Cakes & Bakes: Daktyla

Home-made daktyla | H is for Home

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a small jar of black onion seeds with the plan of using it in and sprinkled on a home-made loaf of onion bread. Little did I know that onion seeds aren’t actually… onion seeds! I tasted a pinch expecting a blast of onion flavour, it had a slight onion/black pepper/earthy taste, not altogether unpleasant though.

Bubbling bread sponge | H is for Home

When I looked it up, black onion seeds are actually nigella seeds; they’re also commonly known as black cumin or kalonji. Love in a Mist, which grows on our allotment, is a very close relation. I wonder whether it’s seeds are also edible.

Mixture of sponge, flour, olive oil and seeds | H is for Home

Anyhow, since my onion loaf idea was scuppered (at least for the time being) I looked into what I could make using my black onion seeds. That’s when I came across daktyla, a Greek/Cypriot/Turkish rustic bread.

Rising daktyla dough | H is for Home

The seeds are mixed with sesame seeds both in and atop a sort of tear-and-share loaf made up of rows of dough. Δάχτυλα, (daktyla in Greek) means ‘fingers’.

Daktyla dough balls | H is for Home Daktyla dough batons

I just happened to have a large bag of black sesame seeds that I bought in a Chinese supermarket, so I already had all the necessary ingredients in stock.

Sprinkling seeds on daktyla dough | H is for Home

There was quite a lot of proofing time involved – an hour for the sponge, 90 minutes for the first proof, another 90 for the second – but it meant that I could get on and do other things in between time.

Details of cooked daktyla | H is for Home

It was delicious with baba ganoush and salad. I imagine it would go down well with hummus, feta and Anari cheeses, olives and cured meats.

Serves 8
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For the sponge
  1. 130g/4½oz strong white bread flour
  2. 70g/2½oz cornmeal/polenta
  3. 7g/¼oz instant yeast
  4. 300ml/10½ fl oz warm water
For the dough
  1. 240g/8½oz strong white bread flour
  2. 1½ tsp salt
  3. 2tbsp olive oil
  4. 30g/1oz toasted sesame seeds + 1tbsp to sprinkle over the loaf
  5. 1 tablespoon nigella seeds + 1tsp to sprinkle over the loaf
  7. Home-made daktyla ingredients
For the sponge
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the strong white bread flour, cornmeal, yeast and warm water making sure there are no lumps (A Danish dough whisk is perfect for this job). Allow the mixture rest for an hour, or until it's foamy and full of bubbles
For the dough
  1. Combine the remaining ingredients into the sponge and knead -- by hand, mixer, food processor or bread machine -- to form a soft, supple dough, adding a small amount of extra water or flour as needed
  2. Place the dough in a greased bowl, and cover it with a proof cover or cling film. Allow it to rise for 1½ hours, or until almost doubled in size
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured or greased work surface and divide the dough into 8 pieces. Round each piece into a ball, then shape each into a baton about 10cm/4-in in length
  4. Grease or line with parchment, a 46 x 33cm / 18 x 13-in baking sheet
  5. Place the ovals of dough side by side (long sides almost touching each other) on the sheet, leaving about 2½cm/1-in between each; they'll fill the pan end to end
  6. Cover the baking sheet and allow the dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until it's expanded enough so that the ovals are touching each other
  7. Brush the top of the dough very lightly with water (or spray it gently), and sprinkle with a mixture of toasted sesame seeds and nigella seeds
  8. Bake in a preheated oven at 190ºC/375°F/Gas mark for 25-30 minutes, until it's golden brown
  9. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
H is for Home Harbinger

Cakes & Bakes: Flatbread

Detail of home-made flatbread | H is for Home

I’ve made a few different types of flatbread in the past, but this one is by far the quickest and easiest to date – probably the best tasting too!

Milk and ghee in a glass measuring jug | H is for Home

Being a flatbread, there’s no added yeast – so no long proofing times; there’s also no heavy kneading.

Flatbread dough divided into quarters | H is for Home Rolling out flatbread dough into rounds | H is for Home

You can make the dough in advance and then fry off when required. You could even roll out each flatbread, layer between parchment paper, wrap in cling film and freeze for up to 6 months.

