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Food: Bake Off Ian's recipes for comfort and cheer

In his first column for Velvet, Cambridge Bake Off finalist Ian Cumming shares a pair of recipes designed to bring ‘comfort and cheer’ to our plates

What a time to start a recipe column. . . However, although some aspects of life are more than a little tricky at the moment, there is nothing like some good food to perk up the soul. My wife is an Infectious Diseases doctor at Addenbrooke’s, so my main job at the moment is to make sure she gets a damn good meal whenever she is at home. Both these recipes should offer a lovely flavour hit whilst at the same time offering some comfort and cheer.

Garlic & Parmesan Monkey Bread

A centrepiece of garlic bread with a hearty kick of baked cheese. Be prepared to eat more than is decent!

May's Signature Bakes - Ian Cumming, icimages (34124586)
May's Signature Bakes - Ian Cumming, icimages (34124586)


For the dough:

500g strong white flour

50g unsalted butter

10g fine salt

10g instant or fast action yeast

75g finely grated parmesan

350g tepid water

For the base:

120g unsalted butter

4 cloves garlic, crushed

120g finely grated parmesan


This can be done by hand but it is much quicker and easier in a mixer with a dough hook. Put the flour in the mixing bowl and using your fingers rub in the butter until it disappears into the flour. Add the salt, yeast, parmesan and then the water and mix on a low speed for approximately 3 minutes and then a further 3 minutes on medium. Put the dough into a fairly large oiled bowl, cover and leave for about 2 hours or until roughly doubled in size.

When you think the dough is nearly ready, melt the butter in a pan on a low heat with the crushed garlic - you don’t need it to boil, just enough to melt the butter. Then turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into walnut size pieces - they should weigh about 35g. Roll them on a flat surface until they are neat, tight balls.

Prepare the tin you are going to bake it in. I like to do it in a round doughnut-shaped tin, often known as a bundt or savarin cake tin. Mine is an old aluminium version, so I have to line it with parchment, but if you have a decent non-stick pan you should be ok with just rubbing butter over it. You can also use an 8 or 9 inch round quick release tin.

Put the 120g of parmesan into a bowl. Dip a dough ball into the melted butter and then into the parmesan. Arrange them more or less evenly in the baking tin - as they expand they’ll fill the worst of the gaps. Pour any remaining garlic butter over the top. Cover with a plastic bag and leave for about another hour. Preheat the oven to 200C and bake for approximately 15 minutes before turning down to 180C for another 10 minutes.

Rhubarb & Custard Tart

A comforting and silky tart using lots of glorious English rhubarb.

May's Signature Bakes - Ian Cumming, icimages (34124618)
May's Signature Bakes - Ian Cumming, icimages (34124618)


For the pastry:

120g room-temperature unsalted butter

70g icing sugar

good pinch of salt

25g ground almonds

1/2tsp vanilla paste

1 large egg

230g plain flour

For the filling:

500g rhubarb cut into 1 inch pieces

40g demerara sugar

500g double cream

140g caster sugar

Good pinch of salt

3tsp vanilla paste

4 large eggs

Juice of half a lemon


For the pastry put the butter, icing sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon beat until it is smooth. Add the ground almonds and beat again. Add the vanilla paste and egg and beat again. At this stage it will appear very unpromising, like bad scrambled eggs, but don’t worry! Add the flour, bring it all together and briefly knead. Shape into a disc about 2cm high, wrap in plastic and rest in the fridge for about half an hour.

Then dust a surface with flour and roll into a large disc slightly bigger than your tart tin. I use a tin approximately 30cm wide and then just over 3cm high. Gently roll the pastry around the rolling pin and then unroll it into the tin. Press it into the corners of the tin and then leave a lip of about 1cm draped over the edge of the tin. Prick the base of the tin with a fork and then chill it in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Meanwhile put the rhubarb sprinkled with the demerara on a parchment lined baking tray. Cooking for 5 or 10 minutes until the rhubarb is just starting to soften. Leave aside to cool.

Heat the oven to 190C. Cover the base of the tart with baking parchment and then fill with baking beans. (If you have no baking beans you can always use rice.) Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges are just colouring. Carefully remove the beans and parchment and bake for a few minutes more until the base and edges have got a nice bit of colour.

Once it has cooled a bit get a small serrated knife and gently trim the edges of the tart so it is level all the way around. If disaster strikes and you break the pastry you can plug the gap with uncooked pastry or even a small nugget of bread! Turn the oven down to 150C.

Now onto the filling. Put the double cream, caster sugar, salt and vanilla into a pan and gently heat until it warm. Beat the 4 eggs and stir into the cream mixture. Add about 3/4 of the rhubarb. Pour the cream into the tart case making sure the rhubarb is evenly distributed. Tip the remaining rhubarb on top.

Very carefully transfer to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until it is just set - it should have a good wobble to it but not be liquid. Leave to cool and then put in fridge until ready to serve.

Pictures by Ian Cumming - icimages.com

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