Tag Archives: baking

Classic chocolate cupcakes

25 Mar

A classic, moist, dark chocolate cupcake with buttercream frosting (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

A few years ago, before I even considered changing careers from music to food, I was already a huge fan of food TV. I watched Nigella, Jamie and Bill religiously on BBC Food (now BBC Lifestyle), and made notes now and then to remember some of their recipes.

One of the recipes that survived in my scribbled recipe notebook, was a basic cupcake recipe from Nigella Lawson. While she was demonstrating the easy steps, I was trying to write it down – only getting cryptic notes of ingredients and some of the method. Not knowing back then that I could have just checked the full recipe online, I tried to make sense of my scribbles later that day. The great thing is, the recipe is so very simple and absolutely fool proof that I have made dozens of batches of these over the years. For chocolate cupcakes, I just substitute two heaped tablespoons of flour for two heaped tablespoons of cocoa powder.

More recently, I looked up the original recipe. Nigella uses royal icing for her cupcakes, but I prefer a rich and fluffy buttercream frosting. Use whatever you prefer.

These chocolate cupcakes always deliver in terms of taste and texture. (Photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Ingredients: (makes 12)

Note: Make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature before you start. It makes a big difference to the texture. Also, a digital scale will make your life a lot easier for this recipe.

  • 75 g cake flour
  • 50 g cocoa powder (for vanilla cupcakes, leave the cocoa powder out and just use 125 g of cake flour in total)
  • 125 g sugar
  • 125 g soft butter
  • 2 XL eggs
  • 5 ml baking powder
  • 2.5 ml baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • a small pinch of salt
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 30 ml milk


  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Line a 12 hole cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
  2. Place all of the ingredients except the milk in a food processor, and pulse to mix thoroughly. Scrape down the sides.
  3. With the motor running, add the milk and process for a further 1 minute until the mixture becomes very smooth. Now use 2 dessert spoons to drop the batter into the cupcake tin holes, spreading the mixture to fill all 12 holes (it always looks like it’s not enough, but trust me – it is).
  4. Bake for 15-18 minutes until cooked and golden on top (an inserted skewer should come out clean). Remove from the oven and transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the chocolate buttercream frosting:

  • 125 g soft butter (very soft, but not melted)
  • 200 g icing sugar, sifted
  • 50 g cocoa powder, sifted (or less if you don’t like it to be too dark)
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 15-30 ml milk


  1. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer), then use an electric whisk to beat it until pale and creamy (takes about 2-3 minutes).
  2. Add the sifted icing sugar and cocoa powder a little at a time, mixing until it is thoroughly incorporated. Add the vanilla and a little milk and whisk to get a light and fluffy texture, but don’t add too much milk or the mixture won’t hold shape.
  3. Transfer the icing to a piping bag fitted with a nozzle of your choice, then pipe the icing on top of the cupcakes. Don’t refrigerate them, as the icing will become hard and unpleasant to eat. Enjoy immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

The mixture makes exactly 12 cupcakes. I love their cracked tops. (Photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)


This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Recipe adaptation, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

Nigella’s rum & raisin banana bread

3 Mar

Toasted slices of banana bread, topped with thick cream and berry coulis (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

For one of our monthly food shoots last year at Tasha‘s house in Elgin, she greeted us with the seducing smell of something exotic yet strangely familiar. It was a loaf of freshly baked banana bread with added rum and sultanas. It was so moist and delicious that I had to ask for the recipe.

Tasha found it in Nigella‘s “How to be a Domestic Goddess”, but changed it slightly to include desiccated coconut instead of walnuts, and salted butter instead of unsalted. This is honestly one of the best recipes for banana bread that I have tasted, and I can strongly recommend it. Nigella says on her website that you can add some cocoa powder and chocolate chips, which would make it darker and even more heavenly. But the choice is yours.

I love serving this bread thickly sliced topped with double cream (or clotted cream or mascarpone) and some kind of berry coulis or good quality runny berry jam. It is an excellent choice for breakfast in bed for your lover on Valentines Day or on a romantic weekend, might I add. Decadent, indulgent, utterly delicious.

I celebrated my 10th wedding anniversary on the 14th of February this year. I’m a very, very lucky girl to be married to Schalk. He is kind, honest, an amazing father, and the best friend I could ever wish for. Did I mention he is tall, dark and dangerously handsome? Here’s to many more breakfasts in bed for the two of us!

