family is a labour of love, not a difficult one, but one that takes time and an early rise in order to bake for breakfast. The end result, light, buttery brioche that you tear apart and enjoy, they deliver a great deal of love.

For the Dough

500g of Strong white flour
300g soft unsalted butter
6 medium eggs
30g of caster sugar
7g of fast action dried yeast
1 tablespoon of milk
10g salt


Using an electric stand or bowl mixer, combine all of the ingredients apart from the butter on a slow to medium speed until you have a soft and sticky dough, continue to mix for 4 to 5 minutes to develop the gluten.

 You need to make sure the butter is very soft before adding to the dough in order to achieve complete incorporation. Adding 1 tablespoon at a time with the mixer on medium speed, add the butter until it is completely incorporated. You should have a very soft and shiny dough with strong gluten development, i.e. nice and stretchy as you take out the dough hook and clean off the dough.

Leave the dough in the bowl, covered, at room temperature to rise for 3 hours. When the dough is more than doubled in size take a wooden spoon and deflate the dough so that it forms a compact round mass at the bottom of the bowl again. At this point place the bowl in the fridge covered with cling film and leave overnight or a minimum of 8 hours.

It is important at this point to prepare the moulds for baking your brioche before hand. I use dariole moulds  roughly 6 centimeter diameter. I butter them, then dust them with flour before tapping out the excess.

Placing the soft dough in the fridge serves two purposes, firstly the flavour develops but equally important it stiffens up the dough and allows for it to be handled easily.

Take the dough out of the fridge and tip it out onto a well floured surface. It will be cold and firm enough to handle but it should still allow you to stretch and fold the dough two or three times before forming into an oblong shape and dividing it into 24 equal parts placing. working quickly so as not to warm up the dough too much, form each piece into a ball shape and pop into the bottom of each buttered and floured mould. I place the moulds on a baking tray and leave covered with a kitchen towel to rise until at least doubled in size, 2-3 hours.

Heat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade and bake the brioche until golden brown, around 15-17 minutes. The brioche will rise considerably during baking. Leave the brioche in the moulds for 15 minutes before unmoulding.

This dough can be used to make other shaped loaves of course, just remember the dough will need to rise until more than doubled in size, so allow enough space for this.

 This dough would be impossible to handle without the long period in the fridge because it is so soft, so work quickly when shaping in order to avoid it softening up too much.

Many recipes suggest glazing the tops of the brioche with beaten egg before baking, I find this rich dough already comes out shiny enough for me after baking so I omit this step.

I have 8 dariole moulds that are 6 centimeter and 8 that are 8 centimeter, I use these but for simplicity I have written instructions for using 24, 6 centimeter moulds. It would also be possible to use muffin moulds.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Hagbech White Bread

Firstly a word about sourdough; this is a term applied to bread produced using wild yeast and although the name would suggest the bread has a sour taste, in many cases the bread has a fuller, more complex flavour rather than a sour one.  Many would argue sourdough products have more health benefits. Recent studies have suggested people with a mild intolerance of gluten, find bread produced using wild yeast easier to digest. The bread also has far better keeping qualities and doesn't become stale, the flavour develops and the crumb becomes firmer over a day or two but this leads to it being used in different ways, toast, croutons etc.

One of the key things that baking with wild yeast adds to bread baking is time and although the production of a loaf can take over a day or two, the actual time needed working with the dough is very little. The dough sits for a number of hours while the wild yeast feeds on the sugars in the flour creating carbon dioxide which creates the lightness of a loaf, developing the gluten, which traps the carbon dioxide and most of all developing flavour.

 I keep my starter in the fridge (there are many ways to make a starter and many of these are available on the internet). I bake once or twice a week, taking out 100g at a time,when the starter itself needs topping up I mix in equal parts strong white bread flour and water and I leave the jar out for a few hours to enable the starter to begin growing before putting it back into the fridge, where growth is substantially slowed down.

This recipe makes 3,  650g (approx) loaves.

Activating the starter
100g of starter
100g of Strong white flour
100g of water.

For the ferment
All of the activated starter
100g of Strong white flour
50g of rye flour
50g of strong whole wheat flour
200g of water

For the main dough
All of the ferment
900g of Strong white flour
600g of water (approx)
21g of salt

Activating the starter; take 100g of  refrigerated starter and place it in a bowl with 100g of strong white flour and 100g water, mix to form a thick batter, leave to ferment for an hour or so at room temperature.

