Baking again post essay hell!

I’m so unhappy about how long it has been since I last posted! I have spent the last month struggling like crazy with some essays for uni and doing little else but write essays, eat and sleep. But the essays are finally in and I have my life back, at least until the work all starts piling up again. (Although it seems I haven’t quite escaped the essays yet. They seem forever coming back to haunt me in moments of panic when I feel convinced I’ve submitted a copy with a glaring error. Did I definitely remember to change that sentence I wasn’t happy with from purple back to black? And that word I’d highlighted in red? What if that last minute change I’d made to a sentence in a final proof-read had a massive mistake in it? And did I definitely check my references thoroughly enough?… But there is nothing I can do now except hope like mad that I didn’t submit anything horribly wrong, because I’d have noticed right? Wouldn’t I?!

After finally getting the essays in, the first thing I thought (ok, perhaps not the very first, but  soon after) was…I feel so unhealthy! My face had broken out in lots of angry spots and my skin felt horrible. I had seen far too little daylight and fresh air and far too many snacky junk foods. I always get that funny stress/adrenaline induced hunger as it gets close to handing in essays so I’d been snacking on way too much chocolate, biscuits and Ben and Jerry’s. And so for the last few days I’ve been craving healthy foods. I made a breakfast of muesli, natural yoghurt, some blueberries, grated apple and a little honey and it felt like the most amazing thing after endless bowls of bran flakes and slices of toast. I also had the strangest craving for kale, (weird, I know) which I suppose could be put down to stress having left me feeling a little low on iron. So I made a lovely, quick and easy stir-fry of kale and thin strips of steak in oyster sauce which I will hopefully post the recipe for soon.

But despite the health-food cravings, I still had to bake! What I wanted was a fairly simple, everyday loaf cake without any icing or butter cream or too much sweetness. I found a recipe for a honey and walnut loaf in Cake Days, which I bought a few months ago and still hadn’t cooked from yet. And it sounded just perfect. Fortunately it turned out to be so too. I’d wondered if the 2 tbsps of honey would be enough to give the cake all that much of a honey flavour kick. But it really was, and made for a very comforting, moreish flavour. When I cut the cake to take photos, it was still a touch warm and the texture was quite loose and crumbly. On cooling fully it became tighter and quite dense in texture (not that this was in anyway a bad thing!). The cake gets covered with a honey syrup as soon as it comes out of the oven which helps keep it moist and gives a nice stickiness to the crust.  The crust did get a little dark in colour and slightly over-cooked looking, but I found this gave a nice chewiness that seemed to suit the honey taste. (That sounds like I’m trying to cover up for potential cooking mistakes, but honestly, I think the chewiness worked!)

Honey and Walnut Loaf (adapted from Cake Days by The Hummingbird Bakery)

  • 190g unsalted butter, softened
  • 190g plain flour
  • 190g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 25 g plain yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 60g walnuts, roughly chopped.
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease a 1 pound loaf tin (about 9 x 18cm with 7cm sides) and dust with flour
  2. With a hand-held whisk, beat the butter for a minute or so in a large bowl until turning creamy, then beat in the sugar until pale and fluffy. Crack the eggs in one at a time, beating well between each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl now and then to ensure the mix is thoroughly combined.
  3. Add the yoghurt, vanilla and half of the honey and mix again on low speed until combined.
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt then add to the butter/sugar/egg mix in 2 goes, mixing on a low speed after each addition until just combined.
  5. Fold in the walnuts with a large spoon.
  6. Pour the mix into the prepared tin and bake for 50 – 60 mins until firm to the touch and a skewer comes out clean.
  7. About 15 mins before the cake is due to come out of the oven. Combine the rest of the honey with 50ml of water in a small saucepan, bring to the boil and then bubble until reduced by about half. Drizzle all over the surface of the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. Leave to cool in the tin for about 20 mins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
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