Monthly Archives: August 2012

Proper White Farmhouse Bread

Sometimes things don’t go as planned in the kitchen and this was the case when I recently tried my hand at bread making. I’d been inspired after doing a bread making workshop ran by the fantastic Maitreya Social in Bristol who had themselves learnt from the bread master Richard Bertinet. The bake off was held at the Cock and Bull festival in the deepest darkest west country on a Sunday morning, a time when my brain was rather addled from copious amounts of cider the night before…In the workshop we’d made a white loaf, and I remembered how the dough was wonderfully wet and soft. Remembering as much as I could, for my first attempt I decided to make a malted wheatgrain loaf using just over 50% white flour and malted wheatgrain flour for the remainder. When it came out it wasn’t quite as expected. It’s possible that I’d been so hungover that I’d remembered the quantities wrong. It’s probable that using flour with a best before date in 2006, and yeast which went off in 2008 wasn’t the best idea. And it’s certain that weighing the ingredients out wrong didn’t help. Whatever it was, my dense dense loaf was far from worthy of critical acclaim and not the success that I’d hoped for.

However, the thing about making bread is that it’s super fun. Even if it goes badly as mine did, you’ll still want to do it again. Minimal ingredients are needed, no fancy kitchen equipment is required, and best of all you get to get your hands dirty playing with the dough. You get to beat it up a bit, slap it about, and make a big old mess in the kitchen. How could I not want to try again!? Fortunately my second attempt went a lot better and it turns out that it’s actually really simple and easy to do. The crust was crisp, the inside soft and spongy, and the smell was out of this world. This recipe works a treat so next time you’re sat at home bored, its raining and you want something delicious to eat, you simply can’t go wrong with some homemade bread.

White Farmhouse Bread

Makes 2 small loaves.

700g strong white bread flour

14g salt

7g dried yeast sachet

490ml tepid water.


1. Mix the flour and salt in a big bowl.

2. Whisk the yeast into the tepid water and pour it into the flour.

3. Mix it all together by stirring around the edges. This will pull the wet and dry ingredients together. Once well mixed pour it out on to a clean worktop and knead it. I’ve recently started kneading the way that Bertinet does which you can watch here. Essentially you slide your hands under the dough with your palms up until your thumbs meet on the top. Lift the dough, and then flick your wrists to slap the bottom down on the worktop (palms now facing down) before turning your palms back toward the sky and in the process, stretching the top of the dough over the bottom bit which you’ve slapped down. It’s really satisfying as you slap it down, and after a few minutes the dough will change slightly, looking a little shiny and subtly different to when you started.

Sticky yet smooth and shiny looking. This is what it will look like when it’s ready.

Once you get to this stage put it in a big bowl, cover with clingfilm to stop it drying out, and leave to rise somewhere warm for 2-3 hours. Alternatively, you can let it rise overnight which should bring out a more yeasty flavour – simply put it in the fridge to cool it down and slow the yeast and then continue the next day.

4. Once it’s risen up, pour it onto a very lightly floured worktop and cut it in half if you’ve got small loaf tins like me or keep it whole if you want a beast. Flatten it out slightly by prodding it with your fingers but don’t make it too thin – we’re not after a pizza here. Then take the top and bottom and fold them over into the middle and squeeze together. Then repeat with the other ends. The aim is to stretch the underside to get it nice and smooth – this will be the crust – so keep folding corners in until it’s nice and smooth.

5. Put it in a pre greased (butter or olive oil) loaf tin smooth side up, dash it with flour, and let it rise up again until it’s nicely filled the tin (30mins – 1hour). If you want to slash the top, do so just before it goes in the oven and not while it’s proving.

6. Whack the oven up to maximum (around 250°C) and when it’s hot put in the loaf and throw  a handful of ice cubes into the bottom of the oven. This helps create steam which will help it to cook better and will give a better crust. Cook it for 5 minutes or so at 250° before turning it down to 220°C and baking for between 30-45 minutes. It’s worth taking it out of the tin with 5 or 10 minutes to go to help the crust develop nicely.  You’ll know it’s done when it sounds hollow when I tap that ass.

7.  Let it rest! With the smell of warm bread wafting around you’ll suddenly be everyone’s best friend, the opposite sex will be throwing themselves at you and you’ll find that it’s pretty much impossible to not start devouring it straight away. But you’ve got to wait!If you tuck in straight away it will be cakey as the moisture won’t have spread evenly throughout the loaf so wait it out. Assuming that you’re a stronger person than me, hang on for 45 minutes and it will be perfect.

8. Devour with unhealthy amounts of butter.


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The Ultimate Cheese Toastie

Everyone loves toasted cheese sandwiches. It’s impossible not to because they are totally delicious. However there are 2 problems with toasted sandwiches. The first is that not everyone has a toasted sandwich maker, and the second and more serious problem is that making a toasted sandwich always involves the arduous task of having to clean the burnt on cheese off of the sandwich maker once finished. Toasties always leak, and cleaning the sandwich maker is an arse. Back in the days of old when knights were off fighting dragons and jousting for fair maidens this was a deal breaker but fortunately those days are gone! I bring to you the ultimate cheese toastie and there’s not a toastie maker in sight!

