Pumpkin rolls

pumpkin rolls inksugarspice #pumpkin #bread

Delicious at any time of the year, but particularly fitting to make for Halloween, these pumpkin rolls don’t just look the part, they taste it too as they’re made from a roasted pumpkin (or squash) dough.

I’ve written out the instructions (with some images) how to make these rolls into pumpkin shapes, but they can also be made into ‘normal’, round dinner rolls too. The dough is also marvellous when baked into a full sized loaf (top with toasted pumpkin seeds for extra oomph).


It’s a bit tricky to cut up just the right amount of pumpkin/squash for this recipe, so I suggest using a whole, small pumpkin or butternut squash. Once roasted it’s easier to weigh out the correct amount and any that is surplus to the recipe can be used up elsewhere (freeze for later, turn into soup, add to a pasta dish, mix into mash potato for example).

You can skip the shaping instructions and just make round rolls if you prefer.

Do make sure you get rid of all the string before serving!


  • Large bowl
  • Scraper
  • Linen tea towel
  • Two large baking trays
  • Roasting tray
  • Sharp, large chef’s knife and potato peeler
  • Sieve (not fine gauge) and large spoon
  • Smaller bowl
  • Butchers/bakers string and scissors
  • Saucepan or microwavable bowl/jug (for warming the milk)
pumpkins - inksugarspice


  • 1 small pumpkin or squash (you will only need 120g once roasted, see notes above)
  • Strong white flour – 475g
  • Fresh yeast – 15g (or replace with fast action dried yeast – 7g)
  • Milk – 200g
  • Fine salt – 1 teaspoon (plus extra for the pumpkin)
  • Black pepper – several turns
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of a good quality olive oil, I used Filippo Beri organic extra virgin olive oil (plus about another 3 tablespoons to drizzle on the pumpkin for roasting and to oil the bowl)


  • Warm your oven to 180C fan / 200 conventional / 400F
  • Halve the pumpkin or squash and scoop out the seeds
  • Take the skin off the pumpkin and cut into large chunks (about 3-4cm)
  • Spread the pumpkin pieces out into your roasting tin and drizzle with olive oil, about three tablespoons’ worth and then sprinkle with some salt
  • Bake for about 25 minutes. The pumpkin pieces should be soft when pressed with a fork or spoon. If they are not ready, leave in for another 10 minute
  • When ready, leave the pumpkin pieces to cool a little until you can handle them
  • While the pumpkin is cooling, gently warm the milk in a microwave or a saucepan a little and stir in the yeast. Leave this to one side while you prep the pumpkin flesh
  • When the pumpkin flesh has cooled enough to handle (but is still warm), press the pumpkin through the sieve into the smaller bowl. It’s easiest to press it through wi th the back of a large spoon. This will remove any little crispy edges that you wouldn’t want in your bread and break down the fibres so that it incorporates into the dough more thoroughly
  • Make your dough, by combining the flour, salt, pepper, mashed pumpkin, olive oil and the milk/yeast mixture in your large bowl
  • Once combined roughly, tip out onto a clean surface and begin kneading. This dough comes together quickly because of the pumpkin flesh, so knead it for about 7-8 minutes until it starts to become smooth and glossy. Only use additional flour if you feel it’s absolutely necessary
  • Once kneaded, oil the bowl and shape the dough into a ball. Place it into the oiled bowl seam side down and cover with a clean linen tea towel or similar
  • Leave to prove for about 45 minutes until risen
  • Divide your dough in to eight equal pieces
  • Cut up eight pieces of the butcher’s string – each about a metre long
  • Taking one of the pieces of dough, shape into a ball
  • [See the images below for the following steps) Take the string and its centre point over the middle of the ball of dough, flip the dough over and make a loop round the dough and finish with a little twist of the string – your ball of dough should have a loop over it. Make sure you come back to the middle of the ball of dough and ensure the string is not tight or cutting into the dough
  • Twist the string and repeat another loop at 90 degrees to the first, so the ball of dough looks like a parcel
  • Repeat twice more, keeping the string between the first two loops – so that the ball of dough is eventually sectioned into eight wedge shapes. Tie off loosely and trim off the ends of the string
How to tie up the pumpkin rolls with string so they get that quintessential pumpkin shape when baked - inksugarspice #pumpkin #bread
  • Place the dough ball on a floured baking tray
  • Repeat with the remaining seven balls of dough
  • Cover the dough and leave to rise for about 30 minutes, until the dough has started to rise through the string and created a pumpkin shape
  • While the dough is on its last proof, turn your oven on to 220C fan / 240F conventional / 475F
  • When the rolls are ready, place them in the oven and immediately turn it down to 200C fan / 220C conventional / 400F
  • Bake for 20-22 minutes until risen and getting brown
  • Leave to cool and when cold, snip off the string from the underside of the roll and pull through the threads to ensure there is no string left before serving
pumpkin rolls inksugarspice #pumpkin #bread

