Wholemeal bread – basic, no mucking around bread

I have recently got into baking bread in a big way this year. I find it a relaxing weekend afternoon activity with the added bonus that my house is filled with the wonderful aroma of fresh bread. In addition I love that you can make a delicious loaf for a fraction of the price that you would pay for something similar inan upmarket bakery or deli.

For some reason this loaf works really well with saltier foods such as ham, smoked salmon or tuna and for this reason I tend to top it with herbs or sea salt crystals. However, I also occasionally (or more than occasionally) enjoy eating this with Nutella. For some reason the combination of chocolatey spread and salt works.

To make your own wholemeal loaf you will need

400g wholemeal bread flour – plus a bit extra for dusting

100g white bread flour

1 sachet fast action yeast

10g sea salt

40g butter

320ml lukewarm water

Olive oil

Optional

Extra sea salt, pepper or any fresh or dried herbs of your choice

Put the flour and butter in a large mixing bowl with the salt on one side of the bowl and the yeast on the other. Add 3/4 of the water and start to mix the dough with your fingers. Keep adding the water until all the flour comes away from the side of the bowl. You’re aiming for soft dough, if you need to add more water do so, but be conservative as you don’t want soggy dough.

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A hideously unflattering photo of my arm

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Add a light coating of olive oil to your work surface. Turn your dough out on the surface and knead for about 10 minutes until your dough is smooth. Dough kneading time is prime Sunday afternoon daydreaming time. Once your dough is smooth put in an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for at least an hour until the dough has doubled in size.

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Knock your dough back and roll it into a fat sausage shape, around 30cm long. Tie the dough into a knot and place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Leave to prove for another hour.

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My sausage looks strangely like a manatee

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Preheat your oven to 220°C and heat a baking tray in the bottom so your bread can be heated from below as well as above.

Rub the dough all over with the extra flour and whatever you want to adorn your bread with. Bake for 30 minutes until your loaf sounds hollow (like you’re tapping on a table I suppose).

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Allow to cool before eating. Serve your freshest slice with really good butter. You shouldn’t need anything else.

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The perfect buttermilk scones

As is well documented by this blog I am a fan of sweet treats. Scones are no exceptions to this rule. Occasionally I watch the Vicar of Dibley and I laugh when the Vicar says something about being greedy and it strikes a chord with me. In this case the quote,

Jesus did a lot of things right, didn’t he? I mean men’s bottoms are lovely. But he could have made mouths scone sized

is very like something I would say. I do love a good scone, however I am much a fan of chocolately recipes I never get round to making them very much until I give up chocolate for Lent and my love affair with jam is revived.

In addition to my growing addiction to raspberry conserve and lemon curd I think scones are a wonderful recipe as they are both delicious and economical. I made mine for under £3. Plus you don’t use eggs to make the dough meaning that if you are intent on baking on a tight budget you don’t have to compromise on buying eggs of a lower welfare standard. With jam they would be the perfect teatime treat for any student (plus baking is perfect procrastination!) The only thing remaining is the debate over how to pronounce the word scone.

To make buttermilk scones you will need:

450g self-raising flour (plus extra for dusting)

¼ tsp salt

100g butter

85g caster sugar

284ml buttermilk (1 pot in most supermarkets)

2 tsp vanilla extract

splash of milk

To serve

Butter

Jam

Clotted or whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 220°C (200°C in a fan oven). Dice your butter and put the flour, salt and butter into a food processor and pulse until you can’t feel any lumps of butter. If you don’t have a food processor using your fingers to rub together the butter and sugar to form breadcrumbs works just as well.  Pulse or stir in the sugar depending on whether or not you’re doing everything manually or with the aforementioned food processor.

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Gently warm the buttermilk and vanilla (keep the pot, you’ll use it later).

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Using a large bowl, quickly tip in some of the flour mix, followed by some of the buttermilk mix, repeating until everything is in the bowl. Use a knife to mix everything together in the bowl. Stop once the dough has formed. Overmixing will stop the scones from puffing up in the oven.

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Tip onto a floured surface and gently bring together with your hands a couple of times. Pat down carefully to around 4cm thick and cut out circles with a 6cm or 7cm cutter. Gather together any trimmings and reshape until all the dough is used.

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Spread out on a lightly floured baking sheet or two. Add a splash of milk into the buttermilk pot, then use to glaze the top of each scone. Bake for 10-12 mins until golden and well risen. Cool on a wire rack.

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Scones are nicest while still warm from the oven.

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I forget which counties in the South West prefer jam first on scones and which prefer cream first so I did one of each to be diplomatic

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Oh and if you really wanted to know I pronounce scone to rhyme with “On”.

Rich chocolate cake with mascarpone frosting

I had a piece of red velvet cake at work this week that had me dreaming of making it all week. Enter Sunday, the day of the week when I usually bake. Unfortunately the red velvet cake wasn’t to be – the recipe I followed for the sponge had far too much cocoa in it for the red colour in it to show up (I will leave the food dye out of the recipe for this reason although it is visible on the photos). In the end though it doesn’t really matter to me what colour my cake ended up; the cake was delicious and had a lovely texture. If you like a chocolate cake that isn’t too heavy on the cocoa then this may be the recipe for you.

To make this you will need

For the sponge

175g unsalted butter

450g caster sugar

3 eggs

3 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

500g plain flour

1 tsp salt

340ml buttermilk

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1½ tsp cider vinegar

For the frosting

125g butter

175g mascarpone

500g icing sugar

Anything you wish to decorate the cake with

 

This is actually a good cake to make if you don’t have much kitchen equipment. I mixed this entirely by hand. I reckon baking by hand occasionally is well worth it. You use up enough calories that you can justify the first slice of cake!

Preheat the oven to 180°C 3 cake tins and line with baking parchment. I have 2 cake tins so I just did my baking in 2 batches. Beat the butter for a minute or so, until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and cream both together.

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Scrape down the bowl to ensure all the ingredients are combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the cocoa and the vanilla extract.

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Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, then add to the butter mixture in three stages, alternating with the buttermilk. Make sure you mix everything thoroughly so no lumps of flour remain and the mixture is smooth.

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Put the bicarbonate of soda and cider vinegar in a small bowl mix well until it bubbles. Add this to the cake batter mix in well. If there is any remaining bicarbonate of soda use 2 teaspoons of water to lift this from the bowl. Spoon the mixture into the tins and level the top of the batter.

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Bake for 45 – 50 minutes. After 30 minutes, cover the top of the cake with foil (this prevents the top of the cake from burning. Test the cake after 45 minutes; when it is cooked, a knife or skewer inserted in the centre will come out clean. Remove the foil and leave to cool on a wire rack for around 30 minutes. Remove from the tin and leave until completely cool before decorating. If you try to decorate while the cakes are still warm everything will slide around and it makes everything more difficult to decorate. Trust me, as an impatient person I have done this many times before.

To make the frosting, beat the butter until soft. Add the mascarpone and beat to combine. Add the icing sugar and beat again. The more you beat this, the creamier the icing will be. Set aside at room temperature until you’re ready to use it.

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Use a pallet knife or a butter knife to decorate.

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P1040708This is the cake after my housemates and I had sampled it. As you can see we attacked it happily. The best cake tastes better than in looks in my opinion.

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