Bread and Better

Bread and Better

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Peanut Butter Caramel Slices

These tasty treats should come with a warning. I did plan to take my new creation into work... until I ate about half the recipe on the night that I made them. The salted peanuts on top add much needed savoury hit to balance out all that sweet, rich caramel. I found the biscuit base was still quite crumbly, I think next time I would be tempted to add a little more melted butter (I have adjusted the recipe for this).



For the biscuit base:
100g butter, melted
250g peanut flavoured biscuits (or choc chip if you prefer)

For the caramel:
1 tin condensed milk
75g butter
200g smooth peanut butter
4 tablespoons golden syrup

For the topping:
100g dark chocolate
200g milk chocolate
50g salted peanuts, bashed/chopped up a little

Line a rectangle baking tin with grease-proof paper.
Blitz the biscuits in a food processor (or bash with a rolling pin).
When blitzed, slowly add the melted butter, until the mixture starts to clump together.
Press the biscuit base into the prepared tin and place in the fridge, to set up a little.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Place the butter, condensed milk, syrup and peanut butter in a pan over a medium heat.
Cook until the butter has melted and the mixture has started to thicken and darken.
Take the prepared base out of the fridge and pour the caramel on top of the biscuit mixture.
Place in the oven and bake for around 15 minutes, or until the caramel starts to blister slightly on top.
Leave to cool in the tin.
When cooled, melt the chocolate and spread it on top of the biscuit caramel.
Sprinkle over the nuts before the chocolate has set.
Leave in the fridge for a couple of hours to set.
Slice and enjoy!

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Red Onion, Mozzarella and Mustard Loaf

I think I may have put a little too much cheese (if you can ever do such a thing) on this loaf, but I knew it was going to make it so gooey and delicious that i couldn't resist adding more and more. I love using mustard in my savoury bakes, I think it brings a more complex flavour and adds just the right amount of heat. I enjoyed this loaf alongside and lentil stew but it would also work well with soup, as a snack or as a delicious alternative to sandwiches at an afternoon tea.



For the loaf:
350g strong flour
7g dried yeast
10g salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
200g water

For the topping

200g mozzarella (drained weight)
2 teaspoons mustard (I used English)
1/2 red onion, sliced into thin rounds

Place the flour into a large bowl and rub in the yeast.
Add the salt, oil and water and mix until it forms a dough (adding more water if it feels a little dry).
Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, or until it becomes smooth and elastic.
Return to the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Lightly oil a 20cm round cake tin.
When the dough is ready place it into the cake tin and push it around so that it fits the tin.
Cover and leave to rise for around 30 minutes or until it has puffed up nicely.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
When the dough is ready make little dents in the surface, with you knuckles, like you would do for a focaccia.
Brush on the mustard and add the red onion slices.
Tear up the mozzarella and cover the top of the loaf with it.
Bake for around 25 minutes, or until the cheese has gone nice and golden.
Serve whilst still a little warm.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Easy Almond Croissants

There is nothing more satisfying than making your own pastries at home. Most weekends I think 'I'm going to get up early and make croissants', but when it actually comes to it, I always choose a lie-in instead. This recipe gives you the satisfaction of doing it yourself but with hardly any of the time/effort.        
  Almond croissants are best made with slightly stale pastries, as they won't collapse under the filling (so it is probably better to use shop bought croissants rather than spending time making your own).
 



Makes 4.

For the croissants:
4 butter croissants (you want the straight ones)
50g flaked almonds
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons boiling water
160g marzipan
Icing sugar, for dusting

Pre-heat the oven to 180 Degrees C.
Place the caster sugar into a small bowl and stir in the boiling water.
Cut the croissants in half and place the bottom halves onto a baking tray.
Brush some of the water-sugar mixture onto the croissant bottoms.
Cut the marzipan into 4 equal pieces.
Break up the marzipan pieces with your fingers and place onto the croissant bottoms, along with half the flaked almonds.
Put the tops back on the croissants.
Brush the top of the croissants with the water and sugar mixture and then sprinkle on the remaining flaked almonds.
Bake for 10 minutes.
Serve warm with a dusting of icing sugar.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

How to get a Great Crust

I have read a lot about how the use of steam, when baking bread, can vastly improve the quality of your loaf. Steam can help to produce a better rise, richer colour and a much tastier crust. Unlike a professional bakery, most of us don't happen to have a fancy-pants steam setting on our ovens at home, but there are things you can do to replicate this in a domestic setting, for virtually no cost.

