Olive Focaccia

focaccia 1 blog

As I mentioned last week, Sunday was my birthday. I spent the whole weekend with friends and family and ate more than my fair share of cake (so much so I have taken up running again!) and cheese. In fact on Saturday I was invited to have it for lunch and dinner (though we passed on the second serving). Luckily my fantastic new cheese board from Getting Personal arrived just in time (literally within an hour of lunch) so I got to break it out.


cheese board and pestle and mortar ℅ Getting Personal

Dan’s gorgeous sister loved the personalised cheese board, and hinted that it would make for a lovely gift for her upcoming nuptials. What she doesn’t realise it that I’ve already seen something on the site and bookmarked it as a present for the big day!

I would love to say that I treated the family to a loaf (can you call it that?) or two of this bread, but in the interest of simplifying my timetable I passed this time. I made the green olives in pesto focaccia to accompany some salmon whilst we were still living in the old flat. I have been eager to get back in the kitchen to remake it but that has yet to happen.

I am almost certain that I have only ever eaten supermarket focaccia before which I found to be pretty uninspiring. I probably wouldn’t have given the loaf two thoughts again until I happened upon the right recipe at the right time. Convenience plays a heavy hand in baking, and this recipe filled my two requirements. It used up the surplus strong white flour I had left before I moved, and its timings fit around me pottering around the house packing.

The recipe, whilst not difficult, is a little on the needy (or kneady – bread pun!) side. It requires you to fold the dough in half three times over the space of two hours. This isn’t a bread to be rushed. The results make it worth the wait, it is fluffy on the inside with a satisfying crunch from the crust. Salty moist olives on the inside make a for delightful contrast both in flavour and texture. I used Waitrose’ olives in pesto from the deli counter, which were amazing, but any type of olives will work in this recipe.

Salt in bread is really important, which I learnt the hard way. I made a batch of breadsticks to accompany some soup a few months back and omitted the salt as I know the soup was more than well seasoned. The bread had the flavour of flour and water paste, and no real taste of it’s own. The olives in this (as well as a generous pinch of salt) helped to firmly restore my faith in my bread making abilities.

focaccia 3 blog

Olive Focaccia
makes one loaf

500g white bread flour
pinch of salt
5g yeast
½ tbsp caster sugar
300ml lukewarm water – I usually use about ¾ tap and top the rest up with water from the kettle then test the temperature
olive oil
100g green olives
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste

In a jug mix together the lukewarm water and the yeast, and leave for a minute until slightly foamy.

Mix the flour, salt and sugar together briefly in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment.

Add the yeast and water and ‘knead’ in the machine for 5 minutes, this forms a very moist dough.

Using olive oil grease a large bowl liberally, place the dough in it, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes fold the dough in half, cover with the tea towel again and return to the warm place for a further 30 minutes.

Repeat this step another two times.

Preheat the oven to 220C and line a (preferably) deep baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Stretch the dough out over the baking tray, which I found easiest by slightly massaging the dough to spread it out.

Place the olives evenly over one half of the dough and then gently fold the other half over the top to envelope them. This prevents the olives from catching and burning whilst the bread bakes.

Using your fingers create dimples in the dough.

Cover with slightly oiled clingfilm and return to a warm place to prove for a final 20 minutes.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Leave to cool before serving – though I am rarely that patient!

focaccia 2 blog

Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes

chocolate cupcakes 1 blog

I cannot wait for the weekend (a sentence I utter most week days) but this week more than usual as Sunday is my birthday! I am going to spend the weekend partaking in three of my favourite activities, baking, drinking and shopping.

Before we moved, I quite harshly decluttered my wardrobe. I love not having to wade through mountains of ill fitting/damaged/unfashionable clothes, but it did highlight some areas in which I am seriously lacking. Instead of just heading to the nearest store and buying whatever most catches my eye, I want to shop with a clear classic aesthetic in mind. I am already brimming with ideas of what I want to find!

These cupcakes have been floating round my imagination for a while now. I am a harsh critic of cupcakes. Whilst pretty, the majority I have tried have been a mound of overly sweet icing balancing on a sad sponge. The taste and a texture of which, proves it to be nothing more than an afterthought, a vehicle for frosting. A simple, moist vanilla sponge, topped with a generous layer or rich chocolate icing, but not so much to make it too sickly or overpower the delicate flavour of the vanilla. A scattering of sprinkles would dress up these cupcakes, but personally I prefer something a little more simple, celebrating each ingredient for what it is.

