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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.

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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.

Fresh from the Oven – Chelsea Buns

I’ve been a bit lax with bread baking recently. Hubs has been working away a lot and most weekends we’ve been busy with friends and family. Also now that my job is all about food, I live and breathe it, I’m trying to find a hobby that doesn’t involve being in the kitchen. When Wendy from Quirky Cookies decided that this month’s Fresh from the Oven challenge was going to be Chelsea Buns I was secretly pleased and hoped it would kick my bread making mojo back into touch. Wendy is a cracking woman and fellow science geek. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her at a few Fabulous Places events and can highly recommend her Rocky Road. Get in quick though as it sells fast!

I got working on the dough while working from home. Straight after kneading the dough looked quite sloppy. I left it a few minutes and the dough seemed to magically firm and come together. In between costing recipes, sighing at how the price of ingredients seems to be rocketing and thinking of recipes for spring term I had this dough slowly rising. As the house was quite cold I gave the dough a quick blast in the airing cupboard to aid with the rising. What materialised was a beautiful, soft and silky enriched dough.

When adding the filling I used sultanas, candied citrus peel and glace cherries along with a liberal sprinkling of cinnamon. As advised by Wendy I also drizzled a small amount of icing on the buns once they had cooled. I have it on good authority from Claire at Things We Make that these taste superb warm from the oven. While I wasn’t fortunate to eat them warm they are still absolutely delicious with my 11 o’clock cuppa.

225g (8oz) strong white bread flour
25g (1oz) caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
25g (1oz) softened butter – this is for the dough
1 1/2 tsp fast action dried yeast
1 medium egg, beaten
90ml (3 fl oz) warm semi-skimmed milk
25g (1 oz) butter really softened, but not melted – this is for the filling
65g (2 1/2oz) light muscovado sugar
115g (4oz) dried fruit
1) Combine the flour, sugar, salt and yeast into a mixing bowl (I used my KitchenAid as usual). Make a well in the centre and add the softened butter, egg and milk. Mix to make a soft dough. Knead until smooth. It’s at this point I remember how much I love my KitchenAid, and make myself a coffee.
2) Cover and prove until doubled in size. I find that if I’m in a hurry the airing cupboard can do this in around half an hour, and I’ve had no adverse side effects from quick proving so far. Generously butter and line a 7″ square tin. Make sure it’s not a loose bottomed one, or you’ll get problems later on and loose your filling.

3) Flour your work surface, and roll out the dough, (no need to knock it back) to a rectangle measuring about 12 x 9 inches. If you get the edges as square as you can it will help to make your buns look even, but I quite like the squiffy homemade look. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m damn well sticking to it!

4) Spread the softened butter as evenly as you can over the dough. Sprinkle the sugar and the dried fruit on top, and gently press it into the butter. Now, roll up the dough along the long edge, as though you were making a Swiss Roll (and don’t tell me you haven’t!) Seal the edge. I find that smoothing it down with the flat side of a paring knife can help here, but don’t get too ocd over this bit. Turn the roll over so that the seal is underneath and divide the roll into 9 equal buns.

5) Place the buns, cut side down, into the buttered and lined tin, and leave to prove until the dough has doubled in size, and they have all joined together into one big Chelsea bun muddle. I baked mine in a 180 degree oven, for about 15 minutes, but I’ve got a particularly hot and fast cooking oven. You know your oven better than I do, and I suspect most of you will need to set the oven slightly higher, and /or cook for a little longer. Some recipes suggest covering the buns with parchment or foil, but the fan is so strong in my oven this has never worked for me. Once cooked, cool on a wire rack, and eat them as soon as you dare.

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

Croissants

Croissants have been on my Want To Make list for a long time, but I just hadn’t had the nerve to make them so I was glad when I saw that Corrie from Hot Potato had decided to these being April’s Fresh from the Oven challenge. To make it even better the recipe was from my bread bible – River Cottage Handbook: Bread. I think I would go as far to say this turned out to be one of my favourite Fresh from the Oven challenge so far.

