Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Garden Pea loaves

Garden Pea loaves
'Dalmatian' (left); mashed (right)
After a break for the summer, Dan and I have been inspired to new invention by this week's school science project - a diary of all the bread he eats across 7 days. Well, we couldn't have that and not include a Bread Factory original, could we?

And so ... Garden Pea loaves were born.

I wouldn't say that peas are Dan's favourite green vegetable. That accolade probably goes to cabbage (which made a pretty successful foccaccia), or to green beans with garlic (which I suspect would make a nasty bread) or maybe even to broccoli (which we are emphatically not going to introduce to dough any time soon). But he does like peas very much. As do I. Sweet-succulent little kernels of loveliness that they are.

I wanted to use frozen peas, but wasn't sure whether to mash them or put them still-frozen into the dough - so I did both, of course. I'd planned to make a malted bread but left Dan to measure out the flour while I fannied about with something else and, when I came back, found he had put a perfect 500g of strong white flour into the bowl. So a basic white bread dough it was, to which we added ...

Special ingredient
300g frozen peas, 150g defrosted and mashed; 150g kept frozen
(Or at least these were the intended amounts. It's not what actually happened, as you will soon see.)

Normally, when you read a recipe, you expect the method described to be the best way of making the dish and assume that the writer intended it from the start.

Well, neither of those things are true in this case. The summer break made me stupid in the presence of dough, so that I made a different rookie mistake with each loaf and didn't anticipate either one until the moment when I had to make up for the difficulty I'd created.

Loaf 1 - mashed peas
Things seemed fine at first because I thought we were on safe ground - making a white bread dough to which we would add extra ingredients after the first proving. Of course, I'd forgotten that mashed peas would bring lots of additional water and that, in fact, they should have been added to the original mix, with a reduced amount of water. As it was, I added the mash to the risen and knocked-back dough and had to add a load more flour to counteract the wetness as I shaped the loaf. In the end, I could only get about 80g of the mash to bind into the dough. During the second proving, I kept adding a little flour between the base of the loaf and the baking tray, to stop the bread from sticking, and also gave the top a few additional dustings. When proved, the loaf went into a preheated oven and baked, as usual, for around 30 minutes. Phew!

Mashed (left); 'Dalmatian' (right)

Loaf 2 - frozen peas ('Dalmatian' loaf)
'Dalmatian' (left); mashed (right)
The idea of using frozen peas - which came from our friend Rachel, along with the exciting new kneading technique - was to keep them whole and round during kneading, so that we'd get a loaf with green spots through it. (Hence Dan's announcement that we were making 'Dalmatian bread!')

BUT ... I forgot that adding frozen peas would chill the dough and retard the second proving. That was easily remedied, as I simply left this loaf to prove for about 3/4 of an hour longer than the other one. The real problem was trying to get the darned frozen peas to stay in the dough. They kept popping out and launching themselves across the kitchen or landing under foot. Yet again, I only managed to incorporate around 80g. Phew two!

Dan's thumbometer - double yum
Despite all these problems, the loaves were ... not bad, which just goes to show how forgiving a bread dough can be. And as you can see, Dan has enjoyed them. Both loaves baked well to make a perfectly good white bread and the only disappointment was not enough pea flavour. I hope to remedy this next time by adding 100g of very drained mush to the original dough mix (accompanied by a reduced water content) and then adding another 50g after the first proving so that we get a bit of tasty marbling. Frozen peas will not feature. Will report back on the result - which I guess will turn out to be Green Bread mark 3.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Chocolate Milkshake Loaf

Dan came up with this idea some time ago, but as chocolate milkshake is one of his favourite drinks to have on a hot day, he said that it should be an invention for summer and wanted us to wait until the weather warmed up. So we waited, and we waited. Waited. And waited ... And then we just went and made the blooming thing on one of the many nasty dull days that came along during half term.

Now, my dear husband Jay has just written a column for The Observer about how the best food comes about through invention and how, to be inventive, you have to be prepared for the outcome to be disgusting. He wanted us to use that word, 'disgusting', on our blog, so that his newspaper could link to it as an illustration for his column. Which I object to, because Dan and I are in the business always of inventing the delightful (though I admit I had my suspicions over the Laughing Cow and pecan bread).

