Caraway seed cake

Caraway seed cakeI’ve been meaning to make this Victorian caraway seed cake ever since I got my hands on Paul Hollywood’s British Baking recipe book. There’s nothing much to shout about in terms of huge flavours and spectacular presentation; it’s just a simple, old-fashioned cake to have with an afternoon brew – but that’s exactly what appeals to me about it!

The cake is very similar to a Madeira cake in terms of the texture and flavour of the base sponge. The crumb looks very dense, but it’s actually very light and not at all onerous to eat. The addition of caraway seeds (which have a citrusy, aniseed flavour), lemon zest, brandy and nutmeg, however, make this a different beast to your standard Madeira cake.

Caraway seed cake
The cake should have a flat top after it’s baked, but mine ended up with a rather spectacular peak in the middle, which I’m just going to put down to my uneven oven:

Caraway seed cake
Isn’t that rather impressive?!

Anyway, overall I would say that this cake gets a definite thumbs up from me. It does sound a bit dull, but it’s anything but. The aniseed flavour is really unusual, and the lemon and nutmeg really do prevent the cake from being a one-flavour wonder. If you like old-fashioned cakes, you can’t go far wrong with a caraway seed cake!

Caraway seed cake
I can’t find the recipe I used online, as I got it from the book, but I think you could take your pick of any of the other seed cake recipes out there and simply add lemon zest and nutmeg if they’re not already in there. This recipe looks like a good starting point!

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Basic baklava

Basic baklava
Another week, another Paul Hollywood recipe. This time, I made a very basic baklava from How to Bake. I must stress that this really is a simple recipe, but one that can be customised to create your own dream baklava!

Baklava is one of those desserts that be really, truly, utterly scrumptious when it’s made right. There’s something about the combination of thin flaky pastry, flavoursome nuts, lots of butter and a fragrant sugar syrup that ticks all the boxes for me.

Paul Hollywood’s recipe calls for pistachios only, but as I didn’t have enough, I made up the difference with almonds and walnuts. As this is a basic recipe, nothing goes in with the nuts, but I was sorely tempted to add some cardamom or another warm spice to them. However, I chose to stick to the recipe as closely as possible!

The baklava was easy to assemble – it’s pretty much just layering lots of filo on top of each other, brushing each layer with butter, then scattering the nuts on top and adding more filo and butter on top. The whole lot then goes into the oven, and you make the sugar syrup to pour over when it’s cool.

The sugar syrup is the other part of the recipe where lots of flavours can be added, but Hollywood opts for just lemon juice. Again, I had to fight the urge to add *something* else! Once the syrup was poured over the baklava and the whole lot had cooled, it was ready to eat.

Basic baklava
It was very nice – the star of the show for me was the richness of the butter paired with the trio of tasty nuts. However, the syrup felt a little but too simple – the pure lemon made it almost stark, if that makes sense, even for what is supposed to be a basic baklava recipe.

Hollywood admits himself that this is a very simple baklava and that you could add rose water or orange flower water to the syrup, which I would strongly recommend that you do. I would also experiment with different spices in the nuts, as I do think the right combination can make for an excellent baklava (see my gushing praise of this masala chai baklava by GBBO’s Chetna Makan). This is a great base recipe to start from, but don’t be afraid to add to it!

Honey buns

Honey buns

I received an unexpected Amazon voucher from work a few weeks ago. I don’t really buy books from Amazon any more, simply because I would rather support actual bookshops, but I thought it would be rude not to indulge just this once! I got quite a few baking books, including Paul Hollywood’s British Baking, which contains this rather fine recipe for honey buns (you can find it online here).

Despite the name, these aren’t the yeasted variety of buns; they’re more like mini cakes. As you might expect, there’s a fair bit of honey in both the cakes themselves and the wonderfully sticky cream cheese icing. The cakes also contain chopped pecans and cinnamon.

Honey buns
The cakes were very straightforward to make. The only issue I had was trying to divide the mix equally between 18 cases, when I could only bake them in batches of 12! As a result, I ended up with some buns that were much bigger or smaller than the others.

The icing was also really easy to make, although I suspect mine was a little runnier than it should have been. For once, I seemed to make the right amount of icing and didn’t end up with any left over, which is always nice. I ran out of pecans after making the cakes, so I topped the honey buns with walnut halves instead.

