Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Easy bread

Whilst I'm a fan of the sourdough-like texture artisan no-knead bread has, the extremely long proves are somewhat irritating and sometimes you just want the machine to do the work. I also had this love for an onion bloomer M&S used to do before they took it off the shelves. Enter this recipe from a soon to be defunct Great British Chefs website. I sent in my list of comments including the excess amount of salt in the recipe, but just in case they take it off the site, here it is below with my adjustments. It fits nicely into the rather large IKEA loaf tin, but any tin would do really. Texture wise it's like a soft farmhouse loaf thanks to the inclusion of oil. It also lends itself to making a picture bread (see pictures below where I sectioned off the dough, coloured with various natural food powders and baked off.)

1 onion, finely chopped and dried in the oven for 20 mins at 170ÂșC
500g Strong bread flour
50ml Oil (sunflower/vegetable)
10g Salt
250ml of water
20g fresh yeast or 7g of dried/instant yeast.
Seeds for sprinkling


  1. Combine all the ingredients in the mixer (dissolving the yeast in the water if required.)
    Note: keep the salt and yeast separate for as long as possible, the onion can be omitted or substituted with other ingredients, and you can also add sugar and reduce the salt for a slightly different taste e.g. cinnamon and raisin bread?
  2. Knead until a smooth ball is formed (about five minutes in a mixer at the lowest speed).
  3. Prove for an hour under a tea towel or until doubled in size.
  4. Beat down and form into a roll and put into a lined loaf tin.
  5. Allow to prove for another hour. Sprinkle with seeds if desired.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C/Gas Mark 4 for 35-40 minutes until a tap on the bottom sounds hollow.
  7. Cool slightly and then slice and serve warm.
Picture bread:


  1. At step 2 above, divide the dough into sections and colour using spoons of colour, food colouring is possible but I used sweet potato powder, turmeric and matcha for this.
  2. Work the colouring into the dough and allow to prove the first time.
  3. Beat down and then stack the doughs into something that resembles your intended design.
    Note: Try to remove as many air bubbles as possible by being deliberate in your actions and smoothing the dough down.
  4. Continue to prove and bake as above.

Egg tart recipe - classic

This one I got from a friend's mum a long time ago when I saw the picture. This was like inception of facebook, pre Instagram and I've never seen anything as good since. Here are mine, packaged up and ready to go to friends before I consume far too much. They're pretty angerous, especially when warm.

My own skills being limited, but every time I want to go back and try egg tarts I search for this recipe. I've expanded some on the original recipe although it is as flexible as old school recipes seem to be. Lard can be replaced with shortening. Cake flour can be used instead of Plain flour. Eggs are medium or large. Where it says liquids as ounces, I literally weigh ounces of liquid out rather than fluid ounces. No idea if they're any different. I'll update the pictures when I make nicer ones. Trimming the pastry would probably make it nicer to look at, but I'll take the extra depth of filling any time.

Oil Pastry:
150g Plain flour
230g Lard
2 tbsp custard powder
4 tbsp icing sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Water Pastry:
150g plain flour
60g cold water
1 egg