And the milkshake bread was never going to be a disaster. After all, nothing in life can go wrong when you have chocolate. Mind you, I never cease to be surprised at what happens when you add liquid to bread.

I used a milk loaf recipe to make the bread, of course, adding the right amount of a quite strong chocolate milkshake instead of just plain milk and leaving out the sugar that most recipes include (because there is already sugar in the milkshake mix). I used my usual method, as for the Basic white bread.

Dan's Thumbometer - Double yum
500g strong white bread flour
30g butter, softened
10g salt
10g fast-action yeast
300ml warm chocolate milkshake, made using supermarket powder

OK, when I say that I never cease to be surprised by how a bread turns out, I don't on this occasion mean that I have been bowled over by a taste innovation. What surprises me is how specific added flavours so often just disappear. It happens with beer bread; you add a whole load of tasty frothy bitter and the only discernible difference from a bread made with water is a little more of a yeasty flavour. And it happened with the chocolate bit of the milkshake in this bread. Gone. Disappeared. But we did produce a lovely milk loaf with a good-looking dark crumb. Dan, of course, was very happy. The boy still hasn't met a bread he didn't like.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Laughing Cow and pecan bread

OK, I have to be honest. I did not want to make this bread. I have a passionate loathing for processed cheese, and Dan's fondness for 'Laughing Cow "Light" blue cheese spread' is a cause of great confusion to me. But, as I've said before, Dan is the ideas man on this blog; I merely execute his wishes. (Ah, the Executioner, come to finish herself off by inserting processed cheese into bread.)

I expressed my discomfort about Laughing Cow bread to Dan.

He told me that you're not allowed to say you don't like something unless you've tried it. Not in this house. (Oh, petard, hoist me now!)

I said could I please, at least, add something nice to the bread. Like pecan nuts.

He said, ok then.

And so ... Laughing Cow and pecan bread was born. And, you know, Dan's idea wasn't such a bad one. In fact, I pretty much liked it. You'll see from Dan's thumbometer that he is not yet finished making his point. I used the Basic white bread recipe with the following special ingredients.

Special ingredients
3 triangles Laughing Cow 'Light' blue cheese spread
2 big handfuls pecan nuts, roughly chopped

Experience with breads that have gooey stuff in them suggested that this bread was likely only to be good eaten fresh, so I made up a basic white bread dough using just half the usual quantities, then followed the recipe up to the point of punching the air out of it.

Now, roll out the dough into a rough oblong so that the dough is about an inch thick. Sprinkle the whole area with two-thirds of the nuts and pinched out bits from two of the cheese triangles. Fold in half and sprinkle the  rest of the nuts and the cheese over the top of that. Now roll up the dough starting at the narrow end, and shape into a fat torpedo, place on a lightly oiled baking tray, place in a bag to prove a second time, and follow the instructions from here for the basic white bread.

Dan's (not at all biased) thumbometer
Sextuple yum
Well, I never would have guessed it, but I really did quite like the bread. I would have vastly preferred it if there had been bits of gooey Stilton instead of bits of gooey Laughing Cow, but it worked and was especially nice warm. Worked as toast the next day too. A very good bread for children who are attached to that processed stuff.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Chilli loaves

This request from Dan follows on from Red Nose Day, when Dan picked the chilli-flavoured Every Flavour Roll at school. He liked it, so asked if we could make a proper chilli bread. It's hardly original so I know there must be lots of recipes already out there, but I stuck to our principle - that we should make inventions without reference to any existing recipes.

The first question was how much chilli I should use. Dan can take quite a bit of heat in his food, so I decided to be quite generous. The second question was whether or not to cook the chilli before adding it to the dough. Couldn't decide, so made two loaves from the malted bread recipe, to test it out.

The chillis I used,
with bagel for scale
Special ingredient
1.5 large red chillis, finely chopped
knob of butter, for frying

Ready for the oven - cooked  chilli on left
Very simple. Make the malted bread dough and allow it to rise for two hours, as usual. Meanwhile, divide the chopped chilli in two. Leave half of it raw and gently sweat the other half in a little butter for a couple of minutes. Allow the fried chilli to cool completely.