Honey buns
I had two of the buns straight away, and was very pleased with how they turned out. The cakes themselves were lovely – spicy but with a strong honey flavour. The icing was delicious, too – I almost wished there had been some left over so I could have eaten it from the bowl with a spoon!

Honey buns
This is a brilliant little recipe and one I would highly recommend. It’s worth investing in some good quality honey for baking purposes, but I managed to make these with supermarket own-brand honey and it was perfectly fine. I’d love to try making these again with orange blossom honey or another flavoured honey – I suspect they’d be divine!

Hot cross buns

Hot cross buns
As mentioned several times before, I’m trying to practice my bread-making more, as I’m not particularly good at it. These Easter hot cross buns from a Paul Hollywood recipe presented a bit of a challenge for me, but I think I just about overcame it!

One of the intriguing things about this recipe is the addition of chunks of fresh apple, which help keep the hot cross buns moist and add a bit more flavour. There are also a lot of sultanas and mixed peel, along with a generous helping of cinnamon.

The main issue I had to grapple with was, as always, the proving of the dough. The recipe says it takes 4 hours in total to prove the dough (you need to do it three times), but the whole thing including baking took me well over 7 hours!

Hot cross buns
The problem was that the dough seemed ridiculously slow to rise. Things improved when I attempted to warm up the kitchen, covered the trays with greased clingfilm instead of placing them in plastic bags and placed the final shaped dough balls on a chair in front of a hot oven (the last two points are Lorraine Pascale tips!), but I suspect the sheer weight of all the fruit in the dough inhibited the rise somewhat. Either that or I should have kneaded the dough a lot more!

I also had issues with shaping the dough into nice, neat, round buns, which is an ongoing problem for me! Some of the buns ended up slightly deformed as a result, but I just ate those first…

Hot cross buns
I baked the buns in two batches. The first batch was nearly burnt on top, so I put the second batch in for a few minutes less than the first, which seemed to help.

Hot cross buns
Despite the near-burning and the proving issues, the buns tasted so good. The first one I had, fresh from the oven, was absolutely delicious and beautifully sticky from the apricot jam glaze. They were equally good toasted and buttered, too. I really can tell the difference between these and shop-bought hot cross buns!

Would I make these again? Well, perhaps in the height of summer and when I know I have a whole day free! If you have a warmer kitchen than mine, I would recommend this recipe. Paul Hollywood might be a harsh taskmaster, but his bread recipes really do tend to be a cut above the rest.

Hot cross buns
Paul Hollywood’s hot cross buns recipe

Can be found here: http://paulhollywood.com/recipes/easter-hot-cross-buns/

Barm cakes

Barm cakes

Continuing my efforts to stick to my boyfriend’s new year’s resolution of having me bake more bread, I decided to try another Paul Hollywood recipe earlier in the week – barm cakes.

A northern staple, barm cakes are absolutely brilliant, especially for breakfast – I like them to form a crucial part of the good ol’ (veggie) sausage butty, while my boyfriend prefers them filled with a couple of fried eggs, cheese and hot pepper sauce.

Unfortunately, my baking experience with this particular bread was a little mixed. As you can see from the photo above, they’re not exactly perfectly round, and they’re not particularly risen, either. However, the good news is they looked, felt and tasted like barm cakes on the inside, so it’s not all bad!

Barm cakes

Hollywood’s recipe starts off in the same way as most of his white bread recipes, and it all seemed to go swimmingly until the bit where the recipe diverges from the others in order to get the bread the right shape. I think I rolled out the dough balls a bit too flat, and then didn’t leave them to rise for long enough (although they had more than the time specified, and in a warm kitchen on a warm day).

I put them in the oven anyway hoping that they would rise more, which they did, but not as much as expected. However, once they were cooled, split open, filled and eaten they proved (ha!) to be absolutely delicious, with none of the raw texture or flavour you would expect from a dough that hasn’t quite risen enough.

It’s all a bit of a mystery to an amateur bread baker like myself, but at least my boyfriend could justify having more than one for breakfast thanks to the small size!

The recipe

From How to Bake by Paul Hollywood. You can also find the recipe online here.

