Pumpkin bread

Pumpkin loaf

If you are here looking for the American style pumpkin bread, then I am afraid you will be disappointed. However, if you are looking for a loaf of delicious bread to go with your soup (or anything else for that matter), then you are in absolutely the right place. This loaf is very tasty. The crumb is soft and tender, the crust has a delicious chew and the sugar in the pumpkin gives the crust a wonderful caramelisation. The loaf manages to be both sweet and savoury. I think a teaspoon or two of black onion seeds (aka nigella seeds) would be a wonderful addition, adding a depth of savouriness. Look at the colour of the crumb:

Pumpkin bread sliced

What a golden hue! It looks as if I have used yellow food colouring. I must add that the blue pumpkin I used did have a deep yellow flesh.

I roasted the pumpkin rather than steaming it. I wanted the sweetness that comes with roasting and I wanted the moisture content of the pumpkin to be reduced. It made quite a stiff purée, so the measurements I give here for water may need to be adapted to suit your particular purée. If it’s wetter, then reduce the water, if it’s drier, add more. You get the idea. The key with bread is always err on the side of too wet rather than too dry. A dry dough will make a brick of a loaf. What you are aiming for is a soft and slightly tacky dough.

375g pumpkin puree (made from pumpkin, skinned and cut into chunks and roasted until tender, then whizzed with a blender or processor or pressed through a sieve)
5g easy bake yeast or 15g fresh yeast
10g fine sea salt
300g white strong flour
150g water (see above for note on the amount of water needed, I use cold water and allow more time for my loaf to do its first rise, this improves the flavour)

Method

Place the pumpkin puree into a large bowl or free standing mixer. Add the remaining ingredients (if you are using fresh yeast just crumble it into the flour, remember to keep it separate from the salt, as salt kills yeast). Add the water cautiously at first as you may need less, you may need more (see note above). You want a dough that is soft and slightly tacky.  If using a free standing mixer, mix on speed 1 until combined and then for a further 5 minutes until the dough is well mixed and feels soft and satiny.  If doing it by hand use one hand as a claw to mix the ingredients together. It should be soft and very slightly sticky, adjust the water accordingly. If you have added too much water and your dough is sloppy then add flour until it gets to a soft dough.  The water content of the pumpkin will continue to hydrate the flour so you don’t want to have too wet a dough. When the mixture has come together, tip out onto a  surface (no flour needed on the surface) and knead for a good 8-10 minutes until the dough has a smooth, satiny feel. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a large plastic bag or oiled clingfilm and leave to rise until doubled in size.

Preheat your oven to the hottest setting, placing a baking sheet onto the oven shelf (a loaf benefits from being placed onto a hot surface).

Gently deflate your dough and tip onto a lightly floured surface. Shape your bread into a round or bloomer. (You can see from the photo that I did the second prove in a banneton but you don’t need one).  Place your loaf onto an oiled tray and cover with oiled clingfilm to rise until it’s grown to one and a half times its size.

When it’s ready to bake, make a slash or two on the top  with a  sharp knife (this tells the loaf where to expand when it has its last burst of growth in the oven, otherwise it will burst at its weakest point and not look so attractive) and place onto the preheated baking tray.  Either spray the oven walls with water (be careful around the light and the glass of the oven door) or have a tray in the bottom of the oven to tip a cup of water into. The steam helps your loaf do its best rise. Bake the loaf for ten minutes and then turn the oven down to 200°c, gas mark 6 and bake for a further 20 minutes. Check if the loaf is cooked by tapping on its bottom, it should sound hollow.  Place on a wire rack to cool completely before enjoying.

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Dotcomgiftshop review

Dotcomgiftshop very kindly sent me a voucher to buy myself a few early Christmas presents. They have lots of lovely things for the kitchen, home and kids and lots of unusual gift ideas. It was very hard to choose how to spend my voucher.  Being practically minded though I decided on buying a few of their gorgeous aprons. These will come in useful for the bread making courses that I run. It’s just a shame that they don’t sell some with a more masculine design. Lots of men come to my courses and lots of men enjoy cooking.

Here are the aprons I chose, hanging ready for the next bread course. The eagle-eyed amongst you will spot the matching flour shaker that I also chose. Again, something that will come in very useful at Veg Patch Kitchen.

aprons

I am really pleased with these aprons, they are excellent quality made from 100% cotton and feel like that they will wash and wash. The adjustable neck straps means that one size fits all and they have a very handy front pocket. I think my favourite is the Vintage Apple design, but the Mid-Century Poppy comes in a close second.

There really is a gift for everyone at Dotcomgiftshop. I was very tempted by their tableware, some of the plates are just gorgeous, particularly the Moorish Stoneware and the Japanese inspired range. Pop over and take a look and see if you can tick off a few items from that Christmas list.