When ready, punch the dough to release the air, weigh it, and divide it into two equal parts. Knead the fried chilli into one half and the raw chilli into the other. Shape, place on an oiled baking tray and leave to rise for an hour. Dust the loaves with flour and slash the tops shortly before placing in a preheated oven (200C/400F/mark 6) for half an hour. I wanted these to be crunchy loaves, so poured boiling water into a pan in the bottom of the oven to add steam.
Dan's thumbometer - double yum
The chilli flavour came through well in both loaves and tasted very good in the malted crumb. There was no real difference in flavour between the two loaves so I'll just stick to the raw chillis in future. Despite using quite a lot of chilli, there wasn't much heat in the loaves. It didn't matter because the bread was still tasty, but it would be nice to have some punch so I guess I might use smaller, scarier chillis in future.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Soupy Loaf (Green Bread Revisited)

Since Dan was very little, I've made him a soup from vegetables that would otherwise be good for nothing but composting. At the start, it was just the best way to get vegetables into him but, even as an accomplished and diverse eater of all things good, he still relishes it. The soup almost always has leeks, potatoes and lettuce (the last for its sweetness), but can include literally any vegetable. It always turns out some shade of green and so, due to the unpredictability of the ingredients, has come to be known by us as Indeterminate Green Soup. It is loved by Dan and me, loathed by Dan's big brother and his dad. Hah! What do they know?
Dry ingredients with the soup added

The soup recipe is at the end of this post.

I wasn't quite sure how to rise to this challenge from Dan. The potato bread for the Cottage Pie Buns uses cooked potatoes as a combined replacement for both some of the flour and some of the water in a standard bread recipe. But as my soup is purely liquid I decided simply to use it as a replacement for water. I thought it would be better for the bread to have a bit more 'bite' and so chose a wholemeal bread as the medium for this invention, adding 320ml (or thereabouts) of soup rather than water to make the dough.

Dan's Thumbometer - double yum
Well, as you can see, Dan was happy with it - though I'm not so sure. It certainly had something of the taste of vegetable soup, which was satisfying. I wonder if it might be another way of encouraging children who resist vegetables to eat them. However, rather like the vanilla bread, I found the loaf a bit puddingy, at its best when warm and not really good the next day (though Dan still enjoyed it). I'd like to see if I can work out how to make it soft and pillowy rather than stodgy, and will report on any progress.

Indeterminate Green Soup
(As I said, any veg will do but here is the list of those that I used in the soup for this loaf)

3 leeks
2 potatoes
several leaves Romaine lettuce
sad looking bunch of coriander
sad looking bunch of parsley
3 carrots
some broccoli
end of a cauliflower
vegetable stock

Roughly chop the vegetables and put them in a saucepan of your choice, which should be 2/3 to 3/4 full once all the veg are in. Add enough vegetable stock to just cover the vegetables. Bring to the boil and simmer until all the veg are soft. Blitz in a blender, pass through a sieve - and that's it.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Every Flavour Rolls for Red Nose Day

I had a really brilliant idea three weeks ago. It involved making 36 bread rolls for Dan's school on Red Nose Day. Each roll would have a different flavour - and, just like the Every Flavour Beans in Harry Potter, not all would be pleasant.

Well, that was three weeks ago. Now I've just spent the entire day making it happen I'm not quite sure how I allowed such an insane thought to become reality. Still they're finished! All that's left is to wrap each one, number it, and put its identity in a sealed envelope marked with a corresponding number. That way, no 9 year old will know whether they're about to sink their teeth into a yummy snack or a complete nightmare. What do you mean, cruel?

One roll is plain - to show the children the basis for all the rolls, and one is plain with red food colouring added: the Red Nose Roll.

I made three lots of dough as given in the basic white bread recipe, so that the second lot was put to rise half an hour after the first, and the third half an hour after that. Yes, I know, very long-winded, but doing the fillings was quite tricky and if I'd just made one lot of dough using 1.5k of flour, the rising and proving times for the rolls would have been all over the place. This way I was able to control them.

