what? bread?

a blog about making bread at home

Saffron loaf

A work colleague brought in a fruited saffron loaf she’d been given as a present and no-one at home wanted to eat (wouldn’t happen in my house but there you are). I think it was one of these from Warren’s Bakery. Very nice it was too, but a bit on the yellow side, so I thought I search out a recipe and see what I could do.

In Dan Lepard’s Hand Made Loaf I found one that didn’t look too taxing. It starts with a sponge of plain flour, milk and yeast, and then in go some saffron threads soaked in hot water, strong white flour, caster sugar, sea salt, butter, more milk and currants. Only a couple of quick kneads and two proving stages. Baking was started at 210 deg C and then turned down, I had to turn it down earlier than the recipe said as it looked like it was going to burn, and I turned it even lower for the last 10 minutes. Result – very nice – fruit loaf without spice but with a definite flavour of saffron. I’ll be doing this again!

Sponge just mixed

Sponge just mixed

Sponge after an hour

Sponge after an hour

Ingredients all mixed

Ingredients all mixed

After kneading

After kneading

After forming and resting

After forming and resting

Shaped

Shaped

Brushed with egg

Brushed with egg

Baked

Baked

Cooled and cut

Cooled and cut

 

Doughnuts – River Cottage recipe

New Year, and finally, new baking. Having had my fill of lovely Christmas things I didn’t fancy anything with dried fruit in today, which is most unlike me because I love my dried fruit. So, taking some inspiration from the celebrity Sport Relief Bake-off programme which featured doughnuts as a recipe, I’m trying them for the first time. The easiest-looking recipe I had to hand was from the River Cottage handbook 3, and which also handily appears on the Telegraph website (sssshhh, don’t tell the Guardian I’ve gone off-piste, but it isn’t the same without Dan Lepard). You can try Paul Hollywood’s recipe over here too.

As I often do with recipes when trying them for the first time, I’ve only done a half measure of all the ingredients, and I’ve used fresh yeast, not dried. I don’t have a mixer so I’ve adapted the River Cottage recipe to the Dan Lepard method.

I mixed all the ingredients, left it for 10 minutes, kneaded lightly and then repeated two more times. In between I left the bowl cuddled up to the big pan I have boiling oranges for marmalade (I use Delia’s recipe for that, and there’s a blog over here about it from last year, nothing new to say on that subject this year) as the kitchen is heading for Baltic conditions again – currently 18.7 C.

Then I left the bowl to allow the dough to prove for about 45 minutes before making it into balls and rings. My son doesn’t much like jam doughnuts, but he does like the ring ones. I just poked my finger through like I would for bagels. I’m also making pizza so need to fit it all in together. They got to rest for about an hour before being fried.

Some time later…. Results are in. Not bad for a first attempt, but a bit stodgy. Next time I might let it prove a bit more the first time, fry them with a bit more oil, or make them smaller or make them all ring doughnuts. The ball ones expanded a bit, then split, but the outer surface was cooked before the inside had finished expanding. Here are some pictures of what went on! I’ll definitely be needing a good long run tomorrow.

All mixed up

All mixed up

After kneading

After kneading

All shaped

All shaped

After rising

After rising

First two

First two

Three balls

Three balls

Scandinavian cinnamon buns – Guardian recipe

Tired of mince pies? Can’t face another bit of stollen? Don’t want to eat your Christmas cake yet? Need a bit of something sweet and bready? Today’s Cook supplement in the Guardian had a lovely front page picture of cinnamon buns and the recipe couldn’t be easier. I did give the dough a couple of quick Dan Lepard style 10 second kneads while it was resting. I used some spelt flour because I had some, and I didn’t have any demerara sugar so it got topped with some soft brown sugar. My tin is also a bit smaller than required, so I added a few extra minutes baking time. Here’s some pictures while I wait for it to finish cooling.

after mixing

after mixing

a quick knead after 10 mins

a quick knead after 10 mins

another quick knead

another quick knead

dough patted out to size

dough patted out to size

filling spread across

filling spread across

rolled up into a sausage

rolled up into a sausage

popped in the pan

popped in the pan

after 30 mins rising

after 30 mins rising

with egg and sugar before baking

with egg and sugar before baking

baked, but in the tin

baked, but in the tin

out of the tin in one go

out of the tin in one go

Dan Lepard’s stollen

Finally getting somewhere near the Christmas spirit, so to keep us going until the big day (well probably until next weekend at any rate), here’s Dan Lepard’s stollen as printed in the Guardian some time ago. The slightly tricky bit about this recipe is the first stage of boiling some milk and rye flour together. The pictures below show how this goes in my house, blend milk and flour together cold and introduce some gentle heat and keep stirring until it makes a thick goo, but don’t let it boil. You then thrash in some melted butter, eggs and yolks, lemon zest and in my case brandy. If you are using fresh yeast you can keep back a little milk and blend it with that. The rest is easy peasy and while I’m not a fan of shop marzipan, this is an ideal use for it. The recipe didn’t call for cherries, but I didn’t have enough peel, so I made up the weight. Makes a terrific breakfast too, natch to muesli today!