A: 8oz hot water
4 oz sugar

B: 4 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
3oz evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Combine Oil Pastry ingredients and freeze for 30 minutes.
  2. Combine Water Pastry ingredients and freeze for 30 minutes
    Note: Oil Pastry is quickly made using a food processor.
  3. Wrap the water pastry around the oil pastry and enclose completely.
    Note: The water pastry will seem insubstantial in comparison to the oil pastry but it will wrap (particularly if you shaped the oil pastry into a relatively compact block before chilling.)
    The water pastry is also annoyingly sticky, even to cling film so have some patience.
  4. Roll and fold 3 times (use cling film) and chill.
  5. Roll and fold four times chill and repeat.
    Note: Translate steps 4 and 5 as fold and chill till you have about 16 layers. I use a mix of book folds (fold to middle and then in half) and into thirds depending on how the pastry feels. For some reason if you chill this overnight the pastry feels even more brittle and rips, so it may be worth letting it relax a little when you remove from the fridge if it's not pliable. It really doesn't matter much if you fold length ways and then widthways, just keep the meeting of the ends neat and square as much as possible.
  6. Roll out to 3mm thick on a surface dusted with flour.
  7. Cut with a cutter, line tins and chill.
    Note: No greasing of the tin is required. If the egg leaks they will be painful to wash anyway but soak and scrub is the way to go. If the pastry is higher than the lip of the tin it can catch on the tin some when you remove and the pastry breaks off which destroys the look somewhat. Push from the centre of the tin out so as to preserve the layers.
  8. Make the filling by dissolving the sugar in the water.
  9. Mix ingredients for B together and then add A to B.
  10. Strain filling ingredients through a sieve and then fill tart cases to 80% capacity.
    Note: the aim is to have no airbubbles in the mix to avoid unsightly blemishes to the surface of the custard.
  11. Bake for 15 minutes at Gas Mark 7/220C.
    Note: These bake particularly well on a low shelf with the bottom heat on to cook the pastry before the custard.
  12. Remove from oven when there is still some wobble to the custard. They will be slightly domed at first but will fall once cooled.
  13. Total recipe makes approximately 18 egg tarts with excess pastry.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Egg free vanilla birthday cake

Despite eating everything (bar sourdough), I seem to require vegan, egg-free or gluten-free cakes quite regularly, usually because of other people's allergies and if you want of get rid of (almost) everything, vegan is a good option which everyone can eat. I did it for my wedding dessert table. Actually the best thing I did was jelly and lots of it. Guaranteed not to have kids reaching for their epipens. Well, highly, highly unlikely I should say. Previously though, I've always either used the "with vinegar" option and these cakes tend to be chocolate or apple based. This year I've been asked to make a vanilla cake for my friend's son who is allergic to eggs. Thankfully he is now a little older than the first time I baked for him (so dairy products are now IN!)

The following was adapted from the following site, I actually made it in its coffee form as a part of a hospital drop off and it turned out well hence I adapted it to vanilla. Moreover though, as it didn't require any special ingredients (I refuse to buy flax seed), and just involved a bit more baking agent, it's a really handy recipe to have.

The recipe itself makes one four layer 5 inch cake.


300g self-raising flour (or plain with baking powder)
180g caster sugar
1.5 tsp baking powder
300ml milk (any type)
120ml oil (sunflower or veggie oil)
1 tsp vanilla paste/extract plus 6 tsp water

2tbsp sugar
50ml hot water

For the cake:
  1. Preheat oven at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and combine. (Like muffin mix, mix lightly and avoid overmixing until the flour disappears.)
  4. Bake for 16-18 minutes in 5inch lined pans (I use Wilton rainbow cake pans.)
    1. For a tray bake 20-25minutes and keep testing with a skewer.
  5. Combine sugar and hot water and stir until dissolved. (If you're being good, boil the water on the hob, you can also add flavourings or alcohol here).
  6. Brush or gently spoon over the still warm cake.
    Filling and decoration for one 5 inch layer cake (so double if you need two!):
    350g butter/dairy free alternative (very soft)
    700g icing sugar
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    1 tsp salt
    Food colouring

    1. Beat the butter, vanilla and salt in a stand mixer.
    2. Sieve the icing sugar over the top and combine slightly manually before whisking on high until fluffy.
    3. Divide into bowls as required and mix in food colouring (I used Wilton Leaf Green, and a more concentrated mix with a smidge of Pandan essence which has some green food dye in).
    4. Pipe on the sides and swirl as you like, remembering not to overwork the mixture.
      NOTE: 200g butter's worth was probably enough to fill and crumb coat  the cake, 150g is more than enough for the sides and  decorative element, however if you are making a pattern, a fair amount gets scraped off to achieve it.