Bara Brith – the yeasted version

Yeasted bara brith

Sliced whilst warm because I couldn’t resist (naughty!)

It’s funny how much life can change in four years. I last wrote about Bara Brith in 2013. In that post I said that I hadn’t enjoyed the yeasted version as much as the cake version of this traditional Welsh treat because of the denseness of the yeasted version.  The Bara Brith started life as a yeasted loaf, a treat that was made to cook in the dying heat of the traditional wood fired bread ovens. In latter years the cake version has become more prominent.

Since 2013 I have become obsessed with yeast cookery, to the extent of setting up a cookery school to teach others the joy of making your own bread at home. A friend mentioned Bara Brith to me in the school playground and it set my brain whirring with memories of that experiment that I staged back in 2013. I started to wonder why I hadn’t enjoyed the yeasted version as much as the cake.

I revisited the recipe that I used back in 2013 for the yeasted version and now with experience of baking wholemeal breads it occurred to me that it would benefit from being mixed a lot wetter than the original recipe specifies. Instead of the ¼ pint or 150ml of warm milk specified, I added ½ pint or 250ml milk to the flour. I also used a mix of wholemeal and white flour to lighten it up further. As an aside I used freshly milled Shropshire Soissons grain, because I am also obsessed with using my Komo mill at every opportunity, but I do realise that not everybody is as obsessed as me, so any wholemeal flour will be fine, although stoneground is always a better choice.

I am happy to report that this new experiment has proved that the yeasted Bara Brith can outclass the cake version every time. So, this recipe will get added to my Croissants and sweet dough class that I have on Saturday, I hope my students enjoy it as much as I do (NB. It’s even had the thumbs up from my girls!).

300g wholemeal flour (I used bread flour, but if you don’t have it then don’t worry)
250g white bread flour
1 sachet of easy bake yeast or 15g fresh yeast
8g (or 2 scant tsp) of fine sea salt
50g sugar (you can use caster or dark brown, whichever you have to hand, the dark brown sugar will make a richer loaf)
1 tsp mixed spice
25oml milk
75g butter
150g dried mixed fruit

Glaze:
40g caster sugar
40g water

Method
Place the flours in a large bowl. If using fresh yeast crumble it into the flour like you would butter into pastry. If using easy bake yeast just mix it in the flour. Add the sugar, salt and mixed spice and stir in.

Cut up the butter and add it to the milk in a small pan and warm to tepid, so that the butter is just melted.

Mix to a softly sticky dough. Cover with clingfilm and leave to stand for ten minutes.  Uncover and use the fold and stretch method to improve the gluten. To do this take half the dough, stretch it up and fold it over the top of the rest of the dough. Turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat the stretch and fold. Keep repeating this until the dough starts to resist you or threatens to tear. Cover again and let rest for another ten minutes. Repeat the stretching  and folding. Cover and rest for ten minutes and then do one last round of stretching and folding. Also feel free to knead the dough however suits you best (but don’t flour the surface) or use a stand mixer.

Cover the dough and let rise until doubled in size.  Add the dried fruit and fold in until evenly distributed.

Butter a loaf tin. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and press gently into a rectangle with your fingers. Roll down from the longest edge, seaming the dough as you roll. Place the dough, seam side down, into the loaf tin. Cover with oiled clingfilm or a large inflated bag and leave to rise until it has proved. To test press a finger gently into the dough, if it comes back within two seconds it is ready for the oven.

Once you have shaped your loaf, preheat the oven, with a baking tray on the shelf to 200°c.

Place the loaf on the preheated baking sheet in the oven, mist with a few sprays of water (using a plant mister). Bake for 15 minutes, turn the oven down to  180°c and continue to bake for another 25-30 minutes until it sounds hollow when tapped on the base.

Whilst the loaf is cooking make the glaze. Put the sugar and water in a small pan and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved, then bring to the boil and simmer for three minutes until syrupy.

As soon as the loaf comes out of the oven, brush all over with the glaze. Leave the loaf to cool completely before enjoying spread with butter.

