I’ll bake anything that involves flour. If it’s yeast based, all the better. And baking with your very own sourdough starter is the ultimate in satisfaction.
So I sometimes forget those lovely bakes that just involve self raising flour or plain flour and baking powder. They can be just as satisfying as yeast baking and are a lot quicker.
I recently acquired Shetland: Baking on the Edge of the World, by James Morton and his father Tom Morton. James is my favourite bread baker and I’ve been cooking his recipes since he first rose to prominence on The Great British Bake-off in 2012.
I was fascinated by his discussion of bannocks, both girdle cooked and oven baked. I’ve made both, but opted for the latter as they were easier to manage and produced a lighter product. I have served them up to friends who seemed to think they were scones… I kind of agree, although this might be an heretical thing to say!
Here’s James’ recipe for oven bannocks as I have made them. I’ve included the original quantities, which makes 16. I have actually made a half quantity each time I’ve produced them. This gives me at least 8 decent sized bannocks, more than enough for a morning or afternoon tea.
550g self-raising flour, plus extra for shaping 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda ½ teaspoon table salt 25g caster sugar 50g butter salted or unsalted (I prefer salted) 280ml buttermilk 150ml natural yoghurt 150ml full fat milk
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan-forced. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Very lightly sprinkle them with flour.
Into a large bowl put the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar. Mix these roughly together with a wooden spoon. Add the butter and rub in with your fingers until the mixture resembles floury breadcrumbs.
Add the buttermilk, yoghurt and milk and mix together, then add to the flour using a wooden spoon, doing this quickly so as not to over mix. The mixture will be lumpy and quite wet and will need flour to handle it.
To make the bannocks, heavily flour a work surface, and scrape all the mixture out on top. Add more flour, and pat down the pile of mixture with your hands, into a rough square, about 2cm or ¾ inch thick.
Use a round cutter to cut out bannocks, or cut into rough squares with a knife, and then place the bannocks onto the prepared trays.
Bake the bannocks for about 12-15 minutes, or until light golden all over. You will need to watch them carefully, as there is a point at which they are golden and cooked, but still soft in the middle, and ready to come out of the oven.
Remove from the oven, and leave to cool a little before serving with lashings of butter or cream, and a good jam or conserve.
I’m revisiting a post I wrote a while back when I was first getting into bread. Bread is my favourite thing to bake and I’m fascinated by the whole idea of yeast and its amazing ability to make humble dough turn into a beautifully risen loaf. This post details my first experiments with sourdough. I’ve updated the text and the photos of the bread are new too.
My guide on the sourdough journey – and there’s more to come on this front – is James Morton, the Baker/Doctor who came to prominence in the 2012 series of The Great British Bakeoff. He has a pretty common sense approach to bread making and following his recipes has worked well for me.
This recipe for sourdough bread and sourdough starter comes from James’ first book Brilliant Bread. Everything you wanted to know about bread making, and more! Lots of sound recipes and helpful advice too.
Getting a sourdough starter going. This is a real labour of love. You have to be dedicated, patient, observant and accurate. A starter needs constant care and vigilance. It needs to be fed regularly, and, unless you hibernate your starter in the fridge, you have to look after it for ever!!! Or be prepared for the news of its demise.
Your sourdough starter needs more care than a pet….
Here is an abbreviated recipe from James’ book. Buy the book to get the full, incredibly helpful story.
1. Take 100g strong flour and 100g tepid water and measure into a glass jar (see through is best so you can see what’s going on).
2. Add your starter aid to kick start the the starter. James recommends raisins – that’s what I used.
3. Cover your jar and leave for 24 hours at room temperature.
4. Whether the starter is bubbling or not, add another 100g flour and 100g water and stir vigorously to combine.
5. Leave for 24-72 hours, or until you notice plenty of bubbles forming through the mixture and that it has definitely increased in volume. Then pour away at least 3/4 of your starter.
