It has been way too long since I baked a loaf of anything. Making the ever-so-popular mini pretzels was fun. The double egg glazed burger buns? Yep they were a laugh, but I think making the sourdough starter sort of ruined the joy of baking for me. It was too much hard work, with little reward and I needed something to lure me back to my giant jar of flour.
Enter Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest recipe book, jam packed full of inspirational ideas, that found its way into my Christmas stocking. Now here was something to kick-start me into baking again, especially the take on a classic krantz cake. Granted it’s a lot of work, but the reward…well my key recipe tasters (Anna and some mate’s down the road) said it was well worth it. A couple of small tweaks to his classic recipe and I was bitten again by the baking bug.
Twisted Chocolate Almond Loaf (makes two loaves)
530g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
100g caster sugar
2tsp dried fast-action yeast
grated zest of one lime
3 large free-range eggs
1/3 tsp salt
150g unsalted butter, cut into 2cm cubes, at room temperature
sunflower oil, for greasing
To make the dough combine the flour, sugar, yeast, lime zest and salt into a large mixing bowl. I don’t have a fancy food mixer, so I attempted it by hand. Add the eggs and water, then mix until the dough comes together. Then start adding the butter, just a little bit at a time, until it melts into the dough. Keep kneading until it becomes elastic, smooth and a little bit shiny. You’ll need the extra flour to keep dusting it so it doesn’t stick. Once done, place in a large pre-greased bowl, cover and leave in the fridge overnight to proof.
Chocolate Almond Filling
50g icing sugar
30g cocoa powder
130g dark chocolate
120g unsalted butter
100g almonds, with their skins on
2 tbsp caster sugar
Lightly toast the almonds in a pan, then roughly chop and set aside. Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over bowling water until combined. Then mix the chocolate together with the icing sugar and cocoa powder to make a spreadable paste.
Grease two baking tins with sunflower oil and line the bottom with grease proof paper. Remove the dough from the fridge and divide in half. Keep the remaining half in the fridge. Roll the dough on a floured surface into a large rectangle. Then with a palate knife spread half the chocolate mixture over the dough rectangle, leaving roughly a 2cm border. Sprinkle half the toasted almonds and half the caster sugar on top of the chocolate mixture.
Then brush a little water around the 2cm border so it sticks. Using both your hands roll it like a roulade and gently stick the wet edge so it looks like a giant burrito.
Trim 2cm off each end with a large serrated knife. Now take the same knife and cut lengthways down the middle, dividing the log into two pieces. You should have layers of dough and chocolate mix showing. Gently press together and then plait the two pieces together. Once you get to the end, press the two pieces together and place the whole thing into your pre-greased loaf tin to proof. Repeat the process with the remaining ingredients. Leave both loaves to proof under a wet tea towel for around 90 minutes.
The Sticky Syrup Finish
260g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 or 190ºC. Remove the wet tea towel and place the loaves on the middle shelf of your oven for 30 minutes. While the loaves are cooking, boil the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves. Set the syrup aside and leave to cool. As soon as your loaves are done, brush all the syrup across both of them. The recipe calls to use all of the syrup, so it might seem like a lot, but don’t worry the breads soaks it all up. Leave until warm, then remove from the tins and leave to cool before eating…I’ve certainly got the baking bug back.