Freshly baked rum and raisin banana bread (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)


  • 100 g sultanas or raisins (both work very well, but I prefer sultanas)
  • 75 ml dark rum
  • 175 g cake flour
  • 30 ml baking powder
  • 2.5 ml bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 2.5 ml salt
  • 30 g (125 ml) desiccated coconut
  • 125 g salted butter (melted)
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 small ripe bananas (or 3 large, about 300 g mashed banana)
  • 5 ml vanilla extract


  1. An hour before you start baking, place the sultanas/raisins and rum in a small saucepan and heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat immediately, cover with a lid, and leave to soak for an hour.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 170 C.
  3. Sift all the dry ingredients together and add the coconut.
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, beat the melted butter and sugar. Now beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the bananas, sultanas with rum, and vanilla. Don’t worry if it looks like the mixture has “split”.
  5. Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, and stir well after each bit.
  6. Pour into a loaf tine of about 23 x 13 x 7 cm (9 x 5 x 3 inches) and bake in the middle of your oven for 50-60 minutes. The outside should be a nutty brown colour.
  7. Remove from the oven and let it cool in the tin.

Tip: You can also make beautifully soft muffins from the same recipe, just bake them for about 20-25 minutes.



This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

Peach galette

28 Feb

Seasonal peach galette with vanilla ice cream (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

Today is the last official day of summer in SA, so I’m going to sneak in one last sunny recipe. When summer fruit is abundant, there’s just no better way to use them than in a rustic French fruit galette (or crostata, like the Italians call it). The pastry is buttery and flaky, the fruit is tender and intense, and the result is just so much more than the sum of its original parts.

To make this galette even tastier, I make a batch of almond paste (marzipan) and coarsely grate this over the prepared pastry base before arranging the fruit. This adds a delicious soft and gooey aspect to the tart, as well as that almond flavour that I love so much. If you don’t like almonds, you can leave this out completely.

The recipe for the pastry comes from one of my food icons, Ina Garten. She had a specialty food store called The Barefoot Contessa for many years (now also the name of her famous American TV show), and baked hundreds of crostatas in her years. I love the texture of this pastry and didn’t want to change a thing about it. Ina’s recipe makes enough for two delicious galettes, so you can freeze the second half for another time if you like.

Pastry: (makes 2 standard sized galettes)

(Recipe for pastry by Ina Garten)

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • ¼ cup caster sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 250 g cold butter, diced
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) ice water

Almond paste: (enough for 2 galettes)

  • 100 g (250 ml) ground almonds
  • 250 ml icing sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon almond essence
  • 1 egg white (large egg)

Filling: (enough for 2 galettes)

  • 1 egg, lightly whisked (for brushing)
  • 6 large cling peaches, peeled and sliced (pits removed) – or use any other seasonal fruit except strawberries and bananas
  • 15-30 ml cinnamon sugar


For the pastry: Place the flour, sugar, salt and butter in a food processor. Pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add the iced water all at once while the motor is running. As soon as the dough starts to come together, remove it from the bowl onto a floured surface. Press into a disk shape, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

For the almond paste: Place all the ingredients together in a food processor. Process until it comes together into a ball (add more icing sugar if your mixture is too sticky). Remove and refrigerate (for at least an hour) in an airtight plastic bowl.

To assemble: Pre-heat oven to 220 C. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a thickness of about 5 mm. Transfer carefully onto a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Brush the top of the pastry with egg, leaving a 3cm border around the edges. Coarsely grate the almond paste all over the brushed egg pastry surface, then cover with peach slices. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, then bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack before serving with vanilla ice cream (serve hot or at room temperature).


This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Recipe, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Prop Styling: Nicola Pretorius

Chocolate oil cake

11 Sep

Flourless chocolate oil cake, dark and moist (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

My good friend Inke Gouws Sandri shares my love for baking. We were pregnant at the same time in 2010 (our babies even had the same due date), and during that time we met up regularly for a good slice of cake or a proper French pastry at Nook Eatery in Stellenbosch.

She also sends me great recipes that she comes across, knowing that I would certainly appreciate it as much as she does. This recipe is one of them: a flourless chocolate olive oil cake by Nigella Lawson. Made with ground almonds, this gooey dark cake is perfect as a dinner party dessert, but you can also substitute the almonds for regular flour for a more economical, “lighter” cake. It doesn’t really need any frosting,  but Inke told me that she has iced hers with a chocolate orange ganache and it was heavenly – even her Italian husband raved about it.

