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Babka for Breakfast

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I imagine that you have had  moments in your life where you vividly remember  eating something utterly delicious- and that memory  stays with you. Well, for me, one of these moments was when I went to New York with my family at 12 years old and first ate pecan pie. What a heavenly invention pecan pie is. About 10 years ago I had another of these moments, when I ate chocolate babka for the first time- moist, chewy, tender and chocolatey- a cross between a bun, bread, cake and heaven.  I had never tasted anything quite so wonderful.  Our friend’s friend called Evan had brought over the babka with him from America and I was lucky enough to be around to try it.  We were just talking about Evan last week and I became obsessed with finding the perfect chocolate babka recipe and dear reader I think I found it.

I started by looking in my very extensive collection of cookery books. My New York Times Jewish cookbook had a recipe which involved using 16 eggs yolks- what were they thinking! Peter Rheinhart had a recipe but it looked a little dry. Then I came across a post called ‘Better Babka’ on Smitten Kitchen That’s more like it- sticky, rich, delicious. The original source for this recipe was Jerusalem by Ottolenghi I tried this  recipe and was duly impressed. The reason why it’s not dry (a sin where babka is concerned) is that it has large amounts of sugar syrup poured all over it the moment it comes out of the oven.

Now I like chocolate- any friend of mine will testify to this- however, even for me the chocolate flavour was incredibly strong- infact too much and that’s saying something. I thought that the ‘better chocolate babka’  would indeed be better if it became cinnamon babka. So here’s my adaptation of the recipe with a buttery cinnamon sugar running through out.



4 cups plain flour
1/2 cup  granulated sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
3  eggs
1/2 cup water
3/4 teaspoon  salt
150 g   butter  at room temperature

Cinnamon filling

150g butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 tsp cinnamon


1/3 cup water
6 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar

1. Make the dough

Combine the flour, sugar and yeast in the bottom of a food mixer. Add eggs and 1/2 cup water, mixing with the dough hook until it comes together; if it doesn’t come together at all, add extra water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms a mass. With the mixer on low, add the salt, then the butter, a spoonful at a time, mixing until it’s incorporated into the dough. Then, mix on medium speed for 10 minutes until the dough is completely smooth; you’ll need to scrape the bowl down a few times.

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Coat a large bowl with oil and place the dough inside, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for at least half a day, preferably overnight. Alternatively you can let it rise at room temperature for 2 hours and then put it in the fridge for another hour.

2. Make the filling

Cream together the butter with the sugar and cinnamon

3. Assemble the loaves

Butter two 9-by-4-inch  loaf pans , and line the bottom of each with a rectangle of baking parchment. Take half of dough from fridge (leave the other half chilled). Roll out on a well-floured counter to about a 10-inch width (the side closest to you) and as long in length (away from you) as you can when rolling it thin, (10 to 12 inches)

Spread half of the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Brush the end farthest away from you with water. Roll the dough up with the filling into a long, tight cigar. Seal the dampened end onto the log.  If you put the log onto a lightly floured baking tray in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes it will make it easier to cut- but you can skip this if you want

Gently cut the log in half lenghtwise and lay each piece next to each other, cut sides up. Pinch the top ends gently together. Lift one side over the next, forming a twist and trying to keep the cut sides facing out.  Transfer the twist as best as you can into the prepared loaf pan.

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Cover with cling film and leave to rise another  1 1/2 hours at room temperature. Repeat process with second loaf.

4. Bake your babka

Pre-heat oven to 375°F (190°C).  Place each loaf on the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 25 minutes and check if its done using a skewer. If its not quite done you’ll feel a little resistance or see some dough on the skewer. It may need another 5 min and if its looking a little dark., turn the heat down to 170.

While babkas are baking, make the syrup. Bring sugar and water to a simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. As soon as the babkas leave the oven, brush the syrup all over each. This will take a little time to do- there’s quite a lot of syrup- but you wouldn’t want it to be dry would you!

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There is no reason not to start eating it straight away when its still warm- but it’s also great for breakfast lightly toasted.


