summer shadows | strawberry flax loaf

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I feel there have been a lot of posts recently where I start with some kind of an explanation for my absence. Of course I don’t really need to explain to anyone, this space is in many ways more for me than anyone else, so perhaps it’s an explanation to myself. I’m not in the habit of forgetting things I care about; I keep the list short. A few people, the dogs, my plants, this space. I think I’m ok about keeping up with the other three even when things are busy so I guess in terms of blogging, I kind of fall behind. For me the autumn and winter have always been the season for quiet thoughts and introspection; the slight melancholy inspires those feelings so well. The spring and summer are so brave and brazen they seem to leave you with little space to think, except maybe about when summer fruit will be best and whether gathering clouds mean thunderstorms. There are exams at this time, my head becomes overgrown like the heavy bushes everywhere and time becomes as elusive as shade at midday.

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As elusive as the time I’ve had to think has been sleep. It’s been some time now since I went to bed at what’s considered a normal hour and woken up at something around objective dawn. Sleep seems to come in short dreamy bursts, where my subconscious seems very real. I dream I walk over to the window and look out at the dark street; when I wake up I struggle to separate that dusky dreamworld from myself, awake near midnight and watching the shadows of the loft’s eaves by lamplight. I walk to the window and look out, but I’ve seen it before, in my head, or had I just been at the window? The curve of the ebony road, the amber glow of streetlights; the cries of sheep in the distance, the inky sky and fleeting stars. It is a strange, fragile line to tread, fading between the familiar, enveloping night and the pleasant lightness of dreams.

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Sometimes sleep doesn’t come at all. The night will be a cool mist. A hovering. On the periphery of full alertness, where there’s clarity and a difference between hot and cold, day and night. But there’s a place, a gap, between sleep and being awake, where I fall on those nights. It’s hours but I don’t look at the clock, the summer shadows melt into purple, indigo, denim, and onyx fog. The air becomes very still, like a curtain must be hung to fade out the light and provide a stage for a sliver of pearly moon and its accompanying stars. Darkness cocoons the room, my plants fold their leaves, a fan whirs. My thoughts are both lucid and liquid, I can remember them, but they don’t make sense in the pale light of the morning. Dawn arrives so early. Just after the dark sets in, the stage prepares to clear, the first hints of brightness appear. And I find that nothing around me has changed, it looks the same as when I turned off my light hours ago. It could have been minutes, an hour at most, but the night’s act is over.

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It becomes slowly more difficult for me to draw solid a line between night and day, as that lack of sleep seems to flutter in a cloud all day, so sometimes daytime tasks happen in a dreamlike state. The brightness of the summer seems more translucent, like the reflection of spilled moonlight, and quiet afternoons could be silent midnight. The night has a sort of grasp, over the non-sleepers, the daydreamers, the lamplight wanderers. It sweeps into the day, like warm summer winds through swaying fields of wheat, scattering thoughts like seeds. So you stay, in that gap between the clear light of day and indistinct night, so the sun and the moon exist simultaneously, all the time, and every day fades into a feathery haze. A haze with streaks of peach, for the day; heady mulberry and smoky kohl for the elusive night, and fragile lilac for the dreamlike state between night and day.

“All night I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling with a luminous doom. By morning I had vanished at least a dozen times into something better”
- Mary Oliver, Twelve Moons

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Hi. Thank you for coming back to this little corner of the world after yet another disappearance, it’s nice to be back. I hope you think so too. I bring to you a summery loaf for these brighter, longer days when aaalll the fruits are around. It’s a really simple loaf that you could use with any fruit you have (peaches would be nice). Also as you’ll see I added weight measurements to the cup measurements - I usually weigh my ingredients, it’s more precise and I find it easier (fewer cups to wash) so if you want to do the same, well now you can 😉
There’s still a lot to do around these parts but I hope you’re enjoying all the overgrown hedges, summer traffic and sweet evenings sitting out until late.
Love you xx

PS. If you have three minutes may I suggest you watch this video by two Italian filmmakers that shows a tree in Abruzzo National Park (in the Apennines), filmed over a year, and the animals that interact with the tree. Just the cutest thing that I could watch forever.