Home-made flatbread | H is for Home

It’s so flexible when it comes to serving suggestions, we don’t know where to start. You can have it with a selection of dips or fill with salads, roast vegetables, kebabs etc. They’d be great served alongside Indian, Mediterranean or Middle Eastern cuisine – they’re so versatile

Stuffed home-made flatbread | H is for Home

For today’s first outing I tried it with a delicious smoked humous and Justin plumped for a spicy Moroccan chicken affair. We both really fancy it with babaganoush – so it just might be on the menu again tomorrow!

Yields 4
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  1. 300g/10½oz strong bread flour flour (level cups, unsifted, not packed), plus extra for dusting
  2. ½ tsp salt
  3. 50g/1¾oz ghee
  4. 180ml/6 fl oz milk
  5. 2-3 tbsp olive oil or ghee (for frying)
  7. Home-made flatbread ingredients
  1. Put the butter and ghee into a measuring jug and heat in the microwave until the ghee is just melted. Stir to combine
  2. In a large mixing bowl, bring together the flour, salt and ghee/milk mixture into a smooth dough. Add a little more flour if sticky
  3. Lightly sprinkle a work surface with flour, turn out the dough and knead for a minute or two
  4. Wrap in clingfilm and rest at room temperature for about half an hour
  5. Sprinkle the work surface again with a little flour, remove the dough from the clingfilm and divide the dough into 4 equal pieces
  6. Form each piece into a ball and roll out into about ⅛" / ⅓cm thick rounds
  7. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil/ghee in a heavy-bottomed skillet pan over a medium-high heat
  8. Carefully lay one of the flattened dough rounds in the pan and fry for about a minute. Flip over and cook the other side, pressing down with a spatula where it puffs up
  9. Stack the cooked flatbreads on top of each other - the moisture helps soften the surface, making them even more pliable
  10. Serve straight away or they can be reheated by re-frying on low heat, 30 seconds each side
H is for Home Harbinger

Cakes & Bakes: Elderflower shortbread

Home-made elderflower shortbread petticoat tails | H is for Home

It’s elderflower season again – one of the classic smells and tastes of summer!

Sprigs of elderflowers infusing into caster sugar | H is for Home

We see those frothy white flowers growing wild all around and can’t bear to see them going to waste.

Antique shortbread mould floured with polenta | H is for Home

We’ve already made a large batch of elderflower cordial which will last us a good few months. In the past, there’s also been elderflower champagne and elderflower cakes too. This week, we decided to try some biscuits – elderflower shortbread to be precise.

Home-made elderflower shortbread round prior to being cooked | H is for Home

There are various methods for incorporating the flowers’ flavour into the biscuit. We experimented with three – using cordial as one of the ingredients, infusing the sugar with elderflower bunches and finally incorporating the tiny petals into the biscuit mix itself.


We found that cordial made the biscuits a bit hard, crystalline and possibly too sweet. The infused sugar runs the risk of lots of creepy crawlies escaping into the sugar (even if you shake carefully) – and the resulting elderflower flavour wasn’t intense enough for us. The last technique worked best for us – by quite a long way actually, so that would be our recommendation. The resulting shortbread was moist and crumbly with a wonderful distinctive flavour – give them a go before those flowers disappear!

Elderflower shortbread
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
  1. 3 elderflower heads
  2. 75g/3oz caster sugar
  3. 175g/6oz plain flour
  4. 75g/3oz fine semolina
  5. 175g/6oz butter
  7. Home-made elderflower shortbread ingredients
  1. Make sure the elderflower heads are free of insects and brown bits
  2. Using scissors, carefully snip off the little flower heads add to the sugar and stir in. Allow to infuse for about an hour
  3. Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas mark 2
  4. If using a mould, sprinkle it with semolina to prevent the dough from sticking
  5. Put the elderflower-infused sugar, flour, semolina and butter into a food processor and combine for about 30 seconds or until lumps begin to form
  6. Turn the mixture out on to a lightly floured work surface and bring together into a ball
  7. Press the dough evenly into your mould (or baking tin). If using a mould, turn the dough out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment
  8. Prick the top with a fork to prevent it from rising
  9. Bake for about an hour or until the shortbread just begins to brown
  10. Remove from the oven on to a wire cooling rack
  11. While still a bit warm score the top with a knife into petticoat tails/portions
  12. Once cooled completely, remove from the tin and cut into pieces
  13. Store in an airtight container for up to a week
H is for Home Harbinger

