Curry & cake – the perfect weekend!?!

Hello again folks,

Well I have had another busy weekend in the kitchen. I am one of those people who like to cook from scratch and I love Indian food.

So this weekend I cooked up a chicken korai with mushroom bhaji, onion bhaji, pilau rice and garlic and coriander naan bread – all cooked from scratch. This isn’t difficult but can be a bit time-consuming. The naan bread is an unleavened version which will be in my new book, which is essentially a recipe book containing various breads from around the world.

This is what the finished dish looked like:

Chicken korai with mushroom bhaji, onion bhaji, pilau rice and garlic naan

Now I have to say that I do cook a mean curry – I have taken food to a few indian parties and mine is always the first to go, so I must be doing something right. Then again I have been cooking these for years so have had plenty of practice.

If you had this from a takeaway it would be very calorific but I only used a little olive oil and the sauce contains a plethora of pureed veg – a good way of slipping veggies into kids!

But I have to say that my pride and joy was my cake. Bearing in mind that I am relatively new to the world of cake baking I constructed a beautiful cake consisting of a chocolate brownie, cream laced with icing sugar and raspberries, and topped with a hazelnut meringue. This certainly had the wow factor and all my family (wife and kids) were taking photos to share with their friends.

Chocolate brownie cake with hazelnut meringue and raspberry cream

This cake looks great and pictures don’t really do it justice. It is a towering cake but surprisingly light as it uses a brownie type cake with light meringue. The sharpness of the raspberries compliment the sweetness really well too.

Chocolate brownie cake with hazelnut meringue and raspberry cream

This may look a little daunting but believe me if I can do it anyone can. If you would like a recipe for this one please leave a note and I will post it later.

This was taken about 5 minutes later!!

Chocolate brownie cake with hazelnut meringue and raspberry cream

I got 12 portions out of this cake so we all had 2 slices each – this cake will disappear fast!!

So if you want to have a go let me know and if there is enough interest I will post the recipe, likewise with the curry.

Next time I will continue my posts on flour, so until then…

Coffee cake & pizza

Hi folks,

I have had a busy weekend, baking a lot for my kids. Weekends are great because you can take your time in the kitchen and get even better results.

I baked some pitta breads and cheese topped baguettes on Sunday. But the kids were more excited and impressed by Saturday’s efforts.

First of all I baked a lovely coffee cake.

Coffee & pecan cake

I didn’t have any walnuts so I used pecan nuts and they were delicious. And I was going to put marshmallows in the centre but had none of those either so used the sugar balls instead.

Coffee & pecan cake

Then I started on the main course. This was homemade pizza and garlic bread. I usually make 4 pizzas with the following toppings: cheese and tomato, chorizo/pepperoni, tuna and sweetcorn and chicken tikka. I also include some roasted vegetables too – normally on half the pizza so any veg averse people can avoid them!! I served these with freshly baked garlic bread and a nice dressed salad. Yummy!

My pizza selection

My garlic bread

What did you bake this weekend? I’d love you to share your efforts. Until next time…

Flour – the basis of any good bread part 2

Soft fluffy white loaf!

So, to continue on from my previous post: the carbohydrates are used as fuel by the yeast, the proteins bond to form the all important gluten strands, and the minerals are used to strengthen the gluten strands. The oil helps to maintain moisture thus keeping your bread softer for longer.

Delving a bit deeper into the science of bread making (sorry!), something happens when water is added to flour and that is the formation of gluten. Gluten is formed by the bonding of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin. Gluten is an elastic protein that can be really stretched to form long strands. The more it is worked, the longer and stretchier it becomes. These strands form a complex mesh which helps to trap carbon dioxide bubbles produced by yeast, thus creating gas bubbles inside your dough. This is the process you are encouraging when kneading your dough, so as you can hopefully appreciate, well kneaded dough is a prerequisite for a well-formed loaf.

This is just a quick post as I am quite busy today, so next time I will describe the main types of flour and what the differences are. Until then…

Soft fluffy white loaf!

Flour – the basis of any good bread

Apple & Walnut Rye Bread

Bread only has four basic ingredients although others can be added. The four main ingredients are flour, yeast, salt and water.

Flour is by far the most important ingredient so try to buy the best organic flour you can afford. Wheat prices have soared recently, but remember, the cost of a loaf made at home is roughly half that of shop bought bread.

Check for any additives especially with white flour, as they may have bleaching agents added to make them whiter – how pointless! If you can find it, organic stoneground flour is best.

Wheat flour is the most common type of flour in the UK. A grain of wheat is actually a seed consisting of 3 parts: bran, germ and endosperm. The bran is the tough outer skin, the germ is the embryonic wheat plant and the endosperm is used as a food source by the germ in early development. The bran is a rich source of protein, the germ a good source of vitamins, and the endosperm a great source of carbohydrates, plus some protein, minerals and oil.

Why is this important?  Well, all these components have an effect on the bread making process, and as a scientist myself I like to understand what is going on during the process, and in this way you will give the whole task more respect. Also, understanding what your kneading is doing will almost certainly make you a better baker. I will explain a little more next time…

Apple & Walnut Rye Bread

Snow, snow and more snow

Hi folks,

Well last weekend we had a fair bit of snow up where I live and this is the perfect excuse to stay indoors and get baking!

