Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter Baking Part 2 - Fruity Simnel Tray Bake

So along with the hot cross buns, I also made a tray bake heavily based on a recipe I found in April 2012's Good Food mag . Handily, it's on the website, so you can access the original recipe just there.

You see, along with Christmas and weddings, Easter represents another opportunity to embrace marzipan. Weddings don't come along very often these days - we've long passed the 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' stage when we seemed to be at a different wedding every weekend with the same crowd of people - and Easter, like Chirstmas, only comes along once a year, so the mazipan usage has to be maximised. There are other things I use marzipan for throughout the year - Nigella's easy almond cake is one of my all time favourites (although, come to think of it, I haven't made it recently. Better rectify that soon) - basically, butter and marzipan, 6 eggs and a little flour chucked in almost as an after thought. It is heavenly cake. I recommend it.


I liked the idea of this tray bake though, because we are out and about this weekend and having squares of cake to pack up in a picnic (I know, I shudder to use that word to describe what will in reality be us shivering in a huddle) appeals. Also, it uses a whole block of marzipan, some chunked in the batter, some grated on the top and some made into the 11 marzipan balls that represent the apostles (again) on top of the traditional simnel cake.

What you get is quite a squodgy, almondy fruit cake, topped with an almondy crumble, and finally drizzled with orange icing - and the marzipan balls. Not one, you'll have guessed, if you don't like almonds, but if you're a fan, this is one for you. 

I adapted the recipe quite a bit (unlike the Hot Cross Buns, which I followed slavishly). If you do use the Good Food original version, bear this in mind: they recommend a  20 by 30 cm tin. I used a slightly bigger tray bake tin - 23 by 30 - and it still made quite a deep thick cake. Also, by using 11 marzipan balls and dividing the cake into 12 with one piece without adornment, you get massive slabs of cake. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, I'm just saying. Also, it might seem like you end up with wasting the zest of a lemon and an orange - I made this at the same time as some hot cross buns and used the zests to flavour the milk for the dough.

Fruity Simnel Tray Bake

110g each of currants, raisins, dates and apricots, chopped quite small
zest of 2 oranges
juice of 2 oranges and a lemon
250g unsalted butter cut into chunks (at room temp)
250g soft light brown sugar
4 large eggs
200g self raising flour
80g ground almonds
1 heaped tsp each of all spice and ground cinammon
a good grating of nutmeg
500g marzipan - 200g cut into small chunks, 200g grated, 100g divided into 11 and made into balls
100g plain flour
100g flaked almonds
3 tbsp golden syrup
85g icing sugar
juice of another orange

30 by 23 cm tray bake tin, buttered and lined

Soak the chopped fruit in the juice of the 2 oranges and lemon for at least 2 hours - overnight if you are organised.

Pre-heat the oven to 160C/140C fan.

Beat together 200g of the butter and 200g of the sugar till light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Sift in the self raising flour, then mix in the ground almonds and spices, the orange zest, the soaked fruit (and any juice), and the marzipan. Stir it all in then pour into the tin, level and bake for 45 minutes.

Take the cake out and turn the oven up to 200C/180C fan. Make the topping by rubbing together the remaining 50g of butter and sugar along with the 100g plain flour (like a crumble topping). Add the grated marzipan, and stir in the golden syrup, taking care that the mixture doesn't clump - I found this nigh on impossible - I might just leave out the syrup next time. Sprinkle this over the cake and put it back in the oven for 12-15 minutes.

Once the cake is cooked, take it out of the oven, add the marzipan balls to the top, then leave to cool in the tin. Mix together the icing sugar and orange juice and drizzle over the cake, leaving the icing to set a little before slicing.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Easter Baking Part 1 - Hot Splodge Buns

Quite often at the weekend, I get up early - well earlier than the Husband, later (usually) than the kids, and indulge in a bit of extra curricular baking. 

Baking that isn't particularly necessary to the smooth running of the RJ household (although it will often include a batch of bread, to justify the whole endeavour - "Well, the oven was on, so...). 

Baking to soothe my soul after the week that has been...