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strawberry flax loaf

1c (100g) oat flour
3/4c (90g) brown rice flour
1/4c (30g) flax meal*
1/2tsp salt
2tsp baking soda
1c (250ml) plain yogurt of choice
1/2c (125ml) honey or maple syrup
1tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4c (60ml) melted coconut oil
1 heaped cup (160-180g) chopped strawberries



Preheat the oven to 180’C, 350’F. Prepare an 8inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
In another bowl, beat together the melted coconut oil, maple/honey and eggs. Once combined, add the yogurt. The coconut oil may harden somewhat if your yogurt is straight from the fridge, so it may help to leave the 1c yogurt on the counter for a bit before you start. Add the vanilla extract and stir until batter is smooth and uniform.
Add the chopped strawbs to the dry flour mix - toss gently until the berries are covered with flour. This should help stop the berries sinking to the bottom of the cake.
Add the wet mix to the flour/berries and stir until just combined.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for around 60 minutes - if the top seems to be browning too fast, you can ‘tent’ it with some foil loosely over the top. Either way the top will crack, that’s ok, loaves are kind of cute in that rustic way.
Transfer to a cooling rack and let the loaf cool before cutting - like a lot of gluten free breads/baked things it will be a bit fragile before that. The loaf will keep for about 5 days in the fridge, or will freeze/defrost nicely.

*I think instead of flax meal you could use rolled oats, 1/4c (50g) should work well instead, in case you don’t keep flax around. Of course it wouldn’t be a flax loaf anymore, but will be great all the same.

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maybe that's not a bad thing | mocha-chip loaf

It was my dad's birthday last weekend. He wasn't with us to celebrate, in fact I've not seen him since he was here in December. That was for three days. He was supposed to arrive on his birthday and the next day we were all supposed to leave for France. But my dad had to stay in Mozambique for work, and we left for France without him. Which was hard. Harder for him than for us, in general, because he doesn't change so much, but we do, and he misses that.

It's been a long time since I called him daddy.  I actually don't remember the last time I did. I think sometimes he misses those days - when we were small enough to ride on his shoulders, when we'd grab his hand and pull him places, the days when he would pick us up and pretend to 'drop' us, catching us just before we hit the ground. It's an occupational hazard of being a long-distance dad who spends huge chunks of time away. What he doesn't realize is that he's more or less always 'there'. We talk about him all the time. He's taught us so much. I'm quite sure I am the only girl (or maybe the only person?) doing contract law who has any idea about anything to do with ships - I heard someone asking what the stern of a ship was. I remember last year in class no one knew what it meant for a ship to be 'berthed'. A charterparty? No chance. Grabs? Bulk? No way. Not terms that are plastered all over facebook, not a typical dad-daughter discussion . He's the person who's taught me about hydraulics ('to do with air and water'), that brown bread is always better than white, that cumin should always go with cheese. That the best part of Formula One is when they splash each other with champagne, the best way to take a penalty ('two steps back and one to the side'), that baby birds are always worth saving.

He probably thinks, and you probably think, those are just small things. And maybe they are, but they make a difference, in  a not-so-every-day way. There are people who teach you other things - too many people actually. There's my mum to teach me to read and write and study hard. My dogs, to teach patience, my sister, to laugh. Then there's the internet, instagram, friends, books, who tell you how to eat, what to wear, where to go, how to act. But there's only ever been one person who's told me to take care of my tools, when he's putting away the chainsaw or the hedge trimmer; and I must have the cleanest Vitamix around. One person who's taken a look at my tripod, found that yellow bauble that shows when things are level and said, suspiciously, 'do you know how to use this?'. One person who's helped me to repot my indoor plants, who taught me that every room needs some green. The one person who, when it's supposed to be summer but it's freezing cold and raining and you're wearing shorts and standing with your bike sheltering under a tree by a cemetery, would say 'it's a bit dead around here', totally nonchalantly. 

He doesn't consider himself the teaching sort of person - he tried to teach me to ski, but I ended up with an instructor. Showed us that sometimes you just have to admit defeat, and you'll be better for it. But Layla and I grew up with him more present, and from the small things he did, we learnt. A little bit of discipline, we take care of our equipment. Huge attention to detail, a total love for plants and the smallest animal. We walk past a house where their fence stops short of the hedges by about two meters. That would never have happened with dad, we say, because he'd have measured the fence, or else have gone back to the hardware store and picked up another panel. If you're doing a job, might as well do it right. Wherever we are Layla and I gravitate towards the water. A lake, a river, the sea, we'll be there, if there are boats involved, even better. That's because our dad is the boat person, he's shown us that the best things happen near the water and he's almost never been wrong. Our mum always finds it odd and says 'you take after your dad sometimes'. Maybe we do, and maybe that's a good thing.

