Category Archives: bread

Bara Brith – the cake and the loaf

The cake version

The cake version

 

The loaf version

The loaf version

I have become a little obsessed with bara brith. A long time ago someone used to make our family a bara brith on a regular basis. It was delicious. It became a little less delicious when we heard that she mixed it in her bath.

There are two types of bara brith. The cake version and the yeasted bread version. Bara Brith translates from the welsh as speckled bread, referring to the currants, raisins and candied peel within each slice. The arguments about which is  the real bara brith rage on. History has it that bara brith would have been the last loaf put in the dying oven at the end of the weekly bake, adding the fruit to the bread dough to make it a more palatable loaf.  When raising agents came into regular use the bread became a cake.

The cake version is often a tea bread with the fruit steeped in strong cold tea overnight. This makes it a very moist cake that lasts for days. Spread with butter, it goes very well with a flask of coffee and a beautiful view.

The bread version, though, I have been having trouble with.  I initially tried a version from a traditionally welsh cookery book. This particular recipe asks for wholemeal flour. However, I found that the enriched dough became just to heavy to get anything more than a small rise, making for a heavy bread. It tasted OK, but the cake tasted better. However, I was determined to keep trying.  I found another recipe, and this one uses plain white flour. The rise was much more successful, but perhaps not authentic, traditional bara brith.  If anyone makes a bara brith bread (the yeasted version) that they enjoy then I would be very interested in their recipe.

At the moment I think my heart belongs to the cake version. It lasts for days making it a handy cake to have in the tin.  The bread is just a little too heavy, even when made with the white flour and if I want a fruit loaf then this one wins hands down.

I would be interested in your bara brith thoughts to keep the obsession alive.

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Wholemeal, nut and apple loaf

I make three or four loaves a week these days.  It is usually a white loaf or a spelt loaf.  Sometimes , if time is short, then it’s soda bread.  I felt like making something a bit different this week.  I had cashews loitering and apple juice open in the fridge and so this loaf was born.  You could make it with normal wholemeal flour and omit the yeast and make a soda bread if you are short of time.

I liked it so much that I have made it twice, once with the addition of ground almonds, replacing some of the flour, which makes it really lovely and nutty.

It’s a tasty and easy loaf to make.  It’s good with cheese (grilled or not, it’s up to you), with strawberry jam and with honey, or dipped into soup. It’s a substantial loaf that you can really get your teeth into.

400g strong wholemeal flour (or 300g flour and 100g ground almonds)
100g porridge oats
50g cashew nuts, bashed in a food bag with a rolling pin until nubbly
2 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp easy bake yeast
1 tsp runny honey
150ml apple juice
150ml water

Method

Butter a 2lb loaf tin.

Place the flour, ground almonds (if using), oats and cashews in a large bowl or freestanding mixer.  Add the yeast, the salt and the honey. Warm the apple juice and water until hand hot. Pour into the flour and mix well until combined.  You may need a spot more water, as it will depend on the flour you are using.  The dough wants to be slightly sticky. Roughly shape into the size of the tin and place in the tin.  Cover with a large plastic bag, making a tent shape so that the loaf has room to rise.  Leave in a warm place for about an hour until the loaf has risen almost to the top of the tin. Wholemeal loaves do not rise as much as white loaves.

Place in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 or on the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga for about 35-40 minutes until the loaf is well browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.  You may want to return it to the oven for another five minutes out of its tin to let the base crisp up. When cooked place it on a wire rack to cool completely.

 

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Breadsticks

I made these for saturday night too.  I have wanted to make them for a while and saturday presented the perfect opportunity.  The recipe is from Daniel Steven’s Bread book (River Cottage Handbook No. 3), which is a great book and deserves space on any keen cook’s shelf.

I sprinkled some with sea salt, some with freshly ground pepper, some with crushed chilli and the rest with sesame seeds.

Next time I make them I will be more careful not to stretch them when I lift them onto the tray.  Stretching leads to thinner parts which cook quicker then the rest. I think they were worth the effort, sometimes  it is good to make something that you can buy so easily.