6. Give what’s left a good feed of flour and water – make it up to at least the size it was before you poured it away. James recommends not bothering with weighing feeds from now on – always feed your starter using more flour than you think is already in the jar. James doesn’t mention how much water to add – having added the flour, I carefully add enough water so that the mixture looks roughly the same as it was before you threw stuff away.
7. Feed your starter every day and keep it at room temperature. You can put your starter in the fridge to hibernate if you’re going away or if you’re not baking. You will still need to feed it every week or so. If you want to use it, take it out of the fridge, let it warm up and give it a big feed.
Some basic points:
Once you are onto the feeding stage, use cheap white flour, as you will be using a lot of it.
Remember, you need to discard at least 3/4 of your starter before you feed it. Of course, if you are using your starter for making bread, you have already taken away some starter so you can feed it at that point.
Your can use your starter when it is full of bubbles and has grown in size in the jar. (It does get noticeably bigger, but I don’t think there is a level of “bigness” that is required).
At this stage the yeasts in your starter are used to being fed – they are said to be in a “fed state”. This normally 12- 24 hours after a feed and if the starter is fed regularly.
This is basically James’ recipe. But as with the starter, the book is really helpful for more details.
400g Strong White Flour
200g White Sourdough Starter
275g Cold Water
In a large bowl, weigh the flour and then rub in the salt until combined. Add the starter and water and mix until it has come together into a very wet dough. Cover and autolyse for 30 minutes. (This is resting of the dough, letting the yeast get a lot of the work done for you, so that when you knead, your dough will come together more easily).
Knead the dough for 10 minutes.
Cover and rest the dough for approximately 4-6 hours at room temperature, or, alternatively, after a couple of hours, put it in the fridge overnight or during the day. This is an important stage, so the dough should be noticeably risen, if not quite doubled in size.
Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and then shape your loaf. I used the method of rolling up your dough like a Swiss roll really tightly. Then turning the rolled dough 90 degrees and rolling it up again. The dough will have a seam on the top.
Carefully transfer the dough to a proving basket or a floured tea towel inside a bowl, with the seam side on top. I have used both on different occasions, here I used the proving basket. Leave to prove for 3-4 hours at room temperature until noticeably larger again. Or you can put your dough in the fridge to prove after an hour or two overnight or during the day. I left my dough to prove overnight.
Preheat the oven to 240 degrees C at least 30 minutes before you intend to bake, and heat a cast iron casserole pot with the lid on.
When the 30 minutes is up, it’s time to turn out the proved dough into the pot. Turn down the oven to 210 degrees C. Take the lid off the pot and carefully turn out the dough into the pot. The smooth side will be on top. Score a cross on your loaf with a sharp serrated knife.
Bake for 40 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 10 – 15 minutes until the top and sides are really brown. Remove from the oven, and let rest for 30 – 60 minutes.
Serve with lashings of butter and your favourite jam. This time mine was apricot conserve from last summer’s bounty.
I have been wanting to experiment with puff pastry, and now on holidays, I have the time and space to get some practice in. Hence this apple and almond tart. This tart is made with rough puff pastry. It’s still a little fiddly to make, but not quite as time-consuming as real puff pastry.
However, unless you’re in the mood for some rolling and folding, you can just as well use good butter puff pastry, ready rolled, from the supermarket. There are plenty of good recipes for puff and rough puff pastry if you want to go down this route. James Morton in How Baking Works and Paul Hollywood in How to Bake both take you through the process. And with all the diagrams too! So I’m assuming you will use the good store-bought stuff, or follow the directions of one the afore-mentioned Baking Aficionados!
I put an almond sugar filling in the tart before arranging some red apples in slices, with skin, on the tart. The almond mixture is not quite a frangipane as it has no butter. But you still end up with a rich almond paste on which to rest the apples.
1 1/2 red eating apples
Juice of a lemon
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 large free-range egg, beaten
1 quantity puff or rough puff pastry (enough to make a tart base about the size of a dinner plate – maybe 26 cm?)
Raw or ordinary caster sugar to scatter over the tart.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
To make the almond filling combine the ground almonds and sugars in the bowl of food processor. Add the almond extract and enough of the beaten egg to make a paste. The paste should be just firm enough to spread/ease into your pastry base.
