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GBBO 5 Technical Bake #3: Paul Hollywood’s Ciabatta

August 22, 2014

I’m officially going to change this series of posts to be called The Great British Fake Bake Of (#GBFBO). It’s my mission to make each technical bake but do it using any cheat, shortcut or slightly slapdash method available. Basically, it’s GBBO for people short of time (because they’ve been watching GBBO instead of using the hour to bake).

Paul Hollywood GBBO ciabatta

Fake Ciabatta

So, this week’s bake was Ciabatta. No shortcuts to be had there, surely? No, true but I didn’t have enough strong flour and I wasn’t about to trek to the shops so I made the rest up with gluten free bread flour and added some xanthan gum. The resulting bread tasted great but was obviously not the holey, loose textured typical ciabatta.

Mr B gets all the props for making this one. I put the dough together on night and left it to rise in the fridge. He shaped and baked the next day. I came home to the smell of fresh bread. Nice.

Here’s the recipe as it should be with notations of my changes next to it, though why you’d want to repeat a gluten-light as opposed to gluten-free bread I’m not sure.

Mr B’s Baking Handiwork

Paul Hollywood’s Ciabatta
lifted straight from here 

500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting [I used 300g strong white & 200g gluten free bread flour]
10g salt
10g instant yeast [I used one 7g packet of fast action instant]
40ml olive oil [I used basil infused olive oil]
400 ml tepid water
Fine semolina for dusting (optional) [I used extra flour]

1.Lightly oil a 2-3 litre square plastic container. (It’s important to use a square tub as it helps shape the dough).

2. Put the flour, salt and yeast into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook (don’t put the salt directly on top of the yeast). Add the olive oil and three-quarters of the water and begin mixing on a slow speed. As the dough starts to come together, slowly add the remaining water. Then mix for a further 5-8 minutes on a medium speed until the dough is smooth and stretchy.

3. Tip the dough into the prepared tub, cover with a tea towel and leave until at least doubled, even trebled in size – 1-2 hours or longer. [I put it in the fridge overnight to prove]

4. Heat your oven to 220°C and line 2 baking trays with baking parchment or silicone paper.

5. Dust your work surface heavily with flour – add some semolina too, if you have some. Carefully tip out the dough (it will be very wet) onto the work surface, trying to retain a rough square shape. Rather than knocking it back, handle it gently so you can keep as much air in the dough as possible. Coat the top of the dough with more flour and/or semolina. Cut the dough in half lengthways and divide each half lengthways into 2 strips. You should now have 4 pieces of dough. Stretch each piece of dough lengthways a little and place on prepared baking trays.

6. Leave the ciabatta dough to rest for a further 10 minutes, then bake for 25 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Cool on a wire rack.

This is being entered into  My GBBO Bakealong and the Great Bloggers Bake Off



Bacon and Cherry Cornbread Muffins (and Competition)

August 20, 2014

These muffins are inspired by three things:

1. The idea of the all-american, deep south breakfast with cornbread, maple syrup and bacon. I’ve never been to the deep south but I have witnessed people having icecream for breakfast in new York state.

2. Nigella’s cherry-coke baked ham recipe that rears its sugary head every Christmas.

3. All the sweet bacon products doing the round at the moment like bacon jam, bacon brittle, bacon fudge etc.

glace cherry cornbread brunch

Muffin beats these warm out of the oven

Cornbread is a revelation. It’s so easy to make and tastes so good. It can be a willing recipient for cheese, chillies and all manner of other options. Plain it goes with chili con carne really well, or a spicy stew. These beauties though, with their pig and fruit combo make for an amazing brunch product.

Also, the French Glacé Cherry cheerleaders have given me a branded timer, kitchen scale, apron and samples of French Glacé Cherries to give away. I’ll tell you how at the end.

brunch cornbread bacon muffin

Hot Buttered Bliss

Bacon and Cherry Cornbread Muffins

Note: most large supermarkets now have world food sections. I would suggest getting your cornmeal from the Caribbean bit there rather than buying polenta. It’s much cheaper.