After each dough had risen for two hours, I divided it into 12 rolls incorporating a different secret ingredient into each: just a small amount that would be easily kneaded in, but enough so the hapless child will get a good shot of flavour in one bite. You'll see that there are only 35 rolls - one screw-up across all of these is not so bad, I think.

Secret ingredients
(listed from top left to bottom right, in rows)
Tray 1

Tray 1
Red Nose
White chocolate, roughly chopped
Dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Dried cranberries
Dried apple
Fresh ginger, grated
Blue cheese
Cheddar cheese
Carrot, chopped, boiled, cooled & drained
Cabbage, as carrot
Cauliflower, as carrot

Tray 2

Tray 2
Black olives, chopped
Roast onion
Roast garlic
Chilli, finely chopped
Mint, finely chopped
Parsley, finely chopped
Coriander, finely chopped
Damson jam
Curry powder
Ground cloves

Tray 3

Tray 3
Tomato ketchup
Instant coffee
French mustard
Vanilla pod
Strawberry mikshake powder

Red Nose Day is tomorrow, so I'll have to wait and see how these go down. Perhaps the classful of 9 year olds will have more sense than to put any of this lot into their mouths!

Three days later...
By all accounts, the Every Flavour Rolls game was a BIG HIT. All the children ate the roll they ended up with - even the ones with instant coffee and curry powder. Dan says that not a single one went in the bin. Dan has a great class teacher, and she will have run it very well, but I'm so glad that it was such fun. I'm not sure I'd repeat it, because it was a big day of baking. But I can imagine that, with the passage of a bit of time, it might be something to do for the next Red Nose Day.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Milky tea bread

Dan's Thumbometer - Yum
And now for a less complicated invention, this time based on one of Dan's favourite drinks: a nice cup of tea. This is proper tea made by the English, you understand. None of your bergamot-infused-nice-with-a-slice-namby-pamby tea. This is tea made strong and milky, tea the colour of fudge, tea how builders like it. (Though without the four spoonfuls of sugar, thanks.) Here's a film featuring a jugful of the stuff.

No need to post a method this week - just follow the basic white bread recipe, replacing the water with milky tea made how you like it. That's all we did.

Crumb is the colour of light caramel
Dan wanted to give the bread a double-yum thumbometer rating, but I'd told him that he could only do that if he could actually taste tea in the bread. He admitted that he couldn't, really. The bread is basically like a normal white loaf, with perhaps the tiniest suggestion of something else, the smallest of after-tastes that hints at tea. But maybe I only found that because I was looking for the flavour. This is an interesting result that I've come across before when using something other than water to hydrate a dough, notably when using beer. An ale bread does taste yeasty, but that is pretty much all the difference the beer brings in flavour. Anyhow, we may make a Milky tea bread every so often, but more for the fun of it than for any other reason.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Cottage Pie buns

Lovely, warm, meat-filled rolls
And so to Dan's favourite meal. Cottage pie, of course. Or shepherd's pie. It's all the same to Dan. So long as there is a juicy minced-meat sauce and huge amounts of mashed potato, he's happy. Usually about four-servings happy. Honestly, if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn't think it possible for a nine-year-old boy to put so much food in his mouth at one sitting without coming apart at the seams. But so it is.

To turn the meal into one of our bread inventions, I decided to make potato bread rolls stuffed with a spoonful of cottage pie filling. Though I say it myself, they were very successful - best invention so far. (Double-yum thumbs from the whole family.)

Dan's Thumbometer - Double yum
(both warm and cold the next day)
I couldn't see any point in making a filling just for this invention, so I made a cottage pie for dinner one evening and put aside some of the filling before covering the rest with mash. I froze the extra for the rolls because it was several days before I wanted to make the bread, but I could just as easily have put it in the fridge and used it the next day.

There must be as many ways of making a cottage pie filling as there are cooks in the land, and the easiest thing is to fill the rolls with your usual recipe. But in case you've not made cottage pie before, I've dropped my own recipe for the filling at the end of this post. I have no intention of telling you how to mash a potato!

Anyhow, here's how we made the rolls. I used the Hairy Bikers' recipe for the potato bread and made it to the quantities they recommend (although I replaced the sunflower oil with olive oil and didn't add onion seeds  - and forgot to save the water that the potatoes were boiled in so got it from the tap).

