Flourless chocolate and almond cake for Passover

Flourless chocolate and almond cake for Passover

Sachertorte is my favourite chocolate cake, but since it’s based on flour, you can’t serve it at Passover. You can, however, serve this flourless chocolate almond cake, whose recipe was passed down to us by my late mother-in-law and is a firm family favourite (Joan was much loved, by the way – very much the opposite of the Les Dawson stereotype).

  • 3 eggs
  • 100g dark chocolate (as usual, my favourite is 70% Chocolat Menier)
  • 100g sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g butter, plus some for greasing
  • 15ml (1tbsp) brandy or rum, optional
  • A small cup of espresso coffee (I made 60ml or so). An alternative would be a teaspoon of instant coffee dissolved in 30ml or so of water
  1. Preheat oven to 135℃ fan
  2. Line the base of a 23cm (or so) cake tin with baking paper, grease the sides with butter
  3. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. If the butter is hard, chop it into small pieces.
  4. Add the butter and mix until melted
  5. Reserve 25g of the sugar in a small bowl
  6. Add the remaining 75g of sugar, ground almonds, coffee and brandy to the chocolate mixture and stir until smooth
  7. Remove the top of the double boiler from the heat. If you’re feeling impatient, cool it in an ice bath. Otherwise, just wait for it to be not too much above room temperature: you don’t want it scrambling the egg yolks.
  8. Separate the eggs into two bowls
  9. Whisk the whites until soft, add the 25g of sugar, and whisk until you have a stiff meringue
  10. Whisk the yolks until foamy, then add the chocolate mixture and stir
  11. Fold in the meringue until you’ve got rid of any blobs of egg white and any swirls of dark chocolate.
  12. Pour into your cake tin and bake. Everyone’s oven is different: I gave the cake around 40 minutes, opened to check it with a skewer, and then gave it another 10 when the skewer didn’t come out quite dry.
  13. Cool on a rack for as long as you can bear it.
  14. Serve (with whipped cream, if you’re feeling Viennese).
Wakatobi: underwater heaven in Indonesia

Wakatobi: underwater heaven in Indonesia

I’m going to find it difficult to explain Wakatobi to you. If you’re not (yet) a scuba diver, I’m going to attempt to describe the whole experience of coral sea diving in a few hundred words. If you are already a scuba diver, you’ll understand the general attraction, but Wakatobi is almost certainly a different experience from anywhere that you’ve dived previously (unless, I’m reliably informed, you’ve been to Rajah Ampat).

Overwhelmingly, people like me who love warm water diving in coral seas do it for one big reason: we love gazing at the wildlife (there are other sorts of diver, like the ones who dive deep into ice cold water to hunt for artifacts in wrecks, which is a different experience altogether). So when we talk about our dives, we discuss excitedly whether we saw a turtle or a shark or a manta ray, or a tiny brightly coloured mandarin fish found only in this particular corner of ocean, or of a coral shrimp so tiny and translucent that it took the sharpest of eyes to notice it. Many divers are obsessive about writing up every dive in their logbook, not least because the major certification bodies make this an important part of one’s training, and old habits die hard. On a good dive in normal sites, which would typically last somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes, you might expect to see a dozen or so notable things (the definition of “notable” is fuzzy, but everyone agrees that it includes sharks, rays and turtles, and it usually includes any bright, colourful or physically odd-shaped fish that isn’t present in massive numbers in the area you’re diving).

The thing about Wakatobi is that on just about every dive, you reach the “dozen notable things” mark in about the first five minutes. Then, the number keeps clocking up as you go, accelerating as you reach the shallows, especially if the sun is out. If you try to remember all the species you’ve seen on a dive, you’re on a hiding to nothing; even counting them is beyond my ability. I’ve tried remembering all the species of butterfly fish – just one small section of the marine diversity out there – and given up when it gets to a dozen (it turns out that around 60 of the world’s 120 species are present in the area). In other dive areas, you might struggle to think of any really significant thing you saw during a dive. At Wakatobi, you have the opposite problem: you’re getting sensory overload. It’s best to start a dive with a couple of things you’re going to look out for, like, for example, counting butterfly fish species, counting turtle sightings (my maximum count was twelve) or searching the sand for its inhabitants. The goby-shrimp combo is a particularly cool sand-dwelling symbiosis: the shrimp lives in a hole and does the housekeeping, ejecting anything it considers not to be nice and clean, while the goby (a silvery fish around 3cm long) stands on guard outside.

If you compare coral reef diving to wildlife-watching on land, the difference in sheer profusion and diversity is simply enormous. Whether it’s a safari in Africa, hoping to see the “big five” (elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo), looking for bears or moose in Scandinavia, or just bird-watching in the UK, you can spend most of your hours in the field waiting for some animal to put in an appearance. On a coral reef, by contrast, there is a riot of colour and shape all around you.

It’s not just about the fish. The coral comes in a thousand forms. The hard corals are generally named after things on land: potato coral, lettuce coral, mushroom coral, plate coral, brain coral (you get the idea). They can make very large formations indeed. Some sea fans can be well over the size of a person. Roma, one of Wakatobi’s dive sites, has two enormous “coral roses” of overlapping plates which must measure at least 30m in diameter. Towards the top of the reef, you can see single formations of staghorn coral that last for 100m at a time, hosting an unbelievable variety of reef fish sheltering in its branches. The soft corals can be equally eye-catching, like watching a colony of Xenia coral feeding, each of its dozens of arms waving in the swell, with a star of eight feathery “fingers” opening and closing to grab nutrients which pass by. Blown up in your mind’s eye, it’s the stuff of horror movies. There are many other creatures that are not corals. Ali Baba could hide inside the basket sponges without a problem; Lampert’s sea cucumbers form scary white patterns around the outside. There’s the tunicate family: solitary tunicates with a delicately veined pattern like fine porcelain, bluebell tunicates,  electric blue translucent ovals which you’ll see in colonies scattered across the reef. Sailor’s eyeballs are a type of anemone which look for all the world like giant pearls.

