Category Archives: Bread

Stollen

I’ve made various stollens over the years but always come back to this recipe as it’s the stollen I recognise. I spent some of my childhood growing up in Berlin and remember the Christmases there with fond memories. Nothing compares to their Weihnachtsmarkts of which there is over 50 spread all over the city. The smell of the glühwein, gingerbread, bratwurts and kartoffelpuffer intermingled with the crisp, cold winter air and, if you were lucky, the odd fleck of snow.

There are two ways of making stollen; with yeast or without yeast. This version doesn’t contain yeast and is the type I prefer. Read the rest of this entry

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Quick Cheese & Onion Rolls

As some of you know I teach cookery. In one of my roles I’m an Adult Education Tutor at evening classes of which I thoroughly enjoy. The women in one particular group have helped to shape what they would like to learn this term. They all mentioned how they wanted to master bread. Unfortunately in the 2 hour time frame it isn’t easy to make good bread from start to finish due to the rising time needed. So a few weeks ago we made Calzone as an introduction to yeasted bread making then this week we are making non-yeasted cheese & onion rolls to accompany the soup we are also making in class.

Read the rest of this entry

Harvest Festival Sheaf

Harvest festival in Primary School always has strong memories for me as both a pupil and member of staff. People still donate random tins of food perilously close to their best by date that the poor old dear wouldn’t have a clue about using (even I would struggle to make something tasty with tinned sprouts). The usual hymns of Who Put the Colours in the Rainbow are still sung with gumption including my personal favourite Paintbox and the new addition of Harvest Rock & Roll that usually includes the kids bopping along with actions.

 ‘Cauliflowers fluffy & cabbages green, strawberries sweeter than any I’ve seen, beetroot purple and onions white, all grow steadily day and night. The apples are ripe, and the plums are red, broadbeans and sleeping in their blankety beds’ – Paint Box  Read the rest of this entry

Baked Jam Doughnuts

Next week I’m running a week-long Cookery School for 6-11 year olds and for the last week I’ve been busy finalising arrangements and testing recipes. Each day is themed and one of the days is America. We couldn’t do an American themed day without making doughnuts and the fact I have a slight fear of frying, especially around children, this had to be a baked recipe. You can buy doughnut tins but part of my business ethos is about making cookery accessible for all. Having to buy a special tin doesn’t make it accessible. Read the rest of this entry

Calzone – bread making for kids

Take kids, flour, water and yeast and for some it’s epitome of hell. For me I love it, well it is my day job. I’m one of the rare breed that will take your children off your hands, let them make a mess in the kitchen and I promise to clear up afterwards. There is no getting around the fact that bread making isn’t the cleanest of cookery, but it is a fantastic way of teaching science, maths and fine motor skills. This is a recipe I’ve been teaching for the last few weeks and it has been a big hit with my pupils. It’s a good introduction to bread making because it doesn’t require the time usually needed to allow the dough to rise and double in size. Of course if you have the time, allow the dough to double in size as it does improve the flavour of the dough, but it works just as well with just a quick 10 min rise while the toppings are being prepared. This basic dough recipe can also be used for regular pizza.

The dough uses a mixture of plain and strong bread flour to make sure the dough doesn’t ping back too much when it’s being rolled out which in turn makes it easier for little hands to use. The kneading method I use with most of my pupils is the stretching method. However the best pupil of the past few weeks was a lad who had broken his arm. With a small amount of tuition he was able to knead dough like a pro using the one hand method I was taught by Aidan Chapman. I also showed the pupils that we can check dough is ready by stretching a small window in the dough. The thinner you get the window before the dough tears, the better the dough.

Making bread dough links well with science. During the class I set up a glass of warm water with sugar and yeast so the pupils could see yeast in action. I did have an interesting time explaining to some pupils that yeast is a tiny living thing, a microorganism, a fungi and not an animal. I think some thought that when we added the water to the yeast it would turn into something like sea monkeys! This recipe also links well with maths. As with most measuring jugs it can be difficult to see where 75ml is so we weighed the water on digital scales to improve accuracy as 1ml water = 1 cm³ water = 1 g. Alternatively we could have counted out 5 tablespoons (15ml) of water.

Of course the filling of the calzone is endless. In class we did simple cheese and tomato and the Ikea BONUS knives did a superb job of cutting the tomatoes with no cut fingers. Remember kids, Miss doesn’t like sliced digits. One pupil suggested a sweet filling of banana and chocolate spread, I may well have to give this a go in the future.

