How do I make…sourdough?

Ah, sourdough…the bread du jour! Crusty god of every artisan bakery…where do I start?

Well, with a starter. That’s the bummer, really. You need a starter to get started and that takes time…

To create a starter:

250g bread flour
250 ml tepid water
7 seedless grapes (many people use other things — google!)

To make:

Slice grapes and mix with the flour and the water.

Put in an airtight tub or jar for 3 days (room temp) and then get rid of half the mixture. ‘Feed’ the remainder with 100g bread flour and 100ml water. Mix well.

Leave for another 24hrs, and it should be bubbling and ready to use. If it’s not bubbling, give it another ‘feed’ and leave it for a couple of days.

If you plan to make bread every week, you will need  to discard half and feed every couple of days, keeping it at room temperature.

If you plan to make bread once a month, you can keep it in the fridge, but let it come to room temperature before you use it.

I confess — I had as much success with my first starter as I did with my gluten-free rolls (which featured in the first ever Bake Off Extra Slice series as an utter failure!). However, the second attempt was a corker!




To make sourdough bread

You will need:

750g bread flour
500g sourdough starter
15g salt
350-450ml tepid water

Now, I’m a lazy so-and-so and use a kitchenaid for kneading. Feel free to go acoustic!

Put the flour, starter and salt into the bowl, fix on your dough hook and set on no.1 (lowest) setting. Slowly add as much water as you need for it to form a soft dough and so have picked up all the flour. Leave ‘kneading’ for about 4/5 minutes until dough forms a smooth skin. (You may need to place the timings by ear a little…).

Pop the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and allow to rise for about 5 hours. I should have said that at the start. When I first made sourdough I started about 7pm and then realised it was going to be a loooong night.

Hopefully, your dough will have doubled in size. Put the dough on a floured surface and fold inwards to knock out the air — be gentle with it though! Divide into two, and shape each piece in to a smooth ball. Now, I invested in some banetton baskets, because I wanted it to look all posh and swirly, but you can just put them on a floured board. If you do have baskets, be sure to heavily flour them (again — my first attempt led to the dough stuck fast to the basket. Erk.) If no baskets, do dust your balls with flour. Snigger.

Cover with a plastic bag (a bin bag works well) and leave somewhere nice and warm for 10-13 hours. Yep, 10-13 hours — not a typo! It should look doubled up and not wrinkly. Wrinkly is not good.

Finally, heat your oven to 200C, line two baking trays with parchment and turn upside down on to trays. Bake for 30-40 mins until the loaf is brown and sounds hollow when you tap the base. Cool on a wire rack.

Black Forest Cupcakes


Yup, it’s back to the 70s!

My nan used to buy a frozen Black Forest Gateau once a month. It would be taken from the freezer in the morning and all day my sister and I would watch it slowly defrost until finally, ’round about tea-time, it was thawed and ready for greedy consumption.

These days, with my *heightened* taste buds, I am sure I would shudder at the thought, but the memory of that much longed for pudding has stayed with me.  And so, with this in mind, I decided to concoct a Black Forest Cupcake.







Using my stalwart chocolate cake recipe, I set off for Sainsbury’s in search of cherry jam and chocolate adornments to make them look desirable even if they don’t match in the taste department.

But they did match up. Maybe it’s just my 70s nostalgia, but they were yummy!

So, I can tell I have lured you closer…here’s how to make them.


200g plain flour
200g caster sugar
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
40g good quality cocoa powder
175g softened, unsalted butter
2 large free range eggs (yes, it matters!)
2 tsps vanilla extract
150ml soured cream

Bung it all in together and whisk the life out of it until it is light brown and fluffy.

Set out 15 cupcake cases and put an ice-cream scoop full of mixture into each. Bake at 180ºC (160 fan) for about 15 mins.

When cool use an apple corer to take the middle out of each cake. pop a scant teaspoon of cherry jam (I use conserve) into each and plug with the top from the corer.

Pipe an elegant splurge of chocolate buttercream icing onto each cake (although vanilla would work just as well). Adorn with a chocolate marvel (I opted for Dr Oetker’s Chocolate Stars). If you want to cheat, use Betty Crocker’s Icing tubs. Nobody need ever know…

And do you know what?  They are really nice.

1978 nice.




How do I make Bread Rolls?

Despite carbs being my nemesis, I am a bread lover through and through. I recall as child wanting my ‘last meal’ to be bread and water. I know. These days it would be bread and wine. How very Eucharistic of me.

