Chocolate-hazelnut spread sandwich biscuits

Gorgeous and deceptively easy to make sandwich biscuits. I normally waffle on for ages before my recipes, but there’s little to say except go make these! They only take about 20 mins of actual preparation (ignoring the rest-in-the-fridge time and cooling) and bake even quicker.

Use any gianduja, Nutella or similar spread for this. It’s unlike me to not make everything from scratch, but I needed a quick show-stopper cookie and a jar of pre-made saved a lot of time.

Notes

  • These biscuits get a little extra ‘snap’ with the addition of semola/semolina flour (made from hard durum wheat). However, you can just use ALL plain flour instead (so use 270g plain flour) or you can substitute rice flour for the semola
  • I cut out the little shaped holes in the biscuits before baking, but I also re-cut them after they had just been baked (when still warm) to give a sharp definition as these biscuits do spread a little
  • If you don’t have a tiny cutter for the centres on the top halves, then you can use the large end of a piping nozzle.
  • Makes about 13-14 finalised sandwiches (about 26-28 actual single biscuit shapes)
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Equipment

  • 2 large baking sheets, prepared with baking parchment/greaseproof paper or silicon sheets
  • Rolling pin
  • Small palette knife (or use the back of a spoon) for spreading
  • Large palette knife or fish slice (for lifting)
  • Large biscuit/cookie cutter – mine is 2.5 cm x 7.5 cm (3 Inch x 1 Inch), but use what you have available
  • Smaller cutter for the middle cut-out (I used a small flower shape but any small cutter, approximately 1.5 cm in diameter will do, or substitute a piping nozzle)
  • Wire cooling rack

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter – 200g
  • Caster sugar – 100g
  • Plain flour or Tipo 00 flour – 220g – plus extra for dusting
  • Fine semolina flour (semola) – 50g (see notes above: can use all plain flour or substitute rice flour)
  • Salt 1/2 tsp
  • Vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract – 1 tsp

Plus:

  • Choc-hazelnut spread (gianduja or Nutella or similar) – about 200 – 250g

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the biscuit dough together (all but the choc-hazelnut spread). Aim for a smooth dough but don’t overwork it
  2. You’ll need to dust both your work surface and your rolling pin quite liberally with flour for these biscuits (due to the high quality of butter in them)
  3. Roll out the dough to about 4mm thick and cut out the biscuit shapes with your cutter
  4. Make the biscuits in pairs: one solid biscuit and one biscuit with a little cut-out, using the smaller cutter (or piping nozzle tip)
  5. Re-roll any scraps (including those produced by little cutter) and cut out more shapes until you’ve used all your dough.
  6. You need to have an even number of biscuits to make the sandwiches, but don’t worry if there’s one rogue one, it can be eaten on its own or replace one that may have snapped!
  7. Make sure that for every complete biscuit there is a biscuit with a little shape stamped out
  8. Using the large spatula/fish slice gently place them on the prepared baking trays
  9. They will spread a little (especially if you miss out the next step of chilling) so leave some space between them
  10. Chill for 15 minutes, and while they’re chilling put your oven on – fan oven at 180˚C, or 200˚C conventional or 400˚F
  11. Bake in the bottom or centre of the oven for about 14 minutes. They should just be starting to brown at the edges
  12. Leave to cool for one minute – no more – and while they are still in the trays, use your small cutter to go over the cut-out shapes to sharpen them up. Leave tidying up these trimmed bits until the biscuits are fully cooled or you may risk denting the biscuits
  13. Leave to cool in the trays for a further 15 minutes and then transfer to the wire rack. Ensure they’re fully cooled before filling so they won’t melt the spread

To assemble

  1. Firstly, gently poke out any bits of biscuit within the cut-out areas to smarten them up
  2. Spread a thick layer of the chocolate-hazelnut spread over the bottom half biscuit (ie a biscuit with no hole in it) with a small palette knife or the back of a spoon
  3. Gently place one of the tops (a biscuit with a shape cut out) onto the biscuit base you’ve just covered
  4. Repeat for all of the biscuits and place on a baking tray or in any container and chill in your fridge for at least 10 minutes (this stops the spread melting into the biscuit and making it soggy, and helps with storage)
  5. You can keep them in the fridge, but they’ll also keep in an airtight container well providing it’s not in too warm an environment (otherwise the spread will start to melt)
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Chilli salt grissini

Grissini - inksugarspice

I have written a previous recipe for grissini (flavoured with olives, parmesan or seeds) which is a good, reliable recipe. It may seem odd to be writing a second grissini recipe but I believe it differs enough to warrant a write-up: these grissini are taper-thin and have an exceptional crunch to them. I’ve also rolled them in a chilli salt mix. They’re awesome on their own as a light snack but are wonderful with a melted cheese dip or something rich and tomato-y.

As I mentioned in the original grissini recipe, homemade breadsticks are simply miles ahead of the hideous pre-packed ones. I’ll repeat what I said in the original: once you’ve made your own grissini you can’t go back. The bonus is that they are one of the simplest yeasted bread recipes to make and are very impressive (especially when you know they’re pretty easy).

Notes

Makes about 30-40 breadsticks, dependent on the length you’ve rolled the dough out to.

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • *Stand mixer with dough hook attachment (if not kneading by hand)
  • Pizza cutter or long sharp knife (non-serrated)
  • Two large baking trays, lined with parchment
  • Rolling pin
  • Pastry brush
  • Clean linen tea towel or cling film

Ingredients

  • Tipo 00 or plain white flour – 150g
  • Strong white bread flour – 150g (plus a little extra for dusting)
  • Fast acting yeast – 1 level teaspoon/5g
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon
  • Extra virgin olive oil – 1 and 1/4 tablespoons (I used Filippo Berio’s)
  • Water, just tepid – 200 ml
  • Added ingredients:
    • An egg, whisked lightly for brushing
    • either 3 tablespoons of my fiery chilli salt mix
    • or
    • 3 tablespoons rock salt + 1 tablespoon of chilli flakes

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the bread dough together (tipo 00 flour, bread flour, yeast, salt olive oil and water) into a scruffy mess
  2. Leave for 10 minutes to autolyse (this period helps the gluten develop initially before kneading)
  3. Tip out and knead for 8 – 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and glossy (or mix in your stand mixer if you prefer not to knead by hand)
  4. Lightly oil the bowl you were using and pop the dough back in, and cover it with a tea towel or cling film until it has risen by about half as much again (it won’t ‘double in size’). This could be anything between 30 – 90 minutes depending on the ambient temperature
  5. When the dough is ready, lightly flour your working surface and tip out your dough onto it
  6. Flour your rolling pin and roll the dough out in as precise a rectangle as possible to about 0.5 cm / 1/4 inch thick (or as near as you can get it – don’t worry too much)
  7. Leave to rest covered with a tea towel for about 20 minutes
  8. Set the oven on to 200C fan / 220C conventional
  9. When rested (and risen a little) use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut as many 0.75cm / 1/3 inch strips as you can from your dough rectangle

