Thursday, 31 January 2013

Focaccia bread

Never made this before and was a little unsure how it would turn out, but wanted to try it in preparation for a new invention. It was SO much easier than I expected - though I categorically would not knead it by hand. The kind of sloppy dough in this recipe is precisely what I got the dough hook for.

Yet again, the basic recipe I used was from Paul Hollywood's How To Bake (because they always work), and I made half the published quantity - so one substantial bread rather than two.

250g strong white flour
5g fast-action yeast
5g salt
70ml olive oil, plus extra for kneading and finishing
180ml cool water
sea salt and Italian herbs, to finish

Place the flour in the mixer bowl. Add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other, then add 20ml of the olive oil and most of the water. Using the mixer's dough hook, set the machine to minimum and let it mix slowly until all the dry ingredients have been picked up from the side of the bowl. Add the rest of the water if it's needed in order to incorporate those ingredients. Now add the remaining olive oil, set the mixer on low to medium, and leave the hook to work its magic for 6 to 8 minutes, until the dough is soft and elastic. Remove it from the bowl and knead it by hand on a lightly oiled surface for a little longer until it is smooth and elastic. The consistency we got made a good bread (see film). Place the dough in an oiled rectangular plastic container (helps keep the shape) that will allow the dough to grow. Cover with a tea towel and leave it to rise for about an hour.

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and then lightly oil the paper itself. DON'T punch the air out of the dough once it has doubled in size (Dan was most disappointed about this). Instead, tip it on to the baking tray and gently stretch it out - maintaining as much of the air as possible - until it is even and flat. (That said, when I was stretching the dough, some areas fell completely flat and I thought it would end up crisp and hard in those places. Turned out OK.) Put the tray inside a clean plastic bag and leave to rise again for another hour. After half an hour, turn the oven on to 220C (425F, gas 7). 

When the dough is ready for the oven, make regular dimples in it by pushing your finger right down to the baking tray. Brush it with olive oil, sprinkle it with sea salt flakes and Italian herbs, and bake for 15 minutes. Once it's out of the oven, brush with a little more olive oil. To be honest, this was one of the most delicious things I have ever taken out of an oven.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Bedtime snack rolls

Dan's daily bedtime snack is one of his favourite things, so it was only a matter of time before he suggested making bread with bedtime ingredients. The bedtime snack in question is always the same: Salami, Cheese and Crackers. Which might sound quite flexible, but it's not. There's no point trying to serve up some German salami with a Jacob's cream cracker. And don't even think about Taleggio or Brie or Cheshire. What Dan means by 'salami, cheese and crackers' is, and must be: three slices of supermarket chorizo, a few bits of medium-strong cheddar cheese and two Fortt's Bath Oliver biscuits. Nothing else will do - so that's what went in to our snacky rolls.

We used the basic wholemeal bread recipe with the following extras.

Special ingredients
150g medium-strong cheddar cheese, grated
12 slices snacking chorizo, chopped
2 Fortt's Bath Olivers, finely crushed

Make the dough and leave it to rise for two hours, as normal. When it's ready, punch the air out and incorporate the cheese and chorizo by kneading it in a little at a time. When they are well distributed throughout the dough, divide it into 9 equal pieces, roll them into balls and lay out in three rows of three on a lightly oiled baking tray, with a bit of space between each. They will grow together while proving and baking so that you get that lovely soft area of ripped crumb on two or more sides of each. Place the tray laden with rolls into a clean plastic bag and leave to rise for an hour.

Newly prepared rolls
Risen, dusted and snipped rolls
Just out of the oven

In the meantime, crush the biscuits using the method demonstrated here by Daniel, and heat the oven to 200C (400F, gas 6). Just before putting the rolls in to bake, brush them with a little milk, scatter the biscuit crumbs on top and snip each one with a pair of scissors. (Dusting the rolls with the biscuit crumbs was the only way I could think of including the crackers without their disintegrating to mush.) Bake for 25-30 minutes, covering the baking rolls with greaseproof paper towards the end if they begin to brown too fast.

Dan's thumbometer - double yum
Lovely crispy rolls, thanks to the biscuit crumb, with a deep cheesy flavour. I might add a little more chorizo next time, but that's just nit-picking. Dan and I are very pleased with these. He says he's definitely having one at bedtime tonight.