Cakes & Bakes: Cornmeal loaf

Home-made cornmeal loaf | H is for Home

Dan Lepard is probably my favourite bread & pastry baker. I’ve cut out and kept some of his recipes that were published in his long-running (now sadly ended) column in the Guardian Weekend Magazine. Luckily, they’re all still available in the Guardian’s online archive.

Whisked wet cornmeal | H is dfor Home

I’ve had his tasty cornmeal baps recipe bookmarked for a few weeks, planning to give them a go. Instead of baps,I decided to turn them into a cornmeal loaf instead.

Mixing cornmeal, egg, honey, yoghurt and cold water | H is for Home

The recipe makes two 500g/ oz loaves. I found the dough a little on the wet side and the cooked loaf a bit too sweet so I’ve ever so slightly tweaked the recipe below. Saying that, this is one of the best loaves I’ve ever baked.

Mixing cornmeal loaf dough by hand | H is for Home

It has a great, slightly springy crumb and crisp crust.

Cornmeal loaf dough in a mixing bowl | H is for Home

Lepard recommends pairing it with fried chicken – building your own (probably far superior) McChicken Sandwich or KFC Fillet Burger. Justin also likes the idea of slicing it for a smoked bacon sandwich.

Two cornmeal loaves having a final proofing in loaf tins | H is for Home

Being a vegetarian, I might pair it with my home-made hummus or grilled Halloumi for its tangy saltiness.

Two risen, uncooked cornmeal loaves sprinkled with cornmeal before going in the oven | H is for Home

What would you pair it with?

Two cornmeal loaves cooling in their tins on a wire rack | H is for Home

Cornmeal loaf
Yields 2
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Cook Time
35 min
Cook Time
35 min
  1. 100g/3½oz coarse cornmeal or polenta
  2. 300ml/10½ fl oz boiling water
  3. 100g/3½oz plain yoghurt
  4. 400ml/14 fl oz cold water
  5. 1 medium egg
  6. 30g/1oz agave nectar or honey
  7. 7g/¼oz fast-action yeast
  8. 1kg/2.2lb strong white flour
  9. 50g/1¾oz cornflour
  10. 3 tsp fine salt
  11. Cornmeal to finish
  13. Home-made cornmeal loaf ingredients
  1. Put the cornmeal in a large mixing bowl, pour on the boiling water, whisk and leave for 10 minutes
  2. Whisk in the yoghurt, water, egg and honey until smooth
  3. Stir in the yeast. Add the flour, cornflour and salt, and mix to a smooth dough. Cover and leave for 10 minutes
  4. Lightly oil a patch of worktop. Gently knead the dough on it for 10-12 seconds then return it to the bowl. Cover and leave an hour
  5. If making 2 medium-sized loaves, divide the dough into 2 pieces of about 500g each. Shape into ovals with a little flour before putting into greased loaf tins. Leave to rise for about 90 minutes
  6. Heat the oven to 200ºC/180ºC fan/400ºF/gas mark 6 and sprinkle with cornmeal. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden
Adapted from Dan Lepard: Step-by-step baking
H is for Home Harbinger

Cakes & Bakes: Rhubarb and custard tart

Home-made rhubarb and custard tart | H is for Home

One of the things that Todmorden is famous for is Incredible Edible, a group of local people who have started something of a revolution, growing food in public places in & around the town centre.

Incredible Edible rhubarb, peas, onions and chives growing in Todmorden Train Station car park

There are vegetables outside the police station and local community college, herbs along the canal tow-path and in the train station and an apothecary garden in the grounds of the health centre.

