Tag: Around the world in 80 bakes

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.43: Sunday Bread from Antigua

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.43: Sunday Bread from Antigua

OK, so I can’t travel to Antigua right now. Or anywhere else, for that matter. But I can imagine myself on an Antiguan beach tucking into a breakfast of salt fish, eggplant and Sunday Bread.

I don’t eat that much white bread at home – our staple fare is more the rye sourdough that I make weekly – but I’ll make an exception for this Antiguan luxury version, which uses shortening to make it very puffy and soft. I’ve started with  a recipe from a Caribbean Cookbook by Freda Gore, which comes by way of food website Cooking Sense. I’ve reduced the quantities by around a third (this is only for a household of two right now) and reduced the water further, because the dough would have been far too wet without this. I’ve also modified the order slightly by blending the shortening in at the end of the mixing process in the way the French do for making brioche.

Warning: this isn’t a complex bake, but you need to handle the dough very gently: any rough treatment on this kind of bread risks a collapse.

  • 25g sugar
  • 10g yeast
  • 400 ml warm water (around 40℃)
  • 10g salt
  • 600g strong white flour
  • 125g vegetable shortening (Stork or Trex in the UK, I believe the U.S. equivalent is Crisco), at room temperature
  • 30g butter, at room temperature
  1. In a small bowl, mix sugar, yeast and water; leave for a few minutes until frothy.
  2. Cut the butter and shortening into small cubes
  3. Mix the flour and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer, then pour in your wet mix
  4. Mix gently with the dough hook or with a wooden spoon until combined. Make sure that you’ve taken the flour from the bottom of the bowl and blended it in.
  5. One third at a time, add the butter/shortening and mix on medium speed with the dough hook until most of it has been incorporated.
  6. The dough should come off the sides of the bowl pretty easily now. Form it into a ball with your hands and transfer it to an oiled bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until approximately doubled in size.
  7. Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface, flour your hands and give it a brief knead, stretching one surface of the dough and tucking the sides into the bottom, before transferring it back to the bowl.
  8. Leave to rise again until pillowy and soft. Some time during this, switch on your oven to 190℃ fan.
  9. Line a baking tray with a silicone sheet.
  10. Transfer the dough back to your floured board. Cut it into two pieces, then take a small piece of the end of each.
  11. Form each large piece into a loaf, again stretching the surface and tucking it underneath, being extra careful to preserve the airiness. Transfer your loaves to the silicone sheet.
  12. Roll each small piece into a long thin cylinder, then use this to create a decoration of your choice.
  13. Leave to rest for 10-15 minutes.
  14. Brush lightly with a little water.
  15. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden. Use your favourite test for done-ness: hitting the back and seeing what it sounds like, poking a skewer in, or just your sense of taste and colour.
  16. Cool on a rack.
Around the world in 80 bakes, no.42: Mađarica, layer cake from Croatia

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.42: Mađarica, layer cake from Croatia

Continuing with the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s coffee-and-cake tradition, here’s a cake from Croatia that deserves to be close to the top of the best-seller list, particularly with a coffee after a brisk morning winter walk (I speak from immediate experience). 

In point of fact, Mađarica (or Madjarica, if you prefer to avoid the “d with stroke”) is the Croatian word for “Hungarian girl”, and the cake bears a distinct resemblance to the Hungarian Dobos torte, created in 1885 for the National General Exhibition of Budapest. Who knows (or, for that matter, who cares) which came first?

Croatians seem to bake this cake for the thousands: all the recipes I came across were for seriously large quantities. I went for this recipe from Tamara Novacoviç and halved it, which still made for a generous cake.

Mađarica is one of those multi-layer cakes where you’re trying to get the layers as thin as you possibly can. Croatian recipes tend to assume that you’re using a standard cake tin and baking the layers one at a time. Since you’re trying to make a rectangular cake, I figure it’s easier to use large flat tins (Swiss roll tins or similar) and then cut the layers to size after baking.  Obviously, how you tackle this is going to depend on what tins you have available.