Love you dad xx

This is one of the first recipes I wrote with someone in mind. For my dad, who taught me the coffee-chocolate combination. It's a really simple recipe, just a dry mix, a wet mix, dump into the dry bowl, into the pan, a fresh loaf in about 45 minutes. This is a very low-key loaf,  it's more of a breakfast-y or snack-y every day type of cake, which are my favorites. There's not loads of chocolate so it's not super rich, the beautiful dark color is actually just from the espresso, nutty buckwheat flour and dark sugar. Together, they make this loaf look and taste quite special. A note on ingredients - I've made this without almond meal (brown rice flour instead) but I prefer the structure from the nuts. Hazelnut meal would be really nice too, so stick to something nut based if you can. I found that I had no chocolate at all, halfway through baking, but I had some chips lying around so I used those. If you have a chocolate bar, go that route, I always prefer the meltiness to the way that chips hold their shape. 

Here's to every day cake, and a not so every day dad of mine.


mocha - chip loaf

gluten + easily dairy free    //  makes one 9x5 inch loaf

1 cup (100g) almond meal
1/2 cup (50g) oat flour, gf if necessary
1/2 cup (65g) buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 heaped tablespoon espresso powder (or finely ground coffee)
1/4 cup (25g) coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup (120ml) plain yogurt of choice at room temp.
2 free range eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup (100g) dark muscavado sugar or coconut sugar*
50g chopped dark chocolate (70% is good) or chocolate chips


Oil & line a 9x5 inch loaf pan and preheat the oven to 180'C, 350'F.

In a large bowl, whisk to combine the flours, baking powder + soda, salt, cinnamon and espresso powder.

In a medium bowl, add the coconut oil, room temperature yogurt, eggs and vanilla and beat together. Add the sugar and beat again so the mix is smooth and dark.

Pour the wet mix into the dry mix and gently stir the batter with a flexible spatula. When it starts to come together, fold in the chocolate. The batter will be very thick.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30-33 minutes. The top of the loaf will crack for sure, but I think that makes it look rustic :)

Let the cake cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then gently release onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

The loaf is quite moist initially but almond meal tends to dry out, so it's best finished in about 3 days. Otherwise, it holds up well frozen + defrosted. 

Notes

*Either type of sugar will work, I've made this loaf several times with both. Dark brown sugar would work too if that's what you have around, but keep the sugar as dark in color as possible.


similar

the ebb and flow | lemon-blueberry loaf

nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)
nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)

It was our dad who picked us up from Heathrow the other day after our trip. He was waiting in arrivals, a smiling face in the crowd. Two weeks ago he'd been there himself. His homecoming. In three days he would be back. His departure. It's odd, in families like ours, where people keep coming and going. In families which are absence and reunion. We flow like rivers. Rivers run dry, it's a reaction to absence. Slowly, rain trickles down and the level picks up. The currents move you along as usual. There's a reunion and your river is full.

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nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)
nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)

You learn to pick it up where you left off. Changing seasons, hair cuts, height. The same jokes, the same fights, the same people. Absence. Maybe it taught me things. You learn to appreciate someone's presence - waking up in the morning and knowing everyone is home. Small things. Seeing the coffee cup on the sideboard and knowing that someone's already awake and pottering around. Getting back from a cold, wet walk with the dogs and finding the lights on, fresh towels hanging in the hallway and knowing that someone is home. If people were around all the time, wouldn't I grow complacent? I know I do, because in the short periods that dad's work has been more from home, I just sort of get... meh, too used to it in a way. I wonder what it's like for those who have grandparents living in the same town; or where normality is having all your people under the same roof, a dad who works the 9 to 5 at an office. It's just not - not a concept to me, for some of us jobs are in other places, there are dusty port cities all over the world, nucleated families who are together but apart. The absence puts the every day, the ebb and flow, into perspective. Time seems to tumble down a waterfall. From above, from the outside, it seems to be barely moving. But deep in the swell, when you're swept up in the currents, things go fast. There are whirlpools of thoughts, everyday events that you only recollect when the spinning has stopped and you're on the other side, sitting on the banks with everyone and you're looking back and thinking "I can't believe that much time has passed". Because the truth is that it will rain. And your river will rise. And you don't notice it rising because you're in the water and totally taken along by the flow.

nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)
nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)

