Beginner’s guide to bread making


I love baking bread, I find it really rather therapeutic. Some have even suggested recently that baking can make you happier. When I find the time I always try to bake us bread, however it does have its downsides. There is nothing more delicious in this world than bread fresh from the oven and slathered in butter.

Some people think making bread can be tricky. It isn’t. You just need a bit of patience and if the dough doesn’t rise like it should do just make pizza with the dough.


River Cottage Handbook – Bread – This is my bible in the kitchen. No waffle, no pretentious nonsense just straight forward bread recipes and advice.

Paul Hollywood – How to Bake – I like this book. While it’s not one I use for basic recipes both the ciabatta and cheese & bacon loaves from this book are delicious.

cherry berry and almond bread


It’s always worthwhile booking yourself on a course. A few years back I went on the River Cottage Bread course and it transformed how I made bread. Reading books and watching videos can teach you so much, but having someone show you the ropes in invaluable.

It doesn’t have to be an expensive all-day course. Many bakeries run half-day courses and local authorities run 10 week cookery courses from as little as £50.


Fast action yeast (also known as easy bake yeast) – I find I get the best results with this type of yeast. Fresh yeast is hard to find near me so I’m more than happy to use fast action.

Bread flour I use supermarket own brand as a base and have never had any problems with it. Once you are confident with making your dough experiment with different flours and blends.

Warm water You need the warmth from the water to activate the yeast however if it is too hot it will kill the yeast. To get the optimum temperature I mix 1/3 freshly boiled water with 2/3 cold water.

Salt it is needed not only for taste but to also help keep the yeast under control. Use table/fine salt as this distributes through the dough better. Save your fancy flaky salts for sprinkling on top of the bread.

Sugar I don’t always put sugar in my bread dough as the yeast can get enough food from the flour. Sugar can change the taste of a dough and you can use this to your advantage. You can use different types of sugar or even replace the sugar and some liquid in your dough with apple juice.

Some of the most delicious bread I’ve eaten recently was a hazelnut & treacle bread served with our starters at Fischer’s Baslow Hall. Almost like a savoury malt loaf.

Polenta sprinkle it on the surface you are baking your bread on. The polenta works in a few ways. It lifts your bread a small amount away from the surface helping it to cook it also acts as mini ball bearings meaning your bread is less likely to stick to the baking tray.

chilli blue cheese bread

How to Knead

You have a few options available to you:

  • Throw it in the food mixer – for the days I’m lazy
  • Use the traditional method by hand.
  • Dan Lepard 10 second kneading method – I use this method more than any others now. Great for when you’re pushed for time and or working with big batches of dough. I have used this method to successfully knead a 3kg batch of dough.
  • Bertinet (or French kneading) method – Good for when you’ve had a bad day.

Essential equipment

In theory all I need to make bread is a heat source, be it oven, fire or pizza oven, and a surface to mix the dough on. If you’re feeling brave forgo the bowl and make the dough directly on the worktop.

Plastic flexible dough scraper – possibly the cheapest piece of equipment you’ll ever have in the kitchen but the most useful. It’s simply a piece of flexible plastic with straight edge. You could even use an old (cleaned!) credit card. I picked mine up from a cookshop for £1. Not only is it good for mixing dough it’s also good for scraping up dried dough that has stuck to the work top.

Digital scales – A must for any baker.I have two Salters digital scales that cost no more than £10. They are worth their weight in gold. If you’ve often found your baking hasn’t worked well try using digital scales. I also weigh liquids for baking (see below in Tips).

Shower cap – I haven’t gone mad. I use shower caps to cover the mixing bowl when dough is rising. I have quite a collection of them now as friends bring back the free ones in hotels for me.

Pain d'Epi

Nice to have

Pizza stone – we have a terracotta one that was given to us as a housewarming gift. It’s always worth checking the size of your oven before you buy one as they are surprisingly big!

Banneton/brotform – this type of basket supports your bread as it is rising and gives a lovely pattern on the top of the loaf.

