Flour

Bread and ice cream

bread

We’ve had a really tough week. Ben’s dad died. We knew it was coming (he had cancer) but this didn’t make it any easier.

My first instinct is to turn to food for comfort (I think it’s the only way I know). And for our family ‘happy’ foods would be ice cream or perhaps a home baked loaf.

So on Sunday we had a sugar-crazed ice cream ‘mash up’. I made vanilla ice cream and presented it with a selection of sauces, with sweets to garnish, in true ‘Pizza Hut Ice Cream Factory’ style. This was reminiscent of sleepovers when I was 14 where we would eat pizza and ice cream until we felt sick and then watch naff horror films like Nightmare on Elm Street or Child’s Play.

The ice cream ‘mash up’ was fun and temporarily took our mind off things. Only just like my teenage self we got over excited and ate so much that we felt ill and had to lie down and listen to audio books (in lieu of television) for the rest of the day.

In the end it was the next morning’s freshly baked bread that won through. Slathered with real butter this was the stuff of true, wholesome, everyday happiness.

With Ben away watching over his ailing father, it has fallen on me to make the daily bread. I had to ask for his current recipe which has been updated since the one I posted back in September 2013 (the main change being the larger size since our children now eat more than we do).

So please find below four recipes for ice cream sauces and one for a good loaf of bread.

Peace be with you David Shelton (1950-2017).

Ice Cream Mash up

icecreammashup

For my homemade vanilla ice cream recipe click here. Or just buy some ready made.

Each of the sauce recipes below makes a jam jar full. More than you’ll need for one session but they will keep well in the fridge for a couple of weeks, or you could freeze any leftovers.

Milk chocolate peanut sauce

  • 175ml of double cream
  • 100g of milk chocolate
  • 100g of peanut butter (smooth or crunchy it’s up to you)
  • 3 tablespoons of golden syrup

Heat all the ingredients slowly in a saucepan until everything is melted and amalgamated. Best served warm.

Hot chocolate fudge sauce

  • 80ml of double cream
  • 60ml of golden syrup
  • 40g of dark brown sugar
  • 30g of cocoa powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 85g of good quality dark chocolate
  • 15g of butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Heat all the ingredients slowly in a saucepan until everything is melted and amalgamated.

This creates a thick sauce. Add a little more full milk or double cream if you want it thinner.

Salted caramel sauce

  • 175g light soft brown sugar
  • 300ml double cream
  • 50g butter
  • ½ tsp salt (I prefer a bit more but start with ½ tsp and see what you think)

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan set over a low heat, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat up and bubble the sauce for 2-3 mins until golden and syrupy. Leave to cool for 10 mins before serving. Can be made up to 3 days in advance and chilled – gently reheat to serve.

The other option is to open a tin of caramel condensed milk and add a good pinch of Maldon sea salt.

Raspberry sauce

  • 350g bag of frozen raspberries
  • 50g of icing sugar

Heat the raspberries (straight from frozen) with the icing sugar over a low heat in a saucepan on the hob. Let it simmer for a few minutes (3-5). I like a smooth texture with no pips so I sieve the mixture before serving but this is a total pain and does take ages (plus nightmare washing up to get the pips out of the sieve). If you don’t mind pips then just skip this step.

Or, alternatively, whizz up a tin of raspberries in syrup and sieve (or not).

Best served chilled.

sauce

Sumptuous sauces (clockwise from top left, raspberry, milk chocolate peanut, salted caramel and dark chocolate).

sweets

Sprinkles

 

Ben’s bread (current version)

  • 900g of strong bread flour (mainly white with 200-300g of spelt or wholemeal if you like)
  • 12g of salt
  • 6g of easy bake yeast
  • 550ml of water
  • (Optional) A small handful of seeds of your choice e.g. sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, poppy

Add all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Bring together with your hands and knead for at least 10 minutes.

Leave in the bowl covered with cling film until it has at least doubled in size – usually 2 hours but this may take a bit longer if it’s a cold day.

Knock back the dough with your hands and knead gently for another minute. Grease a large bread tin (mine is 28.5cm long, 13.5cm wide and 7cm deep) and  press the dough into the tin. Leave to rise in the tin for another 30-60 minutes. The dough needs to reach just above the top of the tin and this for me usually takes around 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220oC or 230oC if, like me, you like a really golden crust and put a tin of boiling water in the bottom of the oven to create some steam (this also helps with the crust formation).

