bread

Chelsea buns

These were last weekend’s breakfast baking.  As I have said in earlier posts, the girls get me up early, so at the weekends I have used the opportunity to try baking or cooking something new.  Chelsea buns make a very decadent breakfast, but a very delicious one too.   The recipe again comes from Daniel Stevens’ Bread book (River Cottage Handbook No. 3).  I think next time I will bake them a bit longer than I did this time, as they were a little bit doughy, but I was very pleased with them.  They were lovely and buttery and were still good the next day.  All you need to accompany these is a good cup of tea.

For the buns:

550g (1lb 6 oz) strong white bread flour
50g (2oz) caster sugar
7g (1 sachet) of easy bake yeast
10g (½oz) salt
150 ml (¼ pint) milk
225g (9 oz) butter
1 egg

For the filling:

25g (1oz) melted butter
100g (4oz) caster sugar
200g  (8oz) currants

For the glaze:

50 ml (2 fl oz) milk
50g (2 oz) caster sugar

Method

You will need a deep sided 30cm square baking tin, buttered and coated with a sprinkling of caster sugar.

Place the butter and the milk into a pan over a gentle heat until the butter melts and the milk gets to hand hot. In a large bowl, mix the flour, caster sugar, salt and yeast and then add the egg and the butter and milk.  Using your hands mix to a sticky dough.  Knead the dough, as described in the spelt bread recipe until the dough is silky and smooth. Rinse the bowl clean and dry well and place the dough into this bowl, cover with clingfilm or a plastic bag and leave to double in size.

Place the dough onto a floured surface and roll to a rectangle measuring 60cm x 40cm or as close as you can get to this. Brush with the melted butter, leaving a 2 cm border along one of the longest edges.  Sprinkle the sugar all over the butter, top with the currants and then press them lightly into the dough.  Roll up the dough like a swiss roll, starting with the edge opposite to the one on which you left the 2 cm border. Brush the border with water and seal the edge well.  Slice into 9 pieces, place each piece into the tin, leaving space for expansion between each bun and flatten slightly with your hand.

Preheat the oven to 200°c (gas mark 6, bottom of the roasting oven of the Aga ) whilst you cover the tin with the clingfilm again and leave to prove for about 30 minutes until doubled in size again. Sprinkle with a little caster sugar and bake for about 20-25 minutes (mine needed 25 minutes but I was a bit too eager) until golden brown.

Just before the end of the cooking time warm the remaining caster sugar and the milk together in a pan over a gentle heat and when the buns come out of the oven, brush them immediately with this mixture to give them a delicious sticky glaze.  Leave to cool a little but make sure you enjoy at least one whilst it’s still warm from the oven.

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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.

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Darina Allen’s Brown Soda Bread

I was inspired by Kate the Bake to make French Onion Soup yesterday for our tea, but you can’t have soup without bread and I didn’t feel like trekking through the snow to the bakery.  Our very good neighbour, Dr. Bob, kindly bought me a brilliant book for Christmas, which I spent many hours over the holiday devouring – Darina Allen’s (2009) Forgotten Skills of Cooking (Kyle Cathie Limited).  I thoroughly recommend that you get yourself down to the bookshop or online immediately and get yourself a copy.   It has over 700 recipes covering all the basics and traditional recipes (stuffed goose neck anyone?) and it has sections on foraging,  keeping chickens, butchering, growing your own veg etc.  It’s a wonderful compendium which will be keeping me busy in the kitchen for years to come (so, thanks Dr Bob).

Anyway, to get back to the point, Darina has a recipe  for Beginner’s Brown Soda Bread and I have never made soda bread before so it sounded perfect.  It can also be prepared and baked in 1½ hours, so if you are a bit short of time and you need your bread quickly this is perfect.

I was very pleased with the results, the loaf rose beautifully with the soda and the crust was particularly delicious.  I was particularly pleased when my daughter came home from school and said “Oh wow, a homemade loaf, I love homemade bread” and asked for a slice with butter and Marmite.  That made me feel very glad I hadn’t trekked to the bakery.

If like me you haven’t made soda bread before I urge you to try it.

I didn’t have any buttermilk in the house so I took Darina’s advice and added two tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice to 600ml (1 pint) of milk instead. The dough is extremely sticky but don’t be concerned by this as it is supposed to be like this, and if yours isn’t then you will need to add more liquid.

400g (14oz) wholemeal flour
75g (3oz) plain white flour, (Darina specifies unbleached if you can get it)
1 tsp salt, (Darina specifies dairy salt, which is finer and purer than normal salt, but I only have sea salt in the house so I used that)
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda, sieved
1 egg
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 teaspoon honey ( or treacle or soft brown sugar)
425ml (¾ pint) buttermilk  (or add 2 tbsp of lemon juice to 600 ml (1 pint) milk)

Method

Grease a loaf tin with vegetable oil. Preheat the oven to 200°c (gas mark 6).

