Because I am always experimenting with bread recipes we do tend to have times when there are a couple of half eaten loaves in the house. I have found lots of uses for bread that is beginning to stale and this is one of them. I replace the usual crumble recipe with breadcrumbs. If you have oats feel free to add them. If you have only a bit of bread left then make a crumble as normal and supplement it with the breadcrumbs. In which case you can just mix the breadcrumbs in the with the flour before you rub the butter in.
The breadcrumbs add extra crunch and it saves any food waste.
Fruit of your choice, I used frozen chopped apples and blackberries.
50g unsalted butter 25g granulated or caster sugar 25g dark brown sugar (but you could use 50g of just the one sugar) 50g oats Approx 250-300g bread, made into crumbs
Because my fruit was frozen I placed it into an ovenproof dish ad popped it in the preheated oven at 180C for 20 minutes.
In the meantime I melted the butter in a large pan and then stirred through the breadcrumbs and oats and cooked over a medium heat until beginning to colour, stirring from time to time. Sprinkle over the sugar and mix in well, continue to stir and cook until the mixture starts to caramelise a little.
Remove the fruit from the oven and evenly sprinkle over the breadcrumb mixture. Place back in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the fruit is fully cooked and the crumble is a deep brown colour. Serve with lashings of custard or cream.
This was originally posted on my website Veg Patch Kitchen Cookery School.
This oat and honey bread is our eldest’s favourite loaf. It has a denser texture due to the oats, with a delicious sweetness with the honey. It makes lovely toast and is great with soup.
350g strong (aka bread) white flour 100g wholemeal bread flour 50g porridge oats or jumbo oats 5g easy bake (aka instant yeast)yeast or 1 sachet or 15g fresh yeast 5-10g fine sea salt 20g – 40g honey (depending on taste) Approx 320-370g water
Place the flours and oats in a large bowl. Add the yeast or crumble in the fresh yeast, mix through the flour. Add the salt and mix through. Add the honey.
Add 320g water, you will need more but start with this amount and then splash in more as needed as you are mixing. Using a clawed hand mix the dough. There should be no dry bits and the dough should feel on the sticky side. The bran in the wholemeal and the oats will continue to absorb more water as the dough rests, so this loaf is better made on the stickier side. Cover the bowl with a large inflated bag/ shower cap or proving cloth and leave to rest for a minimum of 10 minutes, up to an hour if you are busy. Then do stretch and folds as shown in this video or knead your dough to develop the gluten.
Allow the dough to ferment, either at room temperature for 1-2 hours or in the fridge for several hours or overnight until the dough is light and airy and has doubled in size.
Shape the dough as you prefer and allow to rise again. This can happen either in the fridge or at room temperature. It will prove in as little as 30 minutes in a warm room, will take up to 2 hours in a cool room or several hours in a fridge. You want the dough to become airy but not double in size. Here is a video to show you what you are looking for in a fully proved loaf.
Preheat the oven to 220C, gas mark 7, 425F. Place a solid sheet in the oven to place the loaf onto. If you are using a dutch oven preheat it in the oven at the same time.
Unless your loaf is in a tin you will need to score it with a sharp knife so that it bursts in the oven at this slash rather than the weakest point.
When the oven is ready and the loaf is ready place on the preheated solid shelf and steam the oven. You can steam the oven by spraying with a plant mister (avoid the glass door and light) or by placing a cup of hot water in a roasting tray in the bottom of the oven (be careful not to burn yourself). Bake for 30-35 minutes until fully baked. It will look evenly golden, sound hollow when knocked on the bottom and will show 90C on a thermometer probe.
Allow to cool thoroughly on a wire rack. Enjoy.
You can learn all about making bread and transform from a novice to a confident bread baker with my online masterclass Bread Made Easy.
Here is my master recipe for a basic white bread. I call it my master recipe because once you have mastered this one it can be adapted really easily into a multitude of different breads. It’s the recipe I use in my online Bread Made Easy masterclass. In the masterclass I show you how to shape the dough into different breads, rolls, make pizza bases, pitta breads, focaccia and add flavours such as marmite and tomato. This is the perfect recipe for anyone starting out in bread making.
500g strong (aka bread) white flour 5g easy bake yeast (or 1 sachet for ease) or 15g fresh yeast 5-10g fine sea salt Approx 320-340g water
Place your flour in a large mixing bowl. Add your yeast and mix through the flour. If you are using fresh yeast you can crumble the yeast through the flour like you would rub butter through flour when making pastry. Add the salt and mix through the flour.
