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Monthly Archives: August 2015

Basic White Bread

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I am still singing the praises of James Morton, whose no-nonsense approach to bread making really works! This is another recipe from his book Brilliant Bread:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Brilliant-Bread-James-Morton/dp/0091955602/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1373838093&sr=8-1&keywords=brilliant+bread

If you want a really easy white loaf, this is it! It’s a basic flour, water, yeast and salt mix. Because I have a fabulous sourdough starter, I add a dollop of that in the mix as well. It adds flavour and aids in longevity, too. However the loaf works just as well with just yeast.

Here is James’ recipe, with a couple of comments from me.

Ingredients

500g strong white flour

10g table salt

7g  fast-action dried yeast

100g sourdough starter (optional)

350g tepid water

Method

In a large bowl, weigh the flour. Rub in the salt at one edge of the bowl and the yeast on the other side, as the salt can stop the yeast working.

Add sourdough starter (if using) and the tepid water, and mix together to form a coherent dough (use your dough to mop up any flour sticking to the bowl). Cover your bowl with a damp tea towel or clingfilm (I use a large clear plastic bag), and rest in a warm place for 30-40 minutes, or until it has noticeably increased in size.

Wet the fingertips of one hand and slide between the bowl and dough. Fold the dough in half. Turn the bowl 90°; repeat until you have removed all of the air and it’s noticeably smooth. Cover and rest for an hour, or until at least doubled in size.

Scrape the dough on to a floured surface, flour your hands and shape into a ball.

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Place the dough on a heavily floured surface like a chopping board or baking tray, loosely cover and leave it for a final hour, or until it has doubled in size and springs back when pushed. James recommends using a proving basket – my loaf was made without one – but I have just acquired one and am keen to test it out!

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C fan forced, at least 20 minutes before you want to bake.

Transfer the loaf carefully to a lightly floured baking tray, (turn out of the proving basket and gently shape if using one). I put my proved dough into a lightly floured cake tin for baking – worked a treat!

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Give your bread a few shallow slashes with a serrated knife and place onto a low to middle shelf in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until a deep golden brown – don’t be scared to let it get a good dark crust. If your oven is at all uneven, turn the loaf so that the loaf bakes evenly.

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Cheesecake with Salted Caramel

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I made and blogged this luscious cheesecake almost a year ago. With spring on the horizon in Sydney – just – I thought I’d re-blog to remind myself of warm sunny days and lunch in the garden.

It’s a baked cheesecake, made from a 60s recipe (Quirky sister 1, in her baking days, used to make it). It’s served with salted praline and salted caramel sauce.

Cheesecake

Ingredients

Crumb Crust
230g sweet biscuits (half plain, half ginger nut)
1/2 level teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 level teaspoon cinnamon
85g butter

Cream Cheese Filling
500g cream cheese
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 free-range eggs

Topping
1 carton (280ml) sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 dessertspoon lemon juice
1 level tablespoon sugar

Method

Crush biscuits very finely in a food processor and add the nutmeg and cinnamon. Melt butter in a saucepan, remove from heat and quickly stir in biscuit crumbs.

Press firmly into greased 22cm springform tin bringing mixture at least half way up the sides of the tin.

Put cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice in the food processor and mix well. Add eggs one at a time, whizzing after each addition.

Pour mixture into uncooked crumb crust and bake in a moderate oven at 180 degrees C for 30 minutes. Remove from oven.

Beat together the topping ingredients and pour over hot cheesecake. Return to oven and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Cool, then store in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Salted  Praline

Heat 1 cup of caster sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Be careful not to stir the sugar – tilt the saucepan to help melt the sugar. Cook for several minutes until the sugar turns a deep caramel tea colour and take off the heat. It’s a fine line between toffee that’s cooked and toffee that’s burnt!

Add 1/2 tsp of sea salt flakes and pour onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Quickly scatter over a handful of flaked almonds.