Put the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and mix well.  Make a well in the centre ready for the wet ingredients.

Whisk the egg and add it to the oil, honey (or treacle or sugar), and the buttermilk (or lemon juice/milk mixture).  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and using your clean hands mix well.  The dough should be very sticky, Darina describes it as ‘soft and slightly sloppy’, if it’s not add more buttermilk. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for about 1 hour.  To test take it out of its tin and tap the bottom, if it’s cooked it will sound hollow.

Allow to cool before eating if you can manage it.

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Bread sauce

Bread sauce is probably one of my favourite things, the combination of bread sauce and good sage and onion stuffing is very hard to beat.  It always reminds me of Boxing Day when we go for a walk in the morning and then return to cold turkey and stuffing and reheated bread sauce – my mouth is watering just thinking about it.  I was inspired to make some after reading a Rachel Eats post on Sunday lunch where she had cooked some to go with her slow roast pork.  So I made some to take to my mum’s for sunday lunch this week to go with the duck that she was roasting. I will be following a tradition and making it for Christmas Day, and making sure there is plenty so that I can enjoy some on Boxing Day. This recipe is adapted from the classic by Delia Smith.

1 onion, peeled and chopped in half
12 cloves
1 bay leaf
10 black peppercorns
425ml (15 fl oz) whole milk
25g (1 oz) butter
4 tbsp double cream
75g (3 oz) breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste

Method

Stick the cloves into the cut onion and place in a pan with the bay leaf  and the peppercorns.  Pour the milk over.  Bring the milk to boiling point and then take off the heat and cover and leave to infuse for at least two hours.

Strain the milk into a jug and then pour back into the pan. Add the butter and the breadcrumbs and place onto a gentle heat and stir occasionally until the breadcrumbs have swollen and thickened the sauce.  This will take about 15 minutes.  You can now leave it to stand until you are ready to serve.

Just before serving add the cream and reheat gently. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve in a warmed bowl.

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English muffins

muffin and jam

I decided to do a special breakfast yesterday, well it’s half term and we were all off yesterday and having a day together.  So I got these started early (about 7ish) and we were enjoying them by 9 am.  Hot off the griddle and spread with butter and jam they were really tasty.  The recipe makes 12 muffins so we had plenty left over so I made Eggs Benedict for last night’s tea.  The muffins will keep though for a few days in an airtight tin, and can be split and toasted.

You can of course buy these muffins, but it really is worth the effort to make your own and it really isn’t that much effort.  I use my trusty tortilla pan to cook them but any heavy based pan or a griddle will do the job.

450g (1 lb) strong bread flour
225 ml (8 fl oz) milk
55 ml (2 fl oz) water
7g sachet of easy blend yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt

Method

Measure the flour, salt and sugar into a large bowl and mix well.  Place in a low oven (100°c) for 10 mins to warm through.  Measure the milk and water into a small pan and heat over a gentle heat until hand hot.  Take the flour out of the oven and add the yeast and gradually pour in the milk and water .  Mix with your hands until the dough comes easily into a ball away from the sides of the bowl.  The mixture may need a little less or a little more liquid so add the last bit with care.

Take the dough out of the bowl and knead on a worktop surface for about ten minutes or as long as your arms will bear. It should be springy and elastic. Place the dough back into the bowl and cover with clingfilm rubbed with a spot of oil (the oil on the inside). Leave to prove until it has doubled in size, this will take about 45 minutes in a warm kitchen or longer if left in a cool spot. I have never tried this but if you leave the dough in the fridge overnight it will be risen ready for the morning, so this may be a good plan if you don’t feel like waiting for a couple of hours for your breakfast.

When the dough has doubled in size take it out of the bowl and put it onto a lightly floured worktop and roll the dough out to about 1 cm thickness.  Using a scone cutter cut out 12 muffins.  You will need to re-roll the leftover bits of dough.  Place these onto a floured baking sheet, re-cover with the oiled clingfilm and leave for about 25 mins until  risen.

Heat the pan over a medium heat until hot and then place the muffins on the pan.  Turn the heat to low.  Cook for 7 minutes on the one side until nicely browned and turn and cook for another seven minutes until cooked through.  You will have to do this in batches.  Those you don’t want to eat immediately can be cooled and kept in an airtight tin.

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cooking muffins
Cooking the muffins
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Bread pudding

bread pudding

We often have leftover bread especially if I have been near a bakers for two consecutive days.  We never waste it though, it either gets fed to the chickens or I whizz it into breadcrumbs and put them in a food bag in the freezer. If I have a bit of time then leftover bread gets made into this or the bread and butter pudding I have posted before.  The girls both love bread pudding and so do I.  It can be eaten warm with cold cream as a pudding or eaten cold the next day with a cup of tea.