Disclaimer: I received an incentive of vouchers to write this post, however, all the opinions and content are my own and honest. 

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Pumpkin soup

pumpkin

So, last night was Halloween. We had bought pumpkins to carve and this one missed out on its moment in the scary  limelight.  Isn’t it beautiful? What a gorgeous blue grey it is. Then inside it looks like this:

pumpkin flesh

The contrast between the blue and orange is amazing. The skin is very tough. I got my knife stuck several times. With it being Halloween, pumpkin soup seemed appropriate. The photo is terrible, because now the clocks have gone back we have a dark house at tea time, but the colour and texture of this soup was amazing too, dark, unctuous and velvety.

Pumpkin soup

As you can see, I served it with chopped crispy bacon and roasted pumpkin seeds.  With the carving of the other pumpkins we have been eating a lot of roasted seeds lately. Butternut squash seeds are delicious roasted like this too. This soup doesn’t need adornment though, it is lovely on its own.

Pumpkins make an awful lot of soup.  I only used half of this pumpkin and it made enough for about eight helpings. Thank goodness for freezers. The rest of the pumpkin will be steamed and pureed and frozen. I plan to try making a pumpkin bread.

½ pumpkin
1 onion, diced
1 apple, cored and chopped
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp curry powder
salt
pepper
water to cover

Method
Pour a couple of tablespoons of oil into  a large saucepan and add the onion and cook until translucent. Peel and dice the pumpkin and add to the pan, cook for a few minutes. Add the apple and stir. Add the turmeric and the curry powder and stir well and cook for a few minutes. Add enough water to cover the pumpkin generously and then season with salt and pepper.  Simmer for about twenty minutes until the pumpkin is tender when you insert a knife.

Blend, process or sieve the soup until smooth. Taste for seasoning and serve.

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Caramel Waffles

Stroopwafel

I hadn’t tried a stroopwafel until a few years ago. A new Co-op opened up and they had them on their biscuit shelf. Just as we had become addicted they withdrew from their shelves. We found them at Asda shortly after, so all was well.

Then, whilst perusing Aldi’s specials the other day (I go in there specifically to cut down our shopping bill and then get drawn in by their specials – clever old Aldi), I saw that they had cone waffle makers. I couldn’t resist. So now that I have made several batches of ice cream cones over the past few weeks I thought it was time to try to make my very own stroopwafel.

You can go and buy a packet of stroopwafels from your local supermarket or deli, but there is something very rewarding about making your own, even if you just do it once.

The recipe for the waffle can be used to make cones or wafers for ice cream.

For the waffle:
Makes about 10 large waffles

3 eggs
150g caster sugar
140g self-raising flour (or plain flour with 1 tsp baking powder added)
110g butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method
Beat together the eggs in a large bowl and add the sugar. Beat until smooth. Add the sifted flour, butter and vanilla extract and stir together until smooth and the mixture just drops off the spoon when lifted.

Heat the waffle maker and when it’s ready drop a tablespoonful of the waffle mixture onto the hot surface and cook for a minute or so until golden brown. Take off the waffle pan and place onto a piece of kitchen towel for a minute and then onto a wire rack.

For the caramel sauce:
45g soft brown sugar
30g caster sugar
150g golden syrup
30g butter
125ml double cream

Method
Place the sugars, syrup and butter into a pan and melt over a medium heat. Boil for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream. Take off the heat and leave to cool. I popped mine in the fridge to harden up a little.

Use the caramel sauce to sandwich two waffles together. Slice into triangles. Enjoy with a good cup of coffee.

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Elderflower scented Belgian buns

Elderflower Belgian buns

I am testing the ovens in my new kitchen before classes commence and these were my test subjects. As I walk towards my chickens in their pen I have been struck with the delicious scent of the elderflowers growing on the tree there this last week. The smell is difficult to describe but it almost fizzes in the air, it reminds me of the Refresher sweets that I used to enjoy as a child. It is so wonderful but also fleeting, in the next week or so, the fragile blossoms will be on the floor and the berries will start to form. I decided I must use them before they are gone. I was making these buns and so thought I could add the scent to the icing. It is subtle and was missed by most of my family, in their greed to eat the bun, but I knew it was there and enjoyed it very much. You can, of course, make these buns without the elderflower syrup, but if you can, then do.

The dough for these buns is made with my enriched dough standard recipe that I use for most of my sweet buns – iced fingers, chelsea buns, hot cross buns etc. It’s adaptable, so go ahead and have a play around adding flavourings and ingredients to suit you.

