Friday, 31 May 2013


I just love to make bread, of all the things to bake I believe it is the cleverest.  I get so excited returning to a a lump of dough that I've been kneading to discover it has grown into a beautifully light plump cushion of loveliness.

It's all about practice and finding the technique that works for you.  There is a lot of instinct with bread and knowing what feels right.  Before The Bake Off I baked bread but by the time I made it for the programme I really got to grips with creating bread, adding flavours and knowing what my capabilities were and capitalising on them.  I know that if I add extra liquids it tends to go wrong for me so I stick to seeds, herbs and spices.

Apart from the end product, what I really enjoy is that feeling of tradition and ceremony.  Baking bread is something that has been done for centuries and the basic principles have not changed, just the flavours.  The only limits are your own imagination so get kneading and remember that the softer your dough, the softer your bread.

I really enjoy sweet dough to eat with delicious home baked ham or a good nutty cheese like Gruyere but sometimes a bit of butter is all that is needed.  This lavender and honey bread needs nothing, a bit like brioche we just ripped it apart and scoffed the lot shortly after these photos were taken.  Warm light and fluffy, what more could you ask for apart from more please!

The inspiration for this bread came from a new selection of Infused Sugars from Sainsbury's in their Taste The Difference range.  They have introduced 3 flavours, Cinnamon, Vanilla and Lavender and all come in a 250g pot.  They are perfect for adding that extra kick of flavour to your bakes and when I saw the lavender I needed no excuse to come up with a recipe.  With the added ingredient of Sainbury's Spanish Lavender Honey it has a delicate flavour you'll really enjoy.

500g Strong White Bread Flour
60g Butter
40g Sainsbury's Lavender Infused Sugar
10g Salt
15g Yeast
250g Milk
2 tbsp Sainsbury's Spanish Lavender Honey
2 Eggs

First warm the milk till it is no longer cold, you don't want to heat it.  In a large mixing bowl rub the butter into the flour.  Combine the remaining dry ingredients then add the eggs.  This is a very sticky dough so use a free standing mixer with a dough hook to start you off.  With the mixer on, slowly add the milk till it forms a dough.  If you don't have a mixer, use a knife to mix your dough till it comes together.

Very lightly flour your surface and tip the dough onto it.  Flour your hands and using the heal of your hands, knead the dough by stretching it till it becomes smooth, elastic and slightly warm.  This should take about 8-10 minutes.  Form the dough into a tight, neat ball and return it to the bowl.  Cover with cling film (or a disposable shower cap) and leave to rise for 1 hour.

Once your dough has doubled in size (and you have shown everyone how clever you are......just me then!) Tip it back onto the surface and knock the air back out of it.  Now form the dough into 2 loaves or individual rolls and place onto a baking stone or baking sheet lined with parchment.

Cover with a clean tea towel and leave for a further hour to double in size again.  Once risen, brush the dough with milk and sprinkle a little of the Lavender Sugar.

Bake the bread in a preheated oven at 210C for the first 10 minutes then turn the heat down to 200C and bake for a further 20-30 minutes depending on whether you are baking rolls or a loaf.  Keep an eye on it as sweet dough can burn quite easily.

Once it has cooked, tap the bottom and if it sounds hollow it's done.

Thursday, 2 May 2013


This tart looks quite beautiful, cuts like butter and tastes like heaven.  Don't be put off by the chilli, it really does compliment the chocolate, adding just a hint of heat in the background.  The Aztecs really new what they were doing when they hit upon this combination.  I have used cinnamon paste but if you can't find it you could just add 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon instead.  To make life even easier it can be made the day before and stored in the fridge.  Bring it back to room temperature before serving though.

300ml Double Cream
40g Sugar
1 Red Chilli, Split in half and seeds removed
450g Dark Chocolate, broken into pieces
115g Butter
1 tsp Cinnamon Paste
100ml Milk
250g Sweet or Shortcrust Pastry

Roll out the pastry and line a 10" Loose bottom flan tin.  Cover with parchment and fill with baking beans (rice, dried lentils etc) and bake it blind for 15 minutes at 180C.  Remove the parchment and beans and bake for a further 5-10 minutes to finish it off.  It should be crisp and lightly golden.

Put the cream, chilli and sugar in a pan over a low heat and bring to the boil.  Immediately take it off the heat, remove the chilli and add the butter, chocolate and cinnamon paste.  Stir till it has all completely melted.

Now slowly add the milk, stirring until it becomes smooth.  Pour the mixture into the cooked and cooled pastry case.  Tap it lightly to even out the surface and allow to cool and set for 2-3 hours.  Lightly dust with cocoa to serve.

If you're feeling decadent add a touch of gold leaf for a little extra Aztec.