This recipe is based on Delia Smith’s recipe in her Complete Cookery Course. I like to add a mixture of glacé cherries, sour cherries and sultanas and some candied peel if I have it in the cupboard. You can use any mixture of dried fruits as long as they weigh a combined 175g (60z). You could use dried prunes or apricots.

225g (80z) white or brown bread with the crusts removed
275 ml (½ pint) milk
75g (3 oz) dark soft brown sugar
50g (2oz) melted butter
2 tsp mixed spice
1 egg, beaten
175g (60z) dried fruits
grated rind of ½ orange

Method

You will need a baking dish with a 2½ pint (1½ litre) capacity, well buttered.

Break the bread into small pieces and place in a bowl.  Pour the milk over the bread and leave to soak for 30 minutes.  Add the beaten egg, melted butter, mixed spice and sugar and stir well to thoroughly combine. It is best if you use a fork for this stirring to get rid of any big lumps of bread. Stir in the dried fruit and orange rind.  Spread the mixture into the buttered dish and bake in a preheated oven at 180°c (350°f, gas mark 4) for about 1 hour.  It may need slightly longer.  It’s ready when it is a lovely golden colour.


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Queen of puddings

queen of puddings

The Queen of Puddings is one of my favourite puddings, it’s a last meal choice I think. It’s the ultimate in comfort cooking and a good one for when the nights are drawing in and the weather is getting chilly.  I made the one in the picture today for after our sunday lunch and it didn’t last long.  It’s an easy pudding to do for sunday lunch because you can cook it in advance to the stage before you put the meringue on top and that last stage takes less than five minutes to prepare, with 10- 15  minutes cooking, so if you do it just before you are ready to serve the sunday lunch, pudding will still be warm when you are ready to eat it .  I made this one with damson jam because that is what I am enjoying at the moment, but you can use any jam you like.  Strawberry jam is a very good choice indeed!

Serves 6
100g (4 oz) white breadcrumbs
1 pint (570ml) whole milk
10 g (½ oz) butter
grated rind of 1 lemon
4 eggs
40g (1½ oz) caster sugar
4 tbsps of the jam of your choice
Method
Separate 3 of the eggs, putting the whites to one side to make the meringue later and add the yolks  to the remaining whole egg, beating them lightly together.
Heat the milk in a small saucepan to boiling point, remove from the heat, stir in the butter, lemon rind and breadcrumbs.  Leave for 20 minutes for the breadcrumbs to swell.

Put the jam in the bottom of a deep baking dish (one that has a three pint capacity). Add the yolks to the breadcrumb mixture,combining well, and pour this mixture over the jam. Put into the centre of a preheated oven at 180°c (350°f, gas mark 4) and bake for 20-25 mins until set. Leave to cool.

Beat the egg whites until stiff then add the sugar a teaspoonful at a time whilst still whisking.  Spread this meringue mixture over the top of the pudding. Bake in the oven at 180°c for 10-15 mins until the meringue is golden brown.  Serve whilst warm, but should you have any left, which is doubtful, then it is also lovely cold the next day.

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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.

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Eggy Bread (French Toast)

Eggy bread is loved by my girls, probably something to do with the sugar or maple syrup drizzled all over it.  It is a great thing to cook quickly when the girls are hungry and need feeding before the hunger induced grumpiness turns into full scale warfare.

2 eggs
2-3 slices of good bread (can be stale)
½ tsp cinnamon
sugar or maple syrup
small amount of butter

Method
Break the eggs into a shallow dish that is big enough to take a slice of the bread.  Beat the eggs gently and sprinkle with cinnamon. Dip each slice of bread into the eggy mixture so that both sides are well covered with egg.

Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat (add a tiny drop of oil to prevent the butter from burning). Place the bread slices into the pan and cook on each side for 2-3 mins until golden.  Turn onto a plate and drizzle liberally with maple syrup or sugar.  Eat warm.

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Bread and Butter Pudding

This is a family favourite and a good way of using up a stale loaf.  It’s at is best when served warm with cold cream after a sunday lunch, but also lovely to eat cold the next day.

6-8 slices of good bread (stale is fine)
20g  butter
50g sultanas or mixed dried fruit
50g demerara sugar
2 eggs
¾ pint (400 ml) whole milk

Method
Grease a baking dish with butter, I use a rectangular one that measures 30cm x 20cm.

Butter one side of each slice of bread generously.  Lay the bread in the baking dish (butter side up) and sprinkle with the sultanas/ mixed fruit and the sugar between layers.

In a measuring jug, beat the eggs lightly and add the milk to make up to the 1 pint (570 ml) mark.  Whisk the milk and eggs together until combined. Pour this mixture over the bread.  Leave to soak for 30 mins – 1 hour until the bread has soaked up the milk and eggs.  Bake in a preheated oven at 180°c (350°f) for 30 mins until golden brown on top .

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