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And now for some news from the World Bread Awards

Westminster Hall filled with hundreds of fabulous loaves for the World Bread Awards

from @foodtradeHQ

picture from @foodtradeHQ

Some serious judging going on

picture from @dipnaand

picture from @dipnaand

My Highbury Sourdoughs just out of the oven

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Each entrant had to get two of the same loaf to Westminster Cathedral Hall in London by 11am on 17th September.  I made my Highbury Sourdoughs with white, spelt and rye flour, using the Tartine method. I had to get up at 5.30 to get them out of the fridge where they had been fermenting over night. I left them to warm up to room temperature for a couple of hours, then baked one in my oven and the other in my neighbour’s oven. I went off to work and my darling daughter took them in on the tube to central London

A picture of my daughter in San Francisco

Last night was the award ceremony and it was all worth it because I won GOLD in the baked at home category!


First Prize for my Sourdough at Snape


This summer I decided to get ready for two bread competitions coming up in England in September; The World Bread Awards (not quite sure how on earth anyone from outside the UK could have entered given you had to get your 2 loaves of bread to a church in central London by 11am) and Marriage’s Bread Competition, at the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival, a far more local affair. So I needed some inspiration – where better to get it than Northern California- home of San Francisco Sourdough, the fabulous Tartine bakery in San Francisco and the wonderful Gayle’s bakery in Capitola, and we happened to be going there on holiday!

We did a house-swap and stayed  near the Mission district of San Francisco- just 6 blocks away from the Tartine Bakery- heaven for just nipping out to get something fabulous for breakfast,lunch and dinner. Here is some sourdough bread I bought there : white-wheat blend and  baguette. All I can say is it’s hard to describe in words just how good they were. I know that getting a baguette to look that good is really hard- so I decided to try to perfect the white-wheat blend.


We picked our son up from the airport shortly after buying the bread, he was dreadfully jet lagged- but still able to appreciate dinner



We then spent some time with my husband’s family in Santa Cruz, down the coast.  Every time we visit them we always make time to go to Gayle’s Bakery- and this trip was no exception:


Their fabulous ‘Schneken’ – a type of ultra decadent cinnamon roll, inspired my earlier blog on this most delicious treat.

When I came back I practiced making Sourdough bread using the Tartine method, repeatedly. Sometimes it came out slightly too flat, (I think the problem here  might have been that I let the first stage called autolyse, where you mix the sourdough with the water and flour, go on too long and the yeast became inhibited by the amount of acid being built up, so it didn’t hold its shape) On another occasion it rose beautifully but was not sour enough, and I realised I really need it to be in the fridge overnight to develop the sour flavour. I also started experimenting with refreshing my sourdough starter much more  carefully for the final dough (which is called the leaven)  For the World Bread awards, I made a spelt rye and white sourdough, based roughly on Chad Robertson’s ‘Wheat-Rye 10%’ from his Tartine book no. 3. ( I didn’t make it to the final- but am waiting to hear if I got gold silver or bronze. However I did win best Sourdough at Aldeburgh, with my white-wheat blend. It turned out well, with a nice rise, a good chewy crumb full of holes, and very sour.




250g strong white bread flour

250g white flour

425g water

1 dessertspoon of leaven

12g salt


1. Refresh your starter at 12 hour intervals a couple of times, the day before you are going to mix your final dough. Then take a dessertspoon of the starter and mix it with 100g flour and 100g cold water and leave over night to make the leaven

2. Mix together a dessertspoon of the leaven with the water and then add the flours and stir well

3. Leave at room temperature for between 4- 8 hours, covered with a shower cap ( I left mine for 8, slightly more by necessity than choice)

4. Then add half the salt, scattering it fairly evenly over the surface, and stretch and fold twice, scooping it up from the bottom with a spoon, and folding it over, as I have explained in my blog on making sourdough bread using Tartine method. Add the rest of the salt and fold again a couple of times. Leave for half an hour

5. Stretch and fold every half an hour for the next 2 1/2 hours until it is billowy and well aerated. (This may take slightly longer)

6. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and shape it into a round by drawing your hand round the edge to make a kind of oversize walnut whip shape

7. Leave for 10 minutes or so

8. For the final shaping, lightly flour the top and flip it over. Pull the side closest to you towards you and fold it over the dough. Then pull to the left  and fold over and do the same to the right. Finally pull the side furthest from you and fold over so you have a dough envelope (see my blog on making sourdough using Tartine method for more detail). Then lightly flour on the top and flip it over and make it into a round shape creating a bit of surface tension over the top. Then flour the top so that it won’t stick to the basket.

