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Baking: Soul-food recipes from GBBO's Ian Cumming




A moreish savoury babka and a meringue-topped chocolate cake: in his November column for Velvet, Cambridge’s Great British Bake Off finalist Ian Cumming shares a pair of soul-food recipes

Olive & Feta Babka

The idea for this bread came after my daughter decided to use up a jar of olive tapenade that had just gone out of date in her packed lunch sandwich for school. She used it to cheer up what would have been a rather bland cheese sandwich and it got me thinking about how I could incorporate the tapenade into the bread. Babkas were originally from the Jewish populations of Eastern Europe, but were relatively unknown until the last decade when the chocolate babka rose to prominence in the US. The dough is an enriched dough (with the addition of eggs and butter) and is utterly delicious when fresh and warm out of the oven. I have tried to describe how to shape the bread as best I can here but you may find it easier to watch a YouTube video.

Ingredients:

500g strong white flour

7g (1 sachet) instant yeast

10g salt

20g caster sugar

3tsp chopped thyme leaves

3 large eggs

100g tepid milk

approx 100g tepid water

120g soft unsalted butter

approx 130g olive tapenade

approx 50g crumbled feta cheese

Method:

It’s more or less essential to do this in a Kitchen Aid or similar as the dough is very sticky! I’m sure you can do it by hand but. . . good luck!

Put the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and thyme in a mixing bowl. Put the bowl on some scales and weigh in the eggs and milk. Then add in the water so the total liquid weight is 350g. Using the dough hook mix for three to four minutes.

Slowly add the butter about a tablespoon at a time. Mix until you have a lovely smooth dough. Scrape the sides down so the dough is all collected in a rough ball at the bottom. Cover with a plastic bag and leave somewhere warm for approximately two hours or until nearly doubled in size. Transfer the bowl to the fridge to chill for at least half an hour.

You can bake the bread either in a loaf tin or free-form on a baking tray. Line the tin or tray with baking parchment. A normal loaf tin that you might use for making banana bread (a 1lb tin) will probably be too small, so you can either use a bigger tin, use two 1lb tins or do half in a tin and half free-form.

Liberally dust a work surface with flour. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto the floured surface. The key to the next part is to use enough flour to ensure your dough doesn’t stick to the work surface - if it does then trying to peel it off might get tricky. Roll the dough into a rectangle about 11 by 14 inches. Spread the tapenade evenly across the dough leaving a clear half inch border around the edge. Crumble the feta over this. Carefully roll up the dough. Which way you roll is up to you but I preferred rolling the short edge.

Then place the seam down. Very carefully cut the dough down the middle. I leave the very end uncut but some don’t. Twist the two halves so that the cut side faces up. Plait the two halves trying to keep the cut side up. Lift up the dough, tucking up the ends under the middle before placing it either in the tin or on the tray. Cover with a plastic bag and leave to rise until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 170C. Brush the top with a tablespoon of melted butter and then bake for about 50 minutes. Turn out onto a rack. The smell might make it irresistible but do try and wait until it is at least warm rather than hot. Slather in salted butter and enjoy.

Chocolate & Berries Meringue Cake

Generally I am not a huge fan of normal meringue. Sure it looks pretty but too much of it and I start to feel a little nauseous from that big sugary hit. However, spread a thin layer of it on top of a cake and it becomes a thing of caramelised wonder - especially when mixed in with some ground almonds for another layer of flavour. I’ve added prunes to this sponge as I think blitzed dried fruit is a great way of adding moisture to a cake, plus they add just a hint of sharpness too.

Ingredients:

90g prunes

50g boiling water

180g unsalted butter

110g light brown muscovado sugar

good pinch of salt

3 medium egg yolks

2tsp vanilla extract

50g vegetable oil

220g self raising flour

30g cocoa

80g glacé cherries (optional)

250g raspberry jam

3 medium egg whites

1/2 tsp lemon juice

90g caster sugar

50g ground almonds

1/2tsp almond extract

a handful of raspberries

a scattering of almond flakes

Method:

Line a tray approximately 20 x 20cm with baking parchment. Cover the prunes in the boiling water and set aside. (You’ll note I state the liquids in grams rather than millilitres - I think it is always far more accurate to weigh liquid ingredients rather than measuring them in a jug.)

In a mixing bowl beat the butter, sugar and salt together until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks whilst putting the egg whites in another clean mixing bowl. Beat along with the vanilla, oil and a small amount of the flour.

Blitz the prunes until nice and smooth. They should be relatively cool by now - if so, add them to the bowl along with the flour and cocoa and fold the mixture together. Flatten it into the base of the baking tray. If using, sink the glacé cherries into the batter and then cover with an even layer of raspberry jam.

Preheat the oven to 170C. Whisk the egg whites and lemon juice to soft peaks. Then add the caster sugar about a quarter at a time, whisking thoroughly between each addition.

Fold in the ground almonds and almond extract. Spread over the top of the cake. Scatter over the raspberries followed by the flaked almonds. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

Allow to completely cool in the tin before removing. Since the meringue is delicate you can’t flip this cake over to remove the parchment so unless you have a couple of spatulas to gently lift it then you’ll have to live with the parchment on your serving dish - a very minor inconvenience!

Pictures by Ian Cumming - icimages.com



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