Chocolate Chestnut Cake (GF) – step by step

FeaturedChocolate Chestnut Cake (GF) – step by step

This is a delicious cake, and whats more it’s gluten free, but so good everyone will like it. Some people may find it hard to get hold of chestnut flour – sometimes you can buy it online, or in those shops where they sell everything by the scoop.  Alternatively if you have an Italian deli near you they will probably stock it. I keep mine in the freezer so it doesn’t go stale. If you can’t get it you can make the recipe without flour, just use less milk, or add a bit of cornflour instead.


200 gms 70% chocolate

200 gms cultured unsalted butter

200 gms chestnut puree (available in cans)

70ml milk

50 gms chestnut flour

3 eggs ( approx 92 gms egg whites, if your eggs are small you may need four)

110 gms caster sugar


In a large steel bowl over a pan of simmering hot water, melt chocolate and butter together. Do not let the water reach the underneath of the bowl.

In a separate pan warm the milk , chestnut puree and chestnut flour together and mix until smooth.The puree I use is very stiff. If it is not as stiff, use less milk.

When the chocolate mix is melted take off heat and add in the chestnut puree mix.

Mix the egg yolks with the caster sugar. Stir this into the chocolate mixture.

Beat the eggwhites until they form stiff peaks. Egg whites beat better in a copper bowl, if you happen to have one. You can clean them using lemon juice.

Line the base of a 20 cm tin with baking paper. Do this by smoothing the baking paper over the base and tucking it through the edge, then pull it tight. Trim off the edges.

Butter the sides of the tin.

Pour the mix into the cake tin.

Bake at 150 C ( fan) for 45 – 50 minutes until a skewer is clean when  you insert it into the cake and pull it out.  Allow to cool on a rack, then remove from the tin.

Decorate with poached pears, strawberries and/or raspberries, and sprinkle with sieved icing sugar.


Sourdough disasters

Sourdough  disasters

I promised when I started this blog I would write about the disasters as well as the successes. So here goes.

I have always been a risk taker. Well at least in some parts of my life So the risk, very small in this case  was to try out a new strong organic flour. However I think my attention slipped when I was putting in the water. I don’t think its because the flour is less water absorbent because I made a ‘control’ loaf using my usual flour.

So my dough was super hydrated. I thought – well that’s not a bad thing. Some people use a very hydrated dough, in fact the Red Beard Bakery in Trentham, Victoria where I first learnt to make sourdough some seven years ago, had a dough so liquid that they kept it in a tub. Sadly I have lost my notes from that course or I could have checked.

Anyway I made the bread in my usual way. I poured it into the bannetons thinking – this doesn’t look good. It didn’t seem to rise much overnight – although there were a few bubbles, BIG bubbles, on top of the dough.

The bread was so liquid I had to scrape it out of the banneton, and pour it onto the bread peel in preparation for baking.

What a mess. I had soggy bread dough on my arms, on my peel, on my hands, all over the kitchen. The dough was so wet I couldn’t slash the top with my brand new baking blade. However I managed to slash my thumb when I took the safety cover off the blade – something I have NEVER done with my ordinary razor blade. So add blood to the vision of a kitchen with sticky dough all over the bench tops. I will spare you the pictures but let it be said I went through a year’ s supply of cottonwool and band aids in about ten minutes.

So with one arm above my head to stop the blood flow, I tried to scrape the dough off the peel onto the pizza stone in the very hot oven. The bread sagged over the edge. A few swear words were said. I will spare you those as well. I sprayed the oven with water to create steam, and waited for the bread to cook.

Half way through I couldn’t resist peeking. Tom my astonishment the bread had lifted from a flat pancake to a domed rather blobby loaf.

When it was cooked I took it out of the oven and put in on a rack to cool.

I cut it and was amazed at the crumb – the holes in the loaf were large, bigger than any previous loaf I had baked, the crust was crunchy.

The loaf looked awful. It tasted delicious. So here it is in all its holey glory with the pancake dough below. Oh and did I mention the ones that got stuck in the tin? Or the one that exploded out of the tin and got burnt?

overhydrated bread

disasteroverhydrated dough

Wholemeal sourdough with orange juice


Wholemeal loaf – totally delicious!

This loaf was based on one by Dan Lepard, then adapted by Hereford chef and cafe owner Bill Sewell in his terrific book Bill’s Kitchen, and then I adapted it slightly.

I uses orange juice in this loaf – Vitamin C has often been used by bakers to help rise a loaf, especially when you have dense flour like wholemeal. The additional yeast also helps boost the loaf. The advantage of using it is that you don’t have to let it rise over night – I plan to make another version solely with sourdough starter, which will take much longer!


425 ml tepid water

50 ml fresh orange juice

100 gm of sourdough starter

475 gm wholemeal flour

100gm strong white flour 10gm salt

7g sachet of instant yeast

Timeline: ( you can start anytime, but I find a timeline helps so that you know if you have enough time to make bread. I sometimes make this loaf at night, so if you start at 7pm you would have a loaf by 10.15, just in time for a bedtime snack!)

8am: Put all the ingredients in a big bowl and mix with your hands or a large spoon. Leave for five minutes

8.05 am: Knead very briefly, just stretching the dough a bit. Leave for 5 mins

8.10 am: Repeat

8.15 am: Repeat and leave for 10 minutes

8.25 am: Tip the dough onto you work surface, and fold your bread in the middle to make a ball. Cut into two balls with a dough scraper, one large ball and one small ball. Roll balls into  a sausage with the seam underneath and tuck into two well oiled tins. Leave to rise for between 45- 90 minutes

10.00 am approx ( when the bread is risen). Put pizza stone into oven. Put metal baking tray on the shelf underneath. Preheat fan oven to 220 C . Boil kettle.  When you put the bread in oven pour  boiling water into the metal tray to create steam. Cook bread for 30 minutes for the smaller loaf, 40 minutes for the larger one. Tap on the bottom, if they sound hollow they are done.

10.40 am: Take bread out of oven, ( check if ready) and put on rack to cool.

11.15 am: ( approx)  Slice a piece of the loaf and enjoy.