Wholemeal Sea Salt Chocolate Thins

wholemeal sea salt chocolate thins

My colleagues keep asking me when I’m next bringing in some home-baking.  I told one of my colleagues today that I’d made some INCREDIBLE biscuits.  Nope, I hadn’t brought them into work.  Cue – sulky face.  Admittedly, these chocolate thins are so good that I’m not sure that they’re going to make it out the front door.

preparing to cream together the butter, sugar and salt

I took in my coconut, lime and malibu drizzle cake into work one Friday to lift morale.  This is the kind of thing that people do, wherever I’ve worked.  However, apparently not here.  Ever since that Friday, (and I am exaggerating slightly) my colleagues seem to have turned into cake hungry toddlers: I’ve seen some sulky pouting faces when a Friday goes by without cake and I’ve not heard the end of:

“Friday is cake day *hint* *hint*” – to which I answer, “Oh, what are you bringing in?”

“When are going to bring in some more cake?” — “When you buy me some butter/eggs/flour.”

“I haven’t seen biscuits for a while.” — “There is a supermarket down the road…”

What is this?  A simple act of voluntary cake sharing kindness erupting a longing for home-baked sugar filled delights.  They even complained that I didn’t bring in a mushy, underbaked banana cake because they’d have appreciated it in any form.

soft dough for wholemeal chocolate thins

Anyway, I do find my colleagues’ reaction hilarious and affirmative.  And … well, as they opened the door to trying out my baking experiments, successes and disasters, I brought in some spiced chocolate banana cake that had gone wrong.  It looked like a brownie but it tasted medicinal, like cloves and nutmeg.  Not all of them were impressed with that offering.  Not that that was a deliberate move at all.  But they had requested the disasters… So, *teehee* I wonder how long their enthusiasm for my baking will last?

take a spoonful of chocolate wholemeal dough

As there are rather a lot of us english teachers at the school, not everyone gets a piece of whatever’s been baked.  One day, one of my colleagues realised that she’d missed out on all of my cakes.  Fortunately for her, she feeds me cakes and biscuits from her ‘ot loi’ (khmer for no money) shop.  So, when she asked me to bake something for the end of term and I’d run out of eggs to bake a cake, I came up with idea of baking these gorgeous chocolate wholemeal thins, that I’d seen on the back of Allinsons Plain Wholemeal Flour.

roll it lightly into a ball

Once I’d baked one batch, I realised that I very quickly needed to make another.  They’re so wholesomely, deliciously more-ish and have that glorious nutty flavour imparted from the wholemeal flour.  So, I did.   Then later that day, I had this flash of brilliance that by adding sea salt would lift them to the realms of epic and add even more nutritional value.  That’s how my brain works late at night.  So, into the mixture went a conservative quarter teaspoon of fine sea salt.  That’s all the recipe needed for the sea salt to bring out the chocolate flavour and add a touch of sophistication.press down lightly with a fork

A cautionary note if you want to try this recipe but don’t have any sea salt.  Table salt has a much stronger flavour than sea salt.  I haven’t tried it with table salt, but from previous experience, I’d add half the amount when using table salt.

Jonathan and Emily in Cambodia
Jonathan and Emily, who travelled many, many miles to adventure in SE Asia, were taste-testers for this bake.

You can bake these without the sea salt.  Just omit the salt.  They’re really good.  But just so that you know.  I trialled both recipes on my resident taste-testers last weekend, Emily and Jonathan who were visiting!   There were barely enough biscuits left to test out on a family of 6 later on, who I watch the GBBO together with.  They unanimously preferred the sea salt chocolate thins.

Wholemeal Sea Salt Chocolate Thins

Wholemeal Sea Salt Chocolate Thins, adapted from the back of the Allinsons Plain Wholemeal Flour Packet.  Thankfully can also be found on Baking Mad.

Makes between 24-26 chocolate thins

Ingredients

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt and a bit more to sprinkle on top later
  • 125g plain wholemeal flour
  • 25g cocoa powder

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC/ 340ºF/Gas Mark 5

2. Cream together the butter, sugar and the sea salt until light and fluffy.  This normally takes between 3-5 minutes.

3. Add the cocoa powder and wholemeal flour and mix until it comes together in a soft dough.

4. Cover and let it rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

5. Prepare a baking tray with baking paper.  Take a teaspoon of the mixture (roughly between 12-16g) and lightly roll it into a ball between the palms of your hands.  I say lightly to avoid overworked dough, resulting in tough wee biscuits.  And hey, they don’t have to be perfect balls.  You’re going to be pressing them down with a fork anyway.