While uploading the photos for this post I realised the small cuts I have put in the calzone to stop them getting too soggy inside makes them look like have navels. Maybe they are animals after all…

Calzone
Makes 2 small calzones

60g plain flour

60g strong white bread flour

2 pinches of table salt

1/4 tsp fast action yeast

75ml warm water

2 dessertspoons passata (sieved uncooked tomatoes)

25g grated mozzarella

1 tomato

sprinkling of mixed herbs

1) Preheat oven to 200°c. In a bowl mix together both flours along with the yeast and salt. Stir in water until you have a dough.

2) Sprinkle a small amount of flour on the clean surface, take the dough out of the bowl and knead until you have a soft, smooth dough. Add a tiny amount of flour if the dough gets too sticky. It can take up to 10 minutes for the dough to transform into a soft dough. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave while you prepare the toppings. Depending on time leave the dough for between 10-120 minutes.

3) On a chopping board cut the tomato into small pieces.

4) Cover your baking sheet with a piece of baking parchment. This is not essential but does make sure that none of the calzone sticks. Alternatively sprinkle the tray with a small amount of polenta or semolina.

5) Tear the dough in to two equal balls then roll out until they are the size of a side plate. Place the dough on the lined baking tray. Top with the passata then sprinkle with the cheese, tomato and herbs. Fold the dough in half so it makes a pasty-like shape then crimp the edges. Cut a small hole on the top of the calzone.

6) Bake for 10-15 min or until calzone is puffed and golden.

National Wheatmeal Loaf and Mock Banana anyone?

As part of my business I’ve looked at certain eras of food history in particular the recipes that the everyday person would have cooked and eaten. I’m currently working on WW2 and rationing. This has partly been spurred on by our visit to the Ministry of Food Exhibition at the  Imperial War Museum back November.

Unlike many things during WW2 Bread wasn’t rationed until 1946, however it was illegal to eat white bread due to precious flour supplies so the National Wheatmeal Loaf was developed which used 85% wholemeal flour with added calcium and vitamin, plus extra salt and other padding out ingredients if you were a cash tight baker. Frankly it was not very popular due to its stale, coarse texture that made it almost undigestible, but people put up with it as there was no other alternative. I was also a crime to waste bread.

“Pat-a-loaf, pat-a-loaf
Baker’s Man
Bake me some Wheatmeal
As fast as you can:
It builds up my health
And its taste is good,
I find that I like
Eating just what I should.”

The wholemeal loaf I attempted as part of my research thankfully was quite edible. During the rationing years it has been argued that people’s diets were the best they had ever been, but it didn’t stop people craving the foods that they couldn’t have and this is where mock versions of products appeared. Mock banana is simply boiled parsnips mashed down with a bit of sugar and banana extract. Perfect consistency to spread in your sandwich with a rather acquired taste. Not my first choice of sandwich fillings and probably put a whole generation of children off banana sandwiches but it was better than no banana. The other sandwich filling you can see in the picture is simply grated carrot with a smidgen of mayonnaise and grated cheese, surprisingly tasty. Almost like a stripped down coleslaw. Parsnips, carrots and other root vegetables are readily available in the winter months so were used in many dishes and even as a substitute for sweets when they were rationed. Not sure what children would think of this now!

What Hubs doesn’t realise is that I’m inflicting a Woolton Pie on him in the next week plus there is a packet of skimmed milk powder in the kitchen just waiting to be turned into Household Milk all in the name of research.

Wholemeal Bread
Makes 2 loaves
from Ministry of Food – Jane Fearnley Whittingstall

1 ½ lb wholemeal bread flour

1 ½ tbsp salt

1 ½ tbsp dried yeast

1 dsp honey or treacle

450 ml tepid water

1) Mix together all the ingredients and knead for about 10 minutes until you have a soft dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave until dough has doubled in size (around 2 hours).

2) Knock back the dough, give a short knead then cut into two equal pieces. Place in 1.5 litre loaf tins, allow to rise for a further 2 hours.

2) pre-heat oven to 200°c then bake loaves for 30 min. To test the loaves turn them out of their tins and give the base a tap. if it sounds hollow they are ready. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

A Glamping Staycation – the food

previous: A Glamping Staycation – the yurt

Campsites that openly encourage open fires, BBQs and have even built a clay pizza oven for you are quite a rarity and it was the pizza oven that sold this campsite to us.

We cooked pizzas in a clay oven at River Cottage last year so roughly knew what to do. First attempt at pizza wasn’t the best. We rolled the dough too big for the peel and ended up making a kind of calzone. Second attempt with a better heat from the fire and smaller pizzas did the trick. The men took the whole pizza cooking very seriously and managed to make some cracking pizzas. While they didn’t pass the official Napoli pizza rule of cooking in 90 seconds nothing beats a pizza cooked this way.  The dough was just the basic dough from River Cottage: Bread with cherry tomatoes boiled down with a splash of olive oil, garlic and herbs for the tomato sauce then topped with mozzerella, mushrooms and salami.