Filling

  • 25g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 500ml milk
  • 100g sugar
  • vanilla extract or paste to taste
  • 25g dark chocolate
  • 90g butter
  • ½ tbsp rum
  1. Mix the flour and cocoa powder in a bowl and set aside. Have a balloon whisk ready.
  2. Put the milk, sugar and vanilla into a saucepan and bring to the boil. When just boiling, take it off the heat, pour about a quarter of it into the bowl with the flour and cocoa powder, and whisk until thoroughly dissolved.
  3. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and return the saucepan to the heat. Add the chocolate, reduce the heat and keep whisking until the mixture thickens.
  4. Take the mixture off the heat, give it a minute or so to cool slightly, then add the butter and whisk until thoroughly melted.
  5. Stir in the rum.
  6. Cover (to avoid too much skin forming – you can’t avoid having a bit) and leave to cool while you make the rest of the cake.

Cake layers

  • 300g plain flour
  • ½ tsp (2g) baking powder
  • 1 egg white
  • 90g sour cream
  • 90 g sugar
  • 90g butter, at room temperature

I’m going to confess at this point (in case it isn’t obvious from the photos) that I wimped out: I had two 33x22cm Swiss roll tins ready but I didn’t dare roll the dough thin enough to use more than one of them. I should have had the courage to use both – my layers are definitely twice the thickness they should be – so that’s what I recommend that you do.

  1. Preheat oven to 180℃.
  2. Prepare two 33cm x 22cm Swiss roll tins (or whatever other baking trays you have) by greasing them and lining them with baking paper.
  3. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl.
  4. Cut the butter into cubes and put it with the sugar, sour cream and egg white into the bowl of your mixer; beat until smooth.
  5. Add the flour mixture and knead to a smooth dough. Add a bit more sour cream or water if your dough is too crumbly.
  6. Now the tricky part: divide the dough into two, and roll each half  thinly enough to spread out evenly over its baking tin. It’s probably easiest to do this by rolling the dough between two sheets of baking paper. Transfer your rolled dough to the tin.
  7. Bake for around 8-10 minutes.
  8. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Assembly and glaze

  • 50g dark chocolate
  • 25g butter
  • 20g sunflower oil (or other neutral oil)
  1. Cut each cake/biscuit layer into three, using a ruler or measuring tape to make pieces that are as close to identical in size as you possibly can.
  2. Place the first layer on your serving plate.
  3. Spread around one fifth of the filling evenly over the layer, then add the next layer. Repeat this four more times to build up your cake.
  4. Melt the chocolate and butter together (30s in a microwave should do this fine, if you can’t be bothered to wash up a double boiler).
  5. Add the oil and mix thoroughly.
  6. Pour the glaze over the top of the cake, making sure that you cover the whole cake with an even layer of glaze. Some of the glaze will have dripped over the sides: if you want, even this off with a palette knife.
  7. Refrigerate for several hours (or overnight) until the glaze hardens.
  8. Cut the cake into rectangles to serve.
Around the world in 80 bakes, no.41: Bublanina from the Czech Republic

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.41: Bublanina from the Czech Republic

Let’s start 2021 and the second half of this trip around the world with an easy, cheerful bake from the Czech Republic. Like every country in the former Austro-Hungarian empire, Czech has a strong coffee-and-cake culture, and the bake that you see everywhere is a light cake made with fresh fruit called Bublanina – a close relative of the French clafoutis.

The idea of a Bublanina is that the cake batter bubbles up around the fresh fruit. The trick is to use enough fruit that’s fresh enough that the cake is moist and fruity, but not so much that it’s damp and soggy. There’s no prescription about what fruit to use: it’s really a case of whatever’s in season. In the middle of a London winter, I went for blueberries (which are presumably in season somewhere across the globe), but strawberries, cherries, peaches and plums are all possible.