For the buns:

300g strong white flour
250g plain white flour
50g white sugar
5g easy bake yeast or 10g fresh yeast mixed with a little of the water
10g fine sea salt
150ml warm milk
150ml warm water
50g softened butter
1 egg
50g mixed dried fruit or use just currants
20g softened butter

Place the flours, sugar, yeast and salt (keeping the yeast and salt separate) in a large bowl. Add the milk, water, butter and egg (you may not need all the water so hold some back) and mix with your hands or with an electric dough hook until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough. Knead for about ten minutes until smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball and place in the bowl and cover with clingfilm or a large plastic bag. Leave to rise for about two hours. The time needed will depend on the warmth of your kitchen.

Tip your dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle that is 2-3 cm thick. Spread the softened butter into the rectangle and sprinkle over the dried fruit.
Belgian buns Roll up from the long end, like a swiss roll and cut into 10 even slices. Place these onto a buttered baking tray. Cover with oiled clingfilm or a large plastic bag and leave to rise for another thirty minutes or so.

Preheat your oven to 180°c and bake your risen buns in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Whilst the buns are cooking make the elderflower syrup. It’s very easy and you will have some left over for drinking as a cordial or adding to a glass of bubbly, should the mood strike you.

Pick 5-6 elderflower heads carefully, You want to preserve as much of the pollen as you can as this is where the wonderful scent is contained. Check for insects and bird poo (those blinking pigeons!).

Measure 200g sugar and 200g (or ml) of water into a saucepan and place on a medium heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and then allow to simmer for a few minutes. Add your elderflower heads and take off the heat. Allow to infuse for twenty minutes and then strain the syrup through muslin, a clean tea towel or kitchen paper sitting in a colander and into a bowl. Allow to cool.

Measure 200g icing sugar and add a tablespoon of the elderflower sugar syrup. Stir and if needed add a little more sugar syrup until you get a good consistency. Spread this onto your cool buns in a more artful way than I can manage.

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Veg Patch Kitchen’s new kitchen

Further to my last post. Here is the finished kitchen.

Veg Patch Kitchen

P1130711

I have some time now for experimenting with the oven and the space before the first classes in July. It’s very exciting and I absolutely love having this space in our garden. To think that for all these years it has been a shed filled with junk when it could have been this.

I am really looking forward to welcoming people to our classes. I just need to keep the eponymous veg patch tidy!

Kath x

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Veg Patch Kitchen

I have been neglecting this poor blog. Not because I want to, but because life has been busy. My cookery school, Veg Patch Kitchen, has overtaken my time and energy. I am really pleased with its progress in its first eighteen months. We have had lots of successful and well received bread making classes at my sister’s house in South Shropshire, at a village hall local to me here in Ironbridge, at Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre in Craven Arms and at Acton Scott Historic Working Farm. I have also run a few classes, on a voluntary basis, for a brilliant local project Let’s Grow Telford.

I absolutely love teaching people the pleasure of making your own bread. It’s wonderful to get an email from someone that has attended a class giving me an update on their bread making adventures and telling me how bread making has become an important part of their routine.

Last month we decided to take the plunge and make better use of our outbuilding. This particular outbuilding was piled high with plant pots, tools, furniture that we neither wanted but couldn’t bring ourselves to get rid of and general junk. Being natural hoarders it was easier to add something to the growing pile in the shed than make the decision to take something to the tip. So we braced ourselves, Mr OC and I, and emptied it completely. Most of the stuff made it to the tip. Some of it made it into the adjoining garage. Enter our garage at your peril! If the chiminea doesn’t get you, the old bench will.

The plan is to make this former dead space into a kitchen that we can use for the cookery courses. Having it on the doorstep will make it so much easier to run more courses and to still be here for the girls.

My Dad has been working all hours and like a trojan to help me with the electrics, the plumbing, putting kitchen units together, etc, etc. He is a very talented man my Dad and can pretty much turn his hand to anything.

Everything is rolling along very quickly and hopefully the classes can start to run from here very soon. I am very much looking forward to welcoming people to Veg Patch Kitchen headquarters. Although, the garden and in particular the eponymous veg patch needs some attention first. If you come, can you promise not to look too closely at the weeds?  Oh, the irony.

This is all happening because of this blog. If I hadn’t started The Ordinary Cook back in 2009 then I wouldn’t have developed my passion for bread, and it would never have occurred to me that I could pass on my knowledge and skills to other people. I am very grateful that The Ordinary Cook has created a new path and a new adventure. It’s funny how life takes its twists and turns and offers you opportunities that you would never have expected. If you had told me, back in 2009, that in 2016 I would have my own business running a cookery school I would have looked at you askance and backed gently away. Back then I was working in economic development, helping other people to achieve their dreams of growing their small business.

Once the kitchen is complete and the courses are up and running, I hope to find time to come back here with new recipes, but for now, please be patient with me. I will be back, but not just yet.

Kath x

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