    Grissini - inksugarspice
  10. Scatter the chilli salt mix in a spread out pile on your working surface
  11. Using a pastry brush, spread the beaten egg lightly over the dough strips, turning them over to coat both sides
  12. Taking a strip of dough at a time, roll it gently in the salt and chilli, trying not to press too hard as you only want to roll the dough into a more rounded shape rather than lengthen it – the salt and chilli should stick on
  13. Carefully transfer the dough strip to your lined baking tray
  14. Repeat with all the dough strips, so they are all covered in the chilli and salt

    Grissini - inksugarspice
  15. Make sure there is a little space between all the dough strips on the baking trays and aim to line them up straight
  16. Set the oven on to 200C fan / 220C conventional
  17. Bake for about 14-16 minutes until a nice golden colour
  18. Leave to cool in the trays
  19. They should be crisp with a nice ‘snap’ when fully cooled
Grissini - inksugarspice
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Make a flower and herb press

Dried flowers - Making a flower press | Ink Sugar Spice blog

Welcome to an article that will help you make your own flower press from two old cork-backed placemats ~ although you can use these instructions with any boards/ply that is cut to size.

Dried, pressed flowers and herbs can be used in a variety of crafts, and as this is such an easy make, why not create your own pretty flower press?

It’s a simple make but one that will last you forever.

Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Notes

I’ve also given additional instructions for preparing the boards for painting, should you wish to customise your press once complete (as I have done in some of the images). However, by using a placemat with an existing image, it will still look good.

You will need a sturdy surface on which to make the press, as you need to both drill and hammer. A solid or portable workbench with clamps is ideal. However, you can still make this at home if you have a strong working surface that will survive being pummelled with a hammer. Better if you have some scrap wood over which you can drill holes without damaging any surface.

Please do go on to read the hints and tips on this accompanying article on how to use a press and dry pressing plants.

Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Equipment and materials

  • Two cork-backed placemats, typically 29 cm x 21.5 cm (or two 4 – 8mm depth boards, cut to a similar size)
  • Cardboard or an old cardboard box – enough to cut out six pieces of card using one of your placemats as a template
  • 4 carriage bolts (M6) and wing nuts – 6mm thread x 65mm bolt length is ideal (and what I have used)
  • 8 washers to fit the carriage bolts (and wide enough to cover the drilled hole, as this will depend on the drill bit size used)
carriage bolts, wing nuts and washers needed for the flower press
The four carriage bolts, four wingnuts and eight washers necessary for the flower press
  • Cutting mat or other surface protector
  • Sharp craft blade
  • Straight edge
  • Pen/pencil
  • Centrepunch (or a large nail) and hammer
  • Half moon cutter (if you have one – this is not essential but will give you the same results as my example)
  • Drill and 8 or 9mm wood drill bit
  • Sanding block or medium sand paper (about 120 grit)
  • Clamps, if possible (though I did test that you can handhold the placemats as you are drilling, as they are simple and quick to drill through)
  • Scrap piece of wood (to use as drill guard)

Additional equipment if painting the boards:

  • White primer aerosol paint
  • Paints or permanent markers of your choice
  • Matt clear aerosol varnish

Additional materials for use

  • Blotting paper or alternative – please see the guide on Using a flower press for a run down of materials and suggestions

Method

  • First of all, cut out the six cardboard inners, using one of the placemats as a template. Draw an outline round the placemat onto the cardboard and cut out with your craft knife. Now use this first one as a template for all the others: draw round it, cut out and repeat until you have six pieces
  • Next, mark where the drill points will be on each placemat: at each corner measure in 2 cm in from both edges and make a mark with your pen or pencil (you can cut a 2 cm x 2 cm square of card and use this as a guide if you wish)
marking the drill holes for the flower press
Marking the drill holes for each corner
  • Put a placemat cork-side down on a robust surface, such as a concrete floor, over a table leg (protecting the table first) or a workbech. Place the centrepunch (or the large nail) on one of your corner marks and hit the centrepunch with the hammer. This will make a guide indentation for your drill, to stop the drill from slipping. Repeat until all eight marks have been punched (four at each corner of both placemats)
  • Put a placemat cork-side down on the scrap piece of wood (if using). Position one of the punched marks over your scrap piece of wood and overhang the work surface (so you drill through into thin air, not your table!). Clamp down if possible
  • Position the tip of the drill bit into the punched mark, and drill through the placemat right into the scrap wood. By using some scrap wood underneath you minimise tearing of the cork (though some may still happen – don’t worry this won’t affect the press’ use – see the next point)
  • Drill all eight holes and then sand off any burrs and rough edges. (If the cork has ripped or torn at all during drilling, don’t worry! Just trim off the ripped edges with your craft knife and sand down. It won’t affect the press at all if some cork has been shorn off as this is outside the actually pressing area)
  • Place a washer on each of the four carriage bolts and push them through the holes of one placemat – make sure the picture side of the placemat has the bolt heads (and the cork is “inside” the press)
The carriage bolt (with washer, unseen, on the underside) pushed through the newly drilled hole in the mat for the flowerpress
A carriage bolt through the newly-drilled hole (a washer has been placed between the bolt head and the board, which is on the unseen underside. Note that the cork layer is on the ‘inside’
  • Now slice off a triangle on the corners of all six cardboard pieces. Just cut enough so they can fit in the press (if you have a half moon punch, as I have used, you can do this instead)
Cutting the corner off the cardboard inners, note that it's close to the drilled hole so that you keep as large an area of card for pressing as possible
Punching out the corner so that the card inners fir within the carriage bolts – you don’t have to have a half moon punch, just slice a triangle off each corner instead
  • Place all six cardboard pieces in the press and put the second placemat on top, feeding the carriage bots through the holes on this placemat. Keep the picture side upwards, so the cork is inside
Layering up the sized and cut inner cardboard inners
  • Pop the remaining washers on the bolts, then screw on the four wingnuts
the finished corner - with carriage bolts, washers and wingnuts in place and all six layers of carboard inners
How each corner should end up – a board, six layers of cardboard, the other board and all fixed with a carriage bolt, washers and wingnut at each corner. Note how the cork side of each board is facing inside

Your press is now ready!! However, you can customise/paint the placemats. To do this:

  • take off the boards from the press
  • sand down the picture side of the placemat
  • wipe off any dust and spray with the white primer (remember to do this in a well ventilated area)
  • paint, draw, decoupage or decorate the placemat as you see fit
  • once dry reassemble the press

To use (briefly)