You have various options on the batter. At one of the end, you can just shove everything into a bowl and mix it; at the other, you can separate the eggs and pack air into the whites as a raising agent, soufflé-style. You can make the batter more traditional by using some semolina flour, can emulate the clafoutis by adding ground almonds, you can use various flavourings (vanilla, orange or lemon zest, Grand Marnier, etc). I’ve kept it simple and gone with a recipe from czechcookbook.com by Kristýna Koutná, a native of Brno, one of my favourite places in Czech; I’ve added lemon zest and changed the amount of flour slightly (my batter was definitely coming out runnier than Kristýna’s video).

A couple of notes on the photos: (1) I used 250g of blueberries, which was all I had. 400-500g would have been better. (2) The ingredients shot is missing the vanilla and lemon.

  • Butter for greasing cake tin
  • 320g plain flour (plus 20g or so for sprinkling)
  • 200g sugar (plus 30g or so for sprinkling)
  • 8g baking powder
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 240 ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 40 ml oil 
  • Vanilla extract to taste
  • 400g fresh fruit in season
  • Icing sugar for dusting
  1. Preheat oven to 180℃ fan
  2. Grease a cake tin or baking dish (I used a rectangular Pyrex dish or around 30cm x 20cm, but you can use any shape you like). Dust it with flour and shake out the excess.
  3. If you’re using fruit like peaches or large strawberries that need to be cut up, do so now: make sure the fruit isn’t too wet.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix flour, sugar and baking powder and blend.
  5. Add lemon zest, eggs, milk and oil
  6. With the standard beater, mix until smooth – do not overbeat.
  7. Pour the batter into your cake tin or dish
  8. Lay out the fruit on the batter. If it sinks, it doesn’t matter.
  9. Sprinkle a bit of sugar over the top.
  10. Bake for around 40 minutes until golden brown on top
  11. Leave to cool
  12. Dust with icing sugar before serving

You can eat bublanina warm or cool it to room temperature. If you find it a bit dry on its own (particularly if, like me, you were a bit short of fruit), add a fruit coulis.

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.40: Coconut cornbread from Pitcairn Island

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.40: Coconut cornbread from Pitcairn Island

So this is it: we’ve reached bake no. 40, in other words half way round the world. To celebrate, here’s a bake that’s truly from half way round the world: Pitcairn Island, roughly equidistant from New Zealand and Chile. It’s a tiny island which is truly in the middle of nowhere, so much so that you can’t a can’t even fly there: cargo boat is your only option. The island’s main trade is conducted by a dangerous looking process of taking goods out in improbably small canoes and either shinning up the steep sides of the cargo vessels or sending the goods up by pulley. Pitcairn is most famous as the place where the Bounty mutineers fetched up, so lots of the people are called Christian (Fletcher Christian was the leader of the Mutiny).

Not many people own a copy of the Pitcairn Island Cookbook, by Irma Christian, but my wife and I do, because our writer friend Dea Birkett went there in the 1990s and wrote a book, Serpent in Paradise, about her travels, including the dark side of what she found. The book reveals tge Pitcairn diet to be generally incredibly high in sugar, so I’ve chosen a recipe that’s atypical in not having much sugar at all. Essentially, it’s a fairly standard cornbread, but with the South Seas twist of using coconut milk instead of water to bind your dough together: this happens to make it really delicious, so it’s going to be my cornbread of choice from now on. Having said which, I’d probably go half-half cornmeal and plain flour rather than the 1:3 in Irma’s recipe – which is a tad erratic, by the way, so I’ve made a few critical changes.

  • 170g cornmeal (I used coarse, but fine will work also)
  • 420g plain flour
  • 10g baking powder
  • 8g salt
  • 2 tbs sunflower or corn oil
  • 400g tin coconut milk
  1. Preheat oven to 200℃ fan
  2. Grease a small, rectangular baking tin
  3. Mix all the dry ingredients
  4. Pour in the oil and coconut milk, mix until you have a smooth dough
  5. Add your dough to the tin and smooth it out. If you want to avoid a cracked ridge in the middle, score the dough with a sharp knife or razor (I didn’t bother)
  6. Bake for around 40 minutes (use the usual test that a skewer should come out dry)
  7. Cool on a rack

That’s it! A delicious, easy, low sugar bake to celebrate the half way point of this series!