Actually, the baking might not be done before the Husband's up - but it's all been kicked off to the point of no return, so he often comes down to a kitchen that looks more like someone's had an accident in a flour factory (or added icing sugar to a food mixer while it's on full speed), tins, packets, knives, spoons and cracked eggshells and juiced lemon skins all over the place. Poor man.

Of course, this weekend it's Easter, so there was added purpose to my early baking session - hot cross buns and a rather tasty looking simnel tray bake thing, both of which I'd clocked in issues of April Good Food - the buns from 2013, the tray bake from April 2012's issue.

My record with hot cross buns is mixed. In the past, they have been like cannonballs on the heavier side, and I can never, NEVER get the cross in the middle right. Never one to shy away from a challenge, and armed with my new found bread confidence and a new recipe, I thought I'd give it a go - again.

I followed the recipe pretty much as is from the Good Food one (the link's up there) although I added in the zest of a lemon as well as an orange to the milk infusion.

You add a mixture of warm milk infused with orange and lemon zest and melted butter into the dry ingredients, along with an egg, so it's a very enriched dough, quite like a brioche.

It was also quite a wet dough, but where previously I would have panicked and chucked in more flour, I carried on kneading, and low, it came good.

Once it's risen, you divide it up and make your buns - 11 to represent the faithful Apostles (i.e. not Judas!), then put them in a circle on a floured baking sheet.

So far so good. Leave them again to plump up, before casually mixing up some flour and water paste and making crosses on each bun...

... or not. I never EVER manage this bit. Every year, I try. I use different methods suggested. Every year, I fail. This year may well be the last time...

But moving swiftly on, I'm sure you're not so shallow as to dismiss my buns for being more splodge than cross. And indeed, you really shouldn't because the buns themselves are a triumph. Really light - like iced bun texture, with a fruity, cinammony taste.  Not a rock in sight. They could have done with being a bit more spiced - if I make them again, I would add some all spice or something to give them a little more of those Easter scents

The recipe in Good Food recommends serving this ring of buns with some spiced honey butter (I expect if you did this, you'd get over the need for more spices in the buns themselves), but I chose to smother mine in passion fruit curd. Yum.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Forever Nigella - Easter: Lemon - no, Passionfruit - Meringue Cake

Feast is probably my favourite Nigella tome. I love How to be a Domestic Goddess (for the cinammon bun recipe alone), but there's something about Feast that really gets me. It's all about spending a little time creating really special food, and it has never disappointed. The curry feast has stood me in good stead on a couple of raucous dinner party occasions - particularly good for the cook ahead nature of the whole thing, but on its own, the Mughlai chicken recipe is one that the kids are very keen on. True, I have never been tempted to cook the sweet potato with marshmallow topping, but there's a whole section on chocolate cakes from the bog standard old fashioned chocolate cake to the more sophisticated Rococoa Cake - and of course a Chocolate Malteser cake long before later pretenders to the  Domestic Goddess throne.

I love that the book covers different food cultures and meals for different occasions in those cultures. If I refer to a book during Christmas preparations it is almost always to Feast that I turn, and she has revolutionised my Yorkshire pudding. 

And if I haven't convinced you enough that this would be the one Nigella volume to take to your desert island and torture yourself with while you survived on all that fish you would spear (just think sashimi, Dahling), and coconuts, let me tell you that you must have the sake steak at least once before you die. Honestly - it is divine.

So naturally, as the theme for the Forever Nigella challenge this month is Easter, Feast was the volume I turned to. We were going to a  lunch party on Palm Sunday, and I offered pudding (of course I did - Palm Sunday wasn't a fast day!). I dithered over what to make, but in the end, it had to be the Lemon Meringue Cake. Happily for everyone concerned, it's on her website, so you can find the recipe here if you want to have a go yourself.

It's classic Nigella, with lots of little asides and comment littered about the recipe. This is why I love Nigella so much: "Divide the mixture between the prepared tins. You will think you don't even have enough to cover the bottom of the tins but don't panic. Spread calmly with a rubber spatula until smooth."

calmly spread...

