Bread and Better

Bread and Better

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Herby Focaccia

Focaccia was one of the first breads I learnt to bake, and it remains a firm favourite as it always seems to turn out so well. Focaccia is a good bread for first time bakers as it requires next to no shaping (you just shove it in a tin) and can take on loads of different toppings and flavours.
  I have added herbs to my actual dough here, as well as on the top, to give my loaf loads of extra flavour. Herb wise, I have gone for lemon thyme and rosemary, as they are my favourites, but if you can't get your hands on the lemon stuff, regular thyme will work just as well.



Makes one large loaf.

For the focaccia:
500g strong white flour
7g yeast
350ml water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 sprig lemon thyme

For the topping:
1 sprig lemon thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Place the flour into a large bowl and rub in the yeast.
Add the dried rosemary and the leaves from the lemon thyme.
Add the salt, water and oil and mix to form a dough (adding more water if it feels a little dry).
Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for around 10 minutes, or until it feels smooth and elastic.
Place the dough back into the bowl and cover with a tea towel.
Leave the dough to rise for around an hour, or until it has doubled in size.
Lightly oil a large round cake tin (or just a round or rectangle baking tray, if you don't have one).
When the dough has risen, place it into your prepared tin, stretching it out a little until it reaches the corners.
Cover the dough again with a tea towel, and leave to rise for about half an hour, or until it has noticeably puffed up.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees c.
When the dough has risen, make holes in the surface with your knuckles and sprinkle over the herbs.
Drizzle over the olive oil and then spirinkle over the salt.
Bake for around 20 minutes, or until the surface is a nice golden brown.
Leave to cool in the tin slightly before serving.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Baguettes

I had these baguettes for my Easter weekend breakfast (with scrambled eggs and lots of cheese). Easy and quick to make, these crusty delights make a great sandwich or a quick afternoon snack. Adding steam to the oven is the best way to ensure that you get that classic crust (click here to learn how) that professional bakers do. I left my dough to rise in the fridge overnight, which saved me time in the morning and also gave my baguettes a more intense flavour.





Makes 4 half sized baguettes.

For the baguettes:
250g strong white flour
7g dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
175ml water

Place the flour into a large bowl and rub in the yeast.
Add the salt and water and mix to form a dough (adding more water if it feels a little dry).
Place the dough onto a floured surface and knead for around 5 minutes, or until it feels smooth and elastic.
Return the dough to the bowl and cover with a tea towel.
Leave the dough to rise for about an hour (or overnight in the fridge), or until it has doubled in size.
When the dough has risen, cut in into 4 equal pieces and roll each one into a long sausage shape.
Place the baguettes onto a lined baking tray and cover with a tea towel.
Leave to rise again, for around 15 minutes, or until they have noticeably puffed up.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees c.
When the baguettes have risen, sprinkle a little flour onto of each one.
Bake in the oven (remember the steam!) for around 15 minutes or until the baguettes are a nice golden brown colour.
Leave to cool slightly on a wire rack before serving.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Creme Egg Brownies

After resisting for so long, I have finally jumped on the 'Creme Egg brownie' bandwagon. These extra sweet treats seem to be everywhere at the moment and they make such cute little Easter gifts.
  I have done a large batch here, which should be just enough to last over the Easter weekend, but you could half it if you wanted a little less. Serve as they are, or slightly warmed with some ice cream, for a delicious dessert.


























Makes around 25 brownies.

For the brownies:
2 batches of brownie (minus the ganache topping, click here for recipe)
2 bags of mini Creme eggs (standard 89g bag size) or 10 regular size Creme eggs.

Make the brownie batter as per the recipe instructions, and place into a large rectangle baking tray (lined with grease-proof baking paper).
Bake at 160 degrees c for 15 minutes, or until the brownie has started to set slightly.
Cut the Creme eggs in half (so that they expose the filling).
Take the brownie out and push the Creme eggs into the surface, leaving a gap between each one.
Return to the oven for around 10 minutes, or until the brownie has a slight crust, but still feels soft underneath.
Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting and serving!

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Hot Cross Buns with a Sticky Marmalade Glaze

The marmalade glaze adds a citrusy twist to this otherwise classic recipe. Serve warm with lots of butter (or if you are like me, peanut butter).




Makes 8 large buns.