milk and rye flour cold

milk and rye flour cold

milk and rye flour after heating

milk and rye flour after heating

after adding egg, yolks, brandy and lemon zest

after adding egg, yolks, brandy and lemon zest

mixed with dry goods

mixed with dry goods

after kneading after resting for 10 mins

after kneading after resting for 10 mins

after leaving for 90 mins

after leaving for 90 mins

oval shape with marzipan

oval shape with marzipan

rolled up ready for second rise

rolled up ready for second rise

after second rise before baking

after second rise before baking

Just out of the oven

Just out of the oven

With coating of butter and icing sugar

With coating of butter and icing sugar

Inside view

Inside view

Dan Lepard’s Classic Cheesecake

Very quick blog today to remind me of something I should make more often. From Dan’s book Short and Sweet . It’s also on the web here. I also make about half the recipe as there’s only three of us and we’d be eating it forever if I made more. A full-sized one is good for family gatherings however.

Oat cookies and butter for the base, cream cheese (I use ricotta and marscapone), sour cream, sugar, plain flour, lemon zest, vanilla essence and eggs. Simple and delicious.

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Christmas cake and a word about marzipan

I realised that I hadn’t blogged the making of a Christmas Cake. This year’s trendy thing to do apparently as sales of dried fruit and other cake ingredients have risen by over 30% compared to last year, according to The Times (but you’ll need a subscription to read the rest). Now this could mean several things – we’re not just making Christmas cakes and puddings, we’re making all sorts of lovely things packed with sultanas, raisins and currants, cherries, peel and nuts. It may also mean that the stores have over-ordered their own Christmas offerings and there will be lots of cut-price goodies on Boxing Day, so if you’re not making your own, hang on for a post-Christmas blitz, but don’t blame me if I’m wrong.

I must say there are few things I like more than good fruit cake. However, at this time of year it is all to easy to end up with everything tasting of dried fruit and spices so sometimes it is good to go outside the box. So I will be making Panettone and probably stollen just to keep us going until the big day. There’s a great Dan Lepard recipe for stollen which I also don’t seem to have blogged about yet, so maybe next week for that one.

You can find all sorts of recipes on the web from all the celebrity bakers, and they’ll all be just slightly different, also they’ll be telling you “you should have made your cake a month ago”. Does it really make a difference whose recipe you follow and how long you leave it to sit? Personally I don’t think so. I’m not that keen on treacle in cake recipes or filling them up with alcohol so I’m here now with my split-at-the-spine copy of the National Trust Christmas and Festive Day Recipes, another copy of which I may have to put in my trolley next time I’m on Amazon, as it has suffered. For a good read about historic Christmas cakes you could do worse than read Ivan Day’s blog and course where he talks about yeast-leavened plum cakes.

I reduce a 6 egg recipe down to 4 eggs and proportion all the ingredients likewise, as while we like the cake, if it hangs around the house much past Twelfth Night I find it’s gone a bit dry. Absolutely nothing tricky in here: sultanas, currants, raisins, cherries, peel, some orange juice, butter, soft brown sugar, eggs, plain flower, salt, baking powder, mixed spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, almonds, lemon juice, brandy/rum or sherry and vanilla/almond or ratafia essence. Some pictures below as I went along and one of the finished article.

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It won’t be getting decorated until much nearer the date, but I do also like to try and remember to make my own marzipan, as along with how shops treat dates at Christmas, I can’t be doing with the added stickiness of the syrup that shop-bought brands contain. The above-mentioned book also includes a recipe for almond paste which features ground almonds, caster sugar, icing sugar, egg, lemon juice, brandy or sherry, vanilla essence, almond essence and orange-flower or rose water. The finished mix my be a little more gritty than shop bought, and the cake does benefit from leaving for a week wrapped in paper before icing, so is not a last-minute thing, but most importantly, does not stick to the teeth!

And here’s the finished article. Maybe a bit on the blue side, but my son said it was awesome, so who am I to argue?

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Chocolate orange cake

I asked my son what kind of cake he’d like and he replied “chocolate and orange” so using Dan Lepard’s brown sugar chocolate cake recipe from Short and Sweet, which is mostly like this one from the Guardian, plus the zest of an orange in the mixture, and a quick topping using the juice of half the orange plus some icing sugar and butter and a quick waft of cocoa powder, here’s a giant cupcake. Using a 20cm cake tin liner in a tin which is a bit bigger means the liner gets nice and full, the recipe gets room to spread and the result is lighter than making it in a loaf tin.