Bake for 18 minutes at 220oC/230oC.

Then remove from the tin and bake for 17 minutes at 180oC.

Leave to cool before slicing.

Hveteboller (Norwegian buns)

Hvetteboller2

When we were on holiday in Norway we lived on these buns or boller. They were delicious, the children’s loved them, they were easy to buy from 7-elevens (which are everywhere in Norway) and cheap (well by Norwegian standards at least).

I’ve been meaning to have a go at making them ever since our trip (well over a year ago now) and I found this Norwegian recipe online. The google translation was somewhat eccentric so I had to use my small amount of common baking sense filling in the gaps. The result was good though – I’m judging this on the fact that the whole batch didn’t even make it past lunchtime.

I have always thought cinnamon was the quintessential Scandinavian spice but the main flavour in these buns is cardamom. Cardamom is not grown anywhere near Norway but apparently the Scandinavian love affair with cardamom is deep set –  dating back to Viking times when those pesky, marauders bought it back from their raids on Constantinople where it had been traded from India.

To make the buns I used my special new flour – locally grown and then ground at Nottingham’s Green’s Windmill (bought in bulk in a large 12.5kg sack). How lovely it was to use local, organic, unbleached flour which was comparable in price to the Allison’s I usually buy in Tesco. I know for a fact that this flour is well regarded and used by some top quality restaurants (Sat Bains name was above mine in the order book!). But do make sure you phone ahead before making a special trip to Green’s Windmill to buy flour as they struggle to keep up with demand and often run out.

Hveteboller (Norwegian buns)

Number of servings – 12

  • 500g of strong white bread flour
  • 100g of caster sugar
  • ½ a teaspoon of salt
  • ½ a teaspoon of freshly ground cardamom
  • ½ a teaspoon of baking powder
  • 100g of butter
  • 350ml lukewarm milk
  • 12g of quick yeast
  • 1 beaten egg for glazing

For a chocolate version

  • Good quality dark chocolate (one small square for each bun)

Start by mixing half of the flour with sugar, salt, cardamom and baking powder. Then crumble the butter into the bowl and rub with your fingers until you have a mix the texture of fine breadcrumbs.

In another bowl or jug stir the yeast into the lukewarm milk and add the other half of the flour. Leave to stand for half an hour to bubble up.

Add the yeast mixture to the rest of the flour and knead for about 10 minutes until elastic. It is a very wet mixture but it will become a lot less sticky as you knead. Cover with cling film and let the dough rise until doubled in size – somewhere between 1 and 2 hours.

Divide the mixture into 12 and shape into rounds (inserting a piece of chocolate in the centre for the chocolate version). Place seam down in a baking tray and cover with cling film.

If you are cooking straight away

Leave to prove for 30 minutes and set the oven to 220oC.

Brush the surface of the buns with lightly beaten egg and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden.

Cool on a rack.

If you want fresh buns for the morning

Put the buns in the fridge and leave to rise slowly overnight.

In the morning set the oven to 220oC and take the buns out of the fridge to come up to room temperature (about 30 minutes).

Brush the surfaces with lightly beaten egg and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden. Cool on a rack but eat whilst still warm.

NOTE: You don’t need to add the chocolate surprise – they are just as delicious without. You could also add chocolate drops to the mix instead – or some recipes use raisins.

Hvetteboller

Peanut butter cookies

peanut butter cookies

If you think sugar and salt are evil then turn away now.

These cookies have both in abundance but they are absolutely delicious.

And I do apologise to anyone on a diet because there has been a bias towards sweet recipes on this blog in recent weeks. Believe it or not I do have some health food blogger followers, because I do occasionally post a recipe with kale in it.

Anyway, talking of sweet treats, hands up if you knew it was National Dessert Day on Wednesday. I didn’t until the University of Nottingham tweeted about it like it was something real that should be taken in all seriousness.

In a household where we nearly always have pudding, I struggle with the concept of ‘National Dessert Day’. Does it mean that you can only have dessert on that day, or does it mean you should have double the amount of dessert? Either way, for me, these national/international days of whatever some marketing bod fancies are a load of old tripe (but then this is coming from someone who doesn’t do Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Valentine’s Day).