Core and slice the apples thinly, and place the slices into the lemon juice to stop them going brown.
Roll out your chilled pastry, and cut a large circle, using a dinner plate as a guide. Place the circle on baking paper on a baking tray. Score the circle with another circle, 2cm inside the outer edge. This will give your tart an edge. Prick all over with a fork.
Place the almond mixture on to the pastry, leaving the outer 2cm circle free. Don’t worry if it doesn’t quite cover the pastry, just do your best. rough is OK. Drain the apples slices and place in any artistic way you like on the tart.
Brush the 2cm edge of the tart with the rest of the beaten egg. Scatter the caster sugar over the tart, apples and the edge, but making sure the apples get a good covering. Place the tart in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. The tart should be golden brown, and puffy round the edge.
Ciabatta is that lovely bread distinguished by all those holes! It’s light and flavoursome, keeps well and is also amazing toasted or made into bruschetta. In need of a reliable recipe, I consulted James Morton in his great book Brilliant Bread for how to make this bread.
I was making ciabatta for the first time this week. I had friends over for dinner to celebrate the arrival of a shearers’ table which has been sojourning in the Southern Highlands for too long. I had hot-smoked a side of salmon and wanted some nice bread to serve it with. I ended up serving it with dill pickles, creme fraiche, focaccia and the ciabatta loaves. Here’s a photo of the hot-smoked salmon. For the recipe on how to hot smoke, check the recipe from my post on hot-smoking.
Ciabatta can be tricky to make as the dough is very wet and hard to handle, so be prepared for this. James suggests using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, which makes the kneading easier.
I discovered that James has a simpler recipe online. It looks good, and I am keen try his “pared down” version. See James’ simple ciabatta here.
But here is the recipe from James’ book Brilliant Bread that I have made successfully.
300g strong white flour
100g plain flour
7g instant yeast
200g sourdough starter
350g tepid water
Semolina, for dusting
Into the bowl of your electric mixer (I used my KitchenAid), rub the flours, yeast and salt, keeping the yeast and salt on separate sides of the bowl. Add the starter and water and form into a extremely wet dough.
I followed James’ instructions for the electric mixer, here, although you could knead by hand for 10-15 minutes. Beat the dough with the paddle attachment of the mixer until it comes away from the sides and easily passes the windowpane test.
Cover your bowl with cling film (I use a shower cap) and leave to prove. This can be 2 hour room temperature prove or leave for 10-12 hours in the fridge. The dough should have at least doubled in size.
Turn the dough out on to a heavily floured surface. Using floured hands, fold the dough in half so both the top and bottom are both floured. Move it around a little to make sure the bottom is totally coated, and add more flour to the top. Flatten very gently into a rough rectangle, then cut into 4 strips, being very careful not to deflate the dough and lose those bubbles which will be your holes!
Gently transfer each strip onto a heavily floured tea towel. As you move them, stretch them out until they are long and “slipper-like”. The loaves don’t need to be exact they are after all rustic loaves. Leave to prove on the tea towel for about 1 hour, or until wobbly and noticeably increased in size.
About 40 minutes before you bake, preheat your baking surface in the oven set at 240 degrees C or 220 degrees C fan forced.
Turn the ciabattas (be very gentle) on to a board dusted with semolina, so what was the bottom is now the top – this helps to redistribute the bubbles for a better crumb. Slide the loaves on to the hot baking surface and throw 1/4 cup of water on to the sides of the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. (I think I could have baked my loaves a little longer – they were not brown enough).
So it’s Thursday night, before Good Friday 2016. I’m making hot cross buns AGAIN! This time I’ve gone back to a Jamie Oliver recipe I made last year. I really like this version, as Jamie includes stem ginger in the original bread mix, plus cranberries as well as sultanas in the fruit. I used an apricot jam glaze instead of honey, as I prefer the slightly tart taste of the apricot.