For the buns:
300g strong white flour
150g sultanas
1 tablespoon mixed peel
14g dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
50g butter, softened
1 large egg
150ml milk
1 tablespoon mixed spice

For the cross:
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 tablespoon water

For the glaze
2 teaspoons marmalade
1 teaspoon boiling water

Place the flour into a large bowl and rub in the butter, until the mixture resembles corse bread crumbs.
Rub in the yeast and then add the salt, sultanas, mixed peel, mixed spice, egg and milk and mix to form a dough (adding more milk if it feels a little dry).
Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, or until it feels soft but not sticky.
Return the dough to the bowl and cover with a tea-towel.
Leave the dough to rise for about an hour and a half, or until the mixture has doubled in size.
When the dough has risen, cut it into 8 equal peices and roll each one into a ball shape.
Place the balls on a lined baking tray, with a small gap between each one.
Cover the buns with a tea-towel and leave to rise for about half an hour, or until the balls have puffed up and are almost touching.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees c.
Make the cross by mixing the flour and water together. You are looking for the mixture to be pipe-able, but not too runny. Place the mixture into a piping bag.
When the buns are risen, pipe a cross onto the top of each one.
 Bake the buns for around 20 minutes, or until they are a nice dark brown colour on top.
Make the glaze by mixing the boiling water and marmalade together. Brush it on top whilst the buns are still warm.
Cool a little on a wire rack before serving.


Friday, 18 March 2016

Vanilla sponge with LOTS of chocolate decoration

It fills me with fear whenever someone asks me to make a cake for them. They all expect a 'wow' factor and I always feel my cakes look like they've been decorated by a small child. I don't have the patience for cake decorating, I'd rather just dive straight in and eat it, rather than waiting around for someone to put on some sugar flowers.
  I keep seeing versions of cakes that have been decorated with chocolate dripping down the sides and the top piled high with all sorts of goodies (meringues, chocolate, sweets... you name it). I thought finally some cake decoration that might not look rubbish if I attempt it! I am not trying to claim that my cake looks at all professional, but it does have a wow factor.
  I have just used a vanilla sponge here, but you could use any flavour of cake really (just make sure its at least 3 layers).



For the cake: 1 1/2 batches of vanilla cupcake batter

For the  buttercream:
250g butter, very soft
400g icing sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla paste/extract

For the topping:
150g milk chocolate
Mixture of chocolates (I used Maltesers, chocolate buttons, Crunchy bars, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and some chocolate sprinkles).

Make the cake batter, as per the recipe instructions, and then place into 3 greased and lined 8 inch sandwich tins.
Bake for  around 15 minutes at 170 degrees c, or until they are golden brown, and a knife comes out clean when inserted into the centre.
Remove the cakes from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Make the buttercream by beating the butter in a standalone mixer, with the paddle attachment, until it becomes pale and fluffy.
Add the icing sugar in two batches, mixing well between each one.
Add the milk and vanilla and mix again for a couple of minutes, so that everything is combined.
When the cakes are cool, level them out with a serrated knife, or a cake leveller  (if you have one).
Any off cuts of cake can be eaten or turned into cake pops.
Place a dollop of buttercream onto the cake board that you are using, and put the first layer of cake on top.
Spread a thin layer of buttercream on top of the cake and then add the second layer. Repeat the process until all the layers are done.
Using a palate knife, spread a thin layer of butter cream around the whole cake.
Place the cake in the fridge for around half an hour, or until the buttercream has hardened. This should  make sure that you don't see any cake crumbs in your finished product.
When the buttercream has hardened, spread the rest over your cake, smoothing with the palate knife as you go.
When you have finished the buttercream-ing, melt the chocolate and pour slowly on top of the cake. You may have to use a spoon to gently tease it over the edges, so that you get the nice big drips.
Finally fill the top with the chocolate of your choice, and in this case, more is more!

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Marmite and Cheese Loaf

My friend had suggested that I should make something using marmite, as it was his favourite spread and he wanted to try his hand at some more savoury bakes. I've not used marmite much in my breads so far, I am not sure quite why, I love its yeasty savouriness and the way it works so well with lots of other ingredients.
    I have just gone for marmite and cheese here, the classic combination. This loaf is great toasted with some mature cheddar, or dunked in a creamy tomato soup.



