Nadiya Hussain: Baking is a family affair
As she releases her first ever baking book (yes really!), Nadiya Hussain talks to Prudence Wade about passing on a love of cakes, cookies and pastries to her kids and relatives
Anyone who has cooked for children will know how brutally honest they can be with their critiques, making it even sweeter when they do dish out a compliment.
Nadiya Hussain has experienced this with her three kids – but as food is her full-time job, she’s on a slightly different level than the rest of us.
“It’s great for my ego, but that being said they are very critical,” Nadiya, 35, admits. “They are very, very honest – it’s like living with Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry in the house constantly, 24 hours a day.”
And this is something she would know about – after all, she wowed the two judges with her creations, before going on to win The Great British Bake Off back in 2015.
It might have been a baking contest that launched her career, but Nadiya is only now releasing her first baking book – Nadiya Bakes (all her other recipe collections have been the non-baking variety).
And while her kids might be hyper-critical, she’s obviously inspired them to get in the kitchen. “They don’t even need me anymore,” she says. “They don’t really bake with me; they’ve become very independent.”
She recalls handing over baking responsibilities to her 13-year-old son for the first time earlier in 2020, for the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha. He made a “chocolate espresso whipped salted caramel ganache cake”, which was “all him – he picked the elements and [took] recipes from things that I’ve done.”
As his sister doesn’t like coffee, she made cupcakes, with “more food colouring than the rainbow itself”.
Handing over the reins was a particularly big moment, as Nadiya admits she’s “a bit of a control freak – I quite like knowing exactly what’s happening, who’s doing it, and I like things to look a certain way. It’s hard for me to let go.”
Until recently, she hadn’t had to share baking with anyone in her family. It wasn’t “something we did growing up”, she confesses. “I’m the only one that does it. It was a novelty at first.”
Cooking was definitely a big part of her childhood, but it’s a different skill to baking. “Cooking is a bit of this and a bit of that,” Nadiya explains. “When I was growing up, I was trying to learn how to cook certain things from my dad, and he’d be like, ‘Just take a bit of that’ – I’d keep asking how much is a bit and he’s like ‘a pinch’. I’m like, ‘But dad, you have fingers like Twix bars, my pinch is different to your pinch’,” She adds with a mock groan. “He never gives me clear instructions.”
Baking can be more of a precise science, of course – and Nadiya has managed to get her whole family into it. “It’s really odd because now I get text messages saying, ‘What should I do with this? What can I do with that? Is this OK?’ And that’s really cool because I’ve become my mum sooner than I should have because nobody else bakes in my family, so that’s nice.”
That being said, if the success of her cookbooks is anything to go by, chances are it won’t just be Nadiya’s family following her baking advice…
CRANBERRY AND CHILLI BRIOCHE WREATH
4 large eggs
20ml whole milk
350g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
7g fast-action yeast
30g caster sugar
2tsp chilli flakes
200g dried cranberries, chopped
200g unsalted butter, softened and cubed
1 x 250g Camembert with a wooden casing
1 egg, lightly beaten
A good pinch of sea salt
2tbsp fine-shred Marmalade
Whisk the eggs and milk to incorporate. Add the flour, yeast, sugar and salt to another bowl and mix until well combined. Add the chilli flakes and the cranberries and mix through. Make a well in the centre, add the milk mixture and bring the dough roughly together. The mixture will look quite wet and more like a very thick cake batter, but don’t worry. Using a free-standing mixer with a dough hook attached, slowly add the butter a little at a time until you have used it all up, then knead the dough on a fast setting for 10 minutes. Cover, pop into the fridge and leave to prove overnight.
Next day, line a large baking tray with some baking paper. Take the bottom half of the wooden casing the cheese comes in and put it in the centre of the baking tray. Put the cheese back in the fridge.
Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knock the air back. Roll out into a sausage shape and divide into five equal pieces. Divide each one into five, so you have 25 little dough balls. Pinch each ball into the centre, turn seam-side down and roll around in your hand to create a smooth ball. Arrange the first 10 around the wooden cheese case and then the following 15 around them, leaving small gaps to allow them to prove. Cover with some greased clingfilm and leave until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/gas 5. Take the cheese out of the wrapper and pop into the wooden casing. Brush the dough balls with the beaten egg and sprinkle all over with a generous helping of salt. Bake for 20 minutes.
Add spoonfuls of marmalade to the hot cheese and you are ready to eat.
MONEY CAN’T BUY YOU HAPPINESS BROWNIES
(Makes 18 squares)
For the brownie base:
250g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra to grease
250g dark chocolate
4 medium eggs
280g soft dark brown sugar
1tsp instant coffee mixed with 2 teaspoons hot water
120g plain flour, sifted
30g cocoa, sifted
1tsp plain flour
150g dark choc chips
For the nutty centre:
1 x 450g jar of dulce de leche
200g chopped mixed nuts or hazelnuts
For the top:
300g full-fat soft cream cheese
100g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
1tsp almond extract
Zest of 1 orange
1tbsp plain flour
Cocoa powder for dusting
Put the butter and chocolate in a small pan and melt gently, stirring occasionally until the mixture is liquid. Set aside to cool.
Line the base and sides of a 20 x 30 x 5cm brownie tin with some baking paper so that it comes one cm above the top of the tin, and lightly grease. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 60°C/gas 4.
Add the eggs, sugar and cooled coffee to a large mixing bowl and whisk until the mixture is light, thick and fluffy. This should take five minutes with an electric hand whisk. (Adding the coffee really enhances the flavour of the cocoa and you won’t even be able to taste the coffee itself.) Pour in the cooled melted chocolate and whisk until the mixture no longer has any streaks in it. Then add the sifted flour, cocoa and salt and mix until you have a glossy batter.
Mix the teaspoon of flour with the chocolate chips in a bowl before mixing them into the batter until they’re well dispersed – this trick will stop them sinking to the bottom when you bake the brownies. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and level off the top. Bake for 25 minutes.
While it is baking, toast the nuts in a large non-stick pan, stirring until they are a deep golden brown. Put the dulce de leche in a bowl along with the toasted nuts and the salt, mix and set aside.
As soon as the brownies are baked, take them out of the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin. As soon as they have cooled, spread the sticky nut mixture over the top and pop the whole thing in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Adjust the oven to 170°C/fan 150°C/gas 3½.
Make the cheesecake top by mixing the cream cheese, sugar, egg, almond extract, orange zest and flour together really well. Spoon and spread into an even layer over the nut mixture and pop into the oven for 30 minutes.
As soon as the cheesecake is set in the centre, allow to cool totally and leave in the fridge overnight. The wait will be worth it! Dust with the cocoa, take out of the tin and cut into squares. Eat, eat, eat!
Nadiya Bakes by Nadiya Hussain, photography by Chris Terry, is published by Michael Joseph, priced £22. Nadiya Bakes is available to watch now on BBC iPlayer.