 

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Wild Garlic Bread

Wild garlic bread

Wild garlic loaf sliced

We are lucky enough to be surrounded by wild garlic as far as the eye can see at this time of year. It has been whirring round my mind about how it might taste in a loaf. So we popped our wellies on and went a walk. We could have picked it out of our very own garden borders but we have two dogs… So I wanted to find a corner which might be unadulterated.  (I still gave it a good rinse though, just in case).

Wild garlic is fairly distinctive, so get yourself a field guide and if you are unsure then the strong garlic smell gives it away. Always follow the rules of foraging. Be sure what you are picking. Ask permission of the landowner. Only pick something that is prolific and not protected. Only take what you need for your personal use. Give it a good wash before eating it.

When I was mixing and handling the uncooked dough, the garlic smell was very strong and I was worried that I had perhaps overdone it a bit. However, once cooked the garlic had mellowed and imparts a subtle and surprisingly sweet hit of garlic. It makes a delicious loaf, that is very good with soup or, in fact, anything that you happen to have for your dinner.

Makes 1 loaf

500g white bread flour
5g easy bake yeast
8-10g sea salt
320g water
20g olive oil
a couple of handfuls of wild garlic, chopped

Method
Place the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl (keeping the yeast and salt separate, as the salt will kill the yeast). Add the water and olive oil and mix with a clawed hand until well mixed. Cover with a large bag or clingfilm.  Leave to rest for twenty minutes. This allows the flour to absorb the liquid and start to make gluten before you have to get involved. The dough should be softly sticky, if it isn’t add a bit more water. Don’t be tempted to add more flour. A wetter dough is better than a dry dough.

Leave the dough in the bowl and holding the bowl with one hand, stretch some of the dough up and over the rest of the dough. Turn the bowl a quarter turn, and repeat the stretching and folding. Repeat this for about 10-12 folds.  Cover the bowl again and leave for another twenty minutes. Repeat the stretching and folding motion again.  If the dough starts to resist then stop stretching, if it starts to break then stop stretching. Leave to rest again for another twenty minutes and then fold again. It will need less folding this time and it will feel lovely and stretchy, smooth and satiny.  Cover and leave the dough to prove for at least an hour until it has risen, is domed and has plenty of aeration.

Lightly flour your work surface and turn your dough out of the bowl.  Add in the chopped garlic leaves and fold the dough over the leaves. Shape into a round and place on a floured tray or into a proving basket or if you prefer into a greased loaf tin. Cover with a large bag or oiled clingfilm and leave to prove again.  It might need twenty minutes, it might need an hour. It will depend on the temperature of your dough and the temperature of the room.

Preheat the oven to 230°c and place a baking tray on the oven shelf to heat up with the oven, or use the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga.

To test if your loaf is ready to bake, flour or oil your finger and press lightly onto the surface of the loaf. If it springs back slowly within 2 seconds it is ready to put in the oven.

Place the loaf on the hot baking tray, spray the oven walls with water using a plant mister (avoiding the glass door and light). This will create steam, so that the loaf has a chance to do its last rise before the crust forms. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until the loaf is dark golden and sounds hollow when tapped. Leave to cool completely on a wire tray before slicing and enjoying.

If you would like to perfect your bread making skills you could always join me for a bread making course at Veg Patch Kitchen.

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Coconut and cardamom cake

Cardamom and coconut cake

17th March – It’s another clothes swap with the book club tonight so I am making cakes to take along as my contribution. I have made a ginger cake, a firm favourite, and I was thinking about what else I could make that is a bit different. I have some coconut flour in the cupboard and I was thinking about how good coconut and cardamom work together in a curry. It seemed to me that it might work in cake. The scent of cardamom as this cake is baking is phenomenal, it promises to be a great cake.

18th March- The cake was a big success. I found the cardamom a little overpowering and might reduce the number of seeds used next time, but I was outvoted on this point by my friends. They all sang the cake’s praises. They might have been being kind to me of course, but they assured me they weren’t.

I iced the cake before I took it along to the clothes swap. I mixed icing sugar with the juice of a lime and a couple of tablespoonfuls of desiccated coconut, until I got a fairly stiff icing. The lime was a good call, emphasising the citrus notes of the cardamom, but if you don’t have a lime in the house using lemon juice or water would work equally well.

