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For the letter 'B' I decided to do a version of a traditional Bulgarian Christmas loaf. I had originally intended to make it over Christmas but I didn't find time to do any baking, and since we had lots of cakes and chocolates to eat, we didn't really need more bread.
(For the bread)
- 2 cups of bread flour
- 2 tsp yeast
- 2 eggs
- 50g softened butter
- ½ cup water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tablespoon honey
(For the glaze)
- 1 tsp of honey
- a few drops of water
Mix the water and honey a few drops at a time until the honey is a pourable consistency.
I put all the bread ingredients in our food mixer, with the dough hook, and let it mix for a few minutes. Since this a brioche type bread, the mix was very wet and a bit sticky, which made it difficult to handle and shape.
I broke the dough into equal weight pieces, rolled them into balls and put them in a round tin to prove.
After they had risen, I carefully brushed them with the honey mixture. It was baked in a pre-heated oven (gas mark 5) for half an hour. I started it off covered in foil, but took the foil off after the first 15 minutes.
Verdict: a soft slightly sweet brioche with a honey flavoured crust. Definitely one to try again.
We have been fans of the Great British Bake Off since it first started and occasionally I cook something inspired by the programme. This week they did a Fougasse, which I hadn't heard of but looked good. The version on the programme was flavoured with herbs but I thought I would start with a plain version then try flavoured ones another time.
I followed the bread part of the recipe precisely, scaling it down a bit since I didn't need two loaves.
- 300g (2¼ cups) of bread flour
- 6g salt
- one sachet of yeast
- 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 200 ml warm water
The method involved adding ¾ of the water at the start, then slowly adding the rest, using a food mixer with a dough hook. I followed it to the letter, including the 8 minute mixing time.
I actually split the dough in 2, adding extra flour to one half to use for a pizza base. The other half I left as-is and shaped into an approximate leaf shape and cut down the middle and diagonally from the centre.
After about an hour or so proving, I transferred the bread, still on the baking paper, onto the pizza stone and baked it (at gas mark 7) for 15 minutes.
It looks a bit irregular (or informal as Mary Berry might say) but that was mainly because it slid off the tray while I was getting ready to transfer it to the pizza stone. We ate it with some dips. I made the cheese and courgette dip again, but this time using cream cheese and pecorino instead of goats cheese. The fougasse was good. The outside was crispy while the inside was soft and fluffy. The dip was cheesy and went well with it.
Next time, I will add some extra flavours to the bread. Possibly garlic and chilli or parmesan/pecorino. We have some fresh herbs in the garden (and more chopped in the freezer) so I could also do Paul Hollywood's herb version too.
Yesterday, after making the pizza base (we had regular pizza alongside the chicken base), there was some left over so I kneaded in some chilli flakes and flattened it out to make a flatbread.
It rose rather a lot in the oven so I wasn't too surprised when I cut it open and saw...
Yesterday I made both the bread frittata and a bread pudding. The former was eaten for lunch, the latter was put straight in the fridge last night and we had half of it as part of our pudding after tea tonight.
- Bread, 200g
- milk, 150ml
- dried fruit (cranberries, blueberries, sultanas), 100g
- sugar, 50g, extra for topping
- eggs, 1
- butter, 50g, extra for topping
- spices (cinnamon, ginger, mixed spice), 2 tsp in total
- orange zest
The method was very similar to the frittata. The milk and egg were whisked together. The butter was melted and allowed to cool down before being stirred in, then the dried fruit, sugar, spices and bread were mixed in. Everything was poured into an 8 inch tin. The top was dotted with pieces of butter and extra sugar was sprinkled on. Again, the tin was covered with foil and baked, also at gas mark 4, for 45 minutes this time. The foil was removed about 10 minutes before the end.
We have a bag in the freezer which is filled with scraps of bread leftover from various loaves. I decided it was time to find something to do with them. I wondered if it was possible to do a frittata/tortilla using bread instead of potatoes or other vegetables. I found a few recipes, all using different vegetables and quantities of bread and other ingredients. I used the leftovers from tonight's tea, along with some cocktail sausages from the weekend.
- 100 g bread, cut into small pieces
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbs milk
- 100g assorted cooked vegetables (I used onion, pepper, rice and sweetcorn)
- 3 cocktail sausages, chopped small
- salt, pepper and smoked paprika seasoning.
I beat the eggs and milk together, stirred in all the other ingredients and poured the mixture into a greased and lined 8 inch tin. This was covered in foil and baked at gas mark 4 (180°C) for about half an hour.
The frittata was put in the fridge overnight ready for me to take for lunch tomorrow.