  • Sandwich plants, leaves and flowers between two pieces of blotting material (see advice here) within each layer of the press
  • You can utilise up to seven layers for pressing plants, so you can do as little or as much as you like at the same time. You have two layers that are cork and cardboard, and five spaces between the cardboard laters (remember to use two blotting sheets with every layer)
Separating herbs and petals, so they don't touch, on blotting paper as a layer in a flower press | Ink Sugar Spice
  • When you have loaded the flowers into the press, push down on the boards as much as you can with all your weight using one hand while screwing on the wingnuts with the other (or get someone to push down for you). This initial weight/pressure will enable you to tighten the press more and facilitate the flattening/drying process
  • Plants will need at least two weeks to dry, thicker/more succelent-type plants will need longer
  • Keep somewhere dry
  • Check the press regularly to see if it needs tightening as the moisture is lost from the plants (you can do this without disturbing the plants)
  • Replace the blotting paper when it becomes discoloured or damaged
  • You may need to replace the cardboard layers from time to time as they become indented from use

Check out my some hints and tips on using your flower and herb press in the following article:

Using a flower press
Ensuring plants are dry before putting them in a flower press | Ink Sugar Spice
Making a flower press | Ink Sugar Spice blog
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Mini Easter egg biscotti

Mini Easter egg biscotti biscuit recipe - Ink Sugar Spice

Biscotti, I’m sure you know means ‘twice baked’ in Italian, and that’s exactly what you have to do with these lovely little biscuits. They make wonderful gifts packaged up in waxed paper, placed in gift boxes or wrapped in raffia.

I’ve also given two options on the second cooking time, 7-8 minutes will produce a marginally softer end biscuit, as I know some don’t like the hardness of a traditional baked biscotti. However, if you do want that typical hard biscuit to dip into your cappuccino or mocha, then just leave them in for the full 12 minutes.

You could use large chocolate chunks, or something like M&Ms, instead of mini eggs for biscuits that will go down a treat at any time of year, not just Easter.

I’ve used a mild olive oil for these, so there’s no need to waste your expensive extra virgin oil (and also the taste of the higher quality oils aren’t needed here)

Notes

  • It doesn’t matter if you use sugar-coated mini eggs or just solid chocolate ones. Equally use your favourite chocolate, whether that’s milk or dark (white is a bit too sweet for this bake)
  • Makes around 30 biscotti
  • Takes 10 minutes to prepare and around 40 minutes to bake in total (this includes cooling for 10 minutes in between the bakes)
Mini Easter egg biscotti biscuit recipe - Ink Sugar Spice
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Two large baking sheets (or multiple small ones/cook in batches)
  • Baking paper/parchment (if it’s not reliably non-stick, wipe a kitchen towel moistened with olive oil over it)
  • Sharp knife, a heavy one is most useful
  • Spatula/slices (for lifting)
  • Wire airing rack

Ingredients

  • Plain flour or Tipo 00 flour – 270g
  • Baking powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon
  • Eggs, medium/large sized – 2
  • Caster sugar – 120g
  • Olive oil – 95ml
  • Vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon
  • Mini chocolate Easter eggs – 2 x typical 80g packs

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 160 C fan or 180 C conventional (325 F)
  2. Line your baking trays with the parchment
  3. Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, caster sugar, olive oil and vanilla extract and bring this gooey dough together in the bowl
  4. Now gently mix in the eggs
  5. Have your worktop/table covered in a light dusting of flour
  6. Take the mix out of the bowl and divide into two
  7. Shape each piece of dough into a long, slightly flattened log about 6cm in width
  8. You may want to press in a few additional eggs into the top of the dough, so they are seen after baking
  9. Bake for 20 mins until just starting to brown
  10. Take the bakes out of the oven, but do not turn your oven off
  11. Leave the bakes to cool, still sat on their baking trays
  12. After about 10-12 minutes they should be cool enough to slice
  13. Using a sharp knife, cut off 1 cm / 0.5 inch slices and lay them on their sides on the baking trays (like in the image below)
Mini Easter egg biscotti - on Ink Sugar Spice
  1. Place the sliced biscuits bake in the oven
  2. Leave them for 8 minutes for a shortbread-like consistency or for 12 minutes if you would like hard biscotti to dunk in your coffee
  3. Leave to cool and store in an airtight container for 3 – 4 days (up to a week if you baked them harder)
Mini Easter egg biscotti biscuit recipe - Ink Sugar Spice
Mini egg biscotti - Ink Sugar Spice
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Covering a sketchbook or journal

I have a big stationery habit! It started at school in the ’80s a time when scented erasers, funky pens and doodled-all over school books were the norm. I’ve never grown out of it ans still get excited when I pass a new, shiny stationery display. Over the course of the last couple of years stationery is getting trendy again, and with the rise in journalling (another anti-digital, analogue hobby) there are a lot of beautiful-to-use things out there.

I love to spruce up a fairly ordinary sketchbook, diary or journal to put my own additional creative stamp on them. I thought I’d share how I do this, as you might want to try.

Here are my instructions on how to cover a book and what you’ll need to make something really personal to you.

And, if you’re feeling extra creative you can even cover your book in paper you’ve printed, drawn on, photocopied or decoupaged yourself for an extra personal touch or use fabric rather than paper for a very tactile and unique cover.

In this example below I’m using a two very plain journals/sketchbooks one with rounded corners and a thick spine, and one with square corners and a stapled cover. This is so I can demonstrate the little differences in the covering techniques needed and so you can adjust your requirements for your own books accordingly.

Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Covering a favourite book or journal can protect and provide a repair for damaged covers too. If you have a book that is ripped for instance, repair the rip as best you can first (I’d suggest a strong fabric-backed tape) and then cover it as per the instructions below.

I’ve also got some examples below of journals and sketchbooks that I’ve already been using (or have filled up!) just to illustrate a few different coverings – see the images at the bottom of the article.

In my next craft article I’ll show you how to add on an elastic fastening to any journal-style book for a final touch.

Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Notes

  • You can cover a sketchbook, book, journal, diary etc that you want, but I’ll just refer to sketchbook here for simplicity
  • It doesn’t matter what size sketchbook you’re using, you’ll just need to size your paper or fabric accordingly
  • Spray mount is a bit smelly and not to be breathed in if at all possible. There’s not a viable alternative for this (glue wets the paper too much and you get a lot of wrinkles and tears and tape just doesn’t fit the bill – I have tried). So, spray the glue on somewhere very well ventilated or even go outside for this bit
  • Make sure your work surface is flat and clean – you don’t want any marks in your work (apart from ‘A+’!)
  • There are two main types of spine to consider – which will affect the way the cover is applied around the spine and I’ll cover the two different ways to get round these in the instructions
    • books with thick spines – these have a lot of signatures (folded pages), which have been stitched and/or then glued together in groups and a hard spine protecting the stitching. These stitched (and sometimes glued) signatures are now often stuck straight to the spine (a modern cheaper method), or they have a gap because of the full, traditional and skilled bookbinding technique. (If you want to know more about bookbinding and its terms, a good references is this City & Guilds course PDF from Shepherd’s Bookbinders website).
    • slim books, where one group of signatures is stitched or staple straight onto a card cover

Materials that can be used include:

  • Wrapping paper (as long as it feels fairly heavy duty – thin wrap won’t last)
  • Art, watercolour or handmade papers
  • Plain paper that you’ve painted, drawn or printed on yourself (though I would recommend nothing lower than about 90gsm)
  • Non-sticky thin plastics
  • Oilcloth/waterproof fabrics
  • Sticky-backed vinyl*
  • Cotton or cotton rich dressmaking fabric (note that: stretchy, knitted or thin fabrics make terrible coverings)
  • Clear protective film, this sticky-backed stuff is great for protecting and strengthening flimsy books (or to protect repairs). You can cover any book/journal with it on its own: of course, you won’t get a new look but you can also cover your book/journal first with a paper or fabric and then use this as a ‘second coat’ for added protection

*You can complete this whole process with sticky-backed vinyl. Of course, you won’t need to use spray mount glue. Only peel off the backing just before you are ready to press the cover on to the sketchbook

Equipment

  • Your sketchbook, journal, diary or any book that you want to cover
  • Soft pencil (for example a 2B)
  • Paper or fabric for covering
  • Large straight edge
  • Cutting mat or board – something that you don’t mind getting stretched and cut
  • Sharp craft knife or Stanley knife
  • Sharp scissors
  • Spray mount aerosol can
  • A bone or plastic folding tool, otherwise you can use the rounded-end of a table knife, a lollystick, or something similar
  • Additionally, you may want some pretty tape for an extra-neat finish, such as masking tape or washi tape
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Method

Note on cover pattern/image alignment:

If you have a image or patterned cover material, you will want to select the area you are going to use carefully.

For geometric or repeating patterns, be very careful to ensure any straight lines are parallel with the edges of the sketchbook (or, alternatively at a distinctive angle). Any slightly-off straight lines will be really annoying every time you pick up your sketchbook.

Though a large or abstract pattern doesn’t need aligning to the edge, you may want to ensure a specific part of the image is showing in the front of the sketchbook, the back or even along the spine.

A tip is to use the aesthetically pleasing rule of thirds. The centre of the image should be about a third of the cover height down from the top edge of the sketchbook, and aligned centrally: (as in this sketch).

placement of image on front cover

Preparing the cover paper

Double check that you have any pattern or image aligned as you want by placing the book on the patterned side of the paper – remember to cut out a piece larger than the WHOLE sketchbook (not just one side of it). If possible, open the sketchbook out fully or wrap the paper round the book

Make sure the design of the paper fits your sketchbook where you want it to, by aligning the pattern/design carefully before you cut
  1. In order to make it easier to handle, cut out an oversized piece of paper first, before cutting it down to its correct size for your sketchbook
  2. You can now draw the precise line you’re going to actually cut. The distance from the sketchbook outline to the cutting line depends on the size of your sketchbook, I would suggest:

For A5 and smaller sizes, leave a 2 cm margin

For A4-ish sizes, leave a 2.5 cm margin

For Foolscap/A3, leave a 3 cm margin

The reasons behind these margin sizes are mostly aesthetic (too small looks cheap and too large looks clumsy) but also because it’s best to make the margins large enough so they do not rub and unglue too easily

  1. Mark out the required distance from one edge with three separate measurements (three marks ensure accuracy)
  2. Draw a ruled line through all three marks
  3. Repeat on the other three edges, till you have an outer box drawn round the smaller inner sketchbook ‘silhouette’
  4. Cut out along this line

Preparing the corners

There are two ways to manage the corners, one for a square cut book or a rounded corner one:

For square cut books

  1. Taking one corner at a time, mark one 1mm* down from the corner on both sides
  2. Make a perpendicular cut from these points
  3. Cut the square of paper neatly off the corner.
  4. Repeat for all four corners, so you have removed square of paper from each and are left with a fat cross shape of paper

*(If your book is very thick, measure the card depth, for example 3mm and use this measurement instead)

Square corner preparation

For rounded corner books

  1. Round off each corner of the paper with scissors
  2. Locate a point on the sketchbook silhouette where a straight side turns into the rounded corner. Mark where this occurs on the paper
  3. Repeat this for all eight points where this happens (two for each corner)
  4. Make a perpendicular cut from these points, so you have four straight flaps of paper and four corner wedges
  5. In each corner wedge of paper, make two evenly spaced cuts to divide this wedge into thirds (three tiny wedges)
Rounded corners – and you can see the three ‘wedge’ shaped cuts (you can also see the cuts for the spine in the top of the picture)

Preparing for the spine

Rigid spines

  1. If your sketchbook has a rigid, thick spine you will need to make two cuts at the top and bottom of where the spine goes, creating two little flaps.
  2. Take a look at the spine: when you open the pages up, does the spine have a gap between the cover and the paper, or is it completely glued down?
  3. If your spine has a gap, you can neatly tuck down the flap into this gap, if not, the best we can do is fold it over the edge and cut off the excess

Stapled ‘spine’

  1. Thin sketchbooks, with few leaves are often simply stapled in to a card cover (think school exercise book). They’re not really enough to call it a spine. These are exceptionally easy to cover
  2. If your sketchbook is stapled to the internal pages in this manner, you can go straight to gluing 👉

Final cuts and gluing

  1. Now, spray the reverse side of the paper with the spray mount glue, following the instructions on the can. Make sure it’s a well ventilated area
  2. Using your original outline markings and the cut marks, position the spine of the sketchbook on the paper
  3. Pushing down slightly as you do this (to anchor the paper to the spine and create tension) ‘roll’ one side of the sketchbook onto the paper
  1. Lift up the sketchbook and smooth out the paper from the spine towards the long edge with your hand
  2. Place the sketchbook back on the table on its spine and now roll and press down the other side of the sketchbook onto the paper
  3. Check that it’s all aligned correctly. As you’ve used spray mount, there is some wiggle room to move the paper about if it has misaligned at all
  1. Press down all over the sketchbook to firm the paper down and press out any air bubbles (being careful not to press the overhanging paper edges together!)
  2. Pay particular attention to the creases of the spine (if your sketchbook has a thick spine), run the bone folding tools (or the blunt, rounded end of a pencil or a handle of a dinner knife etc) down the two spine creases to help secure the paper to these indentations
  3. Open the sketchbook up and fold over the corner pieces first (rounded corner books only)
  1. Fold over the sides and top pieces and press in place, if you have a stapled cover you should be able to gently bend over the internal pages and fold the cover down across the top and bottom of the sketchbook.
How the cover and the signatures (stitched pages) in a simple stapled sketchbook can be bent slightly so that you can easily fold over the new cover

If you have a stapled sketchbook this is now complete (apart from the finishing touches, below)

