Category Archives: Baking

Fig & Olive Pizza

I had a ‘pizza day’ yesterday.  Usually on pizza day I make nine pizzas, as they are great kept in the fridge, wrapped in foil, for snacks and lunches in the coming days.  I did make nine yesterday, two of them being this combo – Fig & Olive.  I had made one Fig & Goat’s cheese (very nice), and my daughter, not keen on goat’s cheese, complained that she would like to try the figs.  What can I substitute for the cheese here…? I was thinking. A jar of black olives called to me, and the pizza was born.  We all agreed the Fig & Olive was even better than the Fig & Goat’s cheese and I immediately whipped up another, which is now resting in the fridge, on leftovers duty.

The quantities given here are for one pizza but they are easy enough to multiply if you fancy making more.  Two or three, or nine maybe?  Enjoy!

  • 1 quantity pizza dough (use your favourite dough recipe here, I like the River Cottage ‘Magic Dough’ for pizzas at the moment, but have used many over the years.  My dough ball weighed 280g)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for various purposes
  • 2 small or 1 large red onion
  • Salt, pepper and pinch of caster sugar
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2 fresh figs
  • approx 12 kalamata olives in brine, pitted (I think it is essential to use a good quality olive here)
  • 1 125g ball mozzarella cheese

Obviously the first thing to do is to prepare your dough and leave it to prove.  Once you have done that and it is proving nicely, turn your attention to the red onions – heat up a frying pan over a gentle heat.  While it is heating, peel and slice the onions very thinly.  Put a splash of oil into the pan and add the onions and some salt and pepper, and the pinch of sugar.  Stir the onions around and then leave them to cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and caramelised and rich in flavour.  This will take about 40 minutes or so so be patient, you don’t have to watch them like a hawk you just need to keep an eye on them.  When they are done to your liking turn off the heat and leave them in the pan till you are ready to use them.

Preheat your oven to it’s highest setting, with the fan on if you have that option, and put your baking tray in there to heat up too.

Get all your toppings ready before you roll out your dough – strip the rosemary leaves from the stalk and finely chop it. Quarter the figs.  Take the mozzarella out of it’s packaging and drain it.

Now roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface, to match the shape of your tray.  Take hot tray out of the oven and brush it lightly with oil, then transfer the pizza base to the tray.  I find this a relatively easy way to get a crisper base.   Try to work quite quickly while you are topping the pizza so you can get the hot tray back in the oven as soon as possible…

Start with the fried onions, then scatter over the rosemary.  Now arrange the fig quarters, and place the olive strategically around amongst the other toppings.  Take your ball of mozzarella and tear it over the pizza.  Finally, drizzle with extra virgin oil and a sprinkle of salt and get that baby in the oven!!!

I cook my pizzas for 11 minutes in a very very hot oven.  You might want to start checking yours at 10 minutes, or leave it in there for longer, it depends on your taste and your oven…but 11 minutes should do it.


Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Bread

This bread was very popular when I served it at a cheese and wine party last month – I had to promise that we would make it at the next Bread Club meeting!

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 10g salt
  • 10g fast acting yeast
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 300ml tepid water
  • 100g sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • supermarket pack fresh basil

Put the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl and mix.  Add the oil and water and knead for 5 minutes or so until you have a smooth dough.  Return to the bowl and leave to prove for an hour. Line a baking tray with non stick baking paper.

Roughly chop the sun-dried tomatoes.  Remove the leaves from the basil and chop.  When the dough has proved, lay it out on a smooth surface and incorporate the tomatoes and basil leaves as best you can.  It will probably be quite oily and messy! Squash the dough into a long sausage and then tie it into a knot.  Place on the prepared tray and leave to prove for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 230C/Gas 8.  Bake the loaf for 30 minutes (don’t worry if there are some burned bits of tomato on the outside, they will taste really good) and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

IMG_7215 3

Walnut Bread

Here is the recipe for Walnut Bread that we are going to use at our Bread Club meeting tomorrow.  I’ve made this a few times and I have to say I love this bread!  The addition of walnut oil and butter makes it so soft and lovely.  Based on a Paul Hollywood recipe.

