Tag Archives: bread

Enriched bread dough with nuts and dried fruit (bread machine)

After I made enriched dough chocolate chip rolls, I thought I’d try making something similar, but stuffed with nuts and dried fruit instead. My mum especially, likes bread like this. She gets something from M&S that is stuffed with nuts and fruit.

I doubled the recipe used before and added 160g of mixed dried fruits and nuts of your choice. The bread was lovely, really soft, tasty and would be lovely with cheese or just eaten with a thick spread of butter. I made two loaves this morning and one is almost already all gone (the other, on its way to my Mamma).

This is what I did:

One teaspoon of dried yeast (I use Dove’s Farm)

500g strong white bread flour (you could make this a teeny bit more healthy by using 400g strong white/100g of strong wholemeal)

Two teaspoons of caster sugar

50g butter, chopped and added in

Two tablespoons of milk

One teaspoon of salt

Two eggs

175ml water

(for later: 160g of dried fruit and nut mix, I used 40g each of walnuts, hazelnuts, cranberries and chopped dates)

Put everything, bar the fruit and nuts, into the bread machine and set to a dough cycle (mine lasts 2hrs 20mins). When done, take out and put in a bowl and mix in the fruit and nuts. Leave for ten minutes.

On an oiled surface, tip out and knead lightly to make sure everything is incorporated. Leave for ten minutes. Then cut in half and shape into a baton shape (or a round, which ever you prefer). Place both on a baking parchment lined tray and prove overnight in the fridge (cover with a clean dishcloth).

In the morning bake for 15mins at 220C, then turn down oven to 180C and turn the loaves on their side and give an extra five mins.

Delicious!

(Apologies if I’ve made any mistakes, I’m typing this whilst also answering 101 questions about Our Generation dolls, posed by my youngest…)

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Pump Street Bakery, Orford

Orford ness is one of our favourite places. We go there at least once a year, for a very long walk, a picnic, and chats. Even my youngest can manage to walk around the red and blue walk (not green though, it’s never been open when we’ve been there, we always time it wrong).

(For those on Fitbit, you can rack up about 15,000 steps, or six miles  walking those routes.)

What we like to do is get up really early and head out without breakfast, fantasising about what we’ll eat from the Pump Street Bakery, when we get there. The fact that such an amazing bakery exists in what is a tiny village in the middle of nowhere astounds and delights me. And makes me very jealous. I wish we had one where I live in Suffolk.

This is a tiny bakery, that is crammed into an old house. There are very few seats. But it is glorious. Please don’t miss it if you venture anywhere near Orford (which is a very pretty village). We’ve sampled the Bear’s Claws, the doughnuts, the brownies, the Eccles cakes and the almond croissants so far. You have to try the Eccles cake to believe that currants can be held in a puff pastry and be a thing of eye-watering beauty.

We have breakfast – cappuccinos (very good) with pastries dipped in them, perched on the benches outside.  I want to try a gibassier next time I’m there. I’m afraid the pastries are so good, I completely forget to photograph them, so the picture above is a photo of my feet on Orford ness beach. Probably my favourite beach in the world.

Not to be missed.

Chollah bread

Where I grew up, in Bayswater London W2, there used to be a bakery called Grodzinski and we would buy our bread there. I’d be fascinated – what child wouldn’t be – by the slicer, that they fed your whole loaves into if you asked for it to be sliced.

Sometimes, we would buy chollah bread. I loved its eggy sweetness and my favourite filling for it would be mortadella. Some years later, when I was telling my partner, he pointed out that perhaps using pork in a traditional Jewish bread wasn’t the BEST thing I could have done. (Sorry.)

Anyway. A few years ago, I attempted to recreate this wonder bread at home and I was amazed at how well it worked. This is an amalgamation of recipes that I found and it works for me, I’m not sure how authentic it is (be interested to know). It makes one good loaf. I don’t attempt to knot it or shape it into anything fancy. A Jewish friend of mine who regularly bakes says that, in her opinion, the dough is either dry enough to shape, but that results in a dry bread, or too wet to shape, but this results in a tastier bread. This was also my experience. So I always go for a higher hydration loaf in a simple boule shape. Be warned: it’s the sort of bread you can’t stop eating. Any that you miraculously have left over and goes stale (you won’t have any) you can make into French toast.

420g white flour – plain gives a better texture but you can also use strong white

7g of dried yeast

60g caster sugar

240ml of water, warm

a teaspoon of salt

1 egg

60ml of olive oil or oil of choice (you could also use melted butter)

You need an extra egg to glaze with, or milk. And poppy/sesame seeds if you like to sprinkle atop.

Mix a heaped teaspoon of the measured out sugar, with the yeast, into the warm water. Mix it up well and leave it to froth up. This takes about 15 or so minutes in my kitchen.

