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Monthly Archives: August 2015

Basic White Bread

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I am still singing the praises of James Morton, whose no-nonsense approach to bread making really works! This is another recipe from his book Brilliant Bread:

If you want a really easy white loaf, this is it! It’s a basic flour, water, yeast and salt mix. Because I have a fabulous sourdough starter, I add a dollop of that in the mix as well. It adds flavour and aids in longevity, too. However the loaf works just as well with just yeast.

Here is James’ recipe, with a couple of comments from me.


500g strong white flour

10g table salt

7g  fast-action dried yeast

100g sourdough starter (optional)

350g tepid water


In a large bowl, weigh the flour. Rub in the salt at one edge of the bowl and the yeast on the other side, as the salt can stop the yeast working.

Add sourdough starter (if using) and the tepid water, and mix together to form a coherent dough (use your dough to mop up any flour sticking to the bowl). Cover your bowl with a damp tea towel or clingfilm (I use a large clear plastic bag), and rest in a warm place for 30-40 minutes, or until it has noticeably increased in size.

Wet the fingertips of one hand and slide between the bowl and dough. Fold the dough in half. Turn the bowl 90°; repeat until you have removed all of the air and it’s noticeably smooth. Cover and rest for an hour, or until at least doubled in size.

Scrape the dough on to a floured surface, flour your hands and shape into a ball.


Place the dough on a heavily floured surface like a chopping board or baking tray, loosely cover and leave it for a final hour, or until it has doubled in size and springs back when pushed. James recommends using a proving basket – my loaf was made without one – but I have just acquired one and am keen to test it out!

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C fan forced, at least 20 minutes before you want to bake.

Transfer the loaf carefully to a lightly floured baking tray, (turn out of the proving basket and gently shape if using one). I put my proved dough into a lightly floured cake tin for baking – worked a treat!


Give your bread a few shallow slashes with a serrated knife and place onto a low to middle shelf in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until a deep golden brown – don’t be scared to let it get a good dark crust. If your oven is at all uneven, turn the loaf so that the loaf bakes evenly.









Cheesecake with Salted Caramel


I made and blogged this luscious cheesecake almost a year ago. With spring on the horizon in Sydney – just – I thought I’d re-blog to remind myself of warm sunny days and lunch in the garden.

It’s a baked cheesecake, made from a 60s recipe (Quirky sister 1, in her baking days, used to make it). It’s served with salted praline and salted caramel sauce.



Crumb Crust
230g sweet biscuits (half plain, half ginger nut)
1/2 level teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 level teaspoon cinnamon
85g butter

Cream Cheese Filling
500g cream cheese
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 free-range eggs

1 carton (280ml) sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 dessertspoon lemon juice
1 level tablespoon sugar


Crush biscuits very finely in a food processor and add the nutmeg and cinnamon. Melt butter in a saucepan, remove from heat and quickly stir in biscuit crumbs.

Press firmly into greased 22cm springform tin bringing mixture at least half way up the sides of the tin.

Put cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice in the food processor and mix well. Add eggs one at a time, whizzing after each addition.

Pour mixture into uncooked crumb crust and bake in a moderate oven at 180 degrees C for 30 minutes. Remove from oven.

Beat together the topping ingredients and pour over hot cheesecake. Return to oven and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Cool, then store in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Salted  Praline

Heat 1 cup of caster sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Be careful not to stir the sugar – tilt the saucepan to help melt the sugar. Cook for several minutes until the sugar turns a deep caramel tea colour and take off the heat. It’s a fine line between toffee that’s cooked and toffee that’s burnt!

Add 1/2 tsp of sea salt flakes and pour onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Quickly scatter over a handful of flaked almonds.

Leave to cool and harden. When completely cold, place the praline in a ziplock bag and bash into pieces with a mallet or rolling pin. Make sure you have small fragments, larger pieces, and some large shards for decoration.