  • 350g wholemeal bread flour
  • 150g strong white flour
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 7g fast acting yeast
  • 40g softened butter
  • 60ml walnut oil
  • 300ml tepid water
  • 150g walnut pieces

Put all the ingredients except the walnut pieces into a large bowl and stir to combine.  Tip it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with cling film and leave prove for an hour.

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.  Turn your dough out and incorporate the walnut pieces into it by lightly kneading till they are well distributed.  Now shape the dough into a ball and place on the baking tray.  Use a sharp knife to cut a cross in the top and then dust with flour.  Leave to prove for another hour.

Preheat oven to 220C/Gas 7.   Bake the bread for 30-40 minutes until golden and the bottom makes a hollow sound when tapped.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Fragrant Seeded Rolls

I’ve developed this recipe over the last few years.  I like these rolls with soup, my kids like them with cheddar cheese in them  (though that’s not to everyone’s taste – it brings to mind the cumin studded cheese you get in Amsterdam) and they are also very, very good filled with goat’s cheese and mango chutney.  Or just have them plain, they’re still great!

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 15g salt
  • 25g fresh yeast or 10g dried fast acting yeast
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 15g honey
  • 50g soft butter
  • 300ml tepid water

Combine the flour, salt, yeast, seeds and butter in a large bowl.  Weigh the honey out into a jug or bowl and then add the tepid water and dissolve the honey.  Now add this mixture to your other ingredients and bring together into a dough.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead till smooth and elastic, 5-10 minutes.  This dough is a bit sticky to start with because of the butter but keep going it will come together, you can add a little bit more flour if you like.  Having a dough scraper (I use the spatula from my Magimix) to hand is a good idea here!

Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with cling film and leave to double in size, about 1.5 hours.  When ready lightly grease a large baking tray.  This quantity makes 12 rolls, I like to weigh the dough and measure them exactly but it’s not essential by any means.  Divide your dough into 12 and shape each piece into ball, then lightly coat with flour and place on the baking tray.  The dough is quite sticky so you should do this with a small pile of flour nearby that you can coat your hands in between each roll.  Leave the rolls to prove again, this time for 1 hour.

While the rolls are proving heat the oven to 200C/Fan 180/Gas 6.  Bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes till golden brown, remove and place on a wire rack to cool.







Halloumi & Mint Bread

Here’s the recipe for the Halloumi & Mint Bread we made at our Bread Club meeting on 29th April.  This bread was a big hit with the group!  Luckily I made one extra on the day and we all shared it warm for a delicious lunch.  This is my version of a Paul Hollywood recipe…

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 10g salt
  • 25g fresh yeast (of if you’ve only got dried fast acting I would use 10g)
  • 1 heaped tsp dried mint
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 300ml tepid water
  • 1 block halloumi cheese

In a large bowl combine the flour, salt, yeast, mint and olive oil.  Add the water, bring together into a dough and knead on a floured surface till smooth and elastic, about 5-10 minutes.  Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to prove for 1 hour.

Drain the halloumi and crumble the cheese into pieces.  When your dough is ready take it from the bowl and incorporate the cheese into it.  Shape into a long sausage (oiled hands will help you here!) and place on a large baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.  Leave to prove again for another hour.

Preheat your oven to 220C/Fan 200C/Gas 8.  Just before you put the bread in to bake, slash it diagonally across the top several times and dust with flour.  Bake for 30 minutes till golden and the bottom is browning and sounds hollow when tapped.  Cool on a wire rack.


Rosemary & Garlic Focaccia

This is a fantastic recipe.   I would go as far as to say that this is my ‘signature’ bread.  Any time is a good time for Rosemary & Garlic Focaccia…

  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 450g strong white bread flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 14g fast acting yeast
  • 300ml lukewarm water
  • 10 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt flakes (I like Maldon salt)

Finely chop two sprigs of the rosemary and all of the garlic cloves.  In a large bowl, mix together the flour, fine salt and yeast, then add the chopped rosemary and garlic.  Now stir in the water and 2 tbsp of the oil and bring together to form a rough dough.

Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic.  Return to the bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

Liberally oil a large baking tray.  Divide your dough into two and shape into rough ovals on the tray.  Now brush some more oil onto a large piece of cling film and use it to cover the tray.  Leave for another 40 minutes or so.  Preheat the oven to 200C/Fan 180C/Gas 6.

When your loaves are looking nice and puffy, remove the cling film and gently press little indents all over them the tip of your finger.  Now drizzle 3 tbsp of olive oil over each one and sprinkle with salt flakes and the remaining rosemary.  Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until golden.

Remove the loaves from the tray and place on a wire rack to cool.  Drizzle with a final tablespoon of oil each and you are done.  Enjoy!


Pear and Almond Tart

This recipe is so versatile – you can use other fruits instead of the pears.  If your fruit is very hard then just soften it a bit before use by poaching lightly.  You will need a 23cm fluted tart tin.


  • 350g plain flour
  • 200g cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, lightly beaten


  • 100g soft unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 2 eggs
  • 40g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp almond essence
  • 2 medium pears, cored and cut into eighths
  • 2 tbsp apricot jam

First make your pastry case.  This recipe makes enough for two cases.

Put the flour and cold butter cubes into a food processor.  Pulse until it looks like breadcrumbs, then add the sugar and pulse again.  Now add the beaten eggs and run the processor until the mixture comes together into one large lump.  Remove from the machine, divide into two and wrap each half tightly in cling film.  Put in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 210C/Fan 190C/Gas 7.  When you’re ready to roll your pastry (if it has been in the fridge for a long time and is very hard, take it out 20 minutes before you roll) lightly flour your surface and the top of the pastry and start rolling, turning the pastry a quarter turn each time you roll.  Hopefully you will get a perfect roll and transfer the pastry straight to the tart tin BUT don’t panic if you don’t and it starts to crack up – just bring the pastry together again with your hands, knead it ever so slightly to put it back together in one lump, flour again and re roll.  Every time I do this with this pastry it comes out perfect on the second roll!  If you try this recipe please do let me know if this works for you.

Transfer the pastry to your tin, carefully press it down into the edges and lightly prick the base all over with a fork.  Now cover with greaseproof paper and baking beans and bake in the preheated oven for 9 minutes.  Take the case out of the oven, remove the paper and beans and bake for a further two minutes.  This should crisp up your pastry perfectly and avoid a ‘soggy bottom’.  Allow to cool while you make the filling.

Reduce the oven temperature to 190C/Fan 170C/Gas 5.  The filling is easy to do – just put all the ingredients except for the pears and the apricot jam into your food processor and blitz until it looks pale and creamy.  Now arrange the pear pieces in the pastry case and spread the filling mixture over the top.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.

When your tart is done, put the jam in a small pan with a tiny splash of water and heat it through, then brush it all over the top of the tart to get a lovely shiny glaze.  Now allow the whole thing to cool – this tart is much better at room temperature than hot.  Enjoy!IMG_1523


Focaccia with Blue Cheese and Pear

This recipe is adapted from a recipe in the River Cottage Fruit book.  I keep coming back to St Agur as the cheese of choice but you can experiment with your favourites.


  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 10g salt
  • 1 tsp fast acting yeast
  • extra virgin olive oil (lots!)
  • 150g blue cheese
  • 1-2 pears
  • Sea salt flakes

Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl.  Add 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and 350ml lukewarm water and mix to combine.  You might find this dough easiest to knead in a freestanding mixer with a dough hook, but it can be done by hand too – turn out onto an oiled surface and knead for 10 minutes.  This is a very wet dough!  You will need some sort of scraping device to get it off your hands from time to time – you might find oiling your hands helps.  It will still be sloppy when it is done.  Oil your bowl and put the dough back in, put it in a warm place and leave until it has doubled in size, which will take 1-2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 220C/Fan 200C/Gas 7.  Liberally oil a large, shallow baking tin (a tray won’t do – you need sides).  Tip the dough straight into the tin and spread it out with your hands to roughly fill the tin.  Leave again for at least another 30 minutes, up to an hour, until it looks puffy.