One Year Ago on BAKE
Two Years Ago on BAKE
Carrot Cake

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Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes
makes 12

125g butter at room temperature
2 eggs
125g self raising flour
125g brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
50ml milk

Preheat the oven to 175C and line the cupcake tin.

Beat all the ingredients together until well blended.

Divide into the cupcake cases and bake in the middle of the oven for 17 minutes until golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool.


70g dark chocolate melted and cooled
5tbsp icing sugar
1tbsp sour cream
1tbsp double cream

Mix the chocolate and 2tbsp of icing sugar together.

Add the cream and sour cream and mix thoroughly, this should create a quite liquidy paste.

Add the rest of the icing sugar in tbsp increments until the icing is smooth and holds its shape – I just lifted my beaters out and when it held the whisk marks I stopped adding icing sugar.

Ice cupcakes and enjoy.

chocolate cupcakes 2 blog

Chocolate and Coconut Rice Krispie Treats

Three weeks in and I still haven’t quite accustomed myself to returning to the little ‘island’ I grew up on. In some ways I feel 15 again, except this time round there are frequent glasses of wine when I walk through the front door (next week when I turn 28 will be quite a shock to the system).

Familiar patterns and routines of school life have started falling into place. Sunday night ironing of ‘uniforms’ after family dinners. Pre 7am flurries of activity to make packed lunches, fill backpacks and get out of the door on time to make the bus/train. Life has become organised and disciplined in a way I can almost guarantee will fall apart as soon as we move out.

Mornings spent on the same bus I took to school have inspired to recreate a mashup of my favourite tuck shop treats. Rice Krispie Squares, which for some reason, probably because they were part breakfast cereal I believed were a healthier choice of snack. And Bounty bars, commonly found lurking, discarded, in the bottom of Christmas sweet tins, but a personal favourite of mine (which works out particularly well for me every year).

This recipe evolved during it’s making. The idea to add coconut to rice krispie treats was to combat the soggy texture of my first batch (which I am choosing to blame on my homemade marshmallows). A couple of tablespoons turn to a whole cup of coconut because it tasted great with the vanilla marshmallow.

The next logical step was to break out my emergency chocolate bar – the one you keep on hand for those really bad work days, or more realistically just any random Tuesday. Melted over the top to give the final treat a satisfying crack when you bite into it.

One Year Ago On BAKE
Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cheesecake
Two Years Ago On BAKE
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Mama Feelgoods

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Chocolate and Coconut Rice Krispie Treats
makes 12

30g unsalted butter
2 cups marshmallows
2 ½ cups rice krispies
1 cup desiccated coconut
100g dark chocolate
oil for greasing

Line a 22cm square tin with clingfilm and brush lightly with oil.

In a large pan over a low heat melt together the butter and marshmallows.

Add the coconut and cereal about ½ cup at a time stirring well between each addition making sure that it is all completely coated.

Pour the mixture into the lined tin and using a spatula push down firmly to create an even layer.

Leave to set for an hour.

In a bowl over hot water melt the dark chocolate.

Pour over the rice krispies and leave to set.

Carefully turn out the treats and cut to the desired size.

Keep in an airtight tin and eat within 2 days.

Fish Pie

Nothing good happens after 2am. Or in the case of a small coastal town 1am as there isn’t the same range of late licensed establishments.

Saturday night, after 6 hours of celebrating Dan’s father’s birthday, we were suddenly the last ones standing (barefoot I might add, heels had been discarded in the corner for hours by this point). The group quickly divided into two camps, those who didn’t want to stop the party and those who didn’t want to go to anywhere that was open at that hour.

I was firmly in the latter camp. Lacking any nightclubs in the area the only options were dank dirty bars that charge a cover fee to get in, the kind you would actively avoid during daylight hours. Needless to say our side lost out, and we bundled down to the only place that was open. Within half an hour we were homeward bound, further inebriated with lighter wallets and sticky shoes.

The next morning we were all worse for wear, none of us made the family breakfast and I missed the message from my boss I was waiting for. Moral of the story, the only thing you should overindulge in after 1am is a big bag of greasy chips and a giant orange fanta – especially if you have offered to work the next morning.

