Tag Archives: baking

Favourite posts this week

:: It’s starting to grow a little cooler these days, so this looks perfect for cosy evenings.

:: As you can see, it’s been a week of fig picking! This raw fig and raspberry pie looks amazing. So does this cake!

:: Trouble sleeping? Here’s some helpful advice. I really recommend taking the TV out of the bedroom!

:: Boobs are indeed brilliant. What an awesome lady.

:: We are trying hard to enjoy everything we eat. Cauliflower is usually where we struggle. Hoping that recipe will help us!

:: Click and drag. Do it! (You may need a spare 30 minutes)

:: Yummy cookies with saffron.

:: Luscious deserts with vegetables? Thanks Chucky :)

:: I love Nigel

Have a wonderful weekend



Tartine bread, cast-iron combo cooker alternative

Photo credit to an endless banquet

If like me you’ve read Tartine Bread, but can’t find any shops nearby that sell the lovely cast iron double dutch oven combo cookers recommended, there is an alternative.

Or at least I thought there was…

Then before I’d finished writing this post I ran into a problem.

Emile Henry tagineOur Emile Henry tagine is meant to be invincible to heat. The manufacturers claim you can move this straight from a freezer into a 500 degree oven without causing any damage.

But after a few weeks of (very successfully) baking bread every day ours has cracked.

Maybe this isn’t the cause of the problem, but I can’t think what else would do this after 5 years of use.

Cracked Tagine

So moving on, I had a look at dutch oven combo cookers for sale online, but ended up ordering a La Cloche Baking Dome instead. It looks made for the job.

Fingers crossed.

Bread proofing box – improvised alternative

Improvised bread proofing boxOne of the challenges of baking sourdough here is that it proves very quickly in the heat. If I’m out working in the morning, it can be over-proven by the time I get back at lunch.

So I’m using our cool box (for our shopping) as an improvised proofing box. Currently four ice-packs seems to retard the dough just enough for my purposes.

It’ll be a very different story in the winter though, so I’ve been checking out some designs for home-made proofing boxes.

I feel another carpentry project may be on the horizon.


Pain Poilâne meets Tartine Bread

They say a baker’s score is their signature, and my initial A actually works quite well as a cut. (Plus you can call it anarchy bread if you’re that way inclined)

I’ve been baking daily using the Tartine Bread method and I’m really pleased with the results. Each day I’ve been trying a different mix of flour, starting with the suggested 90% white / 10% wholemeal, testing varying amounts of white flour, grey flour, wholemeal and rye (up to 10%). The technique holds up well for all these combinations, so I decided to push on with my original goal of producing something similar to a Pain Poilane.

The snippet I had from Wikipedia was that Pain Poilane is 70% grey flour and 30% spelt, which was as good a starting point as any. I found spelt flour (farine d’épeautre) at one of the Bio stores nearby, but was a little put off by the price (over double the cost of wheat or rye).

Due to the extra expense of the spelt flour, a part of me was hoping the difference in taste would be negligible (as the recipe was tasting pretty good already). But it was a hit, and has had the best reviews from all the family. So great for the taste, but a shame about the price. Now I need to find a local mill that can offer a better price if I’m buying larger quantities.

Collapsed a little due to (forgetful) overproofing, so the crumb is tighter than planned

Tartine Bread: simplified recipe notes

Worth the effort. This sourdough is made from the Tartine Bread recipe.

This isn’t much use on it’s own, but I’ve seen a few people find this site when looking for Tartine Bread so I thought I’d share my notes for any one else baking from the same recipe.

I mentioned in the past that the book is pretty confusing to follow (though well worth the effort), so I ended up writing these notes out on a piece of paper that I keep in the front of the book.

If you haven’t already read the book, do that first as this is deliberately in note form. And for those of you who’ve read it, I hope this helps.


- 1 tablespoon of starter
- 200g 50/50 white/wholemeal flour
- 200g water

1) Mix
2) Cover
3) Wait 12 hrs


- 1000g flour (900g white, 100g wholemeal)
- 700g water, plus 50-80g (work up to 80 for increased hydration %)
- 200g leaven
- 20g salt

1) 700g water in bowl, add leaven and stir
2) Add 1000g flour, mix and leave for 25-40 mins
3) Add salt plus 50g-80g of additional water, mix by hand and transfer to glass bowl
4) BULK RISE (3-4 hrs at average temperature. Adjust time and taste by managing temperature)
5) During bulk rise, turn every 30 mins for first 2 hrs
6) BENCH REST dough onto work surface, flour, cut, flip, fold and rest for 20-30 mins
7) SHAPE and place in rice flour dusted baskets
8) PROOF (3-4 hrs at average temperature. Adjust time and taste by managing temperature)
9) Pre-heat combo-oven/tagine at 500F/260C
10) Dust base of loaf, flip into base of combo-oven
11) Cover, reduce to 230C and bake for 20 mins
12) Uncover and bake for 20-25 mins


Shake out.

A bad cake day

oh what a mess!

This post is for my benefit more than yours, sorry.

Last week we bought a crate of nectarines on sale as they are coming to the end of their season. I planned several different ways to use them up, but more on that another day.