Makes about 30

250g strong white bread flour
250g plain flour
2 tsp fine salt
7g sachet easy bake yeast
glug of olive oil
325ml warm water

Olive oil to brush on breadsticks and then the toppings of your choice or you could leave them plain.

Method

Place the flours, salt and yeast in a bowl and add the olive oil and the water and mix to a sticky dough.  Turn onto a work surface and knead until the dough feels smooth and elastic. Form into a ball place back into the bowl and cover with a large bin liner.  Leave until the dough has doubled in size.

Press the air out of the dough gently with your fingertips and then roll the dough out on a floured surface until it is about 1 cm thick.  I split the dough in half before I rolled it out so that it didn’t become unmanageable.

Then cut into strips as wide and as long as you want.  Lift carefully onto a lightly greased baking tray (I used four baking trays for all of the dough), brush lightly with olive oil and then sprinkle your topping on. Cover again with the bin liner and leave to rise for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°c, gas mark 6 or use the roasting oven of the Aga and then cook the breadsticks for about 20 minutes until they are golden.  Cool on a wire rack.

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Peshwari Naan

I made some of these last night to go with a roast chicken and spiced potatoes.  I made the recipe up so it might actually bear no relation to an authentic Peshwari Naan.

350g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fast action yeast
1 tsp honey
25g softened butter
25g ground almonds
100ml water
80ml milk
50g sultanas
25g flaked almonds

Method

Place the flour, yeast, honey, salt and ground almonds in a large bowl. Cut the butter into cubes and add this.  Heat the milk and water until hand hot and pour over the   flour mixture.  Mix well until it forms a soft dough. Place onto a lightly floured board and knead for about ten minutes until smooth and elastic.

Place the dough back into the bowl, cover with a plastic bin liner and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour.  Knock the air out of the dough and divide into four pieces. Roll each piece into an oblong and then scatter with one quarter of the sultanas.  Roll up from the longest edge.  Seal the joins well using your fingertips and then roll into an oblong again.  Scatter with one quarter of the almonds and gently roll these in using the rolling pin.

Cover with a cloth and leave to rise for fifteen minutes.

Preheat the oven to 230°c, gas mark 8 or use the Roasting Oven of the Aga.  Place a baking tray in the oven to heat up.

Put the naan onto the hot baking tray sprinkle with a little water and bake for 10 minutes until golden.  Serve straight from the oven.

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Savoury bread pudding

Last night’s tea was completely inspired by Nancy over at Good Food Matters.  She made the most delicious Tomato and Mozzarella Strata, all bubbling and pillowy.  Well, last night I had the remains of a cooked chicken in the fridge and half a loaf of bread on the side.  So I adapted Nancy’s Strata by adding the chicken chopped small as the first layer, cooking chorizo in with the tomato sauce and used feta instead of mozzarella.  A very fine dish indeed.  Pop over to Nancy’s to find out how to make your own savoury bread pudding.

This was the dish before it was baked in the oven for forty minutes.

Before going into the oven

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Breakfast rolls

We have been lucky this year and had a whole two weeks together as a family over Christmas.  It has gone really quick though and we haven’t done as much as we would have liked with our time together.  My cold knocked me out of action for the first week, so a lot of film watching tucked up on the sofa went on and then this week the weather has been fairly miserable. We have managed a few days out.  But I have tried to make a few special breakfasts, we have had pancakes, waffles, oatcakes and yesterday I filled these breakfast rolls with sausages and fried onions.  Is there a better breakfast than that?

These rolls are easy to make and beat supermarket bread hands down.

500g strong white bread flour
2 tsp fine sea salt
7g fast action yeast
1 tsp sugar
150ml warm milk
150ml warm water

Method

Place flour, yeast and sugar in a large bowl mix well, then add salt.  Mix again.  Add warm milk and water (I add just boiled water to the cold milk and this makes it hand hot, which is just about right).  Using a claw action with one hand bring the dough together.  It should be slightly sticky. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for ten minutes until soft and elastic.  Alternatively if you have a free-standing mixer with a dough hook you can put all of the ingredients in and mix on a slow speed for about seven minutes.