 


  To achieve the perfect amount of steam when baking, I use a spray water bottled (pictured, like one you might use for watering plants). Simply fill the bottle with cold water and spray onto the floor of your oven, as soon as you have put your loaf in. Another option would be to fill a baking tray with water and place on the bottom shelf of your oven. Do this when you are pre-heating the oven and then leave the tray in as you are baking your loaf.


Saturday, 23 January 2016

Mozzarella and Olive Rolls

These gooey flavour bombs are best enjoyed straight from the oven, when the mozzarella is extra hot  and stringy. I used olives stuffed with jalapeƱos. I found the heat from the chilli cut through the rich, creaminess of the cheese.





Makes around 12 rolls.

For the Rolls:
350g strong white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
7g dried yeast
200ml water

For the filling:
12 olives
12 mozzarella 'pearls' (or you could cut a larger ball into pieces)

Place the flour into a large bowl and rub in the yeast.
Add the water, salt and olive oil and mix together until it forms a dough (adding more water if it feels a little dry).
Place the dough onto a floured surface and knead for around 10 minutes, or until its becomes soft and smooth.
Place back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for about an hour, or until it has doubled in size.
When the dough has risen, cut it into 12 equal pieces.
Flatten each piece and add an olive and a mozzarella pearl to the centre of each one.
Fold the edges around the filling, so that it makes a ball shape.
Place the balls onto a lined baking tray, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for around 20 minutes, or until the rolls have risen by half.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
When the rolls are ready, bake for around 20 minutes or until they are a light golden colour.
Serve warm, straight from the oven.

Brownie and Nutella Cake Pops

I had a slight brownie related disaster last weekend. In a rookie mistake I didn't line my tins properly, causing the brownies to crumble into pieces when I tried to remove them. I have always wanted to have a go at cake pops so I thought I could perhaps salvage the mixture and turn them into an indulgent treat. Dipped in Nutella, these pops are moist and delicious. Great for a kid's party (or just a Friday night in by yourself).
  Makes around 12 cake pops.



For the cake pops:
1 batch of chocolate brownies (minus the ganache topping, click here for recipe)
200g Nutella
Cake pop sticks/lollypop sticks/straws

Make the batch of brownies as per the recipe instructions and leave to cool.
When the brownies are cooled, crumble them into a bowl.
Mould the brownies into golf-ball sized rounds (if you find they aren't sticking together very well, stir some Nutella into the bowl).
Place a cake pop stick (or whatever you are using) into the bottom of each pop.
Place the pops on a baking tray and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until they are firm.
Place the Nutella in a microwave safe mug.
Warm the Nutella, in the microwave, for around a minute, or until it becomes a little more runny.
Dip each pop into the Nutella, making sure that each one is fully covered.
Place back on the baking tray and refrigerate for another hour, or until the Nutella has hardened.


Thursday, 21 January 2016

Rye Fruit Loaf with Raisins, Sour Cherries, Dates and Almonds

 Nothing is better on a cold winters day than a slice of hot buttered fruit bread. This loaf was inspired by a dark and dense fruit bread I once had from Cumbrian bakers Staff of Life. Instead of being soft and rich, like you would expect of a fruity loaf, it was dark and dense, which made for a real adult treat. The rye flour I have used creates a similar texture, also adding a distinctive nutty flavour.
    This recipe makes two small loaves. Pop one in the freezer when it has cooled down. It will keep fresh in there for about a month (just make sure you wrap it well in a freezer bag). Simply bake it straight from frozen, when you are ready to enjoy, at 200 degrees C for 10 minutes.



For the sponge:
250g rye flour
7g dried yeast
300ml water


For the Loaves:
250g strong white flour
water
10g salt
2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
300g mixture of raisins, sour cherries, almonds (I used almond halves) and chopped dates.