175g butter, soft
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
100g greek yoghurt
25g coconut flour
125g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
15-20 green cardamom pods, shelled and the seeds crushed finely in a pestle and mortar (this makes a very scant teaspoon of ground cardamom)

Method
Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy and light. Add one egg at a time, beating well between each addition. Fold in the yoghurt and then the coconut flour, plain flour, baking powder and cardamom.

Once combined, spoon the batter into an 18cm cake tin that has been lined with parchment. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or the centre of the Aga’s baking oven for 35-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for ten minutes in the tin, before turning out and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

It will be a good cake without icing, but if you want to make it look a bit more fancy then mix together icing sugar, lime juice (or lemon juice or water) with a couple of tablespoonfuls of desiccated coconut until it makes a fairly stiff icing and spread over the top of the cake.

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EasiYo yoghurt maker

EasiYo Yoghurt Maker

Sometimes the stars shine down on you. I have wanted to try making my own yoghurt for ages and over Christmas I was looking at getting a yoghurt maker, but I wasn’t sure it would be worth the investment. Then I get an email asking if I would like to review an EasiYo yoghurt maker. It arrived and I have been playing with it and perfecting the art of making my own yoghurt. Actually you don’t need to do that as you can buy a powdered yoghurt that makes the whole process easy. These powdered yoghurts comes in lots of flavours, including strawberries and cream and pineapple with coconut bits and full instructions for making the yoghurt are given on the sachets. However, if you are a regular reader of these pages you will know that a powdered yoghurt is not really me.

So I have been making yoghurt the traditional way with milk and a live yoghurt culture. Whilst you could do this in a thermos flask, the EasiYo yoghurt maker does make it easier and all I have to wash up is the plastic container that I have made the yoghurt in, rather than a thermos, which I always have trouble getting scrupulously clean (from experience bicarb is the way to go by the way). So in answer to my own question over Christmas then yes, I think it is worth making the investment to buy a yoghurt maker. You can see the full range and buy your own yoghurt maker from the EasiYo online shop.

Bear in mind that when you are culturing milk, hygiene is important. Make sure your pan, thermometer and the plastic container are clean and as a precaution I rinse them all with boiling water.

By making yoghurt this way you can choose the milk that you like best, whether that is whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed, organic or if you can get it raw milk from your local farmer.

Unhomogenised milk is always better than homogenised when making dairy products as it has the fat globules intact. The homogenisation process forces the fat globules through very small holes breaking them up under pressure and the surface area of the fat globules increases to such a degree that they can’t bond back together, meaning that the cream is dispersed evenly through the milk. Unhomogenised has that lovely creamy layer at the top and adds an extra richness to your yoghurt.

Once you have chosen your milk then you just need a starter pot of yoghurt and it needs to be a live yoghurt. The one I use didn’t have “live yoghurt” listed on the pot but it is a pot of plain greek style yoghurt and works well as a starter culture.

You need to heat the milk to almost boiling point (85°c). This will improve the chances of your yoghurt not having the wrong bacteria in it and it will improve the texture, making it richer and smoother. Heating milk unfolds its proteins enabling them to stick to the fat globules and to each other. Heating your milk slowly is always better for the finished yoghurt. Give the milk a gentle stir regularly through the gentle heating process.

Then you need to cool your milk to finger hot (47°c). It is best to do this slowly, by taking it off the heat and giving it a gentle stir from time to time.

It is also better if your yoghurt starter has been out of the fridge and is up to room temperature, otherwise the temperature of your milk will drop quickly and your yoghurt will take longer to get going.

500ml milk
3 tbsp live yoghurt (brought out of the fridge a couple of hours before so that is close to room temperature)

You also need a milk pan, a thermometer and an EasiYo yoghurt maker

Method
Pour the milk into a pan and place over a gentle heat. Place a thermometer in the milk and heat gently to 85°c. Take the milk off the heat and leave to cool to 47°c. Stir the yoghurt into the milk until well combined.

Put your kettle on to boil. Pour boiling water into the EasiYo container that sits inside the insulated container to sterilise. Tip this water into the insulated container to the level indicated on the side. Pour the milk and yoghurt mixture into the plastic container and seal the lid,  then sit it inside the insulated container and put the lid on. Leave to ferment for about 8 hours until the yoghurt has thickened. If you leave it for longer it will be thicker and stronger tasting. When it is how you like it just place the container in the fridge and it will be ready to eat once it has cooled.