The inside of a square cut sketchbook, which has also been finished with washi tape
  1. If you have a sketchbook with a spine, you need to fold over the last piece of paper in one of two ways:
  1. For books with spines that have a gap: fold over each spine flap and using a bonefolder, a lolly stick or other thin, blunt item press the cover flap onto the back of the spine to adhere the glue (you won’t be able to get your finger in)
A sketchbook with a fabric cover – this sketchbook has been badly ripped and included a repair. The choice of fabric (rather than paper) also helps with strengthening the cover. This is a fully stitched spine which has a gap between the cover and the glued signatures – the flap of fabric is tucked into the gap and pressed in so it adheres to the back of the spine
  1. For books with spines that are glued in: after folding over the main pieces of paper on the inner covers, you’ll be left with a simple flap. Close the sketchbook and slice off this flap with a very sharp blade.
  2. You can get the neatest, straightest cut by laying the blade on the end of the book and slicing (being careful not to cut into the pages themselves.
  3. Smooth over the edge you’ve just cut with a finger to help it stick down fully
Simple glued spine (without gap) – the flap of paper is simply sliced off level with the edge of the sketchbook

If you have a sketchbook with a spine this is now complete, apart from the last finishing touches mentioned below

The final covered round-cornered sketchbook, with ‘Sheriff J Robot’ placed to the rule of thirds
The final covered little square cut sketchbook – I’ve been careful to keep the ‘lines’ of the images parallel/perpendicular to the edges of the book
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Finishing touches

Run the lollypop stick (or a bone or wood edger if you have one – or the back of your fingernail at a push) lightly round every edge of the book to ensure adherence and a crisp edge. This is especially important along any rounded corners to smooth out the corner cuts and make them less obvious

You can tape over the raw edges of the new cover (on the inner casing) with a pretty tape

You can also cut out two rectangles of your cover paper to fit the inside covers, using spray mount to fix them in

Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

I hope you’ve enjoyed covering your sketchbook/journal and the instructions were clear and comprehensive. I’d be grateful if you would leave a like and/or a comment if you’ve found this article useful

Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Easy dove grey crochet throw

Dove grey crochet throw in half shell stitch | Ink Sugar Spice

I’ve never posted a crochet article before, despite being fairly OK at it. I can’t be bothered to write down all those ‘SC’ and ‘YO’ instructions. I ‘freeform’ my crocheting, in that I never follow a pattern and I pretty much make it up as I go along, working to a sketch or an existing image I’ve found on Pinterest or elsewhere. If I need to remake it (such as the other glove!) I just copy the first item. I learnt to crochet and knit as a child, as my mum and one of my sisters were dab hands at both.

This project, however, is soo easy peasy that I thought I’d share (not much explanation needed from me). It barely qualifies as a ‘pattern’, but results in a lovely throw and can be adapted to any size you like. For instance, you could crochet two squares and make a cushion cover. I often sit there playing with stitches and patterns, unravelling what I’ve done if I don’t like it. This is exceptionally simple but does give a great, puffy and comfy half shell pattern in larger weight yarns (it’s not so great looking with finer yarns and smaller stitches).

I have made a video on the stitches for this throw – you can find it below. It’s not a particularly brilliant video (and slightly embarrasing!) but I hope it might help 🙂

Living room layout with dove grey crochet throw | Ink Sugar Spice
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Yarn

Use a heavy double knit yarn in a dove grey for this project. Of course you can change the colour but there’s something extra comforting – and currently bang on trend – about a fluffy dove grey blanket.

For my throw I used six x 100g balls in Robin Chunky, Silver.

At time of writing [Mar 2019] these were £2.05 each from a knitters’ market stall, so the throw cost me £12.30. This is an acrylic (100%) yarn as I wanted to be able to wash the throw without fear of shrinkage.

LoveCrafts – all things for knitting and crochet including plenty of DK yarn for this project. You can obtain 15% off your first order with Love Crafts. Just type in my name at the Checkout stage – Lynn Clark – to get the discount. [For transparency and honesty, I do also get 15% off an order if you use this discount code].

Hook

  • Size 7mm hook

Other tools

  • Large wool needle
  • Scissors/snips

Close up of the crochet throw | Ink Sugar Spice

Crochet stiches used

Normally people refer to the same crochet stitches: that is a double crochet means the same to most people but some crochets sites and patterns do list slight differences. To be clear, this is what I’m working to:

Single crochet

  • Your hook will already have one loop from the last stitch made. Put the hook through a chain.
  • Wind the yarn over the end of the hook: you now have three loops on your hook (the original loop, the chain loop and this new ‘yarned-over’ loop).
  • Drag the loop of yarn (you’ve just made) through the next loop along – you have two loops on your hook now.
  • Wind over another loop and then drag this through both loops on the hook. You’ve made one single crochet and are back to having a single loop on the hook.

Double crochet

  • Your hook will already have one loop from the last stitch made. Wind the yarn over the hook (now two loops on the hook).
  • Put the hook through a chain (you now have three loops on your hook). Wind the yarn over the end of the hook (four loops on the hook).
  • Drag the fourth loop of yarn through the chain loop (only) – you’re back to three loops on the hook.
  • Wind the yarn over the hook again (back to four loops on the hook) and drag this through loops two and three (now two loops remaining).
  • Wind the yarn over yet again (back to three loops) and drag this through all the remaining loops so that you have a single loop on your hook.

Notes

Leave a long tail on each new ball of wool join, so that you can weave the ends of the yarn in to the throw. If you weave in a long tail of yarn it is less likely to unravel and show after using and washing. Because this throw is loosely crocheted it is easy to weave the yarn end through without it showing up.

Stitch size/tension

Don’t fuss too much about getting the tension for this – it’s not a garment so doesn’t need to be exact to meet a size. I would recommend you crochet this loosely (nothing more specific than this instruction is needed), as generosity of stitch results in a softer finished item that ‘gives’ and moves, which is comfier in a blanket.

Joining balls of wool

Join balls of wool in the middle of a row of stitches, not at the end by tying a reef knot (or you can use the invisible Russian join if you prefer). Leave plenty of ‘ends’ to sew in later. Avoid joining at edges as usually the knot give a harsh, angular edge to the stitch which shows up at the edge of a project but which can be hidden in the middle of a row of stitches.


Length/number of rows and initial chain

I’ll leave you with the decision on how many rows – it depends on the end use of your blanket/throw and how much wool you’re willing to buy!

If you want to match the size of my completed throw, which measures 1m x 2.5m this is:

  • Foundation row of 120 stitches
  • 110 rows, excluding the initial foundation row (remembering that each row, excluding the foundation row, is actually three stitches tall)

Foundation/chain row

Tie a loop and then crochet a chain that is a multiple of three (3). I used a row of 120 for my throw.

First row

*In the third chain from the hook make one single crochet.

In the next chain, make one double crochet

Skip two chains*

Repeat between the * * for the whole way along

At the end stitch of the row, you’ll have two loops over your hook: just loop the yarn over the hook and pull through. Turn.

Second row onwards – including the final row

Repeat as for the first row, but the chain in which you insert your hook (every third chain along) is very easily visible:

*In the third chain from the hook make one single crochet.

In the next chain, make one double crochet

Skip two chains*

Repeat between the * * for the whole way along

Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Finishing

When you have made your throw as large as you require, finish your final row with those last two loops on your hook. Cut off the yarn with at least 12 cm / about 6 inches spare and thread the end through these two loops and pull tight to secure. (Don’t do the final extra stitch on your last row or you will get an unwanted sharper corner).

Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Sewing in

There is no substitute to properly hiding a loose end of yarn other than to weave it into the existing stitches. It’s tedious, but it works. It hides the end by mimicking the original pattern and secures the end, so that it does not (hopefully) come loose with wear or washing.

As an additional way to secure the end halfway through weaving an end in, I sew the needle through one actual loop of yarn (ie through the thread itself) as this anchors it and then do a little more weaving.

As this is the first crochet instructions I’ve written up I would be grateful to know if I’ve made any errors or made it too confusing!

Happy crocheting and enjoy the comfort of your fluffy throw.


Dove grey crochet throw in half shell stitch | Ink Sugar Spice
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Pikelets with balsamic strawberries

img_0397-1

This feeds four or a very greedy two for breakfast or for a Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday) treat.

At home growing up we always referred to these as pikelets. You may know them as drop scones or American-style pancakes too. They fluff up in the pan due to the addition of a leavening agent: not something you’d add to a traditional British pancake or a crepe.

Notes

  • Takes 10 minutes to prepare, about 20 minutes to cook
  • Makes about 20 small pancakes that are roughly 10-12cm in size (not that I actually measure them!)
  • If you have buttermilk in your fridge, replace it for half of the milk for even richer pancakes
  • To add even more fruit, throw in a handful of sultanas or some chopped bananas or apple slices into the batter before frying
  • Don’t be gentle when flipping over the pancakes, or wait too long to turn them. They need to ‘splat’ down on the frying pan when they are turned on to their second side, so that the whole of that side is in contact with the heated surface. If you don’t do this or leave the first side cooking too long, the edges start to dry and you’ll get a mound in the middle rather than an even, flat side
  • Unlike other flat pancakes and crepes, this batter is best used straight away rahter than having been rested first

Equipment

  • Bowls – one large, one small
  • Fine sieve
  • Small ladle (volume capacity will be around 60 – 75ml, roughly equivalent to five tablespoons)
  • Frying pan/skillet
  • Flat spatula or fish slice for turning

Ingredients

  • Eggs – 3
  • Baking powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Salt – a pinch
  • Plain or Italian Tipo 00 flour – 250 g
  • Milk – about 200 ml (you may need a little more depending on your chosen flour)
  • Oil spray

To serve:

  • Strawberries – a small punnet/about 200 g
  • Caster sugar – two tablespoons
  • Balsamic vinegar (I’ve used Filippo Berio Gran Cru Balsamic Vinegar here)

Method

  1. Crack the eggs into the large bowl
  2. Sieve the flour in (to ensure there are no clumps of flour) and then add in the salt and the milk
  3. Whisk to combine: you’ll need some elbow grease to ensure there are no lumps of flour
  4. You are aiming for the consistency of custard (not too thin, not too thick: it needs to be ladled into circles but keep its shape in the pan)
  5. Now add in the baking powder and give a final whisk (as leaveners start working straight away, it’s best to add them in as the very final ingredient or their strength will peter out before frying)
  6. Put the frying pan on over a medium heat and spray a little oil into the pan
  7. Test the heat is ready by dropping a tiny amount of the batter into the pan – it should brown on the underside in about 30 seconds Strawberries and herbs - Ink Sugar Spice
  8. Take a ladleful of the batter and drop into the pan, smoothing out the batter with the underside of the ladle until it makes a circle, something like about 10 – 12cm across
  9. If you have a large enough pan, you can cook two or three at the same time
  10. Each pikelet will start to bubble after about 20 seconds. After the batter starts to change colour a little and the edge of the pikelet can be lifted with a spatula without it sticking to the frying pan, it’s ready to flip over. The top of the pikelet at this stage will still be raw, so will spread a little when flipped – this gives it its typical finish
  11. After another 20 – 30 seconds, check the pikelet by lifting an edge and checking
  12. Flip the pikelet on to a plate, and cover with a clean tea towel while you cook the others
  13. You will most likely need to spray a little more oil in the frying pan before each batch of batter
  14. Warm some plates for serving
  15. When the pikelets are all cooked, roughly chop the strawberries
  16. Place the chopped strawberries in a small bowl and sprinkle them with the caster sugar
  17. Drizzle some balsamic vinegar over the strawberries (depending on the strength of taste you prefer – start with a small drizzle and taste test)
  18. Allow the strawberries to macerate in the balsamic vinegar for two to three minutes, while you portion out the pikelets on to the warmed plates

To serve

  1. Pile a few of the pikelets up on each plate and spoon over some of the macerated strawberries, not forgetting a little of the delicious juice that’s gathered in the bottom of the bowl
  2. Extra delicious served with a spoonful of vanilla ice cream, mascarpone or clotted cream

Pikelets and balsamic strawberries recipe on Ink Sugar Spice

Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Nine top tips on artful bread scoring

White boule sourdough made with pomegranate molasses with flower scoring

White boule sourdough made with pomegranate molasses

I’ve been known to share more than a few images of my bread with stylised scoring and detailed plaiting techniques… it’s lead to a few comments over time asking me for hints. I’ve sidestepped this for a while, assuming that there are plenty of other out there, way better than me posting about it. I still believe that, but as I do continue to get asked I thought I’d write a short piece on slashing bread.

ALL the photos in this article are breads made by me, to my own recipes or to the tried and trusted standard loaf ratio: 400g flour, 5g yeast, 5g salt, 280ml water – or a slight variant thereof.

Some are flavoured, a few are sourdough. Notice that none of my scored loaves have large inclusions like fruit in or are of a brioche-style. A few have flavourings or malt flakes or flours other than strong white bread flour. This is because some recipes don’t really align themselves with slashing: strong sourdoughs, enriched breads, breads thick with inclusions like Bara Brith, composite breads or plaited or styled breads should all be left as they are already gorgeous and don’t slash well.

One exception is a rolled, enriched loaf with fillings which is simply cut in order to show off the fillings, such as this wild garlic scroll:

Wild garlic bread in a slashed scroll form

Wild garlic scroll

Best choose a ‘standard’, fairly simple loaf in a simple shape: a cob/boule, a bâtard, a bloomer, a stick etc to start off with and learn which recipes work as you progress. For a list of common breads shapes please see my article Bread shapes – making at home


So here are my top seven tips to bread scoring…


ONE: Have a sharp blade. A VERY sharp blade

A sharp blade slices through the sticky bread dough – using a blunt blade will drag and tear the ‘skin’ of the loaf. While a loaf is proving, the outer skin will dry somewhat, useful for keeping the shape of the loaf intact and for your scoring definition. This skin is minimal and your blade will cut through it and into the wetter dough underneath. If your blade is blunt it will catch and drag as you slice through the dough, causing puckering. It will also make manoeuvring the blade round corners and curves more difficult for you and can even mean you have to ‘re-cut’ the same cut over and over, which results in a very jagged and messy pattern.