Sunday evening called for comfort food, so Dan whipped up one of my favourites, fish pie. Unlike the creamy versions I remember as a child that were heavy on potato and white fish this pie is light and fresh. Creme fraiche or cream is substituted for grated vegetables and lemon juice which makes it a bright cheerful meal for spring. What I love most about this recipe is how uncomplicated it is to make by haphazardly arranging layers of ingredients before throwing in the oven. It’s a great use for leftover mashed potatoes – did you know you can freeze them? which is an easy way to reduce waste from those huge bags you buy at the supermarket.

Whilst it cooks all the moisture seeps to the bottom allowing the potatoes and cheese on top to form a satisfying crust. By elevating the fish on a layer of vegetables it cooks it perfectly so it maintains it’s shape and flakes away when you cut into it. This recipe was originally in Jamie’s Ministry of Food, but over the years we have tweaked it to our own personal taste. A few more vegetables, less fish (though still enough to create a generous layer), a few boiled eggs for luck and reserving some of cheese to sprinkle on top. I hate peeling potatoes so if I’m in charge I will halve new potatoes and mash the skins and all, with a tale of that where all the nutrients are anyway. Dan prefers regular (peeled potato) mash made from maris pipers. Either way it freezes well, or will keep for a couple of days in the fridge.

Fish Pie
serves 4
adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food

1kg potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
50ml milk
2 carrots
2 sticks of celery
150g cheddar cheese
a couple of handfuls of spinach washed
1 medium lemon
½ red chilli
4 sprigs parsley
390g fish pie mix or a mix of salmon, smoked haddock and cod
2 boiled eggs

Start by boiling the potatoes until soft, about 12 minutes depending on the size of your chunks of potatoes, then drain.

Mash with a pinch of salt and pepper, the olive oil and milk. Put to one side. If you are planning on cooking the fish pie later allow the mash to cool completely before adding.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

In a dish grate the carrot and the celery, zest the lemon and mix together.

On a chopping board grate the cheese, and sprinkle half over the vegetables and reserve half. Chop the chilli and parsley and scatter evenly across the dish.

Layer over the spinach and then add the fish. If I am feeling particularly enthusiastic (read OCDish) I will add each piece in lines, one type after the next. The main goal is to get the fish evenly mixed up and spread out.

Squeeze the juice of a lemon over the fish.

Peel and quarter the eggs and add to the dish.

Spoon over the mashed potato and flatten out. Using a spoon create a series of zigzag lines over the top of the mash, this creates peaks that will go crispy when baked.

Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

After this time remove, sprinkle over the remaining cheddar and bake for a further 20 minutes. This keeps the cheese melted but not completely browned.

Apple Pie Pancakes

One of the things I truly love about blogging is it constantly forces you to try and think outside the box with flavour and ingredient combinations. When I was exploring filling options for the savoury pancakes I shared last week I relied heavily on pies for inspiration, something I would never have thought of before.

It was only natural that my musings turned to the sweet, and where better to draw influence from than the classic apple pie. Whilst you can cook the apples in just a little water, I prefer mine to have a little extra sweetness from a spoonful of honey and with a hint of spice from cinnamon and nutmeg. It was tempting to cook the apples down to a puree which could be liberally smeared over each pancake. Instead the apples were just softened to add a firmer texture next to the honey and vanilla whipped cream.

The pancakes are folded in the same way you would a crepe suzette which creates a strong pocket which holds the soft fillings perfectly. In retrospect a sprinkling of golden pastry crumbs over the cream would have made for an eye catching finish. But one of the true joys of apple pie is it’s unpretentious and homely comfort, so maybe this homage to it is best served simply.

One year ago on BAKE
Blood Orange and Cardamom Cake

Apple Pie Pancakes
makes 6-8

1 batch of pancakes
3 large or 4 medium sweet apples (I used braeburns)
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
300ml whipping cream
1 tsp honey
½ tsp vanilla extract

Peel and chop the apples and place in a saucepan with a 2 tbsp of water, 1 tbsp of honey and the cinnamon.

Allow to simmer until the apple is soft and cooked but still retains it’s shape.

Whip the cream with 1 tsp of honey and the vanilla extract until it forms stiff peaks.

Layer the apple and cream in one quarter of the pancake, and fold in half then half again to create an easy to hold pocket.

Best served warm.

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