Cider and rye rolls

I’ve been neglecting my website and its recipes and articles for a while – but for a positive reason. I’ve been concentrating on my family over the summer months, as my twin sons have been back from their respective Universities, making the most of every single minute I can with them. We all need to take time out to reconnect and go offline.

While I’ve been enjoying focusing on my family it’s also afforded me more excuses for cooking and baking as it’s not just me and my husband to feed. So, Although I’ve not got round to adding new recipes in here over the past few weeks, I have been generating a stockpile of recipes and images. I hope to be bringing you a number of new recipes – and a few crafts and other articles – as autumn starts with its potential for mists and mellow fruitfulness (rather than just rain and grey cloudiness which is more the norm).

In order to perfect and test the dough for these rolls I’ve repeatedly made them for our lunches that we’ve taken out when hiking. I’ve mentioned this before but I do try to make each of my recipes a number of times before I add them here. They’re not just for adventurous eating though: they’re really tasty general purpose bread rolls and the dough even makes a great loaf (just bake for another 10 – 15 minutes).

As part of our time together this summer, in between all our working days, we’ve been upping the number of our walks in the nearby Dark and White Peak areas of the Peak District. Occasionally we link a hike to a pub visit but usually we take our own food, so that means an excuse for homemade bread. We like getting out as a family into the countryside and both our sons have had to get using to hiking and rambling with us as they’ve grown up. We’re pleased they’re both now as keen on it as we are (though they have got in to the specialist techy kit for wild camping and hiking more than us). We do rather look like a “Getty Images family” from the front of a hiking magazine when we go out…

Walks this summer have included Mam Tor, the Great Ridge and Cave Dale, Cromford to the Heights of Abraham and High Tor, Hathersage to Stannage Edge, Chatsworth and Birchen Edge and routes that we plan soon are Kinder Scout, Downfall and Low then Lumsdale Falls and Padley Gorge. Although many of these we’ve walked before – there are plenty of Peak District routes that give something new every time you walk them – it’s always great to add new walks to our ‘list’.

Halfway up to the Heights of Abraham path from Cromford (probably around 200ft up at this stage). This overlooks Arkwright’s Cromford Mill and the Derwent river (you can just see the Mill’s chimney and part of the Mill through the trees – a better view of the frontage is in the picture below. This is the world’s first water powered mill built in 1769).
Opposite you can see Giddy Edge – a walk that’s not for the faint hearted as it’s a proper alpine-style ‘via ferrata’ – a cliff edge walk that’s had to have iron railings to hold on to installed.

So, back to the actual bread roll recipe rather than rambling on about rambling…

Using any ancient grain will bring different textures, tastes, smells and structure (or lack of) to your bread. Many, including rye, can be quite strong and overpowering for some who are unfamiliar with anything more exotic than a white loaf with malt flakes added! For me, I think rye has a slightly warm nutty flavour with a little spiciness as an undertone. For this recipe I’ve developed, I’ve used around two thirds third of rye to one third soft wheat. This gives you enough of the taste and colour of a rye bread, provides enough soft wheat to have a good rise (though it will be significantly lower than 100% soft wheat) but is accessible. The addition of the cider gives a delicious, sweet note plus its high sugar content helps feed the yeast and encourage the rise.


  • Will make eight quarter-pounder sized rolls or you can make up to twelve smaller picnic rolls
  • Also makes a nice loaf – just bake for an additional 10-15 minutes (dependant on shape)


  • Large mixing bowl
  • Dough whisk (or large fork)
  • Large baking tray
  • Scales – ideally electronic with a tare/zeroing function
  • Dough scraper or large straight bladed knife
  • Linen tea towel or cloth
  • You can use a stand mixer, but also this recipe is good by hand


  • 400g rye flour (I’ve used Craggs and Co, but rye flour is fairly easy to get hold of)
  • 175g strong white bread flour
  • 200ml cider – I used Aspall’s for this but any plain cider or even a perry – to provide a pear version – will do (just don’t use one of those trendy fruit flavoured ciders)
  • 200 ml tepid water
  • 1.5 tablespoons of runny honey
  • 1.5 tablespoons of good quality olive or rapeseed oil
  • 1.5 teaspoons of fine salt
  • 1.5 teaspoons of fast acting dried yeast
  • Plus a little extra white bread flour for your hands and work surface
  • Plus a little extra oil for the bowl


