Posts Tagged “bread”

A series of recipes for this lockdown would not be complete without including sourdough. It seems like the entire country is making bread at the moment, but it's not due to lack of it on the supermarket shelves, I think it is due to boredom more than anything else. We are spending more time confined indoors than ever before, and baking is an excellent way to occupy one's self. It's pretty satisfying, too, to be able to create something as beautiful and delicious as a loaf of sourdough bread. Sourdough My sourdough journey started after a visit to my aunt, who makes award-winning bread. Using a sample of her starter as a basis, after a few attempts I achieved reasonable successes. The bread was not quite like the glorious loaves you can buy in artisan bakeries, but it was OK. After three years of making mediocre bread, through numerous experiments and variations on the original recipe, I had a bastardised version of my aunt's recipe that I was becoming more and more dissatisfied with. I was determined to improve the quality of my loaf, so I decided to broaden my horizons and do some research. I bought the book [Super Sourdough](, by James Morton; a former Great British Bake Off winner. It was highly acclaimed. This book has literally revolutionised my breadmaking. I began again from scratch, starting with throwing my existing sourdough starter in the bin (one of the points James makes in the book is that he doesn't understand the strange obsession people have with their sourdough starters, being proud to have used the same one for years on end. There is no reason for this, they are very easy to create from scratch, and he has had dozens of them, experimenting with different flours and different fruit juices). That was 6 months ago, and now my bread is almost indistinguishable from the professional artisan variety that you can buy in your local neighbourhood bakery. I couldn't be happier. I've deliberately omitted any recipe from this blog post. I could, arguably, put James Morton's recipe here, with the minor modifications I've made for it (I make the dough a bit wetter, and add linseed), but it wouldn't be feasible for me to write down instructions for creating this bread in the format of a blog post. I would need to copy out most of the book (the recipe I've been using, for the standard rye-wheat sourdough loaf, is 33 pages long). Even with a 33-page immensely detailed recipe, it took me 6 months to get even close to a point of mastery. The reality is, there are so many contributing factors to sourdough bread that it's almost impossible to prescribe a method that is guaranteed to work every time. The book teaches you the fundamental principles and then guides you through the processes of autolysing, folding-and-stretching, proving, pre-shaping, shaping, scoring and, finally baking in a hot oven. It will likely take many attempts before you reach anywhere near perfection; in fact you will probably never get there, but I guarantee it'll be a thoroughly enjoyable journey! I'm not being paid by James Morton for this blog post, but genuinely, if you want to make good quality sourdough bread at home, buy the book.

Banana Bread Neglected bananas are a sorry sight. I had three of them in my fruit bowl this morning and they were at an advanced stage of ripeness; way past speckly-brown, they were _completely_ black, and were beginning to go moldy on the outside. I was about to throw them in the bin, but out of curiosity I peeled one open to have a look, and it seemed fine, if a bit sticky and caramelised. They would be perfect for banana bread. I'm quite particular when it comes to bananas as a snack; for me, they must be only just ripe; the greenness gone but still slightly firm inside. That's a perfect banana. When a banana passes this stage, I'm pretty disinclined to peel it open for a snack. I think subconsciously I know I can make banana bread if I wait for it to go soft sticky, and overripe, and it doesn't have to go to waste! I'll admit; I actually prefer banana bread to a banana on its own. It's not quite as healthy, I know, but that's rarely a priority for me. It _tastes_ better, and that's what really counts. --- * 125g salted butter * 125g caster sugar * 1 tsp vanilla extract * 1 large egg, beaten * 2 large ripe bananas, the riper the better * 190g self raising flour * ½ tsp baking powder * 60ml whole milk * ¼ tsp icing sugar, for dusting 1. Heat the oven to 175C and line a 1kg loaf tin with baking parchment. 2. Place the butter, sugar and vanilla essence in a pot and melt over a medium heat, stirring frequently. Add the bananas and egg and mix. Now add the flour and milk, and mix thoroughly to combine. Pour everything into the lined loaf tin then immediately place in the center of the oven. Cook for around 30-40 minutes. To test if it's cooked, insert a skewer into the centre of the loaf; if it comes out with no raw batter stuck to it then it's ready. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Use a small sieve to dust the top with the icing sugar.

