Purpose, Passion and Pumpkin Cranberry Soda Bread

I used to bake for pleasure, every other weekend or so for gifts and special occasions. Then I was whisked away into the transformative world of Television. Writing lots of books, cooking and baking multiple times a day and coming up with new recipes with every breath. Even though it was my passion, I began to lose a little love for it and baked less and less for pleasure. They say that it  is an occupational hazard when you make your passion your work. Happy to say I am getting back to re-addressing the balance. I work (mainly stateside) judging and hosting TV shows which I love very much and now the nights are drawing in, I feel compelled again to get back in to the kitchen and crank up the oven and get a gentle soothing bake on. I have gone back to basics, bread. I fell in love with baking because of making bread and cookies. The cakes and the fancy stuff all came later. So here is a recipe gift for you and I hope you give it a go and bake it.

I did not participate in any Halloween activities so was feeling a little out of the festive sorts. Pumpkin puree seemed the right approach and so I grabbed a couple of cans off the shelf in Wholefoods. I adore the simplicity of bread. The few ingredients a basic loaf needs, there is no pomp no circumstance no social media viral video worthy processes. Just soothing simplicity. I had a quick search and found something called ‘baking buddy’ on Tesco’s  and Sainbury’s websites. At a glance the nutritional information looks pretty much the same.  I took the basic recipe from the Soda bread I made in Baking Made Easy and then adapted it to work with the extra liquid from the pumpkin puree.

I will put the full recipe in one place below, but  I mixed together the flours, salt, pumpkin puree, milk, lemon juice, maple syrup and bicarbonate of soda. The dough was really sticky so I had to add a little more flour. The recipe is supposed to be made with purely plain flour but I had none left and didn’t not fancy another trip to the shop so I topped it up with some self-raising instead. Then I flattened out the dough as above and sprinkled over some seeds and cranberries.

The above pic is my favourite bit about making bread. Once the dough has its seeds etc in, you flip the dough over and then tuck in the sides as if you were making a bed. So all of the edges of the dough are now underneath and this gives you a beautifully smooth top. Magic. Talking here again about passion, there are lots of quotes out there which talk of finding your purpose. That which gives your life meaning above and beyond family and friends. They say if you find your passion it will lead you to your purpose. I have been thinking about this for much of this year and I think that it is true to a degree. I think using your passion to somehow help people will lead you to your purpose. Have a look over at this inspiring young lady who has started a “social enterprise dedicated to fighting gender-based violence throughout the world by empowering vulnerable and abused girls and women to speak out” The founder Yana Spencer says of this initiative called Tamu Bakery “The concept behind our organisation is a simple one – our supporters order one of our delicious cakes, and the funds are used to run baking therapy sessions with vulnerable and abused girls and women around the world, in partnership with host organisations”. A  clear cut case of marrying her passion for baking with helping others= Purpose. 

 The next step in the recipe is to give the bread its trade mark cross. Flour a wooden spoon well and then holding it horizontallyv over the bread push it down all the way to the baking tray and then hold the spoon at right angles to the other line and do the same. Do make sure you press all the way down. I tried sprinkling the seeds et al on top of the bread but they just fell off. I considered brushing the top with something but I do love the rustic matte appearance of a soda bread and did not want to change that. So I spent 10 minutes pushing the cranberry and pumpkin seeds on top of the loaf. And then went to put it in the oven and of course, I had forgot to turn the oven on. Anyone else have a bit of a sieve brain memory?

So here is the loaf going in to the oven. Doesn’t it look beautiful? I Popped it in the oven and then took the dog for a walk.  A perfect morning I’d say.

Tidying up is my least favourite pastime post baking. I don’t like it at all. The one piece of equipment that has made my life much easier however, is this bench scraper. Good to just get the majority of flour or icing sugar up in a few easy scrapes. They cost next to nothing, I bought mine from Russums The bendy ones are best. Some of the cake companies do a white one which is too rigid. Also the metal ones are okay but I always worry that it may damage my worksurface so I highly recommend a bendy plastic one.

With hindsight I would have pushed the cranberries down a little more so they did not catch quite so much colour. But other than that this has turned out well. Something very satisfying about doing a new recipe and it working first time around. I reckon I could fall in love with this baking lark all over again.

