Pear and hazelnut cake + Chocolate, walnut and banana bread

Baking usually requires very little or no excuse. We had Beloved’s mum to stay last weekend and I deemed that a good occasion to do not one but two cakes. The first was a quick and simple Chocolate Banana Bread from Leith’s book to which I added walnuts, to have with tea on Saturday afternoon and the second was a very good Pear and hazelnut cake from Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries II for Sunday lunch. I’ve been meaning to post photos since.

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The Pear and hazelnut cake is an immediate favourite. Deeply satisfying and easy to do but it does require a little time. The pears are softened a little first with sugar and lemon juice, hazelnuts toasted, skinned and ground, nothing terribly time consuming but it also takes an hour in a low oven and I just about managed it before our pick up time for lunch. It consists of three layers – hazelnut sponge base, the softened pears in the middle, a buttery crumble on top. Once out of the oven, the syrup from the pears is poured over. Moist and just delicious.

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The Chocolate Banana Bread was a much simpler affair so I thought I’d make it more interesting by adding walnuts. I also used a very good cocoa powder & chopped Valrhona chocolate so it was very rich but I may have left it in the oven for 5 minutes too long as it was quite crumbly to cut (I also tried cutting it while still pretty hot, which is never a good thing) and I didn’t manage a good photo of a slice. Here is the whole thing

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Not so much of a looker but makes up for it in taste.

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Coconut buns and more spring blooms

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More of a muffin than a bun? Perhaps, they are light and lovely and coco-nutty, the name is of no concern. I was looking for something quick and easy to bake, remembered I had some desiccated coconut, looked up ‘coconut’ in recipe indexes at the back of Leith’s and Dan Lepard and the Coconut buns from Leith’s Baking Bible won = easy, quick, no mixer needed and only a few ingredients. Perfect. I did have to go out to get more milk and butter (also planning a tart for dinner) and could not resist taking photos of yet more spring blooms in the neighbourhood. They are only here for such a short time, one must make the most of them!

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The sun in the first photo was deliberate, quite like the contrast. So, I’ve really spent most of the day in study, revising for end of course essay and baking something every few hours has provided sustenance and energy to keep me going. May just have another bun then get on with the tart for dinner.

Pumpkin seed bread

Have just had a slice of this very good Pumpkin seed bread from Leith’s and it feels like someone’s given me a dose of serotonin! This is truly a happy food:

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No time for sourdough this weekend so I remembered the rather neglected Leith’s Baking Bible. As luck would have it, I opened the book on Pumpkin seed bread and thought I shouldn’t look any further. Am so out of practice with using yeast in bread making, I was expecting this to take hours but despite getting up and starting pretty late, it was done by noon. Very easy to make, it has butternut squash puree and honey along with the seeds to give it this gorgeous colour and happiness-inducing taste.

There was a mishap though and the loaf ended up looking a bit misshapen – I left it on the peel to prove and didn’t coat the peel with enough flour so obviously, the loaf stuck and then flipped over on the hot stone (oh yes, I now have a hot stone!!) so my slashes ended up on the bottom. This is the whole misshapen loaf:

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Not that I care about the shape when it tastes so good.

Oatmeal bread

A nice and easy Oatmeal loaf from Leith’s Baking Bible I made yesterday:IMG_0485Thought I’d give sourdough and Dan Lepard a break and check out some other bread recipes I have. This used a mix of white and wholemeal bread flour as well as rolled oats along with some honey, butter, egg and milk, egg wash on top. I also used the mixer this time as I had a feeling the dough would be very wet so didn’t fancy kneading by hand. It also didn’t take too much proving time so we had it for breakfast with black pudding and scrambled egg, a lovely treat, I love black pudding but don’t have it very often.

This bread has a lovely nutty and slightly sweet taste and good texture for sandwiches, will definitely make it again at some point.