6. Use a fork to press each ball down.  If the mixture starts to stick to the back of the fork, lightly flour the back of the fork and that will prevent it.  Sprinkle a wee bit of salt over each biscuit.

7. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.  Check at 10 minutes, in case you’re oven bakes things super fast.

8. Leave to cool on the baking tray until the biscuits are cool.  Then gently transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely.  They’ll keep in an airtight container for at least 3 days.  They’ve never lasted past the 3 day mark with me and in my experience, they get a bit crumblier as each day passes.

Did my colleague who pushed for an eggless bake get one?  Oh yes.  She got a biscuit when I handed them out on the last day of term.  Then she cheekily reached out and took another.

The alternative bake: wholemeal chocolate thins without sea salt
The alternative bake: wholemeal chocolate thins without sea salt

Multi-seeded Wholemeal Bread

Multi-seed wholemeal bread

Multi-seeded wholemeal bread is by far the best thing that I bake here in Cambodia.  It’s better than any cake, biscuit or pie that I’ve made and any macaron that I’ll attempt to make in this humid heat.  I’ll give you three reasons why.

  1. It tastes nuttily wholesome and super-yummy.
  2. I love wholemeal bread and I’ve yet to be able to buy wholemeal bread that tastes like proper British wholemeal bread, anywhere in Phnom Penh.
  3. You can’t go wrong with it.  When your oven has no temperature gauge (like mine), you know that you’ll be safe whacking the oven on the highest heat and leaving the dough to bake in the oven without fear of sinking, like you’d get in a cake.

Ingredients for Multi-seed wholemeal bread

It took me a few months to find wholemeal flour, mind.  I came across farine du blé noir and wholewheat flour on the shelves in Lucky Supermarket and stood scratching my head as to whether either of them was wholemeal flour.  I was pretty sure that wholewheat flour was the american name for wholemeal, but farine du blé noir?  As I discovered later with the help of google search – that’s french for buckwheat flour.  Not exactly what I was looking for.

Then it took another few weeks before I could bake the bread.   My left knee twisted one November evening as I was lying in bed and I was in excruciating pain.  I couldn’t walk, straighten my knee or put any pressure on it.  Visits to multiple doctors, an X-ray and  MRI scan later revealed severe inflammation and fluid caused by a fall off a motorbike several months beforehand.  Walking on Phnom Penh’s uneven surfaces, hopping on and off tuk tuks and motos had served to aggravate the injury.  My mum advised me not to do any baking that required standing up, and have you tried to hand knead dough sitting down?  Not worth the effort if you’re as short as me.  So, I was pretty much laid up on a sofa with an ice-pack on my knee for the best part of a month and a half.

ingredients for wholemeal breadrough looking dough

2 weeks in, I was pretty bored.  So I hobbled out on my moto to buy some wholewheat flour from Lucky and made my first wholemeal loaf.  It was overproved and underbaked.  But when I tore off that first piece of bread and bit into it, I was the happiest little baker in the whole of Cambodia.  I’m pretty sure no-one rivalled my happiness.

Then my tastebuds started hankering after a multi-seeded loaf, like Warburtons Seeded Batch.  I was reading Richard Bertinet’s Dough and realised that I could just experiment by putting some seeds into my bread recipe.  And that’s how I came up with my multi-seeded wholemeal bread recipe, which as you know, is the BEST thing that I bake in Cambodia.

combine the ingredientsadd the dough to the seeds

I think that part of the reason for why the bread tastes so good is that I’ve always allowed this bread to have a slow rise in the fridge to give the flavours a longer time to mature.  However, I don’t think that it’ll ruin the flavour of the bread too much if you a) don’t have enough room in your fridge or b) want to biting into it within 3 hours from start to finish.  

dough ready to pop into the fridge

I find that I can’t eat a whole loaf in time before the humidity causes the mould to break out on my bread 🙁 !  Thus, I’ve taken to making two smaller loaves and freezing one loaf once I’ve baked it.

So, here’s the scrumptious, nuttily, wholesome Multi-seeded Wholemeal Bread recipe, with it’s foundations in Richard Bertinet’s Dough.

