Thursday, 30 May 2013

Chocolate & Orange Cake

This chocolate cake is very easy to make. I could have put the batter into two cake tins and made a chocolate victoria sandwich, but I decided to put the batter into one cake tin for a nice thick cake. 
There is an range flavour all through the cake.  If you like a chocolate and orange combo, this is the cake for you. Certainly it's for me, too. :) 
The secret of evenly baked cake is putting an oven tray in the oven when preheating the oven. 
Then the cake goes on top of the piping hot oven tray. This helps to bake the cake from the bottom very well.    So, no soggy bottom. :) 

  • 50g good quality cocoa powder
  • 6 Tbsp boiling water
  • 3 Tbsp milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100g soft butter or low-fat spread
  • 300g caster sugar 
  • zest of 1 orange
for icing and filling
  • good quality marmalade mixed with warm water 
  • icing sugar
  • cocoa powder
  • orange zest

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 (fan oven 175C) and grease and line a 20cm/8in round cake tin with baking parchment.
  2. Put the cocoa powder and boiling water into a large bowl and mix well to make a paste. Add the remaining ingredients and beat again until combined. This can also be done in a food processor, but take care not to over whisk.  Bake for about 40 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 160C and bake for a further 10-20 minutes or until it is well risen and shrinking away from the sides of the tin.
  3. Meanwhile, for the filling, mix marmalade with some warm water. For the icing, mix icing sugar, orange zest and cocoa powder with tiny drops of water to make a spreadable consistency.
  4. Once baked, remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool completely. Spread the top of the cake with the marmalade and water mixture. Then pour the chocolate icing to cover the cake. 

Monday, 27 May 2013

No-Knead Mediterranean Olive Bread

This is basically ciabatta bread .... well, at least as far as the texture is concerned, this is ciabatta bread. 
I had never tried to make ciabatta bread as it seemed to be a very complicated and messy job. 
However, when I came across this "no-knead" recipe, I thought I would have a go. It was so easy to make. 
It doesn't need any effort at all, it just needs plenty of time. I left the dough overnight for 14 hours before shaping the dough into a flat rugby ball. The result was so much better than I expected. The loaf has a bubbly interior which ciabatta bread should have, and a very moist and chewy texture. 
It would be quite impressive if you presented this at a dinner party saying "I baked this, actually." 


  • 400g strong white flour 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp fast-action dried yeast
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 120g your choice of olives
  • 1 Tbsp (15ml) olive oil
  • 350ml water

  1. Mix flour, salt, and yeast in a bowl.
  2. Add thyme and lemon zest and mix.
  3. Add roughly chopped olives to the dried mixture and mix.
  4. Pour olive oil and water and mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula to form a ball in the bowl.
  5. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave for 12 to 24 hours.  
  6. Flour the worktop and tip the dough out of the bowl and shape it as a ball, but you don't need to knead nor knock down the air.
  7. Either cut the dough in two and make two oval shapes or simply keep it as one long oval shape.
  8. Place the dough on parchment paper and cover the dough with a tea towel and prove the dough for 1 ½ hour.
  9. Meanwhile, put a clay pot with a lid (or any baking pot with a lid) in the oven and preheat the oven as hot as you can. I preheated to 230C .
  10. Take the hot baking pot out of the oven and place the dough in the pot with the parchment paper and put the lid on.
  11. Place the pot in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Then take the lid off and bake for another 10 minutes.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Revised: Coffee and Walnut Cake

I posted coffee and walnut cake before but this is a revised version.  Classic coffee and walnut cake is a must-have item in the proper afternoon tea menu.  It can be elevated by decorating with coffee butter cream and even made in 2 to 3 layers.  But my recipe is a very simple home-eating version. I made simple coffee icing by mixing strong coffee and icing sugar.  You can make this with instant coffee powder, icing sugar and water.   Sometimes, I find the simple way is the best. :) 