But let’s give a big cheer for pudding (or dessert if you must) because it makes life worth living. And if you’re NOT on a diet then do try these cookies. I challenge you to only eat one.

Peanut butter cookies

Based on a recipe from the NY Times website (I’ve changed the name from ‘Salty sweet peanut butter sandies’ because that’s a bit too American for me)

Makes about 24

  • 115g of butter, softened (add a large pinch of salt to the recipe if you’re using unsalted butter)
  • 75g of granulated sugar
  • 85g of light brown sugar
  • 205g of peanut butter, smooth or chunky
  • 1 egg
  • 125g of plain flour
  •  1 teaspoon of Maldon sea salt and 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar for sprinkling

Heat your oven to 170oC and line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

Cream the butter and sugars until smooth and fluffy (in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, with an electric hand mixer or by hand with a wooden spoon).

Add the peanut butter and egg, and mix. Add the flour and salt and mix until well combined.

Put heaped teaspoons of dough onto the baking sheets. The original recipe uses a cookie scoop but I’ve never heard of one of these. The cookies will not spread much when they bake so they can be placed quite close together, but leave room for air circulation so they can brown.

In a small bowl, mix one teaspoon of Maldon sea salt (or other flaky sea salt) and one of granulated sugar. Sprinkle each cookie lightly with this mixture.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown.

Carefully lift the cookies off the baking sheets with a palette knife and cool on wire racks.

Try not to eat too many in one go.

Ricotta hotcakes

ricotta hotcakes

I have mentioned Nigella Lawson’s ricotta hotcakes before but at that time I just included a link to the recipe on her website because I only ever made them very occasionally for my husband who disliked my stodgier Be-Ro dropped scones.

Nearly two years on however these have become the ones I ALWAYS cook. It turns out that my children prefer them too and with no sugar in the pancake itself they are a teeny bit healthier. Nigella keeps hers healthy by serving them simply, with strawberries, but in our house it’s golden syrup and chocolate spread all the way, so they do still remain a weekend breakfast treat.

You need two bowls and you do need to remember to buy ricotta cheese from the supermarket, but once you’ve made them a couple of times you’ll find that they’re not that difficult to make.

Because there is no sugar in the batter they also make a good alternative to blini topped with savory toppings like smoked fish and sour cream.

Nigella’s ricotta hotcakes

Makes about 20

  • 1 tub (250g) of ricotta cheese
  • 125ml of semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g of plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • Groundnut oil (or other flavourless oil) for frying

You’ll need two mixing bowls. First separate the eggs and put the egg yolks in one bowl and the whites in the other.

In the bowl with the egg yolks add ricotta cheese and milk. Mix until well combined and then add the flour, salt and baking powder and mix again until you have a thickish batter.

Whisk the egg whites in the other bowl until foamy. This will only take a couple of minutes – you don’t need stiff peaks as for meringue.

Fold the egg whites into the ricotta mixture with a metal spoon, nice and gently so that you don’t knock out too much air.

Heat a large frying pan with a little groundnut oil to a medium high heat. Then add dessert spoons of batter into the pan (I do four at a time).

Cook the pancakes for about a minute until golden and then flip and cook on the other side for about another minute. The batter is quite delicate so this is probably the trickiest bit.

Continue this process until all the batter is finished, keeping the cooked ones warm on a warmed plate covered with a tea towel (or in my case I act as pancake slave, serving up each batch immediately to my family of hungry little birds who eat them more quickly than I can make them).

ricotta egg yolks burghley

Showing off my new Burleigh bowl – a 38th birthday present from my mum.

Soup and a roll

soup and a roll

If you’ve been reading the papers this week, you’ll probably have seen the story that Miriam Gonzalez Durantez (the wife of Nick Clegg) has a secret food blog (http://www.mumandsons.com/).

Surprisingly the blog is an amateurish affair (just like mine) and not at all slick (unlike the politicians vying for power in next week’s election). But it’s rather sweet and the recipes do seem genuine – like she really does cook them, in her very own kitchen, with her very own children.

And Miriam’s milk bun recipe (below), which I tried this week, is very good and pretty straight forward. It won’t persuade me to vote Lib Dem but then I don’t think it’s meant to.

