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Walnut and Sour Cherry Sourdough

I haven’t put up any posts on sourdough bread recently, which is surprising as I make a loaf one a week or so. Possibly because bread making is so much a part of my routine and I am making pretty similar loaves each week.

However recently I have been experimenting with nut and fruit sourdough – bread that’s somewhere between a savoury and a sweet loaf. I think my last couple of loaves have hit the nail on the head – full of earthy flavours of walnuts and the sweet/sour taste of dried sour cherries. I like to include a small amount another fruit too – either raisins or golden raisins, to add a little more sweetness.

The recipe is my go-to sourdough process with modifications to allow for the addition of the walnuts and dried fruit.

Ingredients

425g strong flour

150g sourdough starter

300g water

10g salt

75g walnuts

75g sour cherries

50g raisins or golden raisins

Method

Mix
Measure the flour, sourdough starter and water into a large bowl. Don’t add salt just yet. Roughly mix to a shaggy dough with a wooden spoon or dough whisk.

Autolyse
Cover with a plastic shower cap or plastic bag or tea towel and leave for 30 minutes so the mixture can autolyse.

Knead and Prove
Add the salt to the mixture. Using an electric mixer like a Kitchenaid, and the dough hook, knead on low speed for about 10 minutes or until the dough windowpanes when stretched.

Remove the dough from the bowl of the mixer and fold in the walnuts and fruit. I usually do this mixing in the nuts and fruit in 3 or 4 handfuls. Stretch the dough over the ingredients each time you add a handful. Don’t stress about having the fruit and nuts completely evenly distributed.

Cover the dough again and leave somewhere warm to prove for about 4 hours. After this first prove the dough should have noticeably increased in size, but not doubled.

Pre-shape
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. Sprinkle a very little water on the surface. The dough will be a bit 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
It can be tricky to shape a loaf so full of fruit and nuts, so shape carefully and don’t be too aggressive with the dough. You are shaping the dough into a boule or round loaf.

Lightly flour your surface and your hands. Flip the pre-shaped dough over onto the floured surface.

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 couple of times until the dough feels tight and a little bouncy. Scoop the dough into curved hands and rock the dough backwards and forwards on the floured surface several times until the dough feels tight and smooth.

Carefully move the dough into a round proving basket, sprinkled with flour, 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. Proving in the fridge at night allows you to bake your bread first thing the next morning.

Score and Bake This bread is baked in a round cast iron pot. Sprinkle a handful of semolina inside the cast iron pot. Pre-heat your oven to really hot – 240 degrees C. Put the pot in the oven when you turn it on and leave for 30 minutes.

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

Now score the dough using a lame or razor blade or sharp knife. Scoring with a cross is good, or you can score with 2 parallel slashes, giving the bread more of an oval shape.

Put the lid back on the pot and close the oven door. Turn the oven down to 220 degrees C. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 25-30 minutes with the lid off. The loaf should be a nice burnished brown, but if it looks too dark after 25 minutes take it out.

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

Serve with a lot of good butter. This bread doesn’t need jam but it’s up to you! It would also be good with a nice cheddar, or perhaps cream cheese or Brie or Camembert.

Oat, Raisin and Chocolate Cookies

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Cookies are so simple to make and so easy to vary and create new flavours and textures.  I found a great cookie recipe recently on Jamie Oliver’s website for gluten free cookies. So I got baking and created some new variations on the original theme.

Here is the link to the original Jamie recipe: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/recipe/gluten-free-oat-raisin-cookies/#osw2GeHae0mJLFAd.97

I made several batches for some hungry thespians, but went “gluten” as no-one eating was gluten intolerant. I also used some different kinds of raisins –  golden and crimson raisins plus a few cranberries too. To some of the cookies I added roughly chopped white chocolate while to others I added chunks of dark chocolate. And for extra zing I drizzled some lemon icing over the top of the biscuits.

The method is so easy because it can be made without a mixer or food processor. The hardest part is melting the butter!

Ingredients

100g butter

100g golden caster sugar (ordinary is fine too)

125g dark brown soft sugar

1 large free-range egg

60ml buttermilk

200g plain flour

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

100g raisins (golden or crimson are great) or use cranberries  instead

200g rolled oats

50g roughly chopped white or dark chocolate

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 tbls icing sugar

Lemon juice

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, making sure the butter does not come to the boil. Place the caster sugar and dark brown sugar in a large mixing bowl.
Pour the melted butter over the sugar mixture and stir to combine. Beat the egg in a separate bowl, then stir into the mixture with the buttermilk. Sieve the bicarbonate of soda with the flour and fold both into the mixture. Stir in the raisins and/or cranberries, the rolled oats, white or dark chocolate if using and the cinnamon.
Put tablespoons of the mixture onto the baking trays, flattening them slightly with your fingers and leaving a 4cm gap between each.  The cookies will spread a bit on baking.
Place in the hot oven for about 14 minutes, or until the cookies are golden. Mine took a little less than 14 minutes. Leave on the baking trays for 5 minutes to harden slightly then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Mix the icing sugar with enough lemon juice to make an icing of dropping consistency. Drizzle with a spoon over the biscuits or you could put the icing in a piping bag without a nozzle and pipe. The effect should be rustic!
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