White sourdough, with a minimal prove and a free-form scroll design

White sourdough, with a minimal prove and a free-form scroll design

You can use a strop and chalk to keep your blades sharper for longer (as for keeping leather and wood working tools sharp) but even if you do this, eventually your blades will need to be replaced. If you don’t use a strop then your blades will need replacing very frequently. Be careful to dispose of them safely and correctly.

Also, the thinner the blade the easier it is to use to cut and the less likely it is to drag. So, while you can get reasonable straight cuts from a highly sharpened normal kitchen knife (forget using one unless you’ve just sharpened it especially), it will only be good for basic straight cuts, like a cross. I have a locking No. 8 Opinel knife I keep exceptionally sharp that I use when I go on a self catering holiday – I confess I try and bake even when I’m away (the pouch ear bread below was baked in a holiday let kitchen!), although that also doubles up as my foraging knife.

White and chestnut flour boule with symmetrical diamond design

White and chestnut flour boule with symmetrical diamond design

Which blade to use? Craft knives and scalpel blades are effective, very sharp, cheap and easy to get hold of, store well and are my go-to blade of choice.

Razor blades – these are fab but lethal! You can get the traditional double blade cutthroat razor type (which usually are popped onto a grignette) and the safety type, which has only one sharp side. These are brilliant, but tricky to get used to employing without slicing off a layer of skin. If you’re using a double-edged blade on it’s own without a holder/grignette be careful! The best way to pick it up is between thumb and finger on the short edges only and watch out how you score as you’ll be exposing that flap of skin between your thumb and forefinger to the edge of the blade. Avoid if you’re worried and stick to a craft knife!!

Grignettes and lames: a grignette is the holder (with or without the blade in it) and a lame is just the blade. This is basically the go-to set up for creating slashes with height and forcing curvature on the bread cut. This occurs because (typically, but not always) the lame is placed slightly bent into the grignette, creating a curved blade. Using this curve opens up the cut at an angle as well as slicing downwards through the dough. This gives the skin of the loaf room to lift away from the bread causing maximum expansion. Really typical for use to create ear/pouch cuts and for baguette slicing.

Here is a short video I made on my YouTube Channel about making your own DIY baker’s blade:

Pouch slash loaf, cut using a curved grignette - notice how it's got maximum expansion and ripped the 'ear' away from the loaf

Pouch slash loaf, cut using a curved grignette – notice how it’s achieved maximum expansion and ripped the ‘ear’ away from the loaf


TWO: Lubricate the blade

Another way to stop the drag on the dough is to lubricate the blade. You don’t need this every time, but it’s helpful if you have a particular dough with a high hydration level. You can lubricate with water or with oil (any cooking oil is fine). If you use water, tap off the excess (without wiping dry) as the addition of extra hydration can cause the loaf to expand in ways you’re not expecting! With practice, you can get used to the way that this adds additional expansion to cuts in the loaf – sometimes I hydrate a blade on some cuts and not others. The oiling technique is more even and reliable, but don’t have the blade dripping in oil. The way I do it is to oil a sheet of kitchen towel and then swipe both slides of the blade over the oil.

Stoneground organic flour loaf with another of my Union Jack slashes

Stoneground organic flour loaf with one of my signature Union Jack slashes


THREE: Pre-plan if you’re not sure

The worst thing to do is hovering over the loaf, blade in hand thinking “What do I do?”. At least have an image in your mind before you start, or know the shape of the cuts you’re going to make (as in I’m going to make a stripy, freeform cut loaf). The best thing is to get some inspiration and to make a little sketch first.

I’ve gathered some of my own and others’ beautiful breads on a Pinterest board, which may help give your ideas or you can copy from (there are also other pretty breads that are not slashed on here).

And start with the basics, do something like a cross or a chequerboard design to begin with: it’s all just straight lines but looks totally impressive!

stoneground checquerboard cut loaf - simple straight cuts but totally effective

A stoneground checquerboard-cut loaf – simple straight cuts which are the easiest to achieve but give a totally effective and impressive slashed loaf

Graduate to something freeform and swirly (as below – no pre-planning) to get used to turning the blade, then just go for it! Make lots of lovely bread and practice, practice. Who cares if your first few are a bit wonky? It’ll still taste lovely and with each loaf you’ll improve.

A honey loaf (recipe here) for which I've purposely covered in flour to create a huge contrast between slash and surface

A honey loaf (recipe here) for which I’ve purposely covered in flour to create a huge contrast between slash and surface


FOUR: Flouring … or not

While you can score any rounded-off loaf you’ve made without doing anything else to it, you will get the most dramatic results when there is a colour contrast between what has been cut and areas that are intact. (See the honey loaf above for a dramatic contrast example). In order to facilitate this, the easiest thing to do is to flour your proved loaf, smooth the flour into the skin of the dough. While you are doing this it helps to brush off excess flour and to ensure that flour is evenly distributed and not blotchy/patchy. White flour gives the most impact between itself and the cut marks, as they brown in the oven. You’ll get a white-ish background and a toasty-brown pattern. That said, experiment with other flours and vegetable powders.

Beet powder covered loaf, scored with a clover leaf pattern

A loaf covered in beetroot powder and scored with a cloverleaf design – the beet powder bakes very hard and can sometimes crack (as you can see). I now mix beetroot powder with a little maize flour, which helps counteract this cracking

Also, bear in mind that some doughs themselves will affect how visible the cuts are. How browned will the dough be after baking, have you added vegetables or fruit to it? Will it be very dark – or quite light?

Union Jack slash - this is pretty much my signature bread art! I've posted many loaves with these slash marks on in Instagram

Union Jack slash – this is pretty much my signature bread art! I’ve posted many loaves with this scoring design on Instagram

It’s similar to the consideration that the use of colours for typefaces on a web page requires where you have to think of visible accessibility: will the background help the foreground stand out or will it all merge together? Also, for some slashing this contrast doesn’t even matter – baguettes, pouch ear slashes, checquerboards and many others don’t need this layer of flour dusting as the expanded cuts are so visible the contrast isn’t needed.

Spelt sourdough baguettes - no extra flouring needed here: the slashes are wide and defined

Spelt sourdough baguettes – no extra flouring needed here as the slashes are wide and defined anyway (notice how the slashes ever-so-slightly overlap each other – this stops the loaf from bulging too much around the slashes)


FIVE: Make sure the loaf is ready

Your loaf needs to be almost at the point where you are going to bake it when you slash it. It should respond/bounce back when lightly depressed with a fingertip. Don’t let your loaf over-prove when you aim to score a design into it, as given longer, the yeast creates more and more carbon dioxide and the air pockets in the dough get bigger and bigger (and then also the yeast fatigues). You risk popping an air pocket if you leave the bread to prove too long, plus over-proving means the bread might not rise further or worse still, collapse in the oven. And if it collapses, that means it’s doing the opposite of what you need: you need it to expand and show the slashes to good effect. If it collapses or fails to grow in the oven then you don’t see the effect.