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So that is exactly what I did, baking up a batch of cheese topped tomato and herb rolls.

Cheese topped tomato & herb rolls!

These were quickly followed by a couple of tasty white loaves.

Crusty white tin loaf!

Crusty white bloomer!

What excuse (if any) do you need to get your apron on? I’d love to know.

Till next time……

More sourdough

Hi again,

Been having a real sourdough phase at the moment, especially sourdough rye bread. If you want the recipe you can find it here. I made this loaf with half white bread flour and half rye flour to make it slightly lighter.

I really like the combination of the slightly sour taste of sourdough with the nutty flavour from the rye flour. It makes a slightly denser loaf with a nice chewy crust and is great warm from the oven and covered in butter or dipped in some delicious home-made soup. As the rising times are long it is best to leave sourdough baking till the weekend.

I also baked a cracking apple pie which went down really after our Sunday lunch (roast pork) with a dollop of lightly whipped cream. You’ll need to go for a brisk walk after this lunch!!

Sourdough 50% rye bread

Chocolate cake – yummy!!!

Hi folks,

I hope some of you took the opportunity to have a look at my book, and if you do please let me know what you think.

After pimping my last cake with passion fruit I decided to make my first chocolate cake. All I did was substitute 50g of flour with 50g cocoa in my Victoria sponge recipe.

This resulted in a light deliciously chocolatey cake that wasn’t too rich, even with a chocolate buttercream filling.

I am really beginning to get the hang of this cake baking thing but I had better slow down or I will end up the size of a house!

Here’s a pic of the finished (and half devoured) cake:

My first chocolate sponge!

More cakes!

Well hello again folks. Did any of you try my Victoria sponge recipe? I have made it 3 times now but the last time I baked it I decided to “pimp” the recipe.

I didn’t do anything too drastic. I added some blueberries to the sponge mix (always a winner – just look at blueberry muffins!). Next I made a passion fruit glaze by straining 3 passion fruit through a sieve to remove the seed. The juice was then mixed with 150g icing sugar (the amount you will need will depend on how juicy your fruit is and on what sort of glaze/icing you want. I made mine quite runny i.e. a glaze NOT an icing. After the cake has cooled, I gradually add several layers of glaze. With this cake I didn’t fill with jam, just fresh cream. The tang of the passion fruit perfectly complements the sweet sponge and rich cream.

You really MUST try this variation as it is quite simply divine. Give it a go, take some photos and let us all know what you think or share your ideas for pimping the humble Victoria sponge.

Till next time…

Victoria sponge with blueberries & passion fruit glaze

My first book!!

Well folks I have actually written my first book. This has been a real labour of love for me and was sparked off by friends and family nagging me! So I took some time out, took loads of pictures and compiled what I think is a pretty good book showing you all the fundamentals required to bake great bread at home.

I have written it so that it will (hopefully) appeal to experienced bakers and novices alike.

I have published the book on Amazon kindle and will be branching out and selling on other platforms in the future.

To have a look: (UK readers click here)

                           (International readers click here)

– and if you like it please free to buy it :P.

I would ask you all to please have a look at least and if anyone does borrow/buy it I would love some constructive feedback.

I am not a writer or salesperson, just a passionate baker who believes that good bread should be an important part of our lives and am trying in my own little way to do just that.

Use your loaf!

Right, enough about that. My next post will be about my “pimped” Victoria sponge. Till then…

Pitta bread

Well I’ve been doing an awful lot of sweet baking and cooking recently but my first love is still bread. And I have just baked up a batch of pitta breads. They are easy to do and relatively quick as you don’t need to leave them for a second rise.

The bread dough is a classic dough. I made wholemeal pittas so my dough consisted of:

500g strong wholemeal flour

10g salt

5g yeast

300g warm water

oil

Proceed as you would with a normal bread dough i.e. mix all the ingredients together and knead for 5-10 minutes to develop the gluten. Then leave to rise in a warm draught free place for about an hour. Put the oven on its highest setting 20 minutes before the end of the rise and place a baking stone or heavy baking tray in the oven to get hot.

After the dough has doubled in size knock it back and divide into equal portions and shape into balls – I normally use 70g portions so I can get 12 pittas from this batch.

Roll the balls out on both sides till you get the size of pitta you want.

Once they are rolled out, placed them on the baking stone/tray and bake for 2-3 minutes on each side – they will normally puff up and balloon slightly. Then remove from the oven and leave to cool.

I love to eat these with spicy chicken, grated cheese, salad leaves and greek yoghurt spiked with mint. Sprinkle on a little smoked paprika, cumin and fresh chilli and tuck in. Yummy!!

These are so light and a million miles away from the dry rubbish you get in the supermarkets. Believe me, when you have tried these you will never go back.

They are also great for freezing so bake a batch have one for lunch/dinner and freeze the rest. You will not be disappointed.

Perfect pittas!