Category Archives: bread

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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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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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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Harvest Bread

On Sunday we had a little trip out to Acton Scott Historic Farm. It’s a wonderful place, not least because the Bailiff’s Cottage has the traditional bread oven still in place and still in use. They were having their harvest festival on Sunday and using the oven to bake their harvest loaves. I was very excited to talk to the Bailiff about his use of faggots to get the oven up to temperature and to find out that you can cook up to 18 loaves in the capacious oven.  Whilst I was in heaven talking to the Bailiff about his oven, our 11 year old was doing what 11 year old’s do best; muttering under her breath wondering how her mother could possibly find any of this interesting. One day, she will understand. The nearly 9 year old though still has a year or so before the proper disdain for her mother’s interests sets in, so she was quite interested. On Monday she asked me to make a dough the following day so that she could make a harvest loaf when she got home. I was more than happy to oblige. I have always been a bit put off from making one as they look like you might need an artistic eye and patience, neither of which describe me. But in we ploughed.

It took us about an hour and a half to put together. I was ridiculously pleased with the result of our work and kept taking pictures and telling the youngest how brilliant it was.

For the instructions on how to a make the harvest loaf take a look at Daniel’s brilliant blog Bread, Cakes and Ale. He has made one too and has given detailed instructions as to its construction. Even if you don’t want to make the loaf pop over to his blog anyway for a good read.

And here is a picture of the loaf I was so proud of.

Harvest Loaf

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Hotel Chocolat Pasta and Pesto

Hotel Chocolat pasta and pesto

I was recently approached to review items for Hotel Chocolat. There were some lovely Christmas chocolates that I could have quite happily chomped on, but what really caught my eye was their cocoa pasta and pesto. I was intrigued. They arrived beautifully presented and the girls were immediately interested. Well, of course they were, the bag had the word chocolat on it. I had planned roast chicken for tea and the girls were eager to try the cocoa pasta. The pesto is what it says on the bottle – a basil pesto with added cocoa nibs. So I boiled the pasta and stirred in the pesto. A simple, quick solution for an unusual dinner. I have to admit the first taste was unusual. The pesto is quite bitter. But, a few bites in and I was more convinced and Mr OC agreed saying that he thought I had gone mad at first but that the pasta/pesto combo was really quite delicious. I think the slight bitterness of the cocoa nibs in the pesto was a step too far for the girls though with their less adventurous palates.

I made a dip to go with the chicken too, by mixing an equal amount of mayonnaise and natural yoghurt together and adding pesto to taste. This edged out the bitterness of the cocoa nibs and made a very good dip indeed. I will be having this a lot.

The next day, the family were coming for fireworks in the garden and so I cooked the remaining pasta and made a chocolate custard, mixed the two together and served cold with brandied cherries that I had frozen after making cherry brandy. This was a great success, the pasta adding a bit of bite to the dessert. The cherries made a lovely addition but the dessert would stand well enough on its own.

cocoa pasta and chocolate custard

125g cocoa pasta

100g 70% chocolate
300ml double or single cream
4 egg yolks
1 tsp cornflour
1 tablespoon caster sugar

Method

Boil the pasta in a large pan of boiling water until al dente (it must have a slight bite to it). Drain and set aside.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave.

Pour the cream into a heavy based saucepan and bring just to the boil. In the meantime combine the egg yolks, cornflour and caster sugar in another bowl. Add the hot cream in a steady stream to the eggs and whisk all the time to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Wash out the saucepan and then add the cream and egg mixture to the pan and whisk over a gentle to medium heat until the custard thickens. Whisk in the slightly cooled melted chocolate. Add the pasta to the custard and place into a serving dish. Grate chocolate over the top. Place in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

I really enjoyed trying these items, so thank you to Hotel Chocolat for the opportunity.

I received the items in the top photograph for free from Hotel Chocolat for the purposes of review. I was not paid for this review. All opinions are my own and are honest. 

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Bread!

I have become a woman obsessed. Obsessed with achieving the perfect loaf. Not long after I started this blog back in 2009 I had my first success with bread making. It then became a habit, regular kneading and eating. Then bread bought from anywhere just didn’t satisfy any more; it had to be my home-made loaf or nothing. A few years ago I experimented with sourdough, but it wasn’t a hit. I hadn’t waited long enough for the starter to mature and the resulting loaf was just too acidic. The starter was too much trouble to maintain. Back to the yeasted loaf we went.

Then at the beginning of this year I became tempted once more by the attraction of building a sourdough starter. At first taste of that first loaf I was bewitched and so began the quest for creating the perfect sourdough loaf.

I have researched the net and bought the books. I have joined the Real Bread Campaign to get tips from there. I have bought scrapers and a lame to improve my chances. I have researched flours and visited mills. I am learning about hydration and how to manage that sticky dough. The kitchen smells of yeast or freshly baked bread. There is always a fine layer of flour dust on the kitchen shelves that needs to be dusted away.  I have had great loaves emerge from the oven and some not so great, but all of them have tasted good.

The bread journey continues. I will keep you updated.

Sourdough

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