Fig 1
When bubbles begin to appear on the surface of the mix stir in 50g of rye flour, 50g of strong whole wheat flour, another 100g of strong white flour and 200g of water, leave for at least 8 hours or overnight. The growth of yeast depends a great deal on temperature, after baking using a starter a few times you will get good at spotting what stage your ferment is at, the ferment will need to be fed, adding more flour, in this case adding the bulk of the flour for the main dough, at the point where the surface is a mass of bubbles and has a few "valleys" (see fig 1) where the mix is bubbling up and caving in on itself. 

Fig 2

Fig 3

For the main dough
To the active ferment add  900g of Strong White flour and 600g of water, I add a little less water to begin with but I usually need all of it and sometimes a little more, I prefer a very soft dough, but if you're new to baking bread in this way a slightly firmer dough will be easier to handle. Leave this for at least 8 hours or overnight. Giving the main dough an opportunity to ferment without the addition of salt helps the wild yeast develop well. Add the salt and knead for a few minutes to fully incorporate.
Leave the dough covered, to rise for an hour, tip the dough out onto a floured surface and stretch the dough out as far as you can and fold it back up, this develops and strengthens the gluten. Repeat the stretching and folding process another two times at one hourly intervals. The dough initially will be very soft (see fig 2) but after three sessions of stretching and folding the dough will have tightened up considerably (see fig 3)

Fig 4

 Finally divide into 3 and shape into long loaves by flattening out each third and rolling up to form a sausage shape, close up by pinching a seam, place them on a piece of linen dusted with flour, seam side up and tuck the linen up between each loaf to separate (see fig 4) cover (I fold over the ends of my piece of linen) and leave to rise for two hours before baking. Transfer each loaf onto a heated pizza stone or baking sheet seam side down and bake at 220 degrees C for 30 to 40 minutes. I do this one loaf at a time, when the loaf has been in the oven for 15 minutes I slip it off the pizza stone and onto another shelf so that the pizza stone becomes available for the next loaf. I also slash the top of the loaf with a razor blade (see fig 5). When I first put the loaves into the oven to bake, I throw a small cup full of water onto a tray that I keep on the floor of the oven, this creates instant steam which helps with the creation of a good crust on the bread during baking. This step is optional.

Fig 5


  • Of course you can use this amount of dough to make whatever shape loaves you wish, 3 long loaves suits me, I freeze 2. 
  • This is essentially white bread, but I find the addition of the whole grain flours gives the wild yeast a boost, it's perfectly possible to make it using entirely white flour, you can also increase the ratio of whole grain flour to suit your own taste.
  • This bread is much simpler to produce than at first appears, the dough is forgiving, the times can suit the baker to a large extent, you can speed things up by placing the dough to rise in a warmer place or slow it down in a cooler one.
  • The finished loaf will benefit from spending a little more time trying to shape it well, there are excellent videos available on the internet showing how to shape loaves, the aim is to tighten the outer skin so that when you slash it just before baking it "bursts" open.
  • Many recipes suggest beating down the risen dough, I find it far better to try to conserve the trapped carbon dioxide that the yeast has been busy creating and handling the dough more gently to form the shape you need. 
  • After baking bread of any sort for a while you get better at handling the dough and understanding the different stages in its production.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Onion Gratin

This is one of those dishes that considering the simplicity of the ingredients, delivers more than you expect.

you will need 6 medium white onions
300ml of double cream
300ml of milk
6 anchovy fillets
100g of grated parmesan
100g of freshly grated breadcrumbs
salt & pepper

Firstly peel the onions and cut in half, I have tried this both cutting across and down the middle, it makes no difference. Place the onions cut side up in an ovenproof container, I use an enamel dish measuring 28 by 22 centimeters or a tarte tatin dish. mix the cream and milk and add the seasoning, pour into the dish so that the liquid comes roughly up to level of the onions.

Cut the anchovie fillets up into little pieces and place on top of each onion, finally sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and grated cheese, it's fine for this topping to fall in between the onions as well at this point, it will all cook into the cream and form a thick sauce.

Bake in the oven for 40 minutes at 180 degrees at which point the onions should be tender, the sauce should be bubbling and the top should be golden brown.

Note: Its perfectly possible to make this without the anchovy for vegetarian friends, using vegetarian cheese, but the flavour of the anchovy enhances the dish without producing a pronounced anchovy flavour.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Fresh Apricot and Frangipan Tart

I bought a punnet of fresh apricots the other day in a moment of weakness; ever since, they have been staring at me on the kitchen table while turning from rock hard to a rather tired state. 

It occurred to me a tart was the way to redeem myself so here is how I went about it.

