I struggled for what to write here as anything I first attempted sounded flippant and vapid, making light of the situation and circumstances that each and every one of us are living through at the moment. What I wanted to do was…well to do “something“. I firmly believe in the calming and therapeutic powers of being in the kitchen. At the best of times baking for me offers a respite from daily chores and frantic everyday life, a place to get my headspace and mentally “breathe”.
My baking activity has definitely had an upsurge of late. In the uncertain circumstances of the world today I find there is a calming certainty in knowing that if I mix a certain bundle of ingredients together a known result will be achieved. Focusing on the task at hand helps to redirect my attention and anxiety away from the unnerving headlines and statistics we’re being bombarded with- a calm in the eye of the storm, no matter how briefly. I guess that’s what I’m trying to do here- pass on these moments of calm to you in some small way.
The recipes here offer little moments of indulgence and respite with minimal ingredients and skill needed. Hopefully most of the ingredients called for are already staples in your pantry or, failing that, will prove easy to get hold of. I hope you enjoy taking some time out and baking them.
Stay safe out there folks, see you on the other side.
You can find some further information on mental health considerations during COVID-19 Outbreak here
• 2 cups chocolate hazelnut spread (I use Nutella – surprise!)
• 5 eggs
- Preheat the oven to 375˚F (190˚C).
- Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and place into two separate bowls Mix the chocolate hazelnut spread into the bowl with the egg yolks
- In the second bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form Fold 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the chocolate/egg yolk mixture until fully incorporated. Add the remaining egg whites to the mixture and fold gently, but thoroughly, until the mixture is smooth
- Pour the mixture into the greased ramekins and bake for 15-17 minutes until risen
- Serve immediately
- 3 1/2 cups All Purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk*
- Preheat oven to 450°F
- Line a tray with baking parchment and dust lightly with flour. Set aside until needed
- In a large bowl combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Whisk to combine and break down lumps. Make a well in the centre
- Pour in most of the buttermilk
- Using one hand stir the flour into the liquid from the outside of the bowl, turning the bowl as you do. Continue until the mixture comes together in a soft dough that is not too wet or sticky (you may need the remainder of the buttermilk here)
- Turn the dough out into a lightly floured surface and knead lightly for a few seconds. Don’t over-knead here- you just want to do it enough so that it holds it shape. Don’t do it to the extent that you would with standard bread dough!
- Using your hands, lightly floured, pat the dough into a round shape about 2 inches thick. Transfer to the floured baking sheet
- With a knife (I use a bench scraper) score a cross into the top of the loaf, so that it goes almost all the way through the thickness and over the sides of the loaf
- Bake in the preheated oven for 15mins then reduce the heat to 400°F and continue baking for an additional 20mins until cooked. The baked loaf will be deep golden in color and sound hollow when the bottom of it is tapped
- Remove and cool on a wire rack
- This type of loaf will cool with a hard, crispy crust. If a softer crust is desired wrap a clean kitchen towel around the hot loaf and allow it to cool
*If you don’t have buttermilk to hand you can make your own by combining 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon squeezed lemon juice or distilled white vinegar in a jug. Stir to combine and leave to sit for 15 mins. After 15 mins the liquid will have thickened slightly and small curds can be seen. Use in the recipe as required. Any remaining milk can be stored in the fridge.
White Bread Bloomer
- 4 cups bread flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons quick action yeast
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/4 Olive oil
- 1 1/4cups warm water
- Lightly oil a large bowl and set aside for the dough later
- In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the flour, salt (to one side), yeast (to opposite side) and brown sugar
- Add in olive oil and 250ml warm water and mix on low setting to combine the ingredients. Add in remaining water, if needed, to achieve a soft, slightly sticky dough. Continue to knead in the machine for a total of 7 minutes. Proceed to Step 4.(If you’re mixing the traditional way, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and shaping you hand into a “claw shape”, with fingers slightly spaced, mix by hand until all the ingredients come together in a ball. Tip out onto a lightly oiled surface and continue to knead for 10 mins until the dough is soft and slightly sticky)
- Tip the dough from the mixer bowl into the prepared oiled bowl, cover with lightly oiled cling-wrap and set aside to proof for at least 45 minutes, or until doubled in size
- Once the dough has finished proofing, tip out onto a lightly oiled surface. Punch down the dough to knock bar the air and reduce it in size
- You can either leave it as one large load or divide into two for 2 smaller standard sized loafs
- Once the dough has been knocked back use oiled hands to shape into an oval shape and transfer to a large flour dusted baking sheet
- Cover with oiled cling wrap, set aside and leave to double inside for apx 30-40mins
- Whilst the dough is having it second proof, preheat your oven to 425°F
- Once the dough has proofed and risen, bake in the preheated oven for 15mins, after which reduce the temperature to 390°F and bake for further 10-15mins until deep golden in color and the base of the loaves sound hollow when tapped
- Remove from the oven, and allow to cool on a rack
- Baked loaves can easily be frozen and saved for later. Wrap in cling wrap, place in plastic bag, seal and place in freezer. Defrost for a few hours when needed
PB & J Oat Bars
- 5 tablespoons salted butter, plus extra for the tin
- 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
- 8 tablespoons grape jelly (or favourite fruit flavour)
- 1/2cup light brown soft sugar, packed
- 2 cups rolled oats
- Heat the oven to 350°F . Butter and line the base and sides of a 9” square cake tin with baking parchment
- Set aside 3 tablespoons each of the peanut butter and jam in separate bowls for later. Combine the remaining peanut butter, jam, butter and sugar into a pan over a medium heat and stir until everything has melted together. Quickly stir in the rolled oats, then leave to cool for 5 mins
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and gently press down with a small measuring cup
- Dot over the reserved peanut butter and jam, then bake for 20-25 mins or until golden brown. Leave to cool completely in the tin, then turn out onto a board and cut into bars (2 x6)
- Bars are best kept refrigerated in a sealed container for 2-3 days
Easy Shortbread Cookies
- 1 cup salted butter
- 1/2 cup icing sugar
- 1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
- Preheat oven to 275 degree
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (with paddle attachment) oe using an electric hand-mixer beat the butter and icing sugar together well.
- Slowly add in the flour (I use 1/4 cup increments) until it has all been added in. Once it all in, crank up the speed on you machine and whip it for 6 minutes. The mixture will become light and exceptionally fluffy
- Using a small cookie scoop (size about 1- 1/2 tablespoon) scoop the dough out onto the prepared baking sheets
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 30-35 minutes until bottoms of the cookies are browned.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes on the trays. Transfer to a rack to cool complely
- Baked cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week
In the photographs shown I put a cherry on top of each prior to baking. The pre-baked cookies can be left plain or topped with whatever you like from your pantry such as chocolate chunks; nuts; candy pieces…whatever you have to hand in your pantry.
Peanut Butter Cookies
- 1 cup Sugar
- 1 cup Peanut Butter
- 1 Egg
- Preheat the oven to 350 degree. Line 2 cookie sheets with baking parchment
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a hand-held electric mixer, mix the ingredients together until well blended
- Using a small cookie scoop (about 1-1/2 tablespoon size) scoop doughballs on to ungreased cookie sheet
- Using a fork press down in one direction and then press again from the other side to form a criss-cross pattern on top
- Bake for 12 minutes
- Allow them cool on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely
- Baked cookies will keep for 3-4 days at room temperature in a sealed container
I posted the recipe for this a couple of years ago. It such an easy thing to do but a lot of people think of it as a daunting task. You can find the recipe/method here