There was also a suggestion about swapping the lemon curd filling for passion fruit. Given that it was Palm Sunday and all that, I decided to go with it.

So the day before Palm Sunday we had friends for dinner which turned into a rather more riotous session than anticipated and our guests left at just after 2 in the morning. I can't remember the last time I was voluntarily up at 2 a.m. It was great fun but faced with operation clear up and then cake baking before lunch, I almost cracked. I think if I hadn't already made the curd, I might have done. In the end,  I managed to pull myself together, and actually it's a fairly straightforward recipe. You make a lemon sponge and smooth that into 2 tins (see above), then cover the sponge batter with meringue (one smoothed, one 'peaked' with the back of a spoon) before baking.

smoothed....                                peaked
I wasn't concentrating completely, and I slightly overcooked them so that the top of the peaked meringue caught slightly, but sandwiched together (flat meringue down, peaked meringue on top) with the passion fruit curd and some whipped cream, it was a reasonable offering to take along to our lunch,

Jen at Blue Kitchen Bakes is hosting Forever Nigella this month for Sarah at Maison Cupcake .

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Rose cupcakes for Rainbows

Don't for a minute think that I think you need another cupcake/fairycake recipe. Oh no. But after all the hype about cupcakes there's been over the last few years, all the flavours and frostings, glitter and sparkle, it's worth remembering that when the chips are down and you need to produce something sweet for whatever reason it might be, it takes less than 10 minutes to get a bog standard set of 12 cupcakes into the oven, plus another 10-15 minutes cooking (when you could do something else) plus icing. And when I say icing, I'm not talking beautifully primped and prettily piped, scattered with frosted rose petals or whatever else that  might take your fancy, I'm talking about butter and icing sugar, and may be a bit of food colouring if you have something appropriate to hand.

Today is Pink's last day at Rainbows. She's not 7 till May but they have asked her if she'd like to move up to Brownies after the Easter break and she was there like a shot.

And then she was sad. 

"I don't want to leave Rainbows" she wailed.

"I'll miss Bluebell*" she mourned

and then she turned her tear stained face to me, sobbed a bit more, and asked
"Can I take some cakes to my last one?"

Not that I am suggesting the waterworks and hystrionics were all aimed at getting me to make cakes, but she can be a minx sometimes. Not that she always gets her way - I'm as strict as they come when it's thing like how much TV or what they can watch. She could bleed out of her eyeballs and I still wouldn't let her watch whatever it was I'd decreed is unsuitable, but cake, of course, is an entirely different matter. Even so, I was up against it. I don't do anything particularly high powered with my time, but I work and I am busy.  Rainbows is at 4.45 so there wasn't even time for a jolly mother/daughter cake making session after school. Making cupcakes just wasn't on my list of priorities for today but I'd just have felt really, really bad...

I'd like to say that once the cakes were cooled, I set about preparing 3 different bowls of coloured icing and lovingly iced each cake in Rainbow colours. But I didn't. I set the Kenwood to full speed, softened the butter and then on a slower speed (believe me, I have added icing sugar without thinking at top speed. You should do it some time - but only once!) beat in the sifted icing sugar and some fairly lurid peachy pink buttercream icing. And some Hello Kitty sugar coated chocolate eggs that caught my eye as I passed through the Co-Op at speed - it is nearly Easter after all.

Makes 12 rose flavoured cupcakes

115g soft Stork margerine (or softened butter - I didn't have time to wait for softening and I don't have a microwave)
115g caster sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp Essence of Rose Water (mine is from the English Provender Company)
175g self raising flour

Line a 12 hole cake tray & pre-heat your oven to 200C.

Beat together the sugar and marge till fluffy, then add the egg in bit by bit, beating well after each addition. Beat in the milk and flavourings, then fold in the flour. Divide the mixture between the cake cases - I start off with half a dessert spoon per case then top up with what's left.

Bake for 10-15 minutes till golden. If you do manage to turn them half way, so much the better but don't die in a ditch over it.