I prefer to use canola oil instead of olive oil, as olive oil can sometimes give a bitter aftertaste to the cake. Also, canola oil is much healthier with it’s high Omega 3 & 6 content, and provides a fantastic moist texture to the cake.


  • 150 ml canola oil
  • 50 g good quality cocoa powder, sifted
  • 125 ml boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons best vanilla extract
  • 150 g ground almonds (or 125 g cake flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 170 C. Grease a 23 cm springform cake tin with a little oil and line the base with baking paper.
  2. Place the cocoa, boiling water and vanilla in a small mixing bowl, and whisk until you get a thick paste.
  3. In another mixing bowl, combine the almonds with the bicarb or soda and the salt. Mix well.
  4. Place the sugar, oil and eggs in a bowl of an electric mixer and whisk/beat for about 3 minutes on high speed until you get a thick mixture.
  5. Add the cocoa mixture, mixing well, then scrape down the sides and add the almond mixture. Mix well, then scrape down the sides and mix for one last time.
  6. Pour this dark liquid batter into the lined tin, then bake for 45 minutes or until the sides are set and the centre still looks slightly damp (but not runny). A cake tester should come out with a few sticky crumbs, not clean.
  7. Remove the cake from the oven, then let it cool on a wire rack (in the tin) for 10 minutes before easing the sides with a spatula and then releasing the spring. Remove the tin and bottom, then leave to cool on a wire rack to cool completely, or eat while still warm with some ice cream. Sift lightly with cocoa powder or icing sugar, or drizzle with ganache of your choice.


This post was especially written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Recipe, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius & Tasha Seccombe.

Cheat’s “macarons” with jam and cream

4 Sep

Cheat’s macarons, filled with cream and jam (Photography by Tasha Seccombe)

There is a universal love all over the world for cake with cream and jam; it’s an age-old trend. You’ll find it in the form of swiss rolls, cream cakes, cupcakes, whoopie pies, scones and cookies – it’s just one of those combos that work.

These soft little cookies were made from regular cupcake batter, piped onto a lined baking sheet, then filled with a swirl of jam and cream. And yes, they resemble French macarons. But they are so much easier to make than macarons, with none of the frustration or effort!

You can also fill these treats with caramel or your favourite version of butter icing. They are delicate, yet really simple – perfect for a special teatime treat.

Ingredients for batter:

  • 125 g cake flour
  • 125 g butter (soft)
  • 125 g sugar
  • 5 ml baking powder
  • 2.5 ml baking soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 ml vanilla essence
  • 30 ml milk


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Place all the ingredients except the milk in a food processor, then process for about 15 seconds. Scrape down the sides, then process again. With the motor running, add the milk, then process for another 30 seconds until the mixture becomes very silky and smooth.
  3. Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a relatively small nozzle, then pipe the batter in circles of about 2-3cm in diameter, leaving enough space inbetween for rising.
  4. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 5-8 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies. They should be firm and lightly straw coloured, but not brown.
  5. Remove the cookies from the oven, then carefully transfer them with a spatula to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat this process to use up all the batter.

Ingredients for the jam and cream swirl filling:

  • about 1/2 cup berry jam (I used black currant jam)
  • 250 ml cream
  • icing sugar for dusting


  1. If the jam you are using is quite chunky, use a stick blender and a tall cup to process it to a smooth pulp. This will make it easier to pipe.
  2. Whisk the cream in a separate mixing bowl until just stiff (but not too stiff), then gently stir in the smooth jam – it doesn’t have to be mixed completely.
  3. Transfer the cream and jam mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle of your choice, then pipe the mixture on the inside of the cooled cookies. Use more cookies to close them up like little sandwiches. Dust with icing sugar, then serve.

PS: You can also just use thick cream or cream cheese and chunky jam to spread it onto the cookies with a knife – the 2 separate layers also look quite beautiful!

Cheat’s macarons (photography by Tasha Seccombe)


This post was especially written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Recipe, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius & Tasha Seccombe.

Asparagus tart

23 Apr

Asparagus tart with sour cream and cheddar cheese (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Asparagus is such a strange and wonderful vegetable, but I don’t eat it too often. I like to keep it for special occasions, where I would wrap it in bacon and cook it on the grill, or blanch it for 30 seconds in simmering water and then drizzle it with buttery hollandaise sauce. It’s my “treat” vegetable, if you know what I mean.