Salted Caramel Sauce

200g sugar
75ml double cream
50g butter, cubed
½ tsp sea salt flakes


Put the sugar in a  saucepan with 50ml water. Gently heat on low, swirling the pan but not stirring, until just melted.  Simmer gently, swirling regularly, until the liquid is very dark golden caramel. Remove the saucepan from the heat then carefully and quickly whisk in the cream and butter. Be careful as the mixture will splutter. Keep whisking until smooth, then beat in the salt. Let cool. You can make the caramel in advance.  Put in the refrigerator but bring back to room temperature before using.

Decorate the cheesecake with shards of salted caramel praline and crunchy bits, berries and edible flowers. Serve with the salted caramel sauce on the side.


Cherry, Cranberry and Cinnamon Buns


I love cinnamon buns, in fact I love any kind of bun with a filling and some icing on top. I made these buns, filled with dried cherries and cranberries, cinnamon and brown sugar, and with a drizzle of lemon icing on top.

My last post sang the praises of baker James Morton and his book Brilliant Bread. Click here for the link to buy from Amazon.

And I still revere Paul Hollywood‘s words of wisdom on all things bread. So I made my buns with a little bit from each baker.

The recipe is an enriched bread dough (butter, milk and egg added to the basic dough). Because I now have a spectacular sourdough starter, as well as instant yeast, I added a little of my starter for some extra flavour.

James recommends baking the buns in a cast iron casserole eg a Le Creuset dish. Cooking them in a pot creates lovely soft buns.


250g plain white flour

250g strong white flour

8g table salt

7g instant yeast

100g sourdough starter (optional)

50g caster sugar

280g milk, warmed until tepid

1 free-range egg, at room temperature

50g unsalted butter


50g unsalted butter, melted

75g soft brown sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

100g dried cherries

100g dried cranberries


1 tbls apricot jam, sieved, mixed with a little warm water

Lemon Icing

Juice of 1 lemon

200g icing sugar


Place the flour, salt, yeast,  sourdough starter if using, sugar, tepid milk, and egg into a large bowl and mix them together by hand or you can use an electric mixer with a dough hook. Knead by hand or in the mixer about for 10 minutes.

Melt the butter and add to your dough. Mix it in by hand or use a machine until completely combined. Cover the bowl (I use a disposable shower cap but cling film is fine) and leave the dough to rest for 60-90 minutes at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge, until it has grown to roughly double its original size.

Turn your dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out into a big, long rectangle. The rectangle should be about 20cm wide and up to a metre long. Melt the 50g of butter and brush over dough. Sprinkle the dough all over with brown sugar and then cinnamon. Scatter the cherries and cranberries over the dough.

Roll up the dough along its long edge into as tight a cylinder you can get, but be careful as the dough is quite fragile. Slice this cylinder into 6-9 roughly equal pieces using a knife. Line a large lidded casserole pot with a piece of baking paper and arrange the buns cut end down.

Place the lid on the casserole and leave to rise for another hour at room temperature, then check to see that buns have risen.


30 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 180 degrees C fan forced. Put the lid back on the casserole and place in the oven.  Cooking time seems to vary – James says 40 minutes lidded then another 10 minutes with the lid off. He says if the casserole is thinner walled, they’ll probably bake quicker. My buns took about 25 minutes with the lid on and 10 minutes with the lid off. As you can see from the photo, my buns browned too much, so I will need to watch the cooking time carefully when next I bake.


Remove from the oven, and brush with the apricot glaze while still warm. Cool to room temperature.

For the lemon icing, mix the lemon juice and icing sugar until thick but of dropping consistency. Drizzle over the buns using a fork or spoon.


Simple Sourdough

I love bread. It’s one of my favourite foods. Plenty of other people have written about bread, so I’m not bothering with an essay on the subject of bread here.

Because I love to eat it, I have to make it, which I have been doing for a long time. Simple white loaves, multi grain bread, rolls, focaccia, and of late, a lot of pizzas.

I have always wanted to master sourdough, that amazing bread that comes from flour and water, where you create your very own yeast. Getting a sourdough starter going is one thing, getting the starter to rise decent bread is another. Up until now, I’ve had some really disappointing loaves.

But then I found that excellent baker of all things yeasty James Morton. James was a finalist in the Great British Bakeoff  2012 series. A Scotsman with a taste for fair isle vests, he impressed me with his traditional recipes and no-nonsense approach to baking.