Once the pizza oven was mastered we then went on to the newly purchased Dutch Oven along with the tripod that allowed us to suspend it over the fire. First thing to be cooked – popcorn. A slightly mad idea of mine but I couldn’t see why it wouldn’t work. It did work…kind of. Due to the pot being a bit too close to the fire once all the corn had popped the majority of the corn had burnt to a cinder. However the Dutch Oven proved a perfect method to make a sausage and lentil casserole. First browned the sausages, took them out then browned some onions threw in some tomatoes, lentils, beef stock some mushrooms, returned the sausages to the pan then simmered until the sausages were cooked and lentils beginning to break down. Very tasty and perfect after a long day. I had intended to try and bake some bread inside the Dutch Oven, but never got around to it.

Of course cooking on a campfire means 3 essential things: toasted marshmallows, chocolate stuffed bananas and dampers. Cooking these took me straight back to Guide camp 15 odd years ago. Hubs took his role of Grr Caveman very seriously and whittled some sticks to allow us to cook the bread on. All those years of worshiping Ray Mears paid off. Rather than traditional damper dough we made normal bread dough, gently roasted over the fire then ate some with our main meal and the rest slathered in jam for our pudding. Delicious.

Foraging wise we picked lots of blackberries, which naturally ended up in a rather large jug of Pimms, plus at one point nearly picked what looked like some chanterelle mushrooms but we weren’t 100% they were so left them well alone.

As well as the food we made on site Hereford is known for its apples and cider. Something we were determined to try. There is an offical Cider Trail you can follow but the first place we visited, Carey Organic Cider , was an experience. When we turned up to the farm shop, situated in a barn in the middle of the farm, we were greeted by lots of beautiful produce that had been grown there along with an old  looking cider press and barrels of cider. Unsure as to what type of cider we wanted the gentleman let us try the cider as dry as it comes. I will say I have never tasted such a great cider. The general consensus in the group was to sweeten the cider very slightly to make it medium dry and the gentleman sweetened it with sugar there and then. It was very much like a traditional scrumpy and was rather strong stuff. The 5 litre box we bought didn’t last long. I think I’ve been converted to traditional non-fizzy cider now. Along with the cider they also sold amazing pink-fleshed apples from there. I can’t remember the variety but I think they are old variety. As stupid as this sounds they were the strongest tasting apples I’d had in a long time. Beautifully sweet and tart at the same time. We also visited Stowford Press as Carey Organics is only open on Fridays & Saturdays. The bottles be bought from here have very much been the drink of choice since we returned.

We ate breakfast and dinner on site, but for the majority of days ate Lunch off site usually at the places we we’re visiting. Best lunch was the Hampton Court Cold Platter at Hampton Court Castle (more on this spectacular place on the next post) and worst was an awful sandwich at a historic farm that has been on various BBC series recently. How can I put it, it tasted of the farm.

Fresh from the Oven – Brioche

Brioche has been on my want to bake list for a while ever since discovering the glories of French Toast. If it hadn’t been chosen for this month’s Fresh from the Oven challenge I was going to go ahead and make it anyway. Thankfully Chele from Chocolate Teapot came up trumps with this recipe.

The brioche I usually buy is beautiful sweet and fluffy and I have to admit my versions didn’t live up to this, but I know exactly why. I added too much flour. At the beginning I found the dough too difficult to work with and lobbed in quite a significant amount of flour to make the dough workable. By doing this I was no longer going to get the right texture. I would like to try this again with a tad bit more sugar and no more flour to see if I could get it to work. I’m saying it wasn’t fluffy but it still made grand toast!

Brioche
400g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
5g powdered dried yeast
10g fine sea salt
90ml warm milk
2 tbsp caster sugar
100g butter, softened
4 medium free range eggs, beaten
To Glaze
1 medium free range egg
2 tbsp milk

to knead by hand:  mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, and bring it all together to form a dough.  Knead for about 10 mins, until smooth and shiny.

Or, to use a food mixer:  fit the dough hook and add all the dough ingredients to the mixer bowl.  Mix on low speed until combined, and leave to knead for about 10 mins, until smooth and shiny.

Shape the dough into a round, place in a bowl and cover tightly.  Leave in the fridge overnight.

