Posts Tagged ‘baking’

Fresh yeast

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016 | Food

After I moaned about the onerous requirements of the Larousse Book of Bread my friend Jane was kind enough to bring me some fresh yeast to work with.


The first loaf I made was a standard white bloomer. I wanted to see if it felt any different to making it with dried yeast. The bread came out very well, though I don’t think I could actually taste any difference.


The second loaf I made was maple bread. I replaced the oil with some genuine Canadian maple syrup that my auntie Diane had brought me on her recent trip to England. It produced a slightly sweet bread. This worked well, not to sweet, but with a little something.

Sky Cupcake Bake-Off

Monday, March 21st, 2016 | Food

Following on from the success of the first Sky Leeds Bake Off, we held another to raise money for Sports Relief. In the end, we raised £275, which feels like a good effort. I blogged about my preparation last week.

Here was my final creation:


The beach was made of gingerbread. The sea was made from buttercream frosting, with a chocolate finger jetty. The sea cupcakes were blueberry with lemonade frosting. The beach cupcakes were brown sugar with a salted caramel centre and salted caramel frosting.


Alas, the judging was changed from the Great British Bake Off-style present all twelve as a piece, to one cupcake from each batch being selected and given to the judges. While mine were tasty, they were not tasty enough to sway the judges on that alone. However, all was not lost. Gaz did Editorial Ops proud with a 3rd place.

The Larousse Book of Bread

Sunday, March 13th, 2016 | Books, Food

The agony of choice. When we visited Waterstone’s to find a new book on bread (as one does), I spent ages trying to decide. I eventually settled on The Larousse Book of Bread by Éric Kayser.

This, I now know, was a mistake. All the recipes use a liquid sourdough starter. I did not have much luck last time I tried making a starter. However, this attempt was even more of a disaster. I found the instructions confusing and the results worthless. It wasn’t liquid enough.

Luckily, when I bought the book, I noticed that you could also use dry starter. However, despite the book’s promise that I could easily find this for sale, I actually couldn’t.

Not only do all the recipes use liquid starer, but they also use fresh baker’s yeast. Another product which is not easy to get hold off. Most supermarkets only sell fast-action yeast. Some might sell another dried yeast. None sell fresh.

My next option would be to replace all of this with fast-action dried yeast and try to adjust the recipe accordingly. This is a whole new challenge. Getting the end result to turn out like it is supposed to when you are doing it when you have to adjust the flour and liquid levels to compensate for the lack of starter is difficult. Not to mention that you are now making a different kind of bread: it isn’t a sourdough any more.

Once you have got past this stage you get on to the recipes. Using the term “recipes” is being quite generous because for most of the book there is only really one recipe. Each one is basically the same bread, moulded into a different and given a slightly different slashing pattern across the top. Otherwise, as far as I can tell, it is basically the same bread.

In Paul Hollywood’s Bread the book explores many different types of bread that are very different from each other. It feels like there is none of that here. You are exploring many different shapes of the same bread.


The closest the book gets is near the back when it talks about breads “with extras”. These were hit and miss for me. The seeded load (yes, that’s right, bread with seeds in it!) was good. However the dried tomato bread was ugly and unpleasant to taste.

There are some nice features about the book. The photos are great. They break the process down into easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions. You also get a photo of the finished product. It comes in hardback with a ribbon. Quality wise it is a very well put together book.

In summary though, I would not recommend this book.


Sky Bake Off prep

Saturday, March 12th, 2016 | Food

Later this month Sky at Leeds Dock are holding their second bake off. The first was an open cake competition; this one is a cupcake challenge. Last time, Dave won it with a cake baked by his wife. This is dubious enough, even before you discover he made her get up at 4am, despite being heavily pregnant, to finish it. I’m not bitter about the whole experience, but I do want to up my game a little this time.

I made loads of variants: different cupcakes and different toppings on the cupcakes. In the end, these two won out.


The Sainsbury’s salted caramel cupcake boxset actually produces a really nice cupcake that is light and airy. However, my homemade golden caster sugar cupcakes with salted caramel frosting eventually bested them in the taste test. It produces a denser cupcake that is easier to eat.


This is a prototype of the blueberry cupcake. The actual ones will be different however. They will be more blue in colour, and use lemonade flavoured frosting that is a lighter blue, rather than the turquoise shade of this fudge-based frosting.


This stuff should be illegal. It is a jar of salted caramel that you would eat with a spoon. If heroin is banned, this definitely should be.

Kenwood Chef KMC010

Friday, February 26th, 2016 | Food, Reviews


I had been mulling over the possibility of getting a stand mixer for months. At Christmas I finally decided to take the plunge and carefully picked over the options. The KitchenAid Artisan mixer looks beautiful. However, the Kenwood Chef gets a better write-up for performance and so I eventually convinced myself to go practical over pretty.

It put me in a bad mood immediately as it had a “5 year guarantee” sticker on the side that is incredibly difficult to get off. I had to peel it, then scratch it with my nail, then scrub it several times to get it off. Since then the whole experience has been far more positive however.

The box is massive. Probably because there is a stand mixer, a food processor and a blender in the box.


The main reason I wanted a stand mixer was to allow me to make continental bread and enriched doughs, which often require a long machine kneading. I got to work straight away.


Fifteen minutes of kneading feels like a really long time. However it actually does take that long to pick up all the dough onto the hook and give it a good spin.


Ciabatta requires fifteen minutes of kneading as well. Elina thinks it looks really ugly. However, it is pretty much supposed to look that way. It also tastes great. In general, it’s nice to be able to throw everything into the mixing bowl and have it mix them for me.

I have also tried beating cake ingredients using the k-beater and Elina has tried the whisk for making meringues, both with success. After you are done, it is super easy to clean. Everything is stainless steal, so I just throw everything in the bowl and fill it with hot soapy water.