Leave the cakes to cool, then ice: beat 85g softened butter (I got mine out of the fridge when I made the cakes so it was soft by the time I got to this stage) till it's really soft then slowly add in 175g icing sugar (sifted if time permits). Add in a few drops of lurid pink icing, and a splash of milk if you think it needs softening up for spreading purposes - then spread over the cakes and top with whatever additional sugar products you might have to hand.

And time wise - well if you're interested, this is how it worked: got home from school and dog walking and made the cupcakes - literally ingredients to batter in case: 8 minutes. Into the oven while I hung the washing out (rock and roll) and logged on. Cakes out of the oven, and butter for the icing out of the fridge (good job I remembered). Finished work and spent 5 minutes making the icing before heading off the pick the kids up from school. 10 minutes back home to ice the cakes. There - see - it doesn't take much to be a Domestic Goddess...

* for the as yet uninitiated, the childfree or parents of boys, Bluebell is the official name for the Rainbow leader. Nice.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The great big enormous ... PARSNIP!

This could be a post about the hunger gap - that time of the year where we've all but run out of stored food and nothing's growing (I'm talking veg here, not baked beans) yet, or about using up leftovers. It could also be a Samantha Barnes Google Recipe Challenge, and all because of a parsnip.

Despite the hunger gap, the atrociously cold weather and all that, we still have parsnips in the garden. Whether they are actually growing any more is debateable, but when they come out this size, does it really matter?

Anyway, size isn't everything, it's what you do with it. Thanks to the fact that we had people for dinner on Saturday night, I had a fridge full of leftovers looking at me when I opened it up  this evening, Left over bad stuff, like cheese and cream. I may be on a mission to reduce the circumference of my thighs and ensure that the only muffin tops around here are of the double chocolate variety, but I absolutely cannot see food going to waste, so the challenge was on. What to do with the enormous parsnip - and the leftovers?

Pink's not a fan, so parsnips usually get turned into some sort of soup for the Husband and I, or roasted as a side dish, ideal for her to pick out and be sniffy about (she'd refuse the soup point blank). This evening, though, she was out at a friend's so Blue and I got stuck in to some proper parsnip action.

A quick Google based on what I had in the fridge turned up 2 possibles - both gratins - one from Abel & Cole and one from a website called Epicurious - so we combined the two, in doing so using up the left over cream and Cashel Blue cheese from Saturday night, and raiding the garden for the only other things that are growing with any enthusiasm at the moment - sage and rosemary. 

I'm pleased to report that Blue got properly stuck in to the whole thing. Much as he'd hate to admit it, he's a bit lost when his little sister isn't around for hi-jinking or fighting, depending on the mood they are both in (actually, if we're being strictly honest, usually it depends on the mood Pink is in) and so it was good to get him involved while she was off giggling with her friend.

Mezzaluna baby!
The result was a delicious creamy (of course) warming dish, full of flavour - great food for a chilly winter Spring evening.

Parsnip & Bacon Gratin with leeks, hazelnuts & blue cheese

Serves 3-4 depending on appetite

60g hazelnuts
700g (peeled weight) parsnips, thinly sliced lengthways
200g (ditto) carrots, also thinly sliced
1 large leek, thinly sliced and washed
200g pancetta/bacon cut into pieces
250ml or so double cream & creme fraiche, thinned with a little milk if necessary
1 good tsp dijon mustard
2-3 sprigs of rosemary, needles only & a handful of sage leaves, finely chopped
80g or so* blue cheese (we had Cashel blue in the fridge), grated
salt & pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 200C

Put the parsnips and carrot into a large pan of salted water. Bring to the boil and cook for 3-4 minutes, then drain and leave to steam dry-ish.

While the veg is cooking, lightly toast the hazelnuts in a small frying pan, then when cool enough to handle roughly chip them and set aside.

Fry the bacon/pancetta till mostly cooked; drain off most of the fat (if a lot has been produced) then add the leek and cook for a few more minutes till the leek is softened.

Whisk together the cream, creme fraiche, mustard and milk if you need it, and then add in the herbs and salt and pepper.