Grignette/lame – while a good kitchen knife works I find I get better results with a lame when slashing the dough. You usually make a cut in the dough before baking to help control how the dough expands in the oven. I bought my banneton and grignette from the fabulous Bakery Bits


  • Remember salt kills yeast. Make sure they are not touching each other in the bowl until all the ingredients are well mixed.
  • Weigh your water, hence why I say digital scales are essential. 1 millilitre water = 1 gram This rule also works for milk at the quantities used in domestic baking.
  • Save time and make a double batch of bread. The second loaf can be frozen, defrosted then refreshed in the oven at 200°c for around 8 minutes. This warmth relaxes the gluten and the bread goes soft again.
  • Want fresh pizza dough for a weekday dinner but don’t fancy having to wait for it to rise when you get home? Knead the dough in the morning before work then leave to rise during the day in the fridge. The cold will slow down how fast the dough rises. Some say a slow rise gives better flavour.

parmesan and onion knot loaf

Favourite recipes

Do you bake bread? What’s your favourite thing to bake and do you have any tips?

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Peach Melba Galette

peach melba galette

Doing what I do for my business has its benefits: I get to play and experiment with food and there is nearly always something tasty to eat, however it also has its downsides. It is thoroughly shocking for the waistline. Our new neighbours are going to love us when I appear on their doorsteps next week with freshly baked recipe tested goods.

Peach Melba Galette is a recipe I’ve developed for my primary school cookery club. Like I’ve mentioned before we have quite a few restrictions:

  • 10x 6-11 year olds (a child’s fine motor skills can dramatically differ in just the space of a few years)
  • Each child must make a full thing. Not take one carefully decorated biscuit home that’s been made with the rest of the group.
  • No fancy ingredients or equipment – we want them to make it again at home.
  • 90 min to make, bake and wash up.
  • £1 budget a head
  • Has to fit on a baking tray not much bigger than an A4 piece of paper.
  • Over the term use different skills and techniques. In other words there are only so many things you can learn by making fruit salad.
  • Only catering ovens and microwave available. No Hob.

Sometimes it just means getting a bit creative with a recipe. For the autumn term I decided I wanted to do some sort of pie with my pupils. Pastry is a good lesson in perseverance, fine motor skills and something that many of my new 6yo pupils may not have made. The skills in pastry making also link to other things we’ll be making later in the year.

A Galette is essentially a free-form pie with no upper crust, though purists will say it should be made with flaky pastry. The first version of this pie was made with jam tart pastry, but it wasn’t quite sweet enough so swapped for the pastry I use in my apricot and almond tart. This meant we had to taste test the galette twice, what a shame.

peach and raspberry pie

I have a bit of a weakness for tinned peaches (along with tinned pears) and some people are surprised that tinned fruit & vegetable still counts as one of your 5-a-day. But then it also shocks me how many people, especially ones who claim to be foodies, are still clueless about basic preservation techniques that have stood the test of time (that’s for another blog post). Yes some may argue that tinned and frozen is not quite a good as the fresh version, but it is still better than a chocolate bar and when that fruit is out of season it can work out significantly cheaper.

Some of the children who come to my classes get free school meals and their cookery club places are funded by school. I think it is really important to to show the children different ways they can access fruit and vegetables even more so when the food budget at home is tight.

When we do this galette in class we will be using tinned pears and frozen raspberries.

Peach Melba Galette
Serves 1-4 depending on how big your pudding stomach is

  • 60g plain flour
  • 35g salted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 10g caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of raspberry jam
  • 80g sliced tinned peaches (works out at about 1 peach worth)
  • 5 raspberries


  1. In a bowl rub together the butter and flour until it is the consistency of breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
  2. Add cold water a teaspoon at a time and mix until you have a soft dough. Knead for a couple of seconds to help the dough combine.
  3. On a lightly floured surface roll out the pastry until it is about 20 cm across.
  4. Spread the jam over the centre of the dough leaving a border of around 2cm on the outside of the pastry.
  5. Lay your sliced peaches on top of the jam then top with the raspberries.
  6. Crimp the edges of the pastry to give your pie a crust.
  7. Bake at 180°c for 20-25 minutes. Eat hot or cold.

