Bread and Better

Bread and Better

Monday, 27 June 2016

Sourdough Baguette

The place where I work has recently started stocking sourdough baguettes. Chewy and satisfyingly sour, I knew the moment after I first tried one, I would have to make my own. The method is a little long-winded, but it's worth it, as the results are packed full of flavour.

Makes 6 medium baguettes

For the sponge:
150ml active sourdough starter (click here to see how)
300ml water
250g stoneground Wholemeal flour.

For the baguettes:
300g strong white flour
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
10g salt

Make the sponge by mixing the Wholemeal flour, water and sourdough starter together in a large bowl.
Cover the bowl the sponge is in with a tea-towel and leave to bubble up for at least 8 hours (it will be ready when it foams up and lots of little bubbles cover the surface).
When the sponge is ready, add the strong white flour, salt and oil and mix to form a dough (you may need more water depending on how wet your sponge was).
Place the dough in a bowl of a free-standing mixer (with the dough hook attachment) and mix for around 15 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
When the dough is ready, remove the bowl from the mixer, and cover it with a tea-towel.
Leave the dough to rise, for around 6 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
Heavily dust your work surface with some strong white flour.
When the dough has risen, oil your hands with a little rapeseed oil (this will stop the dough sticking) and carefully remove the dough from the bowl, onto the work surface.
Divide the dough into 6 equal portions, and roll each one into a long sausage shape.
Place the sausages onto lined baking trays, and cover with a tea-towel.
Leave the baguettes to rise, for a couple of hours, or until they have noticeably puffed up.
Pre-heat your oven to 220 degrees c.
When the baguettes have puffed up, bake them for around 15 minutes (remember to add steam), or until they are a deep golden brown.
Cool a little on a wire rack before serving.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Garlic Ciabatta

This recipe is a great way of using up left over stale bread, and turning it into something delicious. If you don't have any ciabatta, you could use a baguette or couple of flutes. You can include the garlic butter in other dishes too, it tastes great stirred into steamed veggies or served on-top of a steak.

Makes 1 garlic ciabatta. Serves 4.

For the bread:
1/3 of Ciabatta recipe, baked and cooled (or one large shop bought ciabatta)

For the garlic butter:
150g salted butter, softened
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
1 handful of chives, finely chopped

Prepare the butter by mixing the softened butter with the garlic and chives.
Place the butter onto a large sheet of clingfilm, and wrap tightly into a sausage shape.
Freeze the butter for at least an hour, or until it has hardened.
When the butter has hardened, pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees c.
Cut slits into the surface of your ciabatta, around a couple of inches apart, making sure you don't cut all the way through.
Slice the butter into small discs and place into the slits on the ciabatta.
Bake the garlic bread for around 15 minutes, or until the butter has melted and the bread is crisp and golden.
Serve warm, straight from the oven.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Herby Soda Bread

Soda bread is probably one of the quickest and easiest loaves around. This tasty bread uses bicarbonate of soda as it's raising agent, instead of yeast. As far as I am aware, it was invented because yeast was quite expensive people needed an alternative to make their bread with (please correct me if I'm wrong!). Soda bread doesn't last very long, so it's probably best to serve it with a soup or a stew, and eat it all in one sitting. This bake tastes great slightly warm, with a generous slathering of butter.

Makes 1 medium loaf. Serves 4-6.

For the loaf:
350 Wholemeal spelt flour
1 1/2 tablespoons bicarbonate of soda
250ml buttermilk (or stir 1 teaspoon of lemon juice into semi-skimmed milk)
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees c.
Place the flour into a large bowl and mix in the salt, herbs and bicarb.
Add the 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 a couple of minutes.
Shape the dough into a ball and place onto a lined baking tray.
Cut a large cross into the top of the loaf and then sprinkle with a little flour
Bake for around 25 minutes, or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
Cool slightly on a wire rack before serving (tastes best whilst it's still a little warm).

Sunday, 12 June 2016

London Haul

Disclaimer: I by no means think myself qualified to be a critic, everyone's tastes are so different, and what one person likes another might detest. This post is simply a list of bakeries that I went to, really enjoyed and want to recommend.
    I have been to London quite a few times recently (it was where I was born, and where I have lots of friends, so I kind of think of it as my second home), which has given me the opportunity to tick a few must-go bakeries off my hit-list.

Crumbs and Doilies
Hidden in a small alley just of carnaby street, this place is famous for it's beautifully decorated, delicious cupcakes. I went for a Malteser cupcake and a caramel brownie. The Swiss meringue butter cream on the cupcake was deeply malty and not overly sweet. The cake itself was chocolaty and moist. The brownie was a squidgy, gooey delight. I can't wait to go back.

