Tag Archives: baking

Baking Plans And A Couple Of Loaves

I’ve been trying to work out how I can make more bread. I love making it and trying new recipes, but there are only two of us in this house & we can only eat so much! Of course I can give bread to family/friends, but I still want something more regular to work on. So I’ve been debating getting some part time work in a bakery or selling some loaves, which would be amazing because I could try more loaves, learn more and hopefully make some money at the same time. Wins all round I think.

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I was on the Real Bread Campaign website (which I frequent) and spotted an advert from a local cafe looking for home bakers to help them supply bread to their market stalls. I had heard of the Hornbeam Cafe in Walthamstow, but I’ll admit I didn’t know a lot about it. It turns out that all of their bread is provided by the Hornbeam Bakers Collective, which is made up of a group of keen local bakers. They also provide bread to three market stalls on a Saturday, one outside the Walthamstow cafe, one in Leyton and one in Stoke Newington.

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Last week I went and met with Pilar from the collective and took her a couple of my loaves to try, a mixed white & wholemeal loaf made with tea (top) and a 50% spelt loaf (above). It was the first time I’d made the 50% spelt, so it wasn’t perfect but I was really please with the mixed grain loaf. Thankfully they both went down a storm, so from this Saturday I will start to provide bread to the stalls. Just 8 loaves at first as I only have a little oven, but if it goes well then who knows where it will lead…

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The Great Wedding Bake Off

May the 4th was my cousin Jo’s wedding. The whole family descended on Henley, even the sun graced us with it’s presence. You can see from her blog that Jo is very crafty so we had predicted that she would have made some of the decorations for the day, but we were totally overwhelmed by how much trouble she went to! Handmade confetti, hand printed table runners, personalised table settings and bright, colourful flower arrangements & bouquets made the day so unique.

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After the simple ceremony, and the fantastic hog roast was another quirky addition to the day, instead of dessert Jo organised The Great Wedding Bake Off. Everyone was invited to bake something and that meant that there were lots of different puddings for everyone to try, which wasn’t exactly a hardship.

A couple of weeks ago I shared with you the ideas I had for what to bake, and everyone seemed to be on the same track as me… the dobos torte. Now I could have done a gorgeous rectangular dobos torte like Deb on Smitten Kitchen, but I like to make life complicated for myself. The notes with the recipe mentioned that you can ‘paint’ the batter into a shape drawn on a baking sheet so I decided that for the wedding I would make the cake in the shape of the bride & groom’s initials. See, always complicating things.

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I baked a practice version for the Band of Bakers party in the shape of ‘BoB’. I was really pleased with it until I saw it next to all the other bakes and realised that I really am hopeless at icing & decorating. It looked awful! Oh well, that’s what a practice run is for and all the feedback said it was delicious which is the main thing.

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So on the Thursday I drew out my ‘NJ’ cake shape on 7 sheets of baking paper mixed up the cake batter and baked them all. I had extra batter left over as the area the ‘NJ’ covers wasn’t very large, so I baked an extra couple of layers. I then froze them until the Friday to make sure they stayed fresh. Then on the Friday I made up the icing, sandwiching the layers together and encasing it in chocolate. To make sure it looked rather better than my Band of Bakers version I bust out a piping bag to stud the outline of the initials and I think it looked beautiful.

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Transporting the cake back to my mother’s house and then on to the wedding was a challenge. We didn’t have anything big enough in the kitchen to cover it, so ended up improvising with a storage box, some cling film and a lot of electrical tape. It was precarious but at least the cake made it there in one piece.

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There were so many great cakes, but as the only obscenely chocolatey one mine proved very popular and at the end of the evening I won a ‘highly commended’ rosette for my trouble. The winner of the bake off was the mother of the groom for making Jo & Neil’s beautiful wedding cake, and you can’t compete with that.

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My thoughts on the dobos torte: well it was rich, creamy and super chocolatey. Yes, the way I made it was labour intensive but if you follow Deb’s instructions for a rectangular cake then it’s no where near as much hassle. Without a doubt I will make this cake again, it might even become my signature birthday cake.  If you want it to become yours, you can get the Smitten Kitchen Dobos Torte recipe here.

And that just leaves me to say a huge congratulations to Jo & Neil and thank you for inviting us to join you to celebrate your wedding. May the fourth be with you!