My other go-to asparagus meal is this rich asparagus tart, made with sour cream and mature cheddar cheese. It is an absolute treat for tea time, but also works well for lunch or dinner if you serve it with a green salad. It works best with fresh green asparagus, not tinned. Arrange it in any pattern you want, it makes such a beautiful picture!

Ingredients for pastry:

  • 150 g cake flour
  • 150 g butter, diced
  • 20 g (125 ml) digestive bran
  • 250 ml (100 g) grated mature cheddar cheese

Ingredients for filling:

  • 1 bunch fresh green asparagus  (about 200-300 g)
  • 30 ml butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 250 ml (100 g)  grated mature cheddar cheese
  • 250 ml sour cream
  • 2 XL eggs
  • salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. For the pastry: place the flour and butter in a food processor. Process until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, then add the bran and the cheddar. Process until it comes together in a ball, then remove from the bowl and press with clean hands into a greased 23 cm pie dish. The pastry is very soft, and it cannot be rolled out. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
  3. Cut off the hard bottoms of the asparagus (if necessary), then blanch them in slowly simmering water for 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and immerse in ice water to stop it from cooking. Set aside.
  4. In a frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter, then fry the onions and thyme (remove the stalks of the thyme) until the onions are completely soft and translucent. Transfer it to the base of the tart, then distribute evenly.
  5. Now arrange the blanched asparagus on top of the onions in your desired pattern. Top evenly with the cheddar.
  6. In a small mixing bowl, mix the sour cream with the eggs and season well with salt and pepper. Pour all over the asparagus, then bake the tart in the oven at 180 C for 45-60 minutes, depending on how deep your pie dish is, until set and golden brown.  Serve warm.


This post was written especially for The Pretty Blog.

Recipe, text and food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe from thefoodfox.com

Photographer: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Tasha Seccombe and Nicola Pretorius


Red velvet cake

15 Apr

Luscious red velvet cake with vanilla buttercream icing (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

It seems that there’s a red velvet cake revival every 2 years. In fact, I did a post on red velvet cupcakes exactly 2 years ago (on the 28th of March). But I’m telling you, that revival has been going on for decades. Just as you think people have forgotton the craze, they tend to get back on the wagon.

So here I am, on the red velvet wagon again. Why? Because this cake seriously is a thing of beauty.  It’s not only a normal cake with a load of red food colouring – it’s a fluffy, moist, velvety creation like no other. You just need to look at it to understand that this is the royal Duchess of cakes.

This recipe is slightly different to the cupcake recipe and makes 2 layers that you can sandwich together (I slice them each in half horizontally to create 4 thin layers). I prefer to use a vanilla buttercream icing that is whipped like cream, I prefer the colour and texture of this to a cream cheese icing or a mascarpone icing.

This is the perfect “high tea” cake.

Ingredients for cake: (recipe adapted from “The Ultimate Snowflake Collection” by Heilie Pienaar)

  •  125 butter, softened
  • 210 g caster sugar
  • 2 XL eggs
  • 30 ml red food colouring (or “crimson pink”)
  • 15 ml milk
  • 30 ml cocoa powder
  • 280 g cake flour
  • 2,5 ml salt
  • 250 ml buttermilk
  • 5 ml bicarbonate of soda
  • 15 ml white vinegar
  • 5 ml vanilla essence


  1. Grease and line 2 x 20cm round cake tins, and pre-heat oven to 180 C.
  2. Using electric beaters, cream butter and sugar. Now add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat untill the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. Add the food colouring and milk, then beat well.
  4. Sift the cocoa powder, cake flour and salt together. Add half the dry ingredients, then half the buttermilk. Mix well, now add the remaining half of the dry ingredients, then the buttermilk, and mix well.
  5. Dissolve the bicarb into the vinegar, then add it to the mixture along with the vanilla.  Fold it in with a spatula, then pour into the greased pans. Bake for 25 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  6. Remove from oven, then leave in the pans for 5 minutes before turning out to cool on a wire rack to cool completely.

Buttercream frosting:

  • 250 g butter, very soft
  • seeds of one vanilla pod
  • 500 g icing sugar, sifted (powdered confectioner’s sugar)
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk

Whisk/beat butter and vanilla seeds until very light in colour and fluffy, for around 3-5 minutes.  Add icing sugar a little at a time, and beat/whisk at low-speed untill it starts to come together, then on high-speed untill light and creamy. Add milk and whisk further Put in piping bag and pipe onto cupcakes.