Special ingredient
140g cottage pie filling, cold
1 egg, beaten

Having forgotten to save the potato water, I used cool tap water rather than warm and left the dough to rise for two hours rather than the usual one. (I use cool rather than warm water because Paul Hollywood says that the slower rise gives a better flavour, and I've found that to be true.)
The flour was eventually incorporated
I followed the Hairy Bikers' guidance to the letter on making the dough, resisting the temptation to add water to the initially very dry dough - and was glad that I did because it did become tacky and needed a constant dusting of flour while being kneaded. Once the dough had risen for two hours, it was deliciously soft. Still a bit sticky if you played with it too much, but lovely and silky.

After rising, I weighed the dough and found it to be exactly 700g, so divided it into 7 pieces each weighing 100g. I rolled each piece into a ball, flattened it into a circle, put 20g of cold cottage pie filling into the middle and pressed it down gently. I then shaped the roll around the filling by pulling up the sides, carefully massaging them over the filling, then caging my hand around the dough and rolling it back into a ball shape. The pictures should give you a rough idea of how I did it - though I couldn't 'cage' and take a picture at the same time, so no image of that.

1. Circle of dough with filling added
2. Dough pulled up around filling
3. Dough fully worked up around filling
4. Fully rolled and turned over

At this stage, I would usually have left the rolls to prove for about an hour and then baked them at 200C (400F, gas 6), but I had to go out for a few hours. So once I'd put the newly made dough rolls on a baking sheet lined with oiled greaseproof paper and placed the sheet in a plastic bag, I put it all in the fridge. When I got home, I took covered baking sheet out, woke the rolls up near a radiator for about 3/4 of an hour, brushed them with beaten egg and baked them for 25 minutes. I love how you can play with timings in this way.

We ate most of the rolls after just 15 minutes of cooling. The bread was soft, the filling warm and oozing (looks fittingly rude in the picture, don't you think?). The whole was incredibly satisfying. They worked the next day too, and would be good with mayonnaise for a picnic lunch.

Cottage Pie filling 
Makes a pie big enough for 4 greedy people - even where one of them is Dan - plus enough for 7 rolls.

1 large onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
500g beef mince
500g pork mince
good dollop of tomato puree
herbs of choice
750ml stock, approx (probably more if you cook it longer than 2 hours)
     (good cubes of any flavour; posh or homemade stock also good but unnecessary)
1 teaspoon honey, dissolved in stock
olive or vegetable oil, for frying


Put the minced meats in a large bowl and mix them together with your hands.

Gently fry the diced onion, carrots and celery in a large ovenproof casserole, until they are well softened but not brown (or not very). Add the meat and fry until it is all browned, stirring to make sure you've got it all. Add the tomato puree and seasonings, stir and then pour over enough of the honeyed stock to cover the meat. Bring to a low boil then turn down the heat to its very lowest setting so that the mixture is only just bubbling. Leave it to do this for at least 2 hours, stirring every so often. Do not cover the pan. Add stock whenever the mixture most of what you've already added has been absorbed/evaporated. If there is a lot of excess oil on the top, skim most of it off, though do leave some.

After 2 or even 3 hours, the meat should be glossy, moist and unctuous with not too much liquid sauce. It is then perfect to be topped with lots of mashed potato - start putting it on around the edge and then move inwards so that you contain the sauce as you go (a tip I picked up years ago from Gary Rhodes). Fluff up the top of the mash with a fork, or use the fork to make a ridged pattern.

Put the pie in an oven heated to 200C (400F, gas 6) for about half an hour. If the potato hasn't browned a little by this time, whack the pie under the grill for a few minutes before serving.

Sunday, 24 February 2013


Bagels under kitchen paper
...because Dan has them every morning for breakfast and I wanted to see if I could.

The recipe I used is from The Bread Baker's Apprentice and there's a good account of bagels being made from this recipe on the excellent amateur bakers' website, The Fresh Loaf - although I take issue with the writer's jaunty exclamation of how easy it is to make them. There are seven processes and the whole thing takes two days. Which is bonkers - though I did manage it. (My thanks to Marian Binkley - anthropologist and superior baker - for steering me towards this recipe.)

