The Hebridean Baker: Coinneach MacLeod introduces his book
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What makes Coinneach’s new book, The Hebridean Baker: Recipes and Wee Stories from the Scottish Islands, different from other cookbooks is the way he includes snippets of Scottish history, culture, and even language alongside his recipes. Born and raised on the Isle of Lewis, Coinneach gives both viewers of his TikToks and readers of his book an insight into what it’s like to live on the islands of the Outer Hebrides.
Coinneach spoke to Express.co.uk about his new book, as well as the inspiration behind his baking recipes.
Although some recipes are unique to Coinneach, having learnt them from his ancestors, others are recognisable and well-known to all.
The baker shared two simple recipes with Express.co.uk: scones and Scottish shortbread, revealing crucial tips on how to make both treats as delectable as possible.
Coinneach’s love of baking came from his family, and he said he has both baked and cooked “for as long as I can remember”.
But in recent years he has become more experimental with his baking, which spurred him to launch a TikTok page and, consequently, write a book.
He said: “What I would say is over the past few years – maybe the last five or so years – I’ve just been a wee bit more creative and challenged myself a bit more.
“I did stick with five or six traditional recipes that I’ve always had but I’ve definitely been a bit more creative over the past wee while, which has been fun.”
From Granny Annag’s Christmas Cake to Aunt Bellag’s Duff, Coinneach credits family members for influencing his bakes.
His Aunt Bellag’s Duff, which is a boiled suet pudding made with raisins, currants, and spices, is one of Coinneach’s favourite recipes in the book because it contains a “secret” ingredient.
He said: “The reason why it’s so important is that I always knew hers was a wee bit different because so many of the family would make it and she always said you had to use a secret ingredient.
“And I did say to her when I was writing the book, are you going to give me the secret ingredient after all these years? So she did, and for that alone, I’m delighted.”
Another of Coinneach’s favourites is a “classic” recipe with a “wee bit of a Scottish twist” – the Hebridean version of a choux bun.
“You know when you make choux buns and they’ve got the nice cream inside? Well, mine is a hot toddy flavour,” the Hebridean Baker said.
“It has the flavour of the hot toddy – the honey and the whiskey – and, oh my goodness, it’s delicious.”
The hot toddy is a hot drink derived from Scotland and consists of hot water with brown liquor, honey, lemon juice, and spices such as cinnamon.
Another classic recipe native to the Highlands, Coinneach had to include shortbread in his cookbook.
The Hebridean Baker revealed a Celtic folklore tale about shortbread, saying: “Shortbread was always made by the mother of the bride before her wedding day.
“During the wedding ceremony, the mother would smash it over the bride’s head and if someone in the crowd caught a piece before it hit the ground, it was good luck.
“And what they did then was put it under their pillow and they were supposed to have sweet dreams that night.”
Coinneach added: “So that’s in the book too, and I love that story.”
And what are the baker’s top tips for the perfect shortbread?
“Probably every home in every village in Scotland will say something different about what’s the perfect shortbread,” he said.
“But I like it quite buttery and crumbly.
“I use ground rice along with the flour, which I think gives it that extra crumbliness.
“I also have caraway seeds in one of my shortbread recipes, and that’s such a distinctive flavour as well. It gives it quite a unique flavour.”
The Hebridean Baker added: “But some people would disagree with me and say, no don’t use ground rice, use this or that.
“And that’s what I love – every family has their own wee speciality, for sure.”
115g soft butter
55g golden caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
Pinch of salt
130g plain flour
40g ground rice
Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F.
Cream together the butter, sugar, and salt until pale.
Sift in your flour and ground rice and mix until you make a smooth dough.
Cover in cling film and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Lightly roll out the dough to 1cm thickness and cut into biscuits.
Sprinkle over the extra sugar.
Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
Your shortbread pieces should be golden but not browned. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
225g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
55g butter, at room temperature
170g courgette (roughly one large courgette)
1 tablespoon salt
60g mature cheddar, grated
½ teaspoon mustard powder
7 tablespoons milk
1 egg, to glaze the scones
Preheat the oven to 220°C/430°F.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, then add the soft butter and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Grate the courgettes (no need to peel them), and place in a bowl then mix in the salt.
Place in muslin (or a clean tea towel) and squeeze out as much liquid as you can.
Add the courgettes into the flour and butter mix along with the grated cheese and mustard powder and use your hands to stir well.
Add the milk. I use a knife to stir and make into a dough.
On a lightly floured work surface roll out the dough to about 2.5cm deep, but be careful not to work too much with the dough.
Cut into 4 hearty-sized scones and brush with egg.
Place on a greased baking tray and bake for 18 to 20 minutes until the scones are well risen and golden brown.
Make sure you have lots of salted butter to hand when serving.
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