Add 320g of water to begin with and using one hand like a claw begin to mix the dough. There should be no dry bits, so splash in more water gradually as needed. You want the dough to feel soft and slightly sticky. Watch this video to see what your dough should look like and how to stretch and fold it to develop the gluten. If you prefer to knead this video will show you how. You can also use a stand mixer, this article describes my preferred method for using a stand mixer.
Once you have developed the dough using either the stretch and fold method, kneading or a stand mixer it is time to let the dough ferment. Keep the dough covered well, either with a large plastic bag, a shower cap or a proving cloth. If you keep the dough at room temperature it will have become light, airy and doubled in size in an hour or a little longer in a cool kitchen. To improve the flavour and texture of the loaf you can ferment it in the fridge overnight or for several hours. This is ideal if you have a busy day ahead and won’t be hanging around in the kitchen. It takes ten times longer for a loaf to prove in a fridge than at room temperature.
When the dough has risen and become light and airy, it’s time to shape it. You can shape it as a round loaf, a tin loaf, a bloomer or as rolls, or pitta breads, or pizza bases or turn it into a focaccia… the world is your oyster. You now need it to prove it a second time so that it rises again. Once shaped, cover it well and leave at room temperature or pop back in the fridge for several hours. This time don’t let it rise to double its original size or you risk it being overproved. Instead aim for about a rise of about half as much as its original size. You want it to feel uniformly airy as you gently press a hand on the top. If it feels less airy in the centre leave it for a bit longer before baking. This video will help you.
Make sure you preheat your oven to 220C, gas mark 7, 425F, so that when the loaf is ready it can go into a hot oven. It is a good idea to place a solid oven shelf or baking tray in there for you to place your loaf onto. Bread benefits from hitting a hot surface as this will improve oven spring. If you have a dutch oven heat this up in the oven too. A dutch oven will really help improve the bake of your loaf. This article has lots of information about dutch ovens.
When your loaf is ready to bake, score it with a sharp knife so that it bursts at this slash rather than at the weakest point. Place your loaf in the hot oven. If you are not baking in a dutch oven you will need to steam your oven. You can do this with a plant mister or by placing a cup of water in a roasting tray on the oven floor. Be careful when steaming the oven not to burn yourself or spray water onto a glass oven door or the light. Steam helps the loaf achieve oven spring, as well as improving the caramelisation of the crust and getting a thinner, more crisp crust.
Bake the loaf for 30-35 minutes. Check that it is baked by knocking it on its bottom, it should sound hollow. You can also use a temperature probe, if the centre of the loaf reaches 90C it is fully baked. Allow the loaf to cool on a wire tray completely before cutting into it.
You can learn how to make bread the easy way with my online masterclass Bread Made Easy.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, whatever form it might be taking this year. I hope you will be able to have a restful break and enjoy a little cheer. Fingers crossed that 2021 will bring something more positive for us all eventually.
Every Christmas I try to make some homemade treats for family and friends. I am not sure this year whether I will manage to deliver the treats to loved ones. If I do, it will be doorstep delivery and a wave from a distance. But, I have made a start anyway and in a worse case scenario I will eat the treats.
Honestly, my waist has never been so rotund. Comfort eating has become a definite thing for me since March.
These candied oranges are really easy. I intend to dry some of them and dip them in dark chocolate and (possibly) give away. The others I might just eat, served in a bowl with plenty of cream splashed over. You could use them to decorate a chocolate Yule log or the top of a trifle. Here is the recipe for Candied peel if you would prefer.
I used five oranges as I do intend to give them away but the recipe below is for two oranges. If you are using more than two you just need to make more simple sugar syrup. As a guide I used 350g of sugar and 350g of water to cover my five oranges and that has made a lot of extra syrup that I will use over desserts or make a fruit salad with at some point over Christmas.
2 oranges 150g caster or granulated sugar 150g water
Slice the oranges thinly. Place the sugar and water into a medium sized pan and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the oranges. Place a small plate or a saucepan lid that will fit inside the pan to keep the oranges submerged in the syrup. Simmer gently for 45 minutes -1 hour until the peel of the orange is tender and the point of a knife easily pierces it. Take the pan off the heat and allow to cool. Decant into a sterile jar. These will keep easily for 1 month. Keep in the fridge once open.