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Know any perry recipes? – The Garden – August 2013

pear tree glut

It’s incredible how the garden can change in 30 days especially when you have days of glorious sunshine and the odd torrential rain shower to saturate the garden again. At least the water-butt hasn’t stayed dry for too long.

golden raspberry

The bargain £9 plants are flourishing and we have also had a (tiny) harvest of golden raspberries. The beetroot look like they may be ready soon and the pear tree, oh the pear tree. It would seem that more or less every flower on the tree was pollinated and we’re in for a bumper crop of pears. Our friends and neighbours who gave us courgettes and marrows will now be getting pears, though I don’t think this is the fairest of trades and pears are far more favourable. Seriously the “oh thank you for the courgettes” smile is beginning to wear thin especially when I hate wasting food, we don’t really do chutney and there are only so many courgette fritters and courgette cake you can make.


The wedding grape vine is doing us proud with bunches that are growing so fast you can almost see them changing size in real time. However Champagne producers have no fear we have the sum of 2 bunches. Still better than nothing.

bright pink hydrangea

I had good intentions of wanting a classy garden all planned and colour coordinated but, like I mentioned in the last post,  I have a bit of an addiction to buying plants and am now adding all sorts to my garden if the price it right. My theory being is that it if doesn’t work and looks terrible I’ll just dig it up. When you can buy plants for as little as £0.75 from the local council-run garden centre it doesn’t matter. Hydrangea – tick, hosta – tick, calla lilly – tick, gladioli – tick. My garden could look like an over excited 4-year old’s pictorial interpretation of their dream garden, but I don’t care.

David Austin Winchester Cathedral bud

I have a new rose to add to my collection thanks to my very good friends. A beautiful David Austin – Winchester Cathedral rose. I first saw the rose at Gardener’s World and then decided I needed it in my garden.

Oh and hello borage, where did you come from? We thought it was just the alpine strawberry that had hitched a lift from the old house but the borage decided to sit and lie dormant for a year or two in the herb planter until it surprisingly appeared just in time to float in a birthday jug of Pimms.

female migrant hawker gragonfly

The garden is becoming a wildlife haven for which I love. The bees are going mad for the lavender and we have a large extended family of house sparrows who seem to fight it out every morning and evening over the bird feeder. We also had an interesting visitor on the grapevine at the weekend in the form of a stunning female migrant hawker dragonfly. She sat there for a good 10 minutes, I think she was newly hatched and letting her wings unfurl and dry. Hey you can never take the biology geek out of the girl.

So as the nights seem to be getting shorter it’ll be interesting to see what autumn brings to our new garden. We’ll also find out if we’ll need to resort to making a big batch of perry, but after Hubs dabbling with nettle beer a few years ago I’m hoping we find better ways to use our pear glut.

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Hen Do Biscuits

hen do L-plate cookies

Excuse the biscuit overkill on the blog at the moment. I’m busy with various projects most of which involve lots of biscuit dough and royal icing. I’m using the spare ingredients to play around with.

Weddings are like busses here. Nothing since we married 6 years ago then a big engagement party and two weddings in the space of 12 months. We both have small families on either side and a small circle of close friends, most of which (if married) got married around the time when we did 6 years ago. When my good childhood friend Rachel announced she was getting married to say I was excited was an understatement. 1) a wedding, woohoo!, 2) I could wear my Sheena Holland headband to the wedding, 3) Time to get my own back. Rach was my bridesmaid.

hen do biscuits

The Hen Weekend was back in our homeland of Liverpool. Yes you could argue I’m an adopted Scouser, but the accent only comes out when I’m home. The day started with a boyband themed dance class complete with baggy t-shirts and back to front baseball caps. Oh I’m so glad the evidence of this has never surfaced on Facebook. We then changed into pretty tea dresses for Afternoon Tea at Hard Day’s Night Hotel. I then had to leave the girls to drive back to Warwickshire for a family party but left the bride with a parting gift to help fuel their night on the town.

No hen party is complete without L plates. Now there were more x-rated biscuits (use your imagination) in keeping with a hen party but given I know the age of some little people who read this blog I won’t be posting the pics.

hen do biscuit box

When working with royal icing consistency is the key. The best way I can describe it is that the edging icing should be the consistency of toothpaste and the flooding icing of shampoo. I use royal icing sugar rather than making my own with egg whites to make things easier, especially when working in small batches.