9. Flour your banneton basket, or  put a towel in a medium sized bowl and flour it generously, and gently plop the dough in smooth side down.

10. Either let the dough rise for another two hours and then put it in the fridge, or put it in the fridge straight away for its overnight stay. ( I had no choice in the matter because at this point we were driving to Suffolk and I held my dear dough on my lap, worrying it would over rise)

11. In the morning, take it out of the fridge 2 – 2 1/2 hours before you want to bake it. (For both competitions, I am such a devotee that I got out of bed around 5.30 to get it out of the fridge and then went back to sleep)


12. Half an hour before baking the bread you need to pre-heat the oven to 245 degrees c with a Le Creuset or in my case a ‘La Cloche’ from Bakerybits, which is easier (

13. Flour the surface of the dough and put it in the La Cloche and slash quickly with a sharp knife or ‘lame’ with a square shape over the top and bake for half an hour

14. Turn the oven down to 225 and bake for another 10 mins with the lid off, and then bake for a further 10 mins at 200 degrees. That way you’ll get a really rich dark crust

15. Turn the oven off and let it sit there with the door ajar for a further 8 mins, so that the crust remains hard.  Then take out and put on a cooling wrack

Voila- you are done!

Your prize winning loaf awaits you- have a go and let me know how you get on.

Happy to answer any questions you may have

Here are my prizes, very generously given to me by Marriage’s flour ( :



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Homemade Matzah for Passover

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Have you ever tried Matzah? Its the type of cracker eaten for 8 days during the festival of Passover- when Jews are not supposed to eat anything leavened.  Its generally white and tasteless. Can you imagine – me not baking or eating bread for this long!! In the words of that great Jewish scholar Lemony Snicket:

‘It is altogether proper that matzah is called the bread of affliction, because it has been afflicted more than any other foodstuff on earth. It is born in a searing-hot oven and then completely ignored for fifty-one weeks of the year while people walk around shamelessly eating leavened bread and crackers. Then, Passover rolls around…’ For more wise words from Lemony, see the New American Haggadah

So- what’s to do, but try making my own Matzah. I searched online for recipes and finally found one that sounded good from the New York Times – Matzah made with olive oil. Well, I tried the recipe and I have to report, dear reader, that it was absolutely disgusting- and I threw it all away. So I searched my extensive bread book library and Peter Reinhart came up trumps in his ‘ Wholegrain Bread Book’ His recipe is made totally with whole grain flour- I thought that may be a bit much- so my recipe below has white flour and rye as well as whole grain.

So, why do we eat Matzah at this time of year? (Passover starts on Monday night)  It’s in order to remember the Children of Israel coming out of Egypt and not having enough time to bake bread. In order for Matzah to be kosher its supposed to take no longer than 18minutes from the time the water is mixed with the flour, until it is baked- that way it has no chance to ferment. So I reckon if I’m going to do this- I might as well try and go the whole hog (ok, I shouldn’t have used that word) and try and do the 18 minutes thing. A food processor is very handy because it speeds things up- although I don’t suppose they had food processors in the desert!


1 1/4 cups white bread flour
1/4 cup whole grain flour
1/4 cup rye flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup water


1. Place the flours and salt in a food processor and wiz to mix
2. Add the water and process until it’s just beginning to come together into one ball (if its not coming together you may need to add a little more water)
3. The dough should feel a little tacky but not sticky- so you may need to need in a little flour if its too sticky
4. Pre-heat the oven  to 180 degrees F

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5. Divide the dough in half and then cut one of the halves into 4 pieces

6. Flour your surface lightly and roll each piece with a rolling pin into a circle or rectangle until it begins to shrink back

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7. Now roll each one out further until it is about 1/8 inch thick. You’ll need to  keep your worksurface lightly floured so that it doesn’t stick

8. Put the rolled out dough on a baking sheet and then prick it all over with a fork

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9. Bake in the oven for about 5 or 6 minutes and then check it. It may need about 2 or 3 minutes more. Its ready when its lightly browned on both sides

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Try it with butter and jam- it pretty good. Or anything that goes with butter for that matter.