Leave to cool and harden. When completely cold, place the praline in a ziplock bag and bash into pieces with a mallet or rolling pin. Make sure you have small fragments, larger pieces, and some large shards for decoration.

Salted Caramel Sauce

Ingredients
200g sugar
75ml double cream
50g butter, cubed
½ tsp sea salt flakes

Method

Put the sugar in a  saucepan with 50ml water. Gently heat on low, swirling the pan but not stirring, until just melted.  Simmer gently, swirling regularly, until the liquid is very dark golden caramel. Remove the saucepan from the heat then carefully and quickly whisk in the cream and butter. Be careful as the mixture will splutter. Keep whisking until smooth, then beat in the salt. Let cool. You can make the caramel in advance.  Put in the refrigerator but bring back to room temperature before using.

Decorate the cheesecake with shards of salted caramel praline and crunchy bits, berries and edible flowers. Serve with the salted caramel sauce on the side.

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Cherry, Cranberry and Cinnamon Buns

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I love cinnamon buns, in fact I love any kind of bun with a filling and some icing on top. I made these buns, filled with dried cherries and cranberries, cinnamon and brown sugar, and with a drizzle of lemon icing on top.

My last post sang the praises of baker James Morton and his book Brilliant Bread. Click here for the link to buy from Amazon.

And I still revere Paul Hollywood‘s words of wisdom on all things bread. So I made my buns with a little bit from each baker.

The recipe is an enriched bread dough (butter, milk and egg added to the basic dough). Because I now have a spectacular sourdough starter, as well as instant yeast, I added a little of my starter for some extra flavour.

James recommends baking the buns in a cast iron casserole eg a Le Creuset dish. Cooking them in a pot creates lovely soft buns.

Ingredients

250g plain white flour

250g strong white flour

8g table salt

7g instant yeast

100g sourdough starter (optional)

50g caster sugar

280g milk, warmed until tepid

1 free-range egg, at room temperature

50g unsalted butter

Filling

50g unsalted butter, melted

75g soft brown sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

100g dried cherries

100g dried cranberries

Glaze

1 tbls apricot jam, sieved, mixed with a little warm water

Lemon Icing

Juice of 1 lemon

200g icing sugar

Method

Place the flour, salt, yeast,  sourdough starter if using, sugar, tepid milk, and egg into a large bowl and mix them together by hand or you can use an electric mixer with a dough hook. Knead by hand or in the mixer about for 10 minutes.

Melt the butter and add to your dough. Mix it in by hand or use a machine until completely combined. Cover the bowl (I use a disposable shower cap but cling film is fine) and leave the dough to rest for 60-90 minutes at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge, until it has grown to roughly double its original size.

Turn your dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out into a big, long rectangle. The rectangle should be about 20cm wide and up to a metre long. Melt the 50g of butter and brush over dough. Sprinkle the dough all over with brown sugar and then cinnamon. Scatter the cherries and cranberries over the dough.

Roll up the dough along its long edge into as tight a cylinder you can get, but be careful as the dough is quite fragile. Slice this cylinder into 6-9 roughly equal pieces using a knife. Line a large lidded casserole pot with a piece of baking paper and arrange the buns cut end down.

Place the lid on the casserole and leave to rise for another hour at room temperature, then check to see that buns have risen.

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30 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 180 degrees C fan forced. Put the lid back on the casserole and place in the oven.  Cooking time seems to vary – James says 40 minutes lidded then another 10 minutes with the lid off. He says if the casserole is thinner walled, they’ll probably bake quicker. My buns took about 25 minutes with the lid on and 10 minutes with the lid off. As you can see from the photo, my buns browned too much, so I will need to watch the cooking time carefully when next I bake.

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Remove from the oven, and brush with the apricot glaze while still warm. Cool to room temperature.

For the lemon icing, mix the lemon juice and icing sugar until thick but of dropping consistency. Drizzle over the buns using a fork or spoon.