I’m not going to give a recipe as such for the icing as the best thing is to follow the instructions on the packet and use intuition. The temperature and humidity of where you’re working can have significant impact on the fluidity of the icing.

hen do biscuits packed up

I went for pink rather than red with the icing as pure red can be tricky to use next to white as it uses lots of dye to achieve the strong colour plus I’ve found it is more likely to bleed.

Just be aware when using food dye gels like red and green, colours intensify as they sits there and continue to change as they dry. Last week I made a small batch of pastel green for a demo that was lurid green 5 hours later.

Hen Night Biscuits

Makes 16


  1. Make the biscuit dough following Ruth’s instructions.
  2. Roll the dough out until 5mm thick and cut out squares around 5cm across.
  3. Place on a lined baking tray and bake at 180°c for 8-10 minutes. They are ready when they are only just beginning to colour. Allow to cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Biscuits must be completely cool before decorating.
  4. Mix and colour your outline icing then take some of this icing and thin out with a small amount of water to make your flood icing. You want it thin enough to flood the spaces, but not too thin that it dribbles off the biscuit. Put your outline icing into piping bags fitted with a size 1 tip. Keep your flooding icing in a covered bowl to stop it drying out.
  5. First pipe the outline of the base shape. Allow to dry for 10-30 min.
  6. Take a teaspoon of your flooding icing and put in the centre of the biscuit. This icing almost acts like self-levelling concrete. If need be use a cocktail stick to help guide the icing into corners. Allow to dry until hard. I usually give them a minimum of 12 hours to dry.
  7. Now start with the next layer of decoration. On these hen night biscuits I piped the L and dots.
  8. Cut the ‘Hen Night’ letter from very thin sugarpaste and stick to the biscuits with a small amount of gin or vodka. I use edible white spirits to stick icing together because it is stickier than water and dries faster. It is also less likely to leave a water mark. There is also the benefit that if your baking project goes very wrong you have the gin to fall back on.

As for the wedding? superb day. Stunning bride, wonderful food and a Backstreet Boys – Everybody dance off on the disco floor. What more could an excited wedding guest ask for?

Rachel & Ben wedding

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The Budget Midlands Staycation

Baslow Hall lawn

If you’ve read this blog for a while you’ll know we love travelling to all four corners of the United Kingdom. With moving house and me doing something very stupid to my car (don’t ask), our tiny holiday budget was essentially halved overnight. When looking for somewhere to stay we want something a little different, privacy and reasonable price. With our miniscule budget the only property we could afford were carbon copies of our old house (which incidentally is now a holiday cottage), a kind of busman’s holiday. Not what we were after. We then made the decision to stay at home.

View over Peak District from Crich

When I’ve spoken to people about our holiday plans for this year it turns out because money is tight many are choosing a staycation and becoming tourists on our own doorstep.

To make this work we knew he had to make the week feel like a holiday, not just annual leave. Schedules and routines were wiped and there were rules:

  • No housework
  • No watching TV for the sake of it
  • At least one meal a day must be eaten out or brought in. One of which must be Afternoon Tea.
  • Lie ins are compulsory.
  • Not allowed to visit places we know well.
  • Destination must be within 1 hour drive.
  • Switching on the computer is banned.
  • Must plan the week before it begins so we didn’t sit around each morning being indecisive.
  • Toast each evening with a nightcap (usually sherry but this year was Limoncello).
  • All within a £35/day budget. That’s not per person, but for the two of us.

You could argue living in the centre of England is that we’re never far from lots of places. Just an hour drive in either direction we have lots of cities and counties to discover. Over the week we managed to cover Derbyshire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire and West Midlands. One downside of living here is that the seaside is always a decent drive away so any beach was out of the question.

Nearly all the places we went to we got in with various vouchers meaning 10%-50% off the total entry price which helped our budget. I’ve included links to all the vouchers we used below.