I have posted this on wild yeast’s yeast spotting

Pizza from Scratch, with delicious thin crispy dough

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When it comes to pizza, I find that everyone has their own particular preference for what they like and what they definitely don’t like. My daughter is horrified by the idea of anyone having pineapple on pizza- and I must say I agree. I really don’t like thick doughy crusts and my husband doesn’t like capers. Some people have a preference for when and how they eat pizza- I think you have to eat it with your fingers- and my father in law thinks that pizza does not constitute  real dinner and should only be eaten as a snack.

Now I’ve gone through a litany of what people don’t like, I want to tell you what I think makes for a good pizza. You have to have a thin and crispy dough, with a generous amount of mozzarella, a great tomato sauce and grated parmesan and the moment it comes out of the oven you need to sprinkle it with rocket. There are other great pizza toppings like anchovies, olives, thinly sliced red onion, chorizo and when my husband’s not looking, capers. It needs to be baked in a blisteringly hot oven, with a little semolina to stop it from sticking and giving it an extra crunchy bottom.

The other important part of the pizza making experience is having a pizza stone that you pre-heat, a wooden pizza peel for transferring the pizza on to the piping hot pizza stone and a metal pizza peel for taking it out of the oven. You can get all these items from Bakery Bits on line, John Lewis or the beautiful kitchen shop Divertimenti.  However if you don’t have this equipment, don’t worry you can use a baking tray, on which you assemble the pizza and then put the whole thing into the pre-heated oven.

Ingredients for the dough

3 cups white bread flour
1 1/2 cups water
1 tblsp olive oil
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
a little semolina

First thing this morning I made a no knead bread dough, by mixing the flour yeast and salt together and then stirring in the water and olive oil. I then covered it with a shower cap (see no knead bread recipe in previous blog if you want more detail). I left it on the counter all day and when I came back from work it had developed well.


I folded it several times to get most of the air out and then put it onto a floured counter and cut it in half with a dough scraper (mine comes from bakery bits)  and then I cut one of the halves into two pieces

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I then rolled out these 2 quarters into circles, making sure I had plenty of flour on the work surface and it wasn’t sticking, and covered it with cling film.

(I put the rest of the dough in a bowl in the fridge and will make it into a small loaf of bread tomorrow)

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I pre-heated the oven to 245 degrees F, with the pizza stone in the oven, for half an hour and then got the pizza toppings ready

Pizza topping ingredients

tomato sauce made with an onion, a tin of chopped tomatoes and some fresh basil
one 220g ball of mozzarella, per pizza, cut into small pieces
grated parmesan
half a red onion thinly sliced
sun dried tomatoes chopped
thinly sliced chorizo
and any thing else you like on pizza


Next I sprinkled a little semolina on to the wooden pizza peel

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and I carefully placed the dough on the pizza peel, by rolling it round the rolling pin and unrolling it on to the peel

I then put the pizza ingredients on it – laying the mozzarella on to the tomato sauce, followed by the sundried tomatoes, parmesan and the red onion on the top

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When the oven had pre-heated I transferred it to the pizza stone and baked it for 10 minutes

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I took it out of the oven with my metal pizza peel and put it on to a big bread board

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and covered it with rocket.

Within moments it all disappeared!

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I then made a second pizza- two was just about enough for 3 people

Do try this recipe and let me know how you get on- it’s really is easy

I’m going to submit this blog to yeast spotting- take a look its a great website:

Gluten Free Bread made with Rice and Buckwheat flours and Mashed Potato


I have a number of friends who only eat Wheat free or Gluten free bread. They complain that this bread is a) expensive b) brick like. So by popular demand here is my recipe from my second attempt at making Gluten free bread. (I don’t need to tell you about the details of my first loaf- but the words ‘heavy’ and ‘dry’ and ‘hardly touched by my family’ spring instantly to mind) This loaf however was tasty and aerated throughout- so much so that when I brought it in to work today to share it at lunchtime, two of my friends said ‘I can’t believe its Gluten free’ and it got wolfed down pretty quickly. It went really well with aged Gouda and pear chutney- mmm…

My inspiration came from Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s excellent book ‘How to make Bread’ – and I have adapted his recipe in various ways, including using mashed potato rather then potato flour. As Emmanual points out there’s no need to knead it as there’s no gluten to be worked and its just a straight yeasted bread.


