Birthdays!

Well it’s been a while since my last post as life has been tough lately :(. Still this is a busy time of year for my family. I have 4 girls, gulp and 2 have birthdays within 10 days.

I will be baking cakes and breads of various descriptions this weekend. I am being quite ambitious with one so I hope it turns out ok – and if it does look out for a photo.

Tha’s all for now, hope my transatlantic readers have a great Thanksgiving.

 

Will be back soon with a birthday cake update…

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More Easter baking

Hi folks,

Well here as promised is my recipe for hot cross buns.  I baked up a batch this morning and they are delicious.

Onto the recipe:

Ingredients (makes 12-18 buns)

250g strong bread flour (white or wholemeal)

250g plain white flour

125ml warm milk

125ml warm water

150g mixture of currants, raisins, sultanas and mixed peel

1 egg

50g caster sugar

50g soft butter

10g salt

5g quick yeast (dried)

Zest of ½ an orange

2tsp ground mixed spice

To glaze

1tbsp smooth apricot jam

1tbsp water

For the crosses

50g plain flour

75ml water

Directions

Mix the flour, water, milk, yeast, salt and sugar in a bowl. Then add the egg and softened butter and mix to form a dough. Finally add the spice, orange zest and dried fruit and mix this into the dough. As with brioche this is an enriched dough and can be quite sticky so you may wish to use a food mixer to knead. I always knead by hand as I like the control it gives. Knead until the dough is soft and silky and shape into a round, cover and leave to rise – you know the drill!!

Hot cross bun dough

When ready, deflate the dough and divide into 12 – 18 equal pieces depending on how large you want them.  I weigh them but I am a sucker for uniformity! Shape into small rounds, then place on a floured board and cover with cling film or a linen towel and leave to rise again.

Hot cross buns ready for final prove

This final rise should take about half an hour so it would be a good idea to preheat your oven to 2000C with a heavy baking tray or baking stone inside.

Also make the paste for the crosses during the final rise – mix together the flour and water and whisk until it is smooth. Then pour this mixture into a piping bag or syringe.

Transfer the buns onto a hot baking stone or tray, then pipe a cross on top of each bun and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Piped Hot cross buns ready for the oven

While the buns are baking, melt the jam together with the water ensuring it is lump free. When they have finished baking, remove the buns from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and brush the glaze over the top.

The finished Hot cross buns

The finished Hot cross buns

Leave to cool slightly, then tear open and spread on a little butter – delicious!

And have a great Easter everyone 🙂

Easter baking

Hi folks,

Are you all set for the Easter weekend? This is a great time to do some baking and especially to get the kids involved.

I baked a batch of doughnuts the other day and I will be doing them again this weekend and coating them with sugar mixed with mixed spice to give them an Easter twist.

Delicious doughnuts

Here is the recipe for my doughnuts. This recipe is from the new book I am writing – Use your Loaf: Recipes beyond the basic loaf.

Try filling them with raspberry jam, lemon curd or ready-made custard. Or make ring doughnuts – the choice is yours. Simply delicious!

Ingredients (makes about 20 doughnuts):

250g each plain flour and strong white flour

5g quick yeast (dried)

10g salt

100g caster sugar

2 eggs

200ml warm milk

100g soft unsalted butter

Sunflower or vegetable oil for frying

Sugar for coating – caster, vanilla, cinnamon

Jam, lemon curd, custard for filling – optional

Directions

As this is an enriched dough it can get quite sticky so less experienced bakers may wish to use a food processor with a dough hook. Either way mix all the ingredients in a bowl, turn out and then knead for 7-14 minutes. Shape into a round and coat with a little oil. Wipe out the bowl and place the dough into it. Cover with cling film and leave to rise until it has doubled in size.

Deflate the dough gently and divide into equal pieces – I tend to weigh them out so if you want 20 each will weigh just over 50g. Shape them into little balls, cover with cling film and leave to rise again till doubled in size.

Heat some oil in a large deep saucepan or deep fat fryer until it reaches 1750C (if you don’t have an oil thermometer test the temperature by dropping in a piece of bread or potato which should turn golden brown in about a minute). Also do not fill the saucepan too high as it will bubble up when you place the doughnuts in the oil.

Deep fry the doughnuts in small batches. They should take around 5 minutes to cook through and turn them every minute to ensure they get a nice golden colour all over.

Remove the doughnuts and drain on some kitchen paper, then toss in your sugar of choice. Wait for them to cool slightly before filling them (if you are filling them).  Use a food syringe or a piping bag with a small nozzle to force your filling into the doughnut, then put on the kettle, make some coffee and tuck in!

I will write another Easter post tomorrow with a delicious recipe for hot cross buns so until then…

Curry & cake – the perfect weekend!?!

Hello again folks,

Well I have had another busy weekend in the kitchen. I am one of those people who like to cook from scratch and I love Indian food.