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.39: Sri Lankan Christmas Cake

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.39: Sri Lankan Christmas Cake

It being that time of year, I was casting around for a Christmas cake that was suitably exotic for this blog, but still had that fruit-laden richness for cold winter evenings. To my surprise, the one that leapt out at me was a recipe from Sri Lanka, which makes something that’s recognisably in the English Christmas Cake tradition, but softer and moister. The ever-reliable sbs.com.au provided the recipe.

What distinguishes the Sri Lankan version is a hefty dose of chow-chow preserve (other Sri Lankan touches are the addition of rosewater and cardamom). Chow-chow is a fruit with many names: choko, chouchou, mirliton, chayote; it’s roughly the shape and consistency of a quince, with a bright green skin reminiscent of a Granny Smith apple. I couldn’t find the preserve locally, but the fruit was readily available in Indian or Caribbean stores, of which we have plenty in London, so I made my own preserve, which wasn’t difficult. (Admission: I did leave mine on the stove for way too long, so it crystallised on setting: this didn’t seem to damage the cake overly.)

Traditionally, you would cover the cake with marzipan and hard icing. That’s too much sweetness for me, so I just made the fruit cake. I also left mine relatively soft and gooey, which is really delicious, at the expense of being tricky to cut. You may want to leave yours in a bit longer than I did.

The chow-chow preserve

Starting with this recipe, this made enough for two cakes. You may want to halve the amounts.

  • 1.1 kg chayote (3 fruits)
  • 1.5 kg sugar
  • 380 ml water
  • ¾ tsp salt
  1. Peel and chop the chayote. 
  2. Put everything into a preserving pan and cook until the fruit is soft and the syrup is thick. You probably want a sugar temperature of around 105℃ – I went well over that.
  3. Cool, and put into sterilised jars until needed.

The cake

  • 150g unsalted cashews
  • 150g unsalted almonds
  • 200g glacé cherries
  • 500g chow-chow preserve
  • 150g glacé pineapple
  • 240g raisins 
  • 240g sultanas 
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom 
  • ½ tsp ground cloves 
  • 1 tsp rosewater (see Note) 
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 60 ml brandy 
  • 250g unsalted butter 
  • 385g caster sugar 
  • 6 eggs
  • 180 g semolina flour
  1. Preheat oven to 140℃ fan
  2. Line a cake tin with baking paper (these quantities work perfectly for a fairly tall 20cm x 20cm tin)
  3. Chop the almonds, toast them in a dry pan, set aside to cool
  4. Chop the cashews, toast them in a dry pan, set aside to cool
  5. Halve the cherries (if they weren’t already bought that way
  6. Chop the pineapple and chow-chow preserve so that the pieces are smaller than half a glacé cherry. How small you want to go is up to you.
  7. Put all fruits, zest, spices, rosewater and brandy into a large bowl and mix them up.
  8. When the nuts are cool, add them also and mix
  9. Chop the butter into small pieces and cream it with the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer
  10. One a time, separate the eggs, adding the yolk to the butter-sugar mix and incorporating it, and reserving the white in another bowl.
  11. Combine the egg yolk/sugar/butter mix with the fruit-nut mix, add the semolina flour and stir until evenly spread.
  12. Beat the egg whites until soft but not hard, fold into the mix.
  13. Spoon the mixture into your lined tin, pressing it to the edges to smooth out any ruffles in the baking paper.
  14. Cut another square of paper and place it on the top: this will stop the cake drying out
  15. Bake for around 3 hours, or more if you prefer a less gooey cake
  16. Cut into three or four rectangles
  17. If you want, ice with marzipan and hard icing.
Around the world in 80 bakes, no.38: English Game Pie

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.38: English Game Pie

It’s time for the bake from my own country. There are so many to choose from: timeless cakes like the Victoria Sponge, regional specials like the Eccles cake or Bakewell tart, seasonal fruit cakes or hot cross buns, tea time favourites of scones or crumpets, or the humble muffin, which even has “English” in its name (everywhere except, of course, in England). But I’ve chosen to do a pastry style that I’ve hardly seen anywhere else in the world: the hot water pie crust, using it to make the classic English game pie. Since it’s coming up to December and people are thinking about Christmas, I’ve gone for a recipe from the BBC with the seasonal twist of cranberries and chestnuts.