I had the frittata for lunch in work. It had gone firm enough to pick up and eat, making it ideal for picnics or packed lunches.
I recently bought another jar of malt extract, to replace the one I bought back in 2013 which had gone mouldy. I have started adding a tablespoon of it to bread or pizza base.
Last week we had some milk in the fridge which was about to go out of date so I thought I'd have a go at making a malted drink, a bit like horlicks or ovaltine. I put a spoon each of cocoa powder and malt extract in a jug, added the milk and gave it a whisk before warming it in the microwave. It probably needed more cocoa but it was good.
Tonight I had a go at making a spiced hot chocolate. I put sugar, ginger, cinnamon and a cardomom pod in a jug of milk and heated it before whisking it into some cocoa powder. I guessed at the amounts of spice and got the balance about right. I didn't write down the quantities but it was about a quarter of a teaspoon of each.
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The barley bread was one of the recipes I wanted to try during the main run of the A-Z of baking but I had difficulty tracking down the barley flour. I eventually managed to find some in a vegan/health food shop in Digbeth in Birmingham but by then I had already made the Nottingham Apple Pudding.
The only versions of this recipe on-line seem to be more like a savoury scone than a bread, made with buttermilk and baking powder. I thought I would try to make a more traditional bread, using yeast. Since baking powder was only invented in the mid 19th century, if the barley is a genuine traditional food, then early versions would have used yeast.
I used a mixture of barley flour and bread flour, added yeast and salt and then enough milk to make a soft dough. It rose quite slowly so I left it overnight. I only made a bread roll sized loaf as an experiment but it came out ok. I will have another go sometime in the future and try a few other variations on the recipe.
I haven't had time to do much baking recently. A few months ago I started a new job in Birmingham and by the time I get home, have tea and wash up, it's either too late or I'm too tired to make anything fancy.
I have been making a 'no-knead' ciabatta style bread a lot since it's easy to make, only taking a few minutes to set up, then I can leave it to prove overnight.
The recipe is:
- approx ¾ cup of sourdough starter
- 3½ cups of flour
- 1½ cups of liquid (milk, water or a mixture or juice and water)
- a heaped teaspoon of salt
I use 3 plain flour, ½ of a heavy rye flour, any more rye and the texture comes out more like a regular bread (crumb-like) and less ciabatta-like (stretchy, full of holes).
Everything goes in the food mixer and the dough hook is used to mix it all together for 10 minutes or so. The dough will be very wet and if any rye flour was used, it might also be quite sticky. If I mix the dough in the morning, I then transfer it to a oiled bowl to prove for a few hours.
If the dough is very soft, it might need to be baked in a lined tin, otherwise it can go on a baking tray. In either case, I dust the tin with cornmeal. After transferring the dough to the tin I leave it to prove a bit more (sometimes overnight in the fridge).
Start baking at gas mark 7, then after 10 minutes turn the oven down to about gas mark 4-5 then bake for a further 30-45 minutes, depending on the shape of the loaf.
This recipe is a bit of an odd one out since the Kentish Huffkin is a bread roll and not a cake but since it is traditionally served with fruit and sometimes cream, I treated it as a dessert item and decided it could count as one of my regional cakes.
While I was looking for recipes for this I came across a book called A Slice of Britain which covers more or less the same ground as I'm doing here. (A friend has since bought it and reported back that it's disappointing but that's not important here since I used the recipe as inspiration instead of following it slavishly). I found another recipe in The Telegraph which used milk and water instead of just water.
- 2 cups of Bread Flour
- 1 tsp yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- approx 3/4 cup of milk+water mixture
- 20g of butter
First thing in the morning I mixed everything except the butter and left it to rise. At lunchtime I kneaded the dough, and added a bit more flour since the dough was a bit sticky. I dotted the dough with the butter and folded it in followed by more kneading to mix it thoroughly.
The amounts I used were enough to make 4 buns. I left them to rise before poking my thumb in to make the dent. I baked them for 20 minutes at gas mark 7, turning them over half way though. They then needed to be left to cool under a cloth, to keep the crust nice and soft.
We tried the huffkins with some jam and butter. They were ok but to be honest they were just bread rolls. Quite nice bread rolls, and the recipe was easy to do if I needed to make rolls again, but they weren't anything special.
This is a recipe we've been thinking about doing for a while, ever since we first read about it. It's a similar idea to the picnic loaves which are a cross between a sandwich and a stuffed loaf.