Ingredients

  • 250g wholemeal flour – use strong bread flour if you can.
  • 250g strong white bread flour
  • 7g fast action yeast
  • 10g salt
  • 350g tepid water
  • 30g extra-virgin olive oil – but normal olive oil will also work too
  • 100g various seeds – I used equal measures of pumpkin, sunflower, chia and sesame seeds

Method

1. Measure out both flours and yeast in a medium-large bowl and mix.  Then mix in the salt.  I’m in the habit of adding the salt at this point so that it won’t touch the yeast.

2. Add the water and oil and stir to combine.  I use a scraper at this point to combine the ingredients, but you can use just your hands. It’ll make a wet dough but don’t be scared by it. The wetness of the dough should ensure that it’s a soft texture. Turn it out onto your work surface and knead. If you’re like me and a bit slow at kneading, it’ll take about 15-20 minutes. Of course, you could use a machine fitted with a dough hook. In which case, put all ingredients for the dough into a large bowl, ensuring that the yeast and salt are added to opposite sides of the bowl. Mix on a slow speed until it all combines and then move it onto a medium-high speed for about 10-15 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

3. Measure out the seeds into the same mixing bowl that you used for the bread dough.  Add the kneaded bread dough to the same bowl and work the seeds into the dough in the bowl.  Sometimes, for the last few minutes, I’ll finish combining the seeds into the dough out of the bowl .

Top Tip: Work the seeds into the dough in the mixing bowl to prevent the seeds from escaping everywhere.

4. Pour a little bit of vegetable oil into the bowl and lightly cover the dough with oil. This helps the dough not to stick as it rises. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave it for an overnight prove in the refrigerator.  Alternatively you could leave in a warm place for at least 1 hour and doubled in size.

5. Prepare your baking tray or loaf tine.  Once the dough has doubled in size, gently place it on the work surface and gently press down on the dough with your fingers to release the gas.  Do this into a rectangular shape.  I find this works just as well as punching the dough – a tip I learned from Richard Bertinet.  Strengthen the dough by folding the dough a third of the way down into the middle, press down with the heel of your hand.  Repeat with the other side, then fold over the middle and press firmly with the heel of your hand.  The dough should feel firmer and stronger.

6. Lightly flour the surface to shape the dough.  For a round loaf, like in the photos, I tuck the ends into the middle of the bread, turn it over so that the tucks are on the bottom, keep one hand as still as I can partly under the cob and then use my other hand to turn and shape the dough into a tight, round shape.  Here’s a link to The Fresh Loaf on shaping dough, as a visual aid.

7.  Transfer onto a baking tray/loaf tine (depending on the shape of your loaf), cover loosely with cling film or a tea towel, until doubled in size.  This might take 40 mins – 1.5 hour.

8. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250°C/480°F/Gas Mark 9.

9.  When the dough is ready.  Cut deep, clean incisions to help create shape and to help release gas.  On this loaf, I made a big hash sign (#) but made the mistake of not flouring my knife beforehand, so the dough stuck to the blade.  Lightly flour the top of the bread.

10.  Spray the inside of the oven with water to create steam and put the dough into the oven.  Bake for 10-15 minutes at 250°C/480°F/Gas Mark 9 then reduce it to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7 for another 40 minutes.  Check whether the bread is ready – it should make a hollow sound when you tap it’s bottom.  If not, set the timer for another 10 minutes and check again.

multi-seed wholemeal bread

p.s. Oh and what happened to my left knee?

I’m delighted to report that it’s on the mend.  Have I told you that Claire (of the white chocolate, oat and raspberry cookie fame) is also a physiotherapist?  She gave me some physio advice and taped up my knee while I was in New Zealand. I’ve faithfully been doing my exercises twice a day and resting it up lots.  However, I reacted to the tape so progress has been slower than I’d have liked.  I’ve not been able to dance or jump or walk for 10 minutes without regretting it the next day.  Last week, I went to a conference in Singapore called Kingdom Invasion, where they prayed for healing for my knee.  Whilst I was in Singapore, my knee got a lot better.  Good enough that I can jump, dance and swim breast-stroke without pain.  I’m still doing my physio and not overdoing physical activity – but the knee is definitely on course for a complete healing.  I can’t wait for the day when I start running again.  Praise God!

Pip and me leaping off the ledge for my photo of the day
Pip and me leaping off the ledge for my photo of the day at Adventure Cove, Sentosa

Allinson’s Banana Cake: my marathon training cake

I’m training to run a marathon that is in May – EEEEeeeekK! It’s my first one and to say that I’m terrified is an understatement. So, I try not to think too much of the distance or the number of hours that I’ll be running. However, I can’t seem to stop myself thinking about what food to feed myself towards the end of a long run. I am ravenous. It’s a different kind of hunger to when I was training for my first half marathon. Then, I found myself craving melons towards the 10 mile mark. So far, I can’t seem to eat enough of this one cake.