Everyone has their own favourites. I love the ambush predators, like the crocodile fish which looks extremely like its landbound namesake, except that it’s perfectly camouflaged for the underwater landscape. We’ve seen a scorpion fish coloured white as it swims through the water, then settling on a reddish brown rock and then changing in an instant to match the place where it has settled, waiting for prey to arrive. There’s also defensive camouflage: at 20-30cm, a trumpet fish isn’t exactly a small item, but it’s surprisingly difficult to spot one when it’s pretending to be one of a bunch of sea rods. Many divers and most dive guides seem to love nudibranchs; personally, I struggle to see what the fuss is about. At the end of the day, even if it’s brilliantly coloured and boldly patterned, a snail is a snail. But big shoals are always a thrill, particularly when they’re tiny fish swirling around in a “bait ball”, whose shape morphs as they move with the current’s ebb and flow or perform some shift to attempt to confuse predators. I also love seeing parrot fish bump the coral, bite off a chunk and grind it up into fine sand which you can see them excrete (after they’ve ingested the nutrients). It’s not far off the mark to assert that the fabulous beaches of white sands in these parts are largely composed of parrot fish droppings.

By the way, I haven’t attached any underwater photos because I stopped taking them a few years ago: I realised that I wasn’t enjoying dives any more because I was spending all my time worrying about the camera and the pictures. There are plenty of people who disagree with me, as a search for “Wakatobi underwater” will quickly show you.

Wakatobi is located just off the south-east corner of Sulawesi (that’s the spindly one on the Indonesian map) in the so-called “coral triangle”, which brings me to the first of my three caveats: it’s a bitch to get to. If you’re coming from the UK or the US, you have to spend the best part of a couple of days getting to Bali, and it’s then a two and a half hour charter flight to the airstrip on nearby Tomia island. They do their best to make the trip smooth and efficient, but any way you look at it, Wakatobi is in the middle of nowhere.

Second caveat: you won’t see much in the way of large pelagics here (sharks, rays, etc). And finally, Wakatobi isn’t a cheap ticket by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a luxury resort with a capacity of around 60 guests, where they take exquisite care of you. You do pay for what you get, although not at the level of the ritzy international brands. 

Somehow, when you leave, the team there manage to make you feel like you’ve just left a long lost second family. I don’t know quite how they do it, but whatever the magic is, it results in a lot of return guests. We’ve just done our third trip and it won’t be the last.

Travelling again: Salerno, the border of two Italies

Travelling again: Salerno, the border of two Italies

We’re travelling again. After a few fairly hectic business trips, we arrived in Naples with 10 days to explore its environs – the first time I’ve been to the region. We started our little tour at the busy port of Salerno, on the Tyrrhenian coast an hour or so’s drive south-east from Naples airport.

For a brief spell from 1816 until the reunification of Italy in 1860, Naples was the capital of the “Kingdom of the two Sicilies”, a name which puts me in mind that Salerno is really the “border of the two Italies”. To the West, the glitzy Amalfi Coast, which attracts a slew of tourists, many of them well-heeled. To the south-east, Calabria, a region which is agriculturally rich but has one of the lowest GDPs per capita in Italy. Heading down the coast road (the SP175 “Litorale”), I couldn’t help being struck by how down-at-heel the farms looked, especially when compared to a recent trip to the beautifully kept farmland around Padova and Verona. There were just too many derelict buildings, too many stretches of land with awnings that clearly should have been protecting crops but only served to cover bare earth gradually filling with weeds. When a stretch of coastline is proud of itself, its beaches and seaside restaurants have names like “Blue Gulf”, “Beach of the Angels” and so on: here, they have names denoting the desire to escape to somewhere else: “Malibu”, “Hawaii”.

Paestum – Temple of Poseidon

However, there’s a good reason to drive down this road, because after an hour, you get to the Archaeological Park at Paestum, which contains three of the best preserved Greek temples on the planet. The Temple of Poseidon  (or Neptune – they’re a bit inconsistent about whether to use the Greek or Latin names here), with its array of huge Doric columns, is nothing short of awesome: I haven’t been to the Parthenon, but I’m told by those who have been to both that The Temple of Poseidon is close to as exciting a sight; you can get far closer, with the added bonus in June of seeing it isurrounded by a carpet of wildflowers. Next door, the Temple of Hera comes close, although the columns are slightly more spread out, which reduces the “shock and awe” quotient. As you walk back towards the park’s exit past various ruins of Roman settlements, which include a particularly noteworthy marble impluvium (rainfall collector) in the centre of a villa’s atrium, you pass the Temple of Athene, which is somewhat smaller. You come out with the feeling that you have just been thoroughly dipped into a large pool of the culture of 2,500 years ago.

Paestum – Temple of Hera

The Amalfi Coast (or “Costiera Amalfitana”) fully deserves its reputation as one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline on the planet. Picture-perfect towns and villages perch uncertainly on the small flat spaces between cliffs that fall into the sea, or are hollowed into them. Vertiginous stairways take you from the coast road, high above the ocean, down to grey sand beaches. The scenery is studded with the luminous green of lemon trees: lemons from Amalfi and Sorrento are the most famous in Italy. Along the way, a never-ending series of places to vist, stay and/or eat with dazzling views: the picture here is taken from the Monastero Santa Rosa, a 17th century Dominican convent now turned into a high end hotel and restaurant.

View east from Monastero Santa Rosa

Sophia Loren’s villa is not far, with its mildly alarming open elevator to take Ms Loren from the house down the cliff drop towards the sea. I have to agree with the Italian friends who told us that the best views of the Amalfi Coast are to be had from the sea. Salerno turns out to be a good place to start a boat trip: go to Molo Manfredi marina and you’ll find several companies happy to rent you a boat, either with or without a skipper; for the cost conscious, joining a tour will make more sense than doing a private rental. There are fewer companies than the internet would appear to indicate, so you’ll find the same boats on offer on several different websites, aggregators or otherwise (for example, we started on “Blue Dream Rentals” and ended up renting from “Blu Mediterraneo”). The boat was fine and our skipper was very personable. We chose an intinerary that started at Salerno, proceeded to Positano (past Amalfi to the West) and then back via a stop for lunch. The photo here is of Positano, as glitzy as you can get and apparently the favoured ancharage for oligarchs’ superyachts (we saw five very large yachts moored there). You can also go to Capri, but that’s a longer trip and if you want to spend a substantial time going round Capri, you might prefer one of the many fast ferries and hydrofoils and then get a boat when you’re there. Alternatively, start your trip from further West along the coast: there are popular trips to Capri both from Amalfi and from Naples itself.


In between the glitzy Amalfi Coast and has-seen-better-days Calabria sits Salerno. What’s striking is the patchiness of the investment here. Stroll along the Corso Vittorio Emmanuele and you’ll find shops that are as modern and brightly maintained as you might wish for, with plenty of the usual big brands from Italy and beyond – Max Mara, Bennetton, Foot Locker – mixing with more local businesses that are maintained to a similarly high standard. The smartest restaurants, like the Michelin-mentioned Pescheria, are suitably ritzy; Embarcadero is a great looking bar and gelateria on the seafront; the 089 (zero-otto-nove) chain of bars is smart and fun. You can also eat extremely well at mid-level and cheaper places: Vasilicò, hidden away in a small square just off the Corso and run by the delightful chef patron Anna Clara Capacchione, served us some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had at a decidedly attractive price (including one of my favourite Italian wines, Lacryma Christi from nearby Vesuvius, at €13 a bottle). 

There are other small businesses that don’t look like they’ve had any money spent on them in half a century. Unsurprisingly, when it comes to food, some of these are excellent: we had the warmest of welcomes and fabulously good salumi at the Salumeria del Corso; in the back streets of the old city, Dolci Sapori, run by a father-and-son team, gave us just as warm a welcome and a superb lunch (plus a great selection of vintage rock and soul music, which, the dad told us, were down to his son – he prefers traditional Neapolitan song). There’s a definite feeling of going back in time to pre-globalization days when supply chains were short, with local shops selling goods made in the local hinterland – a feeling that can be pleasant, as in the excellent handbag shop which reminded us of the days when a parent might have been thrilled with bringing a handbag home from a trip to Italy. In other places, going back in time didn’t seem so great.

Salerno from above – Piazza della Libertà in the centre in the distance

At the other end of the scale, there are huge architectural projects. Adjacent to Molo Manfredi marina is the gigantic Plaza della Libertà, 28,000 square metres of bright, shiny new square sitting atop a parking lot and completely empty except for a single crescent-shaped building (itself mostly empty). The square was completed in 2021 after an architectural contest whose brief was to “bring to reality a new image and identity of the urban waterfront: the definitive opening of the city to the sea”. It’s certainly an attractively designed and striking bit of urban landscape, but to my mind, given the immense backlog of building repairs throughout the city, that’s a vanity project if ever there was one. The car park was almost completely empty when we parked our rental car there, but that hasn’t stopped another immense waterfront car park from being under construction just a kilometre or so to the south.

In our small number of days, we didn’t attempt to go through an exhaustive list of the sights of Salerno, but I’ll mention a couple of notable places. In this part of Italy where the hills fall directly into the sea, almost everything is built on a steep slope. Starting at the Dolceria Pantaleone in the Centro Storico, walk a couple of steep blocks uphill and you will reach Salerno Cathedral, aka the “Duomo”, or, to give it its full name, the “Cattedrale di Santa Maria degli Angeli, San Matteo e San Gregorio VII”. It’s a beautifully proportioned, light and airy building which dates from the 11th century, a far cry from the baroque excess of so many Italian churches and notable for a glorious set of mosaics. The faithful can gaze in awe upon the relics of St. Matthew; the rest of us can admire the artistry and appreciate what a spiritual place this is.

Mosaics at Salerno Cathedral

Coming out of the Duomo, if you don’t turn downhill but carry on gently uphill for many blocks, you will reach the Giardino della Minerva, the botanical garden of the city’s mediaeval medical school. This isn’t a garden for simple gawking at attractive plants: rather, it’s a kind of living encyclopaedia of medicinally or nutritionally interesting species: start at the bottom and you go up through a dizzying number of terraces, with dozens of species in each, to finish high above the city, with spectacular views. Inside the building, you discover that the medical school has been on this site, in one form or another, since mediaeval times. Furthermore, Salerno was one of the first places where women doctors practised and one of the first places where there was medicine specifically for women’s complaints. Perhaps the earliest text by a woman on feminine medicine was published here in the 12th century by “Trotula”, the alias of a certain Trota of Salerno.

Giardino della Minerva

We stayed in a lovely B&B, the Casa Santangelo in Salerno’s Centro Storico, once the apartment of an Italian marquis and now converted into some very smart suites. I couldn’t resist including this photo of our bedroom’s trompe l’oeil ceiling, painted onto fabric and tacked to the framework above.

Ceiling at Casa Santangelo

We’ve travelled to Italy a lot over the years, mainly to the north but also to Sicily and Puglia in the far south. It’s been our first time in this area: Salerno, the Amalfi Coast and Paestum have been completely new experiences. More antiquities await us at Pompeii and Herculaneum…

Sunset from Conca dei Marini, west of Amalfi

Around the world in 80 bakes: the index

OK, so there are a few dubious categorisations here to make the images line up. But I’ve done my best.

Biscuits (aka cookies)

Breads (loaves)

Breads – sweet



Pastries – sweet

Savoury dishes


Around the world in 80 bakes, no.80: back home with my Spelt Sourdough

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.80: back home with my Spelt Sourdough

For my 80th and final bake, it’s time to come back to my home in London (which is very lovely, if a somewhat humbler edifice than the Reform Club, Phileas Fogg’s final destination).

This sourdough recipe is the one that I’ve been making, in variations, almost every week since October 2019. I’ve made breads with more intense flavours (Estonian black bread and its Russian cousin Borodinsky bread are probably my favourites) and I’ve made breads with more wonderful texture (Persian Nân Barbari is the clear winner here). But this recipe fits into my working life with no fuss, particularly now that I have a high number of days working from home: the elapsed time is long, but the amount of actual work (including washing up effort, which seems to get forgotten in most cookbooks) has been pared down to the minimum. And it produces a healthy bread which is packed with flavour and which I’m happy to eat week after week.

There are several variations possible. The flour mixture in this post is 50/50 strong white/wholemeal spelt, but you can vary the flavour by replacing the spelt by either dark or light rye or wholemeal wheat. Or you can go 60/40 for a less dense, more pillowy result. Or you can increase the amount of seven seed mix, or ditch it altogether and/or replace it with 20-30g of caraway seeds (whose flavour is very much a traditional accompaniment to light rye). In the loaf tin version pictured here, I had run out of seven seed mix so I used sunflower seeds only.

In terms of process, I have two variants. Most often, I use a two stage prove: the second rise is done in a cloth-lined basket after which I bake a free standing loaf in a cast iron Dutch oven made by US company Challenger. But if I’m in a hurry, I’ll just pour the kneaded dough into a greased baking tin, leave it to rise once and then bake.

I adjust timings to suit the day’s schedule by choosing the temperature for the rises: fridge (around 3℃), room temperature (my kitchen is usually around 20℃) or “a warm place” (near my boiler, around 30℃). The fastest option is to heat an oven to 50℃ then turn it off, because you don’t want the yeast getting above 45℃. 

Here are three typical timings: choose your favourite or make up your own. I deliberately haven’t put in numbers of hours because they’re incredibly variable; you just have to wait until it looks right.

  1. Start the sponge first thing in the morning, make the dough at lunchtime and let it rise in a warm place ready to be baked after work.
  2. Start the sponge at lunchtime, make the dough in the evening and leave it in the refrigerator overnight. Take it out and leave it at room temperature or in a warm place, ready to be baked in time for lunch.
  3. Start the sponge in the evening,  make the dough first thing in the morning, letting it rise in a warm place through the morning ready to be baked around lunchtime.

You can use any starter you like. Mine started life in October 2018 as a wheat-based starter, but after the first couple of months, I started refreshing it only with dark rye (which apparently makes for a less fussy starter). The method came from Andrew Whitley’s “Bread Matters”.

The sponge

This is the initial mixture used to give the yeast in the sourdough starter the chance to multiply. It seems to go many names as well as “sponge”: Andrew Whitley calls it a “production sourdough”; I’ve also seen “pre-ferment”, “bulk ferment” or just plain “ferment”. A thicker version appears to be called a “biga”.

  • 90g sourdough starter
  • 90g dark rye flour
  • 180ml water
  1. If a layer of clear liquid has separated from your sourdough starter, mix it in thoroughly (some books advise you to discard this: I’ve never needed to).
  2. Mix thoroughly the starter, dark rye flour and water in a bowl. Leave to ferment at room temperature for several hours or overnight.

And don’t forget to refresh your starter:

  • 30g dark rye flour
  • 60 ml water
  1. Adding the flour and water to your starter, mix thoroughly, cover and replace in the refrigerator.

Making the dough

  • 350g Wholemeal spelt flour
  • 350g Strong white bread flour
  • 15g salt
  • 100g Seven seed bread mix (like this one, or your favourite other mixture of seeds)
  • 360ml warm water (warm but not hot to the touch, around 30-35℃)
  1. Put the flours, salt and seeds into the bowl of a stand mixer and stir until reasonably evenly mixed.
  2. Add the water to your sponge and mix.
  3. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture. With a spoon, mix enough to ensure that you don’t have tons of dry flour at the bottom of the bowl where the mixer might not pick it up.
  4. With the dough hook, knead for around 7 minutes: the dough should be very elastic and stretchy. Go for up to 10 minutes if you’re feeling uncertain.
  5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and make sure the dough is in a nice ball.

Preparing – tin version

  1. Brush oil over the bottom and sides of your bread tin.
  2. Transfer the dough into the bread tin, push it out to the sides and shape it into a loaf.
  3. Cover the tin with its lid or cling film (or non-single-use alternative) and leave the loaf to rise until it reaches the level of the tin.

For baking, I’ve assumed here that you have a casserole or covered roasting pan big enough to enclose your bread tin and be used as a Dutch oven. If you don’t, forget anything about making steam and simply cover your bread tin with its lid (if it has one) or with foil.

Preparing – free standing version

  1. Cover the bowl with cling film (or non-single-use alternative) and leave for several hours until approximately doubled in size.
  2. Pour some flour (I use the spelt flour, but it doesn’t really matter) into the bottom of your linen-lined proving basket and shake it out over a board. Put some more flour onto the board.
  3. Transfer the dough from the mixer bowl onto the board. Flour your hands and work the dough into a loaf shape: you’ll probably need a metal scraper to scrape some of the dough off the board when it sticks.
  4. Repeatedly stretch the top of your loaf, tucking the dough under. This will help get a well formed crust. You’re trying to end up with the smallest possible “key” – the gap at the bottom where all the folds have come together.
  5. Put the loaf into your basket, smooth side down and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise until it is close to the top of the basket.


  1. Half an hour or so before the loaf has risen, start to preheat your oven on the fan setting if there is one, with your Dutch oven in it if you’re using one. You want it to reach 250℃ by the time you start baking.
  2. Score a few gashes into your loaf, in whatever pattern you like (I use two or three crossways gashes when using a tin, or I do a kind of signature for the free standing loaf, along the lines of the stylised “P” that Poilâne use).
  3. Now work quickly: remove the tea towel (or cover of your tin), open the oven, remove the cover of your Dutch oven (if you’re using one), place your loaf in it, throw a few ice cubes around the side of your loaf (if using a tin, you can just use water) and cover. Close the oven and reduce the temperature to 225℃.
  4. After 30 minutes, open the oven door, uncover your loaf and close the oven door again. Continue baking for around 20 minutes. By the end of this, the top of your loaf should be medium-to-deep brown and the internal temperature should be around 98℃.
  5. Leave to cool on a rack for at least an hour before cutting and eating.
  6. Half an hour or so before the loaf has risen, start to preheat your oven on the fan setting if there is one, with your Dutch oven in it if you’re using one. You want it to reach 250℃ by the time you start baking.
  7. Score a few gashes into your loaf, in whatever pattern you like (I use two or three crossways gashes when using a tin, or I do a kind of signature for the free standing loaf, along the lines of the stylised “P” that Poilâne use).
  8. Now work quickly: remove the tea towel (or cover of your tin), open the oven, remove the cover of your Dutch oven (if you’re using one), place your loaf in it, throw a few ice cubes around the side of your loaf (if using a tin, you can just use water) and cover. Close the oven and reduce the temperature to 225℃.
  9. After 30 minutes, open the oven door, uncover your loaf and close the oven door again. Continue baking for around 20 minutes. By the end of this, the top of your loaf should be medium-to-deep brown and the internal temperature should be around 98℃.
  10. Leave to cool on a rack for at least an hour before cutting and eating.

So that’s it! We’ve baked round the world, from the great cities of our planet – Paris, New York, Vienna –  to the middle of nowhere in Pitcairn Island. We’ve made breads, cakes, biscuits, pastries, savoury dishes and a few random things that don’t fit into any category. We’ve done some super-easy bakes (soda bread) and some very challenging ones (chocolate eclairs, pannetone). Being diabetic, which means I shouldn’t really have been doing this blog at all, I’ve erred on the less sweet side, but there are a few very sweet dishes indeed. It’s been a grand ride and I’ve learned masses.

There will be one more post in this series, namely a recipe index. But otherwise, it’s goodbye, and time for me to revert this blog to its original intention of being about all my obsessions – travel, software, business, politics and anything else. If you’re interested, stay with me!

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.79: Vanillekipferl, Viennese crescent biscuits

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.79: Vanillekipferl, Viennese crescent biscuits

Austrians don’t necessarily like to think too hard about how close they became to being a Turkish province and quite how much they have to thank the Poles that this didn’t happen. In 1683, the Turks neared the city gates, to be defeated in the Battle of Vienna when the forces of the Holy Roman Empire were joined by the Polish army of King John III Sobieski.

For some reason, however, the crescent moon of the Turkish flag lives on in Austrian culture in the shape of Vanillekipferl (vanilla crescents): delectable, crumbly nut-flavoured biscuits that are particularly popular as a Christmas treat. They’ve spread from their origins in Vienna all over Germanic countries and many Eastern European ones, including (of course) Poland.

My wife has Austrian blood in her if you go back a century or so and this recipe came down from one of her relatives. It’s similar to many Austrian recipes today. There are choices to be made: this uses almonds, but walnuts are a popular choice and you also see hazelnuts. Some recipes have a slightly higher ratio of flour to everything else, and some add an egg to the dough to bind it, giving you a slightly richer and considerably less crumbly result with greater structural integrity.

This looks like a straightforward recipe but it’s trickier than many biscuit/cookie recipes because it’s easy to get the texture wrong. Undergrind your nuts and you’ll get a grainy, rather lumpen biscuit which tastes fine but just doesn’t feel right. Overprocess or overwork the dough – especially if your hands are too warm – and the butter will come out and you lose the flavour. But if you get this right, Vanillekipferl have a crumbly butteriness that makes them a rare treat.

The quantities here give you 300g of dough which will yield 15-20 Vanillekipferl. It scales really easily – just multiply by as much as you want. But be aware that a standard size baking tray won’t take many more than 20, because they spread.

The ground almond mixture

You don’t have to make grind your own almonds: you can just buy a pack of ground almonds and add sugar. But doing your own with good quality almonds will result in a better tasting biscuit.

I keep a jar of vanilla sugar, which is simply a jar of caster sugar with a couple of vanilla pods in it which has been left in the cupboard more or less indefinitely. Again, you don’t have to do this: you can either rely on adding more vanilla essence or buy a packet of pre-made vanilla sugar (which is what most Austrian recipes suggest).

  • 50g almonds in their shells
  • 50g caster sugar (vanilla sugar if you have it)
  1. Put the almonds into a bowl and cover with boiling water.
  2. Wait around 15 minutes, then discard the water and pop each almond out of its skin. When you’ve finished, pat the almonds dry with a tea towel or kitchen roll and discard the skins.
  3. Put the almonds and sugar into the bowl of a food processor and process until the almonds have been ground very fine. This should take around 1-2 minutes. Leave them in the bowl – you’ll be adding the other ingredients shortly.

Making the Kipferl

  • 100g butter
  • 100g plain flour
  • Pinch of salt (⅛ tsp is plenty)
  • Vanilla essence to taste – but be generous
  1. Preheat oven to 160℃ fan.
  2. Line a baking tray with a Silpat sheet, or baking paper if you don’t have one.
  3. Cut the butter into cubes (between 5-10mm).
  4. Add the butter, flour and vanilla essence to your food processor bowl with the almonds and sugar.
  5. Process the mixture until it comes together into a smooth dough.
  6. Take a small ball of dough, around 15-20g, compress it in your hands and roll it into a cigar shape around 8 cm long. 
  7. Form the dough into a crescent and place it onto your baking sheet. Make sure to keep at least a couple of centimetres between each crescent, because the Kipferl will spread in the oven more than you expect.
  8. Repeat for the other Kipferl and bake until just beginning to go golden – this will take around 16-18 minutes. You want them fairly pale for the best flavour.
  9. Remove from the oven, slide your Silpat sheet off the baking tray and leave to cool. Handle with care because the Kipferl are quite fragile. 
  10. If any of the Kipferl have merged together when they spread, separate them gently with a knife and serve.

I stop here, because the Vanillekipferl are plenty sweet enough for me already. But Austrian recipes now dust theKkipferl with icing sugar in one or both of the following stages:

  1. Immediately after taking out of the oven. In this case, the icing sugar will be absorbed into the Kipferl.
  2. After the Kipferl have been cooled. In this case, the icing will stay as a pretty powdery dusting on the top.

It would, of course, be close to criminal to miss out on having these with good coffee…

Seville orange marmalade (aka “Henderson marmalade”)

Seville orange marmalade (aka “Henderson marmalade”)

It’s Seville orange season, which means it’s marmalade-making time. I’ve been doing this almost every year for as long as I can remember now, using the recipe passed down through the generations of the family of my late and much loved stepfather, so this is officially “Henderson marmalade”. Or it should possibly be “WSF marmalade”, since John would sign his cards to my brothers and me as “WSF” (for “wicked step father”, which was the polar opposite of reality).

This isn’t precisely the recipe handed down to me, for two reasons: firstly, the original recipe had some tweaking of quantities as you go, which adds washing up and which I don’t think is necessary, and secondly for the more prosaic reason that this is in metric and the numbers have been tweaked for my current kitchen equipment. But the results are pretty faithful to the original.

By the way, it’s worth hunting around for good Seville oranges. I’ve made this with standard supermarket ones for years, but for the last two, I’ve been getting them from our local greengrocer and they’re stunning.

This is sized to just about the maximum that will fit into my preserving pan, which is a 9 litre maslin pan from Lakeland (or 8.5l, depending on which bit of their blurb you read). It only just fits, so you might want to be a fraction more conservative with the amount of water, or go for a larger pan.

  • 2 kg Seville oranges
  • 6 litres water
  • 4 kg granulated sugar
  1. Line a bowl with a muslin or J cloth.
  2. Peel the oranges with your fingers; slice the peel into very thin strips and put it into the preserving pan.
  3. Coarsely chop the oranges. Put the pips and any particularly large bits of pith into the bowl. Put the flesh and any juice into the preserving pan.
  4. Tie up the muslin with string, making a bundle of the pips and pith. Put it into the preserving pan also, along with any juice left in the bowl.
  5. Add the water, mix, and leave for around 12 hours (I usually do this overnight).
  6. Now bring the mixture to the boil, uncovered, and leave to simmer for around 60-90 minutes. At the end of this, you should be able to cut the peel easily with a wooden spoon.
  7. Leave the mixture for another 8 hours, or longer if you like: there’s no harm in leaving it to the following day.
  8. Add the sugar and bring to the boil, again uncovered. If your mixture is in danger of overflowing the pan (this often happens to me), you may want to take a batch out into a separate saucepan, adding it back when the level has gone down enough that it will fit.
  9. Sterilise your jars. I do this by putting the jars themselves into a 90℃ oven for an hour or so and the lids into boiling water with a Milton table. But there are other methods: use your favourite.
  10. Keep boiling until the mixture reaches between 105℃ and 106℃, which is likely to take at least four hours. Make sure that your mixture is well stirred, because if you don’t, you can get a considerable temperature gradient. And be patient: the last couple of degrees take forever. 105℃ will give you a fairly runny marmalade; 106℃ is a stiffer set. Only go hotter if you’re paranoid, or if you like your marmalade dark and bitter, which some people do.
  11. There are various other setting tests involving pouring a teaspoon of mixture onto a cold plate and seeing if it forms a skin when you draw your finger across it, but honestly: going by temperature works fine.
  12. Remove the muslin with the pips and pith, and pour the marmalade into jars. For a belt-and-braces on sterilising the lids, turn the jars upside down while they’re cooling: the hot marmalade will make absolutely sure the lids are sterile. It definitely works: I did this for years without bothering with the Milton tablet and never had a problem.

Enjoy this critical component of a perfect breakfast. Even though London is packed with high end grocery shops, there’s nothing quite like the home made stuff: I warmly commend it to you.

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.78: Potica from Slovenia

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.78: Potica from Slovenia

Think of it as the child of a love triangle of brioche, cinnamon bun and baklava, only with a lot less sugar. For Slovenian celebrations – Easter, Christmas, weddings, whatever – the Potica (the “c” is pronounced “ts”) is a favourite baked item. (I’m not really sure whether to call it a bread or a cake). There is even a special mould for it called a Potičnik, which is a relative of the bundt tin more commonly found in the UK or US, but with a different pattern around the top. However, if you don’t own a bundt tin, you can make a perfectly good Potica in a normal loaf tin, as I’ve done here: it just won’t be quite as striking.

The critical part here is to make a beautifully stretchy dough enriched with eggs, butter and some sugar, although really a lot less than you might expect from similar breads around the world. I’ve started with this recipe from Jernej Kitchen and I’m really impressed: it’s resulted in a truly lovely dough: smooth, elastic, non-greasy and deeply satisfying to work with.

Next, it’s the filling. Staying with Jernej, I’ve gone for walnuts and honey, which is probably the most popular version of Potica: apparently, you can choose any of the usual things that Eastern Europeans like in pastries: poppyseeds are a favourite of mine.

Finally, rolling and baking. Let’s be honest here: looking at the photos, it’s obvious that there aren’t nearly enough turns on my spiral of dough and filling. Partly, that’s the fault of the recipe suggesting that I roll it to 40cm long – I think doubling that would have been good – and partly, I wimped out of how thin the dough was. Next time, I’ll roll out the dough to as close as I can get to the full length of my board and then make strenous efforts to roll the whole thing as tightly as I can.

By the way, proving times are pretty flexible. Jernej gives a couple of options, both of which involve long proves in the fridge; I didn’t have time so I just proved at slightly above room temperature and watched carefully until the dough was risen how I wanted it, which I think worked fine.

The dough

  • 5g dried yeast
  • 25g sugar
  • 270ml milk
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 65 g butter
  • 8g salt
  1. Put the milk into a bowl and warm until lukewarm (45s in my 900W microwave got the milk to 34℃).
  2. Put the yeast, sugar and milk into a bowl and leave until frothy (10 minutes or so)
  3. Put the flour into the bowl of your stand mixer
  4. Separate the eggs: place the yolks in the bowl with the flour, setting aside the whites, which you’ll use for the filling.
  5. Add the yeast mix to the bowl and mix with the standard paddle until well combined
  6. Melt the butter and add it to the bowl with the salt.
  7. Switch to the dough hook and knead at low speed until smooth and elastic – around 8-10 minutes.
  8. Form the dough into a ball and place in a bowl and cover.
  9. Leave until risen to around doubled in size – around 1-2 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

The filling

  • 300g walnuts
  • 60g honey
  • 30g granulated sugar (or caster)
  • 100g single cream (Jernej went for 75 g heavy cream – single was what I had)
  • 20g butter
  • 20ml rum
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 2 egg whites reserved from above
  • 25g caster sugar
  1. Put the walnuts into a food processor and grind until fine – but don’t overdo it: you don’t want oil coming out of the walnuts.
  2. Put the honey, granulated sugar, cream, butter and rum into a saucepan and bring to the boil; simmer for a minute or so.
  3. Add the mixture into your bowl with the walnuts, add the cinnamon and lemon zest and stir thoroughly.
  4. Wait until around 10 minutes before your dough is sufficiently risen before the next step, which is to make a meringue.
  5. Beat the egg whites at high speed. Once they are soft and beginning to fluff, add the sugar gradually as you beat.
  6. Continue beating at high speed until you have a stiff meringue.
  7. Fold the meringue into the walnut mixture until smoothly combined.