Make the sponge by combining the rye flour, yeast and water in a large bowl.
Cover with a tea towel and leave for at least 6 hours, until it has risen and has lots of little bubbles covering the surface.
When the sponge is ready, add the white flour, salt, oil and fruit and nuts. Combine until you get a soft dough (adding more water if it feels a little dry).
Remove from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth.
Return to the bowl, cover and leave to rise for around an hour and a half or until the dough has doubled in size.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
When the dough is ready, cut it into two equal pieces.
Shape each piece into a round and place onto a baking tray.
Cover, and leave to rise again for around 30 minutes or until the loaves have risen by half.
When the loaves have risen, dust the tops with flour and cut a cross shape into each one with a sharp knife.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Fruity Buns with Mixed Peel


Inspired again by the BBCs 'Victorian Bakers', these fruity buns are packed full of flavour. They have a slightly sugary crust, are best eaten warm and go great with a cup of tea. I enjoyed mine, like everything, with a healthy dollop of peanut butter.




For the buns:
400g Strong white flour
2 large eggs
7g dried yeast
100g currants
100g mixed peel
50g caster sugar (plus more for sprinkling on top)
50g softened butter
1 teaspoon salt
100-200ml milk (this will depend on your flour)



Place the flour into the bowl and rub in the butter until it reaches a sandy consistency.
Rub the yeast into one side and then mix in the salt, sugar, eggs, peel and currants.
Start adding the milk, slowly (you might not need that much), mixing until you get a dough.
Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and soft.
Cover and leave to rise for about 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
When the dough is ready, shape it into around 9 small rounds and place onto a baking tray.
Cover and leave to rise for another 30 minutes, or until the buns have puffed up by half.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
When the buns are ready, brush them with a little water and sprinkle a pinch of sugar on the top of each one.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the buns have turned a deep golden colour.
Enjoy whilst still a little warm.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Mars Bar Treats

A quick and easy treat to end the week on. Pure indulgence, definitely no 'clean' eating here. The salted butter adds a much needed savoury hit and makes these treats a little more grown up.
   The butter seemed to slightly separate in mine, forming a layer on the bottom of the slices. This didn't affect the taste but I would maybe suggest whisking the mixture, rather than just stirring, when melting it together.



For the treats:

5 Mars Bars (I used the slightly smaller multi-pack size, I think it was 33.8g per bar)
100g Rice Krispies (or similar alternative)
100g salted butter
Dark chocolate (for drizzling on top)

Melt the Mars Bars and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
Whisk together until smooth.
Take off the heat and add in the Rice Krispies.
Line a rectangle baking tray with some clingfilm.
Add the mixture to the baking tray, pressing down to even it out.
Melt the dark chocolate and drizzle in on top on the Rice Krispie mixture.
Place in the fridge for around 30 minutes to set.
Cut into slices just before serving.
These will keep for a couple of days (if they last that long) in an air-tight container in the fridge.




Saturday, 16 January 2016

Rye and White Sourdough

I love the slightly sour-tang you get from a really good sourdough. This loaf is dense and chewy- which makes it perfect for toast. I make my sourdough using a sponge starter. I have tried many different ways of making this delicious loaf, but the sponge starter is the only one that has really worked for me, so I have stuck with it.



For the sponge starter:
150ml active sourdough starter (click here to learn how to make it)
250g rye flour
275ml water

For the loaf:
250g strong white flour
10g salt
50-100ml water (this will depend on your flour)

Make the sponge by mixing the starter, rye flour and water together in a large bowl.
Cover the mixture and leave for at least 8 hours at an ambient temperature.
When the sponge is ready (it will have lots of tiny bubbles on top and maybe be a little foamy) add in the strong flour, salt and water. Mix until it forms a dough (adding more water if it feels dry).
Cover and leave to rise for another 6-8 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
When the dough is ready, shape into your desired loaf and place onto a baking tray.
Cover and leave to rise again, for at least a couple of hours, or until it has risen by half.
Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees C.
When the loaf has risen, cut a slit in the top and dust with a little flour.
Bake for around 30 minutes, or until the base sounds hollow when tapped.
Cool on a wire rack before serving.