  • In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together into a rough mix, using a dough whisk ideally (as it’s very sticky!) but don’t knead it yet
  • Leave to autolyse for 10 minutes to make the dough easier to work
    [the autolyse process allows three main things to happen: fluid molecules start to seep into the starch and proteins, enzymes (amylase and invertase) in the flour get a head start on breaking down gluten and also protein strands start to alter their shape – all desirable in the bread making process and gives you a head start on kneading without any effort]
  • After giving time for the autolyse process, tip the bread out and knead until the dough is smooth and shiny. This will be about 7-8 minutes by hand. You can alternatively do this in a stand mixer with a dough hook if you prefer. Try not to use much additional flour, but add a little if you find it really is too sticky to work
  • Oil the bowl lightly (many recipes tell you to use a clean oiled bowl, but I find as long as you’ve oiled it makes no difference placing the dough back in the original mixing bowl and saves on washing up!)
  • Round off the dough with your hands and/or a dough scraper and place domed-side up in the bowl. Cover with a linen tea towel
  • Leave to develop and proof for about an hour at a moderate room temperature – because of the rye’s lower gluten content it won’t rise as much as a 100% strong white bread mix
  • Tip out onto a lightly floured surface
  • Flour lightly the bottom of a large baking sheet and have this close to hand
  • Weigh your dough and divide this amount by eight (or more if you want smaller rolls)
  • Each piece of dough should be 1/8th of the dough’s weight – this will be around 125-130g each mark for eight
  • Shape each piece of dough into a ball
  • Place the eight dough balls onto the baking sheet. You can either give them a lot of space or place in two rows of four set about 3cm apart so they slightly touch when baked, giving your the ‘batch roll’ look
  • Cover again with the lined cloth and leave to proof for about 30-40 minutes
  • After 30 minutes put your oven on to 220*C fan / 240*C conventional to heat up
  • The rolls will not have grown or risen that much – most of the rise will occur in your oven
  • When the rolls are ready, place in the oven (ideally placing the baking sheet on the pre-heated baking sheet)
  • Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 190*C fan / 210* conventional and back for a further 16-18 minutes
  • The rolls should sound hollow when tapped
  • Leave to cool on a wire rack (so no softened crusts) before eating
rye and cider rolls recipe - loaf version inksugarspice #baking 3bread #rolls #cider #rye
The cider and rye dough baked into a batard shape, and scored with a leaf pattern

Honey, orange and hazelnut biscuits 🐝

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I have been a bit behind this month with my website and social media, though this sort of break is good for your sanity. For the most part this hiatus is due to my working on some sets of illustrated gift tags and leather bee key fobs (those in the pic above), and that I have opened an Etsy shop (click on Shop in the menu above) to start to sell some of these items.

Listing on Etsy may not seem much, as it’s pretty much there to make selling easy and to hand hold sellers, but it’s a big deal for me. I’ve put off selling my illustrations and crafts for too long because I have a little problem with numbers, muddling them up sometimes and that has lead me to be terrified of anything financial. I can’t say for sure that it’s dyscalculia (the ‘number version’ of dyslexia) as I’ve been able to work round it I’ve not needed to seek a label for it. Some days I’m fine, others I get confused: for instance, I could give you my phone number 100% correctly on one day, but the next day you might get the numbers in all the wrong order from me. My worse thing is choosing between similar numbers, such as in lists, questions or when comparing prices.

I have read into dyscalulia a little, after eventually discovering that it is a ‘thing’ and recognising myself a little in it. It appears that it can be very bad, causing fundamental problems such as not even being able to work out which is the higher denomination between two numbers. Imagine not being able to tell if you’re handing over a few pounds or hundreds or even if you’re getting out of the right floor from an elevator? Of course, there are all shades of difficulty in between mild and such extremes. As little as I experience it, I get teased and giggled at, so it must be acutely embarrassing for those who have a worse experience. People don’t get teased for being dyslexic anymore, they get help and understanding, but I’ve never heard of anyone getting help with number difficulties.

What I’m driving at with all of this rambling about numbers is not just because I’ve finally ignored my terror of having to do a tax return is that this little recipe is in my maths comfort zone and includes some geometry.

You may remember my (still) very popular spiral marble cake ‘cake and maths‘ post some time ago in which I gave diagrams and instructions to create a very graphic cake?spiralcake4

I continue to need the use of geometry – it’s one of the few areas of maths learnt at school I regularly use. Despite my issues with numbers I did understand the concepts and formulas of maths. I managed a C in ‘O’ Level Maths because I was bright enough to understand it all yet I made some howling errors through writing things down incorrectly. I rely on geometric principles to create many of the images in my day job as a graphic designer and I use geometry to develop stencils and plans for my crafts and baking.