Makes 6 + 1 for testing

105g fine cornmeal (polenta)
50g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
small pinch bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp sunflower oil
175g natural yoghurt (I used 0% but low fat or full is fine)
50ml milk (I used skimmed but again, any is fine)
1 egg

50g natural French glacé cherries, chopped into at least quarters
7 whole glace cherries for decorating
8 rashers of smokey streaked bacon

Preheat oven to 230c

Grease your muffin tin. Take a rasher of bacon and wrap it around the edge of each muffin hole to create a “case” with no bottom.

Put the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt and sugar in a bowl.
In a jug mix the yoghurt and milk, then add the egg, oil and cherries and beat gently to combine.
Add the liquid to the dry mix and stir well until thoroughly mixed.
Pour or spoon the mixture into each muffin hole. It won’t rise quite as much as cake, but it will still grow.

Take the final bacon rasher and divide along the length to create strips (using the grain of the meat). Cut thumb length pieces and wrap one around each cherry. Place them on top of the muffins.

Bake for 15mins.

I took the photos at this point. The bacon was cooked BUT a bit soft for my preference.  I reheated some the next day out of the muffin tin and the bacon crisped up nicely around the edges, so I suggest the following:

Wait for the muffins to cool a little, place a baking tray over the top and flip them onto it so that they are bottom up. Pop them back into the oven for 10mins at 180c.

Serve either on their own with strong coffee, or buttered, or we had them with poached eggs.

To win the Glacé Cherry branded items do one or both of the following:

1. Tweet “I want to win some french glace cherries so I can make these cornbread muffins from @gillbla #glacecherrycomp”

2. Leave a comment below telling me what your favourite cherry based memory is, be it cherry coloured or cherry flavoured. 


I was sent the cherries and given the prize by Sopexa so that I could play around and come up with a new and tasty dish. They are championing French Glace Cherries. If you would like to see another idea, head over to The More Than Occasional Baker to see her cherry and coconut bundt cake.

The prize is only available to UK entrants. Your name will be given to spoexa who will be responsible for sending the prize. Entries close at midnight on 31st August. Please makes sure you fill out your details when commenting so that I can contact you. If I am unable to contact you within 48hrs I will try the next person. I will use a random number generator to choose the winner. 

GBBO 5 Technical Bake #2: Mary Berry’s Florentines

August 16, 2014

This week the Great British Bake Off technical challenge from Mary Berry was Florentines. In the special land that is my brain their name is always sung to the tune of Clementine by Mark Owen. Not because I’m a fan, it’s just stuck in my head that way.

I have only ever really experienced florentines in the form of Thomas J. Fudge ones (which are good). If the contestants has been paying attention to these when doing their shopping, they would have known that there should be wiggles in the chocolate on the back. As usual with my baking I’ve taken shortcuts in order to create  my Great British Fake-off. This time it was using a fruit, nut and seed mix from Waitrose rather than measuring out all the fruit and nut separately and also melting the chocolate in the microwave.

Mary Berry Bake Off Florentine


This was attempt number 2, hence the slightly sparse fruit & nut content. Batch one spread LOADS, but were actually rescued by some careful trimming and rewarming to be rather good. I decided to wait until the next day to do the chocolate and thought they needed a bit longer in the oven as they were still slightly chewy. So I popped them in….and forgot them until the stench of burning sugar filled the house. This, dear reader is why this blog is a learning journal rather than an example of excellence. I mess up so you can feel better about yourselves. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.

Mary Berry Great British Bake off Fudges Florentines

Ring of Florentines

Mary Berry’s Florentines

50g butter
50g demerara sugar
50g golden syrup
50g plain flour

If you’re using my shortcut:
125g of mixed fruit nut and seed mix from waitrose, roughly chopped (the seeds make it a finer mix naturally)

If you’re following Mary:
25g dried cranberries or glacé cherries, finely chopped
50g candied peel, finely chopped
25g almonds, finely chopped
25g walnut pieces, finely chopped
200g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Line three baking trays with baking parchment or silicon sheets.
Measure the butter, sugar and syrup into a small pan and heat gently until the butter is melted.
Remove from the heat and add the flour, nuts, fruit etc. to the pan.
Stir well to mix.
Make 18 florentines by spooning six teaspoonfuls of the mixture on to each of the prepared baking trays, leaving plenty of room for them to spread during cooking.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden-brown.
Leave the florentines to cool before lifting onto a cooling rack using a palette knife (if the florentines have been baked on greased baking trays, then allow them to harden for a few moments only before lifting onto cooling racks to cool completely). If the florentines become too hard to remove, then pop them back into the oven for a few minutes to allow them to soften.