Fig and walnut bread x2

IMG_0467I had a bit of baking to do yesterday for an early Christmas family get together (happening later today). Volunteered myself to make Christmas pudding and bread to go with cheese. Then, I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to make some mince pies and some edible gifts as well. Apart from the pudding, I was going to make everything else yesterday. Got up early, made sponge for the Fig and walnut bread, then the dough and just as the first sweet gift came out of the oven, I had a text to say the building where we have an office was broken into. On went boots, off went the oven…

I ended up waiting for the police for 5 hours, mostly spent outside as none of us tenants really wanted to sit in offices, ours was a complete mess. It was not a very nice experience (and this was the second time it happened in the past six months!) but eventually the police turned up and all I was thinking about was the dough seriously over proving back at home and all the other baking I still had to do.

In the end, the dough did rise too much but it was still pretty elastic so I deflated it and then proceeded as normal, hoping for the best. At least I tested the recipe (from Leith’s Baking Bible) before so I knew what I was doing. This time I did the full quantity and ended up with two cute little loaves. Once the bread was cool, I sliced into one of the loaves, just to check and it looks fine. Bread is a thing of wander! This is a particularly delicious bread too, there is honey in it as well as walnut and fig and I used granary malt flour again which gives it a really good taste. Must remember to try making just some simple loaves with granary malt.

So, while the office is still in complete chaos, most of our macs have been stolen and I know that replacing everything will cause a lot of stress, at least I’ll eat some good bread today.

Apologies for rather dark photos, took them first thing this morning with phone, not very good conditions.

Fig and walnut bread

Well, this turned out better than expected! I made a Fig and walnut loaf from Leith’s Baking Bible yesterday afternoon and wasn’t really convinced by the recipe. As I had a work do last night, didn’t have time to take a photo or taste until this morning:

 Leith’s recipe called for malted brown flour, which I’ve never used before so I found Doves Farm Malthouse flour – a combination of wheat and rye flours with flaked malted grains. Surprisingly, Sainsbury’s had this. Still not 100% sure this was the right flour to use but the bread is rather good so definitely making this again. I just had the end bit with butter straight from the fridge and it spread well, which is always a good sign. One thing I’d do next time is chop figs into smaller bits and also give the dough a slightly longer 1st rise (that’s two things actually). I was in a bit of a rush yesterday. I did end up with a smallish but rather cute loaf:

 Mind you, I only did half the quantity – recipe was for two 450g loaves. There’s some honey in the bread and walnut oil as well as chopped walnuts and figs, it has a lovely taste. Feel a bit bad now for doubting the recipe – this was mainly because I got so used to making breads from River Cottage and Dan Lepard over the past months that any deviation in method (e.g. slashing the loaf before the final rise) sounds wrong. Anyway, really pleased with the result and glad I’ve found a good loaf to make for the cheese course for our early Christmas family get together.

Talking about Christmas get togethers, I’ve got two more puddings to make, today being Stir up Sunday. One for us to have on Christmas Day and one to take to another family get together a few days later. Was rather looking forward to this right up until this morning as I woke up feeling a bit fragile. Too much booze last night, am such a lightweight. Oh well, at least puddings not very complicated to make.

Signing off with a couple of ‘creative’ shots of Guildhall I took last night. Must plan an evening walk to take more shots of the City being empty and eerie (hopefully), these were just taken with phone and then messed with:

Lime syrup marble cake

Just finished, soaked in syrup and tasted, Lime syrup marble cake from Dan Lepard in today’s Guardian Weekend and online:

I admit, not the most attractive photo but the cake itself is lovely. Very moist and a bit boozy, there’s rum in the syrup along with lime juice and icing sugar. Very light sponge, it has quite a bit of creme fraiche.

I didn’t fancy any particular cake today so thought I may as well make this one because I do love lime and rum. My baking mind has been elsewhere – trying out a fruit and nut bread that would go well with cheese as have promised to bake one to take to an early Christmas family get together. Unfortunately, trusty Dan Lepard does not have one in Short and Sweet or in Guardian archives so have used a recipe from Leith’s which has produced a little loaf… Not convinced by it but then it may be wonderful, it’s only just come out of the oven and I’ve a work do tonight so will leave photography and tasting until tomorrow.

Am also doing two more Christmas puddings tomorrow. Where on earth will they all go until Christmas? Tiny kitchen is now positively groaning. It’s basically one big game of Tetris, so loaded with baking supplies, implements and food generally that it really is a challenge finding space for anything. Oh well, at least we’re eating well.