Anyway, I was making some homemade beefburgers the other day and thought why not go whole hog and make the buns as well? Now, I like a crusty roll rather than what is termed a ‘bap’ (I still snigger, can’t help myself). So I turned to the bread guru Sir Paul of Hollywood and made some of his rolls. I altered the salt content slightly (don’t tell him!) but they were really good. With burgers, with soup or just on their own slathered with butter and marmite.

Bread rolls Paul Hollywood

You will need:

500g bread flour
8g salt
10g fast action yeast
20g unsalted butter
320ml tepid water

Put the flour, salt and yeast in a mixer bowl (take care to separate yeast and salt). Add the butter and 240ml of the water and mix slowly using the dough hook. Trickle in the remaining water and continue mixing for 5 minutes.

Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise for about 2 hours.

Turn out the dough on to a floured surface and knead lightly until all the air is knocked out.

Divide the dough into about 12 lumps and shape each piece into a ball. I do this by sort of turning the dough inside out and shaping my hand around the outside. This probably makes no sense, but as long as it is a smooth ball you’ll be ok.

Pop the rolls onto a lined baking tray and cover with a large plastic bag for about an hour until they have proved again.

Heat the oven to 220C (200 fan) and pop a roasting tray in the bottom.

When proved, fill the roasting tray with hot water and pop the rolls in the oven. The steam from the tray gives them a nice crust.

Bake for about 15 mins until they are golden on top. Tap the bottoms and if they sound hollow, they’re done.

Leave to cool and enjoy. I can never manage this and have one hot with butter melting all over it…



Following a bit of twittering with the lovely Mat from Bakestore, he volunteered to send me a 12-hole brownie pan and asked me to come up with a brownie/Easter type idea. The pan is a brilliant thing.  It is of fantastic quality and is non-stick. It makes the perfect size brownies and they come out beautifully formed and ready to serve.  I also plan to use it with other traybake recipes, especially when I am sending in kids cakes to school for birthdays. I find traybakes much less hassle than cupcakes for such occasions, and this will thwart the need to cut it all up and try to make it look pretty.

easter teacher gift idea

Anyway, back to the brownies.  Having pondered recreating Jesus’ tomb out of stacked brownies, I had a much better idea. Lemon brownies. I really should be calling these ‘yellowies’ but it doesn’t really have the same ring to it, does it?

Now, I am a sucker for all things lemon. Not literally *winces* BUT it is absolutely my favourite flavour for pudding or cake. It is also the lovely sunny colour we associate with Easter. Add a few of those bizarre little chicks (which I have a great fondness for) and a generous helping of mini-eggs and I reckon you have yourself a gorgeous pudding for Easter lunch. Who am I kidding? I am going to be scoffing them at every opportunity over the Easter hols and, as you will see, they package up rather nicely as a gift for friends, family or teachers. Much prettier than a box of Creme eggs and some hastily picked daffs.

I tried a few recipes and in the end, fell back on my lemon drizzle cake recipe for the sponge.  Then, for the icing, I mixed 200g sifted icing sugar with the juice of one lemon and a couple of drops of lemon colouring.  Gently spread the icing on top of the cool sponges and hastily scatter with springtime sprinkles before the icing dries.

easter lemon brownies

Now, if all this leaves you thinking ‘But I want CHOCOLATE!’ then fear not.  I have a chocolate brownie recipe for you too.  All that Lentian abstinence can be rewarded with a few of these on Easter Day.


    • 100g unsalted butter, cubed
    • 200g milk chocolate
    • 4 medium eggs
    • 250g caster sugar
    • 100g plain flour
    • 1tsp baking powder
    • 30g unsweetened cocoa powder

Grease and lightly flour your brownie tin (I am using an individual brownie tin from Bakestore)
Preheat oven to 180°C (160° fan)

  1. In a bowl over a simmering pan of water, melt the chocolate and butter and allow to cool slightly.
  2. Then, using the paddle attachment on your blender or hand-held whisk, mix the sugar and eggs together until pale and thick.
  3. Next, carefully fold the chocolate mixture into the whisked sugar and eggs.
  4. Sieve the flour. baking powder and cocoa powder into the mixture and carefully fold in.
  5. Put a generous tablespoonful of the mixture into each hole in the pan.  They should be about half-full.
  6. Bake for 10-12 mins until crusted on the top but gooey in the middle.
  7. Leave to cool in the tin for 5-10 mins before removing to wire rack.  Dust with icing sugar and serve whilst warm!