My problem with baking is that I want to eat the whole thing once it comes out of the oven. Cookies, biscuits, bread and cakes. How good are they when warm! But I have a process now to stop my little fingers cutting off one slice too many. I give my self a couple of slices and then let the bread cool down and then pop the loaf in to a freezer bag. Soda bread does not keep well anyway and should be eaten on the day that it is cooked. Too make it last longer it’s a good idea to slice the bread up and then freeze it so you can pull out a slice and whack it in the toaster when the carbohydrate mood takes you again.

Let me know how you get on with this recipe. Please feel free to play around with the ingredients a little. Not so much the milk and flour etc element of it, but perhaps you want to add some courgettes and some cheese in place of pumpkin? Or some beetroot? It’s all about getting the balance of the liquid right so that when you come to form it in to a ball it is not sticking badly to the surface and it is not breadcrumb texture. I  do encourage you to experiment and have fun with it. Recipe below.

500g plain flour

60g of self raising flour

1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp of salt

1 tbsp of maple syrup (optional you can use honey if you like or treacle to darken the crumb

300g of tinned pumpkin puree

200ml of semi-skimmed milk

1 tbsp of lemon juice

4 tbsp of chia seed ( this is optional)

4 tbsp of pumpkin seeds

4 tbsp of dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 200c/400f

Put the flours in a bowl with the bicarbonate of soda and the salt and mix them together. Then add the maple syrup and the pumpkin puree along with the skimmed milk, lemon juice and the chia seeds. Mix it all for a couple of minutes until it starts to come together. Then put down the spoon and get your hands in, bring it together in a ball and then pop it down on a lightly floured surface.

Press it down a little to flatten the ball and then sprinkle in half of the pumpkin seeds and half of the cranberries. Fold in the edges of the dough in to the centre a few times, not kneading it but just trying to get the seeds and cranberries mixed in as well as possible. Then fold in the edges to the middle again and then flip the dough the other around so that the messy edges are underneath and the top of the dough is smooth.

Place the bread on a baking sheet and take a lightly sprinkle some flour over a wooden spoon. Hold the wooden spoon horizontally over the bread and then press down all the way to the bottom of the tin. This is the first half of the cross. Then turn the spoon so it is at right angles to the line you have just made and make another line thus forming a cross.

Push the remaining cranberries in to the top of the loaf. Pushing them so they are flush with the bread will mean that they do not burn when they bake. Then put the pumpkin seeds on also. You do not have to push them down quite so much as they will not burn so easily but will go toasty which is a good thing.

Place in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the bread has risen slightly (it will not rise much) and is firm and not wet in the bits where the cross is. These bits cook the slowest and when they are dry, it is a good indicator that the bread is cooked.

Once cooked remove from the oven and leave to cool a little before slicing and serving with some good butter.

Enjoy baking and eating it and tell me how do you think  is the best way to find your purpose in life? I look forward to hearing from you.

Big love

Lorraine xxx

Ps: If you see any typos let me know in the comments and I will correct them 💋

Fig, Chestnut and Rosemary Scones

I don’t seem to have the time to bake anymore. But I have a rare weekend off. So I baked these using a little chestnut flour which enhances the sweetness and gives a subtle earthy flavour. It’s time to get your bake on!

280g self-Raising flour

70g chestnut flour

2 sprigs of rosemary, 1 finely chopped

Pinch of salt

85g butter, hard and cut into cubes (unsalted preferably but salted is okay)

170ml of skimmed milk

2 figs finely sliced

1 egg lightly beaten

(1tbsp of maple syrup is optional if you have a very sweet tooth)

Preheat the oven to 200c with the top shelf ready. Put the flours, salt and butter into a bowl. Using your fingers rub the butter and the flour together picking up bits of flour and butter together and rubbing them and then letting the mixture fall back into the bowl. Do this until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the 1 finely chopped rosemary stick and mix again.

Then make a well into the centre of the dough

and pour in the milk and maple syrup if using.

Mix with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together. Then get your hands in and bring it together in a big ball.

On a lightly floured surface, using your hands pat it down to a circle (ish) of about 3cm deep.

Using a 6-7cm round cutter. Cut out about 6 circles.

Make sure you push straight down and don’t twist the cutter so that the scones rise nice and straight and not twisted.

Place each scone onto a baking sheet spaced well apart from each other.