Day 1 – Biddulph Grange Garden, Trentham Gardens, Monkey Forest

We always seem to start our holidays with a stop at a National Trust place as we have NT membership and it feels like a “free” day out. Biddulph Grange Gardens on the outskirts of Stoke is an unusual garden. Designed in the Victorian era it is split in to lots of different sections with themes from around the world. Lots of meandering paths and little follies to discover. We spent a while just sitting by the pond watching the damsel flies dart across the lily pads.

After Biddulph we picked up lunch from the fantastic Brown & Green and went in to Trentham Gardens to eat it. Very different from Biddulph Grange. These were more formal. Even if you don’t want to pay to get into the gardens, parking is free with entrance to possibly the poshest garden centre I’ve ever been to along with a shopping village.

Monkey Forest is a conservation centre breeding Barbary Macaques who usually live in the mountainous regions of Morocco and are used to the extremes of the U.K. climate. It’s a walking route through a forest where there is 100+ monkeys roaming free. Think small safari park minus the cars and chance of your wiper blades being torn off your motor for monkey’s lunch. There are also staff on hand to give information. While we were there 6 cute baby monkeys vied for attention.

Discount: buy a combined Trentham Garden & Monkey Forest ticket to save money or 2 for 1 admission for Trentham Gardens (as we discovered, doesn’t include Monkey Forest)

Day 2 – Warwick Castle, Kenilworth Castle

On possibly the hottest day of the week we took in two very different castles. Warwick Castle can best be described as a theme park castle on steroids and unsurprisingly like its sister attraction Alton Towers they charge you £6 to park and then make you walk a mile to the entrance for the privilege. We took our own picnic in and saw both the bird of prey show and the trebuchet launch. Although it is an expensive attraction (we didn’t pay for the dungeons or Merlin Tower) it would be easy to spend a whole day there. We managed 3 hours there (quite a feat for us!) before going on to Kenilworth Castle. Walking up the towers and along the battlements helped to burn off all the ice cream we’d eaten.

Kenilworth Castle was very different to Warwick. Quiet and not a touch of pimped-up castle. Just pure history and a newly restored Elizabethan Garden. Many English Heritage places have free audio tours and they are always worth taking up. We found we learnt a great deal listening to the guide while wandering the ruins.

Discount: if you have English Heritage membership you can get 50% off entrance fee at Warwick Castle.

Day 3 – Cadbury World, Despicable Me 2

My birthday and my dibs on what we got to do. Here we are foodies but not in a food snob sense, we appreciate food in all of its forms from its cheap junk to its Michelin starred (more to come on that later). After a sweltering couple of days I wanted somewhere indoors and ideally with air con. I harbour a secret love for Cadbury chocolate, along with more refined brands I hasten to add. I’ve always wanted to go to Cadbury World and I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the chocolate they dished out and managed to avoid most of the school parties to have a lovely day.

Cadbury World

We then went to the cinema to see Despicable Me (yes we are 30-somethings with no kids) and I had requested we went to a all-you-can-eat chinese to top off my slightly child-like birthday celebrations.

Discount: 25% off Cadbury World, 2 for 1 at the cinema thanks to EE Wednesdays. We saved at the all-you-can-eat as we visited weekday.

Day 4 – Fischer’s Baslow Hall, Chatsworth Farm Shop

You could argue we broke the budget at Michelin-starred Fischer’s Baslow Hall, but thanks to a kind birthday present from my parents we just paid for our drinks. The food and location are frankly stunning and the staff were so professional. We went for 3 courses along with tea and petit fours. Hub’s belly pork starter was so good I nicked some of it. The chicken we both had for main was unlike any chicken I had eaten before. Sweet, juicy and succulent. Then my pudding of poached peaches was absolutely divine and perfect on a hot summer’s day. As we had tea in the lounge I was presented with a birthday plate of chocolates; melt in the middle salted caramel and a refreshing blackcurrant jelly. We also had a wander around their beautiful garden and kitchen garden where lots of their produce comes from. A beautiful little gem in the heart of Derbyshire.

As we were out that way we broke our rule of not visiting anywhere we know well and popped in to the wonderful Chatsworth Farm Shop to stock up our freezer with their glorious beef.

