Spelt Soda Bread

This is based on Dan Lepard’s Waterford soda bread recipe from his book “The Handmade Loaf”.  In turn I believe the provenance of this is from a recipe created by Michael Power a baker from County Wexford. The really nice thing about this recipe is that it manages to produce a moist loaf that keeps well until the next day. Usually, to be at its best, soda bread has to be eaten warm pretty much straight out of the oven or within hours at most.

I particularly like the flavour of spelt flour so I use all stoneground spelt flour or sometimes 50/50 spelt flour and wholemeal flour. 

I also like the idea of a square loaf, I guess you could use a standard circular cake tin but squares are easy to slice and look interesting on the breadboard.

Spelt Soda Bread Recipe
300g Bacheldre Watermill Organic Stoneground Spelt
200g buttermilk
200g semi-skimmed milk
50g fine oatmeal (I blitzed some porridge oats in the food processor until fine)
30g oatbran or porridge oats (oatbran produces a nice crunchy finish but oats are ok too)
20g salted butter
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Butter a 7″ square loose bottomed pan, flour the pan with spelt flour and sprinkle a layer of oatbran or oats on the base. Pre-heat oven to 210°C.

Mix oatmeal and spelt together and rub in the butter. Mix in the bicarb., sugar and salt. Stir the milk and buttermilk together in a jug and zap in the microwave for 30 seconds until lukewarm. Stir the liquid quickly but thoroughly into the dry ingredients. Pour into the prepared tin and gently flatten the top and sprinkle more oatbran (or oats) over the top. Cover with foil and put into the oven for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a futher 25 minutes uncovered.  Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack  after a minute or two.

Don’t expect the loaf to rise like conventional yeasted bread, it has a taste and texture somewhere between a bread and a cake but is equally at home with butter and jam or a spicy soup.

NOT Cross Buns

OK this is THE home of the Not Cross Bun. This is a world first…I googled it and they didn’t show up elsewhere so this absolutely MUST be true. 

Having seen how tricky it is applying the faces I can see why no-one else has bothered but it is a lot of fun making them. Who wouldn’t want to end up with buns like these…ooer Missus.

Instead of cheery buns you could of course make some very cross ones indeed depending on your mood (or who they are for). But I like happy ones… even in the toaster they look happy though the “nose-free” ones survived better. The one I tried toasting with a nose left it behind when it popped up – it was quite sad really. I seem to have a ghost car in this photo if you look closely and I still can’t figure out how it got in there as there are no cars in my kitchen…generally speaking anyway.

This recipe makes 14 soft slightly sweet buns. I don’t put as much dried fruit into them as many recipes call for but it you can increase the fruit content if you prefer. They are basically a sweet bread dough with whatever combination of dried fruit or mixed peel you like. Traditionally sultanas are used in Hot Cross Buns to which my Not Cross Buns bear more than a passing resemblance – ahem.

Not Cross Buns Recipe
For the initial sponge:
275ml full fat milk
140g strong white flour
25g fast action dried yeast
25g caster sugar

For the dough:
250g strong white flour
60g strong wholemeal flour
60g sultanas
60g raisins
40g unsalted butter – slightly softened
25g caster sugar
10g mixed spice
2 tbsp marsala (spiced rum is a good alternative here) – optional
1 large free range egg
1tsp salt

For the goo:
100g plain white flour
75ml water
10g sunflower oil
pinch baking powder

For the glaze:
30g caster sugar
30g water
1/2 tsp mixed spice
Warm the milk in the microwave for 20 seconds or so until lukewarm. Mix together all the sponge ingredients in a large bowl and cover with cling film or a lid and put in a warm place to ferment. The mixture will rise and then fall right back – it is then ready to use.

Not quite ready - starting to collapse

Fully collapsed ferment

Put the sultanas and raisins into a bowl with the marsala and 50ml of recently boiled water. Leave the fruit to absorb the liquid.

In a large bowl roughly rub the butter into the flours, add the the mixed spice, sugar and egg and mix through with your fingers. Then tip in the collapsed ferment and combine the ingredients.Scrape out onto a board and knead the dough until the stickiness has gone and a smooth dough results. Don’t add any extra flour – if it seems sticky knead it some more. Put the dough into a large clean bowl covered with cling film and leave in a warm place until doubled in size.

Dough after the first rise

 When the dough is sufficiently proved knock it back and tip it onto a lightly floured board. Leave the dough to relax for 5 minutes, meanwhile drain the fruit.

Ready to fold the fruit in





Bring the dough together, place the fruit onto the dough and start to gently knead them together. When thoroughly combined divide the dough into equal portions.






Shape them into buns in the same way you form bread rolls. Place them on a non-stick baking tray about 50mm apart. Loosely cover with lightly oiled cling film and put in a warm place until the buns have doubled in size.

While the buns are left for the final rise prepare the fun bit. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C – er, that’s not the fun bit but you need to do it anyway. No, the fun bit is mixing up the goo that you make the faces with. Mix all the goo ingredients in a small bowl with a fork. Get your icing bag ready with a plain nozzle (about 5mm – no larger) and scrape the goo into it. Take the fully proved buns from their warm resting place then pipe whatever designs take your fancy. Don’t be too ambitious at first, keep it simple - just piping two eyes and a mouth can be tricky if the bun isn’t perfectly round and the goo is too runny or too stiff. The heat of the oven will also melt the goo a bit so they can come out looking like they are frothing at the mouth if you aren’t careful.

