Thursday 26 April 2018

Have your cake


Rosemary, Parsnip and Parmesan Loaf Cake. Photography by Laura Edwards.
Rosemary, Parsnip and Parmesan Loaf Cake. Photography by Laura Edwards.
Savoury pesto and walnut sourdough buns. Photo: by Laura Edwards.
Modern Baker by Melissa Sharp with Lindsay Stark. (Ebury Press, £26). Photography by Laura Edwards.

There IS such a thing as healthy baking, says Modern Baker Melissa Sharp. Give it a try…

Savoury pesto and walnut sourdough buns

Here's another great change from bread, and a delicious savoury treat. Pesto and walnuts are often paired, and for good reason: they produce wonderful umami flavours that are further enhanced by the sourdough tang. We make our own pesto using seaweed flakes and walnuts, both high in nutritional value as well as giving a flavour boost. You could also add some crumbled feta to the filling. These are perfect for picnics or as a side with soup.

Makes 8 rolls



26x20cm brownie tray

Day 1: Active wheat starter (see panel below left): 75g water, at hand warm temp (32-37°C)

75g strong white flour

(Add the flour and water to the whole quantity of the starter and leave loosely covered overnight at room temperature.)

Day 2: 150g recipe starter made on day 1

320g water, at hand warm temp (32-37°C)

500g sprouted wholemeal flour

6g salt

25g olive oil

For the filling:

5 tbsp pesto

100g walnuts

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, for glazing the top


1 In a large bowl, combine the recipe starter with the water and mix gently.

2 In another bowl, combine the flour and salt.

3 Add the flour mix to the first bowl and combine well with your hands until it comes together in a dough. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel or shower cap and leave it to rest.

4 After 5-10 minutes, give the dough a fold in the bowl. Use slightly wet hands to prevent the dough sticking to them. Pull a section of the dough out to the side and fold it into the middle of the ball. Repeat this going around the ball of dough until you get back to the beginning (four or five folds). Use the scraper to turn the dough upside down, cover the bowl and leave for another 5-10 minutes. Repeat this another 2 times. Fold once again, this time adding the olive oil, folding well and making sure the oil is fully combined with the dough. If you add the oil before this point, it can stop the gluten developing. After the final fold, cover the bowl again and leave it to rest for 1 hour at room temperature.

5 After an hour, give the dough another fold and leave for another hour, this time in the fridge.

6 Line a brownie tray with baking parchment.

7 Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out to about 32 x 24cm. Spread the pesto over the top of the dough leaving a 2cm gap at the bottom. Spread the walnuts over the top of the pesto.

8 Roll up the dough towards you. As you roll, push the dough back, then pull it forward to get the roll as tight as possible. You will end up with a long log.

9 Brush the top of the log with the olive oil. This will make the buns easier to divide when they are baked.

10 Cut the log into 8 equal pieces, each about 4cm wide. Place the buns swirl side up in the brownie tray and press down well on each one.

11 At this point in the bakery, we leave them in the retarder overnight. You can replicate this by putting them in the fridge, covered with a damp tea towel or shower cap.

12 In the morning preheat the oven to 250˚C/fan 230/gas mark 10. When the oven is up to temperature, take the buns out of the fridge and put them straight in the oven.

13 Turn the temperature down to 230˚C/fan 210/gas mark 8 and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are an even, golden colour.

14 As soon as the buns come out of the oven, brush them with a thin layer of olive oil. Let them cool on the tray for at least 30 minutes before eating.

Nutrition Note:

Rosemary is one of the most recorded herbs from ancient times, and its benefits go way beyond just flavouring. It is long believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so it is worth using even in small amounts. Rosemary is so abundantly grown that most people with mature plants are only too happy to give it away.

Rosemary, Parsnip and Parmesan Loaf Cake

This is the classic cheese, vegetable and herb combination. This loaf cake goes particularly well with soup, though it's also delicious on its own, spread with butter. We add 'loaf' to the name because of its shape, but it's very much a savoury cake. Unlike a real loaf, its raising agent is baking powder. You could also make smaller individual bakes in muffin tins (in which case reduce the bake time to 25 minutes).

Makes 1 loaf


250g spelt flour

2 tsp baking powder

75g Parmesan, freshly grated

1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Pinch of salt

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

175g parsnips, grated

1 small white onion, finely chopped

3 eggs

100ml extra-virgin olive oil


1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/

gas mark 6 and line a 900g loaf tin with baking parchment.

2 In a large bowl, mix together the spelt flour, baking powder, two-thirds of the Parmesan cheese, the rosemary, salt and pepper.

3 In another bowl beat together the parsnip, onion, eggs and olive oil.

4 Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well. Pour the mixture into the tin, smooth over and top with the rest of the Parmesan.

5 Bake for 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.

6 Serve warm with butter.

Wheat starter

Day 1

A container with a lid or a clean jam jar

1 tsp strong white flour

1 tsp water, at hand warm temp (32-37°C)

Mix together the flour and the water in a container with a lid. We recommend mixing with your hands rather than a spoon. As disgusting as it might sound, we all have naturally occurring yeasts on our hands, so this can give your starter a real boost. Leave the mixture overnight at room temperature. Cover it with the lid but do not make it airtight. A screw-top jar with the lid partly done up is perfect. You want the yeasts in the air to get in, but you also want to stop the mixture drying out.

Day 2

Wheat starter made on day 1

1 tsp strong white flour

1 tsp water, at hand warm temp (32-37°C)

Throw away half of the mixture from day 1. This is because you want to almost overwhelm the bacteria/yeast in the starter with food, by adding more flour than the weight of the original mixture. You could do this by adding more flour and warm water and not throwing any away, but you would very quickly end up with an excessively large amount of starter. Stir the flour and water into the remaining mix and leave again at room temperature overnight.

Days 3 & 4

Repeat day 2.

Day 5

By now you should notice your starter has bubbles in it. This means it is ready! Don't worry if it smells acidic or cheesy, this is completely normal and each starter will create its own unique fragrance. Now you have your own living, bubbling jar of healthy microbes that you'll be using for years to come. If the starter isn't obviously bubbling, keep repeating day 2 until it starts to. Quite a few factors can affect how long it takes a starter to activate, temperature being one of the main ones. If you begin your starter in cold conditions, it may take longer to get going. What you don't use in your recipe, you retain as your ongoing active starter for your next recipe - you don't want to have to start from scratch each time! This all sounds more confusing than it really is.

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