The Sweet Pastry.

80g of unsalted butter (cold from the fridge)
140g of plain flour
25g of icing sugar
1 egg yolk
a pinch of salt
enough chilled water to form a dough.

Rub the butter into the flour, salt and sugar until it forms a breadcrumb consistency, add the egg yolk and a little chilled water and bring together to form a dough. Adding too much water results in a rather tough pastry so add only a little at a time until enough is added to form a cohesive dough. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes then roll out and line a 25centimeter loose bottom tart tin. Pop the tart tin back in the fridge while the oven heats up to 200 degrees.

I bake my pastry tarts blind which involves placing a piece of baking parchment paper on top of the pastry and pouring in some baking beans, these can be any pulse kept just for this job. Bake the tart case for 20 minutes taking the paper and baking beans away after 15 minutes.

Meanwhile make the frangipan.

200g of room temperature unsalted butter
200g ground almonds
200g of icing sugar
2 tablespoons of SR flour
2 eggs
1 dessertspoon of Almond liqueur,(optional)
pinch of salt.

Cream the butter and sugar, beat in the eggs and almond liqueur is using, add the flour, ground almonds, icing sugar and salt. 

The Apricots.

Take 8 rather tired looking apricots, slice them in half and remove the stone. cut the two halves into 4 so that each apricot gives you 8 slim segments. 

When the flan case is cooked, turn the oven down to 170 degrees. Allow the pastry case to cool for 5 minutes before spreading 1 tablespoon of apricot jam onto the base, then carefully cover with the frangipan mixture, finally push the apricot segments into the frangipan so that they are buried halfway. Dust with some icing sugar. I had some slivered almonds so I sprinkled a handful of these over before I popped it into a oven to bake for and hour and a quarter at 170 degrees.

Buying a punnet of fruit that hasn't been grown locally really isn't something I do and this tart would work very well with locally grown plums, apples or pears. If using plums, place the cut side up rather than bury the pieces in the frangipan since plums produce a lot of juice whilst cooking and make the whole things soggy, keeping the cut side upright allows for some of the excess moisture to burn off in the oven.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


Jan phoned to say she and Veronica were dropping in for coffee and Gauthier had eaten the last of the M'hanncha, I had a couple of hours to make some more.


1 pack of filo pastry
250g of icing sugar plus more for dredging
250g of unsalted butter
250g of ground almonds
2 tablespoons of SR flour
50g of pistachio nuts plus more for scattering over the finished cake
2 medium eggs
2 teaspoons of rosewater
good pinch of salt
50g of melted butter for brushing filo sheets.
Dried rose petals.


Heat the oven to 180 C and line a baking tin with cooking parchment.
Cream together the butter and the sugar along with the rosewater and salt,  beat in the eggs then mix in the ground almonds, roughly chopped pistachios and SR flour.

Carefully lay out a single sheet of filo pastry and spread a sixth of the mixture along the long edge. Brush the remaining part of the filo with a little melted butter and roll the long edge up to form a long sausage. I usually cut this in half in order to fit them into my baking tin, fill and roll the remaining 5 sheets of filo and fill the baking tin. Bake for 40 minutes at which point the cake should look a good golden brown.

Allow to cool and dredge with icing sugar, rose petals and pistachios, (actually Jan put on the rose petals and Pistachios so all credit to her!)

(1) Some rosewater is weaker in flavour, look out for the type sold in small bottles especially for culinary use.

(2) I have made a Gluten Free version of this cake by replacing the SR flour with a GF alternative then lining the cake tin with butter, a dusting of icing sugar and a liberal amount of flaked almonds. I then place in the mixture and spread more flaked almonds on the surface with a final dusting of icing sugar; this goes some way to replacing the pleasant crunch of the filo pastry. Dedicated to Gorgeous Julia!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Basic recipe for Croissant dough

For this recipe you will need,
500g of strong white flour
40g of sugar
10g of fast action dried yeast
1 large egg
125ml of milk
125ml of water
10g of salt 
200g of unsalted butter.

Mix all ingredients apart from the butter to form a soft but not sticky dough. Knead for 2 or 3 minutes then form into a ball and place in the fridge for a period of 8 hours. Take the butter and between two sheets of greaseproof paper, roll the butter out to form a flat squarish slab roughly a centimeter thick. Place this in the fridge.  

Danish Pastries

Gauthier and I spent yesterday making a batch of croissant dough in order to make Danish pastries. Having divided the dough into three, we made cinnamon twists, pain au raisin and pecan & maple plaits. These were all baked this morning at 7.00.