Category Archives: yeast cookery

Croissants and pain au chocolat

I have wanted to make croissants for ages but it seemed like it might be too much mither. Well, last night I decided to take the bull by the horns and just give it a go. It was quite a bit of work, but actually not as much as I was expecting and the results are more than worth the effort.  You just need to do a bit of preparation the night before, leave the dough to rest in the fridge and then finish off in the morning.

In fact I was quite excited this morning about it all and I was really pleased when they turned out to taste just as good as I hoped. I made some croissants and some pain au chocolat – what a treat!

I used Rachel Allen’s recipe from her book Bake (ISBN 13 978 0 00 725970 0) which if I could have found a link online I would have just pointed you in that direction as I am dreading writing all this down, but here goes. (Bake is well worth seeking out, I have used it a lot since I bought it and Rachel Allen’s recipes always work).

I got some early morning help from my two girls this morning so they appear in some of the pictures.

Makes 18 croissants

275ml milk
25g sugar
1 sachet of easy bake fast acting yeast
450g Strong white bread flour
275g salted butter, softened (but not too soft)

For the egg wash:
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp milk

If you want to make pain au chocolat you will need a dessert spoonful of chopped chocolate for each pain au chocolat that you wish to make. I made 12 croissants and 6 pain au chocolat.

If you want them for breakfast then I suggest you start the night before with the following steps.

Heat the milk until warm. Rachel Allen suggests rubbing in 50g of the butter into the flour but I just put it into the warm milk so that it half melted.  Place the flour, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Add the milk and butter and bring the mixture into a soft dough.  I used my KitchenAid freestanding mixer with the dough hook attached and mixed it for 5 minutes.  If you haven’t got a freestanding mixer then this doughy is sticky and you will need lightly floured hands to knead it by hand for ten minutes until it is soft and elastic. Make it into a ball and place back in the bowl.  Cover with a large plastic bag or clean tea towel.  Rachel Allen suggests putting it in the fridge for two hours but I just left it in a cool place in the kitchen.

After two hours, place the remaining butter between two large sheets of clingfilm and, using a rolling pin, beat and roll it until it is about 8mm thick and measures roughly 10cm x 20cm.

Take the dough out of the bowl and place onto a lightly floured surface and roll it into a rectangle measuring 20 x 40 cm. Place the butter onto one half of the pastry.

Fold the other side of the pastry over onto the butter.

Roll the dough out until it again measures about 20 x 40cm.  Fold one third over, then fold that over and then fold again. Cover the dough with the large plastic bag and place in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

Take the dough out of the fridge and place it with the open ends facing towards you. Roll out the pastry again to a similar size as before, then fold in three again.  Place the dough back into the bag and put in the fridge overnight.

In the morning it will look something like this, having begun to rise:

So the next morning, take the dough and roll out again into a rectangle and then fold over three times again.

Roll out the pastry until it is about ½ cm thick and measures about 35cm x 55cm.  This takes quite a bit of effort as the dough is cold.

Now I wanted to make some pain au chocolat and some croissants, so I sliced off one third of the dough and then cut this into six pieces.  On each piece I placed a spoonful of chopped good quality chocolate and then rolled up firmly like a swiss roll.

For the croissants I cut the remaining dough in half lengthways and then into thirds widthways and then each rectangle into a triangle. This resulted in 12 triangles.  Starting from the widest edge roll the pastry tightly, then tuck the tip underneath and shape into a crescent shape.

Place on a baking sheet (you will need two) leaving space for them to rise and brush gently with egg wash.

Leave to rise in a warm place for 30-40 minutes.  I put mine on top of two tea cloths on the warming plate of my Aga.

When they have risen, brush gently with egg wash again and then place in a preheated oven at 220°c, gas mark 7, or the roasting oven of the Aga for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to 180°c, gas mark 4, or move them to the baking oven of the Aga for another 10 minutes until golden brown all over.  Place them on a wire rack to cool just a little.  They are best eaten warm, with lashings of butter and jam (or lemon curd, or marmalade) on the croissants.

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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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Pikelets

We always used to have a pikelet when I was a child, it seems though from the Wikipedia entry that pikelet is a term specific to the West Midlands.  Well, this makes me very proud.

A pikelet is a flatter crumpet, or a crumpet made without a crumpet ring. Those of us from the West Midlands know not to mess about when messing about is not needed.