This little craft make is dead simple! And, if you really want ease, you can just make these biscuits with any cookie cutter shape if you’re not fussed with keeping to the honeycomb hexagons.


  • Makes 12+ biscuits depending on the size of your hexagon stencil
  • You don’t have to make hexagons, but they’re a lovely nod to the honeycomb shape as you’re using honey rather than processed sugar granules for these biscuits
  • Instead of dip-icing,  you can pipe and flood the icing if you prefer – this will produce a smoother finish but of course takes a lot longer
  • Monin syrup is usually found in the tea and coffee aisle in a supermarket or deli, as it’s traditionally a coffee flavouring, although I only use it for baking and for flavouring cocktails 🍸
  • To crank the icing up a notch, you could paint black stripes across the biscuits to mimic a bee’s colouration
  • You could use chopped hazelnuts, but I like the large chunks of hazelnuts that are kept if you roughly crush whole nuts for this


Equipment for the hexagon stencil

  • Card
  • Pencil and compass
  • Craft knife
  • Ruler

How to form the hexagon stencil


  • This is a great bit of simple and elegant geometry! You can construct a hexagon in any circle without measuring or changing the dimension of your compass point. And it works with any radius circle
  • Draw a circle with your compass, I’d suggest using a 3 cm radius (6cm total diameter) for these cookies – Figure 1
  • Without altering the compass, place the point on the circumference of the circle, absolutely anywhere (the compass point placement is represented by the green dot). Now, make an arc, intersecting the circumference at the two points the pencil crosses – Figure 2
  • Move the compass point to one of these intersecting points (again marked here by a green dot) and make another arc – Figure 3
  • Continue round until you have a six intersecting points (two will have ‘doubled up’) – Figures 4 and 5
  • Join up the six points using a ruler and pencil to create a hexagon – Figure 6
  • Cut out with a craft knife and the ruler

Equipment for the biscuits

  • Large bowl
  • Rolling pin
  • Sharp knife
  • Palette knife and/or cranked handle knife
  • Large baking tray, lined with parchment/greaseproof paper or 2 x smaller trays
  • Airing rack
  • Scales and measuring spoons
  • Citrus reamer
  • Small bowl (something low and with a wide circumference is ideal, as dipping biscuits into a small bowl is tricky)
  • Electric whisk, small balloon whisk or magic whisk


  • Unsalted butter – 120g
  • Honey – 3 tablespoons
  • Plain flour or 00 flour – 230g
  • Monin noisette syrup or vanilla extract – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Hazelnuts – 35g

Ingredients for the icing 

  • Orange juice – juice of one large orange
  • Icing sugar – 200g
  • Egg white powder – just under 1/2 teaspoon or 1 teaspoon of fresh egg white
  • A few drops of yellow food colouring
  • A few drops of warm water if needed


  1. Crush the hazelnuts into rough pieces (a good way to do this is to roll the rolling pin back and forth over them)
  2. Put the oven on to 180 C fan / 200 C
  3. Prepare a large baking tray with baking parchment
  4. Rub the butter into the flour in the bowl until you have small particles and no lumps of butter
  5. Mix the rest of the ingredients in (honey, syrup/extract and nuts)
  6. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to about 8mm thick (about 3/8″) (you may need to lightly dust the rolling pin with a little flour too)
  7. Using your hexagon shape as a template cut out as many hexagons as you can and place them about 1 cm apart on the baking tray
  8. Re-roll the leftover dough to create as many hexagons as possible until all the dough is usedIMG_0389
  9. Bake for 12 minutes
  10. Leave to cool a little, then transfer to a wire rack using the palette knife until completely cooled IMG_0391
  11. When the biscuits are ready, mix up the icing ingredients. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl then add the lemon juice, egg white powder (or egg white), food colouring and water (if needed). Beat until it is smooth and totally lump-free. It needs to be a fairly thick but still fluid consistency, something like custard because you are dipping and the icing needs to cover the (probably) bumpy surface as the biscuits have nuts in them
  12. Dip each biscuit into the icing, and allow the icing to drip a little. Smooth off the side drips with a knife and place on a wire rack. Pop any bubbles in the icing with a toothpickIMG_0392
  13. Repeat with all the biscuits, after which you can go round the edges again to score off any drips
  14. Leave until the icing is solid, which will be at least 5-6 hours

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White honey loaf


Makes one 600g loaf

I’ve chosen Shipton Mill’s Finest White in this bake. There are plenty of good quality extra strong whites out there, but I just love the extra spring this gives my loaves. As bouncy as a new lamb gambolling in buttercups.