Using analogue, creative hobbies for mental wellbeing – and a HUGE list of hobby ideas

From previous posts in here or comments on my Instagram or Twitter feed you may have come across me owning up (occasionally and discretely) to having been diagnosed with both anxiety and panic disorder. I am also, in general, an advocate for looking after positive mental health and I am a trained mental health first aider.

Key to managing my own stresses are all my hands-on, lo-fi, non digital hobbies. I don’t use any medication for my anxiety (I have tried in the past: it just doesn’t suit me) and apart from the occasional blip, I handle my situation by having these tools to turn to when I need both distraction and mindfulness – and supportive people (this is crucial but I won’t address this here).

Looking after your good mental health with activities isn’t confined to those who have an issue! If you consider that you have great mental health these activities will still bring you benefits.

It’s been well documented that creative outlets are great for good mental health and can even help with much more severe conditions (I’ve tried to find a few reputable sources and I’ve listed these at the bottom of the article). It doesn’t take, or need, a PhD research paper to be able to work this out yourself though.

It’s the full engagement that really helps I think: what has (for the past few years) been described as mindfulness. When I was younger I’d describe it as ‘me getting happily lost’ in what I was doing. The same level of immersion also works with many non-creative activities (even clearing out a cupboard, labelling or vacuuming the car can be engrossing) but I find that creative hobbies provide another positive layer as well as the mindfulness.

However – and it’s a big however – a skill level for being creative is immaterial. You do NOT need to have any kind of ‘gift’ to engage in a creative hobby to benefit from it.

A creative hobby isn’t necessarily art or craft related. Cheese making, gardening, playing a musical instrument, sport and fitness, being a model railway enthusiast or going fishing are all examples. I’ve written a big list of ideas of creative and immersive hobbies below.

Your creativity is just for you, less you choose to share. You don’t need to inform anyone about your hobby nor does anyone need to see you doing it or your end result (unless you want them to). That said, engaging friends or family (your children for instance) in the same activity may help you start something new if you are better in a group environment.

Although this will vary for you, I’ve found my own benefits of engaging in a creative project might be (not all apply, depending on the type of activity):

  • Mindfulness/that sense of being lost in something
  • Peace and tranquillity
  • That total immersion and concentration on one thing
  • An abatement/lessening of symptoms of anxiety or panic
  • That it is a period of time where other external factors are forgotten for a while
  • A sense of completion/achievement/progression
  • A sense that I have made something tangible and lasting
  • The chance to learn and grow
  • The chance to try something new
  • The ability and time to fail and make mistakes (and therefore learn from those mistakes) without anyone needing to criticise you
  • Pride in a job well done, or at least in the learning of something new and overcoming obstacles in its completion
  • Achieving the milestones I’ve set for myself – however small (eg the first time you’ve run continuously for 10 mins, finishing a new hiking route, producing a loaf with an unusual flour, using a new tool etc)
  • An excuse to obtain, make and use nice materials and tools (where finances allow)
  • The tactile nature of physical hobbies – feeling different materials, especially natural ones is a positive experience
  • Getting outdoors
  • Getting away from the digital world for a while
  • Re-engaging with old traditions and skills

I aim to increase the craft and art posts in my website (as well as continuing with the recipes and food-based information) to provide little easy projects. Whatever you try, it doesn’t matter if you are brilliant or dreadful at a thing or anywhere in between. All that matters is the process: the act of creatively completing something. And if you find you don’t enjoy one activity, there will most certainly be something out there that will suit you.

Hands on bread making - here I'm plaiting a boule - Lynn Clark - inksugarspice

My BIG list of ideas for creative hobbies for immersion / mindfulness / to get happily get lost in

(I’ve created three areas that relate to the subject matter of this website: crafts, food and lifestyle, but find what works for you!)

Note: updated March 2020 following the Covid-19 pandemic. All hobbies in BLUE can be done indoors or in your garden/on your balcony (such as birdwatching). Also remember that here in the UK at present you can exercise outside (running, walking, cycling) once a day at the moment if you adhere to the social distancing guidelines. Get supplies online.