The important thing is not to let your pan get too hot.  You want it just on a medium heat and keep it that way, turning down the heat when necessary. That way the bottom won’t get burned whilst the middle gets cooked.  Don’t turn it until is pretty much cooked and that way you get the maximum burst air bubbles which means maximum butter absorption. I helped the bubble bursting with the tines of a fork, gently probing the top of the bubbles.

This mixture makes about 26 pikelets.  You can eat some straight from the pan, the rest can be frozen for a speedy breakfast later in the week.  Just place back on a hot pan or in the toaster until warmed through.

500g strong bread flour
5g dried fast action yeast
2 tsp salt
350ml warm milk
350ml warm water

Method

Put the flour, yeast and salt into a bowl and mix well.  Add the warm water and milk and whisk until well combined.  Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside for about an hour until bubbling (it may take longer if the kitchen is cool).

Spoon ladlefuls onto a pan that is medium-hot.  Leave until the mixture is cooked all the way through.  You will see when this happens that the tops become a little drier than before.  Whilst they are cooking you can help burst the bubbles gently with a fork for maximum holes.  Turn the pikelet over and cook for a minute or so more.

Spread generously with butter and eat warm from the pan.


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Fruit loaf

This is a loaf that gets made again and again in this house.  Ingredients wise it’s not too different from the hot cross buns or the spiced fruit buns that I have posted about before.  I think, though, that this loaf is perhaps a little quicker to make as you add marmalade and so there is no need to zest and squeeze fruit. There is also something very satisfying about having a loaf that you can keep going back to and cutting a bit more off. It is lovely when it’s still vaguely warm from the oven, spread with butter, but it’s just as nice toasted the next day for breakfast ( or mid morning, or lunch, or all three).

The recipe is an adaptation of the Raisin Bread recipe in The River Cottage Family Cookbook (ISBN 0 340 82636 3).  You can use any combination of dried fruit that you like or have available as long as it totals 150g.

500g strong white bread flour
1 tsp mixed spice
7g easy action yeast
2 scant teaspoons fine salt
40g cranberries
40g currants
40g dried blueberries
30g sultanas
1 egg
125 ml warm water
125ml warm milk ( I tend to use just boiled water on top of the cold milk and that gets the temperature about right, you want it hand hot)
2 tbsp marmalade

For the glaze:
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp water
(Or you could glaze with a couple of tablespoons of warmed honey)

Method

If you have a freestanding mixer then all you do is put all of the ingredients into the bowl and using the dough hook mix on speed 2 for two minutes.  Turn it out of the bowl and manhandle into a ball.  Place back in the bowl and cover with a large plastic bag for 1 hour to 1 ½ hours until it has doubled in size.

If you are mixing by hand, then put the flour, yeast, dried fruit, mixed spice and salt into a bowl.  Measure the milk and water in a jug and beat in the egg.  Add the liquid and the marmalade to the flour and using a flat knife such as a pallette  knife, begin to mix together.  When it is all combined, tip it out onto a lightly floured worktop and begin to knead.  To do this you hold half the dough down with one fist and stretch the other half away from you with the heel of your other hand.  Fold the dough back onto itself, turn and repeat the process for about ten minutes or until your arms fall off, whichever is the soonest. Make it into a ball shape and place into a bowl and cover with a large plastic bag until doubled in size.

Grease a loaf tin with butter. Take off the plastic bag and gently press the air out of the dough using your fingertips.  Lift the dough out of the bowl and shape into a log shape by stretching and folding.  Be gentle though. Place the dough into the loaf tin and cover again for 20-30 minutes until it has risen by about half its size again.

Place in preheated oven at 220°c, gas mark 7 or the Roasting Oven of the Aga for about twenty minutes until golden and sounds hollow when turned out and tapped on its base. Take the loaf out of its tin and place on a wire rack.

Just before the end of the cooking time, put the sugar and water for the glaze in a small pan over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves.  Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat.  Brush the glaze over the loaf as soon as it comes out of the oven and is sitting on the wire rack.

Allow to cool a little before taking your first slice.

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A white loaf (again)

I think I may be becoming a little obsessed with bread and yeast cookery generally. I am really enjoying the challenge of getting a better loaf each time. It doesn’t always happen, I have to admit.  It is only relatively recently that I have had success with bread as you will see from one of my early posts on this site about white bread.  I now make bread at least two or three times a week and I have made lots of other yeast based cakey type things recently.  It may not be good for the waistline but it is very good for the soul.

