Monthly Archives: October 2013

Sourdough Bread making Course

A few weeks ago, before term started, I won a place (via Twitter) on a sourdough bread course. It was hosted by the wonderful Vanessa, of the Juniper and Rose Kitchen Garden School. The course was a 6 hour affair on all things sourdough. Vanessa explained about starters and levain, how to know by sight if the dough is ready and how to shape the sourdough into the perfect loaf. Vanessa had already made up a sourdough before we got there so we made pizza with it for lunch. We made up our own dough too, and after lunch, made various combinations of fillings – mine was pear and hazelnut –  for our loaves, which we baked and then got to take home with us (along with various other goodies, including Heritage Flour from Doves Farm and a sample of Pelia Olive Oil.) It was an inspiring way to spend a day and loads of fun. I’ve since made sourdough a few times and fed it to friends, who like it so much they’ve requested the recipe (always a good sign). This is a photo essay of the day and my later successes. I’m now addicted to sourdough pizza.

Sourdough Levain Cider Sourdough

Mixing Dough

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Making Pizza for LunchCheese

Pizza and Cheese

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Chocolate Cake (with Mayonnaise)

I haven’t made a layer cake in absolute ages. And I do so love layer cake. They’re always gorgeous to look at. And Food52 sent round this email with all these pictures and I got to thinking about layer cakes again. Also how much I want a life that will include moments with tables like the one with all those cakes. So yesterday I did a scout online and found this recipe. Okay, in truth I made the Princess chose what to make in the end because I couldn’t.

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This is dense, fudgey chocolate cake. The recipe comes from Fine Cooking and is called Southern Devil’s Food Cake. The mayonnaise is a weird addition but apparently it adds moisture and richness and it doesn’t alter the flavour of the finished cake at all. This is proper birthday-cake cake I think. There’s no chocolate in the cake, just a load of cocoa powder. I made the ganache with milk and dark chocolate and I love the result. This may be my go-to ganache recipe from now on. It’s thick and spreadable and it’s neither excessively sweet or bitter (and it didn’t split!)

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I realised about halfway through that I actually should have made half the amount of cake and ganache as this makes a lot of cake so I’ve experimented by freezing half the uncooked batter and the excess ganache that was left over after I’d iced the cake. At some point in the future I am going to unfreeze the batter and see if I can get cake again.

So, as I said, I used milk and dark chocolate in the ganache. I also used half double/half single cream so that it didn’t become too rich and split. I used spelt flour in the cake and half the dark brown sugar it called for, adding the rest in light brown sugar. I wanted to make the cake without wheat flour and I find white spelt flour works well on a 1-1 substitute.

Chocolate Cake (with Mayonnaise)

Adapted from Fine Cooking

For the Ganache:

200g milk chocolate (42%)

300g dark chocolate (71%)

250ml single cream

250ml double cream

30g butter, unsalted, soft

For the Cake:

175g butter, unsalted, soft

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 eggs

225g spelt flour

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1 1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup mayonnaise

Make the ganache first as it needs to cool at room temperature for about 6 hours before you can use it.

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Heat the two creams in a saucepan. Break all the chocolate into a heatproof bowl. When the cream is at scalding point (it’s about to boil), pour it over the chocolate mixture. Let everything stand for five minutes before stirring it smooth. Add in the butter last. Leave to cool.

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Preheat the oven to 175C and line two 20cm baking tins with butter.

Cream together the butter, sugars and vanilla until fluffy and thick.

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Add in the eggs, one at a time.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda. Then add in the salt.

Fold in the flour, alternating with the buttermilk. I usually do three flour additions and two buttermilk ones. Lastly fold in the mayonnaise.

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Divide the mixture between the two tins, smoothing them on top.

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Bake for about 40 minutes, until the cakes spring back and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the tins before turning out and cooling completely on a rack.

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To assemble, make sure the cakes are cooled completely. Cut the cakes in half. Spread with ganache and then sandwich together. If you’ve made the full mixture this will make 4 layers. I only made half so mine was a two layer cake. Use the ganache to do the top and sides of the cake.

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Annie’s Burger Shack

Annie’s is this incredibly awesome burger place, located in The Navigation pub on the canals in Nottingham. The pub itself is kind of random, with a weathered charm but people go for the burgers.


I’ve waited an hour and a bit for one before, something I would never contemplate anywhere else but they are just that good. They make the patties themselves, the buns are lightly toasted and there are enough flavour combinations to keep you going for weeks – a page and a half of choices. I wrote the other day about how I am a bacon cheeseburger girl but Annie’s is slowly converting me to other combinations. So far I’ve tried the bacon/cheeseburger, the bacon/blue cheeseburger; the ‘sloppy Joe’ which is a burger with chilli and the ‘Boston nibbler’ which is an insane burger, size wise, but my new favourite – it combines bacon, two cheeses (Swiss and Cheddar), pineapple, two patties and onion rings. It’s completely ridiculous and thus amazing. They also make the best sweet potato fries.

Bacon Blue Cheese Boston nibbler

So, if you are in Nottingham, and at a loss for dinner, visit Annie’s. You may have to wait a while, but it’ll be so worth it.

Byron Burger and Shake Shack

I was in London a few weeks ago, attending a sociology work group. One of the things I realised whilst at the group is that I am not a sociologist. I always find it odd when you meet people at conferences and academic study days and they tell you ‘I’m a sociologist’ or ‘I’m an anthropologist’. I’m always at a loss as to what to say here – firstly because I’ve never found self-defining through a discipline was my thing and secondly because I’ve never had just one discipline. It’s difficult when your subject of research (in my case food) is what defines you, and not the discipline in which you work. I’m a big fan of interdisciplinary work and thus don’t define as being particularly attached to one discipline or the other. So the day with sociologists was interesting.

To recover I met the Princess for dinner. We were planning to eat at Shake Shack but I was disappointed to find that most of the seating in their Covent Garden site is outside – not something you desire when it’s cold and miserable and there are pigeons eyeing you up so they can steal half your meal when you look away. I also had every desire for table service and a large glass of red wine and not having to carry my own food to a table. So we went instead to Byron Burger, just around the corner in Covent Garden, opposite Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. (A perfect place to eat if, by chance, you’re going to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.) I love Byron. It’s cosy and the staff are friendly and the burgers are epic.

I have a confession about my burger eating habits though. I always order bacon and cheeseburgers. I sometimes deviate into bacon and blue cheese but almost without fail it’s bacon and cheese for me. (A homage, I like to think, to Supernatural.) Even at Annie’s (which I am going to visit this weekend and will thus write about soon), which has the most insane collection of burger combinations, I find myself drawn back to this classic. It never disappoints. But I broke the mould at Byron and ordered Le Smokey. The truth is, it was a bacon and cheeseburger with additions and it was fantastic. The perfect cure to a long day of head-spinning sociology. Bacon, smoked cheddar, fried onions and chilli barbeque sauce. I had fries and coleslaw to go with it – both of which were good too. And I may be converted to the idea that bacon and cheeseburgers can be improved. Just maybe.

Byron Burgers

To finish, and because we had time to kill before my train, we wandered back over to Shake Shack for dessert. It was quieter and we found a table inside. I had the Concrete Jungle concrete and the Princess had the Union Shack one. Mine was the perfect blend of peanut butter, fresh banana and insanely smooth and creamy ice cream. It was heavenly. Hers was like chocolate overkill which she loved but I didn’t. (I really don’t like chocolate desserts.)

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So if you find yourself in London, with a burger craving and some time, head on over to Covent Garden because there’s more than enough choice and delight to be had.