I tweaked of course: adding a larger quantity of fruit because I like my hot cross buns jammed pack with fruit; and I used the fridge proving method for both the first and second proves. This was more for convenience – I could go to bed knowing my buns were happily proving over night! I usually prove my bread baking in the fridge, as James Morton, in his book Brilliant Bread, is in favour of the retarded fridge prove.
So here is Jamie’s recipe, with my additional fruit quantities and an apricot glaze. I leave tinkering with fridge proves up to you.
Oh, and once they’re made, I “snap” freeze any hot cross buns that won’t get eaten straight away. They freeze really well and can be heated in the microwave or conventional oven when required.
200 ml semi-skimmed milk
55 g unsalted butter
2 x 7 g sachet dried yeast
455 g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ whole nutmeg
55 g caster sugar
2 pieces stem ginger
1 large free range egg
2 tablespoons plain flour
100g sultanas or raisins (55g in original recipe)
60g dried cranberries (30g in original recipe)
2 tablespoons mixed peel
1 tbls apricot jam for the glaze
Add the milk and 50ml water to a small pan and place over a low heat for a few minutes, or until slightly warm – you should be able to dip your finger in without scalding it.
Meanwhile, add the butter to a separate pan and place over a low heat for a few minutes, or until melted, then set aside.
Transfer the warmed milk mixture to a medium bowl and stir in the yeast. Set aside.
Sift the flour into a large bowl, then add the salt, spices, a few good scrapings of nutmeg and the sugar. Finely chop the stem ginger and stir it into the mix.
Make a well in the centre and pour in the melted butter, followed by the yeast mixture. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and add it to the bowl.
Using a fork, mix well until you have a rough dough, then transfer to a clean flour dusted work surface and knead for around 10 minutes, or until soft.* Return the dough to a flour dusted bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for at least an hour, or until doubled in size.
Transfer the dough to a clean flour dusted work surface. Knock the air out by bashing it with your fist, then sprinkle over the dried fruit and mixed peel and knead into the dough for 1 to 2 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Grease and line a large baking tray.
Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each into balls. Evenly space them out on a lined baking tray as you go.
Cover with the tea towel and leave in a warm place for a further 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, place the plain flour and 2 tablespoons water into a small bowl and mix to a thick paste.
Gently pat down the risen buns then use the batter to carefully trace a cross over the top with a piping bag or spoon.
Place the buns into the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Transfer to a wire cooling rack, and brush with the apricot jam that has been mixed with a little warm water.
Serve warm with butter.
* You could do this first knead in a mixer using a dough hook. I have done the knead by hand and in a mixer – the latter method just saves arm work!
I made my first batch of hot cross buns yesterday, Friday 18 march 2016. I am still in search of that elusive “best ever” hot cross bun recipe. Last year I made two different Jamie Oliver recipes, a Paul Hollywood version and a combination of the best of all three! Confusing! They were all good in their own way, but still don’t think they satisfy my my elusive “best ever” bun…
So yesterday I turned to the best bread baker around in my opinion, James Morton, for his hot cross bun recipe and found a lovely recipe packed full of spices and fruit, and brandy added in too for that extra kick.
I have deviated in a few ways from his original recipe: I used plain instead of wholemeal flour for the additional 100g; I used Cointreau instead of apple brandy; I rather like the traditional dough crosses so I went with those instead of James’ icing crosses; I used an apricot jam glaze instead of a sugar glaze. Here is the link for James’ original recipe:
I also made a change in the cooking method. James has a cinnamon bun recipe where he bakes the buns in a large cast iron casserole. This makes for beautiful soft buns.
So I decided to go with the casserole method of baking to achieve nice soft hot cross buns. By placing them inside the casserole, they join up after baking and become like pull-aparts. If you like more traditional, individually baked hot cross buns, then bake them on a baking tray. I liked the result – soft pull-apart buns, moist and full of fruit and heady with spices, lovely straight out of the oven and great toasted the next day.