Next day ... the rolls are even better. Chorizo flavour strong enough. Dan made the mistake of trying to eat two in quick succession. Now having a lie down. Next time, I think I'll make 12 rolls instead of 9, so they are properly snack sized.

Basic wholemeal bread

Dan and I are not big fans of wholemeal bread, but it's useful sometimes - so long as there's a light touch on the wholemeal. None of your woody brown crumb for us.

Here are the ingredients for a light-touch wholemeal, again adapted from Paul Hollywood's How To Bake. Follow the method for the basic white bread.

400g strong white bread flour
100g strong wholemeal bread flour
30g butter, cubed and softened
10g fast-action yeast
10g salt
320ml cool water

If you want to knead using a mixer with a dough hook, try using these quantities of flour and water in the Leith's recipe (also given on the basic white bread page). I haven't actually done it, but can't see any reason why it shouldn't work.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Peanut bread

Dan has just decided that he likes peanuts so he was keen on the idea suggested by big brother Eddie and his friend Theo to make some peanut bread. This was supposed to be a trade-off because Eddie expected to hate last week's Marmite loaves - although they actually ended up converting him to the black sticky stuff. Still, peanut bread it is.

We used the basic white bread recipe with the following extras.

Special ingredients
210g unsalted roasted peanuts, roughly crushed
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

Make the dough and allow it to rise for two hours, as normal. While the dough is rising, crush the peanuts. Here's Dan using the traditional method of bashing the living daylights out of them with a rolling pin - they're in a plastic bag inside the towel. This produces a good, rough crush, with some nuts reduced to a powder and others still whole.

The shaped dough

Spreading the peanut butter

Spread the crushed nuts on a clean, flat surface. Punch the air out of the risen dough then put it on top of the crushed nuts and knead until all the nuts have been incorporated. Flatten the dough out a little and spread half of the peanut butter over the surface. Fold the dough over carefully to work the peanut butter into it. Flatten the dough again then repeat the operation with the rest of the peanut butter. Shape the worked dough into a round and continue with rising, slashing and baking as for the malted cob loaf.

Ready for the oven
Just out of the oven

Dan's Thumbometer - Double yum
As you can see from Dan's Thumbometer, the bread tastes fantastic. Really peanutty. The powdery nuts give the crumb a more complex texture than you get with the basic white bread, as well as adding flavour. The whole nuts provide a satisfying and tasty crunch. The peanut butter seams provides kicks of flavour. The bread was especially lovely straight out of the oven, and also toasted.
Uh-oh, disintegration!
BUT ... there was a problem with the finished loaf. The peanut butter layers don't bind the bread in the same way as the Marmite did last week (see Marmite loaf 1). On two attempts at baking this peanut bread (the first went down very quickly and a second was requested immediately), a layer of peanut butter ended up right under the crust at the top, causing it to peel off when sliced. The sliced bread also fell apart wherever there was a seam of peanut butter in it, making it very difficult to get out of the toaster.

So we need a rethink that will keep the depth of flavour but produce a more reliable crumb. Next time, we'll try replacing the butter in the basic white bread recipe with smooth peanut butter. We won't get the intense bursts of flavour from the peanut butter seams - but will hopefully be able to get the toast out of the toaster without turning the thing upside-down and scraping away with a knife. We'll post an update when we make it.

Update 1 - hmmm
So I tried replacing the butter with peanut butter. The bread didn't fall apart any more, but it was a bit heavy. Needs another rethink. Perhaps I'll just go back to the original and work the peanut butter in fully rather than leaving seams of it. A further update will appear.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Marmite loaves

Toast with Marmite is Dan's favourite of all favourite foods, so we thought it would be brilliant to have bread that already had the Marmite in it. Less time wasted on spreading, more time for the eating.

Just before baking - loaf 1 on left
Special ingredient
2 rounded tsp Marmite, approx

We had two ideas for how to make this bread, so decided to try both. To do this without making too much, we used the recipe for basic white bread, but halved the amounts to make two small loaves. Both methods needed a bit more than the 150ml water that half the recipe should have required.

Loaf 1 
Marmite spread on loaf 1 dough
Make a basic white bread dough and allow it to rise for 2 hours, as normal. Line the loaf tin with greaseproof paper, and lightly oil the paper itself. This deals with the problem of Marmite is likely leaking out of the bread during baking (I've learned to my cost that this makes it very difficult to remove the finished bread from the tin). Once you've punched the air out of the dough, and kneaded it a little, roll it gently into a rough oblong. Spread a thickish layer of Marmite over half of it, then fold the other half on top. Now spread a similar layer over half of the smaller oblong and fold it in two. Gently shape the loaf, massaging and folding the ends carefully so as to close the Marmite inside. Don't knead or squeeze too hard, or it will come out of the seams. Continue with the basic bread recipe, as usual.