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Stamped cookies

Making biscuits with patterns on top is an ancient art. There’s a lovely blog about it from Ivan Day, who owns some beautiful historic biscuit stamps. Me, I bought one in M&S last week. I’m stuck at home with a sprained ankle this morning so I thought I’d try it out with the Hairy Bikers Cardamom and Lemon cookies. I only made half a batch as I didn’t have enough almonds, and I had to plump up the portions to 30g pieces to make the stamp work. I weighed the pieces, rolled them into balls and pressed them flat with my hand before using the stamp. The stamp is probably a bit too ornate and I had to use plain flour to coat it before stamping out the cookies.

Now I have something to eat with my morning coffee. Before and after pictures below.

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Great British Bake Off Pretzels

Had a slightly crappy night/morning/lunchtime so need some dough-based therapy to cheer me up a bit. Only time to try half a batch today, but if a recipes goes well when done in half it will go well when the whole batch is made.

Recipe on the GBBO Good Food website over here.

Nothing particularly interesting in there, but another use for the malt from the malt loaf recipe. I’m using fresh yeast as usual.

Mixing the malt with cold milk from the fridge meant that the malt didn’t dissolve and just sort of twined itself around the fork and looked a bit sulky. I wonder if the milk should be at ambient or warmer? So I swished it about a bit and then poured it all in and stirred it up. I did leave it for a Dan Lepard 10 minute rest before going in and giving it quite a good knead. It is quite a stiff dough, very different to the soft pizza dough I’m also making at the same time for tonight’s dinner.

I don’t think I have a pan that will take 7 litres of boiling water as suggested in the recipe. My biggest pan is……goes off to find out…. about 3 litres. I do have a bigger preserving pan, but I’m not using that. I wonder why we need 7 litres of boiling water when the pretzels are only going in for 5 seconds each? Anyway I think I will be doing them in about 2 litres of water in the big pan, so will be reducing the bicarbonate of soda appropriately.

Ok, shaping them went OK, with a bit of twiddling to get the loops right. Then they went for a quick swim. When I put the first one in the pan it sank, so I left it to rise to the surface, which took 10 seconds. Then the others went in one at a time. After the bath I sprinkled Maldon salt and sesame seeds onto each one before putting the next into the pan. Then all straight into the oven. Time went OK, about 23 minutes all told, and they were hard when I tapped them. Soft and dense on the inside. Not quite sure what good they are to man or beast as they are not rolls or buns but I see on Wikipedia that the Germans fill them with cheese and ham. Is there anything they don’t fill with cheese and ham?

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Breadmakers, the PM, and basil, tomato and parmesan bread

Our Prime Minister caused a bit of a media political party conference silly-season frenzy a few days back when he was asked if he knew the price of a loaf of supermarket bread, not just any bread, but the budget stuff. Obviously he didn’t and gave a horribly wrong answer and at the same time tried to show himself in a good light by plugging a local flour producer in the Cotswolds and the fact that he could actually manage to load a breadmaker and therefore make his own bread. So 9/10 for the plug for FWP Matthews and 0/10 for having his eye on the ball when it comes to the price of bread that many people have to make do with. The sad thing is that for 47p, which is was apparently the price of supermarket budget bread, those same people could make themselves a decent loaf of bread with supermarket white bread flour, and that’s including the price of the electricity to bake it, even in an oven. You might have to be a bit clever and do some bulk baking and freezing to get the price down a bit per loaf, but with a bag of strong white flour being about 80p in Tesco’s now and you can get yeast for 1p at the bakery counter it might make sense to have a go at a basic loaf, even adding in the price of fuel and maybe some oil and salt it will still come out less than 50p per loaf. Breadmakers are quite stingy on the old electricity so quite an economical way to bake a single loaf – Which? says about 0.34 kWh per go, so about 5p. I don’t mind that the PM can’t bake bread by hand, he should have better things to be doing with his time. Like Boris and the Ride London-Surrey 100, I would have been sad if he had been faster than me because he really does have better things to do with his time than train to cycle fast.

I used to own a breadmaker, but like a lot of gadgets, once the novelty wore off it didn’t get used and then it was thrown out. However, I have hung on to my recipe books. I’ve had some sundried tomatoes hanging round the kitchen for a while and finally decided that today was the day on which they were going to be used up. So here is some basil, tomato and parmesan bread from The Bread Machine book by Marjie Lambert. Which may well be out of print by now.

So: 350g white bread flour, 2 teaspoons fresh yeast, one teaspoon salt, one teaspoon sugar, 60ml milk, 125ml water, 2 tablespoons olive oil. Given the Dan Lepard treatment – mix,

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leave 10 mins, knead briefly and leave twice more adding 40g sundried tomatoes, 2 teaspoons dried basil and 25g parmesan cheese during the last knead and working it well in.

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Leave for 45mins, shape, rise again, shake flour on top, slash

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and bake at 220 C.

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