Jo Pratt The Flexible Baker – The old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” I think applies to cookbooks too, well, it certainly does in the case of Jo Pratt, and I’m jolly glad! Jo is the highly talented author of several great cookbooks, and the most recent in her successful Flexible series is The Flexible Baker. This was published last month and joins her The Flexible Pescararian, The Flexible Vegetarian and The Flexible Family cookbooks. They are all such a hit, as they include adaptations that help cater for all manner of allergies, intolerances and lifestyle choices with ingredient swaps and other options.
This latest volume from Jo includes sweet and savoury bakes, with each page including a clear dietary index covering everything from gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free cooking and veganism, allowing the reader to see at a glance which recipes best suit their requirements. And there’s no compromise on flavour or appeal. The recipes include delights such as smoky bacon scones with salted maple butter, sweet onion and blue cheese swirls, chicken & chorizo sausage rolls, ‘sourdough’ for the impatient, multi-millionaires shortbread, pecan pumpkin pie and salted honey & pistachio puddings Just reading through the book makes the reader want to don an apron and start baking!
The Flexible Baker by Jo Pratt is published, hardback, by White Lion Publishing at £20. Here are a couple of recipes to whet your appetite and persuade you to buy the book.
Sticky Lime and Passion Fruit Cake
Super tangy lime and sharp passion fruit are such a perfect match. In this recipe, they feature both in the cake mixture and create a delicious sticky syrup that’s poured over the top once the cake is cooked. This dairy-free cake can easily be transformed into a vegan treat by following the Flexible section below.
175ml/6 fl oz/¾ cup olive or rapeseed (canola) oil, plus extra for
180g/6 oz/generous ¾ cup coconut yoghurt
2 tsp baking powder
180g/6 oz/1¹⁄³ cups plain (all-purpose) flour
Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/gas 4. Brush a 20cm/8 inch round deep cake tin with some oil and line the base with baking parchment.
Put 100g/3½ oz/½ cup of the sugar in a small saucepan. Measure the lime juice and make up the quantity to 100ml/3½ fl oz/scant ½ cup with water. Put in the saucepan along with the pulp from one of the passionfruit, reserving the other two for the cake. Bring to the boil and cook for 2 minutes or so until you have a loose syrup. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Beat together the oil, the remaining 150g/5½ oz/¾ cup sugar, the eggs, coconut yoghurt, pulp from the remaining two passion fruit and reserved lime zest, to give you a thin batter consistency. Mix the baking powder into the flour, then stir into the batter. Pour into the prepared tin and level the surface with the back of your spoon.
Bake for 40–45 minutes until golden and a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle.
Once baked, slowly pour the syrup over the top of the cake while it’s still hot, allowing it to soak in. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool further. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Vegan: substitute the eggs for 2 tablespoons chia seeds mixed with 6 tablespoons cold water. Sit for 10 minutes until thickened before adding to the cake batter instead of the eggs in the above recipe.
Flavour swap: to make a sticky blood orange cake, swap the limes for 2 blood oranges when in season, and omit the passion fruit. Use Greek yoghurt (or almond yoghurt for dairy-free) instead of coconut yoghurt.
Quick Soda Bread
Making your own bread certainly need not be time consuming or hard work and this is a perfect example of just that, as soda bread doesn’t require kneading or time to rise. Traditionally, it uses buttermilk to react with bicarbonate of soda to rise, however, buttermilk isn’t always easy to get hold of, so this recipe uses some everyday ingredients – milk and vinegar – that work just as well. The result is a soft, dense bread with the most incredible crust. Tear or cut into pieces and enjoy over a few days.
Prep 15 minutes / Cooking 30 minutes / Makes 1 large loaf
1½ tbsp white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
350ml/12 fl oz/1½ cups milk
225g/8 oz/1¾ cups plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp soft brown sugar or caster (superfine) sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of (baking) soda
½ tsp flaked sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
Stir the vinegar or lemon juice into the milk and set aside for a few minutes for the milk to thicken and curdle slightly.
Heat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F/gas 7. Sprinkle some flour on a baking tray.
Put the flours, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl and stir well to combine.
Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk mixture.
Stir to form a sticky dough, then using floured hands bring the dough together to form a big ball.
The dough should be soft but not too wet. Sit the dough on the floured baking tray and cut a deep cross in the top of the dough with a knife, almost but not quite all the way through. Sprinkle over a little flour and some salt. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until it is golden and cooked through. To check, you can tap the base of the loaf and when cooked it will sound hollow.
Cool on a wire rack before slicing or tearing into chunks.
Vegan: switch the milk for a plant-based alternative. I really like to use oat milk for its mild flavour, but any will work and react in the same way when mixed with vinegar or lemon juice.
Flavour swap: to make this loaf into a cheese and onion soda bread, stir 125g/4½ oz/1¾ cups grated mature Cheddar cheese and 1 teaspoon of onion granules into the flour before adding the milk. Scatter the top with an additional 50g/1¾ oz/½ cup grated Cheddar and 1 teaspoon poppy seeds. If the cheese is becoming too golden before the loaf is ready, reduce the heat and cook for a little longer.