Yeast

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

Spelt bread and tomato soup

spelt bread 1

If you regularly read this blog then you will know that it’s usually my husband Ben who bakes the bread.

We believe that division of labour in the kitchen is healthy for a relationship – well in any case it seems to work for us. Generally speaking I do cakes, biscuits, steak, pasta, pizza, most puddings and scrap cooking. Ben does bread, risotto, pies and fish.

But this is not set in stone and occasionally I like to muscle in on Ben’s area of expertise – just to keep him on his toes. Recently I’ve been experimenting with spelt bread because I like it but Ben doesn’t and so if I want it I have to make it myself.

I’ve made ‘Roman style’ spelt bread a few times using the recipe on the back of the Dove’s flour packet but it’s a bit heavy and always sticks to the tin. But watching Ben make other breads gave me the idea of making a ‘poolish’ with a bit of strong white flour to try and get a lighter texture. This worked an absolute treat and even Ben admitted it was nice.

Spelt bread is good to make if you’re a little bit lazy (like me) because it only involves a quick knead (more of a stir really) and one proofing session. The ‘poolish’ bit sounds posh and is a technique used by artisan bread makers but it is really very simple as you will see.

Spelt Bread

For the poolish

  • 100g strong white bread flour
  • 100ml water
  • 6g quick yeast

Wet ingredients

  • 300ml water
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil

Dry ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • 400g wholegrain spelt flour (I used Doves Farm)
  • ½ teaspoon of fennel seeds, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon of caraway seeds, crushed

Mix all the ingredients for the poolish together in a small bowl, cover with cling film and leave for 30 minutes for the mixture to bubble up.

In a large mixing bowl measure out the dry ingredients but only half of the fennel and caraway and add the poolish.

In a separate bowl measure out the wet ingredients and stir to dissolve the honey.

Add the wet and dry ingredients together and work for a few minutes until smooth. Use either your hands or a wooden spoon if you don’t like mess as the mix will be very sticky and wet.

Grease a small loaf tin with olive oil (mine is 11cm wide, 22cm long and 6cm high) and tip in the dough. Place the tin inside a sealed plastic bag with plenty of air trapped inside and room for the dough to expand without touching the plastic. Leave in a warm place until the dough has risen to about 1 and a half times the size (this should take between 1 ½ and 2 hours).

Heat the oven to 220oC.

Put a tin of boiling water in the oven to create steam. Sprinkle over the remaining fennel and caraway and bake the loaf for 20 minutes.

Turn the oven down to 200oC and cook for a further 20 minutes.

Finally, take the loaf out of the tin, put back in the oven and cook for a final 5 minutes.

This bread tastes great with a quick tomato soup (see below)

tomatosoup

Quick and easy store cupboard tomato soup

This soup (inspired by a Mary Berry recipe) has the homely, comforting flavour of a tin of Heinz. It’s very easy to make – although the cynical among you may argue that it’s easier to open a tin. My 7 year old daughter enjoyed making it and really, really enjoyed eating it – declaring that it was the best soup she’d ever tasted – bless her.

Serves 2

  • 2 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, plus 1 teaspoon of the oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 150ml vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 50ml milk
  • 50ml double cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Set a saucepan over a medium heat and add 1 teaspoon of oil from the sun-dried tomatoes. Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds until it begins to colour.

Add the sun-dried and tinned tomatoes, stock and sugar and bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and blend until smooth.

Stir in the milk and cream and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper before heating through on the hob.

Elizabeth with soup

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.

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.

Basic pizza dough and two ways to use it for a Saturday night tea

Firstly, here’s my basic pizza dough recipe.

Basic pizza dough

Makes two square pizzas that fill a 33cm square tray

  • 350g strong plain flour (but bog standard plain flour will do if that’s all you have in the cupboard)
  • 2 teaspoons dried instant action yeast (I use Allinson’s in a small green tin)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Warm water – 200-250ml
  • A sprinkle of semolina (to stop the pizza sticking to the baking tray)

Put the flour, salt, yeast and olive oil in a mixing bowl and add the water gradually mixing with your fingers. You want to bring the mixture together into a fairly wet dough – you may not need the whole 250ml. If you add too much, and the dough is too sticky to work with just sprinkle on a little more flour.

Tip the dough on to the work surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Ideally you should knead for at least 10 minutes but I have little patience and am usually in a rush so it tends to be more like three and the results are just fine.

Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with cling film, and rest for at least 1 ½ hours (although 2 hours is better).

After this time take off the cling film and give the dough a good punch to knock out the air. Transfer to the work surface, knead lightly for a few seconds and divide into two (as this recipe is enough for two bases).