If you would like to dry them, take them out of the syrup and place on a wire rack with baking parchment underneath to catch the drips and allow to air dry.
It’s about now that I start to plan what I am going to bake. My planning is no indicator of what will end up being baked. That is down to whether I run out of time. Time management was never my forte.
But for now, let me have my expectations. I have ordered some ham hocks from a local butcher so they will definitely get cooked and my favourite way of doing this is to follow Dorothy Hartley’s method. I have also ordered sausage meat so Sausage and sage pie is likely. These are my mainstays, they root me in a feeling of a tradition and I think this year this might be exactly what we need.
I have been filming a Christmas breads online course so we have been eating stollen, mincemeat wreath, cinnamon star, Christmas tree bread and blue cheese and pear focaccia until it comes out of our ears. I will be investing in a pair of elasticated trousers.
If I get time I will revisit my Ginger and marzipan cake because the flavours of that scream Christmas and one night I will make my Mushroom and Chestnut Wellington, although our youngest won’t touch mushrooms with a barge pole so it will have to be a night when she wants to make her own dinner (which is a lot of the time as she is a fussy eater).
So, this is my dream Christmas baking… I wonder how much, if any, of it I will actually pull off.
What are your plans for Christmas baking this year?
Regular readers will know that the other hat I wear is my Veg Patch Kitchen Cookery School hat. I set up the cookery school at the end of 2014 and ran my first bread making class in January 2015. It’s a job that I absolutely love. I am passionate about bread and in particular sharing just how easy it is to make delicious bread at home.
It all started here at The Ordinary Cook. In 2009, my contract with a fantastic job came to an end. The economic crash had happened and the sector I worked in was changing. I worked for a public sector venture capital fund investing European and UK government funding in small and medium sized creative businesses in the West Midlands to help them achieve growth and contribute to the region’s creative economy. I had worked for the fund for four years and had studied it as part of my PhD for five years before that. I loved the job and the team I worked with. However, I had also worked (part time and mostly from home) through both maternity leaves. It’s hard to take maternity leave when you are a freelance. In 2009 we had a 5 year old and a 3 year old. I had to make a decision, get another job and work for not very much money after childcare costs or take a career break. I took the career break. I found it tough. It was wonderful being at home with the girls but I suddenly realised that my identity had been tied up with my career and that had gone.
So I set up this blog. It was a lifesaver. I could focus on creating recipes and I could have conversations with people all over the world about food whilst also being a stay at home mum. It was the best of both worlds, (except I never have managed to monetise this blog).
I love baking and experimenting yet back in 2009 I just couldn’t get the hang of yeast cookery. It seemed beyond my talents. I put it on the back burner and decided it was not for me. But I hate to be beaten by anything and it kept gnawing at me that I really should be able to make decent bread instead of a brick. So, I kept practising and reading about bread and I finally cracked it. I was making the most delicious bread I had ever tasted. I became obsessed with bread.
In 2014, with the girls now 10 and nearly 8, and Richard on a constant pay freeze, it became obvious that I needed to go back to work. It was a terrifying thought after five years out of the workplace. I felt that no-one would employ me and that I would be laughed out of any interview. My sister suggested I do a bread class from her house and I said yes. I am so grateful to my sister for that. It helped me prove that I was capable of it. Veg Patch Kitchen Cookery School was born.
At the start of this year it felt that it was going to be the best year yet, my classes were becoming fully booked a couple of months in advance. Then we all know what happened. My last face to face class was on 20th March. My cookery school is too small to allow proper social distancing and our whole ethos is based on providing a really lovely day of learning, relaxing, chatting and eating. I felt that none of this would be possible with masks, visors and hand sanitisers. So the school has remained closed and it looks until it will stay that way until at least after Easter 2021.
The months since have been spent filming, editing and subtitling videos and researching online teaching platforms to offer an online alternative. It’s been an interesting and steep learning curve but finally last week the bread masterclass was launched.
I have created a comprehensive masterclass that takes a step by step approach to bread making to show you just how easy it is to make bread at home and to fit bread making into your day. For me, this feels like a light at the end of the tunnel. It means that the business can keep going. I always knew that I would reopen at the end of all this, but I miss teaching people and this allows me to still do that, albeit in a very different way.
No time for a breather though as this week I will get started filming a Christmas breads class just in time for the (restricted) festivities.