Mix the remaining sugar with the flour and salt into a large bowl and mix with a fork. When the yeast/water/sugar mixture has become nice and bubbled up, add this to the flour mixture and mix together using a fork until you get a sticky dough. Now add the egg and oil and mix it all together. Leave it for ten minutes.

Now tip it out onto an oiled surface and knead it very gently. Cover with a bowl and leave it for ten minutes. Repeat this twice more. The dough should be fairly smooth by now. When you have kneaded it gently for the third and final time, put it into an oiled bowl and cover with a cloth in for two or so hours.

Heat the oven to 200C, take your dough out knead gently and shape into the form you want it to be (as I said, a boule is really the only thing I can do with it) and place it on the baking tray you’ll want to bake it on. Leave for a final 20-30 minutes to rest.

Before it goes into the oven, brush it gently with beaten egg/milk and sprinkle with seeds if you so wish. Bake it for 20-30 minutes and leave to rest until completely cold before cutting it. (Yeah right.)

Industrial sourdough. A guest post by Ben McPherson.

Here’s the thing: I’m lazy, and wanted an easy way to achieve perfect results.

Annalisa sent me sourdough starter two months ago. She also sent me instructions about what to do with it. I fed it and watered it and it grew.

Starter - day one

On the day I made my first bread I followed Annalisa’s instructions to the letter: knead after ten minutes, ten minutes, ten minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 60 minutes and finally 120 minutes.

Floured board - don't do this

The flour on the board was a rookie mistake: I should have used oil. Annalisa put me right on that, sternly but kindly.

Not beautiful, but delicious

Still, the bread worked. Yes, I undercooked it, and yes, the shape was all wrong, but although it wasn’t beautiful it tasted delicious.

Seven kneads, though? Seven? Far too much work, I decided.

Easy loaf in tin

I tried a friend’s easy sourdough recipe, which calls for no kneading. You take your starter, mix in 700ml water and 500g flour, along with a little salt, and let it stand in a bowl in the fridge over night.

Then you add another 500g flour, mix it all up, and spoon the runny dough into two bread tins. You return the tins to the fridge for a few hours. No kneading. Simple.

Easy loaf in oven

The result wasn’t bad. The bread rose well in the tin and the taste was actually pretty good, but the bubbles were small, and the sides of the tin had prevented the crust from darkening properly.

Poor crust on sides

Worse, though: it just wasn’t sour enough, which was the point as far as I was concerned. I’d have been happy if I’d bought it from a shop, but not if I’d bought it as sourdough bread.

I wanted an artisan bread, but with less work kneading than Annalisa insisted on. I had a kitchen machine. So, could I industrialise the process?

The short answer is: sort of. It took a lot of trial-and-error, but it did work.

K-beater

You put the starter into the bowl in the mixer. You put on the whisk attachment and start the machine running slowly. Then you add the water, and then spoon in the flour very slowly until the whole thing forms a smooth dough. If you’re me, you forget the salt. You switch off the machine and wait ten minutes.

Now you change the attachment to the K-beater. You do your three first kneads on maximum power for ten seconds each time. By now you have something that looks like a proper bread dough. After each knead, you scrape excess dough off the K-beater with a knife.

Then, and only then, do you change to the dough hook. After thirty minutes you run the machine on maximum power for ten seconds, and you do the same for the next three kneads, after an hour, and hour, and two hours. Each time you have to scrape the dough off the hook.

Then you put the dough into your banneton, and from that point on the process is identical to the hand-knead process. It makes a good sourdough, which improves the longer you extend the final prove.

Good industrial bread

There’s only one problem. My industrial method is far harder work than the hand-kneading. It’s messy; it covers everything in a hard sheet of sourdough which is very difficult to clean, and you have to use three attachments. It’s a complete waste of time.

In fact, once you’ve got used to making sourdough by hand it’s easy. You get a sense of how the dough should feel in your hand, and when you need to add a little more water, or a little more flour. You knead for ten seconds a time. That’s it. Suddenly it slots into your life, becomes a pleasure not a chore.

Slices

But laziness has taught me some useful lessons. The best is this: if you mistreat your starter, which I often do, by not feeding it every day, it produces a more acidic taste, which I really like.

And salt – I know they say you need it to get a decent prove, and a decent crust, but you really don’t. After completely forgetting to add salt a couple of times, I can’t detect any difference in texture between unsalted and “properly” salted sourdough. I now add a  fraction of what you’re supposed to use, and the bread is excellent.

I cheat on ice – I just throw a small glass of water into the oven to produce the necessary steam – and I don’t own a proper banetton so I improvise with a cloth, a wire fruit bowl and lots of flour.

But I slash. Always.

Slash

Ben McPherson is a TV producer and writer.