I like my yoghurt thick like Greek yoghurt so after it has had eight hours fermentation I pour it into a sieve lined with muslin (or you could use a clean tea towel) and sit it over a bowl until it has drained to the consistency I prefer. It doesn’t take long to do this. Then I place my finished yoghurt in the fridge.

Remember to keep 3 tbsps back for your next batch of homemade yoghurt.

Disclaimer: I was sent an Easiyo yoghurt maker for review purposes. This review is based on my own experience and honest opinions and does not contain any text given to me by the PR agency that sent me the yoghurt maker. 

Homemade yoghurt

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Valentine Buns or Plum Shuttles

plum shuttles/ valentine buns

A friend lent me one of her long-held books called Cattern Cakes and Lace, A Calendar of Feasts by Julia Jones and Barbara Deer. She had bookmarked the recipes for February wondering if they might be of use in my bread making course. The book is a fascinating month by month look at the traditions and festivals of Britain and the food associated with them.

These yeasted buns, that originate from Leicestershire and Rutland, were traditionally given as a token to a potential suitor or to the children in a village on Valentines Day and were shaped as weavers shuttles because of the strong weaving industry in the region. I hope that I have done some justice to the shape of the weavers shuttle (see the pic at the bottom of the post).

We enjoyed them sliced in half and buttered (generously, of course).

450g plain flour
5g salt
15g fresh yeast or 5g (or a sachet) of easy bake yeast
10g caster sugar
50g water
50g butter
125g milk
1 egg
200g raisins or mixed fruit
beaten egg to glaze

Method
Pour the milk into a small pan and over a medium heat bring almost to a boil. Milk contains proteins that can fight with the yeast and by scalding it you denature these proteins helping the buns to rise better. Add the water and the butter to the hot milk and stir well to melt the butter and get the mixture to a tepid heat (too hot and you will kill the yeast). Place the flour in a bowl. If you are using fresh yeast crumble it in like you would when you rub butter into flour for pastry. If you are using easy bake then just add it to the flour. Add the sugar and salt (keep the yeast and salt separate from one another, salt will kill yeast). Pour in the milk mixture and the egg and mix together well.

Stand mixer instructions:
If you have a stand mixer then mix until combined then leave to sit for ten minutes. then knead on speed 2 for 2 minutes. Leave the dough to sit for ten minutes. then mix again for 1 minute. Leave the dough to rise until doubled in size.  Add the fruit into the dough, mixing in well.

Kneading by hand instructions:
If you are kneading by hand, keep the dough in the bowl and pull one side of it and stretch and fold it over itself. Give the bowl a quarter turn  and repeat the pull, stretch and fold. Keep doing that action until you have done about ten to twelve stretches and folds. Cover the bowl with clingfilm or a damp towel and leave to sit for ten minutes. Repeat the stretching and folding. Leave to rest for ten minutes and then repeat the stretching and folding. You will need to do less stretching and folding each time before the dough resists you. (When it does begin to resist stretching you know you have done enough of the folding and leave it to rest.)  Leave the dough to rest and prove until at least doubled in size. Add the fruit into the dough, mixing in well.

Divide the dough into eight (the original recipe specifies twelve, but I am greedy). Flatten each piece of dough carefully so you don’t deflate too much. Take the two top corners and fold them into the centre of the dough. You should now have a triangular shape at the top of the dough.

Using your thumbs fold this tightly into the centre of the dough. Press the seam down well.

Fold the dough over again so that it is now starting to look like a baguette. Press the seam down well.

Roll the bun into a small baguette shape so that they resemble weavers shuttles (or as near as I can get them). Place on a greased baking tray.
Cover with lightly oiled clingfilm or a large plastic bag. Leave to prove until 1½ times the size.

Preheat the oven to 200°c, gas mark 6 making sure that you place a tray in the oven to heat up. Bread and yeasted buns benefit from being placed onto a hot tray as soon as it goes in the oven. When the buns have proved, brush with beaten egg and place them in the oven and bake until golden for about 25-30 minutes.

This is what a weavers shuttle looks like. Can you see the similarity?