The bread in this picture is a slight variation on my earlier white loaf post.  In this one I use half milk/ half water and a bit of butter to make a lovely soft crumb that is really tasty.  I love my spelt loaf but sometimes all you want is a soft loaf of white bread (with a good crust, of course) and this is for these moments.

I was reading A Wee Bit of Cooking‘s blog the other day, in which she cooks a loaf based on Dan Lepard’s recipe and he has a very interesting way of making bread; he mixes the dough, lets it rest, kneads very briefly, rests and repeats.  Visit A Wee Bit of Cooking for the link, it’s worth a look.  Anyway, I was inspired to try at least some of this method, so I now mix my dough and then leave it to rest for at least ten minutes before I go back to knead it (or at least switch on the mixer and let it do the hard work!). I can’t quite get my head around not needing to knead.  This resting seems to work well and does improve the crumb.

500g strong (or very strong) plain flour
7g sachet easy bake yeast
1½ tsp fine salt
150ml milk
150ml water
1 oz butter, diced

Method

Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl.  Heat the milk and water to hand hot in a small saucepan and add the diced butter.  Pour the liquid into the flour and, using your hands, combine well to a smooth dough (on the slightly sticky side rather than the dry side).  Leave to rest for about ten minutes in the bowl.  Turn the dough out on to a wooden surface and knead well for about ten minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball. Clean the bowl and grease with butter or oil.  Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a bin liner or cling film.  Leave the bowl in a draught-free place until the dough has almost doubled in size.

Deflate the dough by using your fingertips and lift out of the bowl.  Now you could reshape it into a ball and leave it to rise again, which if you have the time is well worth doing as it does improve the texture of the bread . Otherwise, shape the dough into a round by stretching it under itself or shape into a baton by  flattening the dough into a square, then roll the dough much like you would a swiss roll and then using your fingers seal the join very well. Stretch the dough lengthwise until twice as long.  Fold over one-third to the middle and then fold the remaining third on to the top. Flatten again into a square with your fingers and roll up again as before, sealing well and then rolling gently into an evenly shaped baton loaf (thanks again to Daniel Steven’s Bread book for his tips on making bread).

Preheat your oven to as hot as it will go and place a baking tray or stone in to heat up.

Place the shaped loaf onto a well-floured tray and sprinkle the top well with flour.  Cover again with the bin liner and leave to prove for about 20 minutes or until nicely risen, not quite doubled in size.  Don’t allow it to rise too much as you want the yeast to have some energy left.

Slash the tops and gently pick up the loaf and place directly onto the tray or stone in the oven.  Check after twenty minutes as you may need to turn the heat down for the last ten minutes of cooking.  It should take about 30 minutes for the loaf to cook, depending on how well cooked you like your crust. The loaf will sound hollow when tapped on the base when it’s cooked.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.

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Spiced fruit buns

These are a variation on the hot cross buns I made a few weeks ago.  For this recipe I use half strong plain and half strong wholewheat flour which makes for a good texture and I have upped the spice.  The glaze is egg wash and sugar brushed on five minutes before the end of cooking, making them lovely and crunchy.

You can use whichever combination of dried fruits you prefer.

250g strong plain flour
250g strong wholewheat flour
½ tsp ground cardamom (the seeds from about 8-10 pods)
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp cinnamon
1½ tsp salt
7g sachet easy bake yeast
grated zest 1 lemon
grated zest 1 orange
50g caster sugar
125 ml milk
125 ml water
1 egg, lightly beaten
50g butter, softened
25g dried cranberries
25g dried cherries
50g raisins

For the glaze:
1 egg, beaten
about 6 tsp sugar

Method

Put the flours, spices, salt, yeast, lemon zest, orange zest and sugar into a bowl.  Warm the milk and water and add to the mixture and stir to combine.  Add the egg and the butter and mix well.  Begin to knead, adding the fruit and kneading it into the mixture. Knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place into a buttered bowl, cover with clingfilm or a bin liner and leave to rise in a draught-free place until almost doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200°c with a baking tray or stone inside to heat up.

Press the air out of the dough and cut into 8 pieces with a sharp knife.  Make each into a ball by stretching the dough under itself.  Place onto a well floured board and cover again with the clingfilm or preferably the bin liner as this will allow more room for rising and leave to prove until they have risen to almost double. Place the buns on the heated tray or stone and bake in the oven for about ten minutes, until beginning to brown. Take out of the oven, brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the sugar.  Place back into the oven for a further 5 minutes.  Take out of the oven and place onto a wire rack to cool a little.  They are best split open and spread with butter whilst still warm.

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