Form the dough into a ball and place in a clean bowl.  Cover with a large plastic bag (I use a bin bag) and leave to rise for about 1 ½ hours.  It should double in size.  Using your fingertips gently prod the air out of the dough, turn it onto the work surface and cut into six equal pieces.  Shape each piece into a sausage shape and place onto a well floured baking tray, leaving plenty of room for it double in size again.  Sprinkle each roll lightly with flour.  Cover again with the plastic bag, making a tent shape to leave room for the rolls to rise and leave for about twenty minutes.  After this time they should have risen to just under double their size.

Place the rolls onto a preheated baking sheet into a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6, or directly onto the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga and bake for twenty minutes until golden brown (check after fifteen minutes and if necessary turn the oven down to 180°c, gas mark 4, or move them to the baking oven of the Aga to cook for the last five minutes).  The rolls will sound hollow when tapped.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.

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Stollen

Well, this is the scene outside:

Poor little birds.  The last two days we have had a lot of snow (well, to clarify I am talking about the Midlands region of the UK and we don’t get that much snow normally. So when it snows all day non-stop we like to talk about it.  It’s weather and we are English!).  This has meant that the roads are a no-go area so it was deemed a baking day.  I have had a lump of marzipan (or almond paste) in the fridge since I made the youngest’s birthday cake at the beginning of December and have been meaning to make stollen ever since.

I followed Rachel Allen’s recipe for Dodo’s Stollen in her Bake book (ISBN 13 978 0 00 725972 0) pretty much word for word. That must be a first! The recipe makes two loaves, so one was donated to Mum and Dad.  Rachel Allen suggests you try keeping it for a week to mature.  We have failed in this respect so far.

It takes a while to make, and you probably do need to be having a baking day to make this, as there is a fair amount of leaving to rise.

100g sultanas
100g raisins
100g currants
100g candied peel, chopped finely
100g ground almonds
50ml rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 x 7g sachets of fast acting yeast
225ml warm milk
500g  strong white bread flour
pinch of salt and pepper
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground finely
6 cardamom pods, husks removed and the seeds ground finely to make ½ tsp
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
150g butter cubed
100g caster sugar
225g marzipan
icing sugar to dust

Method

Place the fruit and the almonds in a bowl and pour over the rum and the vanilla extract.  Mix well and then cover the bowl with clingfilm and put to one side whilst you make the dough.

Place the flour, salt, pepper, spices, lemon zest and yeast in a bowl  and pour over the warm milk. Mix to form a dough.  I found that it made a stiff dough with some of the flour not mixed in but figured that this was ok as you will be adding butter to the dough. Leave the dough to rest for ten minutes.  If you have a mixer with a dough hook use this to beat in the butter and the sugar.  Then knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Make it into a ball shape, place back in the bowl and cover with a large plastic bag for about 2 hours until the dough has doubled in size.  It was a cold day when I was making mine so it took a bit longer than this to rise to double its size.

Using your fingertips, gently prod the air out of the dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured worktop and prod gently into a square.  Then roll with a rolling pin until it is about 2.5cm thick.  Pour the fruit and almond mixture over the top and then knead the dough until all the fruit is evenly distributed.

Cut the dough in half. Cut the marzipan in half.

Prod one piece of the dough into a square and then use the rolling pin until it measures about 15cm x 20cm.  Roll one piece of the marzipan into a sausage that is slightly shorter than the dough and place this in the middle.  Roll the dough around the marzipan and press it well to seal the seam.  Shape into a log shape and place onto a greased baking sheet.  Repeat the same with the other dough and marzipan.  Make sure you leave plenty of room between the two loaves on the baking sheet so that they can rise without growing into one another.

Cover the baking tray with the large plastic bag, making a tent shape so that the loaves won’t stick to the plastic as they rise and leave to rise again until they have almost doubled in size.

Remove from their plastic tent and cook in a preheated oven at 200°c or gas mark 6, or the bottom of the roasting oven of the Aga for about 40-45 minutes.  If you are cooking in the Aga, check at 25 minutes and if brown, transfer to the baking oven for the rest of the cooking time.

Dust well with icing sugar. Rachel Allen recommends doing this when cool, but I did it as soon as they came out of the oven so some of it glazed a little.

Allow to cool before enjoying and if you can manage it leave it to mature, and then tell me how it tasted.

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