Stalks of rhubarb with metal colander

Everything is free for anyone to come along and help themselves – or even do a little weeding and clearing if the fancy takes them!

Measuring jug with eggs, custard powder and vanilla essence

The train station is on one of our daily dog-walking routes and it’s been lovely watching the progress of the peas, red onions, chives and the like.

Making custard

This week, along with the dog, I left the house with a pair of scissors and a carrier bag and cut a few stems of rhubarb – to use in a rhubarb and custard tart.

Pouring custard on tart pastry base

Rhubarb & custard is a classic British combination as is baked custard tart. I’ve put them together and come up with a delicious dessert.

Sticks of rhubarb in custard

I used the same pastry recipe as last week’s pear tart and made sure to add a tad more sugar than normal to the custard recipe… and a tablespoonful of Bird’s Custard Powder.

Home-made rhubarb and custard tart | H is for Home

The sweetness of the custard and the tartness of the rhubarb worked incredibly well – I’ll be making this one again before the end of the rhubarb season.

Rhubarb and custard tart
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Cook Time
40 min
Cook Time
40 min
For the pastry base
  1. 200g/7oz plain flour
  2. 60g/2oz icing sugar
  3. pinch of salt
  4. 125g/4½oz very cold butter
  5. 1 egg yolk
For the custard
  1. 400ml/14 fl oz double cream
  2. 100ml/3½ fl oz creamy milk
  3. 2 eggs, plus 2 yolks
  4. 100g/3½oz caster sugar
  5. 1tbsp custard powder
  6. 1tsp vanilla essence
  8. Home-made fat rascals ingredients
For the pastry base
  1. Put the flour, icing sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine
  2. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely - you'll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pea-size pieces and that's just fine
  3. Stir the egg, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition
  4. When the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each - until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds
  5. Just before your pastry reaches this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change, so listen out
  6. Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Very lightly and sparingly - make that very, very lightly and sparingly - knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing
  7. Butter the tart tin and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the tin. Don't be stingy - you want a crust with a little heft because you want to be able to both taste and feel it. Also, don't be too heavy-handed - you want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don't want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly shortbread-ish texture
  8. Freeze the pastry for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking
  9. Preheat the oven to 175ºC/375ºF/Gas mark 4
  10. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminium foil and fit the foil tightly against the pastry
  11. Bake the pastry for 25 minutes, then carefully remove the foil. If the pastry has puffed up, press it down gently with the back of a spoon
  12. Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer the pastry case to a cooling rack; keeping it in its tin
For the custard
  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, slowly bring the cream and milk to a simmer
  2. In a large, heat-proof measuring jug, whisk together the eggs, yolks, sugar, custard powder and vanilla essence
  3. Pour the hot cream & milk mixture into the bowl, whisking continuously
  4. Carefully strain the custard on to the cooked pastry base (don't overfill)
  5. Slice the rhubarb into lengths and place into a pattern in the custard
  6. Carefully put the tart tin into the oven (rearrange the rhubarb lengths if they drift in the liquid during the move!)
  7. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top begins to brown
  8. Remove from the oven, sprinkle a little granulated sugar over the top and allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing and serving
H is for Home Harbinger

Price Points: Kitchen timers

Selection of kitchen timers | H is for Home

Kitchen timers are terribly undervalued kitchen tools. If it weren’t for our vintage Junghans wall mounted example many a meal, cake or loaf of bread would have been totally ruined!

I have a memory like a sieve and only its short, sharp ring alerts me to what I was doing half an hour ago. And we’ve noticed that Justin’s mum & dad could do with one too – they’re forever returning to the kitchen during cooking to check the clock on the oven instead of setting a timer and getting on with something else. It’s always good to accumulate a few Xmas pressie ideas so that’s gone on the list.

Here are three timers with various price tags, tick-tock and silent digital models, contemporary and vintage, plain black and brightly coloured, ones that ring and ones that quack! Take your pick!

  1. Tesco Basics timer – £2.50, Tesco
  2. Vintage kitchen timer – £22.00, H is for Home
  3. Alessi duck kitchen timer – £35.00, Selfridges