Although you can warm up this kind of pie, it’s more often eaten cold as a lunch dish. It’s a fabulous main course for a picnic, although you’ll need freezer capacity since the game season doesn’t generally coincide with picnic weather in these parts. But the same technique should work for a pork pie or other variants.

The pastry-making technique is a bit like choux pastry without the eggs: boil up fat and water together, then quickly combine the flour and mix. As with most recipes for hot water crust, the BBC’s specifies lard, which is difficult to find right now and, in any case, isn’t to everyone’s taste. I used butter and it worked fine. The key is to work quickly when mixing and rolling the pastry, which is beautifully elastic when it’s still warm.

Cranberry sauce filling

  • 150g fresh or frozen cranberries (buy 200g – we’re using the rest later)
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 20ml water
  1. If using frozen cranberries, defrost them.
  2. Add all ingredients into a pan, bring to the boil and simmer until cranberries are soft and the liquid is much reduced
  3. Pour into a bowl to cool

Meat filling

  • 800g mixed boneless game, such as rabbit, venison, wild boar, pheasant, partridge or pigeon
  • 300g pork belly
  • 200g bacon lardons
  • 150g cooked chestnuts (the vacuum packed ones readily available in UK supermarkets work well)
  • 50g fresh or frozen cranberries
  • ½ tsp ground mace
  • 2 large pinches of ground nutmeg
  • Small bunch sage
  • Small bunch thyme
  1. Finely mince the pork belly (or blitz in a food processor)
  2. Chop the game finely. I went for around 5mm cubes, which gives a fairly coarse filling which is well matched to the size of the lardons in the supermarket packet. But you can go finer if you prefer.
  3. Chop the chestnuts coarsely.
  4. Chop the sage and the thyme finely.
  5. Mix everything together as evenly as you can: it takes a surprisingly long time to get the belly mince evenly distributed around the rest of the filling.

Making the hot water crust pastry and filling the pie

  • 200g butter, plus some for greasing
  • 10g salt
  • 575g plain flour, plus some for the board
  • 220ml water
  • 1 egg
  1. Preheat oven to 160℃ fan.
  2. Boil a kettle.
  3. Grease a 20cm springform cake tin.
  4. In a small bowl, beat the egg.
  5. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt.
  6. Cut the butter into cubes, perhaps 2cm per side.
  7. Get your rolling pin and board ready, spread some flour on them.
  8. Now work quickly: combine the water and butter in a jug and mix thoroughly. If the butter is taking too long to melt and the whole thing has cooled down, top up the temperature with 30 seconds in the microwave.
  9. Pour your wet mix into the flour and rapidly combine it, kneading a little until you have a smooth dough with no dry flour.
  10. Take a quarter of the dough and wrap it in cling film.
  11. Roll the rest of the dough to a circle somewhat larger than the diameter of your tin plus twice its height.
  12. Transfer the dough to the tin, using it to line the base and sides. For now, leave any excess hanging over the sides.
  13. Fill the pie in the following order: half the meat filling, all the cranberry sauce, then the second half of the filling. The top should be slightly domed.
  14. Roll out the remaining dough and slice into 1cm strips.
  15. Make a lattice on the top of the pie with the strips of dough – leaving gaps (or at least one gap) big enough to poke a funnel through. If you’ve run out, cut off some of the overhanging pastry and roll them out to make up the shortfall.
  16. Brush the top with some of the beaten egg (you’ll only need a little of it)
  17. Bake for 45 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 140℃ fan, then bake for another 90 minutes.

Finishing off

  • 4 gelatine leaves, or 1 sachet powdered gelatine
  • 300ml veal or chicken stock
  1. Leave the pie to cool for at least an hour, preferably two.
  2. Warm the stock to close to boiling, then add and dissolve the gelatine in it.
  3. Pour the stock through a funnel into one or more holes in the lattice until it nearly overflows. Discard any excess stock.
  4. Refrigerate overnight for the jelly to set.
Around the world in 80 bakes, no.37: Dutch Apple Pie

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.37: Dutch Apple Pie

For Americans, the phrase “Apple Pie and Motherhood” (or possibly “Apple Pie and Mom”) means “a thing in life that everyone agrees to be unarguably good”. But even Americans would accept that Apple Pie comes from the Netherlands. In fact, there are two variants of Dutch Apple Pie: appeltaart, the lattice-topped version that I’ve made here, and appelkruimeltaart, a crumble-topped version whose American equivalent is Pennsylvania Dutch Apple Pie.

Most Dutch recipes (I’ve started with this one) go for a shortcrust pastry with a fairly high butter to flour ratio (this recipe uses 2:3, but I’ve seen higher), sweetened with brown sugar. As often, I’ve cut down the amount of sugar – the original recipe goes for 50% more than I’ve used. The Dutch use self-raising flour, which moves the end result somewhere in the direction of a cake compared to a typical French apple tart or English pie. A neat trick is to cover your base with a layer of breadcrumbs: this soaks up the juices in the early part of the bake and helps to prevent the dreaded soggy bottom.

 The filling is usually fairly heavily spiced and often has other fruit or nuts in addition to the apple. I’ve chosen cinnamon and raisins, but there are plenty of alternatives: cloves, ginger, walnuts or almonds to name just a few. At least once recipe recommends soaking your raisins in rum.

If you’re not in the Netherlands with access to Goudreinet (Golden Rennet) or Belle de Boskoop apples, you’ll have to improvise. You’re going to want an apple which is crisp enough not to disintegrate while baking, and which has plenty of flavour and a level of tartness. Lockdown London isn’t offering my usual levels of choice, so I went for 50/50 Granny Smith and Cox’s Orange Pippin, which worked pretty well. The Granny Smiths are there for tartness, but I’d worry that using them exclusively would be both too sour and too watery.

The pastry

  • 300 g self raising flour, plus flour for rolling
  • 100 g soft brown sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 200 g cold butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  1. Combine the flour, sugar and salt.
  2. Cut the butter into small cubes and mix into the flour mixture with your fingertips until you’ve got rid of the lumps of unblended butter.
  3. Keep aside a small amount of egg for brushing, pour the rest into your mixture and blend until you have a smooth dough which no longer sticks to the side of your bowl.
  4. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

The filling

  • 1 kg apples (see above)
  • Juice of 1 lemon, or more to taste
  • 6g ground cinnamon
  • 50 g sugar
  • 50 g raisins
  1. Peel, core and chop the apples into quarters, then chop each quarter into 4-5 slices. As you go, put the pieces into a bowl with the lemon juice and mix them around: the lemon will stop the apples going brown as you work.
  2. Add the raisins.
  3. Combine the sugar and cinnamon, add them to the apples and raisins and mix everything until even.

Final assembly

  • Breadcrumbs (probably around 30g – sorry, I didn’t measure)

I used the fan setting on my oven and I wish I hadn’t – baking for longer without the fan would have resulted in a somewhat softer filling. If you like the apples crunchier, go with the fan option.