I'm not going to write down the whole method as it's on The Fresh Loaf. Instead, I thought I'd fill in one or two gaps between this and the description in the original book, and add my own commentary of how it went - which was not all according to plan.

Both the book and the website are American so, before the commentary, there's a UK-friendly ingredients list. (Does anybody else wonder how US cup measurements work? There's never any guide to exactly how much they should contain. Do you round a cup measurement? Or should they be level? And if there is no definitive answer, are American bakers more skilful than British ones? Or do they just use witchcraft?)  Thankfully, the book had ounce measurements as well as cups, so I was able to convert them easily.

3.5g (1 teaspoon) fast-action yeast
510g strong white bread flour
550ml (1 pint) water at room temperature

1.5g (half a teaspoon) fast-action yeast
490g strong white bread flour
20g salt
1 tablespoon malt extract (or honey, or brown sugar)

To finish
1 tablespoon bicarbonate of soda
Semolina flour, for dusting
Topping of choice - seeds, salt, minced garlic or onions, etc...
Gloopy sponge

Commentary on The Fresh Loaf method
Process 1
The 'sponge' is the first thing you make. Mix the ingredients in a large bowl, using a whisk until it has formed a thick, smooth, stretchy, gluey batter. Cover the bowl with a tea towel, or cling film, and leave it to stand for 2 hours, during which time it should roughly double in size. It will collapse a bit when you bang the bowl on the tabletop.

Process 2
Dry, heavy dough before kneading
This is the 'dough'. Add 400g of the flour and all the other dough ingredients to the sponge (I used malt extract rather than powder; it reminds me of weekly childhood doses to 'build up my strength'). Then follow The Fresh Loaf in order to mix, add remaining flour and knead. The dough is initially much drier and stiffer than a normal bread dough, but it was silky and pliable, if still quite heavy after 10 minutes' kneading.

Here's me, shaping a bagel
Make the hole  bigger than you
think is sensible
Process 3
Immediately shape into 12 x 125g rolls, then make these into bagel shapes, as described, and cover with damp kitchen paper. Leave to rest for 20 minutes.

Process 4
Once the bagels have rested, lay them on two baking trays lined with oiled greaseproof paper, put each try into a clean plastic bag, and leave to rest for another 20 minutes.

Process 5
Put both trays-in-the-bag in the fridge overnight, where the bagels will rise slowly.

Process 6
Next day, turn on the oven to 250C (500F, gas 9). Bring a large pan of water to boil and follow the instructions given on The Fresh Loaf. Dan and I really enjoyed this bit. There's something ever-so-slightly risky about turning bits of dough in wildly boiling water - especially when you're 9.

At this point, I made several mistakes. Here they are: 
(1) Although I turned over the greaseproof paper on each baking tray (so I got a new layer of oil), I didn't sprinkle it with semolina, thinking the oil alone would be enough. 
(2) I then found it impossible to believe that you should put the just-boiled bagels on the baking try while completely wet. So I patted them dry, particularly the undersides. 
The combination meant that my bagels stuck beautifully to the paper during baking so that I had to spend some time peeling it off the burning hot bagels when they came out of the oven. 

(1) do add semolina, 
(2) do put the completely wet bagels on the baking trays, and
(3) on advice from Marian B, mist the boiled bagels with a little extra water before topping them with your sesame seeds or poppy seeds or herbs or onions or whatever just before they go into the oven (I used sesame seeds on half of mine). Phew!

Process 7
Baking at last! Follow The Fresh Loaf instructions. It's a bit of a faff, but turning the trays round and the heat down does seem to ensure that all the bagels brown evenly. For each tray, I ended up taking the outside four bagels off first and returning the two in the middle to the oven, in order to get them properly brown - and you can imagine how much fun it was, getting the baking-hot outside bagels off the paper they were stuck to quickly enough to put the middle ones back in. Oh yes, there were burned fingers.