To assemble, first put a layer of parsnip and carrot into your gratin dish, drizzle over about a third of the cream mixture and sprinkle with half the hazelnuts. Spread the leeks and bacon over this, then layer on the rest of the parsnips. Pour over the rest of the cream then sprnkle over the rest of the hazelnuts and the grated cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes of so till the parsnips are cooked, the sauce is bubbling and there's a delicious crunchy topping on your gratin.

If I'd had any salad in the fridge, I think it would have been good with it - something like watercress - but as it was we didn't, so we just ate it as it was. Delicious**.

I'm linking up to this month's Herbs on Saturday hosted by London Busy Body this month for Karen at Lavender & Lovage

 I'm also linking up the March Simple and in Season hosted by Louisa at Chez Foti

* The chunk started off at 80g but Blue is very fond of blue cheese and I didn't keep an eye on how much was being grated and how much was being gobbled...

** I was quite surprised by how much Blue enjoyed this, regardless of the amount of effort he put into making it - those who read this regularly will know that I'm usually gnashing my teeth about how he doesn't like anything 'crunchy' like this gratin topping or the top of a cottage pie, and my efforts to get him to eat less sophisticated things with a cheese sauce - macaroni/cauliflower cheese have met so far with dismal failure. May be his tastes are changing - or may be it was the cream and blue cheese combo. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Random Recipes & a poncy ingredient alert - Ottolenghi's Orange Polenta Cake

I was wondering how I was going to fit a Random Recipe in this month, but the blog challenge fairies were obviously smiling on me.

Dom's challenge from Belleau Kitchen this month was to get all those cut out snippets of recipe, those torn out pages, and clippings, throw them up in the air - or spread them out, or do something with them to enable you to randomly select one.

I thought I'd give it a go and see what it came up with. No obligation to complete the challenge if I couldn't fit it in or the recipe was one of the more obscure I'd cut out and kept. But as I say, no need to worry. The selection process turned up Yottam Ottolenghi's Orange Polenta Cake which I'd copied at Christmas from my brother's newly received copy of the Ottolenghi cook book. Fortuitous indeed because we had people coming for dinner, and there had to be dessert. Not that this is a hardship, you understand, but I'd already planned a moorish style chicken & chorizo casserole for the main course, so this fitted perfectly. Caramelised oranges, almonds, some orange blossom water (this is an Ottolenghi recipe after all - poncy ingredients are to be expected!).

First up, though, the challenge of sourcing the ingredients. I know there used to be a bag of polenta in the cupboard, but I must have used it up, because when I looked again, there was nothing. I couldn't get it in my online shop so sent the Husband off to do his hunter gatherer thing. The poor man went to 4 different supermarkets on 2 separate trips after work - he even went and worked at a different office on Friday in order to try different supermarkets, before ending up in Waitrose in Andover. Where, of course, they had at least 2 varieties. Anyway, he came home triumphant with an impressively artisan looking bag, plus some tahini paste and some unsalted pistachios which I also required.

While I've learned my lesson over the years that when people are coming for dinner it's wise to stick to the familiar and easy, there's always a certain amount of frisson to be gained cooking something with a little bit of fiddle factor when you have no idea how it's going to turn out and 10 people expecting to be fed. I have limited experience cooking Ottolenghi, and while it's always turned out brilliantly, I'm not in the same comfort zone with his stuff that I am cooking, say, Nigella. Add to this the opportunity for third degree burns that making caramel presents, and perhaps I should have stuck to something tried and tested, but I like a challenge.


The recipe was at least helpful in that it pointed out the need to thoroughly line the tin (if you're using springform, which I was) in order to prevent caramel leaking all over your oven, and as an extra precaution, I also put the cake tin on a baking sheet. A wise precaution as it turns out because even with what I thought was thorough tin lining, I did have a little bit of caramel leakage. But nothing serious.

Anyway, the recipe. I couldn't find it online to link to, but it's in the Ottolenghi cook book. Having lined your tin, you make some caramel which you use to cover the bottom of the tin.

