Month: January 2016

Not your average Chocolate Orange Cake

I had been looking forward to making this cake for ages. Cakes like these are all about getting as much of someone’s favourite flavours in, but also about looking spectacular. The cake was for a friend of a friend, who had tried the Pistachio and Rose cake that I made in November of last year, and she wanted me to make the cake for her special celebration. Initially undecided about what kind of cake she wanted, she settled upon chocolate and orange. Instantly I knew which chocolate to use: Green and Black’s Maya Gold. It is dark with gently spiced orange through it. The first thing I did was make some chocolate bark with 200g of Maya Gold, scattering chopped Candied Orange Peel (my new favourite ingredient) and sprinkles across it. I left this to set in a cool place overnight. Then I set about making two batches of Nigella Lawson’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake. Whilst they were cooling I made an orange sugar syrup with 5 tablespoons of fresh orange juice, the zest of an orange …

Hossbuns

Before my daughter could say Hot Cross Buns, she would call them Hossbuns. For me, the nickname of these spiced and very slightly sweet buns has stuck. The first time I tried to make them a few years ago I struggled to incorporate all of the dried fruit in to what was quite a stiff dough. Last year I started to experiment with my own recipe, and this year, I have finally settled on one, influenced slightly by the Scandinavian flavours found in the Swedish Semlor that I made recently. The process may seem rather long and laborious, especially when there are Hot Cross Bun recipes out there that only involve one prove before shaping, and one after, before firing them into the oven. However, I have been trying to understand the chemical process of bread making a little bit more, reading my trusty Hamelman, and bending the ears of those who know far more than I do. Sometimes it pays to do take your time. I have been using Gilchesters Unbleached Flour again. This flour …

Bread makes the world go round.

I don’t know where I found first read about Semlor but I am pretty sure it was early last year. These Swedish sweet buns are a seasonal treat originally designed to be eaten at the start of Lent (like pancakes are on Shrove Tuesday in the UK) as a last indulgence before Lenten abstinence. However, I believe at some point Lenten abstinence was discouraged as religious practices shifted, and they are now enjoyed in the period between New Year and Easter these days, much like the Hot Cross Bun. And, like the Hot Cross Bun, people in Sweden bemoan how early the Semla arrives in their bakeries each year, as we in the UK grumble at the sight of Hot Cross Buns and Easter themed chocolate goodies in our supermarkets on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas day). I started to think about bread and how integral it is to so many cultures and their feasts and festivities. Bread is about sharing. Bread can be about celebration. Bread can also be about survival. It is …

So, am I a baker now?

I don’t know how many times I have tried to write a blog post about bread. Not a specific bread that I have experimented with, like this week’s Pretzels or last year’s Brioche Feuilletée, but one simply about my journey of discovery baking bread. I know that sounds a bit New Age but it *has* been quite a journey of discovery and an igniting of passion. Over the years I baked the odd white loaf and a few Irish Soda Breads, but I didn’t really think about what I was doing. Then, about three or four years ago, I started to experiment, using a well know celebrity baker’s recipes. All was good, and I started to get more adventurous, baking laminated doughs for family breakfasts; savoury, flavoured bread recipes to accompany dinner; and differently shaped and plaited breads. But I knew I was missing something. I knew I was missing a technical knowledge and understanding of what I was actually doing and why certain things worked and others didn’t. My baking friend, Lisa, had been on …

#instafriends

I have just sent a private message to a Dentist from New Jersey, telling her (what feels like) half of my life story and almost all of my baking story (as briefly as possible). This was in response to her doing something similar. I have never met this dentist before. In fact, before yesterday, I didn’t even know what she looked like or her real name. Up until yesterday I only knew her as bread @ventures_nj but I knew that she loved to bake and made the most exquisite pasta. Of course, I knew her from Instagram. She and I have followed each other for a while now, and exchanged questions and answers about our respective bakes. Like me, she is a very keen amateur, who squeezes in her “extreme hobby”, as she calls it, around her professional life. We have become friends, #instafriends if you will. We just took our relationship to the next level: we started sending private messages to each other ! 😉 But she is not the only online friend that …