For the loaf:
450g strong white flour
7g dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
2 teaspoons marmite
300ml water

For the filling/topping:
2 tablespoons marmite
100g cheddar cheese, grated

Place the flour into a large bowl and rub in the yeast.
Add the marmite, salt, oil and water and mix to form 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 it feels smooth and elastic.
Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a tea-towel and leave to rise for about an hour, or until it has doubled in size.
Grease a 1lb loaf tin.
When the dough has risen, place it onto a lightly floured surface and spread it into a rectangle.
Spread the marmite onto the rectangle and then sprinkle over most of the cheese.
Roll the rectangle, width ways, into a sausage shape and cut into 6 equal rounds.
Squeeze three of the rounds into the bottom of the loaf tin, then place the other 3 on top.
Sprinkle over the rest of the cheese and cover the loaf with a tea-towel.
Leave the bread to rise for around half and hour, or until it has puffed up noticeably.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees c.
When the dough has risen, bake it for around 25 minutes, or until it looks a really golden brown.
Leave the loaf to cool a little in the tin before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Garlic and Coriander Naan

After the surprising success of my last naans, I decided to give this classic flavour combination a go. I have used garlic granules here as well as a garlic oil, to give extra flavour, but if you can't find these feel free to use a garlic powder instead.





Makes 3 naan.

For the naan:
300g strong white flour
2 tablespoons garlic granules
2 tablespoons dried coriander
7 g dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
200g water

For the oil:
2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
1 teaspoon dried coriander
I garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced.

Make the garlic oil by placing the oil, garlic and coriander into a small bowl. Give a quick stir and then cover with some clingfilm.
Place the flour into a large bowl and then rub in the yeast.
Add the salt, granules, coriander 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 around 5 minutes, or until it feels smooth and elastic.
Return the dough to the bowl and cover with a tea-towel.
Leave to rise for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
When the dough has risen, divide it into 3 equal peices and stretch each one into a naan shape.
Place a non- stick frying pan onto a high heat and dry-fry each naan for around 3 minutes (turning the naan over a few times during cooking).
When the naan are cooked, brush a little of the garlic oil on top and serve.

Tip: You can make these in advance and simply re-heat in a medium oven for a couple of minutes before serving.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Peanut Butter and Banana Bread

I will literally try and put peanut butter into everything I bake. I love it's salty savoury crunch and the way it sticks to the roof of your mouth when you eat it. Peanut butter and banana is one of my all time favourite combos and I have always wondered if it might work in a cake form (after making this I can tell you that it does). Best served warm with a slathering of butter.



For the cake:
4 ripe bananas
2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
180g self raising flour
200g caster sugar
1 large egg
75g butter, softened

Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin.
Cut one of the bananas in half lengthways and put one half to one side (for decoration).
Place the rest on the bananas into a large bowl and mash them.
Add the sugar, peanut butter, butter and egg and mix together.
Finally fold in the flour and place the mixture into the prepared tin.
Place the half banana on top of the mixture (cut side up) and press down a little.
Bake at 180 degrees for about an hour, or until it is dark on top and a knife comes out clean when inserted into the centre.
Cool a little in the tin before serving.


Thursday, 10 March 2016

Ciabatta

I've always wanted to give ciabatta making a go, so I am not quite sure why it has taken me this long to try it. Ciabatta dough is super wet and sticky, which is what gives it it's lovely holey texture. Known as 'the slipper' in Italy, this loaf makes a great sandwhich, or just simply served dipped in some olive oil.

Makes 3 large ciabatta rolls.

For the ciabattas:
250g strong white flour (or 00 flour)
7g dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
200ml water



I would use a large free standing mixer for this, with a dough hook.

Place the flour into the bowl of your mixer and rub in the yeast.
Add the salt and 150ml of the water and mix on a medium speed to form a dough.
Add the rest of the water and carry on mixing for around 10 minutes, or until the dough looks smooth and elastic.
Grease a large rectangle or square lunch box (you want one that holds at least 1.5 litres) with some olive oil.
Slowly tip the dough into the lunchbox and put the lid on.
Leave the dough to rise, at an ambient temperature, for around 2 hours.
When the dough has risen, gently tip it out onto a heavily floured surface and cut into three long rectangles, with an oiled knife.
Place each of the rectangles onto a lined baking tray and sprinkle with some semolina.
Cover the ciabattas with a tea-towel and leave to rest for around 45 minutes, or until they have noticeably puffed up.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees c.
When the ciabattas have risen, bake them for around 20 minutes, or until the base of each roll sounds hollow when tapped.
Leave to cool on a wire rack before serving.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Spelt Bloomer

My brother was complaining that non of the loaves I was making him were 'toaster size', so I decided that trying a bloomer shaped bread might solve this problem (he had already said he didn't want a tin loaf). Spelt is an ancient grain and it has been used as far back as the Romans. A sort of cousin to the wheat flour we are used to, spelt is known for it's mild nutty flavour, and it makes really great bread for toasting (some people also find it easier to digest than wheat flour).
  I have adjusted the water content in this recipe, as I found my loaf was a little too wet and didn't hold it shape when proved. I have added a little of my sourdough starter in this recipe, just straight from the fridge, for a little extra flavour (but just leave it out if you don't have one).