Arts and crafts

  • Crochet
  • Sewing
  • Knitting
  • Embroidery
  • Leatherworking
  • Basketry
  • Weaving
  • Spinning wool
  • Tufted rug making
  • Macrame
  • Papier mâché
  • Decoupage
  • Upcycling old furniture/restoration/upholstery
  • Watercolour / gouache
  • Acrylic or oil painting
  • Clay sculpture
  • Pot throwing
  • Lino printing
  • Wood whittling
  • Carving – wood, clay, shop etc
  • Carpentry
  • Model making
  • Origami
  • Illustration
  • Felting
  • Pastel or chalk drawing
  • Calligraphy
  • Quilting
  • Stop motion filming
  • Block printing (fabric or paper)
  • Blacksmithing (you’ll need a course and access to a forge but it is possible!)
  • Silversmithing / metal jewellery making
  • Qulling/paper sculpture
  • Enamelling and resin jewellery making
  • Bead work
  • Miniature model painting
  • Tie dying
  • Making paper
  • Paper marbling (oil paint on water – like on book fly leaves)
  • Pyrography
  • Engraving


  • Bread making
  • Sourdough bread making
  • Pasta
  • Flower sugarcraft / modelling
  • Character sugar craft / modelling
  • Hand painting cakes
  • Preserve making
  • Cheese making
  • Brewing
  • Wine making
  • Fermenting
  • Decorating iced biscuits


  • Rambling
  • Foraging
  • Wild flower bombing
  • Bird watching
  • Flower identification
  • Flower pressing
  • Gardening
  • Vegetable growing
  • Herb growing
  • Photography
  • Soap making
  • Running/jogging
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Tai Chi
  • Juggling
  • Keepy-uppy / hackysack football skills
  • Dancing lessons / sessions
  • Flower arranging
  • Singing – along or a group (choir / rock choir)
  • Bonsai
  • Creative writing
  • Blog writing
  • Poetry
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Astronomy
  • Model planes/boats/cars
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Scrapbooking and journalling
  • Fishing
  • Geo caching (including setting up geo caches for others)
  • Geneaology / family tree tracing
  • Collecting
  • Bee keeping

Psychology papers and academic articles

Psychology Today (online) article “Recent Art Therapy Research: Measuring Mood, Pain and BrainPsychology” written by Cathy Malchiodi PhD, LPCC, LPAT, ATR-BC, REAT. Looks at two studies:

  • Art therapy improves mood, and reduces pain and anxiety when offered at bedside during acute hospital treatment (Shella, 2017) focuses on the role of art therapy in possible improvement of mood and reduction of pain perception in patients hospitalized for medical conditions;
  • Cortical Activity Changes after Art Making and Rote Motor Movement as Measured by EEG: A Preliminary Study (King et al, 2017) uses a common neurological instrument to compare cortical activity after art making with rote motor movements.

Frontiers in Psychology (online) paper “Creative Arts Interventions to Address Depression in Older Adults: A Systematic Review of Outcomes, Processes, and Mechanisms” by Kim Dunphy,  Felicity A. Baker, Ella Dumaresq, Katrina Carroll-Haskins,  Jasmin Eickholt,  Maya Ercole, Girija Kaimal, Kirsten Meyer, Nisha Sajnani, Opher Y. Shamir and Thomas Wosch (see article for author details).

The Health Benefits of Knitting – by Knit for Peace (findings by Harvard Medical School)

Other resources of interest

TED talks ideas website on “Why grown-ups love [sic] coloring books tooExcert: Just what is the adult coloring book craze all about, anyhow? Anyone who has appreciated a meditative mental drift while knitting or mowing a lawn knows that there is something calming about engaging in a familiar, low-impact activity that requires minimal thought and bestows a clear sense of progress.

Hobbycraft blog on ‘How to practice mindfulness through craft‘ written by Sandra Owen, a Creative Teacher and Grief Recovery Method Specialist.

Huff Post article (2014) on ‘How baking could help stressed Brits access mindfulness and relieve anxiety’

University of East Anglia: How singing your heart out could make you happier Researchers examined the benefits of singing among people with mental health conditions including anxiety and depression. They found that people who took part in a community singing group maintained or improved their mental health. And that the combination of singing and socialising was an essential part of recovery because it promoted an ongoing feeling of belonging and wellbeing.

