Sunday, 30 October 2016

Happy Halloween! Zombie Coconut Truffles

Happy Halloween! 

Halloween is now the second biggest party night after New Years Eve, with Tesco expecting to sell over three million pumpkins for us to creatively carve into amazing designs we've seen on Pinterest and zombie costumes the biggest seller on eBay. 

But for those of us who much prefer Bonfire Night (me, me, me!)  a recent YouGov survey suggests people actually prefer Bonfire Night to Halloween and despite Halloween's growth in recent years more money is still spent on Bonfire Night. Roll on November 5th, toffee apples and catherine wheels. 

Nope, you won't find me dressed up as a zombie or blunting every kitchen knife attempting and miserably failing to carve a pumpkin this weekend. But in a nod to Halloween, it's all about the treats on this baking blog. These simple but scrumptious coconut chocolate truffles can be whipped up quicker than you can tear up an old bed sheet for the world worst ghost costume.

As you can see decorating is NOT my strong point. Not in a billion zombie-fied years. But I was reassured to read Nadiya, last year's Bake off winner wrote in her weekly baking column in The Times that it's all about the taste, the aesthetics are a bonus. And, having eaten more of these truffles than a dentist would strictly recommend, they are ruddy delicious. 

Coconut Zombie Truffles 

150g dark chocolate (I used bourneville because it's Mary Berry's fave)
150g double cream
25g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g dessicated coconut
Black fondant icing

1. Break the chocolate into small pieces and place into a large bowl
2. On a gentle heat, warm the cream and butter until simmering and pour over the chocolate
3. Stir until smooth and place into the fridge for a at least four hours to set
4. Using either a spoon or melon baller, create the truffle balls and roll in the coconut
5. Use the fondant icing to create ghoulish faces

And here a few treats from Halloweens of the past: 

Monday, 24 October 2016

Great British Bake Off: The Final and a Celebratory Bingo

Image result for great british bake
Sniff Sniff

With sixty more minutes of Paul and Mary judging together,  one last technical challenge and a concluding hour of Mel-n-Sue puns, we've reached the final of Series 7 of The Great British Bake Off.

Truth is, I've found the series to be a bit of a soggy bottom. I'm not sure if it's because the Bake Off had reached its zenith with the joy of Nadiya winning last year, whether they were scraping the (biscuit) barrel with some of the challenges or whether it's the knowledge the Bake Off as we know it has only 58 minutes left on the BBC, but I haven't been that excited by this series. Even more so now The King of Cool, Selasi has left the tent. Sure, I know the Charmer from Ghana's savarin sucked and he fluffed his fondant fancies, but the guy was the most charismatic contestant by far this year. Last week he took over Sue's presenting duties because he was bored and looking for something to do. Pure genius and telly gold.

But this year has had no custard sabotage, no bin-gate, no Nadiya- esque journey... infact, not even a well endowed squirrel. Instead it's felt a bit sterile and too competitive. Where's the jolly, friendly, warm, village fete tent of previous years gone?

                                          Image result for great british bake

Of course that's not going to stop me and 12 million others tuning in this week for a theme of 'Royal Bakes' fit for the Queen. Candice is hot favourite to win, having been star baker the most but my money is on Andrew who, just like a champion racehorse, is coming into form just in time, having won star baker last week. To celebrate the finale of #GBBO as we know it, I'll be joining in a game of Bake Off Bingo this Wednesday evening. Take a gulp of your favourite tipple or a large bite of your favourite cake for any occurrence of the following:

  • Jane stares intently into the oven trying to send subliminal messages to her bake to perfectly rise
  • There's a soft focus clip of the contestant's families speaking fondly of how they've loved baking since they were knee high to a grasshopper
  • Andrew uses one of the following: protractor, adjustable set square, scale ruler or a compass
  • Paul Hollywood takes enormous pleasure in viciously stabbing a contestant's intricate, lovingly created bake as the judging commences
  • The camera focuses on a bank of kitchen timers that resemble the New York Stock Exchange
  • Mary Berry dons yet another fashionable floral jacket
  • Candice chews her bottom lip nervously as the judging takes place and yet her MAGIC LIPSTICK NEVER COMES OFF ON HER TEETH
  • When asked who they feel might win, all previous contestant's carefully name a different finalist as the BBC is all about fairness 
  • Mel and Sue are just as awesome as usual (you might get rather drunk/full with this one)


Thursday, 6 October 2016

The Art of Bread Baking: Sourdough Secrets at E5 Bakehouse

The other month, I went along to the E5 Bakehouse, an East London artisan bakery and cafe, to learn pretty much everything there is possibly to know about sourdough bread. 

On an exceptionally wet and soggy day, manhandling my oversized umbrella and mounting excitement onto a packed commuter tube, I traveled across the city to London Fields, where, tucked away under the railway arches, is the bake house. On arrival, the scent of roasting coffee and warm, freshly baked bread tickled our senses; I immediately understood why there are often long queues on a Saturday of patient locals waiting to pick up a loaf of the specialty Hackney Wick.


Together with my nine classmates we learnt the secrets to successful sourdough. Here are just a few tips I gleaned along the way:

  • Although it may seem a very complicated, intimidating way of producing a nice loaf, Sourdough is pretty straightforward. But it is not to be rushed; it can take up to three days from putting together the leaven* to making your lunchtime sandwich
  • When baking bread at home, create as much steam as possible in the oven. This creates a lovely crusty loaf and allows the loaf to reach full size. There are several ways to do this: put a baking tray of boiling water or ice cubes at the bottom of the oven; use of a water sprayer to douse the opened oven or bake the loaf in a cast iron pot (pre-heating the oven with the cast iron pot inside before placing the loaf inside)
  • Use semolina flour to dust your baking tray or baking/pizza stone rather than flour as this prevents the dough sticking 
  • Use a serrated knife when scoring the loaf before baking
  • Going away for a few weeks? Your sourdough starter can be placed in the freezer. The yeast and bacteria will become dormant and, on your return, can be reactivated by defrosting and refreshing the dough
  • If you've baked a homemade loaf but haven't got round to eating it after a day or two, first ask yourself why on earth not, then you can pop it in hot oven for around five minutes to 'refresh' the loaf
  • Bread baking books that were recommended included: The River Cottage Handbook No.3: Bread by Daniel Stevens; The Handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard and Bread: A Beginner's Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman 

*A small amount of the starter fed with flour and water that forms the basis of any sourdough loaf


Between weighing, stretching and folding our own dough we were able to have sneaky peaks at the work of the bakery team, who we were assured were simply doing exactly what we were learning but on a much, much bigger scale; the bakery make over 1000 loaves a week to sell in the cafe and to local businesses.

And at the end of the day we each heaved bags full of the bread we'd been baking: ciabiatta rolls, bagels, a rye loaf and the famous Hackney Wick.

A combination of informative, relaxed and knowledgeable teaching, combined with plentiful supply of delicious coffee and sweet treats from the attached cafe plus more tips and advice on bread baking than the number of holes in a world-class sourdough loaf meant it was a really, really enjoyable day. 


My husband bought me the Sourdough Baking Class at E5 Bakehouse as a Christmas present. And as you can probably tell: I'd highly recommend it!