So this weekend I cooked up a chicken korai with mushroom bhaji, onion bhaji, pilau rice and garlic and coriander naan bread – all cooked from scratch. This isn’t difficult but can be a bit time-consuming. The naan bread is an unleavened version which will be in my new book, which is essentially a recipe book containing various breads from around the world.

This is what the finished dish looked like:

Chicken korai with mushroom bhaji, onion bhaji, pilau rice and garlic naan

Now I have to say that I do cook a mean curry – I have taken food to a few indian parties and mine is always the first to go, so I must be doing something right. Then again I have been cooking these for years so have had plenty of practice.

If you had this from a takeaway it would be very calorific but I only used a little olive oil and the sauce contains a plethora of pureed veg – a good way of slipping veggies into kids!

But I have to say that my pride and joy was my cake. Bearing in mind that I am relatively new to the world of cake baking I constructed a beautiful cake consisting of a chocolate brownie, cream laced with icing sugar and raspberries, and topped with a hazelnut meringue. This certainly had the wow factor and all my family (wife and kids) were taking photos to share with their friends.

Chocolate brownie cake with hazelnut meringue and raspberry cream

This cake looks great and pictures don’t really do it justice. It is a towering cake but surprisingly light as it uses a brownie type cake with light meringue. The sharpness of the raspberries compliment the sweetness really well too.

Chocolate brownie cake with hazelnut meringue and raspberry cream

This may look a little daunting but believe me if I can do it anyone can. If you would like a recipe for this one please leave a note and I will post it later.

This was taken about 5 minutes later!!

Chocolate brownie cake with hazelnut meringue and raspberry cream

I got 12 portions out of this cake so we all had 2 slices each – this cake will disappear fast!!

So if you want to have a go let me know and if there is enough interest I will post the recipe, likewise with the curry.

Next time I will continue my posts on flour, so until then…

Coffee cake & pizza

Hi folks,

I have had a busy weekend, baking a lot for my kids. Weekends are great because you can take your time in the kitchen and get even better results.

I baked some pitta breads and cheese topped baguettes on Sunday. But the kids were more excited and impressed by Saturday’s efforts.

First of all I baked a lovely coffee cake.

Coffee & pecan cake

I didn’t have any walnuts so I used pecan nuts and they were delicious. And I was going to put marshmallows in the centre but had none of those either so used the sugar balls instead.

Coffee & pecan cake

Then I started on the main course. This was homemade pizza and garlic bread. I usually make 4 pizzas with the following toppings: cheese and tomato, chorizo/pepperoni, tuna and sweetcorn and chicken tikka. I also include some roasted vegetables too – normally on half the pizza so any veg averse people can avoid them!! I served these with freshly baked garlic bread and a nice dressed salad. Yummy!

My pizza selection

My garlic bread

What did you bake this weekend? I’d love you to share your efforts. Until next time…

Flour – the basis of any good bread part 2

Soft fluffy white loaf!

So, to continue on from my previous post: the carbohydrates are used as fuel by the yeast, the proteins bond to form the all important gluten strands, and the minerals are used to strengthen the gluten strands. The oil helps to maintain moisture thus keeping your bread softer for longer.

Delving a bit deeper into the science of bread making (sorry!), something happens when water is added to flour and that is the formation of gluten. Gluten is formed by the bonding of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin. Gluten is an elastic protein that can be really stretched to form long strands. The more it is worked, the longer and stretchier it becomes. These strands form a complex mesh which helps to trap carbon dioxide bubbles produced by yeast, thus creating gas bubbles inside your dough. This is the process you are encouraging when kneading your dough, so as you can hopefully appreciate, well kneaded dough is a prerequisite for a well-formed loaf.

This is just a quick post as I am quite busy today, so next time I will describe the main types of flour and what the differences are. Until then…

Soft fluffy white loaf!

Flour – the basis of any good bread

Apple & Walnut Rye Bread

Bread only has four basic ingredients although others can be added. The four main ingredients are flour, yeast, salt and water.

Flour is by far the most important ingredient so try to buy the best organic flour you can afford. Wheat prices have soared recently, but remember, the cost of a loaf made at home is roughly half that of shop bought bread.

Check for any additives especially with white flour, as they may have bleaching agents added to make them whiter – how pointless! If you can find it, organic stoneground flour is best.

Wheat flour is the most common type of flour in the UK. A grain of wheat is actually a seed consisting of 3 parts: bran, germ and endosperm. The bran is the tough outer skin, the germ is the embryonic wheat plant and the endosperm is used as a food source by the germ in early development. The bran is a rich source of protein, the germ a good source of vitamins, and the endosperm a great source of carbohydrates, plus some protein, minerals and oil.

Why is this important?  Well, all these components have an effect on the bread making process, and as a scientist myself I like to understand what is going on during the process, and in this way you will give the whole task more respect. Also, understanding what your kneading is doing will almost certainly make you a better baker. I will explain a little more next time…

Apple & Walnut Rye Bread