The Low Down: Baking

Baking is the new black. No, sorry, sourdough cake baking is the new black. Or is it artisan doughnuts (they’re a thing – promise!), vegan and/or gluten-free baking, beetroot where there may once have been chocolate, and cakes for breakfast (joy unconfined!). As Great British Bake Off returns to television, we give you the low down on… Baking!

Sourdough cake
Fermented foods are the pinnacle of cool, so no surprise that sourdough cake should emerge as the indulgence du jour. Trouble is, you need a lot of time. To make a sourdough carrot cake, for instance, you’re looking at fermenting the carrots for 10 days. You add this to your ‘starter’ (the magical bit) which may in turn take another 5 days to do its stuff before you actually get to make your cake. Life too short? Fear not, we predict every cool bakery will be awash with them any day now.

Years from now, when we look back in time to the root of what we will know by then as Britain’s all-consuming love of korovai, we will point to week 3 of Great British Bake Off 2018. This was the day this traditional eastern European tiered bread used predominantly for weddings and covered in decorations heavy in symbolism emerged from its roots and entered the dough-loving UK mainstream. Expect korovai on Christmas tables, christenings and weddings, birthdays and anniversaries. Time to practise making dough love birds, hearts, nuts, flowers and fruit. You have been warned! 

Cake for breakfast
You can make everything healthful these days, and we hear news from Canada of a growing trend for polenta and olive oil loafs, sourdough carrot cake (see left…), pear or apple yoghurt cake, and beetroot dark chocolate muffins making their mark on breakfast. Considering the sugary horrors lurking in your average bowl of shop-bought granola, we say fill your boots!

Flower power
Adding extracts of rose, lavender and hibiscus can transform your workaday sponge into something truly special. To get started with floral notes, start with a cake recipe that already contains vanilla extract, and replace half of that with a floral extract, say lavender, which is amazing with vanilla. Keep experimenting with different extracts in different quantities to find the tastes you like. Another favourite of the GBBO contestants, orange water or orange oil is a fabulous partner for autumn days. Herbs generally reserved for savoury dishes also offer up new depths of flavour. Experiment by adding fennel to lemon cake, thyme to scones, rosemary to shortbread and discover a whole new world of flavour.

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