Either carefully melt chocolate in the microwave OR if you’re doing things properly….
Set a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, without letting the bowl touch the water. Temper the chocolate by breaking half of the chocolate into the bowl.
Stir until the chocolate reaches a melting temperature of 53C/127F.
Meanwhile, finely chop or grate the remaining chocolate.
Carefully remove the bowl from the pan, add the rest of the chocolate and stir gently until the chocolate has cooled to 26C/79F.
Spread a little melted chocolate over the flat base of each florentine and leave to cool slightly before marking a zigzag in the chocolate with a fork. Leave to set, chocolate side up on a cooling rack.
Store in an airtight container.

This is being entered into  My GBBO Bakealong and the Great Bloggers Bake Off



Even distribution

Chocolate Muesli Cookies

August 13, 2014

Whilst the GBBO gang may be making fancy pants biscuits, I am taking you down a more practical path this evening. All in one, easy chocolate muesli cookies.

I made these for a bring and share lunch at Euston Church. I had a load of muesli to use but I didn’t want to make flapjack or brownies as there’s always loads of them at a sharing lunch. They do go down well though, so I was looking for something in between the too but that didn’t involved faffing around with creaming butter and sugar. I found this Easy Oat biscuit recipe on Nigella’s website and since Mr B probably wouldn’t go for a muesli cookie, I added cocoa to act as a chocolate-smuggle.

chocolate muesli cookies

Leaning tower of pleasing

Easy Chocolate Muesli Cookies

300g muesli (not the milk powde eg. Alpen kind though – you might need to adjust if you go down that route)
300g self raising flour
300g butter
300g caster sugar
4 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp cocoa
4 tbsp milk
50g ish of rye flour

Makes: 12 cookies and 1 large tray bake.

Put the flour, muesli, sugar and cocoa powder in a large bowl. Mix.
Melt the butter and golden syrup either in a saucepan over a low heat or by zapping in the microwave for 30s at a time.
Pour the melted butter and syrup into the dry mix and stir through a bit, then add the milk and stir until completely combined.
Finally, add rye flour a bit at a time until the dough is dry enough to make a golf ball out of it. It will still be really sticky but you’ll be able to handle it without it running through your hands.
I’m sorry this is very inexact but I wasn’t realistically expecting my very inexact “throw it in” adaptation of the recipe to work so I wasn’t taking notes.
Put golf ball sized blobs onto a well greased baking tray and bake in the oven for 30 mins then take out and leave to cool.
For the tray bake it’ll need about 50mins and then leave it in the oven as it cools.

The resulting cookies / bake will be really soft so you could bake them for longer if you want a more robust bake.

Bake at 180c for 30mins

Remove and leave to cool before moving


easy quick cookie

Yes it’s muesli, but it’s CHOCOLATE

Freakishly large kettle chip

August 13, 2014

Mr B just sent me this photo. Apparently he had 25 colleagues around his desk looking at this oversized beauty.


GBBO 5 Technical Bake #1: Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake

August 10, 2014

As you may have noticed, the Great British Bake Off has started again on the UK. I wasn’t sure if I’d want to invest the time in another series, but I appear to have already watched the first episode and been persuaded to reprise my self inflicted challenge of the last series to tackle every single technical bake.

Tech Bake 5.1

So, here is GBBO Tech-Bake 5.1 the cherry cake. I forgot to shake the cherries in flour but still got a good even distribution. I used 3/4 natural French glacé cherries and 1/4 dried cranberries as I didn’t want to break open a new packet. The glacé cherries are less luridly red but I like the more refined colouring. Did you know they used to be preserved in honey? Find out more about their history here. I also made the icing pink and used Raspberry Ripple naturally flavoured icing sugar from Sugar and Crumbs. It really does taste like raspberry ripple and bring a little cheekiness to the cake. I’m not sure what Mr Hollywood would think though!

A while back I was sent a Lekue silicon savarin mould. I’ve never been a huge fan of silicone but I’m impressed the fact that this cooked in exactly the same time, with the same evenness and browned well. I didn’t grease it at all and it came out like a dream!

What would Mary say?

Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake
taken from BBC Good Food and Great British Bake off Series 5

150g natural French glacé cherries
50g dried cranberries or other dried fruit
225g self-raising flour
175g softened butter, plus extra for greasing
175g caster sugar
3 drops natural lemon essence
50g ground almonds
3 large free-range eggs

For the decoration
175g raspberry ripple icing sugar + food colouring
15g flaked almonds, toasted
5 glacé cherries, quartered

Preparation method 

Preheat oven to 180c (160 for fan)
Grease or spray a 23cm/9in bundt tin or savarin mould.
Rinse the fruit under cold water
Reserve 4 cherries
Cut the rest of the fruit into small pieces – eg. the cherries into quarters.
Set aside five of the quartered cherries for the decoration later.
Drain the fruit, dry thoroughly on kitchen paper and toss in two tablespoons of the flour.
Measure the flour, butter, sugar, almonds , eggs and lemon essence (or zest)into a large bowl and beat well until completely mixed.
Fold in the fruit.
Spoon into the bundt tin.

Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until well risen, golden-brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out and cool on a wire rack.

Toast the almonds in a pan.
Mix the icing sugar together with 4 tbsp water, add more if needed to make it loose enough to drizzle. Colour if desired.
Drizzle over the cooled cake using the back of a spoon, sprinkle over the toasted almonds and reserved cherries cut into slices


Lekue sent me the mould for free ages ago but I wasn’t required to write a review. I was genuinely impressed. I have had freebies in the past from French Glace Cherries and Sugar and Crumbs. I really like the Sugar and Crumbs intriguing flavoured icing sugar and cocoa powder and have a few more I’m looking forward to trying. The cake stand is from

This is being entered into Cook Blog Share , My GBBO Bakealong and the Great Bloggers Bake Off



Even distribution

Chocolate Courgette Cake by Riverford

August 6, 2014

I made this cake 2 weeks ago, but I’ve seen a few courgette cakes showing their faces around the web since then. Clearly it’s courgette time. You can see Beckie’s here and Steph’s here.

My congestion of courgettes (made-up collective noun)  was the result of an excellent offer which Riverford had been running where you could get their veg boxes delivered really cheaply for 3 weeks. I really enjoyed coming home every Tuesday evening to a box of suprise veg, but I don’t think our potato consumption is voracious enough to justify keeping it going, and the non-potato one is just that bit more expensive. If it wasn’t just the two of us though I’d recommend their excellent service and great tasting veg (oh the carrots!). In particular, our local rep Simon Bear  was incredibly friendly and helpful.

Riverford have recipe cards in the box and lots of ideas online of how to used their various veg, so when I ended up with a bit of a queue of courgettes (ooh that’s a better one…they look a bit like buses all lined up) I went on their website and found this one.

I have to confess that mine had a slightly grainy texture but I entirely put this down to my own failing of curdling the creamed mixture (milk too cold, butter too warm) and thinking I could use gluten free flour without any xanthan gum. I’d bet my buns that this will turn out wonderfully if you make it and it still got hoovered up quite happily but church friends and Mr B. Hey, if it’s got chocolate in it, it’s always pretty safe. Well, unless it’s chocolate mashed potato cake but that was too traumatic to even make it to the blog. Another time.

Last time on Great British Bake Off they had to make a vegetable based cake, so this is my welcome cake for the new series.

courgette cake from riverforf

Apologies for the bad photo

Riverford’s Chocolate Courgette Cake

120g softened unsalted butter
125ml sunflower oil
100g caster sugar
200g soft brown sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
130ml milk
350g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
450g courgettes, peeled and finely grated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put the butter, sunflower oil and both sugars in a bowl and beat them together until light and fluffy.
Gradually beat in the eggs and then the milk.
Sift the dry ingredients together and fold them into the mixture. Stir in the courgettes and vanilla, then spoon the mixture into a 20 x 35cm baking tin lined with baking parchment.
Place in an oven preheated to 190°C/Gas Mark 5 and bake for 35–45 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Mix a teacup full of icing sugar with 2 tsp cocoa.
Moisten with drops of water, stirring well until it starts to turn runny.
Drizzle over the cake while warm

Courgette covered in chocolate

Please note – I paid good and proper for the veg boxes – they weren’t a freebie or review. I’m a normal punter for this one.


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