Mental Health First Aid England

I’ve been trained as a Mental Health First Aider – please follow the link below if you’d like to know more about this, to train yourself or encourage your workplace to investigate supporting this.

Find out more about Mental Health First Aid England

No Panic – registered UK charity which helps people (or those they care for) suffering from panic attacks

I’d love to know what works for you… especially if you have any additions for the three lists above under arts/crafts, food and lifestyle headings that I could include or additional online resources.

Hugs 💚

Cider and olive oil crackers

crackers.jpgThere are plenty of crackers on the supermarket shelves to choose from. Go further afield to your local deli and there’ll be packs of posh versions with arty designs and hipster names. But have you ever made your own? They’re incredibly easy, and in an additional stroke of luck, the more ‘rustic’ the shape the more artisan they look.

You know me by now that I normally can’t help twiddling with and artifying my food (whether I need to or not).  Sooo not needed with these: the less bothered you are about how you roll them out, the nicer they are. #Result

I know it seems odd putting cider into crackers, but bear with me. You just get that little apple tang which makes a real difference. I originally thought they’d taste a lot more cider-like, so, during my first try of recipe development, I used a 50:50 cider and water mix. I was disappointed with the weak taste, so went straight in with all-cider with the next bakes. I’m not 100% sure this is true but I have suspicions that the fizziness of the cider actually made them slightly crisper as well as tastier as compared to the first batch. (I wonder if this is akin to the trick of using fizzy mineral water in batter?). I may be deluding myself but it’s difficult in a home kitchen to ensure you can get a perfect comparison.

So, you need a ‘decent’ cider. By that I mean something strong, but please not scrumpy-level and steer clear of flat. It’s not a waste of a good drink – by the time you’ve taken out what you need from a bottle there’s still enough for a glass for the chef. Cheers 🍻

I used my favourite cider, which is Aspall’s Premier Cru, but I also tried one version of the recipe with a fruited cider which came out well, but I suggest that if you do go that route, that the crackers really just suit being pared with cheese or as a bread replacement in a ploughman’s lunch. The plain cider versions go great with cheeses and dips of almost any kind. Try my roasted pesto butternut squash dip with them.


These crackers won’t fit on less than three baking trays, so if you’ve got a large oven, great, but if not you’ll need to bake them in batches. If you use the same baking tray for each batch, the baking tray will still be warm from the first batch so reduce the cooking time by 1 minute for subsequent batches. This is because the crackers will start cooking as soon as they are laid on the hot sheet as they are so thin.

I made this recipe and the roasted pesto butternut squash dip recipe together, so they are a lovely pairing, although either recipe works on its own.


Makes 16, made to about 25 cm (about 8 inches) long and about 4 cm (3 1/2 inches) at the widest part.

About 20 minutes preparation and 9-10 minutes cooking time per batch (you may get all done at once if you have a big oven: I did mine in two batches)


  • Large bowl
  • Measuring jug
  • Rolling pin
  • Large baking tray, lined with greaseproof paper or baking parchment
  • Pastry brush


  • Plain flour – 225g
  • Cider – 105 ml (please note that your may need a little more if your flour has a high protein content)
  • Olive oil – 2 tablespoons (you don’t actually need Extra Virgin for this, though you can use it. My preference is to use something more moderate in taste and lighter in colour like the Classic or the Organic Olive Oils that Filippo Berio makes
  • Salt, fine – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Mustard powder – 1/4 teaspoon
  • Smoked paprika – 3/4 teaspoon
  • Onion granules – 1/4 teaspoon
  • Black pepper – several turns of a pepper mill


  • Additional rock salt or crystal salt for sprinkling – about 1 teaspoon
  • Additional olive oil for drizzling


  1. Turn your oven on to 210 ºC / 230 ºC conventional
  2. Weight out the flour, fine salt, mustard powder, smoked paprika, onion ganules and black pepper into a bowl
  3. Gently pour in the cider (if you tip it in it will really fizz) and start to bring the dough together with your fingers or a table knife
  4. Once the dough is starting to form, add the olive oil and bring the dough together with your fingers and the heel of your hand, picking up all the flour from the bowl as you go
  5. Tip out onto a clean surface and knead until the dough has come together in a ball, which should only take a minute or so. Don’t over knead
  6. Prepare your baking trays by lining with greaseproof paper or baking parchment and brush a little olive oil over the paper
  7. Cut the dough into 16 equal sized pieces (the easiest way to do this is by cutting it like pizza slices)
  8. Lightly flour your work surface and roll each piece of dough out lengthways. No need to turn the dough or roll it from side to side, as you want to produce a long, lanky cracker
  9. Each rolled out strip should be as thin as possible – around 2mm thick and be around 25 cm long
  10. Place each strip on the prepared baking sheet as you make it and roll out the rest of the strips
  11. Brush a little more olive oil over each strip of dough and sprinkle over the rock salt
  12. Bake each batch in the oven for 7 minutes, take out and flip crackers over on to their other sides, then bake for 2 minutes more
  13. Leave to cool, and they can be stored in an airtight container for about a week