Raw NCB's ready for the oven

Put them in the oven for between 12 – 15 minutes. Check on them after 8 minutes turning the trays if your oven isn’t cooking them evenly. Take them out before the “goo” starts to brown. Whilst they are baking put the glaze ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to the boil, simmer gently for a few minutes until syrupy. When baked put them on a cooling rack and using a pastry brush apply a coating of sticky glaze to each bun whilst still hot from the oven. Let them cool and EAT. Ta daaaaa – nicely tanned Not Cross Buns

Winston knot

What about this little whopper? It’s a six strand braided loaf made with challah dough.

Apparently the braiding style means this is called a Winston. I’d never heard of it before and don’t know why it’s called this but there is no denying it is a very impressive looking loaf.

I was looking for ideas for a plaited loaf and found the instructions to braid a ‘Winston’ in my copy of Jeffrey Hamelman’s book ’Bread - A Bakers Book of Techniques and Recipes’ (I can highly recommend this book if you are a seriously into breadmaking).

Making the egg-enriched dough is pretty straightforward I used the following quantities for this loaf:

Challah Dough Recipe
300g organic plain white flour
150g strong white bread flour (min 13% protein)
145g water (tepid)
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
2.5 tbsp caster sugar
2.5 tbsp sunflower oil
1.5 tsp dried yeast
0.5 tbsp salt

Mix everything together either by hand or mixer. I put everything in my large standalone mixer with the dough hook in and mixed for about 2 minutes on a very low speed until everything was combined. It is a dryish mix so at this point I stopped mixing and scraped the bowl down and pushed the ingredients into a single mass. Then mix on a slightly faster speed for about 4 more minutes. I checked the dough by ‘windowpaning’ – tear off a very small piece, flatten it then pull it gently apart between using your fingertips and hold it up to the light. If the dough doesn’t stretch without breaking mix it some more. You are trying to stretch the dough so you can see daylight through it when you hold it up to the light – like looking through a window pane. When the dough is ready it will be firm but smooth. Put it in a plastic bowl large enough to allow it to double in size, cover with cling film and leave for an hour or two. The slower the rise the better so it doesn’t have to be put in a warm place. After an hour punch the dough down and shape into an oblong, then fold over one third from the right into the centre and the remaining third from the left over the top. Press it down and leave it until doubled in size.

When ready – turn out onto an unfloured surface. Punch it down and leave for 20 minutes to rest (this is really important otherwise you’ll get springy dough that you can’t shape later). After resting divide into 6 equal pieces – approx 125g each piece and roll each into a sausage shape. Using your hands roll the pieces on the work surface until they are approx. 45 cm long. Make them as even along their length as possible. You may need to let them rest for a few minutes mid-rolling if they are reluctant to stretch to that length.


 I’m not sure if you can figure out the braiding from the photos but after you have completed the braid you tuck the messy end underneath and fold the opposite end underneath to sit slightly over the messy bit. Press gently underneath to make sure it doesn’t unravel then leave it to prove, covered, in a warmish place for an hour or two. When it has almost doubled in size brush it carefully all over with a beaten egg loosened with a teaspoon of cold water. Then place in a preheated oven at 195°C for about 25 minutes. Let it cool completely before tucking in. I ate mine with homemade blackcurrant jam. NOM!


Recently I acquired an electric Delonghi waffle maker – unfortunately it didn’t come with any recipe suggestions as most kitchen gadgets do these days and I couldn’t find any recipes specific to this machine online. So after a bit of experimentation with various recipes I came up with one that gives me good reliable results every time. I’m sure you could use this recipe in regular waffle irons too – I’ll be interested to hear if anyone tries this out.

Tips for using the waffle maker
I discovered that it doesn’t pay to be too prissy with the waffle maker operating  instructions and that insufficient cooking time was probably the reason for some less than impressive waffles I made initially. Also the dial glass on the lid steams up during cooking so I wasn’t sure what the settings were during experiments. SO – my top tip for using this piece of equipment is ignore the instructions – heat it up to full blast – put in your waffle mixture and let it cook the maximum time the machine permits, check the waffle and if it’s not nicely coloured cook it for another couple of minutes. Simple.

It takes a little experience to work out how much mixture to use in the waffle maker if you don’t want a big beardy ooze creeping out from the machine whilst it’s cooking…but you need enough mixture to ensure it doesn’t come out like a piece of old string vest. With my recipe there is enough raising agent so that if you just fill each of the waffle segments it will rise enough to give you good mattress-like waffles.

475ml semi-skimmed milk
250g plain white flour
30ml sunflower oil
20g caster sugar
7g baking powder
5g salt
2 large eggs

Sieve all dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Put the milk into a suitable jug and microwave it for 10 seconds to slightly warm it – room temperature is fine. Break the eggs into the jug with the milk and whisk lightly with a fork to break up the yolks and is well mixed. Pour the egg milk mixture into the dry ingredients and combine with a large metal spoon but don’t overmix. Lastly add the sunflower oil and stir in gently. Again don’t overmix – this isn’t a batter pudding…hey a culinary joke!

Use the mixture straight away in the pre-heated waffle maker. This quantity makes 4 – 5 waffles . Each waffle takes approximately 5 minutes to cook.