For the loaf:
450g white spelt flour
7g dried yeast
10g salt
2tablespoons rapeseed oil
2 tablespoons sourdough starter (optional)
200ml water

Place the flour into a bowl and rub in the yeast.
Add the salt, oil, sourdough starter (if using) and water and mix to form a dough (adding more water if it feels a little dry.
Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for around 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth.
Return the dough to 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 into a bloomer (a rectangle with rounded ends) and place onto a lined baking tray.
Cover again with a tea-towel and leave for about 30 minutes, or until it has noticeably puffed up.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees c.
When the dough has risen, sprinkle the top with a little spelt flour and make around 4 slashes with a sharp knife.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Hot Cross Bun Loaf

I think I've posted a hot cross bun loaf recipe before, but this one, I promise you, is an improved version. I was tempted to add chocolate (obviously) but my mum insisted that it didn't belong in a hot cross bun and just sticking with the traditional ingredients was best. I really think that taking the time to make these treats at home is the best way to ensure you know exactly what is going into them. If you look at the ingredients list of any supermarket bought hot cross bun, you will see a list of chemicals and enhancers that are there to make the product last as long as possible. If you make your own  hot cross buns at home (or buy from a trusted artisan bakery) you know that you won't be putting any of that crap into your body, and you will have a product that is not only fresher but tastier too!




For the loaf:
300g strong white flour
7g dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
50g butter
150g sultanas
200ml milk (semi-skimmed)
50g caster sugar
2 teaspoons mixed spice

For the cross:
2 tablespoons strong white flour
Water

For the glaze:
2 teaspoons apricot jam
2 teaspoons boiling water

Place the flour into a large bowl and then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
Rub in the yeast and then add the sugar, spice, salt, sultanas and milk.
Mix to form a dough, adding more milk if it feels a little dry.
Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, or until it feels soft but not sticky.
Return the dough to the bowl and cover with some cling-film.
Leave the dough to rise for around 2-3 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
When the dough has risen, shape it into a ball and place onto a lined baking tray.
Cover with a tea-towel and leave to rise for about an hour, or until it has risen by half.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees c.
When the loaf has risen, mix the flour with a little water to form a paste (it needs to be pipe-able, but not too runny) and place into a piping bag.
Pipe a cross shape onto the top of the loaf and the bake for around 25 minutes, or until it has turned a dark brown colour on top.
Mix the apricot  jam  with the boiling water and  brush all over the loaf as soon as it comes out of the oven.
Leave to cool on a wire rack before serving.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Chilli, Coriander and Cumin Naan Bread

I shouldn't really call these 'naan breads', as they aren't cooked in a specially made brick oven, but I can't say that I've got one of those to hand at home, so I dry fried them in a non-stick pan instead. The herbs and spices I've incorporated into my dough really bring a traditional and familiar flavour. If you wanted to be a little more daring, add more chilli or some garlic oil.



Makes 3 large-ish naan

For the naan:
300g strong white flour
7g dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
175ml water
1 teaspoon dried chilli
1 teaspoon dried coriander
1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Add the flour to the bowl and rub in the yeast.
Add the salt, oil, spices and water and mix to form a dough (adding more water if it feels a little dry).
Place the dough onto a lightly oiled surface and and knead for around 10 minutes, or until it feels smooth and elastic.
Return the dough to 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, split it into 3 equal pieces and stretch each one into a naan shape using your hand.
Put a non-stick frying pan onto a high heat (without any oil) and cook each naan for around 3 minutes on each side, or until it looks golden and slightly burnished.
Serve the naans whilst still a little warm.

Tip- you can make the naan breads in advance and re-heat in the oven when you are ready to use. Simply pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees c, and place the naan straight onto the oven racks to cook for around 3 minutes.