Garlicky, herby, cheesey, buttery ‘bookshelf’ bread for tearing and sharing


I had rather lost my way regarding my blog and even my food over the last couple of months. If you get notifications for my posts, perhaps you’ve realised there’s been a vacuum… at least, I hope you’ve noticed. Maybe you haven’t! I’ve even been toying whether to delete this blog and pack up writing completely of late. I have stopped short of doing anything too hasty as I realised it might well be just a case of the January blues.

I do get severely affected by the dark days, do you? I know almost everyone does to some extent (humans need some sunlight) but I seem to get quite an extreme version. There have also been a few trials and tribulations recently, so baking and the blog had to a back seat naturally, and then, frankly, I just couldn’t find the impetus to jump straight back in. I actually took up a few things that I like doing that I’d dropped which were more mindful, such as crochet and calligraphy, in place of baking and writing for the blog. The idea was to achieve some head space. I didn’t stop baking and cooking, just the things I produced were more functional: items we needed to eat like a standard family loaf, a pie or fresh pasta for dinner and a box of shortbread.

Anyway, I think this is positive that I’m here! Perhaps I just needed a break and a freshly picked bunch of perspective. And, I rekindled a couple of old skills in crocheting and calligraphy-ing. I also took time to make a few backdrops and sort out all my sewing and crafting kit ready to do some more things. That has all actually made me think about adding a few more craft-based posts in here, so maybe it’s been a positive break after all.

I started writing this recipe up last autumn and, with a few remakes of the loaf over the last week, I thought this comforting, fun-to-make bake might be a good way back for me as the first recipe for 2018.

I had the idea for this bread after making fantans (little layered bread rolls, made in a similar way to this loaf [just plain: no fillings] and baked in bun tins). I thought if I can make tiny ones, then why not a whole loaf, so people can share and rip off a slice? I suspect there are many of these loaves in recipe form out there on the interweb (it’s practically impossible to come up with anything new – pretty much everything has already been done), but I purposely avoided looking online for any as a) I didn’t want to be influenced by how someone else had shaped and styled their bread and b) I wanted to start from scratch with the recipe, again not being influenced by anyone else so I could get exactly the end results I was looking for. I started with a typical 400g white loaf mix, tweaked the ratios a little and added olive oil to get a bouncier middle, and slightly more crispy Italian-style edges to the bread. I then played with the amounts of fillings until it reached just the right butteriness and garlic amount (I warn you I like garlic so you may want to tone it down a little if you don’t like it as much as me).

I’ve called it ‘bookshelf’ bread as to me it looks like a higgledy-piggledy row of mismatched books all lined up on a shelf.

Oh my, I do now love making this loaf. It’s a little tricky to stack the dough. A couple of very collapsed-but-still-edible loaves were made to start with, until found that  tipping the loaf tin and filling the gap up with baking parchment when needed (see the actual recipe) was the key. Overall its fun to make and results in a great centerpiece that everyone can just attack, ripping off sheets of pillowy, garlicky goodness to mop up their ragu or to accompany a spread of antipasti, meats and more. We’ve also used it to rip apart and dunk strips into fondue or eaten with soups. Basically any meal you’d include a ‘normal’ garlic bread as an accompaniment you can exchange for this.


This recipe does make a small loaf, which doesn’t sound much but it still provides quite a lot of garlic bread. If you’re serving it for four or fewer people, then you may want to keep half for another day. It will last a day or two (just warm in a low oven for 10-15 minutes as it’s not the same cold!) or you can tear the cooked loaf in half and put one half in the freezer. Defrost it overnight and again refresh in a warm oven (as mentioned above).

I bake this bread at a cooler temperature and for longer than I would for a typical loaf, as I want low and slow and not crusty, this also stops the butter and cheese from burning.