Putting it together 

  • A little milk for brushing
  1. Preheat oven to 165℃ fan.
  2. Grease your baking tin – a bundt tin if you have one, or a loaf pan if you don’t.
  3. Flour your board.
  4. Roll out the dough into a rectangle. The width should be the length of your loaf tin, or around twice the width of your bundt tin. The length should be as long as you can reasonably make it without tearing the dough.
  5. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving around 3-5cm around the edge.
  6. Roll the dough up into a spiral, as tightly as possible: the more turns the better. Pinch the ends to stop the filling leaking out.
  7. Transfer the dough to your tin, seam side up.
  8. Cover and leave to rise until most of the way to the top of the tin. This took me 2 hours: it will take you more or less, depending mainly on the ambient temperature. Jernej suggests overnight in the fridge.
  9. Poke holes in the dough with a skewer to allow moisture from the filling to escape with lower risk of the layers separating;  I probably poked a dozen holes in total.
  10. Brush with milk.
  11. Bake for 45 min; then reduce the heat to 140℃ and bake until a deep gold colour – around 20 minutes more.
  12. Remove from the oven, cool for a couple of minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan and leave to cool.
Around the world in 80 bakes, no.77: Must Leib – Estonian black bread

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.77: Must Leib – Estonian black bread

There have been several dark rye breads in this series, but after a recent visit to Estonia, I felt compelled to make the Estonian version, known simply as “Leib” (bread) or, if you’re feeling loquacious, “Must Leib” (black bread). It’s a soft, earthy and aromatic loaf that immediately hit the top of family favourites of any bread that I’ve made, displacing its Russian cousin Borodinsky bread; it also seems to keep particularly well. You need a couple of days elapsed time and it’s fairly hard work compared to many breads, not least because the dough is very sticky so you spend masses of time on washing up, but it was well worth the trouble and it’s definitely going to become a regular.

As ever, recipes vary: the common theme is the use of dark rye, caraway seeds and various other seeds (pumpkin and sunflower here; I’m sure others are possible), as well as the use of a fairly long fermentation time. I’ve started with a post on Deutsche Welle from their EU correspondent Georg Matthes, taking down the quantities around 20% to suit the size of my bread tin and changing a couple of ingredients to the ones readily available to me. By the way, my bread tin measures around 29cm x 11cm x 10cm, so around 3 litres, probably not far off an American 10 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Georg is surprisingly precise about fermentation time and temperature – 17 hours at 24℃ – which is fine if you are a professional baker with access to a temperature controlled environment but sounds scary to us amateurs. I have the choice of room temperature (around 20℃ in winter) or the cupboard containing my boiler (more like 30℃), so I ended up doing a kind of mix and match. It worked fine, so I suspect that things really aren’t all that sensitive.

I’ve given you the timings and sizes that I used successfully. Obviously, adapt as needed to your schedule, kitchen and available equipment. 

Day 1 – around noon

You’ll start by making three separate mixtures and leaving them to ferment. In each case, combine all the ingredients in a bowl, mix thoroughly, cover and leave.


  • 50g sourdough starter (mine is dark rye)
  • 200g dark rye flour
  • 200ml water

Plain dough

  • 280g dark rye flour
  • 300 ml water

Seed mix

  • 50g pumpkin seeds
  • 75g sunflower seeds
  • 8g salt
  • 120ml boiling water

Day 2 – around 9am – mix and first rise

  • 200g wholemeal wheat flour
  • 10g dried yeast
  • 35g malt extract
  • 50g molasses
  • 7g caraway seeds
  1. Put all ingredients into the bowl of your stand mixer. 
  2. Add all three doughs from the previous day.
  3. Mix thoroughly at medium speed for around 10 minutes using the normal paddle (the dough hook won’t work). You may need to stop and scrape the sides a few times to make sure that you incorporate any flour at the bottom that hasn’t blended in, as well as ensuring that the sticky malt extract and molasses are evenly distributed.
  4. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise until doubled in size (in my relatively cold kitchen, this took close to two hours).

Day 2 – around 11am – shape and second rise

  • 15g butter
  1. Melt the butter and brush your baking tin with it.
  2. Press the dough into the pan, getting it fully into the corners and making as even a shape as you can. Don’t worry about maintaining gluten structure: the preponderance of dark rye flour means there won’t be much.
  3. Leave to rise until the bread is nearly level with the top of the tin. This took another two hours, but in all honesty, the time is completely variable (disclaimer: I should have left mine about half an hour longer than I did for the loaf photographed here). You just have to be patient and keep watching the bread at regular intervals.

Day 2 – around 2pm – bake and glaze

  • 8g potato starch
  • 30ml water (this is a guess – Georg doesn’t specify)
  1. Around half an hour before you think your loaf will be fully risen, preheat your oven to 250℃ fan.
  2. Spread the potato starch thinly over a Silpat sheet or sheet of baking paper over a baking tray. When the oven is up to temperature, put it in the oven and roast until golden (this took me around 15 minutes). Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  3. When your loaf is risen to your satisfaction, score the top and brush it with a little water.  If you have a thermometer probe that you can use in the oven, stick it into the loaf.
  4. Put the tin into a larger roasting pan with some water and put the whole assembly into the oven.
  5. After 10 minutes, turn the oven temperature down to 180℃ fan and open the oven briefly to let off the steam.
  6. Bake until the internal temperature reaches 98℃ (this took me around 50 minutes).
  7. Around 10 minutes before the end of the baking time, put the roasted potato starch and the water into a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes or so. Take off the heat.
  8. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack. Brush it all over with the potato starch and water mixture.
  9. And here’s the hard part: leave the bread to rest for 24 hours before eating!
Around the world in 80 bakes, no.76 – Panettone from Italy

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.76 – Panettone from Italy

Christmas food in Italy is a whole lot more varied than in England, with all manner of different meats, fish, pasta dishes, cakes and biscuits (mercifully, the Italians don’t share our obsession with roast turkey). But there’s one thing that you’ll see at Christmas all over Italy: the cylindrical, sweetened, enriched bread called “Panettone” – the “big loaf”. Whenever I’ve been to a café in Italy at Christmas time, usually in or near Milan, the base of modern, industrial scale panettone manufacture and said to be its city of origin, piles of panettone pieces have been arrayed on the bar for everyone to nibble with their coffee. The aroma of citrus and vanilla in a bread of extreme fluffiness is unbeatable.