Discount: Many Michelin-starred places have very reasonable lunchtime menus. Fischer’s do two courses for £20.13. Alternatively send your parents there on a Food Lovers’ Break to celebrate a significant birthday. They enjoy it so much they pay for you to visit.

Day 5- Crich Tramway Village, Matlock Bath, Bakewell

Every holiday we stumble across a place that isn’t exactly what we were expecting… not in a good way. Last year Eden Project, this year Crich Tramway Village. Hands up I wasn’t a big fan of the place even if it had been highly recommended to me by many people on twitter. Note: I feel a similar way about the popular York Railway Museum. Great views over Derbyshire but some of the attractions were closed and it was a just bit too geeky for me. Even mechanical-engineer Hubs began to struggle for enthusiasm or it was maybe me looking hot, bothered and exclaiming it was just another tram. I was expecting it to be more like Black Country Living Museum, it wasn’t. We stayed for less than an hour. However I can understand why some people enjoy visiting and the ticket you buys lasts a whole 12 months.

Matlock Bath – Like a seaside resort but nowhere near the sea. At least we managed to eat a good portion of fish & chips there while walking by the river.

Day 5 was saved with a trip to Bakewell. Initially it was to pick up a famous Bakewell Pudding from the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop but then we happened to stumble across the fabulous Mister Bee Vintage. I came away with a beautiful lino print and a set of vintage Chivers jelly moulds.

Discount: 2 for 1 Crich Tramway Village

Day 6 – Langan’s Tea Room

Derby city centre is lacking any good places for Afternoon Tea so after some recommendations we decided to try Langan’s Tea Room in Burton-on-Trent. This tea room is a social enterprise based in the elegant Burton House. All the staff who work there have been helped in some way by the O’Connor Gateway Trust.

At £7 a head it’s possibly the cheapest afternoon tea we’ve ever done. In some places that wouldn’t even buy you cream tea. For your money you get a big pot of tea along with the usual sandwiches, and scones plus a choice of cake from their cake trolley. We were so full we ended up taking the cake home to eat later. If I was to be really fussy I’d say it was a shame the cream cakes were filled with sweetened cream but that is a personal preference and at the price I really can’t complain.

Langan Tea Room

Discount: 10% off Langan’s Tea Room when you download Big local App.

Like many people we have traditions on holiday and Globetrotting brother started this particular one a few years ago. When visiting new places we send each other postcards. The worse the postcard the better. While I don’t think any postcards we’ve sent brother beat some of the atrocities he’s sent us, this corker from Crich Tramway is pretty close.

So what are your holiday plans this year and have you found any staycation gems on your doorstep?

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Raspberry Swirl Biscuits

raspberry swirl cookiesLast week I spent a couple of days at Seasoned teaching groups of secondary school children how to bake. This was one of the recipes they made. I chose this recipe as it is a twist on traditional baking and they had to use both team work and perseverance to get the recipe to work. They all did fabulously well and as the coach pulled away from the building I could see everyone opening their cookery tin with glee and delving into the biscuits.

Hands up I do use big fat fake raspberry flavouring in these. It doesn’t taste anything like real raspberries but has a nostalgic taste. If you wanted you could try adding powdered dried raspberries to the pink dough for a bit of authentic berry. I get raspberry flavouring in Asda.

As for the colour I use gel dyes as they don’t water down the dough and you get an intense colour. I just used a small amount of red to get this pink colour

The key to working with doughs like this is to chill the dough and then chill it even more. You can even freeze the dough meaning you can have freshly baked biscuits at your disposable. This could be seen as a good or a bad thing.

Raspberry Swirl Biscuits

Makes 20-30 biscuits

  • 220g butter
  • 220g caster sugar
  • 1 egg, large
  • 2 tsp raspberry flavouring
  • 370g plain flour
  • red or pink food dye gel
  • hundreds and thousands