This is a toastie that’s oozing with gooey molten cheese which is only just contained by a golden brown crust. This is the sort of toastie that won’t deliver anything but pure cholesterol and pleasure right to your beating heart. This is the ultimate cheese toastie.

Makes 2 sandwiches (1 unhealthy serving)

Start by cutting the crusts off 4 slices of cheap supermarket sliced loaf. Next chop up two-thirds of a ball of mozzarella into thin ribbons, and grate a small pile of cheddar cheese. Make sandwiches out of the cheese and the bread, giving it a good grind of black pepper and leaving just under 1 cm around the edges unfilled. Take this edge and squeeze it together – the great thing about cheap bread is that the slices will hopefully stick together. Then pour out a little milk into a shallow bowl, a small pile of flour onto a plate, and beat up an egg on a final plate and season it well. Then very quickly dip both sides of the sandwich into the milk, cover it with the flour, and then put it in the egg mixture and move it around to cover both sides generously.

In a frying pan heat up a knob of butter or a glug of olive oil, and get the pan hot. When it’s ready, carefully place the sandwiches into the pan and fry for a few minutes on both sides until golden brown.

Eat with ketchup, chilli sauce, or on its own. Toasties have never been better.

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Citrusy Olive Oil Almond Cake

Confession time. Baking scares me. If the ingredients aren’t measured perfectly, or if the cake doesn’t go in the oven at just the right temperature for the exact period of time and not a second longer, there is a fair chance baking will end in disaster. It just feels so much more scientific than cooking pasta or a piece of meat. Putting on that apron and bakers hat is like donning a lab coat and safety goggles, and I’ve got some serious scars from experiments gone wrong. To be good at baking, you need pipette and thermometers, measuring beakers and scales accurate to the nearest milligram, not to mention a Bunsen burner or two. At least this was what I thought before I made this cake and so it was with some trepidation that I decided to bake my housemate a birthday cake.

Because I don’t bake often, when I do commit to a bit of kitchen chemistry I don’t normally want to make a standard run-of-the-mill cake. I want to make something that sounds fancy so that when it all goes wrong I’ve got a convenient excuse. I want to push the incredibly low limits of my GCSE science, and this was when I read about a cake with olive oil. What was this madness!? This was bound to go wrong so with my safety goggles (glasses but whatever) perched at the end of my nose I set to work and incredibly my experiment was a success. Countless gases were released, colour changes took place, and it even changed from a liquid to a solid. Bona fide science.

The cake was wonderfully moist with a satisfying almondy flavour and an intriguing olive oil/citrus tang lingering in the background. The brown butter icing was rich, creamy and delicious – the perfect accompaniment to the toasted almonds which sat proudly on top. It’s seriously delicious, and the best thing is that it’s  incredibly easy so you won’t need to wait for a special occasion to make it. Time to crack out your lab coat and get baking.

Citrusy Olive Oil Almond Cake
(adapted from olive oil almond cake by Sassy Radish)

Serves 8

Cake Ingredients:

  • 150g plain flour
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 170g granulated sugar
  • 130ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 /2 tsp almond essence
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 150ml orange juice + a small squeeze of lemon juice

For the glaze:

  • Handful of almond flakes (toasted)
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 160g icing sugar
  • 4 dessert spoons of milk (ideally whole)
  • small squeeze lemon juice


1.Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease up an ~8 inch cake tin.

2. Mix the flour, ground almonds, salt and baking powder in a big bowl.

3. In another bowl whisk up the eggs briefly before adding the sugar and whisking thoroughly until well mixed. Then add the olive oil and whisk for about a minute until the mix changes colour slightly and thickens up. Finally add both extracts, zest, small squeeze of lemon juice and the orange juice and mix thoroughly.

4. Pour the wet ingredients into the big bowl and whisk all of the ingredients until you have a nice smooth batter. Once you have this, pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake it in the over for between 30 to 40 minute depending on your oven and tin size, spinning it around half way through to ensure it cooks evenly. The cake is done when you poke in a knife and it comes out clean with nothing stuck to it. You’ll also know it’s done as it will look and smell delicious.Once the cake is out, let it cool for 10 minutes in the tin and then take it out and leave it to cool on an airing rack.

5. If you haven’t toasted the almonds, whack them in the still hot oven and toast them until golden brown.

6. While the cake is cooling make the glaze by melting the butter in a pan on the hob, and then keep gently heating it and spinning the pan to move the butter around. Keep going until the butter darkens slightly and smells slightly nutty and then take it off the heat. It will continue getting darker in colour as it cools off.

7. Combine the icing sugar and milk in a bowl and whisk together until smooth. I was amazed how little liquid was required so don’t go too mad with the milk. Once you’ve got a nice smooth mix, add the melted butter and whisk it all together until thick and delicious and give it a tiny squeeze of lemon juice to balance out the sweetness. Spread generously across the cake before throwing on the toasted almonds.

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