  1. Preheat oven to 180℃ conventional.
  2. Grease a 22-23cm springform tin with butter.
  3. Divide the dough into 3 portions, roughly 40%, 40%, 20%.
  4. Roll out the first portion into a circle and use this to line the base of your tin. Trim off any excess and keep it.
  5. Roll the next portion into a long rectangle (you may need more than one) and use it to line the sides of your tin. Again, trim off and keep any excess.
  6. Add all the excess dough to your third piece, roll it out and cut into strips, around 1cm wide.
  7. Spread the breadcrumbs evenly to cover the base of your tart.
  8. Fill the tart with the apple mixture, trying to get rid of the air gaps so the apples are packed well down (but don’t press too hard). The filling will probably form a slight dome over the top: that’s fine.
  9. With your strips of dough, form a lattice over the tart. The Dutch tend to do a kind of overlapping W-shaped pattern – my attempt at this was comically clumsy, as you’ll see from the photos, but this didn’t really matter. You can also do a standard criss-cross version (and if you’re feeling particularly competent, weave it).
  10. Brush the top of the pastry lattice with the remaining egg.
  11. Bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown, which should take around 50 minutes (conventional) or 40 minutes (fan) – depending, as ever, on your oven.
  12. Leave to cool. After 10 minutes or so, extract the pie from the tin.

Enjoy. It’s the perfect treat for a damp, autumnal day.

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.36: Soda bread from Ireland

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.36: Soda bread from Ireland

So here’s the problem. I’m out of bread, I’m in lockdown and not heading for the shops, and it’s an hour to lunchtime. The solution? The Irish have this right: make soda bread. You can do the whole thing in 40 minutes (of which half is waiting while it’s in the oven), it’s delicious and it requires no particularly high level of skill. In short, I am confident that this will be the easiest of this whole “80 bakes”,  a winner that I keep coming back to.

You can choose any combination of flours you like: 100% white and 100% wholemeal are both fine, but my favourite is 50/50 white wheat and wholemeal spelt. The recipe specifies buttermilk, which definitely helps because of its slight acidity, but you can use milk as an alternative. I suspect that milk with a tablespoon of yoghurt would work well, although I haven’t actually tried.

If we’re all honest, this is closer to an oversized scone than a bread, which is perfectly fine, because scones are lovely. And like scones, once you’ve mastered this plain recipe, you can move on to all sorts of flavourings, sweet and savoury: raisins, honey, nuts, dates are great for sweet versions; bacon, cheese (and also nuts) for savoury.

This recipe is only slightly adapted from the one in Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s excellent How to make bread.

  • Sunflower or other oil for greasing
  • 125g white flour (plain or strong, it doesn’t really matter)
  • 125g wholemeal flour, plus a bit for the board (I use spelt, but wheat is fine)
  • 6g salt
  • 4g baking soda
  • 260g buttermilk (or 260g milk, or 240g milk plus 20g yoghurt)
  1. Preheat oven to 200℃
  2. Brush a small pie dish with a little oil
  3. Stir together all the dry ingredients in a bowl until evenly mixed
  4. Pour in the buttermilk and mix until you have an even dough with no separately visible flour. Don’t overdo the mixing.
  5. Transfer the ball of dough to a board lightly dusted with flour; with your hands also lightly floured, form it into a firm, even ball.
  6. Transfer the ball of dough to your pie dish and make two gashes across the top to form a cross.
  7. Bake for 20-30 minutes until it sounds hollow when tapped.
  8. Transfer to a rack and cool for 10 minutes or so before eating

Soda bread is best eaten immediately after that initial cooling – but if that doesn’t work out, it’s still great for a day or so. It does NOT keep particularly well.

Around the world in 80 bakes, no. 35: Naan – bread from India

Around the world in 80 bakes, no. 35: Naan – bread from India

The word “Naan” isn’t really Indian at all, nor is it particularly specific: it’s actually just the Persian word for “bread”. However, speak to any English patron of Indian restaurants and of the many wonderful breads that Indians make, naan is the one that stands out. It’s one of the simplest of their breads but one of the trickiest to get absolutely right, pillowy soft and puffy on the inside, with the thinnest of crisp outsides, and the traditional teardrop shape. When you do get it right, it’s a magical accompaniment to curries and lentil dishes.

Since there are a growing number of flatbreads in this journey, it’s worth talking about the differences between them. The first obvious thing is the choice of flour: wholemeal for aish baladi, strong white bread flour for most of the others. Next, there’s the thickness: paper thin for lavash, a centimetre or so for aish baladi or naan, deeper for focaccia. Then there’s the flavour profile: focaccia laden with olive oil and herbs, naan most likely to be flavoured with ghee and nigella seeds. There are other choices to be made, like whether to add dairy products to your dough and whether to use oil (or butter or ghee), but these often vary as much in different recipes for what’s notionally the same bread as they do between nationalities.