One of my plans was to make a few cakes to freeze for those rainy days when we want something comforting but summery.

I found a simple enough recipe online (I won’t bother sharing now…) and more or less followed the recipe.

This was my first mistake. I really should have followed it all.

The recipe told me to bake the cakes for 15 minutes and then add the sliced nectarines and continue baking. I was in a rush so didn’t bother. Suprise, suprise, they sank to the bottom and stuck there.

You can’t find baking powder or self-raising flour here, so I decided to mix my own. I sort of followed the guidelines but I wasn’t as specific as I really should have been. Mistake number two!

Lastly, whilst I could have made the cakes in two batches, as I had made double the amount of mix, I tried to squeeze it all into 4 small tins. Mistake number three!

So, as you can imagine, the fruit sank so the cakes weren’t pretty; the mix turned into some insane bubbly science experiment and almost all of the tins overflowed (all over the oven too).

I was so angry at myself. I was rushing as baby was asleep but was due to wake up, but that’s not his fault.

I was upset at the thought of wasting so much mix and those lovely nectarines. I was upset at having wasted my precious free time, I mean I could should have been cleaning or washing something.

Also, I was just plain embarrassed. Cakes are my thing! I should have been more precise.

Anyway. Shake ate what was stuck to the tins and anything else he could get his hands on. Of course he said it was delicious (and that I was being a drama queen :) ). The cakes were trimmed where necessary, fruit rescued and placed back on top and they are now safely in the freezer.

It doesn’t matter that they look dreadful, they will still taste fine and maybe by winter I will laugh about it too ;)



The value of homemade bread

My first loaves from the new proofing baskets

While (barely) awake at 5.30am and mixing dough I had a panic about the amount of flour I would get through if I continued baking my current recipe every day. It would be about 7kg per week, costing about 10 Euros.

10 Euros felt like quite a lot, given our weekly food budget is about 35 Euros. So I did a few sums. Slowly.

I’m making 2 x 1kg loaves per day. One of these is for us, and the other goes to the in-laws or other visitors. So to start with I can halve the 10 Euro cost as only half of it comes from our food budget, the other half is a form of rent :)

Next I looked at the bread I could buy with 5 Euros, and a 1kg boule from a decent bakery is about 4.50 Euros. And if I wanted organic bread (the flour I’m using is both local and organic) this would cost even more.

So each day, my costs are about 1.60 Euros (including a little for electricity) and the bread made has a commercial value of about 10 Euros. Over a week, that’s about 11 Euros costs, for roughly 70 Euros value.

In terms of the hands-on time working the bread, this works out something close to minimum wage so an economist would tell me that my hours are better spent earning my wage as a web developer and buying the bread instead.

But the economist doesn’t have useful metrics for pleasure, self-satisfaction, resilience, creativity, learning, the smell of bread baking as you work in the afternoon, or the lessons you teach your children when you show them how to make things with their own hands.

Given the numbers, and the things that don’t have numbers, I think I’m in profit.

Shake out.

This posted has been submitted to Yeast Spotting

Home baking supplies – France vs. UK

Bakery supplies - UK vs. France

My purchases

Having previously bodged the proofing of a few loaves using the ‘tea towel in a bowl’ method, I decided to treat myself to a proper proofing basket (or two) once we got to France. I assumed this nation’s love for bread would make it easier to find things like this, possibly even in a ‘real life’ shop.

But I was wrong.

It seems the French love bread so much, that you can buy good bread almost everywhere and people don’t need to bake their own. Unlike the UK, where buying quality bread is so difficult that a whole army of home bakers have been inspired to take up the artisan reigns. Even the big supermarkets here only stock a fraction of the bread flour on offer at a smaller UK supermarket.

So while I found a ‘real life’ shop that would sell me a professional deck oven for several thousands Euros (let’s not get carried away with this baking yet!), I had to resort to the trusty Internet to buy my baskets, or ‘Banneton’ as I now know they are called.

I found a few places in France, but the prices were higher than in the UK, and what really surprised me was that delivery was cheaper from the UK than ordering directly from here. So the UK got the sale.

I bought from Bakery Bits who I shopped with while in the UK and can highly recommend; quick dispatch and quality products.

I’ll keep you posted on how the banneton work out.

Shake out.

Vanilla extract

Vanilla beans from Uganda


So we made it safe and sound and baby was a superstar as usual. He is now in his own room and sleeping just as well as before. Phew!

Before we left, I was very lucky to have crossed paths with one of my closest friends who now lives in Uganda. She knows how much I love to bake and brought us an amazing stash of vanilla beans.

I usually use the seeds of the beans when making custard, using the remaining pods to make vanilla sugar (sugar + beans + sealable jar = vanilla sugar), but I wanted to try something else given that I have so many.

Making vanilla extract

Vanilla extract

There are so, so many different ways to make vanilla extract. I decided to use rum because I like it :)

I won’t even bother listing ingredients for you, there are only two!


Obtain a dark coloured glass bottle (or jar).

Split 4 vanilla pods, scrape seeds into bottle and then add the pods.

Pour 750cl of rum into bottle. Seal.

Shake bottle once a day for at least 3 weeks.

Store away from direct sunlight.