I’m Rebecca Bishop of The Next Loaf Baking School in Wenhaston, Suffolk. I teach fun, informative and hands-on baking classes that’ll leave you feeling inspired and eager to get back to your own kitchen to practise what you’ve learnt!  With Christmas fast approaching and lots of classes to choose from, a baking class gift voucher might be the perfect present for the baker in your life so they can choose the class they attend.

I’m also the author of the baking book Two Magpies Bakery and founder of Two Magpies Bakery.  Each month my column will feature a delicious seasonal bake, book recommendations, insider tips for ingredients, equipment and much more. To get the latest information sign up for my newsletter www.thenextloaf.co.uk or follow me on Instagram @thenextloaf

This month I’m excited about my Hot Cross Buns

For me, the turning of the seasons isn’t just about what’s growing in the garden, popping up in the hedgerows or appearing in my local greengrocers – there’s also the pleasure of revisiting old favourites. Move over stollen and mince pies, I’m ready for sticky hot cross buns, packed with juicy fruit and warm spices, and cardamon scented Semlor buns with their hidden filling of almond paste topped with a cloud of silky smooth whipped cream. If you fancy joining me on an Easter baking class, we’ll be making these classics alongside a wealth of other Easter bakes.


Baking know-how: enriching your dough 

At its simplest, bread can be made from just flour, water, yeast and a dash of salt – known as ‘lean’ in the baking world. It tastes great because what you can taste is the grain and the flavours of fermentation – especially if that fermentation is long, as in the case of sourdough bread. However, sometimes we all crave a little more from our bread and that’s where ‘enriching’ comes in. It’s a formal term for adding ingredients such as milk, butter and eggs. What we’re adding to the dough is sweetness and fat (and deliciousness, of course, that goes without saying) and not only do these ingredients make our bread taste great they also stop it staling as quickly.

Some things to bear in mind if you’re working with an enriched dough recipe:

If your recipe calls for a high proportion of fat it’s best to add it after the gluten protein strands in your dough have had a chance to bond, making it strong and stretchy. Added too early, the fat coats the flour molecules and makes it tricky for the dough to form. Recipes with a high sugar content tend to prove more slowly because of sugar’s hydroscopic properties. Sugar molecules pull moisture away from the flour (and yeast) making it harder, therefore slower, for the yeast to feed and ferment your dough.

Black Cardamon & Cocoa Nib Shortbread

This moreish shortbread keeps well in its uncooked state. Store in your fridge or freezer ready to thinly slice and bake for those last minute guests. Try and source whole black cardamon seeds and grind them fresh – the taste will be sweeter and more aromatic, contrasting wonderfully with the slight bitterness of the cocoa nibs.

Ingredients: Serves 16

• 165g plain flour

• 165g wholemeal flour

• 165g unsalted butter, cold

• 90g (plus another 50g for finishing) caster sugar

• 1-2 tbsp whole milk

• 40 cocoa nibs

• 2 tsp black cardamon seeds, ground 1 tsp plus 1 tsp for your finishing sugar

• fine salt

• flaky sea salt



Chop the butter into small cubes and add to the mixer along with your sugar, the two types of flour and the fine salt. Run the mixer on slow as you reduce the ingredients gradually to a fine rubble then add the cocoa nibs. You can also use your fingers to rub the butter, flour and sugar together. Wholemeal flour can make your shortbread thirsty, so I add a splash or two of milk (or water) to bring the dough together in one lump with no visible butter remaining. Stop the mixer as soon as the dough comes together. Using your hands or a dough scraper press the dough into a block around 5cm high and 8-10cm wide (depending on the size you want your final shortbread). Combine the remaining sugar (50g) and ground cardamon (5g) and a generous pinch of flaky salt and roll/coat your block of dough in the mixture – keep any leftover sugar for later. Chill for at least an hour before baking.

To bake: preheat your oven to 160°C. Line a baking tray and cut your shortbread block into 3-5mm slices. I like them thinly sliced but you might prefer them a bit chunkier. Space them slightly apart on the tray. Sprinkle a little of the sugar mix onto each slice then bake for 15-20 minutes (depending on their thickness) until golden brown. Perfect with a cup of tea!

Baking classes

The Next Loaf baking school is in Wenhaston, Suffolk. Classes are small so there’s lots of personal attention. They’re suitable for beginners or bakers looking for more consistency and challenge so we’ll be mixing, shaping and baking our way through an exciting range of classes including Scandinavian baking, Easter baking, Sourdough, parent and child baking and sourdough pizza – to name a few! Classes (and gift vouchers) are now available to book on my website www.thenextloaf.co.uk

Private baking classes

Planning a special get-together, hen-do or just love to bake with friends and family? If you’re interested in a bespoke classes in your own home for a maximum of 6 people get in touch with rebecca@thenextloaf.co.uk 

Upcoming events

17th February: French baking

19th February: Scandinavian bread baking

9th March: Advanced sourdough baking

23rd & 26th March: Easter baking

12th April: European baking

Baking classes in Wenhaston (just off the A12 near Southwold)
visit my website www.thenextloaf.co.uk to book.