I only did a half batch as the amount of butter being used in the full recipe scared me slightly, even though I knew the amount of butter per croissant would still be the same! Well I have to say I’ve now been truly spoilt. Never did I think I would be able to make such delicious croissants. These are only matched by freshly baked croissants from a bakery near a friend’s house in Bristol. I think we’ll struggle to go back to the ready-made versions we usually have on our Sunday treat breakfasts from the shops. Don’t let the long instructions put you off, they are easier than it makes out and so worth it. If the amount of butter scares you, one thing I will say is that you get a good workout rolling the dough out into the giant rectangle.

Croissants
Makes 24-28 croissants
From River Cottage Bread Handbook by Daniel Stevens

1 kg strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
20 g salt
330 ml warm water
330 ml warm milk
10g powdered dried yeast (instant/bread machine yeast)
140g caster sugar/white sugar
500g unsalted butter

For glaze:
2 medium egg yolks
50ml milk

1) It is best to use a food mixer for the first stage as the dough will be soft, sticky and difficult to knead by hand. So, put all the ingredients, except the butter, into the mixer bowl and fit the dough hook. Knead on low to medium speed until the dough is soft, stretchy and satiny – about 10 minutes. Put the dough in a decent sized polythene bag (it needs room to rise), suck out the air, tie a knot in the bag and put it in the fridge to rest over night.

2) First thing in the morning, get the butter out of he fridge. You need it to warm up a bit so it is workable, but not soft. The idea is that the dough and the butter have a similar degree of firmness.

3) As soon as it seems ready, lightly flour the butter, lay it between two sheets of cling film and bat it out with a rolling pin to a fairly neat square about 1cm thick. Take your time to get the thickness and shape as even as possible, then put it to one side.

4) Take your dough out of the fridge, flour it and roll out to a rectangle, a little more than twice the size of the butter (allow a couple of centimeters extra all around). Now lay the butter on one half leaving a border, fold the other half over and press down all the way round to seal the butter in.

5) Next roll the dough away from you until it is twice its original length, then fold the top and bottom edges in by one sixth. Fold them in again by another sixth, so the folds meet in the middle, then fold one on top of the other.

6) Give the dough a quarter turn and roll it out again to about the same size as before, fold the top and bottom edges in to meet at the middle, then fold one on top of the other. Roll this out slightly and seal the edges with the rolling pin.

7) Put the dough back in the plastic bag and return it to the fridge to rest for an hour or so. (You’ve given the gluten a good workout and it must relax now, otherwise it will be resistant and uncooperative later.) *I found the dough extremely resistant after a 2 hour rest and I had to use a herculean effort to roll it out. I did halve the dough and let the second half rest overnight and had a much easier time rolling it out. Unless you’re a body builder I would advise a longer rest than an hour or two.

8 ) In the meantime, you need to cut a template from a piece of cardboard (the back of a cereal box or something similar). You want an isosceles triangle, measuring 20cm across the base and 25cm tall. (The easiest way is to draw an upside down capital T and join the points, like a cartoon sail).

9) When your dough has rested, unwrap and roll it out to a neat rectangle, a little larger than 140cm x 50cm . Now trim the rectangle to these measurements leaving perfectly straight edges. Cut the rectangle in two lengthwise, to give two 25cm wide strips. Now using your template as a guide, cut 12-14 triangles from each strip.

10) Lay each triangle away from you and roll it up from the base. Wet the pointed end and seal it. Curl the tips around to form a crescent and pinch them together to hold them in place; or you can leave them straight if you prefer. (At this point you could freeze some if you like. Space them out on a tray and freeze, then pack into bags. Allow an extra hour for rising when you come to use them).

11) Lay your croissants with the sealed point underneath, on baking trays lined with greased baking parchment or (better still) silicone mats. Cover with cling film or a bin liner and leave to rise until doubled in side. As the dough is cold, this could take a couple of hours, or longer.

12) When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 200C/400F /Gas Mark 6. Beat the egg yolk and the milk together, then gently brush all over the croissants. Bake for about 10 minutes, then lower the setting to 170C/325F/Gas Mark 3 and bake for further 10-15 minutes until they look beautifully golden. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly, while you make coffee.

P.S. If your work surface isn’t large enough to roll the dough out to a 140 x 50cm rectangle, cut it in half. Roll out one portion at a time to a rectangle a little bigger than 70 x 50cm, then cut the strips as above and cut 6 or 7 triangles from each strip, using your template as a guide.

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.

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