This year has forced all of us to find new ways to work and play, tell me about yours.
These were inspired by a recipe sent by a friend. The original recipe came from the NY Times cookery app and is for baked Doughnuts. Just a few hours before receiving the email from the friend I had been reading a doughnut recipe and considered making them but the whole faff of deep frying puts me off. This recipe seemed like a gift.
The original recipe though requires cider and I don’t have any of that in the house. This got me thinking about an alternative. These muffins don’t really resemble the original recipe at all but they are good.
For the apple puree: 1 large Bramley apple, peeled cored and cut into chunks
For the muffins: 225g plain flour 1tsp baking powder Half tsp salt 2 tsp ground cinnamon half teaspoon nutmeg 140g butter, melted 140g light brown sugar 50g granulated sugar 2 eggs 1 tsp vanilla extract 2 tsp apple cider vinegar 120ml plain yoghurt
For the topping: 25g melted butter 40g demerara sugar
Method Place the apple chunks in a pan with a splash of water and cook over a medium heat until it becomes a puree. Put to one side.
Place cases into a 12 hole muffin pan, or lightly grease the muffin pan. Preheat the oven to 180C, 350F, gas mark 4 or use the baking oven of the 4 one Aga.
Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
In a separate bowl whisk the sugars with the eggs until well mixed. Add the vanilla extract, vinegar and yoghurt and mix well. Sieve the flour mixture over the top. (I like to double sieve flour for muffins it makes them lighter). Fold in carefully until just mixed but still has a few floury lumps. This will make the muffins lighter.
Spoon half the mixture into the muffin cases. Drop a scant teaspoon of apple puree on top and then cover with remaining mixture.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes until it feels springy to the touch. As soon as they come out of the oven brush with the melted butter and sprinkle with Demerara sugar. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
We have a pear tree in our garden that has produced one or two fruits each year since we have lived here. The fruit are very small and I have always assumed that it is either a stunted tree or some equivalent of the crabapple. This year though, it is heavily loaded with small fruit.
It was this that drew my mum’s eye and led her to comment that she thought it was a Tettenhall Dick pear tree. I looked at her askance and then realised that she wasn’t joking.
My mum’s gran had this pear tree in her garden in Willenhall which is not that far from Tettenhall so it would make sense for her to have a Tettenhall Dick tree, but I have no idea how this variety of tree has ended up in our garden, but someone must have specifically chosen to plant it here. Great gran used to bottle them and they are reputed to be ideal for bottling and making Perry, so I guess it makes sense to have this in the garden rather than a pear tree that is hard and uneatable one minute and mush the next.
So, the Tettenhall Dick… from a quick google search I have found that it is quite a rare tree, named, after Tettenhall, an area in Wolverhampton and about twenty miles away from here. It was a tree that could be found all over the Black Country but many of the trees have long since been uprooted. You can read all about a chap trying to bring them back from the brink in this article. There are also lots of interesting stories connected to the pear in this blog post and comments by Brownhills Bob.
As my great gran used to bottle them I feel it is my duty to give it a go, in her honour, this year. I want my mum to try them and see if they remind her of the happy childhood she had with her gran.
Most of the pears aren’t ready yet, but some are already starting to fall, so I used the tried and tested technique of giving the pear a little wiggle and if it comes easily off the tree it is ready to be used for bottling. If it stays firm then leave it longer to ripen.
I used my trusted copy of The Sainsbury Book of Preserves & Pickles by Heather Lambert, first published in 1981, as my guide for bottling as it is something I have never ventured before. It has always seemed a bit complicated, but actually now that I have given it a go I think I will be doing it more often.
My sister gifted me a very large Kilner type jar last year so I have used this, but I would advise on using two smaller ones if you can. This one was too big to stand in the simmering oven of the Aga so had to be balanced precariously in a tin and on a pyrex dish so that the syrup wouldn’t leak whilst the seal was taking place. If I had a normal sized oven it probably wouldn’t be an issue. Using smaller jars if you have them will be a better option because fruit in an unopened smaller jar will last for longer than fruit in an opened large jar.
I was surprised at how little sugar you need to bottle pears. I am used to making jam or chutney where you need a fair amount of sugar to either preserve or counteract the vinegar. For this recipe I only needed 125g sugar to every 600ml of water.
