Interviews

Meet The Hebridean Baker

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As cold nights draw in, there’s no one better to turn to for winter warmers, comfort food ideas, and delicious bakes than The Hebridean Baker. Beloved for his traditional Hebridean recipes and lauded for two bestselling books – Coinneach Macleod is an authority in baking, foraging, and the joys of leading a Hebridean lifestyle.


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In his new cookbook, The Hebridean Baker at Home, Coinneach shares recipes and stories that have been handed down through the generations; from his Double Dram Cake and Marmalade Shortbread to Whisky Fondue and Salmon Wellington – there’s a feast (and nostalgic food memory) for every occasion, on every page.

Plus - signature cocktails and Christmas bakes to get you in the festive spirit and inspired to host this season. We caught up with Coinneach to discover his top baking tips, where to find the best local delicacies in Stornoway, and the story behind his delicious Apple Victoria cake.

 

 

The Interview

Your new cookbook, The Hebridean Baker at Home shares stories and adventures alongside a selection of your favourite recipes. What’s your ultimate ingredient native to The Hebrides and your favourite way of incorporating it into your bakes?

I am passionate about using home-grown Hebridean and Scottish produce. Eating locally first means choosing food that is grown and harvested close to where you live, investing in the local community and its people. When folk ask me where to visit when they get to the island, the first stop I recommend is Charles MacLeod Butchers to buy Stornoway Black Pudding, it really is the best in the world! I can have it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – but I especially love my Black Pudding Meatballs, serving a little bit of Italy in the Hebrides!

 

What is your go-to recipe for cold winter nights and what makes it ideal comfort food?

It has to be a warming apple crumble. I love an oaty topping, and often I stir in a dram of spiced rum into my apple base! Served with my gingerbread custard – it really is a hug on a plate.

 

What bake is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser and easy to make when hosting a group of friends?

My Whisky Fondue! The warmth of the whisky complements the strong cheese flavours, and the caramelised shallots bring the perfect sweetness to the dish. It takes no time to make, and its comfort food at its finest.

 

What are three tips every budding baker needs to know?

When making a sponge cake, weigh your eggs and then use that same weight of flour, sugar, and butter for the perfect Victoria Sponge.

Creaming your butter and sugar together takes longer than you think. Spend at least five minutes creaming these ingredients on a high speed until the mixture turns extremely light, almost white and fluffy for optimal rise and a lighter cake.

When you are going to whip cream, always keep a little double cream aside. If you accidently overwhip or split the cream, fold in a little of the extra double cream and you’ll find the consistency of the cream will improve.

 

Which kitchen gadget or utensil could you not be without and why?

I love that baking is part inspiration, part mathematics – so I couldn’t do without my Joseph Joseph SwitchScale Kitchen Scales.

 

Your delicious Apple Victoria recipe is below – what was the inspiration behind it and how many bakes did it take to perfect the final method and flavours?

After planting six apple trees a couple of years ago, I had a wonderful harvest of apples this autumn! An undeniable classic, a Victoria Sponge is one of the simplest cakes there is and definitely one of the tastiest. The addition of grated apple adds a burst of flavour and makes the cake extra moist. I’ve added layers of luscious cinnamon buttercream between the sponges that make for the perfect flavour combination. How many bakes till it was perfect? I think it was the fifth combination – but even the outtakes were delicious!

 

For anyone heading to The Hebrides, what local dishes or delicacies are a must try?

Clootie Dumpling or Duff as we say in Gaelic, is my favourite traditional recipe. It is a simple boiled fruit cake, and no one makes it better than my Aunt Bellag. She adds an extra ingredient, a tablespoon of marmalade – which I love (recipe in Hebridean Baker, Recipes & Wee Stories from the Scottish Islands). Its distinctive skin sets it apart from other fruit cakes. Serve a slice with your afternoon cuppa, warm covered in custard for dessert, or the next morning fried in bacon fat as part of a Hebridean breakfast! Could you get a more versatile cake?!

 

What is your favourite baking memory and what recipe did it inspire?

It was a rare treat for us to visit the bakery in the town of Stornoway growing up. I would always ask for the same bake - a Fern Cake. Full of nostalgia, it evokes a sense of charm and simplicity. And I chose it as the first recipe in my new cookbook. Buttery crisp shortcrust pastry, fruity raspberry jam, squidgy almondy frangipane and a soft iced topping with a delicate fern design. It is like a Scottish Bakewell tart!

 

If you were to bake your ultimate festive feast, which recipes would be on the table?

Us Scots, we do soup well! So, for my first course, be it Cullen Skink, Cock-a-Leekie or a hearty bowl of Scotch Broth, it would warm the cockles on a winter’s day. I would serve my Loch Duart Salmon Wellington for main course and there would have to be at least four desserts! The Cailleach – a Scottish Yule Log, my Christmas Meringue Pie, flavoured with clementines rather than lemon, a Festive Trifle and of course a slice of Christmas Cake – my Sour Cherry and Chocolate Christmas Cake recipe is popular with family and neighbours in the village! And check out my chapter of cocktails to make your Christmas even more festive!

 

What have you got lined up for 2024?

I’m excited to be back on the road touring across North America with my new cookbook – 31 cities already planned from San Francisco to Nashville. There were will whisky, Gaelic singing and lots of Hebridean stories being told!

 

Apple Victoria Sponge Cake

 

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