Allinsons Banana Cake with Chocolate
I know that my latest posts have been about buttermilk, but bear with me whilst I share one more buttermilk cake recipe and then I’ll move onto something else. This is the one that started it all. It began a few years ago when I found this gem of a recipe on the back of Allinson’s Wholemeal Self-raising Flour packet. I wasn’t entirely convinced at how it would turn out. But I thought, ‘why not? I’ve got the ingredients at hand. What do I have to lose but maybe some bananas that are going off anyway, some sugar, butter and flour?’ So, I made it for an English Tea Party for Study Abroad/Erasmus students at Leicester University as part of their Welcome Programme. And then I had to make it again for my colleagues because it all disappeared before they got a taste.

And..?

3 years on and a couple of banana cake recipes later, this has turned out to be one of my favourite banana cake recipes and I bake it frequently. It’s also one of the few cakes that I get a craving for. So, I’ll buy bananas deliberately in order to bake this cake, rather than eat the bananas as they are. I know that’s not the common practice with bananas. A further confession. Sometimes I see how long I can leave the bananas ripening before they become unusable. (Answer – black and mouldy.) I’ve proved to myself that the banana in its various shades of mottled brown to very black is edible… in a cake… and will last a bit longer if you pop them in the fridge.

One of the nice things about this cake is that you can make variations of it, which is handy when you’re baking it frequently. I’ve experimented by adding 100g of milk or dark chocolate chunks successfully, tried white chocolate chunks (doesn’t work because they don’t have enough flavour to come into their own in this cake), decorated the top with dried apricots soaked in apricot brandy. My preference? I like it as just a plain banana cake.

I’m sure that you can find even more variations. I’d love to know them so please share 🙂

Ingredients for Allinson’s Banana Cake, adapted by yours truly.

  • 100g/3½oz softened unsalted butter, cubed or as I recently discovered, you can subsitute it with 80ml sunflower or vegetable oil. I think that the oil makes the sponge a bit lighter.
  • 140g/4½oz caster sugar (I halved the sugar, so add some more, if you’d like it a bit sweeter)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 350g/12½oz wholemeal self-raising flour (feel like I should say Allinson’s, since its their recipe… and I’ve only ever used their flour)
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 75ml/3 fl.oz buttermilk (how to make your own buttermilk)
  • optional extra ingredient – 100g chocolate chunks; chopped walnuts or pecans…

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a deep cake tin. I find that anything between 18-23cm works. Just vary the baking a time a bit. A 23cm cake tin needs a bit less time in the oven than a 18cm one.

2. Cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy. Then gradually add in the egg. Or, if you’re using oil, then beat the sugar and egg together first, then add the oil.

3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. The sifting helps to create lightness which is important when using wholemeal flour. Remember to add the bran that remains in your sieve back into the mixing bowl. I tried using the bran to decorate the cake last time but it just went everywhere so I wouldn’t recommend doing that.

4. Add 3. to the butter and sugar and mix well. It will resemble bread crumbs if you’re using an electric mixer, or feel very stiff if you’re doing it by hand.

breadcrumbs banana cake mixture
5. Add in the mashed bananas and the buttermilk and mix well. If you want to pop in an optional ingredient, such as chocolate chunks or nuts or dried fruit, then do so at this stage

Top Tip: Coat your chocolate chunks lightly with flour before adding them to the cake mixture. This will help them not to sink to the bottom of your cake during the baking process.

6. Transfer the cake mixture into the prepared baking tin, smooth and pop it into the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean.

banana cake mixture
I think that it’s the combination of the wholemeal flour and banana that gives the cake its wholesome and moreish character. The top of the cake crisps up slightly and lends a wonderful slightly crunchy, sweet flavour. The flavour of the banana isn’t too overpowering, for those of you who aren’t overly keen on it and leaves you wanting to nibble on some more. Mmmmm Mmmmm MMmmmm.

Incidentally, I do recommend the back of flour packets as a good place to find yummy baking recipes. Flour companies should know these things, since flour is normally the primary ingredient. Now, I should listen to my own advice more often and make those chocolate thins that are on the back of the plain wholemeal flour one…

%d bloggers like this: