No bread is an island

...entire of itself. (With apologies to John Donne!)
I live and breathe breadmaking. I’m an evangelist who would like everyone to make his or her own bread. I want to demystify breadmaking and show it as the easy everyday craft that it is. To this end I endeavour to make my recipes as simple and as foolproof as I possibly can.

I call my blog 'No bread is an island' because every bread is connected to another bread. So a spicy fruit bun with a cross on top is a hot cross bun. This fruit dough will also make a fruit loaf - or Chelsea buns or a Swedish tea ring...
I'm also a vegan, so I have lots of vegan recipes on here - and I'm adding more all the time.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Sardinian carta da musica

Ingredients:
140g strong white flour
60g yellow semolina
1/2 tsp salt
125ml lukewarm water
1 teaspoon fresh yeast or teaspoon of dried active yeast or half a sachet of fast action yeast

Method:
1. Measure the water and stir in the yeast until it’s dissolved. Place the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and add the yeast liquid.

2. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary, remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). Begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with a knife, starting with the yeast, cutting through the dough. When it gets too stiff for the knife, use your hand to squeeze the mixture together. As it forms into a solid mass, keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water to keep it soft! When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

3. Knead by stretching the dough out, folding it over, stretching it out and so on and so forth. Do this until it is smooth – or until you get fed up!

4. Divide the dough into 8 pieces, using the side of your hand to cut through the dough. This has the effect of forming the dough into rolls as you cut.

5. Roll these out as thinly as possible and leave to prove on some baking parchment until the dough is risen and puffy.

6. Switch the oven on to 240C and bake for about 10 minutes, checking after 5, and turning them if necessary to make sure they are cooked evenly. They should puff up like balloons.

Note:
I've found the best way to bake these is to have a heavy metal tray heated in the oven to act as a bakestone. Have the baking parchment with the dough on top of an upturned baking sheet, then slide the baking parchment onto the hot tray. You'll probably have to bake these in batches.

Ariannina, on the BBC Food board (whose mother is Sardinian), made some suggestions about possible uses for these breads, one of which was Pane Frattau – it was complete surprise, and absolutely gorgeous. One I have done often, since.

Thanks, Ariannina!

Tarte Alsace

From the Alsace region of France comes this French version of a pizza. Otherwise known as Tarte Flambe - but only, IMO, if it is flashed in a wood-fired oven! The original recipe calls for lardons of bacon where I've used tomatoes or mushrooms.

(This amount of dough will make 2 tarts 45cm by 30 or 4 tarts 30cm by 25)

Ingredients:
400g (or 2 mugs) strong white flour
1/2 tsp salt
250ml (or 2/3rds of a mug) lukewarm water plus 1 teaspoon yeast

For the topping:
200g tub creme fraiche (or Philadelphia or other soft cheese)
2 medium-sized onions, thinly sliced 
6-8 medium tomatoes or mushrooms and black pepper

Method:
1. Place the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Measure the water, stir in the yeast until it dissolves, then add the yeast liquid to the flour.

2. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary, remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). Begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with a knife (starting with the yeast first, to dissolve it properly), cutting through the dough. When it gets too stiff for the knife, use your hand to squeeze the mixture together. As it forms into a solid mass, keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water to keep it soft! When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

3. Knead by stretching the dough out, folding it over, stretching it out and so on and so forth. Do this until it is smooth – and stop before you get fed up!

4. Divide your dough according to the size of your baking sheets and form each piece gently into a cob shape. Roll out each portion of dough very thinly, flouring the worktop and the dough, to the size of the baking sheet.

5. Prepare the topping (the dough will be rising while you do this). Slice the onions very thinly and the tomatoes or mushrooms not quite so thin.

6. Place each rolled out piece of dough onto a prepared baking sheet. Spread each tarte with creme fraiche (or the soft cheese), cover with the sliced onions then place the tomato or mushrooms on top, followed by black pepper to taste.

7. Leave to prove until the dough is risen and puffy, then bake in a hot oven 230C, 450F or gas mark 8 for between 10-15 minutes. Check after about 8 minutes and turn round in the oven if  necessary. To check if they are finished lift up the side with a spatula to check the bottom is beginning to get some colour. The whole side of the tarte should lift up together.

These are best eaten straight away, but if you have some left over, it will freeze well. Reheat in a low oven for 8-10 minutes - or in a dry frying pan for a few minutes.

          Saturday, 24 September 2011

          Wednesday, 21 September 2011

          Cheese, potato and broccoli (or onion) pasties

          (Makes 8 pasties)

          Ingredients:
          400g (or 2 mugs) strong white flour
          1/2 tsp salt (optional)
          1 rounded teaspoon fresh yeast
          250ml (or 2/3rds mug) lukewarm water
          Splash of olive oil (optional)

          Filling:
          Several large potatoes, cubed and boiled
          1 clump of cooked broccoli (or chopped onions)
          150g grated cheese

          Mix these together with whatever herbs, black pepper, etc, you wish

          Method:
          1. Place flour and salt into a mixing bowl, measure the water and stir in the fresh yeast, then add to the flour, followed by the olive oil if using.

          2. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary. Remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). Holding the bowl with one hand begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with your fingers. Check how the dough feels as you mix – it should stay soft and squidgy – and add more flour or water as needed. When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

          3. Knead by stretching the dough out, folding it over, stretching it out and so on and so forth. Do this until it is smooth – or until you get fed up!

          4. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and form each one into a bun shape. Using plenty of flour on your worktop, roll each one out into a circle a little bigger than a tea plate. Place a couple of spoonfuls of filling on one side of the circle, lift the other side over to cover it and press the two sides together. (Don’t wet the edges first – that’s a pastry technique.) Form a crimp by pushing your fingertips together – one on top of the edge of the dough and the other at the side of the dough.

          5. Place each one onto a baking sheet – either oiled or lined with baking paper – and leave to prove until the dough has become puffy.

          6. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for between 12-15 minutes. Look for some shade of brown underneath.

          Variation:
          Lentil and potato pasties. Cook 100g of red lentils in enough water – takes about 10-12 minutes once the water has boiled. Separately, boil some cubed potatoes along with a chopped onion and flavourings such as herbs, stock powder and perhaps some curry paste. Once everything is cooked, add the potatoes, etc, to the lentils and simmer until it thickens. Use as in step 4 above.

          My top recipe for students

          Bread – and pizza is a type of bread - is perhaps the easiest thing you can make in your kitchen. It only requires four ingredients – three, if you discount the salt, which is not strictly necessary. These three – flour, water and yeast - when mixed and kneaded, left to rise for a while, and baked will result in something wonderful!

          Once you’ve made this pizza, there’ll be no turning back! Home-made pizzas taste far and away better than bought ones – and this one will cost you less than a packet of own-brand flour. (A young friend of mine swears she financed half her social life by selling her pizzas to fellow students whilst away at university!)

          If you're using a mug, use a standard coffee mug for this recipe - but any old cup or mug will do; just make sure you use the same container for measuring the flour and the liquid. Really, this recipe is all about the base - once you've rolled it out, in truth, you can put virtually anything on it. But more than that, once you've made this pizza dough, it can be turned into a whole range of other breads. At the end of this recipe, I'll list a few and link to them. I'll add more as I get time.


          Basic cheese and tomato pizza (with variations)

          Ingredients:
          200g (1 mug) strong white flour
          1/4 tsp salt (optional)
          125ml (1/3rd mug) lukewarm water
          1 teaspoon of any sort of yeast, stirred in the water until it is dissolved
          Splash of olive oil (optional)

          Topping:
          Tomato topping – passata, 1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes or similar
          100g Cheddar cheese grated

          Method:
          1. Place flour and salt (if using) into a mixing bowl. Measure the water in the same mug and add the yeast. Stir to dissolve then add to the flour. Pour the olive oil into the water in the bowl.

          2. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary, remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). Begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with your fingers. Stir round in big circles, pulling the flour off the sides of the bowls into the middle. As it forms into a solid mass, keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water to keep it soft! When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

          3. Knead by flattening the dough out, folding it over, stretching it out and so on and so forth.

          4. Form the dough into a round bap shape. Have plenty of flour to hand and scatter flour over the dough and worktop. With a rolling pin, roll it into a circle around  25-30cm (10-12”) across. Keep turning the dough around and refreshing the flour. Place the rolled out dough onto a tray lined with baking parchment (baking paper).

          5. Pour the tomato topping over the pizza and spread it out with the back of a spoon, leaving it 1cm or half and inch from the edge. Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the tomato, and leave to rise.

          6. When the dough at the edge of the pizza has become puffy, place in a hot oven - the hotter the better - for 10-15 minutes, checking after 8. When they're done the pizza will lift up all along one side when you check underneath, using a palette knife. The bottom should be browning from the edges.

          To get a crisp bottom to the pizzas, there are several things you can do:
          • Make sure you keep the wet topping away from the edges – and don’t overload the pizza;
          • Have a heavy metal tray at the bottom of the oven to use as a pizza stone. If you do this, have your pizzas on baking parchment on an up-turned tray – then you can just slide the pizzas into the oven.
          • Finish them off in a large, dry, frying pan.

          Variations:
          Use slices of cooked potato (new potatoes are nice) instead of tomato - and sprinkle the cheese with a strong herb such as rosemary or oregano.
          Cover the base with a soft cheese such as Philadelphia, then thinly sliced onions, then chopped bacon bits - or sliced tomatoes or mushrooms.

          The dough for this can also be used in many other ways - here's a couple of suggestions:
          Sizzlers: divide the dough into four, roll each out into a circle, place a line of sliced tomatoes, mushrooms or onions across the circle and sprinkle with grated cheese. Then fold the sides over the top, place on a baking sheet and leave to rise.

          Sausage and mustard parcels: Divide the dough into 6 pieces; flatten each piece out and wrap it round half a frankfurter or similar (I use vegan sausages) with a smear of wholegrain mustard.

          Pasties: again, roll out 4 circles of dough, and place your chosen filling in the middle (mashed potato and cheese is good - perhaps with some onion, and maybe a teaspoon of curry powder). Bring one side over to the other and seal all the way round.

          (More recipes to come based on this pizza dough)

          Tuesday, 13 September 2011

          Breadmaking courses Autumn 2011

          I have two courses running in the Autumn - both at far-flung places (for me!).

          Essential Breadmaking Made Easy (First Steps) at:

          Burnham  - Mon 19th Sept 19:00-21:00 for 5 weeks; and

          Williton - Tues 15th Nov 13:00-15:00 for 5 weeks.

          I'm also running pizza-making workshops for the youngsters of Halcon, Taunton, every Wednesday morning through the summer holidays in the wonderful new wood-fired dragon (I mean oven!).

          Just heard the Burnham course is going ahead - 6 have enrolled, so there's still room for a couple more!


          Tuesday, 6 September 2011

          Celebration (Birthday) loaves

          I've decided to make a couple of 'Birthday loaves' for some friends of mine (twins) who've reached the grand old age of 70.

          It's going to be a richer version of my Christmas loaf, and to that end I've been soaking some dried apricots in Benedictine for the past fortnight.


          Here's the story as it unfolded over last Friday and Saturday, beginning at 10.00am on Friday:

          About the loaf, as well as the soaked apricots it will contain red and yellow cherries, some angelica and yellow marzipan.


          I've run into a little trouble, I'm afraid. None that I can't get out of, but it's going to require some time and effort!

          I made up a dough with 200g of flour, plus sugar and spices and 125ml of yeast liquid, which I then allowed to prove - and it rose normally.

          I wanted to add another 100g of flour plus liquid, so I boiled up 50ml of the Benedictine syrup - allowed to cool - and added both flour and liquid to the original dough - so far so good. I then added 370g of soaked apricots - forgetting that, when I kneaded these in, they would release more Benedictine into the dough. The consequence was that the dough then refused to rise.

          Undaunted, I took another 10g of yeast, mixed it with a further 15g of water, added it to the dough and gave it a short knead. Then I left it to prove.

          Then I did something I haven't done for years - I put the dough in a measuring jug so that I will be able to see the smallest rise if it occurs. It's now just after midnight and I'm going to leave it overnight on the worktop and see what happens. If there's no movement tomorrow morning, I shall repeat the adding yeast and water bit until I get some reaction. It will work, in the end, just a question of how long it takes! 

          Oh, I've also taken Sue's suggestion (from the Wildfood thread) and added some Benedictine to the marzipan - tastes lush!

          Well, the bread did rise a little overnight - from 750ml it went up to just under 1000ml - so there is some life in there.

          Nevertheless I thought it better to add more yeast, so I dissolved 10g of yeast in 10ml of water and kneaded it carefully into the dough. I didn't see much movement over the next hour or so, so I've now put it back in the jug and placed it in the microwave with a mug of boiling water.

          The dough levelled out at 900ml, so I'll see what it's like in another hour.

          I kept the dough in the jug with a mug of hot water most of the afternoon - and eventually I saw a rise! It went from 900ml to 1000ml - and stuck!

          By this time I'd decided on some more drastic action - I'd add another 150g of flour to the mix, with some yeast, and see if that wouldn't get it going. With a bigger dough I needed some more dried fruit so I placed 50g of sultanas and 50g of chopped prunes into a bowl, covered it with water and microwaved it for a couple of minutes. Then I put the jug of dough back in the microwave along with the bowl of dried fruit. More in hope than expectation.

          I made a 'sponge' with 150g of flour and 60ml of water, plus 15g of yeast and left it until this evening.

          When I came to mix it altogether I thought about taking all the apricots out of the dough and just folding them back in - which is what I should have done in the first place!

          This took me about 25 minutes and I rescued the grand total of 281 pieces of apricots - ranging in size from miniscule to about a quarter of an apricot.

          Then I mixed the dough in with the sponge, the rest of the flour and the sultanas and prunes (by which time they had increased in weight to 170g).

          Once again I'd made a rod for my own back by including the prunes! As I kneaded the dough, and it needed a lot of kneading to mix the two doughs together, the prunes kept releasing liquid, making the dough really sticky. I added a further 60g of flour trying to counteract this and come up with a manageable dough.

          Once I'd mixed up the dough to a reasonable consistency, I placed it in the oven with a dish of boiling water.

          I've just checked it, after 40 minutes - and it's at least doubled in size! So I know I'm on the right track at last! Phew!

          All I have to do now is to fold in the alcoholic apricots, gently, and let it rise again. If that works  I can go ahead and shape the loaves - I've got enough dough for 3 instead of the 2 I originally planned! 

          Well, that's just what I did.

          I folded in the apricots - very gently, no kneading! - and stuck it in the oven with some more hot water. After 25 minutes it was well on its way to doubling in size. So I could now go ahead and shape the loaves!

          I weighed the dough, which came to 1340g, and divided it into three and rolled the pieces out into circles.

          I spread the soft marzipan/Benedictine mixture across the middle of two of the circles (these were for my friends) and placed a rope of plain marzipan across the third (mine). Then I placed red and yellow cherries with angelica over the top of the marzipan on two of the circles - on the third one I just put some red cherries next to the marzipan.


          The smaller loaf is the surplus one, I didn't have enough angelica and yellow cherries, so it's not as fancy as the other two. 
          Then I rolled the dough over and tucked in the ends. I placed 3 cherries on top of two of the loaves and 2 on the top of mine - just so I don't get them mixed up.

          Ready to go into the oven
          I brushed the loaves with soya cream and left the loaves to rise, which they did pretty quickly, and baked them for about 35 minutes at 175C. By the time I'd finished all this it was 1.45am - I was well and truly knackered!

          The finished article(s). It's ironic that the neatest loaf is mine - but I'm sure they'll all be very tasty
          This morning I brushed them all with a sugar glaze, wrapped them in baking parchment and a plastic bag and put them in the freezer. One of my friends lives locally, but he's on holiday ATM, so I'll deliver it when he returns.  I'll have to post the loaf to his twin - perhaps tomorrow. The third one awaits the arrival of my mother-in-law, this coming Thursday.

          This was an interesting project and I learned a lot - as usual with me the learning was mainly through trial and error. (It's a good job I love breadmaking or I might easily have lost interest halfway through!)

          What lessons have I learned? When using fruit which has been soaked in alcohol, just fold in the fruit - don't attempt to knead it in. Really soft fruit, such as soaked prunes should also be folded in carefully. And, when using marzipan and alcohol mixed together, make sure you seal it in the loaf properly. I'm afraid it leaked out onto the floor of the oven and made a right mess! 


          I'd love to see how these loaves look when they're cut open, so I'll ask the twins if they can take a pic. Or I'll make sure I deliver the local one personally - and hope for a slice!