Politically I sit very much on the fence and I had thought about asking Samantha and Justine for their favourite recipe and then voting according to which of the three was best. But then that’s just a bit silly. Instead I’ll most probably abstain or vote for ‘Justice for Men and Boys’ (even sillier).

And to go with the buns, here’s one of my favourite soup recipes, which uses possibly my most hated vegetable. Sounds twisted and it is – horrid swede, turned into nectar in soup form. The recipe is based on one in Lindsey Bareham’s ‘A Celebration of Soup’.

Miriam’s milk buns

Makes 10

  • 500g plain flour (I used strong bread flour)
  • 2 eggs
  • 250ml milk
  • 9g fast action yeast
  • 90g butter (room temperature)
  • A good pinch of salt

Warm 100ml of milk. Mix the yeast, 100g of flour and the warmed milk and let it rest for half an hour until it gets frothy.

Then mix this with all the other ingredients. The easiest way to do this is in a food processor with the kneading hook for around 8-10 minutes. (I don’t have a food processor and the mixture is quite sloppy so I attempted to use the dough hook on my hand mixer but then ended up kneading by hand).

Once kneaded, put it all into a glass bowl (greased with a tiny bit of sunflower oil) and let it rest for 2 hours until it has doubled in size.

Punch the dough to get rid of the air. Then divide the dough into 10 parts. Shape each one like a ball, or give them an oval shape.

Put them on a tray lined with baking paper (I needed two trays, with 5 on each). Cover the buns with cling film (I used a tea towel) and wait for another 35-45 minutes until they rise again.

Preheat the oven at 220 degrees. Cut the buns (if you like that shape) and ‘paint them’ with beaten egg (I didn’t bother with the egg glaze (a waste of a valuable egg) but sprinkled with poppy seeds instead).

Put them into the oven, lower the temperature to 200 degrees and bake for 15 minutes (mine needed an extra 5 minutes).

Lindsey’s swede soup

  • One swede weighing about 450g, peeled and chopped into dice about 1cm square
  • 2 or 3 shallots, or half a regular onion, chopped
  • A small bunch of parsley, leaves and stalks
  • 75g of butter (although I can never bring myself to use this much and generally use half this amount)
  • 1 litre of good stock (homemade would be best but I generally use a Knorr beef stock pot)
  • Salt and pepper

Take a large sauce pan and melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the onion, swede and parsley stalks to the pan and stir well so that the vegetables are nicely covered with butter. Put a lid on and allow everything to sweat in the pan for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After this time, pour on the stock, bring to the boil and then lower the heat to a simmer for 30 minutes.

Put the mixture into a blender, along with the parsley leaves and puree until really smooth.

Return to the pan and check the seasoning before serving.

Leftover Easter egg cookies

chocolatechipcookies

Even though we don’t celebrate Easter and don’t buy eggs for other people, we seem to have a ridiculously large number of Easter eggs in the house. You may think this is a good thing, but then you’re probably a disciplined person who has the will power to make your eggs last until Christmas, carefully limiting yourself to a few nibbles each evening.

I am not like this. Whilst I don’t really buy chocolate, if I know it’s in the house then it plays on my mind, whispering ‘eat me’ and tormenting me to the point that I just have to eat it all up very quickly so that it’s gone.

The children are the same. If they know chocolate is easily available then they nag at me constantly, behaving well to get it and then turning into little monsters once they’ve eaten it.

With all this in mind, I’ve been looking at recipe ideas for leftover Easter eggs so that I can bake some treats to give away. There are lots of recipes which claim to do this which had to be dismissed when it came to the ingredients listing requiring ‘Xg of good quality dark chocolate’. Good quality…dark chocolate…I’m not sure where they are buying their eggs from?

In the end I made these 10 minute chocolate chip cookies based on a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe. The children really enjoyed making them and they are yummy. Eat one yourself, let the kids have one each and then give the rest away (and it won’t look like you’re trying to get rid of your Easter eggs at all).

10 minute chocolate chip cookies

Makes about 18

  • 125g of butter
  • 100g of caster sugar
  • 75g of light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 150g of plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon of baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 100g of chocolate (this is roughly 1 small Easter egg), broken into small chunks

Set your oven to 190oC.

Melt the butter in a saucepan or microwave.

Measure the sugars into a mixing bowl, pour in the melted butter and mix well.

Add the beaten egg and vanilla extract and mix well.

Sift in the flour and baking powder. Add the salt and broken up chocolate and mix well.

Leave the mixture for 10 minutes to firm up a bit, then spoon heaped teaspoons of mixture on to a flat baking sheet (line it with baking parchment if it’s not totally non stick). Leave plenty of space in between because they really spread out. I could fit 6 on one 33cm square baking sheet and therefore cooked in 3 batches.

Place in the oven for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Less time will mean a chewy texture, more and they will be crisp.

Remove from the oven and leave on the baking sheet for a few minutes to firm up. Place on a wire rack until cool enough to eat.

Scone off – Delia vs Paul

scones

Scones are quick and simple to make but I have so many recipes for them that I get confused as to which one is best. So last Sunday I decided to try two recipes and compare them directly. Firstly, I chose a recipe from the stalwart of everyday home cooking – Delia, and secondly, one from the man hailed as the new god of baking – Paul Hollywood.

I was taught to make scones as a child and the following golden rules (most probably my mother’s) are embedded in my brain:

  1. Use a very light touch, work quickly and don’t over mix the dough.
  2. Try to cut as many scones from the first roll as possible as the more you work the dough the heavier they will be.
  3. Bake the scones as close to eating as possible – they always taste better fresh from the oven.

To be honest though even if they turn out a bit dense or uneven, freshly baked scones are always better than horrid, dry, shop-bought ones and once you’ve smothered them in strawberry jam and clotted cream you won’t notice any flaws.

So back to the scone off and whose recipe was best according to the Shelton household. My son hates scones and so didn’t vote. My husband preferred Paul Hollywood’s and my daughter and I favoured Delia’s. So it was:

Delia 2 – Paul 1

I don’t think there’s a male versus female thing going on here, but I do think the large, manly size of Paul’s scones (which he describes as small!!!) did win my husband over. His are also richer and involve an additional step, a process called ‘chaffing’ (sounds slightly worrying in view of his sex god status but all will become clear below).

I liked the simple taste of Delia’s scones better and I definitely AM swayed by the no-nonsense nature of her recipe. There’s no showing off here and straight forward store cupboard ingredients which certainly suits my style of cooking better.

Delia Smith’s basic scones (from her Complete Cookery Course)

Delia

Make about 12 scones

  • 225g of self-raising flour
  • 40g of butter at room temperature
  • 150ml of milk
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of caster sugar
  • A pinch of salt

Pre-heat the oven to 220oC and grease a baking sheet.

First of all, sift the flour into a bowl and rub the butter into it rapidly, using your fingertips. Next stir in the sugar and salt, then take a knife and use it to mix in the milk little by little. Now flour your hands a little and knead the mixture to a soft dough – adding a drop more milk if it feels at all dry.

Then turn the dough out onto a floured pastry board and roll it out to a thickness of not less than 2 cm using a lightly floured rolling pin. Take a 4 or 5 cm pastry cutter and place it on the dough, then tap it sharply so that it goes straight through the dough – don’t twist it or the scones will turn out a peculiar shape. After you have cut out as many scone shapes as you can like that, knead the dough trimmings together again and repeat until you have used it all.

Then place the scones on the greased baking sheet, dust each one with a little extra flour and bake for 12-15 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and eat them slightly warm.

Paul Hollywood’s scones (from ‘How to Bake’)

paul

Makes 15 small scones (I made half the quantity and ended up with 7)

  • 500g of strong white bread flour
  • 80g of unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
  • 80g of caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
  • 5 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 250ml of whole milk

To finish

  • 1 medium egg beaten with a pinch of salt

Heat oven to 220oC and line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

Put 450g of the flour into a large bowl and add the butter. Rub the flour and butter together with your fingers to create a breadcrumb-like mixture.
Add the sugar, eggs and baking powder and use a wooden spoon to turn the mixture gently, making sure you incorporate all the ingredients.

Add half the milk and keep stirring to combine. Then add the remaining milk, a little at a time, and bring everything together to form a soft, wet dough. You may not need all the milk.

Sprinkle most of the remaining flour onto a clean surface. Tip the dough onto it. Sprinkle the rest of the flour on top. The mixture will be wet and sticky. Use your hands to fold the dough in half, then turn it 90 degrees and repeat (Paul calls this ‘chaffing’). Do this a few times to form a smooth dough. Be careful not to over work your dough. If it becomes too sticky use some extra flour to coat it or your hands.

Sprinkle a little more flour onto the work surface and the dough, then use a rolling pin to gently roll up from the from the middle and then down from the middle. Turn the dough 90 degrees and continue to roll until about 2.5cm thick. ‘Relax’ the dough slightly by lifting the edges and allowing the dough to drop back onto the surface.

Using a 7cm pastry cutter dipped in flour so that it doesn’t stick, stamp out rounds and place on the trays. Don’t twist the cutter, just press firmly, then lift up and press the dough out. Cut out as many as you can and re-roll the dough bearing in mind that the more you re-roll the less fluffy the scones will be.

Leave the scones to rest for a few minutes, then brush just the tops with the beaten egg to glaze.

Bake for 15 minutes.

scones 2

Marble cake

marble cake 1

This is a really good cake to have in your baking repertoire – it looks impressive but is straight forward to make and doesn’t need icing. It’s a winner in our family (probably because it involves chocolate) and the kid’s love to help make it.

The recipe was printed in a free pull out section of the Daily Mail (this is not a paper that I’m a fan of but my father-in-law gave it to me…honest). It comes from Paul Hollywood’s ‘How to Bake’.

I for one am looking forward to the new series of ‘The Great British Bake Off’ now that the World Cup has ended and there is literally nothing worth watching on TV.

Marble cake

Serves 8 – 12

  • 200g butter, softened
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of good quality vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 250g plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons of full fat milk (although I used semi-skimmed because we don’t buy full fat and it was just fine)
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder

Heat the oven to 180oC fan and line a 1kg loaf tin with baking parchment.

In a large bowl beat the butter, 180g of the sugar and the vanilla extract until light and fluffy (I use an electric hand whisk).

Beat in the eggs one at a time then sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and gently fold in with 2 tablespoons of the milk.

Spoon two thirds of the mix into the prepared tin.

Sift the cocoa powder into the remaining mixture, add the remaining 20g of sugar and 1 tablespoon of milk and fold until well incorporated.

Spoon the chocolaty mixture into the tin then run a fork through both mixes, swirling the two together to make a marbled effect.

Bake in the oven for 45-70 minutes – testing with a skewer after 45 minutes to see whether it is done (it’s done if the skewer comes out clean). Paul leaves his for 55 – 70 minutes but mine was done after 50 minutes.

Remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

You can dust the top with icing sugar if you want it to look pretty.

NOTE: I would advise making this cake when you know it will be eaten up quickly (if you’re having people to stay for the weekend for example). The use of butter and no icing means that it doesn’t keep that well and dries out within a couple of days. If you do have some left however, then you can refresh by zapping each slice in the microwave for a bit (10-20 seconds should do it).

Things with holes – bagels and onion rings

onion rings and bagels copy

Here are two recipes for things to eat with holes in the middle. There is no other reason for putting them in the same blog post except that they’re both fun to make.

One day I’ll try making doughnuts.

Onion rings

I’ve tried several recipes for onion rings but for me this one is the simplest and the best.

Makes 1 large bowl of onion rings

  • 1 large onion
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 210ml sparkling water
  • A pinch of salt
  • Ground nut oil for frying

Peel and cut your onion into slices just under 1 cm thick (8mm). Separate into rings and discard the two tiny ones in the centre (you can save these for another use).

Measure the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and add the sparkling water gradually until you have a batter the consistency of double cream.

Now heat your oil. It’s best if you use a large saucepan and fill to about half way. The oil is ready for frying when a tiny drop of batter hisses immediately on entering the pan.

Put your onion rings into the batter and shake them a little to remove any excess batter before carefully dropping them into the oil. You can fry 4 or 5 at a time, or more if you’re short of time and you don’t mind if they stick together a bit.

Fry for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Drain well on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt (optional if you don’t like to eat too much salt) before serving.

Bagels

This is a basic recipe and I’m sure bread experts will scoff but the result is a very respectable bagel which is much nicer than the dry old ones you can buy at Tesco Express.