Bread bags

You know that recent BBC class calculator that showed there were now, apparently, seven new classes? Well one of the questions was about who your friends are, as in, what they do. There weren’t enough boxes for me to tick because I’m proud that my social circle includes all sorts of people. I’m perfectly comfortable talking to members of parliament, the aristocracy, cleaners, sales people, chief executives. It’s not that I don’t care what people do, I care a lot, as people spend so much time at work and it matters. But I’m fortunate in that I was brought up being able to speak to everyone, as long as they are happy to talk to me and are polite.  I choose my friends according to what sort of person they are, not what they do.

My parents were also immigrants, you see. They did hard physical work at times because they didn’t have a huge amount of choice. That didn’t make them stupid or not worthy of conversation. Far from it, they are two of the most successful people I know. They also spoke two languages, albeit one with an accent. This already made them more accomplished than most of the English people I met. I worked in my mum and dad’s cafe from the age of seven until I was 18. I saw how people treat waiting staff. Not always good. After I became a journalist, my father opened an ice cream shop and when I used to help out, people were generally lovely. But a few would treat me appallingly. If we got talking, how we got talking I’m not sure, but if we did, and they found out what I did, their attitude to me would change. I found that short sighted.

Anyway, the point is that I get invited round to lots of different sorts of houses. And whilst I can hold a conversation with anyone, the area I used to stall over, is gifts.

It shouldn’t be a problem, but I would get into a tizz over what to bring really rich people who are friends but I don’t know really well. I just felt that, as they could buy themselves anything they wanted, what constitutes a gift, a treat? With friends that I’ve grown up with I’m more familiar with their tastes. Thoughtfulness goes a long way towards the currency of a gift.

I remember being invited to the house of a friend of mine once. He was hugely wealthy, had stables, horses, a chauffeur. When we became friends he gave me five phone numbers. His number in the country, his number in London, his number in the car, his driver’s number and his number in the stables. This was a bit before mobiles were really wide-spread so not as ridiculous as it sounds. Well, not quite. You get the picture. I knew he liked cigars, so I saved up all month to buy him two cigars. Two cigars. Before I took them out he said to me he asked me if I’d like to see his wine cellar. (Really, to choose the wine, this wasn’t foreplay.) As we descended the spiral staircase, I saw row upon row of wines. Really expensive wines like Pichon Lalande, 1982. And then, to my slight dismay, I saw boxes piled high, stuffed full of cigars. I shouldn’t have, as my offering was genuinely meant, but I felt embarrassed and I never gave him my paltry two cigars. This was stupid as he’d have been gracious, but part of me also thought ‘he has loads, I’ll keep these for myself’.

I learned right then that if in doubt, don’t spend money. You can never compete. Or, I can’t. Make something. I’d always known this as it’s in the very structure of my DNA, being Italian where no-one goes into a house without a small jar of something home made or grown. Be it some biscuits, a jar of passata, perhaps a dishcloth full of hazelnuts or some limongello. But I’d somehow forgotten. The first time I made something home made was for my friend K. This was the sort of girl who would take me to her house for the weekend, and blow £80 in a deli on ‘breakfast’.  I couldn’t compete with her wealth. So I made her a cake. As I handed it over she said (slightly teary eyed as I remember) “in all the years people have been coming to my house, no-one has ever made me anything”.

This is a rather roundabout way of telling you about bread bags. If, like me, you make bread for people then what do you give it to them in? Not a plastic bag, as you’d lose your lovely crust. A fancy dishcloth perhaps, but who has those? Plus if they’re really nice dishcloths I don’t want to hand them over. Look, my generosity only goes so far. These bags are great. They have tiny air holes in them so they let the bread breathe (and therefore they also let out any crumbs and flour that’s lurking around the crust). They’re inexpensive and they’re better and cheaper than the Lakeland ones  which were too big in the wrong way (long but not correspondingly wide). I got the 30cm x 40cm ones but they also come in different sizes and I paid about £2.88 for 25. (Lakeland ones are £3.29 for 12.) My Lakeland bags also kept breaking when I put the bread in. So far I’ve not had that problem with these.

Here is a close up where you can see the tiny holes. I do apologise for the pictures. They aren’t great. For some reason it was hard to capture what I wanted to. But it’s really the bread wot’s the star here, the bag is simply a method of transportation.

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Baking with fresh yeast. Milk loaf

When I was a child, my mother would cook regularly with fresh yeast. We would have pizza every Friday night, which she would  make in a large rectangular tin; leaving one small section free of tomato sauce for me, as I didn’t like it.

Then the local supermarket stopped stocking it and we bought it from this ‘exotic’ – at the time – little shop that was a Chinese health food shop and I’d have to go far into the back to find the small squares of fresh yeast.