The first step is to make the pasta sauce. We often do a 'meat sauce' in the pressure cooker, simply putting chopped vegetables (such as onion, pepper, courgette, leek, garlic) in the pan along with a tin or two of tomatoes, some herbs and seasoning and a packet of mince. The lid goes on the pressure cooker and the sauce is cooked for an hour or so.
The next step is to make the dough. For this I used my normal 'mostly white' loaf, using milk instead of water, and making the dough slightly softer than normal.
Roll out the dough and sprinkle some cornmeal in the centre (this helps stop the bottom going soggy during cooking).
Mix the cooked spaghetti with the sauce and spread over the dough.
Dot the pasta with diced mozzarella.
Cut slits in the dough, going outwards from the pile of pasta. Fold the slits over to approximate a 'plait'. There was spare dough at the edges which we used to make doughballs. Brush the loaf with melted butter and cover with grated cheese (such as parmesan or pecorino).
Bake at gas mark 4 (180C) for half an hour. I assembled the loaf on some baking parchment and transferred it to a pizza stone to cook. The loaf came out well, with no sign of a soggy bottom.
I was surprised by how straightforward this was to make. The 'meat sauce' is something we regularly make and often have in the fridge or freezer. The bread dough is quick to make and just needs to be left to prove for a few hours.
This has spurred me on to try other stuffed loaves. A couple of years ago I made a macaroni cheese pie (inspired by a pie we bought while out at a country show) so I think a macaroni loaf would work well. The cheese sauce would have to be quite thick but I can't see why it wouldn't be as good as the spaghetti loaf.
We bought a Kenwood Chef food processor at the weekend, to replace our old hand-held mixer which has developed a slightly dodgy switch.
We tried it out last night, making our fluffy pancakes using the beater attachment. This afternoon I made a bread dough to try out the bread hook. The recipe which came with it used 3lb of flour which is rather a lot so I tried half that, using my usual 1/3 wholemeal, 2/3 white bread flour mixture.
The dough hook seems to need a large amount of dough to work properly, the amount I made was probably the bare minimum, so if I used it to make a pizza base I would either need to make a loaf at the same time or make several weeks of dough and freeze batches of it.
The bread was more or less the same as my usual hand-made bread but took much less effort. I only had to do a small amount of kneading at the end to shape the loaf before its final proving.
We used to occasionally go to a Hamster Show just on the edge of Bath. I would take the bus down into the city centre to explore and do a bit of shopping. One time I went around the Cathedral, another time I walked along the river. There are a few things I would always do though: I would go to the fudge shop and buy a few bars, then to the market where I bought a couple of cakes from one stall and some loose tea from another.
I don't remember ever buying a Bath Bun so I can't compare mine to the ones sold in the city but I don't think that will be too much of a problem since the recipe has changed over the years and there are several different versions of the recipe around today.
There is a bit of controversy over the origin of the Bath Buns, with some people claiming they were invented by a physician while the Sally Lunn tea shop people claim their eponymous buns are the originals and were brought over from France by Sally herself. This has been called into dispute though, with claims that Sally Lunn is a corruption of the French 'Soleil et Lune', or Sun and Moon.
While looking for recipe suggestions, I encountered a few vintage recipes such as the one in The Art of Cookery made Easy and Refined by John Mollard and published in 1802. This used equal amounts of flour and butter and would probably result in quite a rich bun.
A version of the recipe published in Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery in 1894 is similar to a modern version published in the Daily Telegraph but with the addition of 4 eggs, which would result in quite a rich cake too.
I decided to concoct a version roughly halfway between Cassell and the Telegraph but also to make only half the quantities since enriched breads don't always keep very well and can dry out quickly. Various recipes mention caraway comfits so I attempted to do something similar and make some sugar coated seeds.
- 250g Flour
- 100ml Milk
- 2 Medium Eggs
- 75g Butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbs sugar
- 1 tsp yeast
Put the flour, salt and butter in a food processor, add the sugar and a few caraway seeds then process in pulse mode to form breadcrumbs.
Pour into a mixing bowl and add the yeast. Beat the eggs and milk together and add to the bowl. Mix to form a dough, knead for 5-10 minutes (depending on how long you can tolerate handling a rich sticky dough) and leave to rise until doubled in size. Knock back and shape the dough into 6 equal sized balls. Place these on a floured baking tray.
Brush the buns with milk and sprinkle with sugar nibs or the sugared caraway seeds. Leave the buns to rise again then bake at gas mark 5 for 15-20 minutes.
Sugared Caraway Seeds
Put 5 heaped tablespoons of sugar in a pan, adding just enough water to get it to dissolve (about 2 tbs or so) and heat it gently. Add 1 heaped tablespoon of caraway seeds and continue heating while stirring occasionally. After several minutes, the thick syrup will rapidly change from liquid to crystals. Take the pan off the heat and pour the sugared seeds onto a sheet of baking paper to cool.