These make a perfect Sunday brunch with scrambled eggs and chorizo or smoked salmon and cream cheese.

  • 400g strong bread flour
  • 225ml warm water
  • 1 teaspoon of dried instant action yeast
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Seeds or salt flakes for the top

For fresh bagels in the morning start the process in the evening. Take a large mixing bowl and measure out the flour, yeast, salt and caster sugar.

Tip in the water and stir into a firm dough with your hands.

Now follow this schedule (this takes about 1 hour from start to finish, you’ll need a timer or a stop watch)

Cover with a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes
Knead for 10 seconds
Cover with a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes
Knead for 10 seconds
Cover with a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes
Knead for 10 seconds
Cover with a tea towel and leave for 30 minutes

Now divide the dough into 6 equal portions and shape into balls, place on a tray, cover with a cloth and leave for another 20 minutes.

Now shape your bagels. Make a hole in the middle with the end of a wooden spoon and then stretch the dough outwards with your fingers. The hole needs to be quite large (about 4 cm) as it will close up as it cooks.

Cover a chopping board or tray with lightly oiled cling film then place the bagels on the tray and cover loosely with another piece of lightly oiled cling film. Place in the fridge to rise slowly overnight.

In the morning preheat the oven to 200oC fan.

Take a large pan and boil some water with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar added. Drop each bagel into the boiling water and poach for just 5 seconds on each side.

Place the poached bagels on an oiled baking tray, sprinkle with seeds or salt and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Ben’s experimentations with bread

Kneading.

When I first started this blog my husband Ben poked fun at me photographing all my cooking (in between moaning about the food going cold). It’s funny though because a couple of months on he now urges me to take photos of his food every time he makes something pretty.

So here’s a rather epic blog post dedicated to Ben’s recent experimentations with yeast based recipes that I have been badgered into photographing. As I’ve said before, he’s so much better at these than I am. I put it down to a more vigorous kneading technique, being generally more precise, and being able to follow a complicated recipe without getting impatient/ flustered.

The three recipes below are rather laborious and involve quite a bit of effort, but if you can be bothered they do produce delicious results. They start easy(ish) and get progressively more complicated.

Lorraine Pascale’s big, fat salt and pepper breadsticks

bread sticks

Actually these are pretty simple as they only involve one lot of proving. My daughter Elizabeth (age 5) loves helping to make these especially the bit where they get twisted up.

Makes 12

  • 450g/1lb strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 x 7g/⅛oz sachet fast-action dried yeast
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 250–275ml/9-10fl oz warm water
  • vegetable oil or spray oil, for oiling
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper

Dust two large baking trays with flour.

Put the flour, yeast and the salt into a large bowl and add enough of the water to make a soft but not sticky dough. Knead well for 10 minutes by hand on a lightly floured work surface.

Divide the mixture into 12 equal portions, each weighing about 60g. Roll the portions into balls, then place each ball on a floured surface and roll into a long sausage shape about 25 cm x 2 cm. Shape into twists by running a knife down the centre to split the dough, leaving a bit at one end uncut. Braid or plait the two halves over each other to give a twisted effect.

Place the breadsticks on the prepared baking trays, spacing them 4 cm apart. Cover the breadsticks loosely with oiled cling film, making sure it is airtight. Leave in warm place for 30 minutes or until the breadsticks have almost doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200oC fan.

Remove the cling film and brush each breadstick with the extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle half of the breadsticks with the sea salt and the remainder with freshly ground black pepper. Bake on the top third of the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the breadsticks are lightly golden-brown and feel firm to the touch.

Remove the breadsticks from the oven and leave to cool on the baking trays.

The next two recipes from Peyton and Byrne’s British Baking cookbook start with making a sweet bun dough.

Peyton and Byrne’s sweet bun dough

Makes 800g dough

  • 50ml whole milk
  • 150ml very warm water
  • 1 tablespoon dried yeast
  • 500g strong bread flour
  • 20g unsalted butter, softened, plus 50g
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 10g salt
  • 1 large egg

Mix the milk and very warm water in a measuring jug so that the mixture is not too hot or cold. Add the yeast and stir to dissolve, then set aside.