Just out the oven - loaf 1 on left
Loaf 2 
To make the dough, first warm the water and dissolve the Marmite into it. (We didn't measure the Marmite exactly, just kept adding it until it was unpleasantly strong to taste.) Put the Marmite water in the fridge to cool and, when ready, use it to make the bread completely as normal, although I used a little less salt in the dough due to the salt content in Marmite - 3g instead of 5g.

Much to my delight, both breads turned out very nicely indeed. This was a big surprise with loaf 2 because, as you can see from the pictures of before and after baking, it failed to rise well. In fact, it felt dumpy and cakey when kneaded after the 2-hour rise and I had very low expectations for it. But the result was tasty, with an almost cheesy flavour and a crumb that was light enough if a little denser than I would have liked. Next time we make it, we'll leave the salt out altogether and that should ensure that the dough rises effectively.

Freshly sliced - loaf 1 on left
Loaf 1 rose perfectly and the crumb was soft and light. The folding technique worked well, as there are marbled lines of Marmite running along the length of the bread, so you get some in every slice. As you can see below, Dan liked this one best - but he liked loaf 2 as well.

Both loaves toasted really nicely, and now all we need to spread is the butter. Biggest surprise of all, Dan's big brother Eddie - who hates Marmite - liked both breads.

Dan's Thumbometer

Loaf 1 - double yum
Loaf 2 - yum

Monday, 7 January 2013

Malted cob loaf

This loaf has a wonderful crunchy crust.

350g malted bread flour
150g strong white bread flour
30g butter, cubed and softened
10g fast-action yeast
10g salt
300ml cool water

Follow the method used for the basic white bread recipe, although this one may need a little more water to take up all the dry ingredients. Once the dough has risen for two hours, shape it into a round instead of a loaf shape. I like to slash a cross into it after the first 30 minutes of proving.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Green bread

Green is Dan's favourite colour. Hence his request for green bread in the first place - and also the choice of display colour for this blog.

Special ingredient
Green food colouring, lots

We made a basic white bread dough using water that included quite a lot of food colouring. We added only enough water to leave some dry ingredients at the bottom of the bowl so we could carry on adding colouring to the dough until we thought we had enough to give the final bread a good green colour.

Dan's Thumbometer - Yum

The colouring we used was a sage colour, which made a bread that looked almost exactly like it was mouldy the whole way through - which is a shame because it tasted great. Next time we'll use a brighter, crazier green, so it looks properly jokey rather than suspect.

Basic white bread

Your bog-standard yeast-based non-sourdough white bread is what Dan and I like best. Makes the best toast BY FAR in our opinion, so will probably be the basis for a lot of our inventions. So what if it's not fashionable! Here's the recipe I use.

Kneading dough

500g strong white bread flour
30g butter, cubed and softened
10g fast-action yeast
10g salt
300ml water

Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the yeast on one side of the flour and the salt on the other. Add the butter and most of the water, then mix by hand using a circular motion and keep turning until all the dry ingredients are incorporated into a soft and very slightly sticky dough, only adding all the water if necessary to get the right consistency.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for 6 to 8 minutes until the dough has changed texture from grainy to smooth and pillowy. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel or oiled clingfilm. Leave the dough to rise for just over an hour, until it has doubled in size (put it in a slightly warm place in the winter), then knock out the air by punching it while it's in the bowl. This is Dan's favourite bit, as you can see above.

Turn it out on to a flat surface and knead for 30 seconds before shaping it for a loaf tin or into a round or into evenly weighed and shaped rolls (makes 9 large rolls; 12 smaller ones). Place the shaped dough in an oiled tin or baking tray, cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to rise for 30 minutes or so, until doubled in size. Turn the oven on to heat up to 200C (400F, gas 6) while the dough is proving. At the end of this rise, dust the shaped dough with flour or brush with milk or egg (depending on the finish you want), slash the top with a sharp knife if it's a loaf or large round, and either leave rolls rounded or make scissor cuts in the top. Bake in the centre of the oven - 30 minutes for a loaf, about 15-20 minutes for rolls.