When I did this, it came out more like a mixture of large crystals and some seeds with sugar attached.
I bought some semolina flour a few weeks ago when I saw a bag on offer in the supermarket. I originally bought it because I had read a few recipes which used it in combination with plain flour but the bag remained unopened until recently when I started using it instead of cornmeal to coat loaves or when rolling out pizzas.
Once I had opened it I intended to try a semolina pudding. I can't remember when I last ate this but back in primary school it was occasionally offered as a hot pudding with tinned prunes.
I started looking up recipes then found that a friend of ours had beaten me to it and had already blogged about it.
Since my 'new thing' is microwave porridge (more of that later) I tried making semolina in the microwave. I took 2 cups of milk, whisked in ⅓ cup of semolina, a couple of tablespoons of sugar and a splash of vanilla essence. I cooked it at full power for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. I stirred in a tablespoon of jam to give a marbled effect. Since this makes quite a lot, there's no way I could eat that quantity all at once so I ate some while it was still hot then put the rest in a tub to set.
Getting back to the microwave porridge, since I don't like having to stand in front of the microwave making sure something doesn't boil over, I have started cooking the porridge on medium for 6 minutes. At this setting I can go away and do something else and it will cook on its own, without needing stirring.
Rustic Spanish Bread revisited
I have been baking a lot of bread recently and have been getting through a bag of bread flour in a week, when previously a bag would last for a month or more. My latest loaf was a sourdough version of the Rustic Spanish Bread I made last week. The starter was made using sourdough but the main dough used regular yeast, following their recipe.
I first grew salsify a couple of years ago. The roots were quite small and by the time I had peeled them there wasn't much left to cook. The ones I planted last year did better but I only got around to harvesting them a couple of days ago.
After peeling the roots, I tossed them in olive oil and lemon juice then sprinkled them with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. They were roasted at gas mark 6 for about 20 minutes. The thick ends came out ok but the tapered ends were a bit over-cooked and had blackened.
The flavour was quite mild and there was only enough for a snack but I'll probably have another go at growing them this year.
Even though I have challenged myself to baking different 'Regional Cakes', I am still going to be trying various other new recipes including different breads. In the last week I have made two breads based on recipes in the Hairy Biker's Big Book of Baking.
The first was the 'Rustic Spanish Loaf'. I think this may be the first time I have made a loaf using an overnight starter with baking yeast, instead of sourdough wild yeasts. The resulting bread had a soft texture and a crumpet-like flavour.
The second was the 'Breakfast Bread' from the Austrian section of the book. This was an enriched dough with eggs, milk and oil, but was easier to handle than the brioche dough I made last year.
The bread was good and surprisingly quick to make. I left it to prove while we went to the shops and it had risen well by the time we got back.
The flavour wasn't as rich as brioche but it did have fewer eggs and didn't contain butter. It might be worth trying again but with a mixture of butter and oil to see what difference that makes.
My Christmas recipes continue with Panettone. I am a couple of days late with this because we didn't finish the stollen until today and I didn't want too many half eaten cakes in the house.
The recipe I followed was based on several different ones and was also modified based on the ingredients I had open in the kitchen.
200ml of warmed milk, 1 tsp of vanilla essence and 2 medium eggs were beaten together then mixed with the dry ingredients to make a fairly sticky dough. This was left for several hours to rise until it had roughly doubled in size.
It was then time to mix in the butter (215g, a mixture of salted, unsalted and baking margarine) and dried fruits (240g, a mixture of sultanas, dried cherries and mixed fruit and peel).
I lined two round cake tins, with a round disk in the bottom and baking paper up the sides of the tins, standing at least 2 inches taller than the tin itself. This was an improvised panettone paper liner to support the cake as it rose.
I spooned the dough into the cake tins until it was level with the tops of the tins. I did not preheat the oven and put the cakes into the cold oven, on the middle shelf, and left them to rise, undisturbed, for several hours.
When they had started to rise again I turned the oven on to gas mark 7 and left them to bake for 35-45 minutes (the smaller one was ready first). Halfway through cooking, I brushed the tops of the cakes with melted butter and sprinkled some brown sugar on top. I then turned the oven down to gas mark 5 until the cakes were cooked and a skewer came out clean.
This recipe was another success. It was trickier to make than the stollen, since lining the cake tins was a bit fiddly and the dough was sticky and difficult to work with, but the flavour and texture of the finished cake was good.