Sunday, October 25, 2009

French Baguettes

This baguette recipe uses a poolish which means that you have to start preparing it the night before. It's worth the work as a first foray into using ferments, although I will keep the ferment going for a day or so longer next time to get a more intense flavour.

There is no need to use special equipment for this bread. A couche would be great for letting the bread rise, but until I have a bigger kitchen, a well-floured tea-towel does the job.

This recipe will make 4 good sized baguettes.


Poolish -
300g strong white bread flour
300g water
1/2 tsp instant yeast (4g fresh yeast)

Dough -
605g strong white bread flour
300g water (slightly warm to the touch)
12g salt
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast (8g fresh yeast)
All the prepared poolish

Prepare the poolish at least 12 hours in advance. Mix together the flour, yeast and water until the mixture has the consistency of a smooth batter. Cover with cling film and a tea-towel and let ferment in a warm place overnight.

The next day, the poolish will have risen and look bubbly and smell faintly alcoholic.

Mix the dough by combining the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add all the poolish and the water and mix together until it starts to form a dough.

Turn the dough out onto the work surface (not floured! If you haven't already, get Richard Bertinet's book, Dough. It's an amazing resource on how to knead dough)

Knead the dough for around 8-10 minutes, until it comes away cleanly from the work-top and is smooth, supple and pliant. Coat the dough lightly in flour and shape into a ball.

Place the dough in a mixing bowl and cover with a tea-towel. Let the dough rest until it is nearly doubled in size, around 1hr to 1hr and a half.

Pre-heat your oven at this point to 200C.

Once the dough has doubled, gently remove it from the bowl and knock it back on the work suface.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (I weigh each one to be sure, as it helps with the second rising if they are all exactly equal) Shape the four pieces into rounds and let rest for a further 15 minutes.

Shape each piece of dough into a baguette shape by rolling the round into a sausage shape and folding each length onto the other, creating a seam at the bottom of the baguette that will give it strength.

Place each baguette into a fold of well-floured tea-towel on a baking tray. Ensure that there is a fold of towel between each baguette, so they don't stick to each other, and that there is room for the baguettes to rise.

Cover the shaped baguettes with another tea-towel and let rise again for an hour in a warm place (I use the hob-top, away from the oven door so they get the general warmth with none of the direct heat).

Once the baguettes are risen, score the tops with a razor blade and transfer carefully to a baking sheet for putting in the oven.

Baguettes get their crisp, chewy crust from being baked in a moist, steamy oven so I place a roasting tin with 200ml of water in the bottom of the oven about 10 mins before I am going to bake the baguettes. This gives the oven plenty of continuous steam.

Bake the baguettes on the middle shelf for 20 minutes until they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the base.

Cool on a wire rack and then eat with cheese and wine!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lemon Cookies

These were the non-spiced cookie that I provided for the wedding.

They are like a lemony shortbread and are great with a cup of tea as they are light and vibrant.

This recipe makes around 20 small cookies


115g butter, softened
115g caster sugar
1 lemon (rind and juice)
1 egg
342g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp lemon extract

Preheat oven to 170C.

Cream the butter, sugar, lemon rind and lemon extract until light and fluffy.

Add the egg and lemon juice gradually, beating well between each addition. Sieve in the flour and baking powder and add enough milk to form a dough. The dough should be soft but not sticky.

Roll out dough on lightly floured worktop to 1 cm thick and cut using whatever cutters you like.

Place on baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes until pale golden brown.

Cool on wire rack. These cookies will keep for around 1 week in an airtight container.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Maple Syrup Buttercream

This is an amazing icing for really making you feel autumnal! The maple syrup also gives it a nice, warm colour.

I used it on the Stem Ginger Cake but it would be just as good on a plain sponge cake or a fruit cake.

This recipe makes enough to cover a 18cm round cake.


2 1/4 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup soft light brown sugar
113g salted butter, softened
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk

In a mixing bowl, beat the sugars and butter together until light and creamy.

Add in the maple syrup and vanilla and beat together until fully combined. Add in the milk until you have an easily spreadable icing.

Can be kept refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Stem Ginger Cake

This is the recipe that I used for the wedding cake for Joe's manager.

It's rich, moist and is actually a lot better after being kept in an airtight container for a couple of days. It's great served plain as a teatime cake but even better iced with Maple Syrup Buttercream for a more indulgent treat!


270g self-raising flour
115g butter
115g dark muscavado sugar
115g treacle
115g golden syrup
250ml full-fat milk
85g preserved stem ginger, grated
1 egg
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice

Preheat the oven to 160C.

Mix the flour, bicarb and all the spices in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Heat the sugars, treacle, syrup and milk in a medium saucepan, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat and bring the mixture to just below boiling point.

Add the shredded stem ginger to the flour mixture, then pour in the liquid mixture, beating well to avoid any lumps.

Add the egg and stir in to combine. The mixture will be the consisitency of a thick pancake batter.

Pour this into a buttered and lined 18cm round cake tin and bake for 50 minutes-1 hour, or until a skewer pushed into the centre of the cake comes out fairly clean.

Leave to cool completely in tin before turning cake out.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Swedish Gingerbread Cookies (Pepparkakor)

So somehow I ended up agreeing to do the wedding cake of Joe's manager. I'm not sure how it happened, but I've been told that I offered willingly!

She was having an autumn-themed wedding so we settled on gingerbread cookies and lemon cookies for the main body of the cake, and a small gingerbread cake on top for ceremonial cutting.

This led to about 6 prototypes of gingerbread cookie, trying to get the texture that we were looking for. We needed the cookie to be crispy, so it would survive being out in the air all day and also keep the shape of the cookie-cutters.

This was the winning ginger-cookie recipe. I will also post the others as they were all lovely, but just not suited to what we needed the wedding cookies to do.

You need to make the dough the evening before as it needs to be very chilled to be able to roll it out as thin as it needs to be. I separated the dough into 4, and wrapped each log of dough in clingfilm to make it easier to roll out the next day.

This recipe makes about 60 thin cookies, using a medium cookie cutter.


300g butter, softened
250g caster sugar
150g soft brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp grated lemon rind
300ml golden syrup
300ml double cream
1100g plain white flour
3 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tbsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarb of soda

Sift the spices and the baking soda into a small bowl.

In another larger mixing bowl, mix butter with the two sugars.

Add the spice mixture and the egg.

Add the lemon rind, golden syrup, cream and finally flour. The dough will be fairly sticky – don’t worry as it will solidify a lot in the fridge. Refridgerate for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

The next day, preheat your oven to 180C.

Take out one log of dough at a time and roll to about 1/2 cm thickness and cut the cookies with whatever cutters you have. The dough becomes very sticky again quite quickly, so you need to work quickly. Make sure to flour your worktop and cutters well. Don't worry about the excess flour on the bottom of the cookies, this is easily brushed off when they are baked.

Bake the cookies for 8- 10 minutes. You want them to be a rich golden colour when they're done.

Cool on a wire rack. The cookies keep for about 3 weeks in an airtight container.