Tag Archive

blind baking

Baking Bread with Holman Prizewinner Penny Melville-Brown

Baking Bread with Holman Prizewinner Penny Melville-Brown

On Monday, March 8, people from all over the world in different time zones came together virtually to share one delicious experience—baking soda bread with blind chef and 2017 Holman Prize winner Penny Melville-Brown.

Being a woman of Irish heritage, I love soda bread and have baked it on numerous occasions, trying several different recipes throughout the years. Penny’s recipe stood out to me as it called for an ingredient I had never before seen in a soda bread recipe— yogurt. I was immediately intrigued and knew I had to take this opportunity to learn from the famed Blind Baker herself.  So, I set my alarm clock for 2:30 am Monday morning and joined in on the fun.

With very sleepy eyes and visions of warm, freshly baked bread dancing in my mind, I clicked on the Zoom link and was connected with fellow blind and low vision bakers (both by hobby and by trade) as Penny guided us through the process of measuring out ingredients, mixing and kneading the dough until it was at the right texture and consistency, and popping it into the oven. While our loaves baked, participants from the United Kingdom, Australia, Zimbabwe, and the United States listened as Penny shared her experiences as a blind chef, winning the Holman Prize and the world of opportunities that opened up for her, and of course, her own personal history with soda bread and how she came up with this recipe.

Many traditional Irish soda bread recipes call for buttermilk, an ingredient that is hard to come by in the United Kingdom. You can make your own buttermilk by adding vinegar or lemon juice to whole milk, but that results in a very fatty product. Since Penny makes her own yogurt, she had the brilliant idea of taking the liquid from the top of the settled yogurt and using that as a buttermilk substitute.

The recipe was a success! However, most people don’t have access to homemade yogurt, so she decided to tweak the recipe once more, this time using the yogurt itself. The thick, creaminess of plain yogurt has all the flavor of buttermilk but provides a richness and moisture to the bread that I had never tasted before. As a sort of soda bread connoisseur, this recipe has instantly become my favorite. (And not just because it came from a fellow blind baker!)

Joining Penny and baking alongside people who are blind or have low vision in kitchens all over the world was a fantastic experience. The past year has been a doozy, and the entire globe has been affected. It isn’t often that people on every continent share the same experience and life circumstances. No matter where you are from, two things are true for all—we are all capable of doing great things, and the love for food is universal.

If after reading this you’re thinking, “Gee, I wish I’d participated in Baking with Penny,” you’re in luck! You can watch the recorded baking session with Penny here. For more information about Penny Melville-Brown and what new delicious recipes she is whipping up or for information on future virtual baking sessions, you can follow her YouTube channel, Baking Blind.

If you’d like to try Penny’s Irish Soda Bread recipe it’s below, with both U.S. and metric measurements.

Penny’s Irish Soda Bread

  • 1¾ cup or 250 grams of self-rising flour, or 1¾ cup (250 grams) of all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder or baking soda
  • ½ cup or 200 grams plain natural yogurt
  • 1 level teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit, Gas 6, or 200° Celsius,
  2. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and spray with a little oil.
  3. Mix all the ingredients together to form a dough ball.
  4. Place the dough on the tray and cut a cross on the top.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes then turn the bread over and bake for a further 5 minutes.
  6. Enjoy!
LightHouse Kitchen Recipe of the Month: Julia Child’s Reine de Saba Cake

LightHouse Kitchen Recipe of the Month: Julia Child’s Reine de Saba Cake

To give you a little taste of what we’re cooking in our Betty Ruhland Teaching Kitchen, we’ve decided to publish monthly recipes that you can come learn to bake in one of our two-day cooking classes. 

We’re coming up on Valentine’s Day, which seems as good a time as any to treat your sweetheart (or yourself) to something delicious. Here’s Julia Child’s Reine de Saba (French for Queen of Sheba, and a luscious chocolate cake) to motivate you and your tastebuds to stop by the LightHouse Kitchen in February.

We’ll be baking this recipe at our February What’s the Scoop? Measure and Mix Class on February 14 and 16 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

This two-day course is designed to help you learn and practice measuring with confidence as we explore techniques for measuring both liquids and dry ingredients in both large and small quantities. We will measure those tricky things like brown sugar, flour, flavorings and oils as well as common conversions and strategies for tricky ingredients.

Come prepared to try new ideas and practice the following skills:

  • Avoiding spills, working in an orderly and tidy fashion
  • Time worn techniques with common household equipment
  • Explore new gadgets and technologies
  • Mixing, blending, beating, whisking, folding, stirring and more

If you have questions about the class content please contact Sydney Ferrario, Instructor, at 415-694-7612 or sferrario@lighthouse-sf.org. Let the baking begin!

Chocolate Almond Cake

  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 T rum or brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup plus 1T sugar
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • Large pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup finely ground almonds
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 cup sifted cake flour

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour and 8-inch cake pan. Combine chopped chocolate and rum in a medium metal bowl. Set bowl over medium saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Cool melted chocolate, stirring occasionally. Using electric mixer, beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar in large bowl until fluffy and pale. Add egg yolks and beat until blended. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites and pinch of salt in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Add 1 tablespoon sugar and beat until stiff but not dry.

Fold chocolate mixture, then almonds and almond extract into yolk mixture. Fold in 1/4 of whites to lighten batter. Fold in 1/3 of remaining whites. Sift 1/3 of flour over and fold in. Fold in remaining whites alternately with flour in 2 more additions each. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Push some batter 3/4 inch up sides of pan with rubber spatula (batter will slip down).

Bake cake until puffed and gently set in center and tester inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 25 minutes. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes. Cut around pan sides and carefully turn cake out onto rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours.

Chocolate Butter Icing

  • 1 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon rum or brewed coffee
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

Combine chocolate and rum in small metal bowl. Set bowl over small saucepan of barely simmering water and stir until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Using wooden spoon, beat in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until icing is smooth. Place bowl over medium bowl filled with ice water. Continue to beat until icing is cool and thickened to spreading consistency. Place cake on platter. Scrape icing onto top center. Using small offset spatula, spread icing evenly and thinly over top and sides of cake.