So – I bought James’ first book Brilliant Bread and I have not looked back. A great, all round common sense book on bread making, and the source of the illusive recipes for a successful sourdough starter and sourdough loaf made with the starter.

Getting a sourdough starter going. This is a real labour of love. You have to be dedicated, patient, observant and accurate. A starter needs constant care and vigilance. It needs to be fed regularly, and, unless you hibernate your starter in the fridge, you have to look after it for ever!!! Or be prepared for the news of its demise.

Your sourdough starter needs more care than a pet….

Sourdough Starter

Here is an abbreviated recipe from James’ book. Buy the book to get the full, incredibly helpful story.

1. Take 100g strong flour and 100g tepid water and measure into a glass jar (see through is best so you can see what’s going on).

2. Add your starter aid to kick start the the starter. James recommends raisins – that’s what I used.

3. Cover your jar and leave for 24 hours at room temperature.

4. Whether the starter is bubbling or not, add another 100g flour and 100g water and stir vigorously to combine.

5. Leave for 24-72 hours, or until you notice plenty of bubbles forming through the mixture and that it has definitely increased in volume. Then pour away at least 3/4 of your starter.

6. Give what’s left a good feed of flour and water – make it up to at least the size it was before you poured it away. James recommends not bothering with weighing feeds from now on – always feed your starter  using more flour than you think is already in the jar. James doesn’t mention how much water to add – having added the flour, I carefully add enough water so that the mixture looks roughly the same as it was before you threw stuff away.

7. Feed your starter every day and keep it at room temperature. You can put your starter in the fridge to hibernate if you’re going away or if you’re not baking. You will still need to feed it every week or so. If you want to use it, take it out of the fridge, let it warm up and give it a big feed.


Some basic points:

Once you are onto the feeding stage, use cheap white flour, as you will be using a lot of it.

Remember, you need to discard at least 3/4 of your starter before you feed it. Of course, if you are using your starter for making bread, you have already taken away some starter so you can feed it at that point.

Your can use your starter when it is full of bubbles and has grown in size in the jar. (It does get noticeably bigger, but I don’t think there is a level of “bigness” that is required).

At this stage the yeasts in your starter are used to being fed  – they are said to be in a “fed state”. This normally 12- 24 hours after a feed and if the starter is fed regularly.

Simple Sourdough

This is basically James’ recipe. But as with the starter, the book is really helpful for more details.


400g Strong White Flour

10g Salt

200g White Sourdough Starter

275g Cold Water


In a large bowl, weigh the flour and then rub in the salt until combined. Add the starter and water and mix until it has come together into a very wet dough. Cover and autolyse for 30 minutes. (This is resting of the dough, letting the yeast get a lot of the work done for you, so that when you knead, your dough will come together more easily).

Knead the dough for 10 minutes.

Cover and rest the dough for approximately 4-6 hours at room temperature, or, alternatively, after a couple of hours, put it in the fridge overnight or during the day. This is an important stage, so the dough should be noticeably risen, if not quite doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and then shape your loaf.  I used the method of rolling up your dough like a Swiss roll really tightly. Then turning the rolled dough 90 degrees and rolling it up again. The dough will have a seam on the top.

Carefully transfer the dough to a proving basket or a floured tea towel inside a bowl, with the seam side on top. I have used both on different occasions, here I used the proving basket.  Leave to prove for 3-4 hours at room temperature until noticeably larger again. Or you can put your dough in the fridge to prove after an hour or two overnight or during the day. I left my dough to prove overnight.

Preheat the oven to 240 degrees C at least 30 minutes before you intend to bake, and heat your a cast iron casserole pot with the lid on.

When the 30 minutes is up, it’s time to turn out the proved dough into the pot. Turn down the oven to 210 degrees C. Take the lid off the pot and carefully turn out the dough into the pot. The smooth side will be on top. and score a cross on your loaf with a sharp serrated knife.

Bake for 40 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 10 – 15  minutes until the top and sides are really brown. Remove from the oven, and let rest for 30 – 60 minutes.

Serve with lashings of butter and your favourite jam. This time mine was apricot conserve from last summer’s bounty.

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