You are going to get covered in garlic butter if you’re anything as messy as me…


  • Large bowl and a small heatproof (microwaveable)  bowl
  • Scraper
  • Loaf tin – 1lb / about 8cm x 26cm (and about 8cm deep)
  • Linen tea towel
  • Baking parchment or greaseproof paper
  • Knife
  • Spoon

Ingredients for the bread

  • Extra strong white bread flour – 320 g*
  • Durum wheat flour (semola rimacinata) – 80 g*

* You can just use 400 g of extra strong white bread flour if you can’t get hold of the semola/durum wheat

  • Water – 280 ml (only just tepid)
  • Olive oil – 1 tablespoon
  • Salt, fine (bought fine or freshly milled) – 1 teaspoon (5 g)
  • Fast action dried yeast – 1 teaspoon (5 g)

Ingredients for the garlic butter

  • Butter, salted – 140 g
  • Garlic – about 5 cloves, peeled and crushed (you may want a few cloves less if you’re not a keen or the cloves are extra large?)
  • Dried oregano – 1 to 1¼ teaspoons
  • Grated hard cheese (your choice of cheese, but something like Cheddar, red Leicester or Gouda are good) – about 40 g
  • Possibly some extra salt, to taste


  1. Mix all the ingredients for the bread (flour, salt, yeast, water, and oil) together in a large bowl – I prefer to use a table knife for this process, though you may like to use fingers, a flexible dough scraper or a dough hook on your machine. It will form a very rough-looking sticky mess. This is fine
  2. Leave for five – ten minutes
  3. Tip out on to a clean surface and use your scraper to get all of the residue out. Have your flour and scraper handy
  4. Knead the dough until the surface becomes silky and smooth – this will be about 10 – 12 minutes
  5. If – and only if – the dough is far to sticky to work with, dust a little flour on to the table. Otherwise you should persevere with kneading the dough without adding any more flour (this actually will change the ratio of flour to liquid and other ingredients so it’s best not to dust if you can). It should eventually start to come together without the flour and you can use your scraper from time to time to ensure all the dough is getting kneaded by scraping along the surface
  6. When the dough starts to come together, lightly oil the bowl (it’s easiest to oil your fingers and swiipe round the bowl) with flour to prevent it sticking. If you have not managed to take the dough out without leaving a lot behind, you may want to use a clean bowl
  7. Roll the dough up into a dome and place in the oiled bowl
  8. Cover the bowl either with the tea towel/cloth or cling film (or if you have one a cheapo shower cap is ace for this)
  9. Leave to rise somewhere that isn’t cold until the dough looks like it’s about twice the height it was before. This could be anywhere from 50 minutes to three hours depending on how cold a space you have)
  10. Soften the butter in the small dish (in a microwave is easiest for a few seconds) but don’t go so far that it melts (you’ll have to start again if you do)
  11. Mix in the crushed or minced garlic and the oregano
  12. I know it’s raw garlic, but taste a little of the butter – add additional salt, oregano or more crushed garlic as you see fit. I should be pretty punchy as it’s going to be spread throughout the whole loaf. Set aside somewhere not too cool
  13. Prepare the tin by using a large strip of baking parchment/paper that will lay across and into your tin, with plenty extra overspill on each side. Don’t worry about putting extra paper on the two ends of the loaf tin – there’s plenty of garlic butter to stop the loaf sticking: this is just to help you get it out of the tin and to help keep the garlic butter in the loaf
  14. Using a large teaspoon or so of the garlic butter, grease the lined tin (you may find it easier to dot a little of the butter on the tin to adhere the paper) so it will coat the outside of the loaf. Set aside
  15. Tip out the risen dough gently into your counter top or table. Knock back the air from the dough
  16. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle. The size and shape of the rectangle doesn’t matter that much – but having fairly good corners will help. Aim for the dough to be about 1 cm thick (as consistently as possible)doughRectangleForBookshelfBread.jpg
  17. Slather the garlic butter all over the rolled-out dough
  18. Using your loaf tin as a guide, you’re aiming to cut out as many squares as possible from the dough that match the width of the small end of the tin – mine is around 8cm. I get 10 or 12 squares out of my dough (depending on how effective I’ve been in rolling it out!)
  19. Don’t match the height of the tin as this is a smaller measurement. You want to have the layers of dough protruding out the top of the tin, not level with it, so match the smaller end width for your squares
  20. Holding the loaf tin at a slight angle (rest a short end on the table and lift up the other short end) start placing the squares of dough into the tin one by one, like books on a bookshelf. (If you don’t angle the tin you’ll just have a crumpled heap of dough)
  21. If you get to the end of the dough squares and still have some empty space in the tin, cut a square of baking paper and lay it against the last ‘slice’ of dough, then crumple up a bit of extra baking paper lightly and wedge this into the gap – this will hold it in place yet still have enough ‘give’ to allow the dough to expand horizontally. If it all fits perfectly in the tin, then that’s greatBookshelfBread_preBake
  22. Leave for a second proof – about 30 – 40 minutes
  23. Once the dough has risen, turn on your oven to 180° C fan / 200° C conventional
  24. Place the loaf in the oven and set a timer for 40 minutes
  25. Check the look of the loaf (without opening the oven door) after 30 minutes. If it’s browning too quickly turn the oven down by 20 degrees or cover with some greased foil
  26. After 40 minutes, sprinkle the top of the loaf with the grated cheese and return to the oven for another 5 minutes
  27. Leave to cool until it can be handled, then lift out with the baking paper
  28. The bread can be re-warmed in a low oven (about 120° C fan / 140° C conventional) for 10 minutes or so if you’re not eating it straightaway, and as mentioned about it can be frozen

