Monday 18 January 2010


I had planned for the weekend's weather. I had been looking and seeing that rain on Saturday, that sun on Sunday and in planning for that day of rain I had been reading and I had been deciding.

I would leave the house briefly for a quick walk to the shops, I would watch the first two episodes of American Idol (I can't resist it, it's hopeless), and then, I would do something that I haven't done since moving to London, I would bake bread.

I made a resolution to make more bread for 2010, turns out it was one of the easiest resolutions I have ever made.

One loaf and I am done.

One loaf and I remember why this feels good, the moment of concern that it won't rise, the growing delight when you see that yes it will and yes it has, the fun of punching it down and forming the loaf, watching it bake, tapping the base to see if it is done and listening to the hollow affirming answer, the first slice spread with butter, the toast...

I think you get the gist?

This recipe came from one of my first book purchases of 2010, Warm Bread and Honey Cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra. It combines sweet and savoury baked treats from around the world with baklava, paratha, pide, sachertorte, moon cakes and, the one I am most excited about, engadiner nusstorte.

But I'll save that for another day.

In the meantime...

FRUIT LOAF (from Warm Bread and Honey Cake. The glaze is just a little extra something suggested in one of the River Cottage books.)

350g / 12oz / 2 1/3 cups strong white (bread) flour
1 1/4 tsp easy-blend (active dry) yeast
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom or zest of 1/2 lemon
55g / 2oz / 1/2 stick butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 egg, beaten
about 150m/5fl oz/2/3 cup milk, warmed
100g/ 3 1/2oz / 2/3 cup currants
55g / 2oz / 1/3cup sultanas (golden raisins)
2tbsp dried cranberries
1 tbsp candied orange peel

Optional glaze
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp granulated sugar

Place all the ingredients except the fruit in a large bowl. Mix to moisten the dry ingredients and knead thoroughly until smooth and supple. This may be done by hand or using a mixer fitted with a dough hook, to make a soft dough. Bring the dough together in a ball, then cover the bowl with clingfilm (plastic wrap) or a damp dish towel, and set aside in a warm, draught-free place until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, rinse the currants and sultanas in hot water. Drain the fruit, then pat dry with paper towels and leave in a warm place with the cranberries and orange peel until needed.

Knock back the risen dough and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Knead the fruit thoroughly into the dough. Roll or flatten the dough into a rectangle that is as wide as your tin is long, and about 1cm/1.2in thick. Roll up the dough, starting at a short side, and pinch the seam to seal.

Grease a 450g/1lb loaf tin. Place the dough roll seam-side down in the tin and remove any loose fruit from the surface, or it will burn while baking. Cover the loaf loosely with lightly oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm, draught-free place until almost doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas Mark 6.

Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. To test, remove the loaf from the tin. Tap sharply on the top and bottom; it should sound hollow. Cool on a wire rack.

If you would like to add a sugary glaze just heat the water and sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Bring it to simmering point briefly and then brush the glaze over the top and sides of the loaf while it cools.

Thursday 14 January 2010


I spend an awful lot of time thinking about things I might like. Writing lists, browsing websites, thinking, dreaming. I don't buy I suppose it is just virtual window shopping.

I thought it might be nice to share some of these things.

I thought it might be nice to have a second blog.

But then I had another thought and I remembered something.

I remembered that I have a bad enough track record at updating one blog and that I probably shouldn't willingly double the number of things that I feel bad about not updating.

So, a compromise. Occasionally I'll tell you about something that I have fallen a little bit in love with. You'll ooh and aah (I hope) and then we can all go back to thinking about food. Deal?

Have you seen these birds? They were posted onto a few blogs and I was desperate to buy one for Chris for Christmas but they were all sold out. I didn't mention them to him and then, last week, I looked and saw that there were a few for sale. I chose this little round fat bird and he sits perfectly in the hand. He lives on a shelf alongside a small ceramic owl and two Rob Ryan tiles. That shelf makes me smile a lot.

(Photo by DHPainter)

Monday 11 January 2010


I know that this blog is already heavily weighted towards all things banana bread and I know that I really should be expanding my cake repertoire but I knew I wanted to bake, I knew it was too cold to go shopping for ingredients, I knew I had all of the ingredients to try Dorie Greenspan's banana bundt. That was all the motivation I needed to choose it over the blueberry cake that was coming in a close second.


I promise my next cake will not involve bananas. I can't promise that it won't be another bundt however, that shiny tin hasn't yet lost its appeal.

Oh, and the bundt? It was good. I'm not sure it tops my standard Nigella banana bread recipe but I'm already looking forward to taking a post lunch slice to work every day this week, there's nothing like a slice of bundt (or any home made cake for that matter) to brighten up a January week at work.

CLASSIC BANANA BUNDT CAKE (from Baking: From My Home to Yours)

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
About 4 very ripe bananas, mashed (you should have 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups)
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Generously butter a 9- to 10-inch (12 cup) Bundt pan. (If you use a silicone Bundt pan there’s no need to butter it.) Don’t place the pan on a baking sheet - you want the oven’s heat to circulate through the Bundt’s inner tube.

Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas. Finally, mix in half the dry ingredients (don’t be disturbed when the batter curdles), all the sour cream and then the rest of the flour mixture. Scrape the batter into the pan, rap the pan on the counter to debubble the batter and smooth the top.

Bake for 65 to 75 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Check the cake after about 30 minutes - if it is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding onto the rack to cool to room temperature.

If you've got the time, wrap the cooled cake in plastic and allow it to sit on the counter overnight before serving - it's better the next day.

Optional Lemony White Icing:
Sift 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar into a bowl and squeeze in enough fresh lemon juice (start with 2 teaspoons and add more by drops) to make an icing thin enough to drizzle down the Bundt's curves.

Half batch for muffins:
If you want 1/2 the recipe and make muffins, Dorie Greenspan wrote it up herself on Serious Eats: Banana Cake Big and Small.

Sunday 3 January 2010


I want to hate resolutions, I really do, but every year I find myself with a new moleskine diary writing a list of things to do, books to read, items I must get around to buying (the last tends to be the easiest to keep, the wrist worms have been ordered already).

Why fight it?

In the spirit of a new decade I offer you the following:

1) To never refer to this decade as the teenies. I can't imagine that I need to explain why?

2) To take more photos.

3) To bake more bread.

4) To take lunch to work more often.

5) To take the advice of Grace Coddington in The September Issue... 'always keep your eyes open, never go to sleep in the car, keep watching because whatever you see out of the window, or wherever, it can inspire you.'