A slice of red velvet delight… (photography by Tasha Seccombe)


This post was written especially for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe.

Recipe testing and food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe from thefoodfox.com

Photographer: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Tasha Seccombe and Nicola Pretorius

Good old-fashioned apple pie

1 Apr

Annie Bell’s old fashioned apple pie with rum and raisins (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

For the last course in my 3-part Easter collaboration with Poetry stores, I am featuring a recipe for “Good Old-fashioned Apple pie” from Annie Bell’s Baking Bible. Annie Bell is an award winning and respected food writer, and every recipe in her book is triple-tested.

Apple pie is such a classic favourite and suitable for almost any occasion. There are literally thousands of recipes out there to choose from, but this recipe really is just what it claims to be: good and old-fashioned. The flavours are simple, yet perfectly balanced. With very little sugar added, the apples retain their tart flavours. And with a dollop of clotted cream, I felt like I was sitting on someone’s grandmother’s porch, delighting in the comfort of my old-fashioned pie.

It was quite interesting to find that Annie doesn’t add any spices to her pie – no cinnamon, no cloves, no nutmeg. BUT, hang in there, there’s a good 2 tablespoons of rum in there (left to soak into the raising) which adds fabulous flavour.

Ingredients for pastry:

  • 450 g flour
  • 250 g cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 100 g icing sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • some cold water

Ingredients for filling:

  • 50 g raisins
  • 30 ml dark rum
  • 600 g cooking apples (like Granny Smith or Bramley) – skinned, cored and thickly sliced
  • 300 g eating apples (like Pink Lady) – skinned, cored and thickly sliced
  • 100 g golden caster sugar (I used light brown sugar)
  • 15 ml flour


  1. Place the flour and butter in a food processor, and pulse until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the icing sugar and give it another quick pulse, then add the egg yolk and process for a few seconds. Add a tablespoon of water to the mixture, then pulse until it just starts to come together. Add more water if needed, but not too much.
  3. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C.
  5. Place the raisins and dark rum in a small bowl, then microwave for 30 seconds. Let it stand to soak. (Annie prefers to soak the raisins overnight without adding any heat, I just use a microwave to speed up the process.)
  6. In a large bowl, toss the apples with the sugar and flour, then add the soaked raisins and brandy. Mix well.
  7. Remove the pastry from the fridge, then roll out 2/3 of it on a lightly floured surface. Use the rolled out pastry to line a greased baking tin/dish of about 30 cm (oval) or 25 cm (round).  The edges should hang over the sides of the tin.
  8. Tip the filling mixture into the pastry base, then spread it out evenly.
  9. Paint the edges of the pastry with milk (where it would meet the top layer). Now roll out the remaining 1/3 of the pastry, and use it to cover the top. Now trim the excess pastry, and use a fork to lightly press the 2 layers together.
  10. Brush all over with milk, then dust with sugar.
  11. Bake for 45 minutes until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven, then let it stand for 10 minutes before serving hot with whipped or clotted cream.


Recipe from: Annie Bell’s Baking Bible (available from Poetry stores)

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

All homeware: Poetry stores (ranging from R159-399)


29 Mar

Glazing my traditional South African mosbolletjies (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

When I was still at school, my Mother baked for the local “tuisnywerheid” (home industry) for many years. She supplied them with a range of buttermilk rusks, but her absolute hero product was magnificent “mosbolletjies”. The best way to describe mosbolletjies is that it’s a sweet brioche, traditionally made with fermented grape juice (these days we just use normal grape juice) and flavoured with aniseed. The texture is feathery and there is just nothing on earth like a torn piece of mosbolletjie with thickly spread butter and golden syrup.

We were very spoilt to be casually eating freshly baked mosbolletjies almost every single day, when others queued at the “tuisnywerheid” early in the morning to get their hands on a warm loaf. My mother baked huge batches of large loaves, her oven brimming with the beautifully golden rounds of dough.

My Mother have been very ill over the last few weeks, and I wish I could have brough her these mosbolletjies today. Get better soon Ma! I love you very much and we’ll visit you soon!

PS: These mosbolletjies are perfect for Easter.