Feel free to spice the pears however you like, I added cloves and allspice berries, but use whatever you like or have, suggestions include lemon peel, orange peel, cinnamon, star anise. Experiment to your heart’s content.
Ingredients: Pears – enough to fill the jar that you are using 125g sugar to every 600ml water Optional spices/flavourings
You will need a sterile kilner jar (or several depending on how many pears you have to bottle) or similar that has the rubber ring intact. Preheat the oven to 150C, 300F, Gas Mark 2.
Wash the pears and peel. If you are using large pears you can halve them and remove the core. I left mine whole. Place them in acidulated water whilst you prepare them all to stop them browning (acidulated water is water with a squeeze or lemon or teaspoon of vinegar added).
Half fill your jar with water and measure how much water that is. This will give you a guestimate of how much sugar syrup you will use once the pears are in the jar.
Now calculate how much sugar you will need using 125g for every 600ml of water and place the sugar and water in a pan and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is fully dissolved. Stop stirring and bring the syrup to a gentle boil.
Fill the jar with pears, pressing them down if you can to make sure the jar is filled as much as it can be. Pour the boiling sugar syrup, slowly and carefully, to completely cover the fruit and fill the jar to the top. Give the jar a gentle bang on a surface covered with a cloth to remove any air bubbles.
Close the jars but don’t completely seal. Place in the oven for an hour. Remove from the oven and seal (using a cloth to protect your hands as it will be very hot). Leave undisturbed for 24 hours. Check fora good seal by loosening the clip and attempting to gently lift the lid. It should be firmly sealed. If the lid opens you can try to seal again by following the instructions above one more time or eat the fruit immediately.
The fruit will stay good in a sealed jar for 3 years.Once you have broken the seal eat within a few days and keep in the fridge.
If you too have Tettenhall Dicks loitering in your garden let me know.
I was inspired to make this by Thomasina Miers’ recipe in The Guardian’s Feast magazine this Saturday. Thomasina’s tart is topped with cherries and hazelnuts and I have changed the frangipane recipe a little. I make a dessert every Sunday, it’s the only day of the week that we eat a pudding so I always try to make it a bit special. I wanted to film making puff pastry for my upcoming online courses for Veg Patch Kitchen Cookery School so I combined the two. The tart in the photo is made with puff pastry and whilst it was delicious, the weight of the frangipane topping meant that the puff didn’t have chance to expand into its layers so I recommend making shortcrust for this beauty instead. Save your puff pastry for something that really showcases puff at its best.
You can watch how I make the tart in this video:
You can make a sweet shortcrust if you prefer but I prefer the standard version for most desserts.
Ingredients for the shortcrust pastry: 250g plain or pastry flour 125g cold unsalted butter 5g fine salt 50-70g cold water
Ingredients for the Frangipane: 100g softened butter 100g caster sugar 2 eggs 140g ground almonds 75g plain flour
Additions: Your choice of fruit, nuts and a drizzle of honey. I used plums but you could use anything that you have.
Method for the pastry: You can make the pastry in a food processor with the cutting blade by placing the flour, salt and butter in the machine and pulsing until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add 50g of water and pulse again until it all comes together, if you need more water add it slowly. Wrap in a food bag or clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least twenty minutes but two hours is better as the gluten relaxes fully making it easier to roll out.
If you are making it by hand, place the flour and salt in a bowl and mix well. Add the butter and using just your fingertips lightly rub the butter through the flour, picking up new pieces of flour and butter all the time. It requires a light touch. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, with some larger pieces of butter, add 50g of the water and stir through with a knife until starting to come together. Then using your hands (preferably cold) bring the pastry together into a ball. Wrap well in clingfilm or a food bag and place in the fridge.
Method for the frangipane: Place the softened butter and sugar in a bowl and beat well until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well between each addition making sure they are well combined. Fold in the flour and ground almonds.
Method for the tart: Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and preheat your oven to 180 degrees centrigrade, gas mark 4 or use the floor of the Aga’s roasting oven. Roll out the pastry to a rectangle a little smaller than your baking tray and place on the lined tray. Spread the frangipane over the pastry leaving a 4cm edge all the way around. Spread over your choice of fruit or nuts and drizzle with a little honey. Bring the edges of the pastry over a little way to make a rustic looking tart.
Place in the centre of the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes until golden brown all over and the pastry is fully baked. Serve warm or at room temperature with cream, custard or a scoop of ice cream.
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