Bacon and Comte Bread I got hooked on making my own bread after visiting my aunt who makes award winning sourdough loaves. She donated me a small sample of her starter dough, which I brought home and cultured until it had grown to a decent enough size for me to begin making my own crunchy, tangy loaves. Although this is not a sourdough recipe, I feel obliged to mention my aunt as it was the impressive texture and flavour of her sourdough bread that convinced me to start making my own every day. All the best bread begins with a starter. This is either a sourdough starter (_levain_), or a _poolish_, which is a 50-50 mixture of flour and water with a small amount of yeast that’s left for about 1 day to ferment before adding more flour, yeast and water to create the actual dough. Using a starter will create a superior texture and give the bread more depth of flavour. A mature sourdough starter will give you more flavour and texture, but fact that the _poolish_ only requires 1 day of planning (compared to 1 week or more with the sourdough) makes it an attractive option. The basis of this recipe is similar to that found in Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery. I have simplified the method to make it a _little_ less labour intensive. It’s a compromise; the outcome of Keller’s recipe _is_ slightly superior, although not by much! This recipe is quicker and easier, and pretty-much-as-good as Keller’s. It’s still quite a bit of effort for a loaf of bread, but trust me, it’s worth it. I have added bacon and comté cheese, along with some rich tasting rapeseed oil; this is a luxurious treat. The vital crunchy crust is achieved firstly by having a _really_ hot oven before you put the bread in; secondly by scoring the bread, either down the center, across in stripes or a random pattern, with a sharp knife just before putting in the oven; and lastly by throwing a mugful of water into the bottom of the oven just before you close the door. For the final shaping and proving of the bread, you’ll need a baker’s linen cloth, or you can simply use a heavy-ish tea-towel instead. Also, a wide, flat baking sheet or stone is needed. --- * 415g warm water * 725g strong white flour * 2 ⅛ tsp dried yeast * 13g salt * 3 tbsp high quality rapeseed oil * 120g comté * 6 rashers unsmoked streaky bacon 1. Make the _poolish_; mix 125g of flour, 125g of water and ⅛ tsp yeast in a bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover lightly with cling film and leave for 24 hours. When it’s ready, it’s surface will be completely covered in tiny bubbles. 2. Mix the rest of the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl then make a well in the center. Add the water, rapeseed oil and starter and thoroughly mix to form a wet, sticky dough. 3. Turn out onto a floured surface and pat into a flat rectangle. Stretch out the right-hand two corners as far as they will go and fold back into the center. Repeat with the opposite two corners, then turn over the dough, pat into a rectangle again and repeat. Repeat this whole procedure 3 times, then place back in the bowl, cover and leave for 1 hour. 4. Stretch and fold the dough again. Cover and leave for another 1 hour. 5. Fry the bacon over a medium heat until cooked, and only lightly coloured. Leave to cool, then cut into approx 3mm squares. Cut the comté into 3mm cubes. 6. Divide the dough into 2 balls and split the bacon and comté into 2 equal portions. Knead the bacon and comté into the dough ensuring that it’s evenly distributed. Cover and leave for 20 minutes. Roll each into a baguette shape about 10 inches in length and 2.5 inches in diameter. Flour your cloth and place the loaves in, creating some folds to allow baguettes to keep their shape. Weigh the edges of the cloth down and cover with cling film. Leave for 1 hour or until doubled in size. 7. Meanwhile heat oven to 210C and get your baking tray nice and hot. Transfer the baguettes one at a time to the hot tray, score with a sharp knife and place in oven. Throw a mugful of boiling water in the bottom to generate the steam required to get your crunchy crust. Bake for 25-30 mins until golden brown, and feel lighter than they look when you pick them up. Cool on a wire rack.

Granny's Spelt Bread My granny lives on a farm on the west coast of Scotland near Oban, right by the sea where it’s windswept and wild. The best bit about going to visit is that you get treated to her home-made bread. She makes beautiful wholegrain rolls with seeds in and treacle to make them extra dark, rich and malty. They’re the tastiest, nourishing things you could imagine. She used to make them with normal wheat flour, but in recent years she found that she has an intolerance to wheat gluten so she uses spelt flour now instead. Spelt is brilliant. It’s an ancestor of wheat that has been used for around 9000 years. It was an important crop in the development of civilisation because it thrived in poor growing conditions and was particularly resistant to disease and pests due the tough outer husk surrounding the grain. More recently it's become redundant as preference has moved to higher-yielding varieties of wheat that are better suited to the commercial bread industry. You can still can buy spelt from some health food shops and delicatessens, which is good news because it's absolutely delicious. As well as making bread with the flour you can make excellent risotto from whole spelt grains, as they do in a number of restaurants now. My granny doesn’t knead the dough at all, which gives a pleasing rustic consistency to the bread. She also uses fairly hot water to activate the yeast; the water shouldn’t be too hot, as this would kill the yeast, but just hand-hot (about 45C). This relatively high temperature causes the bread to rise quickly, resulting in lots of little air pockets. Her technique for baking the bread is to simply bake all of the dough into one large flat loaf, then cut it up into roll-sized portions once it has cooled. If you prefer, you could shape into individual rolls and bake them separately. --- * 1kg of wholegrain spelt flour * 1 teaspoon of salt * 1 tablespoon of dried yeast * 1 handful of sunflower seeds * 1 handful of pumpkin seeds * 1 handful of pine nuts * 1 litre of water, hand-hot * 2 tablespoons of black treacle * 2 tablespoons of olive oil 1. Heat the oven to 200C. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, yeast, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and pine nuts. In a jug, mix the water with olive oil and treacle. Mix the contents of the jug into the bowl with the flour, cover and leave in a warm place to rise for 20 minutes. Line a large roasting tin with greaseproof paper and scrape the dough into it. Leave in a warm place to rise again for 10 minutes, then place in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until nice and brown on the top and sounding hollow when tapped underneath. Enjoy hot with butter.