 Next, there are oranges to zest and peel, and place on top of the caramel layer, 

before making a deliciously orangey scented batter using eggs, ground almonds, polenta along with the usual butter and eggs. The recipe also calls for orange blossom water, I forgot to put this on the Husband's foraging list, and having put him through supermarket hell in search of polenta, I didn't have the heart to fess up to needing orange blossom water, so in the end I just squeezed in a little extra orange juice. I think the random recipe rules state that you have to cook the recipe as it is, with little deviation. Well, I'm afraid that as well as missing the orange blossom water, I upped the recipe by a third to make a big enough cake to feed all of us. I hope I'm not disqualified.

 As a result of the increase in ingredients, it took quite a bit longer than the stated 40-45 minutes to bake, and I ended up covering the tin with foil to stop the top of the cake catching, but it all turned out fine. Once baked, the final nerve-wracking turnout passed without a hitch.

Ta daah!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Passion Fruit Curd

It's getting close to Easter and close to the end of the deadline for this month's Forever Nigella.

Although I have my 'main event' in mind for this, I'm getting twitchy that I won't get it blogged in time (let's face it, I haven't even baked it yet at the time when I'm writing this post), but never fear. As a teaser, a sneaky peak, I can bring you one of the component parts, made on Friday evening, in readiness for said main event. I'm not going to give the game away entirely, but I'm sure you can guess what I might end up doing with this gorgeous jar of passion fruit curd.

Now before I go any further, given that it's Palm Sunday when the final product of my labours are to be eaten, and it's for this reason that I made passion fruit curd rather than lemon curd for the purpose for which it is intended, I thought I would explain that the passion fruit comes from the passion flower (no really!) and is so called because it was used by Spanish missionaries when they were trying to explain the crucifixion of Jesus - also known as the passion of Christ - to the indigenous population. The success of this is not so well documented, but in case you were interested, the missionaries likened the stigmas of the passion flower to the nails in Jesus' hands and feet, the threads of the passion flower were like the Crown of Thorns, the vine's tendrils were likened to the whips used to beat Jesus, the five anthers represented the wounds he sufferes and the ten petals and sepals resemble the Apostles (excluding Judas and Peter). Whether you subscribe to that or not, it's a beautiful flower

But I'm digressing. So Passion Fruit Curd from How to be a Domestic Goddess and also in Feast can also be found on so if you are so inspired you can find the recipe there. It uses 11 passion fruit and I suppose you could extend the metaphor to suggest that Nigella was thinking of the 11 faithful apostles when she dreamed this up, although I suspect she was more likely thinking about cake...

There's a very fiddly bit which is sort of glossed over which is the bit where you have to sieve the pulp and juice from 10 passion fruit to separate it away from the seeds, but if you whizz it all in a food processor briefly, this can help.

Once you've done that, it's pretty straightforward as far as making curd is concerned. You just need the time to stir it all constantly over a very low heat and it can take a bit of time. believe me, I have been that person with a pan of lemon flavoured scrambled egg before (obviously, when I was making lemon curd that time). Don't be tempted to put the heat up or stop stirring, even for a second - it will come good in the end. Fortunately, Nigella doesn't promise that it will all be done and dusted in 10 minutes (unlike others I could mention, and naming no names, Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall). I was a little concerned that she made no indication whatsoever of how long it might take, but in the end it was about 35 minutes to get the orangey curd thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. 

After that, it was but a moment to whisk in the contents of an 11th passion fruit before putting into a jar (unless you have an immediate use for it...)

This month's Forever Nigella is hosted by Jen at Blue Kitchen Bake on behalf of Sarah at Maison Cupcake

Friday, 22 March 2013

Malted grain, multiseeded sourdough loaf - for friends

There, you see, I haven't forgotten all about bread, although I'm eating less of it in my attempt to fit into my clothes better. That's as may be, but on Saturday night we have people coming for dinner. I told you I was going to get some mileage out of this!

I love having people round for meals, although we don't do it that often. It's the opportunity to think a bit more carefully than usual about what we might eat, and an excuse to fiddle around in the kitchen even more than normal.