Bacon and shallot wholemeal spelt soda bread

spelt baconAh, it may be the simplest of loaves but don’t be fooled as soda bread can be delicious. The use of rich, nutty wholemeal spelt flour and the classic bacon and shallot filling makes this quick loaf a useful recipe to have on hand.


Makes one medium sized loaf

Takes about 25 minutes’ preparation time (most of this is the bacon and shallots!) and 30 minutes in the oven

The delightful people at Craggs & Co where I order my spelt flour from have kindly added this to their website.


  • 2 shallots
  • 100g lean bacon (or about 5 slices)
  • 450g wholegrain spelt flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tbsp cider or white wine vinegar
  • 245ml milk


  • Set your oven 220°C fan / 240°C conventional
  • Lay a piece of greaseproof paper in the bottom of a baking tray and dust lightly with a little extra flour
  • Peel and finely dice the shallots
  • Remove the majority of the fat off the bacon and cut into fine shreds
  • Fry the shallots and bacon together in a lightly oiled frying pan until both are starting to brown (and the bacon is cooked throughout)
  • Drain the bacon and shallots on a piece of kitchen towel to remove excess oil and then toss into the flour
  • In a large bowl, roughly mix together the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda
  • Tip 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar into a measuring jug and top up to the 260ml mark with milk
  • Put the milk and vinegar into the flour and quickly begin to mix (you must mix without delay as the bicarbonate is already starting to work)
  • Bring the dough together until it is thoroughly mixed and the bacon and shallots are evenly spread but don’t overwork it.  You do not need to knead as with a yeast-leavened bread
  • Form into a round or oval shape and, using a long sharp knife, make a deep cross in the dough (you want to cut about 90% through the loaf, just leaving a little join on the bottom)
  • Place immediately in the middle on the oven
  • Cook for 10 minutes and then turndown your oven heat to 200°C fan / 220°C conventional for another 20 minutes

Summer season baked nectarine cheesecake with a biscuit and pink peppercorn base


This is a rich, baked cheesecake. The bottom crunchy layer has the addition of crushed pink peppercorns and ground almonds, which gives a fabulous texture and a nice zingy tang to each mouthful, complementing the nectarines.


As a sort of aside, I’ve made this cheesecake while recovering from a (routine) hand operation (no, I’m not fishing for sympathy – that’s not me – and it’s all simple and straightforward so please don’t worry). I would normally make this without the use of a food processor (even though I do own one) except for the biscuit-crushing for which it is oh-so much easier than bashing them with a rolling pin, though that will work admirably. I have fallen heavily on the use of my processor in recent days to help me cook, including using it to chop veg, although I couldn’t cook at all for the first week – and it’s been a godsend. Also, a big thanks to my sons who have done some of the heavy work, like crush peppercorns, lift my processor out of the cupboard for me and move the tins in and out of the oven. It gets them learning about baking and they get a cheesecake that I wouldn’t be able to make on my own with one temporarily rubbish paw.

I have made this cheesecake previously (you know by now I try hard to make recipes a few times to ensure they are accurate) but I did have full use of both hands when it was made in the past!