Once you have cut out all of the scones, brush them, tops only, with egg wash. If you let the egg wash drip down It can prevent the scones from puffing up nicely.

Then place a slice of fig on top of each one, pushing it down a little along with a tiny sprig of rosemary.

Bake in the oven for 12-14 minutes or until the scones are firm where risen and golden brown.

Once baked remove from the oven and allow to cool a little. As with so many baked things these are delicious when still warm.

These are a gift for a friend. I’m going to a dinner party tonight and thought they would be fun to take. I was in the park earlier and so used the leaves I picked up there for gift wrapping along with some brown paper (with aluminium foil first to keep them fresh).

Enjoy your evening and let me know if you give these a go!

Big love

Lorraine xxx

Banana fruit boats- Last minute fancy dessert

Did you know the fruit and basil go super well? So it is not just to make the presentation look fancier 🙂

Those of you who follow me on social media may have noticed I have taken a liking to playing with my fruit as above before eating it. As a pastry chef, I have always been a stickler for presentation. If you are really stuck for a last minute dessert and you want a variation from a regular fruit bowl, how about placing these on your best plates served with a dollop of creme fraiche or whipped double cream?

You can spread these banana fruit boats with some peanut or other nut butter too prior to placing the fruit on top, to get more of a balanced bite with a little fat and protein for good measure (and to also, if I am honest to prevent the fruit from rolling off).

I am not so familiar with these yellow cherries, but they were rich juicy and sweet and a perfect colour combination for this picture. I know some of you have young kiddies, so presenting fruit in this way is a good way to get them eating it. Having some mint growing in the garden is also a good idea, but if you do, be sure that it is in its own container as this stuff grows like wild fire. But I find picking the mint leaves and doing a little quasi-gardening very relaxing.

Thank you for reading and have a great day.

Big love

Lorraine xxx

Spinach, spirulina and Cavolo Nero soup with ginger and mint

I am following a flexitarian diet. Like a vegetarian/vegan but a little meat and fish. I don’t eat so much meat anyway so the transition should
Be straightforward for me.

There’s so many smoothie bowls on the internet that I thought something savoury was in order. This is a super simple soup. You don’t have to do all the flowers on it if you don’t fancy it, but it’s lots of fun!

Oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 x 225g spinach (washed)
1 x 200g bag of Cavolo Nero or kale finely chopped
1 x 3cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 handful of fresh mint (leaves only)
1.5 litres of vegetable stock
15g Spirulina Powder
Salt and pepper

Put some oil in a large sauté pan. Cook over a low heat until the onions are softened (6-10 minutes). Add the turmeric powder and cook for another couple of minutes adding a little oil if need be.

Then add the Cavolo Nero and cook for 2 minutes, add the spinach and the ginger and cook until the Cavolo Nero and spinach have wilted. Then add the stock, spirulina and mix well. Season to taste and remove from the heat. Allow to cool for 5 or so minutes and then blend in your blender or food processor.

If you are decorating the top of the soup you can mix up your coconut yogurt colours now. I used beetroot powder for the pink, camu camu powder for the brown and regular coconut yogurt for the white.

Once fully blended and smooth and divide between the bowls.

Decorate as required. I used plastic squeezey bottles to pipe.

Enjoy and let me know how you get on with it.

Big love

Lorraine xxx

Frozen Lemon and Vanilla Cheesecake Protein bites with Raspberry and Basil

 

5 big tbsp of greek yogurt ( I used 0%) you can use almond milk if you fancy

1 scoop of vanilla protein powder

1 tsp of a good vanilla extract of the seeds of 1 vanilla pod

zest of 1 lemon

180ml pack of cream cheese, full, lower or lower fat

1 bowl of frozen berries

1 handful of basil leaves

 

Put the yogurt, vanilla protein powder, vanilla extract, lemon zest, cream cheese into a bowl and mix together well until smooth. Spoon the mixture into the mould. You can use a cupcake tray if you do not have a flexi mould like the one in the picture. You will need quite a thin layer of the mixture in the cupcake tray. Smooth off the top of the cheesecake bite so that they are nice and flat.

Freeze until they are firm and then pop them out of the moulds/tray and place on to a serving tray. Take them out before they are too solid to eat however. And if you find you have left them in the fridge for too long, then just let them soften a tiny bit before eating. Place the berries on top along with the basil and serve.

Big love

Lorraine x