These days it seems impossible to find commercially. Which surprises me given the resurgent interest in baking. Those who do buy fresh yeast either beg it from the bakeries of huge supermarkets or order it in in bulk.

I believe it was the latter that my friend Wendy did, as she took delivery of 2K of yeast. Wendy cooks and bakes ALOT and hangs out with professional bakers and really knows her shit where food is concerned (and antiques). Generous to a fault, she offered a large chunk of this purchase to me and thus it was that on Saturday, the postman delivered half a kilo of fresh yeast to my Suffolk mail box.

(n/b: Wendy tells me you can also get fresh yeast from local bakeries, but I have none near me.)

It had been decades since I touched fresh yeast. I’d forgotten how squidgy it is. But I immediately set about baking with it. When I first bought Dan Lepard’s The Homemade Loaf, the book that set me off on my sourdough journey, I was disappointed to see how many recipes called for fresh yeast. Dan helped me convert fresh yeast = dried yeast but the moment I have to substitute an ingredient for another I feel like I’ve failed (it’s okay, I’ve had years of therapy).

I have never cooked with fresh yeast so I started off with something simple, which is Dan’s Milk Loaf in the Handmade Loaf. It uses plain and strong bread flour, butter, milk, maple syrup and fresh yeast. It was so easy to make. Minimal kneading, then a final prove of an hour and a half. As it was very cold in my kitchen yesterday, I let it go a little longer. I’m so used to being upstairs working when my timer goes off for sourdough. And being able to play loose with timings, and just ignoring the timer, that when I came down to see the loaf, I was a bit shocked to see how much, and how fast, it had risen and for a moment worried that I had let it overprove. But no.

It came out gloriously. It looks like a pair of breasts (a friend thought this was why it was called milk loaf..) this is because you put it in in two ball shapes, although you could do it in whatever shape you want; and the crumb is superb. Wendy tells me this is not a traditional shape for a milk loaf, that it should be cooked in a cylindrical tin with ridges but I do not have one.

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We all had the most delicious ham sandwiches made out of it. It’s an old fashioned taste and not like anything you could buy. I adore my sourdough, but it was so nice to be able to have a loaf on the table in time for lunch, having just thought about baking it in the morning.

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Because I understand how incredibly frustrating it is being given a recipe which ingredients you don’t have, here are Dan’s milk loaf recipes containing more readily available dried yeast. I might try his chocolate chip milk buns next…

I froze the rest of the fresh yeast, in 15g batches in little sealed bags. Weighing it out, tipping them into those little bags. My eldest helped so we had quite a production line going.

Update. I made them into rolls and divided up half and put chocolate chips in them. The rolls make great sandwiches for picnics, the chocolate rolls make a nice, not too sweet alternative to a pain au chocolat, dipped into caffe latte.

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Day after notes: This bread stales up pretty quickly. It makes great toast/toasted sandwiches though, so no fear. Also we just had it several days old made into French toast and I can report that it was excellent.

Every day sourdough baking

A gratuitous picture of a loaf of sourdough, baked this morning

I get asked, a lot, if sourdough bread is hard to make. I am tempted to say “really hard” to make myself look clever but the truth is, it isn’t.

Sourdough seems uniquely complicated amongst bread baking. I don’t know if it’s purposely shrouded in mystery. I know that it took me about two years to finally get down to it, to be brave enough to try, as it seemed magical and mystical. It is, but it isn’t difficult. The hardest thing about sourdough baking is being mentally ready.

Because once you have a good starter going, sourdough baking is almost bomb proof.

I bake sourdough about three times a week. Mostly I bake this bread, which is half wholemeal and half white.

Although I only bake half of the amount in that recipe, so 500g of flour, 200g levain (starter), 333g of water and I’ve got the salt down to just one teaspoon.

I divide the dough up to prove over two baton shaped bannetons so I have bread for two bakes. The bread in the picture above was proved in one of those bannetons.

It’s easy. The hard bit with sourdough, in terms of faff, has always been the starting off of it. Once I’ve weighed it out and refreshed the starter I know I need to be relatively close for the first three kneads (ten mins apart) and not too far for the one that requires a 30 minute rest. But after that I can do the school run or go out or do whatever. If I know I’m not going to be back in time – be really ages – then I put it in the fridge, and when I get back, simply bring it back to room temperature and take up where I left off.

You could never do that with bread with commercial yeast, because the yeast would get exhausted.

I’ve had a sourdough loaf going over three days.

Various people have said to me that they want to try sourdough baking. Instead of abstemious resolutions that make you feel miserable (isn’t January miserable enough?) try a resolution that will make you feel really good. With a good loaf you always have a meal. And when everyone else is out panic buying because it might snow, you can be smug knowing that with your starter, some flour, water and salt you can turn those tins of stock-piled baked beans into something really glorious.