Rolling out the base can be tricky as pizza dough is very elastic. It resists being stretched and wants to spring back so this part can feel like treading water. My technique (which seems to work) is to stretch the dough carefully with my hands first before using the rolling pin. When you have made a round of about 20 cm by pulling in all directions with your hands, liberally flour your work surface and a rolling pin and roll the disk until the dough is really thin and large enough to fill your baking tray. Repeat the process with the second portion so that you have two bases.

Saturday night starter – Plain pizza bread with broad bean hummus

Plain pizza bread

Set your oven to its highest temperature (mine goes up to 270oC) and place a flat, square tray into the oven to heat up. Take the hot tray out of the oven and sprinkle with semolina. Then, (using the basic pizza dough recipe above) place the rolled out pizza base onto the tray and drizzle with olive oil and a good sprinkle of coarse sea salt. Bake until golden and crispy (about 8-10 minutes), then cut into rectangular slices.

Note: For garlic pizza bread (great for parties), follow the steps above but brush on 3 cloves of crushed garlic 1 minute before the pizza is done (don’t put the garlic on from the start otherwise it will burn).

Last night, to go with the plain pizza bread, I made a seasonal broad bean hummus which is adapted from Nigella’s broad bean bruschetta recipe in her ‘Feast’ book. The original recipe uses mint and parmesan, but I use marjoram instead of mint and omit the cheese which I think overtakes the lovely fresh flavour of the beans. Nigella also uses young broad beans but I think this recipe works fine with older beans (like mine) as long as you briefly boil them first.

Broad bean hummus

  • Broad beans
  • Marjoram
  • Garlic
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Remove the broad beans from their pods and then boil them in a pan of water for about 3 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. You then need to remove the outer shell from each bean. This is does take a little while but I find it quite therapeutic.

You can either smash up the beans by hand in a pestle and mortar (my preference) or in a blender.

Add the other ingredients to taste, it’s really difficult to provide exact amounts here because it will depend on the amount of prepared broad beans you have. The trick is to add the additional flavours little by little (you can always add more but can’t take away) and keep tasting. I like quite a lot of garlic and a good helping of salt.

The main ingredient, just picked.

The main ingredient, just picked.

broad beans out of their pods

Broad beans removed from their pods.

Smash it up.

Smash it up.

The end result with plain pizza bread.

The end result with plain pizza bread.

The main course – Plebs pizza

We’ve had a bumper year for sweetcorn at the allotment (and, unlike previous years, the rats haven’t arrived to steal it all) so we’re able to do more with it than just ‘corn on the cob’.

And what does my husband dream of when thinking of this lovingly tendered, mellow yellow, sweet deliciousness but a ‘chicken and sweetcorn ‘ pizza! And this is where I rant on a bit because I’m a pizza purist and it’s rarely more than the lightest smear of tomato sauce with mozzarella and basil for me. I can’t stand those take-away pizza establishments that think the more you cram on the better, and some of the bizarre topping combinations (steak and broccoli!!!) leave me just plain baffled.

Still, I like to keep my husband happy and so last night chicken and sweetcorn pizza it was. And, I hate to say it but it was actually OK (especially after a very large gin and tonic).

If you’re not a pizza snob like me and you want to try it for yourself this is what I did.

First set your oven to its highest temperature (mine goes up to 270oC) and place a flat, square tray into the oven to heat up. Take the hot tray out of the oven and sprinkle with semolina. Then (using the basic pizza dough recipe above) place the rolled out pizza base onto the tray.

Smear the base with some tomato passata (I sometimes make my own, but was lazy and used the ready-made stuff in a carton), sprinkle on the chicken*and sweetcorn** sparingly. Then slice a packet of mozzarella cheese (170g ball) thinly and place evenly on top. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the base is crisp and the cheese is melted and browned. Serve with beer (in our case a wonderful bottle of Harvest Pale Ale from our local Castle Rock brewery).

*For the chicken I chopped half a chicken breast up into small pieces (about 1 cm square) and marinated for an hour with garlic, crushed fennel seeds, olive oil and salt and then fried quickly in a frying pan just so that it would definitely be cooked through once it had been finished off on the pizza in the oven.

**For the sweetcorn I boiled one cob for three minutes and then cut the corn from the cob with a sharp knife. I was surprised that you could actually taste the sweeter flavour of the fresh sweetcorn but I’m sure using tinned or frozen sweetcorn wouldn’t make too much difference.

Preferably though, leave off the chicken and sweetcorn, make a proper tomato passata from scratch and just use mozzarella, fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of good olive oil.

The abomination.

The abomination.