Measure the flour into a large bowl, add the 20g of softened butter, rubbing the mixture into a coarse meal with your fingers. Stir in the sugar and salt and then mix in the egg. Finally, add the yeast mixture, the mix all of the ingredients together with a wooden spoon.

Once the ingredients are mixed together well turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface and start to knead it for about a minute. Then let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

Now work the dough by stretching and slapping it down and kneading with the palm of your hands for about 5 minutes until it becomes silky. Cover and leave for an hour until the dough has doubled.

After this time, roll it out into a rectangle about 2cm thick. Break up the remaining 50g softened butter into small pieces and place in the centre of the rolled out dough. Fold the dough into thirds by folding each end in over the butter, as if folding a letter, then pinch the seams to seal in the butter. Roll the dough out into a rectangle again and then fold into thirds again. Let the dough rest and rise again for 1 hour.

Now repeat the folding and rolling and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Now follow either the Honey buns or Chelsea buns recipes below.

Peyton and Byrne’s Honey Buns

honey buns

honeybuns

2016 – renamed ‘buttery sweet dough buns’ in our house. No honey on top but served warm with jam, honey, or just butter (if you’re Edgar).

Makes 12

  • 800g of sweet bun dough (as above)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 100g runny honey

Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Flatten the sweet bun dough with your hands and then cut the dough into 12 equal-sized squares or rectangles. Take one portion and fold the edges into the centre pinching them together to form a round. Then turn the bun over seam side down and press it down a bit. Repeat this with all 12 portions.

Place the buns on the prepared baking tray, cover them loosely with cling film and leave for 30 minutes to rise until they have doubled. Alternatively leave in the fridge overnight.

If they have been refrigerated remove them from the fridge and leave to come up to room temperature (about 20 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 200oC fan.

Brush the buns with beaten egg and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden.

Remove from the oven and brush immediately with honey. Serve warm.

I don’t think you need any more butter with these but they taste good with more honey, jam or chocolate spread.

Peyton and Byrne’s Chelsea Buns

chelsea buns

Makes 12

  • 800g of sweet bun dough (as above)
  • 50g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing

Filling

  • 125g currants
  • 100g candied peel, chopped small
  • 75g brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • OR you can use pastry cream and broken up bits of dark chocolate (as in the photo above)

Egg wash

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of milk
  • Bun wash
  • 70ml water
  • 60g granulated sugar

Butter a 33cm by 23cm baking tray.

Take the sweet bun dough made as above and roll out into a rectangle measuring about 40cm by 25cm and brush with two-thirds of the melted butter.

To make the filling, combine the currants, candied peel, brown sugar and cinnamon in a mixing bowl making sure to break up any little clusters of fruit or sugar with your fingers. Sprinkle this mixture over the melted butter on the dough leaving a border of 2cm.

Roll up the dough lengthways into a tight roll, like a Swiss roll. Pinch the dough along the seam to seal in the filling, then roll it over so that the seam side is facing down. Use your hands to gently shape it into a perfectly proportioned log, then brush with the remaining melted butter.

Use a sharp knife to cut the log into 12 equal sized slices. Place each slice cut-side down in the prepared baking tin so that the slices are touching. Cover loosely with cling film and leave to rise for an hour until doubled. Alternatively you can leave in the fridge overnight.

If they have been refrigerated remove them from the fridge and leave to come up to room temperature (about 20 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 220oC fan.

Whisk together the egg and milk for the egg wash and brush over the tops of the buns and then bake them for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

While the buns are baking prepare the bun wash by heating the water and sugar in a saucepan.

As soon as the buns come out of the oven, brush then with the bun wash and sprinkle with caster sugar if you wish.

These are best eaten while still fresh but they can be reheated the next day.

Notes

The revelation with the two sweet bun dough recipes is that if you start the process in the evening, you can stop at the rising stage and keep the dough in the fridge overnight. You then just take it out in the morning and leave to come to room temperature before baking. This means lovely fresh buns for breakfast (if you have a slave/husband to kindly make them for you).

Just a quick note on an experiment that didn’t work. This baguette recipe by Paul Holywood came out more like a bad ciabatta. Ben tried the recipe twice with the same results. I wouldn’t recommend it.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/baguettes_11543

chelsea buns 2 chelsea buns with Elizabeth