There are zillions of recipes, from the traditional candied fruit to those with more outlandish fillings: chocolate, hazelnut puree, tangerine paste, marrons glacés and so on. But there are a few things that distinguish a panettone from other breads/cakes of its type:

  • The dough is sweetened and enriched with egg yolks and butter, giving an overall flavour profile something like a brioche. But where you would try to get a brioche smooth and even in crumb, a panettone should be as aerated as you can make it: fluffiness is mandatory and large air pockets are completely acceptable.
  • The loaf is baked in a cylindrical case or tin. Originally, the chances are that you’d have reused one of the large tins in which canned goods were sold, but today, you are more likely to go for a single-use paper case made specially for the purpose: these are inexpensive and readily available both in the UK and the US.
  • To prevent your loaf collapsing down the moment you take it out of the oven – the fate of most heavily aerated breads and cakes – a panettone is cooled upside down: instead of collapsing, it gains extra height and fluffiness.

Making panettone turns out to be something of a project: it’s going to take you most of a day as an absolute minimum, with some recipes calling for multiple resting and proving stages taking several days, in order to develop the flavour to its maximum. I went for an intermediate, starting with a sourdough “sponge” at 6pm on day 1 and getting the panettone out of the oven around 24 hours later, to be cooled and ready for breakfast the next morning.

I ended up taking bits and pieces from several different recipes: Giallo Zaferrano, Great Italian Chefs, BBC Good Food. But rather than slavishly following a set of quantities and times, I relied more on getting the dough to look right at each stage, with my main reference being this video from chefsteps.com. You’ll see from the photos that my texture came out perfectly – I couldn’t have asked for better. However, my flavours beed adjusting for next time: I used a bit too much salt and not enough sugar and I was definitely too conservative about how much candied fruit to add. I’ve adjusted the quantities below to what I think I should have used (and will try for next Christmas).

Confession time: I was going by look and feel and not measuring all the quantities as accurately as usual. So if you’re going to try this, use your judgment.

Day 1, around 6pm: the sourdough sponge, part 1

  • 30g sourdough starter
  • 170g strong white flour
  • 130ml water
  1. Mix thoroughly the sourdough starter with 30g of the flour and 60ml of the water. Leave to ferment for around three hours.
  2. Add the rest of the flour and water, mix thoroughly then leave to ferment overnight.

Day 2, around 8am: the sourdough sponge, part 2

  • 100g strong white flour
  • 4g dried yeast
  • 100g yoghurt (any active yoghourt should do, buttermilk or kefir might be better)
  1. Add all the ingredients to your sponge from the previous day, mix thoroughly and leave to rest until everything is bubbling nicely. This will depend on the ambient temperature: I left mine for around two hours in a place near my boiler which is around 30℃.

Day 2 mid-morning: make the dough

  • 400g flour (very approximate, do by feel of the dough)
  • 8 egg yolks, at room temperature (when you separate the eggs, keep a small amount of the white – you’ll use it for the glaze.
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 140g butter, at room temperature
  • zest of one orange
  • zest of one lemon
  • seeds scraped from one vanilla pod
  • 5g salt
  • 120g lemon peel
  • 120g sultanas
  1. If it didn’t start there, put your sponge into the bowl of your stand mixer. Add flour and egg yolks and knead using the dough hook for five minutes. Leave half an hour, then start kneading again, for perhaps another five minutes, until the dough is extremely elastic with the gluten very stretchy.
  2. Slowly add the sugar and continue mixing with the dough hook until throughly mixed in. The dough should loosen out as the sugar dissolves.
  3. Cut the butter into small cubes, perhaps 1cm on a side. Add the butter a little at a time, continuing to mix until it’s all incorporated. I found that the butter tended to clump around the side of the bowl, requiring me to stop mixing at regular intervals and scrape down the sides.
  4. Eventually, you should have a soft, silky dough whose gluten makes it stretch into thin sheets when pulled. Leave it to relax for ten minutes or so.
  5. Add the vanilla, the lemon and orange zest, the salt and the dried fruit, and carry on mixing until the fruit is nicely coated in dough – this is what will stop if from sinking to the bottom of your panettone during baking.
  6. Now leave to ferment until doubled or tripled in size – in my case, this took around three hours.

Day 2 mid-afternoon – stretch and fold

  • 1 panettone mould (or other cylindrical tin)
  • Oil spray
  1. Spray a non-absorbent work surface with oil; also spray your hands, your scraper and the surface of your dough.
  2. Transfer the dough to the work surface.
  3. Stretch the dough as far as you dare, then fold it over onto itself, trapping some air. Repeat a few times, respraying with oil as needed.
  4. Transfer the dough to your mould. It should reach half to 2/3 of the way up.
  5. Leave to rise. You’re hoping for the dough to reach close to the top of the mould, which will probably take at least an hour, maybe two. At some point during this, start heating your oven to 180℃ fan.

Day 2 early evening: glaze and bake

  • 20g egg white
  • 20g icing sugar
  • 20g ground almonds
  • 20g flaked almonds for topping – I’ve never liked the traditional topping of  “pearl sugar” which is often found on a shop-bought panettone, so I’ve just used the almonds. But you choose.
  1. In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the egg white, icing sugar and ground almonds to form a fairly thick, sticky glaze (add egg white if it’s too thick).
  2. Preferably with a silicone brush, paint the mixture carefully over the top of the panettone. Since the dough is very light an puffy at this point, you need to treat it gently: you really don’t want to be tearing holes in the surface right now.
  3. Scatter the ground almonds over the glazed panettone. You can press them in a tiny amount, but again, don’t risk tearing the surface.
  4. If you have an oven-proof temperature probe, insert it into the middle of the loaf and bake until the internal temperature reaches 94℃. I use one called a “Meater”, which is intended for meat cookery but works well for this.
  5. If you don’t have a temperature probe, you’ll have to guess: bake for around 40 minutes and then poke a skewer in through the side to look for signs of dough that’s still wet. Mine took just short of 50 minutes total, in an oven that was supposedly set to 175℃ but was actually running at 180.
  6. When the panettone comes out the oven, hang it upside down to cool for at least 12 hours before serving. There are various ways of doing this: most involve knitting needles or, in my case, Turkish kebab skewers. As you’ll see from the photos, I poked two skewers through the loaf and balanced the whole lot on a pair of towers of cookbooks. It was rustic, but it worked.

If you get this far and have a lovely dome reminiscent of the cupola of the cathedral in Milan, bravo!