 

First bake: crumpets

Crumpets
I’m an unabashed crumpet addict, but have always been wary of making my own – it’s just always seemed too difficult. However, the Paul Hollywood How To Bake book I recently acquired has what seems like a relatively straightforward recipe, so I thought I’d give it a go over the weekend.

The recipe involves making a batter that you leave to rise for a couple of hours. Because of this and the amount of cooking time required, I would recommend starting veeeerry early in the morning if you want fresh crumpets for breakfast! The rise of the batter is aided by 14g of yeast and some bicarbonate of soda that’s added at the end of the two-hour rise before being left to rise further for another 10 minutes.

The recipe calls for skimmed milk, but I only had semi-skimmed – I’ll try it with skimmed next time to see if it makes any difference to the crumpets.

Crumpet batter

Crumpet batter

As you can see, the risen batter ends up with bubbles that turn into holes in the finished product. Cooking the crumpets involves using crumpet rings and an oiled pan. Once I got going, it took about 8 minutes to cook them until the surface had set, and then a couple of minutes on the other side to slightly brown the crumpets. I only had 2 crumpet rings, though, and the recipe makes around 20, so I spent a good few hours simply cooking all the batter! I’m going to get a couple more rings to make things easier next time.

Cooking crumpets

Cooking crumpets

I also found that the first batch of crumpets stuck to the rings no end, but the rest of the crumpets came away with ease, so it’s worth bearing in mind if you find you also have some hassle with the first couple you do.

The finished crumpets were definitely worth the effort, though. We had some fresh from the pan, soaked through with butter (of course) and topped with scrambled eggs, followed by some more with Nutella (my choice) or golden syrup (my boyfriend’s choice). They were absolutely delicious!

Crumpets
I would definitely recommend making your own if you’re also something of a crumpet fiend. It really is worth the time and effort! They do seem different to shop-bought, but in a very good way.

Scrambled eggs on crumpets

Scrambled eggs on crumpets

The recipe

From How to Bake by Paul Hollywood. There’s a Paul Hollywood recipe online but it seems different to the one in the book!

First bake: milk bloomer

Milk bloomer
Last month, my boyfriend announced that his new year’s resolution is for me to bake more bread. Yes, me. To support this resolution, he kindly got me a copy of Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake book, which is full of bread recipes. I sighed and got on with it.

The first recipe I decided to make was this milk bloomer, based on a recipe for milk loaf (which, funnily enough, I’d already ripped out of a magazine with the intention of baking it at some point in the distant future).

I have vague memories of milk roll from my childhood, although whether I actually ate any or simply gawped at the packet in Asda and wondered what Blackpool Tower had to do with bread is a question for another day. I was more drawn to what the addition of full-fat milk would do the texture of the bloomer, being a fan of a sturdy outer crust and a lovely soft crumb when it comes to bread.

I don’t have the most amazing track record with bread, bar some Spanish bread I made last year, so I was surprised when everything seemed to go to plan. The milk is added warm to the mix, and everything is kneaded for a good 5-10 minutes – I managed to knead for the full 10!

The rise was rather impressive – the dough doubled in size in the space of an hour on the first rise, then expanded massively on the baking tray after I’d knocked it back and left it to rise inside a plastic bag, as advised by Mr Hollywood.

By this point the dough was nothing like the shape I’d originally envisioned, but I pressed on, baking it for the full cooking time. It seemed fully baked when I took it out of the oven. I should have left it to completely cool, but I only managed to leave it for a few minutes before I started circling it like a vulture with a bread knife.

Unsurprisingly, it was very soft due to just coming out of the oven – but in a lovely, fluffy way, rather than in the dense, undercooked way that I’ve previously experienced with most breads I’ve tried to bake. The taste was wonderful – rich, nutty and full-flavoured, it was the perfect accompaniment to a wedge of mature cheddar and a slick of butter.

Milk bloomer

Sliced milk bloomer – apologies for the gloomy pic!

The two of us managed to polish off the entire bloomer in a little under 3 days, which I’d like to say is testament to the deliciousness of the bread rather than our greed. I will definitely make this again, and soon!

The recipe

Can be found in How to Bake by Paul Hollywood.