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Simple Sourdough

This is an updated post about making that most marvellous of breads – sourdough. I’ve also posted the recipe as Sourdough Ultimate Bread. It’s my current go-to method for sourdough baking.
18 May 2020

The power of natural yeast to change flour and water into a beautiful, intense flavoured loaf of bread is a wonderful thing. I began baking sourdough bread a few years ago, but this year I have embarked on a journey to develop my skills and come up with the perfect loaf. Of course, there’s no such thing, but every loaf has its value and provides a lesson in what works and what can be improved.

I make a lot of sourdough bread, and I’ve come a long way in my journey. So I thought it would helpful to write up my current sourdough process. I hope that readers of this blog will enjoy this latest account, and perhaps will be inspired to make their first – or next – sourdough loaf.

And here I should say that I have developed my sourdough skills through reading and following the procedures, advice and hands on experiences of the baking doctor James Morton. He is the high priest of sourdough, and his latest book Super Sourdough(Hardie Grant Publishing) is an instruction manual and bakers’ bible in one.

It’s also full of commonsense and incredibly helpful advice and excellent recipes. I really recommend it.

Here is the sourdough process that is producing well risen, beautiful tasting and relatively consistent loaves for me, based on the James Morton method.

An important aspect of making sourdough is the baking component. I use the cast iron pot method, of which much has been written, particularly on the internet. The principle seems to be that baking the bread inside a pot creates steam which helps the bread to rise.

A note on a sourdough starter. I’m including a method suggested by James Morton that has worked for me. My starter is incredibly active and makes my dough rise really well. There are many methods around for starters, and I don’t claim to be enough of an expert to say definitively which ones are best.

Sourdough starter
Put 100g wholemeal flour and 100g fruit juice into a glass jar and mix. Leave for about 5 days or until it develops lots of bubbles. Feed with equal amounts of flour and water, at least as much flour as is already in the jar. After the first feed, you will need to discard some starter, to maintain a reasonable size starter in the jar. The starter can be used to make bread once it consistently grows in size after being fed.

If you’re not making bread everyday, and therefore using up starter, you can store the starter in the fridge and feed once a week.

Ingredients
450g strong flour
150g sourdough starter
325g tepid water
10g salt

Method

Mix
Measure the flour into a large bowl. Add the sourdough starter and the water. Don’t add the salt just yet. Mix very roughly just enough to incorporate the ingredients.

Autolyse
Cover and leave for 30 minutes so the mixture can autolyse. I use a clear plastic shower cap as a cover, as it fits nicely over most sized bowls. A plastic bag is fine too.

Knead and Prove
Add the salt to the mixture. Now you can choose to knead the mixture using a dough hook in an electric stand mixer, knead by hand or use the stretch and fold method, essentially a no knead way of developing gluten in the dough. If you want to knead by hand, that’s fine, but I don’t, so I won’t describe here. There is plenty of information out there about ways of kneading!

If using a mixer, mix the dough for 6 minutes on the lowest speed, then 4 minutes on the next speed up. The dough should be lovely and stretchy, and pass the windowpane test if you pull and stretch a small section – it should be translucent. Cover the bowl again and leave the dough in a warm place to prove for about 4 hours. The advantages of this method are less work and you can leave the dough alone for the 4 hours.

The stretch and fold method is great if you don’t want to knead and if you haven’t got an electric mixer. Remove the cover from the dough. You need to wet your fingers for this method, to stop your fingers sticking to the dough. Gently grab one of the edges of the dough and fold over into the middle. Repeat, turning the bowl around so you have lifted up all of the dough and folded into the middle.The dough should start to feel stretchy. Do this stretching and folding of the dough about 4 or more times, covering the bowl again after each stretch and fold. The whole stretch and fold method should be done over 4 hours.

After the first prove of 4 hours the dough should have increased in size by at least 50%.

Pre-shape
Now comes the interesting part of the process for, getting the dough into a shape that can then be shaped for baking. I was very nervous of pre-shaping initially, now its my favourite part of bread making!