E5 Bakehouse
This place had been on my hit-list for a while. They sell a selection of tasty sweet treats, but it was the bread I was after. I have heard foodies rave about there signature sourdough, the 'Hackney Wild' for a while, and I was desperate to try it for myself. Once there, I opted for a sourdough bread roll, which was chewy and satisfyingly sour. I took home a 'Hackney Wild', which didn't disappoint and was great toasted with some peanut butter.

Rinkoff's Bakery
Situated near whitechappel, this family business has been baking for over 100 years .
I went for an Oreo 'Crodough' (cronut by another name), which was sweet, light in texture and moreish. One of my friends went for a rainbow bagel, which looked amazing. Apparently they colour the dough and then twist it all together before baking.

Horniman Farmer's Market (Forest Hill)
This market is just down the road from where a couple of my good friends live, and is filled with a wide range of local produce. I bought an olive loaf from Aston's Bakehouse, which I had toasted with some cheese the next day. We also tried some chocolates from Chocolates By Eloise. She had some really different and interesting flavours (raspberry and fennel and earl grey to name a few) I went for basil and a milk chocolate salted caramel.

I have followed the Gail's chain on social media for a while, and have always been really impressed by their amazing displays. My first trip there didn't disappoint, I enjoyed a savoury brioche filled with tomatoes and goats cheese and a small sugared cake that for the life of me, I can't remember the name of (should have written it down, but I was too busy greedily shoving it in my mouth).

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Nanna's Tea Loaf

This is another family classic from my Nanna's cookbook. She was a baker herself, at her father's (and then her's) bakery in Preston, specialising in cakes and fancy decorating. Our birthday and christening cakes were made by her, all drenched in royal icing and adorned with hand-made decorations.
  I have added malt extract and strong tea to the original recipe for a little extra flavour. Serve slightly warm, with a healthy spreading of butter.

Makes 1 cake, about 10 slices.

For the loaf:
6oz self-raising flour
4oz sugar
3 1/2oz Trex (or butter)
2 teaspoons mixed spice
Four  tablespoons of brewed strong tea, cooled
2 tablespoons malt extract
3oz raisins
2 eggs

Line a 1lb loaf tin with some grease-proof paper.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees c.
Place the flour and the mixed spice into a large bowl.
Rub in the Trex, with your fingertips, until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
Stir in the raisins, malt, tea, sugar and eggs and mix together to form a batter.
Pour the batter into your prepared tin.
Bake for around 40 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden brown.
Cool slightly in the tin before serving.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Tomato and Cheddar Focaccia

When I was at catering college (which was a 4 hour round trip, by public transport, to Didsbury) I would often miss my connecting train on the way home. Having only eaten sickly sweet cakes all day, I would crave something refreshingly savoury. Train station caf├ęs aren't known for groundbreaking gormet food, but their offerings would just hit the spot on my long journey home. A cheese and tomato baguette was usually my treat of choice, nothing particularly special, but feeling hungry, tired and covered in flour, it was often the best thing I ate all day.
  This focaccia is sort of like a homage to that sandwhich. The sweet freshness of the tomatoes really balance out the rich creamy-ness of the cheese. Serve with a lentil salad for an easy summer tea.

Makes 1 medium focaccia, will serve about 4-8 people (depending on how greedy you are).

For the focaccia:
450g strong white flour
7g dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
350ml water
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the topping:
3 small tomatoes (if using cherry, you might need a few more).
100g cheddar, grated
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Olive oil for greasing.

Place the flour into a large bowl and rub in the yeast.
Add the salt, oil and water (remembering not to add all the water at once), and mix to form a dough.
Tip the dough onto a lightly oiled surface and knead for around 10 minutes, or until the dough feels smooth and elastic.
When the dough is ready, place it back into the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for at least an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
When the dough has risen, place it into a greased baking tray (or a 10 inch cake tin, like I used).
Cover again, and leave to rise for about half an hour, or until it has noticeably puffed up.
Whilst you are waiting for the focaccia to rise, slice the tomatoes into thin rounds and then sprinkle the leaves from the thyme over them.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees c.
When the loaf has risen, make large indents in the surface with your knuckles and then sprinkle over the grated cheese.
Arrange the tomatoes over the cheese and then sprinkle over the sea salt, leaves from the rosemary and finally the olive oil.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese has gone a deep golden brown.
Cool a little in the tin before serving.