Guinness Chocolate Chip Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

The flavour combination I am completely obsessed with is back, this time in hot cross bun form. Sourdough hot cross buns obviously. These are not your traditional hot cross buns, in fact if you like a traditional spicy, fruity hot cross bun then these are not for you! These hot cross buns are for those of us who like the idea of a hot cross bun, but then take an hour to eat it because we have to pick out all of the dried fruit as we go. I used to be that person, then I made spiced stout hot cross buns and my mind was changed. If you like a traditional hot cross bun, those are the buns for you.

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Instead these hot cross buns harness the richness of Guinness to flavour a soft, dense dough containing lots and lots of dark chocolate chips that melt when toasted and mingle with the melting butter that you will smear across it to create the most decadent breakfast I’ve had in a while. But I’m in training, so I’ve been living off porridge for longer than I dare to remember. I can’t wait to get back into proper Sunday morning breakfasts.

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You could of course use any kind of stout and another type of chocolate, but Guinness and dark chocolate are particularly strong together. In total these took me a day and a half to make, but you can follow the timings for the spiced stout sourdough hot cross buns if you want to make them in a day (plus overnight leaven creation). I know we’re only really supposed to eat hot cross buns on Good Friday, but as these aren’t traditional hot cross buns I think I’ll be untraditional and carry on eating them for a few more weeks!

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Guinness Chocolate Chip Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

Makes about 16 buns.
Adapted from Dan Lepard’s Spiced Stout Buns recipe.

Ingredients

325ml Guinness (or another brand of stout if you must)
100g sourdough starter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons allspice
800g strong white flour + a couple of tablespoons extra for the crosses
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
50g caster sugar + 1 tablespoon extra for the glaze
1 large egg
50g melted butter
200g dark chocolate, chopped into chips

In the morning, whisk together the Guinness & the sourdough starter in a large bowl and stir in the spices and 250g of the strong white flour. Cover with cling film and leave to ferment for at least 6 hours.

That afternoon, mix the remaining 550g of strong white flour with the salt and caster sugar in a large bowl. Mix in the Guinness batter, egg and melted butter until you have a shaggy mess of a dough. Note added: If the batter is struggling to absorb all the flour, then add a little extra Guinness, a tablespoon at a time until it’s all mixed in. Leave for 10 minutes, I took this time to chop up my chocolate as I’m never very good at preparing things like that before I start. Add the chocolate chips to the bowl and stretch & kneed the dough until the chocolate chips are fully incorporated, cover with clingfilm or a clean, damp tea towel and leave to rest.

After 30 minutes, stretch or kneed the dough for 10 seconds or so, then cover and leave to rest again. After a second 30 minutes take the dough out of the bowl, stretch it out to a rectangle then fold the right third to the centre and then the same with the left third, turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat (check out this video for a visual aid, but don’t panic when your dough takes a lot more effort to stretch). Return it to the bowl for another rest. 60 minutes later, repeat the folding technique and return to the bowl for a final 2 hour rest.

By now we’re well into the evening, perhaps even nearing bedtime, so line a baking tray with baking paper and clear a shelf in your fridge. Divide the dough up into 100g lumps, roll them into balls and place them on the baking tray. They should be touching, but only just. Cover with clingfilm (lightly greased with a little vegetable oil to avoid sticking) or your damp tea towel and place in the fridge overnight.

When you bake them the next day is up to you. I intended to get up and bake them first thing, but in the end I didn’t have time until the afternoon. The buns will be fine in the fridge for most of the day unless you have a particularly vigorous starter. Take them out of the fridge 30-60 minutes before you plan on baking them and preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan.

Mix a little flour & water into a paste. Initially add a tablespoon of each then add flour/water a teaspoon at a time until you get the consistency you like. Spoon this into a piping bag & pipe long lines across the rows of buns to create crosses. Go slowly to ensure the batter follows the undulations of the buns & creates even crosses. Put the buns into the preheated oven & place an oven dish with a cup of boiling water at the bottom of the oven to create steam. Bake for 25 minutes.

Take the buns out of the oven and dance round the kitchen to celebrate how great they look. Then, while they are still warm, mix a tablespoon of boiling water and a tablespoon of caster sugar together to form a syrup. Brush this over the buns, making sure you get in all the dips and cracks and between any lumps and bumps from the chocolate chips. It’s worth the effort.

Slide the baking paper with the buns still attached onto a wire rack to cool. The sooner you take them off the paper the better, but you need to let them cool down enough to handle as you’ll probably need to break them into individual buns to do so.