The last time dad was visiting I was still practicing for my driving test. This time, last week, I drove him to our local train station with a full license. The sky was smooth and slick, cool, monochrome gray, like tiles in a Kinfolk kitchen. The radio raved about the 4cm snow expected overnight and worse ice. Howling wind through the ribs of trees over the Broadland marshes, the landscape in muted green and brown, fields fallow and hedgerows bare. Dad and I stood on the platform, the wind eating through our clothing, looking over the tracks into the distance. A long straight path. We talked, just like normal, as if we were like the three other passengers. Just off to the city for the afternoon. Not that my dad had three trains and two planes and twenty four hours of travel ahead of him. Alone. But we talked, about trains and wood working and the London Underground, as dads and daughters do on drafty rail platforms in January. The train arrived on time. "Go", my dad said to me as he moved towards the carriage. The little station was eerily quiet. Down a country track, in the middle of the Broads, a part of that muted landscape. There was an old rickety bridge, the rail house needed painting, there were a few arbitrary tracks leading to it from the fields. I wanted to wait. To watch him and the train leave. But he didn't like to see me stand there. He wanted to see me go home. Always his little girl. That was absence, somewhere he'd missed me swim out of the shallows and into the channel. "Go now" he said again. Our rivers, running dry. By tomorrow they'd start filling again.

I went. Over the wooden bridge and his train left. I turned back to watch it, from the bridge, I waved to him and waved to the retreating train as it cut through the murky browns and greens.

nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)
nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)
nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)

My car was one of the few parked in the pebbled lot, nestled in the brambles and the naked branches. I sat for a few minutes, door locked, and listened to a blackbird, remembering all the boring day to day questions I'd forgotten to ask my dad. Never mind, I thought, there's next time, and next time, it will be spring, our rivers will be full.

nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)
nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)
nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)

So here's a lemon blueberry loaf. And a funny story about how this was the first gluten free recipe I wrote myself, and how I miscalculated and forgot a cup of flour, but it still turned out ok, albeit after three days in the oven. What I'm trying to say is that if you'd like to start baking gluten free, this loaf is ahem very forgiving and you can't go wrong because I've remembered the cup of flour. I'm calling it the 'house loaf' because I think it's the most requested recipe of mine, and I know it may seem slightly odd to pair lemon and blueberry but it's seriously so addictive. A zesty, sunny shock of citrus from the lemon and a bright sweetness from blueberries. Not to mention the vitamin C and anti-oxidants that winter loves to sap. This loaf has a very light crumb with all the yogurt and is not overly sweet, more of a breakfast or snack loaf. To keep it simple I generally do a 1-1 rice flour oat flour mix, but I see more people concerned about trace levels of arsenic in brown rice - if that's you, I've tried a new option, it's in the recipe notes. Either way, I really hope you try this. The comfy sweater of loaf cakes. Sending lots of winter brightness your way. Happy weekend xx

nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)
nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)

Lemon - blueberry loaf

// gluten free + dairy free option // makes 1 9x5 inch loaf

1 cup (100g) oat flour, certified gf if necessary
1 (120g) cup brown rice flour OR 1/2 cup (60g) brown rice flour and 1/2 cup (60g) millet flour *
2 tablespoons flax meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (150g) light muscavado sugar or coconut sugar
Zest of one lemon
1/4 cup (60ml) melted coconut oil
2 free range eggs
1 cup (240ml) plain yogurt (I used goat yogurt, use non-dairy or regular as you wish)
1/4 cup (60ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (this was 1 1/2 medium lemons for me)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (150g) blueberries, fresh or frozen (frozen will make the batter a bit blue, but I find that so pretty)


Preheat the oven to 175’C / 350’F and line a 9×5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl combine the flours, flax meal, baking powder and soda, salt. Add the cup of blueberries and toss them through so well coated in flour – this stops them sinking to the bottom. Set aside.

In another large bowl, combine the coconut oil, two eggs, sugar and lemon zest. With a whisk, beat together till smooth and dark brown. Add the vanilla and 1/4cup (60ml) lemon juice with the yogurt and beat again till smooth and pale. It always reminds me of thin tahini at this point, probably a personal thing.

Add the wet mix to the dry mix and use a flexible spatula to combine till moist and even. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake till the top is cracked and golden-brown and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean – probably about 1hr-1hr 5 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes then allow it to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Being gluten free and fairly light, it will be a bit fragile but if you would like neat slices, wrap the cake in foil for a bit and refrigerate and then cut.