The next day, divide the dough in two and form into the shape of your choice.  Lightly flour the loaves, lay them on a wooden board or linen cloth and cover with a plastic bag.  Leave them somewhere nice and warm to prove until almost doubled in size; this could take 3 or 4 hours, as the dough is cold.

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.  For the glaze, beat the egg and milk together.  Transfer the risen loaves to a baking tray and brush all over with the glaze.  Bake for about 10 mins, then lower the oven setting to 180C/gas mark 4 and bake for a further 30 mins or until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 2 small loaves
River Cottage Handbook No.3 – Bread

Long awaited Hot Cross Buns

I’ve been trying to bake the perfect Hot Cross Buns for the last few Easters and until now these doughy treats had eluded me. Past Hot Cross Buns have resembled rock cakes, the crosses had dribbled off or they were frankly inedible.

Deciding not to be beaten, this year I decided to consult my bread bible, Bread: River Cottage Handbook. I’ve used it for many recipes in the past including focaccia and bagels and never has it let me down. The reason I love this book so much is that not only does it produce great recipes, it isn’t patronising (like lots of bread baking books can be) and it advises how you can adapt the recipes and make them your own.

The one thing I accidently missed out of the recipe was the egg, this is added to enrich the dough. Given I forgot it, the buns still tasted delicious. Especially warm from the oven, split and slathered in butter. I think this recipe may be making appearance outside the Easter season minus the crosses. But then again, if the supermarkets are anything to go by it’s Easter all year round. Trust me, these homemade versions are worth waiting for.

Hot Cross Buns
From Bread: River Cottage Handbook – Dan Stevens
Makes 8 large buns

250g strong white bread flour
250g plain white flour
1 tsp mixed spice
125ml milk, at room temperature
125ml water, at room temperature
7g fast action yeast
10g fine salt
50g caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
50g butter, softened
100g dried mixed fruit

For the crosses:
plain flour
water

For the glaze:
2 tbsp apricot jam (you could also use marmalade)
2 tbsp water

1) Combine all of the dough ingredients and knead for 10 minutes until you have soft, elastic dough. Shape into a round and leave to rise until doubled in size. In our house this usually takes 1-2 hours.

2) Once the dough has doubled in size knock back the dough and divide into 8 equal pieces. Shape into buns and leave on a floured board, covered with a clean tea towel, to prove for 30 min.

3) Preheat oven to 200°c. Transfer the buns onto a floured baking tray. Mix together a small amount of plain flour & water until you have a thick paste. Pipe the crosses onto the buns. Bake for 15-20 min until risen and golden.

4) While the buns are still hot, mix together the two glaze ingredients then brush over the buns. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.

Fresh from the Oven – No Knead Bread

This month’s Fresh From the Oven challenge was hosted by Claire from Things we Make and she chose No Knead Bread. I’ve always been intrigued by this bread, but until now had never given it a go. The baker in me wondered 1) how a recipe like this could work and 2) wondered if it would have a slight sour taste.

Well I have to say this bread it a revelation. It produced a light, chewy loaf similar in texture and taste to ciabatta. It is quite obvious by the photo that we enjoyed it so much so, we had eaten quite a significant part of it before I got a chance to photograph it. This is certainly a loaf I would make again. The only alteration would be to prove in my proving basket to see if I could improve the shape.

No Knead Bread

The Mix

  • 15oz Strong White bread flour – it works best with all white I think
  • ¼ tsp instant easibake yeast (out of a sachet)
  • 1 tsp table salt

Stir together well then add 10.5 fl oz of lukewarm water (a mugful)

Slosh it round into a gooey lump of dough with a fork

Leave in a big bowl and cover with cling film or put the bowl in a bin bag
Leave it in kitchen for 16-18 hours – or more if you forget.

The 16hr Sloosh

Use a dough scraper/cutter or your fingers, to scrape the wet porridgy dough away from the sides, using plenty of flour to stop it sticking, and shuffle it back into a nice round shape. Don’t be tempted to knead it.

Cover with a tea towel and leave for 2 more hours.

The Bake

Preheat oven to 200-220 and put in a lightly oiled Le Creuset or other large cast iron casserole with a lid on until the oven and the pan are super hot.

Again use the scraper and a good sprinkle of flour to detach the dough from the bowl without puncturing it’s airy goodness. Then quick as you can, without losing the heat from the oven and pan, tip the dough onto one hand then flop it into the hot pan the right way up again and put the lid back on and get it back in the oven immediately.

  • Bake for 30 minutes lid-on
  • Then cook for 10-12 minutes more, lid-off until golden brown

If it’s not hollow sounding on the bottom put it back in, without its tin for an extra 5 minutes. Tip out and cool well before trying to slice

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