As a Western home cook, your inevitable problem with naan is the absence of a tandoor with its intense heat and stone sides. For most of these breads, my recommendation is now the same: put the oven on its hottest setting and use a pizza stone if you have one. If you don’t, use a heavy metal frying pan that you can put in the oven (no plastic handles). Using a frying pan will give you the “slightly scorched in patches” effect that you often get in restaurants.

The Guardian’s Felicity Cloake usually does a great job of trying out many different recipes, so I’ve gone with her ingredient list, matched to my normal flatbread-making drill. 

The quantities here made four good sized naans.

  • 300g strong white bread flour
  • 8g salt
  • 5g nigella seeds (kaloonji)
  • 150ml tepid water 
  • 6g sugar
  • 7g dried yeast
  • 100g yoghurt
  • 40g ghee (or melted butter)
  1. Mix the flour, salt and nigella seeds
  2. Mix the water, sugar and yeast; leave for a few minutes until frothy
  3. Add the yoghurt and melted ghee to your wet mixture and mix evenly
  4. Add the wet mix to the dry mix and combine to form a smooth dough
  5. Using the dough hook of your stand mixer, knead for 3-4 minutes
  6. Leave to rest for 15 minutes
  7. Knead for another 2 minutes, then transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise. Depending on the strength of your yeast and the temperature of your kitchen, this should take between one and two hours.
  8. Put your pizza stone into the oven and preheat to 250℃.
  9. On a lightly floured board, knock back your dough and divide it into four.
  10. Using a couple of baking sheets, form each of the four pieces of dough into the classic teardrop shape.
  11. Cover with tea towels and leave to prove for another 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  12. Brush with melted ghee (I forgot to do this for the photos) and bake for around 10 minutes
Around the world in 80 bakes, no.34: Chimodho – cornbread from Zimbabwe

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.34: Chimodho – cornbread from Zimbabwe

Chimodho is cornbread from Zimbabwe, where it also goes under the name of Mupotohayi. Many countries have their own versions of cornbread, sometimes several versions each; this is the first one I’ve made and I can’t vouch for it being dramatically different from a cornbread that you might get in the US, Italy or anywhere else. I can’t even vouch for it being the one and only Zimbabwean version: according to Zimbabwean blogger Princess Tafadzwa,  “Chimodho” means pretty much any homemade bread without a recipe. But I will vouch for it being one of the nicest quick bakes on this blog so far: soft, flavourful and impossibly moreish. It’s the perfect accompaniment to an autumnal soup.

I started from a recipe on zimbokitchen.com, which I used pretty much intact apart from halving the sugar content. I’m glad to have done so, since the result was in no way lacking in sweetness, but your taste may differ. I also might try making this as muffins next time rather than as a single loaf, because the crust really is sensationally good.

  • 250ml buttermilk
  • 90ml sunflower oil
  • 1 egg
  • 180g coarse cornmeal
  • 170g plain flour
  • 50g sugar
  • 6g (1 tsp) salt
  • 3g (½ tsp) baking soda
  • 4g (1 tsp) baking powder
  1. Preheat oven to 175℃ fan.
  2. Put the buttermilk, oil and egg into the bowl of your stand mixer; beat with the egg beater until very smooth. 
  3. Mix cornmeal, plain flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder evenly in a bowl, then sift them into a different bowl. Make sure that the mix is very even.
  4. Add the dry mix to the wet mix, then mix thoroughly with the ordinary paddle of your stand mixer until you have a smooth dough, which will be fairly wet. Leave for five minutes or so.
  5. In the meantime, grease a baking tin with butter.
  6. Pour the mixture into the baking tin and smooth it out to an even shape.
  7. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the bread comes out clean.
  8. Cool on a wire rack.