The cake will keep, in an airtight container in the fridge for about 5 days but freezes and defrosts very well.

notes

*There are some concerns about trace levels of arsenic in brown rice. I’ve done some research into this and found that in the UK and EU, imports of rice are very closely regulated and surveyed for arsenic. There are strict standards and that seems to make brown rice products sold through UK/EU companies very much food safe because the sources are regulated . I buy my brown rice flour from a British brand. I don’t know in the US, though, how much regulation there is and I understand the concerns came out of the US initially. Either way, I know this can be off-putting if you don’t know the sources of your flour, so I’ve tried cutting the rice flour with millet flour . For the first time tested the recipe with half the quantity (1/2 cup or 60g) millet flour which acts very similarly in baking, and it worked just as well. So you have another option if you don’t want to go with all brown rice flour, though I wouldn’t recommend going above a 1/2 cup millet flour because it can be slightly bitter and also a bit pale yellow, which works ok here for the sunshine effect but it may become too much. Hope that helps.


nutmeg and pear | gluten free + whole grain lemon-blueberry loaf cake (refined sugar free + dairy free easily)

nutmeg and pear favourites

the outline | apple + blackberry loaf with honey

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blackberry + apple loaf with honey

we were in one of the first geography classes of seventh grade. that was the first year of middle school and it was all new, so raw after the cushiness of elementary school. the teacher gave out a blank map of the world, just a black outline, then asked us to fill in what we knew: any mountains, seas, names of countries and cities. Just another somewhat futile welcome back activity, something to get us all talking (which I'm sure he later regretted). To me it was funny, to stare at that black outline, it was so strangely familiar in a setting that was so new. In a way disorientating without the labels, but the shape was so known. I'd seen the pinup in a dozen different classrooms, studied it in too many dull math classes. By now, I thought I knew what the world looked like.

blackberry + apple loaf with honey
blackberry + apple loaf with honey

Nobody's outline was finished in the same way. I wondered whether it was the Caribbean sea or ocean, whether I'd placed the Scandinavian countries in the correct places. I'd been travelling for some time, already lived in 3 continents and visited more countries than I remembered but never really looked at a map in detail. I realised that I had drawn a little map in my own head, the outline strikingly similar to the one on the A3 sheet in front of me, but the details completely different.

blackberry + apple loaf with honey

The Alps to me were not just a chain of mountains that were drawn in a ribbon over Europe, but a snow covered landscape that was alive with the ringing of church bells in the valley, pine trees dusted with snow, timber chalets and gray fog. Standing at the bottom of the mountain at 9am, looking at the curves my family's skis had drawn in fresh powder, catching the first lift up. That Tanzania was not an arbitrary border drawn on the African continent but rather where I grew up, toddler feet stamping ants, running wild in a dusty garden, a place for beetle catching and watching the rains. The English Channel wasn't the empty white space between England and France but the route of my favorite childhood ferry crossing, where I'd get a balloon and stand on deck with dad watching the seagulls who rode on the hull, the white cliffs rising high under green pasture.

blackberry + apple loaf with honey

That blank map... this brand new blog. Comfortingly familiar, I've seen thousands of blogs pass my eyes. Strikingly new in its emptiness, but every little feature will be loaded with a story. I'll draw some mountains, ink in a few seas and maybe put down some borders. They'll be created by my own earthquakes, my own forests will grow, there'll be little roads and towns, a community will slowly build. A bit grand for a first post? Maybe. But now you're a little mark on my map, too. Hugs xx

blackberry and apple loaf with honey
blackberry + apple loaf with honey

 

apple + blackberry loaf with honey

makes 1 9x5 inch loaf // gluten free & dairy free

First recipe, fall recipe, nothing to do with maps really. This is a wonderfully moist loaf that is packed with warmth from fresh ginger and spices, sunny tart bursts from the berries and a subtle sweetness from honey and apples. When I was first researching buckwheat flour I read so often that it’s nutty flavor paired well with warm fruits and spices and that is definitely true in this recipe. I am drowning in frozen wild blackberries we picked from the summer’s hedgerows and now is when our little apple orchard does its thing, but feel free to use normal fresh/frozen berries and whatever type of apple is in season where you are.


1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup oat flour
2 tablespoons flax meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
Chunk ginger, grated
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated apple (for me that was 2 large + one medium)
1 heaped cup blackberries (fresh or frozen)
2 free range eggs
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup honey

– Preheat the oven to 180’C (350’F) and line a 9×5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper.
– in a large bowl combine the flours, flax meal, baking powder and spices. set aside for now.
-in another large bowl add the eggs, oil, honey and beat together till well mixed. Add the grated apples and ginger, then gently fold to combine.
-return to the flour bowl and add the blackberries – toss them through the mix so they are thoroughly coated in flour (to stop them sinking while baking)
-add the wet apple mix to the dry mix and gently stir to combine
-pour into the prepared pan and bake 1hr15 to 1hr20 minutes, or till the top is a light golden color and a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean
-allow to cool before slicing. The loaf keeps fresh in an airtight container in the fridge for about 5 days and will also freeze + defrost well.


more blackberries