If you want to know more about how yeast works in your bread, creating these air pockets (and a lot more besides) then please read my popular article on the Science of bread making – how yeast works.

Beet scored bread - Lynn Clark/inksugarspice

Leaf slash beetroot loaf


SIX: Go in with a little vigour!

Don’t faff about with your cutting – do it with aplomb! If you cut lightly and gently you risk not cutting deep enough to make any impact, making a lot of ragged cuts that need to be joined up (these produce messy slashes) or worse having to recut into a previous cut (these look a bit of a mess – I do know: I did this myself in the past). If you are nervous, again you could end up having to make many ragged, untidy cuts where one large be stroke of a blade would have been better. That all said, don’t turn in to Sweeney Todd and get all aggressive with it as this can be just as bad – see my next tip…

Turmeric starter sourdough batard with leaf slashes

Turmeric starter sourdough batard with leaf slashes


SEVEN: Don’t cut too deeply

As bad as timid cuts look, at least you’ll still have a nice loaf of bread if you’re tentative. If you go in with a heavy hand you can cut deep into the air pockets and collapse that part of the loaf entirely! Sourdough and other slow prove loaves are riskier to cut than other breads as they have larger air pockets, so this increases the chance of even a shallow cut popping the air bubble and flattening the loaf. I only score a sourdough loaf where I am used to the recipe and I know that the air pockets aren’t massive. New recipes or ingredients in sourdoughs make me nervous of this and so I do not slash these – I leave them as they are to crack and expand on their own or I make a very shallow simple cut, or an angled cut (see the next tip) so that it doesn’t go too deep. You’ll get used to the heaviness of the dough and it’s number of air pockets as you bake more and score bread more – you’ll be able to judge how deep you cut and also what the effect of shallow and deep cuts will make on the expansion in the oven.

Wholemeal sourdough batard with leaf slash

Wholemeal sourdough batard with leaf slash


EIGHT: The angle is important

How you hold the blade (whatever you’re using) matters. If you hold it perdendicular to the loaf you’ll cut straight and deep. Great for a precise and defined cut with a medium expansion in the oven. Many scores call for the blade to be angled about 30º which cuts in and under the skin of the loaf, effectively making a bit of a ‘pocket’ shape. Pouch or ear loaves are the perfect example of this on one long cut, but this technique can also be used on smaller cuts, and it creates a bulge opposite the ‘ear’ so you can use this knowledge to plan design shapes for slashing.

I used a simple perpendicular light slash for the 'rays' and an angled slash to create the large, open wave in the centre - an example of changing the angle of the blade to achieve different effects - you may notice I accidentally popped an air pocket with the large slash, luckily it was quite a small one and didn't affect the rise of the loaf (a large air pocket that is popped is likely to deflate the loaf!)

I used a simple perpendicular light slash for the ‘rays’ and an angled slash to create the large, open wave in the centre – an example of changing the angle of the blade to achieve different effects – you may notice I accidentally popped an air pocket with the large slash, luckily it was quite a small one and didn’t affect the rise of the loaf (a large air pocket that is popped is likely to deflate the loaf!)


NINE: Rest the loaf briefly

I’ve found that if I’m after a good expansion on the slash marks then after scoring I rest the bread for about 3 – 5 minutes before popping it in the oven. Don’t leave it longer than that as you don’t want the loaf to over-prove and fail to rise or collapse. (See point 5 above). You must factor in this additional ‘rest’ period to the length of time of your second rise on your loaf, ensuring that it does not over-prove before baking.


Extra tip TEN: a visual tip

Here I am slashing a star pattern into a white and wholemeal loaf with added malt flakes. This type of loaf recipe is trickier to slash as the blade can get snagged on the malt flakes (you can just notice it happening). Can’t believe it was nearly three years ago I posted this little video to Instagram and Twitter! Here, I’ve used a surgical scalpel blade as the pattern includes some tight curves.

Happy slashing!! Just don’t say that in public or the police may well tail you – you can always placate them with a lovely slice off your pretty new loaf though 🙂

If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer but I’m no bread guru, just an enthusiastic hobby baker (although I confess I have been baking – and plaiting, slashing and stencilling – bread for over 30 years).

Slashed batch rolls

If you’ve enjoyed this post or found it useful please ‘like’ it or better still leave me a nice comment or even ask a question – thank you!

Strawberry yogurt cake with olive oil

Strawberry yorgurt cake with olive oil - Ink Sugar Spice recipe

Perfect for an afternoon tea or appropriate for Valentines, this cake is light, moist and full of strawberry flavour.

Notes

  • Takes about 1 hour in total – about 10-15 minutes preparation and 40-45 minutes baking
  • You can measure out the olive oil via a liquid scale (mls) or weigh it into a bowl (grams) – the result is the same

Equipment

  • Two large bowls
  • Springform cake tin, 20 – 23cm in diameter, greased and lined with parchment
  • Scales, spatula, balloon whisk/mixer/electric hand whisk, measuring spoons and jugs

Ingredients

  • Large eggs, separated – 4
  • Caster sugar – 210g
  • Olive oil (mild) – 210ml/g
  • Tipo 00 flour or plain flour – 210g
  • baking powder – 2 teaspoons
  • Fine salt – a pinch
  • vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon
  • Ground almonds – 40g
  • Strawberry yogurt (a thick kind such as Greek yogurt) – 80g
  • Strawberries – 80g (about)

Method

  1. Prepare your baking tin by greasing and lining with baking parchment
  2. Set the oven to 180 ºC fan / 200 ºC conventional
  3. Separate the eggs into yolks and whites, putting the whites in one (very clean) bowl and the yolks in another
  4. Whisk up the egg whites until they are stiff peaks, whisk in one tablespoon of the caster sugar and the vanilla extract into the whites
  5. Add the remaining caster sugar to the yolks and whisk until it turns pale and increases in volume
  6. Add the flour, ground almonds, salt and baking powder to the sugar/yolk mixture and slowly whisk in until it is all combined
  7. Chop up the strawberries and measure out the yogurt
  8. Fold in the whites to this mixture, a third at a time until it is combined. Try to be gentle while mixing in – a figure of eight motion is useful or use a balloon whisk to ‘cut’ the whites in gently
  9. Fold in the olive oil
  10. Pour the mix gently into the prepared tin
  11. Using a teaspoon, dot the yogurt all over the cake – try to keep the blobs of yogurt fairly small
  12. Place the strawberries over the yogurt
  13. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes until the sponge springs back when depressed lightly with your finger and/or a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake (though be careful to notice that you’ve not spiked the yogurt and think the cake is still underdone
  14. Gorgeous on its own, or serve it as a very special dessert, say for a Valentine’s or birthday celebration, with a good quality vanilla ice cream. Alternatively, serve with crushed strawberries that have been mixed into a tub of crème frâiche (plus a dessertspoon of icing sugar)
strawberry yogurt cake with olive oil - all sliced