To make sure the loose-bottom cake tin is fully watertight (so the cheesecake doesn’t leak out nor the waterbath leak in) lay a sheet of greaseproof/baking parchment over the bottom, then a layer of foil on that. Then fold it over slightly and close the ring as you would normally – it’ll be a little tougher to close but will be more watertight.

This takes only around an hour to make, but it does need several hours to cool and set properly – and ideally overnight. So it does require a little planning!

Oh and the last thing is, that pink peppercorns aren’t apparently pepper at all, but another dried berry with peppery overtones. As such, if you can’t get hold of it I would recommend swapping it for a half teaspoon of normal black pepper and the zest of a half an orange.

  • 20cm springform cake tin
  • Kitchen foil and baking paper/greaseproof paper
  • Large bowl and a medium (heatproof) bowl
  • Food processor for crushing the biscuits and the nectarines
  • Pestle and mortar or fill a peppermill with only pink peppercorns
  • Large ovenproof tin (large enough to fit your cake tin in)
  • Spatulas
  • Saucepan
  • Kettle
Ingredients – base
  • Digestive or other plain biscuits – 185g
  • Ground almonds – 30g
  • Unsalted butter, softened – 80g
  • Pink peppercorns, crushed – 1 teaspoon
Ingredients – cheesecake
  • Cream cheese (such as Philadelphia) – 250g
  • Double cream – 300ml
  • Eggs, large – three
  • Caster sugar – 125g
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Zest from a whole lemon
  • Two nectarines, stones removed
Additional –
  • Extra nectarines, sliced as a garnish
  • A kettle-full of boiling water for a water bath
  1. Take the base off the springform tin and cut or rip off a piece each of kitchen foil and baking paper, each slightly bigger than the base
  2. Lay these two sheets of foil one on top of the other and cover the base, smoothing it out and over the edges, making it tight. Don’t bunch it up at the edge/rim
  3. This little trick is to make the springform tin a little more water-tight and to replace the need for a baking sheet
  4. Clip the foil-covered base into the tin – it will be a bit harder than normal (you may need to push down any bunched-up areas) but it will ensure it fits more snugly
  5. Crush the peppercorns into fine crumbs in the pestle and mortar (if you’ve not got them in a peppermill)
  6. Warm your butter until it is just starting to melt
  7. Whizz up the digestives, ground almonds and peppercrons in your blender (or put them in a tea towel, making sure it is folded or twisted and bash with a rolling pin)
  8. Tip the warmed butter into the digestive crumbs and whizz mix together again
  9. Tip into the springform tin and press down with a silicon spatula (I found recently that it sticks less often than using the back of a spoon as I was used to) until it is as even as possible
  10. Leave to one side
Method – cheesecake mix
  1. Turn your oven on to 170C fan / 190C conventional
  2. Cut the nectarines into pieces and whizz them up in your food processor
  3. In a large bowl tip in all the ingredients – the cream, the cream cheese, the caster, the eggs, the lemon juice and zest and the nectarine pulp and mix until all the cream cheese lumps are smoothed through
  4. Tip all the cheesecake mix slowly into the tin while trying not to dislodge the biscuit base
  5. Place the cake tin inside the larger oven proof tin and boil your kettle up
  6. Pour the kettle-full of water into the tin to create a water bath and quickly get the whole lot into your hot oven
  7. Bake for 45 minutes – you may want to turn your tins 180 degrees 10 minutes before the end if you have an oven with a pronounced hotspot at the rear
  8. After 45 minutes, turn off the oven
  9. Take the tins out, remove the cake tin from the water bath and put the cake tin back on an over rack on its own (you can now discard the water bath)
  10. Keep the oven door open a little now – if it won’t stay open by itself, jam the handle of a wooden spoon half way down the door to keep it ajar
  11. Leave the cheesecake in for another 10 minutes
  12. Remove the cheesecake – it should have a voluptuous wobble in the middle when you jiggle the tin (this will set further as it cools)
  13. Leave to cool in the tin for a good couple of hours at least
  14. Make sure the tin is cool to the touch before you try to open the spring and remove the tin ring – if in doubt take a very sharp plain bladed knife and run just the very tip of the blade round the edge of the cheesecake (don’t put the whole knife down the side – you only want to break the join between the surface and the tin)
  15. Then, keeping it on the loose tin bottom for now (until it’s fully firmed or you risk breaking it), transfer to the fridge for at least another two hours, preferably overnight (this is better on day two)
  16. Just before serving, de-stone and slice the remaining two nectarines and arrange them on top