Thursday, 14 January 2016

Sourdough Starter

There seem to be many different ways to make a sourdough starter. Some use things like grapes and yogurt, others start with brewers yeast and all manor of fancy flours. I simply used strong flour and water to make mine, and that seemed to work just fine. I have since topped it up with a mixture of flours (wholemeal, spelt and rye included) and even the occasional swig of beer. All these things seem to have added to the flavour and texture.
  I am not suggesting that this is the only right way to do this, this is just the method that I used and it worked really well for me.



  To make your starter you will need a Kilner jar (or something with a similar fastening, don't use a screw top jar). Start by adding 50g water and 50g of strong flour to the jar. Mix the flour and water together until they form a paste. Close the jar and leave at an ambient temperature. Repeat this process for ten days!
  After the ten days your starter will be ready to use. When you have taken out what you need, place the starter in the fridge. It has been suggested that you can leave your starter in the fridge, untouched, for up to two weeks. However, I have left my starter for about a month and with a little coaxing, it seemed to work just fine.
  When you next need to use your starter you will need to take it out of the fridge and 'feed' it with 100g of  strong flour and 100g of water. Leave it for 6 to 8 hours at room temperature until its starts to go bubbly and slightly foamy. This could take a little longer than 8 hours, so if you don't think it looks quite ready then just leave it for a couple more hours. I have found that it is quite hard to kill your starter, so if you are ever worried that it isn't working, put it somewhere slightly warmer (a windowsill or near a radiator) and give it some time and it should be fine.

On My Bookshelf







There are loads of different recipe books out there, most of them with great bread recipes included in them too. Flicking through them can be a great way to discover new ideas and flavour combinations, but all the different methods and techniques can be a little confusing. When I first started making bread I found that nothing would ever turn out like the pictures in the books. There were so many different ways of doing things (use warm water, use cold water... You must knead for 10 minutes, you don't have to knead at all), I couldn't tell what I was actually supposed to be doing. I eventually worked out that you should find a method that works for you, and stick to it. You can always adapt a new recipe so that it fits into your comfort zone.
    The books on this list are ones that I found really helpful when I was starting out, and ones that I use now for inspiration. There are still so many books I need to read (and so much more to learn and try), so I will update this list with any texts that I find useful in the future!


'Dough' and 'Crust' - Richard Bertinet
'Dough' was one of the first bread books that someone recommended to me. I had been making bread for a few months and nothing, apart from the odd focaccia, seemed to be turning out right. This book really simplifies things without skimping on taste and wow factor. If you only buy one bread book, this should be it.
'Crust' is like the next step up from dough. Focuses on more elaborate kinds of breads.

'Brilliant Bread' - James Morton.
His passion for real bread is really inspiring and this book delves a little into the science behind the baking too. Contains some really tasty recipes, but doesn't over complicate things.

'100 Great Breads' - Paul Hollywood
This book is great for discovering different and exciting flavour combinations.

'Bread Cake Doughnut Pudding' - Justin Gellatly
'Bread Ahead' (bakery and school based at Borough Market in London), owned by Justin, is one of my favourite places to pick up some freshly baked treats, so I felt I couldn't not include this book in my list. Contains lots of other non- bread recipes too. His treacle tart is easy and delicious.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Muesli Bread

I am normally a bit dubious of trying so- called 'healthy' breads, but I love muesli and had seen versions of this recipe floating around for a while, so I thought I would give it a go.
  The oats seem to dissolve into the dough but they definitely still add texture and taste. I enjoyed a couple of slices toasted with a healthy dollop of peanut butter.




For the loaf:

450g strong white flour
7g dried yeast
10g salt
250ml milk (I used semi-skimmed, you could use full fat also)
150g Muesli (plus more to sprinkle on top)


Place the flour into a bowl and rub the yeast into one side.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until it comes together into a dough (adding more milk if needed).
Knead for around 10 minutes of until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
Place back the the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for about an hour, or until it has doubled in size.
When the dough is ready, shape it into a round loaf and place onto a lined baking tray (I use a non-stick mat, you could lightly oil your tray or dust it with a little flour).
Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for about half and hour, or until the loaf has risen by half.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
When the loaf has risen, brush the top with a little milk and sprinkle over a handful of muesli.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
Cool a little on a wire rack before serving.