  • 6oz (175g) self-raising flour  
  • 1 level teaspoon baking powder
  •  6oz (175g) low-fat spread (or butter)
  •  2 large eggs
  •  6oz (175g) light brown muscovado sugar
  •  2-3 rounded tablespoons instant espresso coffee powder 
  •  3 Tbsp milk or water
  •  50g walnuts, finely chopped 

For topping
  • icing sugar
  • espresso coffee 
  • 8-10 walnut halves

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC, gas mark 3
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a roomy mixing bowl. Then add the low-fat spread, eggs, sugar and coffee powder. Mix them by using an electric hand whisk for about 1 minute. You may need up to 3 Tbsp milk or water to make the mixture into a smooth, creamy and dropping consistency.
  3. Fold the chopped nuts into the mixture.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and cool down.
  5. While the cake is cooling, make up the topping. In a small bowl combine the icing sugar, coffee powder and some water.
  6. When the cake is cool, decorate the cake with the coffee icing. 

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Twister Bread

This is a very pretty loaf to look at and delicious to eat. I got the original recipe from Lorraine Pascale's Twister Bread. It's worth looking at her video recipe for the technique of twisting the dough on the BBC Food site.
As always, I twisted the ingredients for my convenience and availability of my cupboard stock.
Basically, I used olive oil and grated Italian hard cheese instead of sesame oil and poppy seeds. So, somehow, my version  has an Italian touch.  I used Grana Padano cheese. Simply that was in my fridge when I baked this loaf.  I would say any hard cheese could work. Parmesan cheese would be the obvious option, so I put that down in my recipe. I normally prove twice when I prepare bread, but for this recipe, I only proved once following her technique.
I loved the crunchiness of the crust and the softness of the crumb. The aroma from the oven when I was baking this loaf was heavenly...

  • 400g strong white bread flour 
  • 100g wholemeal bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7g sachet of fast action dried yeast
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 300ml warm water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (to spread on the dough)
  • 50g finely grated parmesan cheese (or any other hard cheese) 


  1. Put the flours, salt, sugar and yeast into a large bowl, mix a bit and then make a hole in the middle. Add in 300ml of warm water. You may need more water to make a soft dough. Then mix everything together until combined. 
  2. Then tip the dough onto a floured surface and knead it for 10 minutes (or five minutes if kneading in a food mixer fitted with a dough hook). To test and see if it has been kneaded enough, form the dough into a ball with a nice taut top. Dip your finger in the flour and then prod the side of the dough making an indent. The indent should spring back all the way and almost disappear if it is ready.
  3. Put some more flour on the surface and then, using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a long rectangle. If it is too springy to roll then cover it with a tea towel and leave for five minutes or so. That way the stretchy gluten strands in the bread can relax a bit which will make it easier to roll out.
  4. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of the dough with the olive oil going right up to the edges and then sprinkle the parmesan cheese evenly all over. Then cut the dough into six wide strips down the length.
  5. Keeping the strips lined up together, twist each one up like a twisted breadstick or cheese straw. Once they are all twisted, stack them into a bundle and pick them all up in one go. Then twist them together so you have a long thick twisted rope made up of the individual strands of bread. Try to twist evenly so the rope is an even thickness throughout.
  6. Then curve the bread into a ‘wreath’ shape and squish the ends together, sealing them with a bit of water. It does not have to be perfect, just as long as they are joined up. 
  7. Place the wreath on a baking sheet. Oil some cling film and use it to cover the dough, oiled side down, so it is airtight but with enough room for the dough to rise a little.
  8. Leave to prove for about 30 minutes. To test if it is ready for the oven (because the bread will not have doubled in size but probably grown by about half again), dust your finger with some flour and then make an indent in the side of the bread. The indent should spring back about half way. If the indent just stays there and does not really move very much, then it needs more time.
  9. When ready, place in the preheated oven (200C/400F/Gas 6)  to bake for 35 minutes.
  10. The loaf is cooked when it sounds hollow when tapped underneath. If not, then give it another five minutes or so in the oven. Once ready remove from the oven and serve.