Given my wrong-headedness over the semolina and the patting dry, they turned out pretty well. These are not the light fare that we're used to getting in plastic bags from Tesco - they are serious, chewy things that would keep you going for most of the day. Dan liked them a lot. My north-London Jewish husband says they remind him of the bagels he had in childhood - and Marian B thought they were OK too, if a little squat (that'll be the patting dry). Toasted, I found that they tasted rather more like a crumpet than a modern bagel. 

So, nice. But I'm not sure quite nice enough to fanny around this much, at least not often.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Vanilla bread

The finished loaf
There are only two sweet flavours that Dan likes. The first is chocolate - which led us to the chocolate teabread invention. The second, as you will have guessed, is vanilla. It's not a passion that I share - panettone is evil in baked form. But Dan is the ideas man on this blog, so time for me to just shush and get on with being the kitchen slave.

The recipe we came up with was a complete shot in the dark. I intended to adapt a recipe for buttermilk bread - yogurt being similar in character, I'm told - but the only recipes I liked the look of were for soda bread and I didn't want my first attempt with that style to be an invention. So I just made this up, using the usual quantities of butter, yeast and salt for a 500g basic white bread, and adding yogurt and milk until the dough felt about right.

Dan's Thumbometer
1. Double yum when fresh
2. Hmmmm after a day
500g strong white bread flour
30g butter, softened
10g salt
10g fast-action yeast
450g pot low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 vanilla pod
25ml semi-skimmed milk
1 egg, beaten

Score the vanilla pod lengthways through into the middle. Open the skin and remove the seeds by scraping them out with a knife. Add the seeds to the yogurt in the pot, and give it a good stir.

Place the dry ingredients and the butter in a bowl, as for the basic white bread. Add the yogurt and mix the contents of the bowl with your hand, using a circular movement. (You'll see from the video of my hands going into the mix that I didn't relish the prospect, though it wasn't quite as icky as I expected. You'll also notice that I was already talking when Dan started the film, going on pointlessly about something - the modern equivalent of all those childhood photos I took of my mum in mid flow, her mouth open, her look intent.) If the mix is too dry, add some milk, a little at a time, until all the dry ingredients have been picked up.

From here, follow the kneading and rising instructions for the basic white bread. (At this stage I was a bit worried that I'd added too much milk, as there was a lot of cratering on the surface of the dough, see above left.) Once the dough has risen for two hours, knock the air out, shape the dough into a round and place it on a baking tray lined with lightly oiled greaseproof paper. (There was no more cratering at this stage, see above right.) Place the tray inside a clean plastic bag and leave the dough to prove for an hour, then glaze with beaten egg and slash with a cross before baking in the oven set at 200C (400F, gas 6) for half an hour.

Cratered dough before first rise
Smooth dough ready for proving

Fresh bread
Much to my surprise, given the cratering in the original dough, this worked incredibly well. The finished bread is a brioche-style loaf that is especially lovely toasted. The vanilla flavour is not overpowering but is definitely there. I agree with Dan's double yum.

A day or so later
Hmmm, as Dan says. I noticed that he wasn't asking to eat the bread at every possible moment - which has been the case with all the previous inventions. So I asked him what he thought again, and he gave it the lower rating. Again, I agree with him. Although it is not at all stale, the toasted bread had become rather cakey and heavy. When I make this again, it will be a smaller loaf for immediate eating.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Chocolate teabread

There won't be many sweetened breads on this blog - and there will be none with fruit. Dan's sweet tooth never grew in and, as far as he's concerned, fruit is the work of the devil. What can I say, he's a savoury kind of guy. ('Not all fruits,' he's just said. 'All fruits except bananas and grapes. Although not all bananas. I don't like them when they're bruised.) Anyhow ... chocolate is an interesting beast because it satisfies both sweet and savoury, and Daniel absolutely adores it. So, the need for a chocolate bread was inevitable.

The finished loaf 
(flour not icing sugar on top - terrible light, bad camera; hey ho)

I based this recipe on a milk loaf because I thought it would provide a nice rounded, slightly sweet background for the dark chocolate. A milk loaf replaces water in the dough with milk, and is good with a bit of added sugar. Here's the teabread recipe.