Saturday, 9 January 2016

Walnut Loaf









I am off to York today to stay with a friend, and what better gift is there to bring than a freshly baked loaf? I seem to be a little over- run with nuts after the festive period, and this bake is a great way to use them up. This bread would make a great accompaniment to cheese or simply served with a slathering of strawberry jam.

For the loaf:

350g strong flour
7g dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
70g walnuts (halves or peices will do)
200ml water


Place the flour into a bowl and rub the yeast into one side.
Add the salt to the other side of the bowl, followed by the rest of the ingredients.
Mix until it comes together to form a smooth dough (adding more water if needed).
Knead for 10 minutes or until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
Place back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel or some cling film and leave to rise for about an hour, or until it has doubled in size.
When risen, form into a round loaf and place on a baking tray. Cover again and leave for about 30 minutes, or until it has risen by half.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees c.
When the dough is ready, make a cross shape on the top and dust with a little flour.
Bake for around 20 minutes or until the loaf makes a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.
Cool on a wire rack before serving. 

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Traditional Loaf with a Sponge Starter

Inspired by the BBCs ‘Victorian Bakers’ (which was on BBC2 on Tuesday night), I decided to bake loaf using a sponge starter. A sponge (sometimes called a pre-ferment) is just a mixture of flour, water and yeast that is left to ferment a day or so before you are ready to use it. This is a technique I usually use when I am making a sour dough. I just used dried years in my starter whereas the VBs used brewer’s yeast (something I am quite keen to get my hands on), as it was what was commonly used at the time. This traditional method makes for a longer fermentation process, which creates better flavour.



Makes 2 small or one large loaf

For the sponge starter:
250g strong flour
7g dried yeast
275ml of water

For the loaf:
250g strong white flour
10g salt
water (you’ll probably need an extra 50ml or so, depending on your flour)

Make the sponge by combining the yeast flour and water. Cover with some cling-film, or a tea towel, and leave to ferment for at least 8 hours  (I left mine overnight).
When the sponge has bubbled up nicely, add the rest of the ingredients to create a smooth dough. You will need to add at least 50ml more water, maybe even more, depending on your flour. Add the water gradually whilst kneading.
Knead for 10 minutes, or until you get a soft and smooth dough.
Cover and leave to double in size.
When risen, shape the dough into a one large round loaf (or two smaller ones) and place onto a baking tray.
Cover and leave to rise again, for around 30 minutes, or until it has almost doubled.
Pre- heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
When the loaf has risen, sprinkle it with flour and cut a ‘cross’ shape in the top.
Bake for around 25 minutes, or until its golden in colour and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Leave to cool a little before serving.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Blue Cheese and Walnut Plaits



Makes 8 rolls.

The idea for these rolls were stolen, in part, from my friend Jonny, who had found a delicious recipe online for stilton and walnut soda bread. I thought that putting those flavours into a roll would make for a more portable alternative, something you could enjoy with a lunchtime soup or salad. These rolls would also work really well with a casserole or served alongside a stew.


For the rolls:
350g spelt flour
7g dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
200g water

For the filling:

80g blue cheese of your choice
80g walnuts (pieces or halves will do)


Rub the yeast into the flour and then add the salt to the opposite side of the bowl.
Add the oil and the water and then bring together to form a smooth dough (adding more water if it feels a little dry).
Knead for around 5 minutes (spelt flour doesn't need as much kneading as strong wheat flour) until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Place back in the bowl, cover (with cling-film or a tea-towel) and leave to rise for about an hour or until it has doubled in size.
When the dough has risen, place onto an oiled surface and cut into 8 equal pieces.
Cut each of the 8 pieces into 3. Roll the 3 pieces into strands.
Flatten each of the strands a little and then add some of the filling down the middle of each one (breaking the walnuts up a little mote if needed).
Fold the strands in half width ways, to enclose the filling.
Take the three strands so they are next to each other and pinch them all together at one end.
Plait the strands together, tucking the end in when you have finished. Repeat with the other rolls.
Place the plaited rolls on to a baking tray and cover.
Leave to rise for around 30 minutes, or until they have noticeably puffed up. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
Bake the rolls for around 15 minutes, or until they have turned a nice golden colour.
Serve warm.

These rolls are also great the next day- reheated in a 200 degree C oven for 6 minutes.