Carefully remove the dough from the bowl with help of a dough scraper onto an unfloured work surface. Definitely no flour needed! I use an oversized wooden board, but a bench top will work too. The dough will be stretchy, and quite delicate, so no rough treatment. Slide the scraper underneath the dough, lifting it from underneath. You will feel the scraper catch the dough as it lifts it up. I try not to remove the scraper, just move it round all of the dough in a circle. Sometimes the scraper sticks, and you need to pull it out, remove the sticky dough, and then go under again, but the more you move around the dough, the tighter the dough becomes and the less likely to stick. Do this circular movement with the scraper a few times until the dough forms a round, wobbly ball that roughly holds its shape. Leave for 20-30 minutes to let the gluten relax.

Shape
I shape my sourdough loaves to fit the 2 cast iron pots I bake in. One is round, perfect for a boule shape. The other is oval, which is fine for a batard shape.

It’s important that you are super careful with the shaping. The dough is delicate and you don’t want to damage the dough you have worked so hard to develop.

For a round boule: put the pre-shaped dough onto the work surface, lightly floured. Imagine the round of dough is a clock face. Take one edge of the dough at 12 o’clock and gently pull towards you, and fold into the centre of the dough. Move the dough around to 3 o’clock and pull and fold again. Move to 6 o’clock, then 9 o’clock, pulling and folding. Do this process a few times until the dough feels tight and a little bouncy. Turn the dough over. Scoop the dough into curved hands and rock the dough backwards and forwards, until the dough feels tight and smooth.

For a batard: put the pre-shaped dough onto the work surface, lightly floured. Imagine the dough is sort of square shape. Take the two sides of the square shape that are opposite each other and gently stretch away from each other. Fold these stretched bits over each other in the centre of the dough. Turn the dough round 90 degrees and do the same with the other two sides of the square. Now that you have folded the 4 sides of the square, fold 2 of the opposing corners in the same way, and then fold the other opposing corners. Take any side of the dough and roll up like a Swiss roll. Press the seam to seal.

For either shape, carefully move the dough into a proving basket, round or batard shaped, with the smooth side of the dough on the bottom and the seam side on top.

Second Prove
While you can prove your dough for 2-3 hours at room temperature, I advocate the retarded or fridge prove, and this method serves me well. Leave the dough at room temperature for an hour then place in the fridge for 8-12 hours. Doing this at night works well as it allows you to bake your bread first thing the next morning.

Score and Bake
For the pot method, pre-heat your oven to really hot – 250 degrees C. Put the pot in when you begin to pre- heat, and leave for 20-30 minutes. The pot will certainly be really hot after half an hour – and perhaps this is a waste of energy – but I sometimes want to be completely sure the pot is hot, so I go the extra 10 minutes.

Turn your dough out of the proving basket onto a thin flat baking tray or peel, well dusted with semolina. The pretty side of the dough is now on top. Open the oven and carefully take the lid of the pre-heated pot off. You can then slide the shaped dough into the hot pot.

At this point you can score the dough using a lame or razor blade or sharp knife. For a boule, scoring with a cross is good, however, I sometimes score with 2 parallel slashes, giving the bread more of an oval shape. For a batard, score with 1 or 2 long cuts down the length of the dough.

Pop the lid back on the pot and close the oven door. Turn the oven to 220 degrees C or 200 degrees C fan-forced. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 20-30 minutes with the lid off. I have experimented endlessly with this latter cooking time, and have come to the conclusion that 20 minutes gives a lighter brown loaf, softer in the middle, while 30 minutes gives a richer, browner loaf not quite as soft.

Remove the bread to a wire rack or board and leave to cool for an hour before cutting.

That’s it. I have tried to explain what works for me. There are infinite variations on the how-to of sourdough bread making. This is just one method. I can only encourage you to try this method, or any other, to discover the joys and pleasures and the huge satisfaction of turning flour and water into a magnificent loaf of bread.

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