Tag Archives: loaf

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 – thirty 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 before taking your first slice.

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.

Spelt bread

It has been almost a week since my last post… where has the time gone?  Life has been busy, but I have been cooking (lots).  I just haven’t managed to sit down and write about it, so deciding which adventure I should share with you first was difficult.   I (or should I say we, as I don’t seem to do much cooking without the help (?) of little hands) have been cooking chelsea buns, brownies, chocolate cupcakes (decadently decorated, as only a three-year old can manage), pizza and cabbage and potato gratin.  However, this bread is something I am very proud of.

I think I am becoming a bit obsessed with bread.  Last year I blogged about my success with a loaf of white bread, after many years of trying.  Since then I have been practising and experimenting on a regular basis.  My aim is to become so good at making bread that I never have to buy a loaf again.

I won a £5 Amazon voucher over Christmas when I pulled a virtual cracker sent to me by Made Media (thank you Made) and so took the opportunity to buy a few more cookbooks (it was the perfect excuse!).  In my haul was the River Cottage Handbook No. 3 on Bread by Daniel Stevens and it is a great book; full of really good advice on how to achieve the perfect loaf.   There are lots of pictures accompanied by excellent descriptions to walk you through the process.

Since finding the Chocolate Log Blog I have been inspired by Choclette to use ingredients that I have never previously used, including spelt flour, hence the inspiration for this loaf.

Spelt flour is low in gluten so I followed Daniel Stevens’ advice and mixed it with strong plain flour to make a lighter loaf than a pure spelt loaf would be. The spelt is deliciously nutty and just adds that extra bite to the bread, making it taste like homemade bread should. I was really pleased with the result and Mr OC complimented me on it, so it must have been good. The loaf rose a little unevenly, so there is room for improvement, but I am looking forward to continuing practising and moving towards the holy grail of homemade bread.

300g strong plain flour
200g spelt flour
1 sachet (7g) fast action yeast
10g salt
300ml warm water

Extra flour for sprinkling ( I used rye)

Method

Mix the flours in a large  bowl, add the salt and the yeast and pour in the warm water.  Mix with your hands to a soft dough.  There should be enough liquid to easily pick up all the flour in the bowl, but it shouldn’t be too sticky. Take the dough out of the bowl and on to a lightly floured surface (preferably wood).  If you are right-handed hold the dough with your left hand and using your right hand push half the dough away, trying to stretch it a full arm’s length away from you.  Then fold the stretched dough back on to that left in your left hand and repeat the kneading process making quarter turns of the dough every other stretch. (If you are left-handed then please substitute that hand for the right-hand).  Continue in this way for about ten minutes until the dough feels more elastic and you can’t really stretch it very far when you are kneading.  Fold the dough under so that it forms a ball.

Rinse the bowl clean, oil lightly, and place the dough into the bowl and cover with cling film or a large plastic bag. Leave in a warmish place, free of draught, until the dough doubles in size. The time this takes will depend on the temperature of the dough and of the room.

Preheat the oven to 250°c (gas mark 10) and Daniel Stevens’ tip is to buy a paving stone that fits into your oven to use as a baking stone and heat this in the oven and then use a bread peel (a flat board with a handle, like the one they use for placing pizzas into a pizza oven) to place your loaf directly onto this. I had a bit of a daft revelation in that I realised for the first time that if I placed the loaf directly on the floor of the roasting oven of my Aga I would achieve the same effect. I have always baked my bread on the tin that I have proved it on before and I think this new technique has helped.

Gently flatten the dough with your fingers, rather than punching the air out (again a change in technique for me) shaping it into a square.  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.  I then sprinkled mine generously with rye flour.  Leave to prove for about twenty minutes.  This time you want it to get bigger but not double in size again.

Slash the tops gently.  Place on to the baking stone and bake for ten minutes without looking.  Check the loaf and adjust the heat of the oven, if the crust is still pale then turn down to 200°c (gas mark 6), if it is already browning then 180°c (gas mark 4).  Cook for another 20-30 minutes. I left mine on the floor of the roasting oven of my Aga for thirty minutes.  It should sound hollow when knocked.

Leave to cool completely before slicing.

A lovely loaf of white bread – at last

cooked loaf

I have been making bread for years but it is only recently that the finished bread has been enjoyable.  Most of my bread making has resulted in a lumpen dough that my husband has very kindly eaten. I think bread making takes practice.  I have, I think, improved because my kneading technique has improved with practice and I now know that you shouldn’t let the salt and the yeast come into contact with one another before you start to mix the dough. Apparently the salt begins to de-activate the yeast. Also I now add more water than I used to, a sticky dough works better than a slightly too dry dough. I made a loaf of bread yesterday to go with the ham and pea soup I made and it worked out quite well. I am very proud of that achievement after years of lumpen dough.

The recipe I use comes from my well used copy of The River Cottage Family Cookbook (2005, Hodder & Stoughton).  I can’t recommend this book enough, everything works and is really well explained.  It is aimed at younger members of the family but it is a book I turn to again and again. I am a fan of most things coming out of River Cottage.
The picture above shows a loaf that I made out of half this quantity of dough, as I split it and made two loaves.

500g strong white flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp or a 7g sachet of fast-action bred yeast
2 tsps sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
300 ml warm water
Method
Measure the flour and place in a large bowl.  I like to warm this in a low oven (100°c, or lowest setting) for a few minutes whilst I get the rest of the ingredients ready.  I have a granite worktop which cools everything down too much otherwise.  Keep the salt and yeast away from one another until you are ready to mix.  When everything is prepared add the yeast, sugar and salt to the flour and mix to combine.  Add the olive oil and the water and work with your hands to a soft and, importantly, slightly sticky dough.  Take this out of the bowl and knead well for as long as you can bear, at least seven minutes if possible, it’s better if it’s ten minutes.  Do it until you feel your arms want to drop off.  To knead you hold the dough with one hand and then stretch some of the dough away from you with the heel of the other hand and then bring it back into a ball and repeat. It needs to be smooth and when you poke your index finger in and take it out the dough should bounce back.  Place it back into the bowl and cover with a clean damp tea towel or oiled cling film and place in a warm part of the kitchen for 1- 1½ hours until the dough has doubled in size.  Grease a loaf tin or a baking tray with a little olive oil.Give the dough a punch to knock the air out and knead for 30 seconds and shape into a ball if you are making a loaf on a baking tray or roll into a sausage shape and fold in half and place into the loaf tin.  Leave to prove for another 30 minutes, covered with a cloth or the oiled cling film, but don’t let it double in size again as it needs to continue to grow when it’s in the oven.  Bake in a preheated oven at 220° c (425°f, gas mark 7) for about 25-30 mins.  To check it’s cooked turn it out of its tin and give it a knock. If it sounds hollow it’s cooked.  If I cook it in a loaf tin, I like to put it back in the oven out of its tin for a further five minutes for the crust to get crisp. Leave to cool on a wire rack.