1 2/3 cup rice flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup of mashed potato
1/3 cup of oats (you’ll need to check that who ever is eating this can tolerate oats- if not you could use buckwheat flakes)
1/3 cup of sunflower seeds
1 tbls poppy seeds
1 tbls sesame seeds
1 1/2 tsp dried instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 2/3 cups + 2 tlbs warm water
1 tblsp molasses


1. Mix together in a bowl, the flours oats, seeds, instant yeast and salt.

2. Add the mashed potato and stir in so that it is fairly evenly distributed

3. Mix the molasses into the warm water and add to the other ingredients and stir

4. It should now have the consistency of cottage cheese


5. leave it covered by a shower cap or cling film for an hour

6. Transfer it to a buttered loaf pan


7.  Pre- heat the oven to 450 degrees C.

8. Cover the dough and leave for half an hour, or till it nearly reaches the top of the loaf pan

9. Sprinkle the top of the dough with sesame seeds and poppy seeds


10. Turn down the temperature to 220 and put a baking tray in the bottom of the oven filled with 1 cup of boiling water ( this will create steam and help you get a lovely crust)

11. Bake for 15 mins at 220- then turn the oven down to 200 and carefully slip the bread out of the bread pan and put it back in the oven straight onto the metal wrack (make sure you have good oven gloves for this)

12. When its nicely browned with a good crust all over and it no longer feels damp on the outside, take it out of the oven and put it on wire wrack to cool


Hope you enjoy it, let me know how you get on

Tangy Kamut and Buckwheat Sourdough in Suffolk

pic by Faith Vincent

pic by Faith Vincent

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Last weekend was very special. Our book group went to stay in the Suffolk countryside for a weekend of indulgence – great meals,  a visit to the stormy beach at Walberswick , country walks, wood stove fires, and  I knew I couldn’t let them down on the bread front.

I drew my inspiration from  Chad Robertson’s ‘Book No.3 Modern Ancient Classic Whole’, about baking fabulous bread using whole grains and heirloom flours. I think Chad is the master of creativity in bread making at the moment- and this book is a must.

pic by Faith Vincent

pic by Faith Vincent

I made two loaves- one was a malted flour seeded Sourdough  and the other was a Kamut and Buckwheat Sourdough. This  loaf was an experiment and I thought it might be a bit heavy, and that I would be left with most of it to take home at the end of the weekend. But not a bit of it- it was by far and away the favourite, so I thought I should share my recipe with you. I have to say, it was particularly good with strong cheese ( and we had plenty of that)

I mixed all the ingredients (bar the salt) on Thursday when I came back from work, and let it sit at room temperature until I was ready for bed. Then I added the salt and left it out over night. The next morning I shaped it and put it in  a loaf tin which I then refrigerated . When I came home that evening I took it out of the fridge and we set off for Suffolk in the car,  with the bread dough  on my friend’s lap, warming up during the journey.   I then baked it when we arrived.


1 tbl sourdough starter (see previous blogs on how to make your own sourdough starter, or order some on line)
2 cups water
2 cups Kamut flour
1 cup Buckwheat flour
2 tbl Wheatgerm
2 tbl diastatic malt flour- optional (order on line from Bakery bits)
1 1/4 tsp salt


1. Mix the starter with the water in a large bowl to break it up

2. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until well mixed

3. Leave for 4 hours, then sprinkle on half the salt and fold several times, and sprinkle the rest of the salt and fold several times

4. Leave covered at room temperature overnight (or around 8 hours)

5. Its a fairly wet dough, so get it in to a loaf shape as best you can and sprinkle with Kamut flour

6. Put the dough in a buttered loaf pan, cover and refrigerate all day (or roughly 8 hours if you want a good sour tang- otherwise you can bake straight away)


7. Take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature (at least 2 hours)

8. Preheat oven to 245 degrees C. for half an hour

9. Put a roasting pan with  a cup of boiling water in the bottom of the oven

10. Bake the bread at 245 for 15 minutes (it tends to get very dark quickly, so do remember to turn it down at this point)

11. Turn the oven down to 200 and bake for a further 20 mins

12. Bake at 180 for a further 10 minutes- take it out and let it cool on a wire wrack, unless everyone’s really hungry and they just can’t wait. In which case slice into it when its piping hot!


Just time for one more walk after lunch


And incase you were wondering- we read Diana Athill’s memoir called ‘Somewhere Towards the End’

Do visit Faith’s site :

This recipe has been sent to yeast spotting:

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