Ingredients: (recipe adapted from Heilie Pienaar’s “The Ultimate Snowflake Collection”)

  • 1 kg cake flour
  • 10 ml salt
  • 100 g (125 ml) sugar
  • 10 g (1 sachet) instant dry yeast
  • 30 ml whole aniseed
  • 100 g butter
  • 250 ml white grape juice
  • 125 ml lukewarm milk
  • 250 ml lukewarm water
  • 30 ml sugar mixed with 30 ml lukewarm water (sugar syrup for brushing after baking)


  1.  Sift flour and salt together. Add sugar, yeast and aniseed. Stir well.
  2. Heat butter and grape juice in a saucepan until butter has melted. Do not boil. Add to dry ingredients along with milk and water, then mix to form a soft dough.
  3. Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface, then knead for 5-10 minutes, or until the dough is soft and elastic. Place in a large oiled bowl, then cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or doubled in size.
  4. Knock down dough on a floured surface, and knead until smooth. Divide into equal pieced and shape into balls (the correct technique is to squeeze balls of dough through a circle made by your thumb and forefinger, using oiled/buttered hands, this way you get nice smooth balls of dough). Pack the balls tightly into 2 loaf tins of about 22cm each. Cover and leave to rise for about 30-45 minutes.
  5. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 C for 35-40 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks, then brush immediately with syrup.
  6. Leave to cool slightly, then eat warm, or break into pieces and dry out in a cool oven at 70 C overnight.


This post was especially written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Food: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius and Tasha Seccombe.

How to boil and bake a bagel

6 Mar

Freshly boiled and baked bagels with smoked trout, cream cheese and cucumber (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

I recently needed to buy 200 bagels for a market where I showcased the trout products of my brother-in-law’s trout farming business. I filled them with cold-smoked trout and cream cheese, and they “flew” from my table. During this process, I realised that these beautiful rolls-with-holes weren’t so easy to find. After ordering them in bulk at Checkers (the ONLY place that could help me on such short notice in Stellenbosch), I decided to try my hand at baking/boiling them myself – a few weeks later.

Bagels with smoked salmon (or in this case trout) and cream cheese are considered to be traditional American Jewish cuisine. And it is definitely one of my favourite types of sandwiches, if you can call it that. I’ve always known that a real bagel is boiled, but I could never understand how a boiled bun could become such a golden brown puffy thing, and not a soggy mess. The thing it, it is actually boiled for only a few seconds and then baked. So it all started to make sense!

I think the trick to these bagels is to give them enough time to rise (I don’t always have the patience!), and to treat them very “lightly”. No hard handling – especially after boiling – or you’ll spoil the shape. Otherwise the results are truly satisfying.

Nothing beats the taste of a classic freshly baked bagel filled with locally cold-smoked trout, cream cheese and dill. Simply scrumptious.

Ingredients for bagels: (makes about 10)

(recipe adapted from The Ultimate Snowflake Collection)

  •  500 g (875 ml) white bread flour
  • 10 ml salt
  • 10 g (1 sachet) instant dry yeast
  • 50 g (60 ml) sugar
  • about 250 ml lukewarm water
  • 1 XL egg white, lightly beaten
  • poppy/sesame/caraway seeds for sprinkling on top
  • a few litres of water for boiling


  1. Place flour, salt, yeast and half the sugar in a large mixing bowl. Mix well.
  2. Add enough lukewarm water to mix to a soft dough. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  3. Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for  about 30 minutes, or doubled in size.
  4. Knock down the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Divide dough into 10 pieces. Flatten each piece to about 9-10cm in diameter and press a hold into the middle of each, using the back of a wooden spoon (or roll the pieces out into long strands and twist the ends together to form a circle).
  5. Place the dough on a non-stick baking tray (lined with baking paper), then leave to rise for another 25-30 minutes.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 220 C.
  7. Fill a large, wide pot/saucepan with water (about 5cm deep), add the remaining sugar and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has melted. Submerge each bagel in the boiling water for just a few seconds, then remove carefully with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
  8. Now place the boiled bagels on greased/lined baking trays and brush them lightly with beaten egg white. Sprinkle with seeds, then bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes until golden brown.
  9. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. When cooled, slice open and serve with cream cheese, freshly chopped dill and cold smoked trout or salmon.

 Note: These bagels freeze quite well. Thaw for 60 minutes on your kitchen counter, then pop them into a hot oven for 3 minutes.


This post was especially written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Food: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius, Tasha Seccombe and Ilse van der Merwe.