  1. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then mix in the egg and raspberry flavouring. Sift in the flour and mix until you have a smooth, well combined dough.
  2. Split the dough in half, colour one of the pieces with the food dye gel. If you are using a stand mixer put this half of the dough back in the mixer add a small amount of dye and beat until colour well mixed into the dough.
  3. Place one piece of dough between two sheets of baking parchment. Roll out until dough is around 4mm thick and slightly smaller than an A3 piece of paper. Repeat with the other ball of dough, then chill the dough sheet for 30 minutes.
  4. Take the dough of the fridge, remove one side of the baking parchment then flip one piece of dough on top of another. Place the baking parchment on top and roll the dough a bit more to help the two layers to merge. Then starting with the long side tightly roll the dough into a long sausage. I find this easier to do by rolling the dough towards me. Wrap well in clingfilm. Roll the dough back and forth to get a tight cylinder and get rid of any bubbles in the dough. You’re aiming to roll a cylinder that has a diameter of around 4cm.
  5. Unroll the clingfilm and place this and the dough in a shallow baking tray. Sprinkle a generous amount of sprinkles over the dough and roll it over to embed the sprinkles in the dough. Of course you can do this stage without the baking tray but a warning – hundreds & thousands roll for miles. Wrap the dough back up and place it back in the fridge for another 30 minutes.

    If you wanted to freeze some of the dough do it at this stage.
  6. Preheat the oven to 160°c (fan)/180°c then take the dough out of the fridge and cut into rounds about 4mm thick. Place on a lined baking tray and bake for 12-15 minutes until they are only just beginning to turn golden brown. Just be careful, due to the sugar content of the biscuit they can go from uncooked to burnt in a very short time
  7. Once the biscuits have baked transfer to wire rack and leave to cool completely.

baked raspberry swirl biscuits

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My new plant obsession (The Garden – July 2013)

David Austin rose Heathcliff

The garden has been a long time coming but it’s wonderful that it’s back and the days of sun we’re having at the moment is making it thrive. It’s interesting seeing how the garden has transformed in just a couple of months. I also have a new addiction: buying plants, in particular flowers. Having all this new space means I have to fill it and in this garden it doesn’t have to be edible. The last week of hot weather has made me really fall in love with our garden. The colour, textures and that the two seating areas we have are glorious to sit in at certain times of the day.

forest of carrots

I’ve had a love of David Austin roses for a few years, but only until now have I been able to unleash my passion. Hey they are beautiful to look at and far less calories than cake. The first rose in my collection is a double flower rose called Heathcliff. The colour of it is an amazing deep crimson/fuchsia pink. It’s taking quite a lot of will-power not to buy anymore roses to add to my collection. I have Queen of Sweden & Winchester Cathedral in my sights. As beautiful as the Alan Titchmarsh rose (yes you read that right) I can’t bring myself to buy a rose called Alan.

raised bed

While I’ve got a bit obsessed with flowers Hubs has been busy over the last week building the raised beds and shifting lots of mushroom compost to fill them. As we had no garden to get our veg plants started earlier in the year we took advantage of a sale at a local council run garden centre and picked up an amazing seven fruit and vegetable plants for just £9. The haul included tayberry, loganberry, golden raspberry, dwarf purple french beans and some golden beetroot. They were chosen not only for the crop they produce but also the colours they will give to the garden. Yes I’m turning into a vain gardener. However our neighbour’s cats have taken an instant dislike to these new beds. We will win.

The grapevine is doing very well in its new place; buds are forming that will flower in the coming weeks. Plus the latest addition to my herb garden is culinary lavender. I’m not a big fan of it in baking, but want to experiment and lavender is always good for bees and butterflies.

culinary lavender

The biggest surprise is a plant that snuck into a planter brought from the old house. A couple of years ago we planted some white alpine strawberries but they were frankly rubbish, then this year a little shoot began to flourish. Even if the crop is quite small these white strawberries are amazing little fruits. If you ever get the chance to grow them you must. The flavour of them bursts in your mouth as you bite them like intense, juicy, strawberry sweets. They taste unlike any strawberries I’ve eaten before.

tiny white alpine strawberries

However it hasn’t been plain sailing. It’s almost as if we’re back to square one learning about gardening, we’re almost making it up as we go along. The clematis that came with the house appears to have clematis wilt and I managed to rapidly kill the housewarming hyacinth within 24 hours of it being put outside but it  has been replaced with a new one.

raspberry cane

Just hoping even with daily watering the lawn doesn’t get too parched. Now I can’t imagine me saying that last year.



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