This week I was lucky enough to spend a morning with the lovely Danny McCubbin from Jamie’s Food Tube, teaching him how to make sourdough bread. After studying this versatile and complex dough for the last few years, I knew it would be difficult to summarise it’s process in a short video.
I hope I have illustrated the fundamentals and most importantly shown how simple, fun and delicious basic sourdough can be. If you decide to bake the recipe, please tweet me your pictures!
This heavenly coffee and walnut cake recipe is a delicious teatime treat. The method couldn’t be simpler and there is very little equipment required. If you haven’t baked a cake before, this is a great introductory recipe, but always remember two things: don’t open the oven door while the cake is baking, and be gentle when folding in the walnuts, so as to retain as much air as possible in the cake mixture.
500g self-raising flour
400g caster sugar
220g softened butter, plus extra for greasing
3 medium eggs
1 x double shot of espresso
120g walnuts, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt
250g whole milk
For the buttercream
60g butter, softened
150g icing sugar
1 x single shot of espresso
Pre-heat your oven to 180c/160 fan/gas mark 4. Line and grease a medium-sized cake tin.
Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl of a large food processor. Add all of the other ingredients and blend until the mixture is thoroughly combined. Keep and eye on the cake mixture as it is blending and turn the food processor off as soon as it comes together.
Gently fold in 100g of the walnuts into the mixture and tip into the lined cake tin. Bake for 1 hour. Once baked, set aside on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before removing the tin.
To make the buttercream, add the softened butter and sugar to a medium bowl and beat together using an electric whisk until light and fluffy. Add the espresso and mix again until combined.
Once the cake has cooled completely, remove from the tin and, with a palette knife or silicone spatula, evenly spread the buttercream on top. Scatter over the remaining walnuts.
For me, there is no scent or taste as nostalgia-inducing as cinnamon. It is the spice that sparked my love for baking. It’s smell can take me back to dozens of Christmases and Easters in an instant, and the flavour never fails to bring a smile to my face. I have wanted, for a long time now, to create a sweet recipe that can do this delicious ingredient justice, and I finally think I have. Scrolling through my Instagram feed on Saturday morning gave me the push I needed, as photograph after photograph appeared littered with scrumptious cinnamon. Of course, it was Cinnamon Roll Day (Kanelbullens Dag).
This recipe differs a little from other cinnamon rolls as it uses laminated (croissant) dough. Consequently the method is a little longer and takes a bit of practice, but the sweet, buttery pastry you are left with makes it worthwhile.
I roll these cinnamon curls in sugar whilst they are still hot from the oven, but if allowed to cool first, a vanilla icing would work just as well.
Method: Tip your chilled croissant dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll your dough out to a rectangle of roughly 20″ by 12″, at a thickness of no more than 4mm. Clean the flat top of the dough, now facing you, of all flour using a pastry brush.
Mix your light brown soft and demerara sugar with your cinnamon in a large bowl, using your thumb and fingers to rub out any larger chunks of sugar. This is your cinnamon sugar for the filling.
With a palette knife, spread the melted butter evenly over the dough, making sure to reach all corners and edges. Equally scatter over your cinnamon sugar, again making sure to cover all areas of the buttered dough.
Starting from the long edge closest to you, roll the dough up tightly until you are left with a long, thick shape similar to a swiss roll.
Using a chef’s knife, divide the roll into 12 equal parts, trimming the ends off first if you’re after a less-rustic result. Once cut, you can shape them: simply grab the end of each curl, pull on it a little, and tuck it underneath the rest of the curl as a base.
Place each shaped curl onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Place the trays into a black bin bag on a flat surface in a warm area (22-26c), and tie it closed. (The bin bag creates a perfect environment for the dough to rise, as it will remain the same humidity and absorb heat from the surrounding area.)
Leave the curls to rise for between 60 and 90 minutes, until they have increased in size by at least half. Once the curls have risen, give each a generous egg wash, (1 egg beaten with a small splash of water), and bake at 190Cfan/375f/gas mark 5 for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Whilst each curl is still warm, toss in a shallow tray of caster sugar so that they are covered all over and allow to cool on a wire rack.
I wrote the first post of this blog during my time at a very special bakery. At the end of each dough shift I would walk home up a steep and wet Forest Hill Road – tired, covered in flour, but inspired. Brick House bakery was an inspiring place to be, and an environment that I doubt I will come across again in it’s entirety.
I have so far met two kinds of baker: he who bakes with his hands, and he who bakes with his heart. In December last year I was lucky enough to spend two weeks working with the latter of the two, Fergus Jackson and his team, in an industrial unit in Peckham.
I started learning from the second I tied my apron, and continued to do so right through until I hung it up again on my last day. I began to gather little gems of information given to me every shift, and before I knew what was what I had a treasure chest. “When you fold the dough, pick it up as you would a book, and try not to claw at it with bent fingers” said Julia, a Canadian who had been baking with Fergus since Brick House opened in the summer of 2012. Passing comments like this may not have seemed much to the bakers at the time, but collectively they have changed the way I work with bread.
Every baker had contact with the dough from start to finish, with absolute minimal involvement from machinery. All senses were engaged in monitoring the dough’s progress, and making alterations in the method where needed. Without realising it I was learning something that no book could ever teach me: bread sense.
The slow-fermented loaves were baked daily to a standard that was dangerously close to perfection, both in taste and aesthetic. When I wasn’t baking I was laughing, and at no point did I want to be learning what I was learning anywhere else in the world. Almost all of the bakers previously had careers in other trades, but had turned their hands to baking. This communal choice meant that there was an extremely high standard of passion and enthusiasm. Standing at the dough bench shaping loaf after loaf was where they wanted to be, and this created an incredible environment to work in.
I was taught the importance of temperature, technique and time at Brick House, all of which have made me a better baker, and have given me more confidence when I bake at home. More importantly, I witnessed the importance of bread. As cliche as it sounds, bread does bring people together. It’s the building block of communication, it speaks no language and can be shared by anyone, anywhere and at anytime. Seeing people visit the bakery while we were at work, in hope that there might be a loaf left from the last bake, proved to me its importance.
Fergus and his team, whether they would like to admit it or not, are changing the face of bread in London. They bake honest, wholesome and no-nonsense produce, and do so with a laugh and a smile that makes your loaf taste all the better for it.