An all-white is unusual for me. Normally I can’t help tinkering: adding herbs, nuts, seeds, grains or swapping out the water for beer or other liquid. I just can’t help fiddling but I’ve toned it down here, as just this one ingredient does make a difference on its own. The honey adds a refined, nutty sweetness and I suspect adds to the vigour of the rise, as its carbohydrates would be a welcome additional yeast feast.

A couple of slices of this loaf elevated my bacon sammich to (literally) new heights of crumb fluffiness and bouncy-ness and was also awesome made into French eggy toast.


Giving my wild yeast starter a bit of a break to recoup, so this is an easy dried yeast recipe.

Makes one large hand raised or banneton-prooved boule/cob loaf.


  • Large bowl
  • Scraper
  • Baking stone or large thick baking sheet
  • Linen tea towel or couch or banneton
  • Flat (no lip) baking tray or peel
  • Water sprayer


  • Extra strong white bread flour – 600g
  • Water – 350ml (only just tepid)
  • Oil – rapeseed or non-virgin olive oil – 2 tablespoons
  • Honey – any of your preference. I used a local wildflower honey – 2 level tablespoons plus a little extra
  • Salt, fine (bought fine or freshly milled) – 1 1/2 teaspoons (10g)
  • Fast action dried yeast – 1 1/4 teaspoons (7g)
  • Extra flour for dusting and cleaning hands (no need to use the expensive extra strong white, just normal bread flour will do)



  1. Mix all the ingredients 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 ten minutes
  3. Tip out on to a clean surface and use your dough 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, dust 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 floured 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. Once risen, turn on your oven to 220 C fan / 240 C conventional
  11. Flour your baking stone or thick baking tray and put it in the bottom of your oven
  12. Lightly flour the counter you’re working on and the baking tray or peel
  13. Tip out the risen dough gently into the middle of the flour on the counter and press down gently with your finger tips all over to knock back the dough. Don’t be too vigorous – a lot of issues with bread are when the knocking back is too fierce
  14. Fold the dough over on itself from one side then the other and then fold the ends in
  15. Pinch the loose edges together to get them to ‘stick’
  16. You’re aiming to make the dome of the loaf tense and smooth without tearing it. By folding over towards the centre you create a tension in the surface of the loaf – it should look smooth and taut
  17. You’re after an elongated circle – a similar shape to a capital ‘O’
  18. Liberally flour your tea towel/couch (or prepare your banneton with enough flour)
  19. Place the shaped dough with the seam side down in the middle of the cloth. Push the sides of the cloth up to gather it at the sides of the bread in order to support the shape and stop the bread spreading (though if you have successfully given the surface of the loaf enough tension it should hold, but this will still help)
  20. [If using a banneton,  place with the seam side facing upwards]
  21. Leave for the second proof – roughly an hour depending on the temperature. It will be ready when and it springs back into shape if you press it gently with the pad of a finger
  22. Just before your loaf looks ready, start to heat your oven to 220C fan / 230C conventional and put in the baking tray or stone
  23. When the bread and the oven are ready, carefully scoop up the loaf with your peel or thin baking sheet [or tip out from the banneton to this sheet]
  24. At this point you can slash the loaf if you want or leave it plain to make a nice artisanal crack of its own accord. I’d suggest if you’re nervous about slashing but do want to try, then just make three diagonal scores in the bread – this will help you understand how the bread grows and stretches and you’ll see the outcome,, so you can try something more adventurous next time
  25. Transfer the loaf to the oven and onto the baking stone/tray
  26. Spray the oven or pour a little water into a small tray at the bottom of the oven
  27. Shut the door and set the timer for 10 minutes
  28. After 10 minutes, turn the temperature down to 180C fan/190C conventional and bake for another 25 minutes
  29. The bread should be nicely dark (though not burnt) where the slashes or cracks have occurred
  30. Test the loaf’s ‘doneness’ by tapping the bottom of it – it should sound hollow
  31. Leave to cool on a wire rack or something else that will allow airflow to the bottom of the loaf or the evaporated moisture that comes off a new loaf will gather and cause a soggy bottom (yes, this problem isn’t just confined to pastry!)

Gluten free Italian orange polenta cake with a citrus, honey and anise syrup

POlentaOrangeCakeThis is a totally gluten free cake. It’s moist, delicious and makes a fabulous dessert served with cream, crème fraîche or ice cream as well as being a highly eat-able cake. I’ve also made it without baking powder, but rather bicarbonate of soda and vinegar.