470g strong white bread flour
30g cocoa powder
30g butter, softened
10g fast-action yeast
10g salt
25g caster sugar
320ml semi-skimmed milk, tepid
125g chocolate, roughly chopped - either all dark (not the really heavy stuff, just 35% cocoa solids - Bourneville the best for this) or equal proportions of dark, milk and white

Shaped dough ready to prove
Make the dough using the same method as for basic white bread, adding the cocoa powder with the flour; the sugar with the salt on one side of the bowl; and incorporating the warm milk a little at a time at the end. As ever, you may not need it all or you may need a little more to get the right slightly grainy and just-a-bit-moist feeling. Knead the dough in the usual way (see film) and set aside for two hours.

Spread the chopped chocolate on a flat surface and, once you've punched the air out of the dough, knead it in until all the chunks are fully incorporated. Some bits may keep falling off, but if you stick them on and they will be engulfed by the dough as it proves. Leave it to do so for an hour, flouring and slashing the dough after half an hour, as usual, and turning on the oven to 200C (400F, gas 6).

Completely, utterly delicious. In fact, I think Dan could have done with three thumbs for this. It's like a bready cross between chocolate cake and pain au chocolat, but with far less of the fat and sugar.

Dan's Thumbometer- double yum
Dan liked it with butter and Marmite(!). I liked it toasted (NOT in the toaster) and eaten hot with lots of butter. It's called 'teabread' because the combination of toasted sweetish bread with salty butter reminded me of a toasted English teacake.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Cabbage, bacon and onion focaccia

Don't ask me how it happened, but Dan likes cabbage. He likes it so much that he chose it as the subject of our next invention. Actually, that's a big lie, because I know precisely how the cabbage-liking thing happened. We punched it up with onions, bacon and chicken stock until Dan (and big brother Eddie) had grown such a love of the dish that even naked cabbage is now met with enthusiasm.
Dan's Thumbometer - Double yum

But we decided against nakedness for this invention, and have gone back to the best-loved ingredients. Use the focaccia bread recipe, but leave out the sea salt and herbs, and replace them with the following extras.

Special topping
3 large leaves savoy cabbage, shredded
one large onion, finely sliced
2 rashers streaky bacon, finely chopped
200ml chicken stock
olive oil, for frying

For the bread, follow the focaccia bread recipe all the way to making dimples in the risen and proved dough. (Note: Although this dough is meant to be quite sloppy to begin with, the one I made this time was initially too wet, due to over-enthusiastic adding of water. I brought it back to what felt about right during the initial kneading by carefully adding flour, half a teaspoon at a time. But I don't think I added quite enough, as the dough was still a bit sticky by dimpling stage (see film). Even so, the bread worked well enough.)

As the stretched dough proves in the final hour, prepare the topping, making sure to leave enough time for the cooked ingredients to cool before being sprinkled on the dimpled dough. There are three steps to the topping.
(1) Put the stock in a small pan and heat to boiling. Add the cabbage and simmer for five minutes. Drain the cabbage and leave in the sieve to drain off any remaining liquid.
(2) Heat a little olive oil in a pan and fry the onion on a low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, covering the pan with a lid or some greaseproof paper. When they are done, the onions should be caramelised and sweet, with as little browning as possible. Put aside to cool.
The raw...
(3) Using the same pan, add a very little more oil and fry the bacon until just crisp. Drain off as much oil as you can, and add the bacon to the onion to cool.

When you have made dimples in the focaccia dough, scatter the ingredients evenly over the surface. Depending on the shape of your bread, you may not have room for it all.

...and the cooked
Well, I thought this was a real candidate for our first disaster, but it turned out OK. The bread rose and browned well under the topping. It was a little too oily for me, but had a good flavour and Dan is very happy with it indeed. (I'm beginning to suspect that he might be a little biased, but then what 9-year-old boy would care about a bit of oil? And like I said, it did taste good.)

If you've ever had 'seaweed' at the local Chinese, the flavour of the baked cabbage will be familiar - for that is all the 'seaweed' is. I didn't add all the topping ingredients as I thought they might stop the bread from cooking properly, but I think it would have been OK and the flavour would have been even better with more. Next time, I think I might use sea salt instead of bacon - because it was responsible for at least some of the oil - although a certain amount of oiliness will always come with focaccia anyway.