The food processor sits on the top. This comes with the standard food processor blades, which I used to make the mayo that accompanied these squid rings. Even better, it comes with a set of six cutting disks that allow you to slice and grate.

So far, so good. I am using it more than I expected. Time will tell if it was worth the money, but it is proving a good purchase so far.

Paul Hollywood’s Pies & Puds

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016 | Books, Food


After we were both completely sick of curries, having eaten nothing but curry for about a month, Elina suggested pies might be a suitable next topic. Having enjoyed Paul Hollywood’s book on bread, his book on pies and puddings seemed like an excellent choice.

The first section of the book takes you through making pastry. I have tried most of them. Shortcrust and hot water crust are okay, but ruff puff is my favourite. I now substitute almost any pie pastry with ruff puff now because it is so tasty. I have not tried full puff, because I cannot be bothered to wait around eight hours for it to be ready.

The second section of the book looks at pies. This typically calls for you to make a pastry from part one, prepare a filling and combine the two. The Thai chicken pie is our favourite so far. My raised game pie worked well too, though it was heavily waited to the game I could get down the market. I don’t even know where to buy buffalo from, so I did the buffalo and ale pie with beef and it worked fine.

The puddings section has been less well used but I did make a concerted effort to give at least half a dozen of them a go. They tasted fine but often looked less than brilliant. For example, here are the fruit pies I made for New Year’s Eve. This was my third attempt.


For posts about the recipes I tried from this book, see my attempt at short bread whiskey dodgers and my selection of pies. Looking back, none of them look that neat. Thankfully, they all tasted good.

Paul Hollywood’s Bread

Sunday, January 17th, 2016 | Books, Food


I have tried a selection of the bread recipes in River Cottage Every Day, usually with success. This inspired me to take it to the next step with Paul Hollywood’s book on bread. I have had the book for ages but never got round to writing it up.

It covers a wide range: starting off with classic breads like bloomers, then moving through to soda breads, flatbreads, continental breads, sourdough and enriched breads.

For each type of bread, he first gives the recipe for the bread itself, then gives a recipe for using the bread in a meal. He claims he wants to put bread back in the centre of the table. A nice thought, though I must confess that it has had little effect on me. I just make the bread, and rarely use the bread-related recipe.

The bloomer has found the most regular rotation in our kitchen. I can probably do it without the recipe now, which is rare even for dishes I do regularly. The naans and maneesh have also become popular. I haven’t been sold on the soda breads or different kinds of grains though. I made them, but they are not to my taste.

Some of the continental breads I have had to skip. Hollywood says it is incredibly difficult to do by hand, so you really need a mixer. Hence why every combination I have had with my friends over the last month has invariably drifted to whether I should buy a stand mixer and which one to get.

I tried the sourdough starter too, but with little success. It did not produce tasty bread and ultimately went mouldy.

For individual posts about the breads I have baked from this book see rye and ale and the bottom half of this selection.


Friday, November 20th, 2015 | Food


I have been working my way through Paul Hollywood’s book Pies & Puds. Having done most of the pies, I moved on to part two: puds. Thus invading what has traditionally been Elina’s territory in the kitchen. She can probably keep it to be honest. Desserts are hard work. You have to be exact and everything sticks to everything else, until you want to stick, then it just falls off.


Saturday, October 31st, 2015 | Food

At Elina’s request, and because it sounded like a fun challenge, I have recently turned my hand to pie baking. It is an interesting journey, though they take a long time to make. If I have stuff to do after work, they don’t always go in the oven until 10pm! They do provide plenty of food though.

I am not a fan of shortcrust. Too crumbly. Good to sweet pies, but I think I am going to stay away for savories. I have fallen in love with ruff puff. In a very many, working-class way of course. Hot water crust is nice to work with, and produces a good result if you do not want flaking.

Neatness is something I definitely need to work on. They usually look like the recipe, if the pie in the recipe had been beaten up. Which is not really a problem as it is recognisable and tasty, but won’t be winning me any prizes on Bake Off.


Corned beef pie with a shortcrust pastry.


Pork, apple and cider pie, might have been ruff puff.


Sausage plait. It was supposed to be made with full puff. However, when I came to make it, the first step was make the puff pastry and chill for 7 hours. So I did ruff puff instead.


Raised game pie with a hot water crust pastry.

Great British Bake Off: Week 9

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 | Distractions

It is too easy to get emotionally involved with Bake Off. I have been saying Flora should go for a while now, and she was the right choice. But it was still heartbreaking to watch. There are no bad bakers here. Look at the technical. Everyone pulled off a reasonable chocolate soufflé. It might have had lumps in it. However, if I had tried to make one, it would almost certainly end in a fire.

Here are my power rankings for week nine…

1. Nadiya

Go Leeds! After another Star Baker award you have to give Nadiya some credit. Importantly, the fact that she achieved that even after coming last in the technical shows that she had survive having a bad round and still bring it home. It may well be that sings are so close now that coming last in a round does not have that much meaning.

If she did win it would be a second year in a row for Yorkshire as last year’s winner, Nancy, was from Hull.

2. Tamal

Still consistently performing on the home stretch, Tamal is in with an excellent chance. Especially if Nadiya does have a bad technical it is likely that Tamal will be right there to take the glory.

Again, referencing last year, one of the things that the judges said about Nancy was that she consistently performed throughout her time on Bake Off. Tamal has had one or two dips, but certainly recently he has put in solid bake after bake, so starts from a very strong position.

3. Ian

Ian shows creatively and excellent preparation, and offers some wonderful flavours. He has come up a little less consistent than the competition though so I think he would really have to nail it to take the crown.