It had been a while since I last made a polenta cake, and I really do love them. There is a trend at the moment to make layer cakes as elaborate as possible at home, which are impressive and wonderful (and I’m not adverse to succumbing to this level of showstopping-baking myself when I have the time), but sometimes you just want a really perfect, ‘proper’ old school single layer cake. One that’s so rich it can double as dessert. Yes, I could’ve made a loaf cake or a ‘granny cake’ (as one of my friends refers to cakes like cherry and Dundee) but I referred to an old Italian recipe I’ve had for years. I had just dragged a (reusable) bag full of lovely-looking oranges and lemons back from the greengrocers so it seemed fortuitous to make one. As I’m prone to playing about with standard recipes, I thought I’d ‘up’ the syrup a little by adding in the anise and honey.

For anyone interested in the chemistry of baking, I have substituted the customary baking powder for bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. I felt this was more authentic to the base vintage Italian recipe – at the time this was noted down baking powder was not available, or at least a rarity. Bicarb and vinegar produce the chemical reaction needed to raise your cake: traditionally baking powder is bicarb + cream of tartar (or substitutes). As long as you have the right ratio this soda and acid combination will do the trick of chemical leavening. Follow my recipe as I’ve written it and it will work, or alternatively just use 1 teaspoon baking powder and omit the soda and vinegar.


Makes a 20cm cake, so enough for eight very hungry people or ten more typically-indulgent diners.


  • Large bowl
  • Citrus zester/microplane and juice squeezer
  • 20cm cake tin with a loose bottom, greased and lined with baking parchment
  • Food processor
  • Heavy based medium saucepan
  • Skewer


  • Unsalted butter – 220g
  • Caster sugar – 220g
  • Ground almonds – 130g
  • Fine polenta – 150g
  • Bicarbonate of soda – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Cider or white wine vinegar – 2 teaspoons
  • Blanched (ie skinless almonds) – 60g
  • Eggs, large – 3
  • Orange zest – zest from 1 orange

Ingredients for the syrup

  • Lemon juice – juice from 1 fresh lemon (minus pips!)
  • Orange juice – juice from 2 fresh oranges (minus any pips too!)
  • Orange – one orange sliced thinly and any pips removed
  • Honey – 1 tablespoon of your choice of honey
  • Star anise – 1 whole pod

Plus a few rosemary flowers to decorate


  1. Put the oven on to 180C fan / 190C conventional
  2. Whip the butter and sugar together until fluffy and lightened in colour
  3. Whizz up the blanched almonds in your food processor – you want them in small pieces but not as fine as the ground almonds (doesn’t matter if a bit of it becomes very fine)
  4. Add the ground almonds and your chopped/processed almonds, polenta and bicarbonate of soda and fold together
  5. Now add the vinegar and orange zest and fold again
  6. You must now act fairly quickly – do not walk off between the last step and getting the cake in the oven, as the vinegar and bicarb will be already starting to react
  7. Spoon into the prepared tin and smooth the top over as level as possible
  8. Pop straight into the oven for 30 minutes
  9. After 30 minutes,  turn down the temperature to 150C fan / 170C conventional and bake for about another 30 minutes (test after 20 minutes), until the cake is firm but not solid (it shouldn’t spring back quite as much as a ‘normal’ sponge cake but will have a little bounce)
  10. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin
  11. Prepare the syrup by placing the sliced oranges in the bottom of the saucepan and covering with the orange and lemon juice and pop in the star anise pod
  12. Turn the hob up to a medium-high heat
  13. After a minute or two, add the honey – the reason I say to wait is that because the juice is now warm and it will be easier to put the honey in. The heat will allow the honey to slide cleanly off the spoon
  14. Turn up to allow the liquid to boil and let it boil for 2 – 3 minutes until it is reduced
  15. Remove the orange slices and leave to cool on a plate for a minute or two
  16. Remove the star anise pod and discard
  17. Spike some holes in the cake (all over the top) with a skewer to allow the syrup to sink into the cake
  18. Pour half of the syrup onto the cake, allowing it to drain into the holes
  19. Arrange the orange slices on the top of the cake and pour over the rest of the syrup
  20. Add the rosemary flowers if using
  21. Once the cake is cooled, remove from the tin
  22. Serve as you would any other cake or turn it into a delicious dessert by serving with a generous helping of ice cream (or should that be gelato?), crème fraîche or clotted cream