Makes 24


Don’t forget if you enter code ‘nigella’ at checkout you can get 10% and free delivery at Bakestore!


How do I make Refrigerator Cake?

refridgerator cakeRefrigerator cake is a sneaky cake if ever there was one.  Everybody’s recipe is different and changing a single ingredient can send people spiralling off into tirades, completely incensed that you might suggest an alternative! Some call it refrigerator cake, some call it tiffin, some call it rocky road.  They are all made on the same premise and I cannot work out the difference between them.  Whatever you call it, it’s very popular and decadently delicious.  Kate and Wills had it for a wedding cake – who needs a higher accolade?

The recipe I am sharing with you includes one of my favourite flavours, ginger.  Mixed with the honeycomb of the Crunchie bars and the gooey marshmallows, this is my absolutely favourite version of this very moorish cake.  I’ll be interested to hear what yours are.

crunchie barsIngredients
  • 450g milk chocolate
  • 150g ginger biscuits, broken up haphazardly
  • 100g small marshmallows
  • 2 x 40g Crunchie bars, cut into 1cm chunks

How to make it

Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking parchment.

Place the milk chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Allow the chocolate to melt slowly. Once the chocolate has melted, remove from the heat and allow the chocolate to cool to just above room temperature, otherwise it will melt the marshmallows.

Stir in the other ingredients and press into the prepared tin. Place in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours or until set, then cut into squares and serve!

 ginger refridgerator cake


A Gingerbread Gift

Gingerbread GiftI saw this in the Waitrose Weekend paper and thought I would a) make it for my child’s teacher and b) share it with you.  It is so difficult to find nice gifts that don’t cost an arm and a leg and this really appealed to me.  I would love to receive it and because it is, in effect, home-made I think it makes it a thoughtful present as well as a delicious one.

I bought this jar from Fenwicks – it is airtight with the ribbon and wooden heart attached, but you could easily decorate your own.  But at £4.50, I thought it was good value.  I tied on the Christmas cutter and filled the jar with the gingerbread mix (recipe below).  Then, on a festive tag, I wrote the instructions.  I think it looks really pretty.

So, what’s in the mix?  You will need 375g plain flour, 1 tsp bicarb of soda, 2 tsp ground ginger and 90g light, soft brown sugar.  Just combine until evenly mixed and pop it in the jar!

On the label you will need to write:


1 quantity of gingerbread mix

125g chopped, unsalted butter

230g golden syrup

80g sifted icing sugar

To make:

Preheat oven to 180ºC.

Pu gingerbread mix, butter and syrup into a food processor and pulse until it forms a smooth dough.  

Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 mins.

Roll out the dough between two pieces of baking parchment until 0.5cm thick.  Cut into shapes and place on lined baking sheet.

Bake for 8-10 mins until golden.  Allow to cool.

Mix 80g icing sugar with 2tsp hot water and mix until smooth.  Decorate the biscuits as you wish.  Enjoy!



Hootycreek Cookies

hootycreek cookiesThese scrummy little cookies are SO moorish, you’ll have to be careful not to scoff them all in one sitting.  The cranberries give them a festive flavour and they are perfect to offer to family, friends and hungry carol singers.  Honestly, I can’t effervesce enough about how nice they are – what they lack in the looks department, they certainly make up for in taste.

I made these for the kids’ Christmas Fair and left out the pecans (no nuts!) but I think they are better with.  Still, very nice either way!

To make:

Preheat oven to 180º (160 fan)

In a bowl, mix 150g plain flour, ½ tsp baking powder, ½ tsp salt and 75g rolled oats (you can use porridge oats if you must but NOT the instant kind).  Put to one side.

Using a mixer or a lot of elbow grease, cream together 125g soft, unsalted butter, 100g caster sugar and 75g soft dark brown sugar.  Then beat in 1 large egg and 1 tsp vanilla extract.  Add the floury mixture and mix then carefully fold in 150g white chocolate chips, 80g dried cranberries and 50g roughly chopped pecans.

Now things get sticky!  Roll the mixture into ping pong ball size dollops, pop on a lined baking tray and flatten down the tops a little with a fork.  If the fork sticks, just dip it in water and keep going.

Bake for 12-15 mins until starting to turn golden around the edges.

If you are a regular reader you’ll guess what I do to festive them up a bit….edible glitter!  I’ll take any chance to sparkle things up a bit.