350g strong white flour
100g plain or wholemeal flour
2 x 7g sachets fast-action yeast
100g mixed peel
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground ginger
½ nutmeg, finely grated
100g white sourdough starter (don’t worry if you don’t have this – you can make perfectly good buns without)
2 medium eggs
170g full-fat milk
30g brandy – Cointeau or Grand Marnier (James suggests apple brandy)
50g butter, softened
For the crosses:
2 tbls plain flour
Enough water to make a stiff paste
For the glaze:
2 tbls apricot jam
A little water
In a large bowl, combine the flours, yeast, salt and spices. Rub the salt and spices into the dry mix on one side of the bowl, then the yeast on the other. Add the starter, eggs, milk, honey, brandy and butter and combine to form a dough. Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
Knead your dough for about 5 minutes, then add your raisins and continue to knead until the dough is holding together and passing the windowpane test, about another 5 minutes. Cover and leave to prove for 1–2 hours, or until at least doubled in size. You can do a retarded prove in the fridge for 10–14 hours – this improves the flavour, but as I wanted the buns made fairly quickly, I proved at room temperature.
Turn your dough out on to a lightly floured surface and separate into 12 roughly equal pieces. Roll each into a ball, and place in your cast iron casserole which has been lined with baking paper.
Leave to prove for a final 90 minutes or so at room temperature with the lid on the casserole. About half an hour before you’re going to bake, preheat your oven to 220 degrees C.
At this point you can make your crosses. Mix the flour and water to a stiff paste, and either pipe onto the buns or hand roll, rather rustically, as I did, and place on top of the buns.
Turn your oven down to 200 degrees C, place the casserole, with lid on, in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Take the lid off and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until the buns are really brown. Meanwhile mix the apricot jam with a little warm water for the glaze.
When the buns are baked, take them out of the oven, and brush them with the apricot glaze, until they are shiny and sticky.
You will need to pull buns apart as they will have joined up in the oven. Serve with the best butter possible. I served mine with Pepe Saya, a lovely Australian butter made here in Sydney in the French style.
I first made this bread on New Year’s Day 2016, really early! I had come home from celebrating the New Year with old friends (a somewhat laborious journey because of road closures on Sydney Harbour Bridge after our amazing fireworks) and, arriving home at 2.30am, found sleep elusive. So I decided to make bread…
I started this lovely loaf by putting the ingredients together and leaving to prove in the fridge. To bed at 4.00am, up at 10.00am with the dough ready for its next stage. I ended up with a beautiful, festive loaf for breakfast.
The inspiration for the bread was a Nigel Slater recipe for rosemary and honey bread, and the method from James Morton, who really “gets” bread.
250 g strong wholemeal flour
250 g strong white plain flour
1 tsp salt
7 g instant yeast
350 ml warm water
1 tbls honey
75 g sourdough starter (optional)
50 g sour cherries
50 golden raisins
50 g walnuts
Rub the flours together, add the salt and yeast, keeping them separate. Add the warm water, honey and the sourdough starter (if using). Stir in the cherries, raisins and walnuts. Use a dough scraper to combine into a loose dough. You should have a dough that is really quite sticky. Once combined, use the scraper to pull the dough from the edge of the bowl into the middle. You should then work your way around the bowl several times, about 15-20 scrapes.
Cover the dough in the bowl with a plastic bag or a plastic shower cap, which I find ideal. Rest the dough for an hour until risen and spongy or in the fridge overnight for a retarded prove, which is what I did.
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. Heat a baking tray or slide in the oven.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and then carefully transfer to a proving basket or a floured tea towel inside a bowl. I love my proving baskets and the rustic markings they leave on the bread. Leave to prove for about an hour or until nearly doubled in size again.
This next part you need to do quickly: open the oven door, pull out your baking tray part way and deftly turn out the dough from the proving basket onto the hot baking tray. Score the the top of loaf. Add a shallow pan of water to the bottom of the oven (to create steam for a lovely crust) and close the oven door! All this should take about a minute – you don’t want to lose heat from the oven.
Bake for about 25 minutes, or until nice and dark brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
You can eat this fruity bread on its own, with butter, with cheese or with something a little indulgent like lemon curd. This was a great pick-me-up on January 1st!