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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Merry Christmas and a very happy 2017

Just a very quick message between present unwrapping at Ordinary Cook Towers to wish all of my readers and friends a very merry Christmas and all the very best for a happy and healthy 2017. I appreciate all of your support and kind comments that you make here and I am always pleased to hear that someone has made and enjoyed one of my recipes.

I will shortly be raising a glass of cheer to all of you,

With love, Kath xx

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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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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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