I'm doing some dippy, mezze type things for a starter - going to give some Pistachio Dukka a go, and may be re-run the Cambodian Wedding Day dip that was such a massive hit a few months ago. There may also be some hummus involved - lemony, ordinary, and beetroot and walnut. These will all be courtesy of Hugh F-W and the wonderful Veg Everyday which I'm still finding hugely inspirational.

To go with of course, I need bread. I could do flatbreads on the day, but however impressive, the thought of flinging dough and flour around at the last minute to make them fresh (which is when they are best) when I could be hustling the kids into bed, hoovering the dog and trying to find some matching cutlery serenely sipping a G&T as I apply the final touches to my make up (does anyone do that? Please let me know if you do!) is not appealing to me at the moment so I am breaking out my sourdough starter to make some proper sourdough bread for the occasion.

This is as opposed to the yeasted loaves I've been making, which I wrote about a couple of months back. This method uses no dried yeast, and just uses the starter as the raising agent. I'm following the method that I learned on my fantastic River Cottage Christmas baking course taught by Aiden Chapman, when we made a delicious cranberry and orange loaf using this method. It is as easy as can be - barely any kneading, more loving stirring, then some folding, over the course of a few hours. The dough can then be proved in the fridge for up to 3 days - and indeed Aiden recommends this to allow the dough to develop more flavour. On the Bread course, we didn't have the opportunity to test this out but the bread was still mighty fine.

A word of warning now, though - If you've got people coming for dinner on Saturday and don't have a sourdough starter going, you're not going to be able to join in I'm afraid, but for easy instructions on making a starter, the post I wrote is here. May be next time. And while we're talking about time, you will need to be able to tend to your dough once an hour over a 5 hour period. The dough can then sit in the fridge for 3 days (as I said above) ready to be baked as you want it.

As my starter had been languishing in in the fridge for a few days, I got it out on Tuesday, got it up to room temperature, chucked half of it away. added some more flour (I used rye) and water to get it going, gave it a good stir and left it to do its thing till Wednesday morning.

For 500g flour, you will need 10 g salt, 125g of your starter and 325g water. You can add in any extras you want.

Malted grain, multiseeded sourdough loaf

1kg malted grain flour (I had some Doves Farm in the cupboard)
20g salt
100g mixed pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds
250g sourdough starter
650g water

Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir together. Combine the starter and water, and then carefully mix into the dry ingredients.

Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave. Yes, that's right, no kneading required!

An hour or so later (actually, I ended up leaving mine for closer to 2 because I had to take the kids to school and walk the dog), literally all you need to do is remove the tea towel, and fold the dough over on itself, then press gently back into the bowl.

Cover and leave for another hour, when you fold the dough again and leave for another hour. Each time you do this you will see that the dough is getting smoother and more coherent as the gluten develops

After the last fold. leave the dough for 2 hours, then tip the dough out on a floured surface and shape it into a round. Leave for 20 minutes.

If you have a suitable proving basket, use that. As I wanted to make one big loaf and my proving basket isn't big enough, I lined a bowl with a tea towel and chucked some flour around liberally.


 then shape the dough into a tight ball and pop it in your basket/bowl.

At this point you need to leave your bread to prove for at least 4 hours but you can put it in the fridge for up to 3 days to develop the flavour.

When you are ready to bake, if the dough has been in the fridge, get it out and bring the dough up to room temperature.

After 2 days in the fridge

Pre-heat the oven to 220C, and put a baking sheet in to heat up. As with the yeasted loaf, have some semolina to hand to dust the hot baking sheet and also a sprayer bottle with some water in (or a bowl of water to splash round with your hand). You'll need a sharp knife nearby too.

When the oven is at temperature, bring out the baking sheet, dust with semolina and carefully tip the dough on to it. Slash the top of the dough with your sharp knife and get it all back in the oven. The quicker you can do this without sustaining third degree burns, the better... Bake the bread for 20 minutes, then turn it in the oven and bake for another 15 minutes before doing the tap on the bottom thing. if it's sounding hollow, your bread is baked.

Leave to cool on a rack for as long as you can bear before slicing and eating.