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Marmalade

Marmalade

I have been making marmalade. Every year I mean too, but most years it is a case of the seville orange season being over before I remember it is upon us. Some years, sevilles just aren’t easily available here. However, on Saturday I nipped into a supermarket and spotted some sevilles on display on my way out. Sometimes, things work out.

I have written about marmalade before but I did things slightly different this time. I sliced the lemons in half and popped them in the pot with the oranges to boil until tender. The flesh and pips of the lemons and the oranges were wrapped in muslin and popped in the pot to give up their pectin. The skin of the oranges and the lemons were both finely chopped (Mr OC prefers it this way, I like big thick shreds, but sometimes you have to please someone else).  If you look closely at the photo you can see the mottled appearance of the lemon skin. It looks slightly different to the orange skin. It seemed daft to pop the lemon in the bin when it could go into the marmalade. I also added three pieces of stem ginger (chopped finely) into the pot, but actually I haven’t added this in the ingredient list as I can’t detect the ginger in the finished marmalade. I think next time I will use root ginger in the muslin, and perhaps add some chopped stem ginger at the end of the boiling of the marmalade.

I like my marmalade to be quite soft, almost runny, rather than thick set. I boiled this one on a rolling boil to 106°c and tested it on a cold saucer. When it was showing the very slightest of wrinkle I fetched it off the heat and let it cool. It is perfect for me, but feel free to boil longer if you want a thicker set.

Seville oranges freeze well, so get plenty in, so that you can make some more when you get through this batch.

Makes about 8 jars
1 kg seville oranges
2 lemons cut in half
1½ litres of water
2 kg granulated or caster sugar

You will need a large pan, a piece of muslin or a clean tea towel, a sugar thermometer or a couple of saucers placed in the fridge to do the wrinkle test and about 8 sterilised jars.

To sterilise your jars wash them well, rinse with hot water and place in a low oven (100°c) for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven carefully (they will be very hot) without touching the inside of the jar or lid.

Place your oranges and cut lemons into a large pan and cover with the water. Bring to a simmer and simmer for about 2 hours until the oranges are tender. I cook mine in the simmering oven of the Aga. Take off the heat and leave to cool.

Once cool enough to handle, cut the oranges in half and scoop out the flesh and pips into a bowl lined with the muslin. Wrap the flesh up well in the muslin and pour the collected juices into the orange water and then place the muslin wrapped flesh into the water as well.  Chop the oranges and lemons to your desired thickness and place it all in the orange water. Add the sugar.

Place over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat and bring the marmalade to a rolling boil. If you have a thermometer place it in the pan and wait until the marmalade reaches 106°c. Test it on a cold saucer if you don’t have a thermometer. To do this pour a teaspoonful of the marmalade onto the cold saucer. Leave to cool and then push your fingertip through it. It should wrinkle slightly. Once it reaches this stage turn off the heat and leave the marmalade to cool a little. This will help with the distribution of the skin through the marmalade. I left mine covered with a lid until completely cold and then I could test the set. If it isn’t how you like it just bring it back to boil until it wrinkles more on a cold saucer. Decant carefully into the jars and seal well.

 

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Coffee and walnut biscuits

Coffee and walnut biscuits

These are a tasty treat to have with a cup of tea or coffee. They are deliciously short with the winning combination of coffee and walnut.  I have made some for us today and the remaining dough has been put in the fridge to be baked fresh on the morning for tomorrow’s bread course.

Makes about 25 biscuits

250g softened unsalted butter
55g muscovado sugar
55g caster sugar
2 tsp instant espresso powder
50g walnuts, finely chopped
100g wholemeal spelt or wholemeal flour
150g plain flour

Method
Grease two baking trays with butter, preheat your oven to 180°c, gas mark 4 or use the baking oven of your Aga.
Cream the butter, until soft. Add the two sugars and beat until fluffy. Add the espresso powder, walnuts and the flours and continue to beat until all is combined. Take a piece of dough about the size of a walnut and shape into a ball, flatten slightly, place on the greased tray. Use the prongs of a fork to press each biscuit down a little.

Bake the biscuits for 10-12 minutes until golden and firm. Leave to rest on the tray for a few minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool.

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