In the meantime cut your cheese into chunks, you should get about 10 even sized pieces, and peel and chop your pears.  I like slightly more chunks of pear than cheese here but you do what you like.  Add more cheese if you want!

When the dough is ready press the cheese and pear chunks into it at evenly spaced intervals.  I usually do the cheese first and then fit the pear in around it.  Drizzle all over with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt flakes.  Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 190C/Fan 170C/Gas 5 and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until golden.  Remove the focaccia from the tin and put it to cool on a wire rack.  Eat while still warm for maximum enjoyment.



Feta Cheese Bread

This is a recipe I found in an old cookbook of mine I hadn’t looked at for a while – Simon Rimmer’s The Accidental Vegetarian.  As soon as I saw the recipe I wanted to bake it and I wasn’t disappointed, this is one I will keep coming back to again and again!

Feta Cheese Bread

  • 15g instant yeast
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 600ml warm water
  • 1kg strong white bread flour
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 350g feta cheese, crumbled
  • handful freshly chopped mint leaves
  • black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten, for glaze

Dissolve the yeast and the sugar in the water and leave for about 5 mins till frothy.

Mix the flour and salt, add the yeast mixture.  Tip out onto a clean work surface and knead for 7-8 minutes.  You want to dough to be shiny and smooth.

Place in an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place till doubled in size (Simon says at least two hours, I left mine for nearly three while I did other stuff, didn’t do it any harm!)

Knock the dough back and add the oil, cheese, mint and pepper.  You then knead these into the dough.  This is a bit tricky as the oil makes it all a bit slippery and it feels like it won’t incorporate but persevere with it.  I left the dough in the bowl while I kneaded it this time – would have been very messy on the work surface.

Divide the dough into four and shape each piece into a round loaf.  Place the loaves on a greased and floured baking tray (the biggest one you have!) cover with a damp cloth and leave for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.  Glaze the loaves with the egg wash and bake for 40 minutes.

You will love this bread!  It’s good with oil for dipping – we had some people round for drinks and managed to demolish all four loaves before the evening was through…


Well doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?  It’s been over two weeks since we had our gingerbread making session on 19th December and granted, a lot has happened, but I can scarcely believe it’s the New Year and I’m only just posting the recipe up!  So apologies to anyone who has been waiting (with baited breath I’m sure haha) for this.  We used the gingerbread recipe from an excellent book that both Kate and I possess, namely Peyton & Byrne – British Baking.


  • 350g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 150g light soft brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup

Preheat oven to 180C/Gas 4.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Kate, Jackie and Anita did the baking! We multiplied the recipe several times and it didn't suffer for it...

Sift the flour, ginger and bicarb into a bowl.  Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture feels like sand, then stir in the sugar.

Rubbing the butter in

Whisk the beaten egg with the golden syrup and add to the bowl.  Mix well to form a firm dough.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface to a thickness of about 3mm and cut out your shapes.

We had a bit of a cutter bonanza and did all sorts – men, ladies, bells, stars, hearts and even butterflies!

Use a scraper to lift the biscuits onto the tray - makes life a little easier!

Place your shapes onto the prepared tray.  Bake for about 10 mins or until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and let the biscuits cool on the baking tray for 5 mins before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Now for the fun bit – decorating!  We had a lot of kids at the session that day ranging in age from 2 to 13 years so we started with the youngest first and went from there.  We made a simple icing (360g icing sugar, 4 tbsp water).  The mums kicked back with some mulled cider (ahh now that seems so far away in the cold, sober January light) and the kids did their thing with silver balls, purple glitter sugar and goodness knows what else.  We had made little holes in the biscuits with a view to hanging them on our Christmas trees but I know mine never made it to our tree.  Did anyone’s?  Please let us know if you did put your biscuits on your tree.

Charlotte and Holly are happy about it

Aiden, Marcus and Toby. Check that concentration!

Hattie gets creative

Thanks so much to Jackie, Anita, Jo, Sarah, Hannah and Claire for baking with us!  We haven’t set a date yet for our next bread making session but will keep you posted.

Here’s wishing you all a very happy and healthy 2012 from The Bread Club.