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To enjoy: Choose the biggest bun, cut it in half, lightly toast it and smear it with a large quantity of butter. Follow with the tea/coffee of your choice.

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Time for round two…

Sourdough Pizza

I’ve been talking for ages about making sourdough pizza and I finally got round to making it! I made up the dough in the afternoon & let it proof and then my friend joined me in the evening for some homemade pizza & beers, or tea in my case as my commitment to my marathon training is such that I’m not drinking this month*.

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I followed the recipe from Dan Lepard’s Short & Sweet which still my first stop for all baking tasks. So at about 2.30pm I combined 200g sourdough leaven with 300ml water, 500g strong white flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to create a shaggy mess of a dough. The dough only needed stretching once after 10 minutes resting, at which point I realised that it was the most gloriously smooth and stretchy dough I have ever had the joy of working with. I then left it for 4 1/2 hours to proof. This may well have been the easiest dinner I have ever made.

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Once my friend arrived that evening, I heated the oven to 220C fan; it’s hottest temperature, with 2 baking trays inside to heat up. I divided up the dough into 6 x 150-200g balls leaving 2 on the side to rest for 20 minutes and popping the extra 4 in the freezer.

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Then the fun bit. We stretched the dough out on some makeshift peels, which in this case were chopping boards lined with baking paper. There was much hilarity as we realised that the dough’s elasticity meant that every time we stretched it out it sprang back, it was much trickier than we thought it would be! We topped the dough with sundried-tomato pesto, tomatoes, chorizo, mozzarella and a few chilli flakes before sliding them on to the baking trays in the oven and baking for 15 mins.

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The result was two light, crispy crusted pizzas, with some rich, spicy toppings. We were probably a little heavy on the toppings which meant the centre wasn’t as crisp as it could have been, but it was a minor complaint. I think just scrapping the fresh tomatoes or swapping them for a few small cherry tomatoes would be enough to fix this. I’m looking forward to getting the spare dough out of the freezer and seeing how the second batch go!

*Paris being the exception, because going to Paris and not drinking wine is wrong.

Spiced Stout Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

It is the season for hot cross buns and as the season is short we must make the most of it! My current sourdough obsession meant that making a sourdough hot cross bun was a no-brainer, it had to be attempted. After trawling through all my books and my usual internet haunts I settled on Dan Lepard’s spiced stout hot cross buns as my base recipe to adapt.

I ended up using Guinness as it was the only stout available in the miserable little supermarket I visited, but as Guinness is always delicious when combined with sugar I didn’t complain too heartily. The recipe isn’t complicated, but like all sourdough recipes it takes time for the dough to proof, so all in all they took about 24 hours to make. I made my Guinness levain and soaked the fruit overnight, then did the mixing, folding & resting during the morning, left it to proof for the afternoon under a tea towel and then baked in the evening. Another option would be to mix the levain & soaked fruit in the morning, mix the dough, fold it and rest it throughout the evening then proof the buns overnight in the fridge and bake first thing. In fact, I might use that method next time!

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The resulting buns were dense and moist with a richly, spiced flavour. The kitchen smelled like Christmas after baking them, it was divine! I sold them at work to raise money for my marathon running efforts and they got thumbs up all round. If you’re not a hot cross bun convert yet, make these, toast them, smear them with butter and you’ll never look back!

I realised after making these that the Twelve Loaves challenge for March is holiday bread! What an ideal coincidence, so I’ve submitted my recipe to the collection on Cake Duchess’ blog. Do check out the other submissions too.

Spiced Stout Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

Makes about 20 buns.
Based on Dan Lepard’s Spiced Stout Buns recipe.

Ingredients

325ml Guinness (or another brand of stout)
150g sourdough starter
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp allspice
800g strong white flour
325g raisins
175g mixed peel
200ml hot black tea
1 large egg
50g melted butter
50g caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
(plus a little plain flour & extra caster sugar for the crosses & the glaze)

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The night before, whisk together the Guinness & the sourdough starter in a large bowl and stir in spices and 250g of the strong white flour. In a separate bowl mix the raisins, mixed peel and the hot black tea. Cover and leave overnight, in the morning the batter will have swollen like so:

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The next day, mix the egg and melted butter through the plumped up fruit, then stir into the spiced beer batter. Mix in the flour, sugar and salt and leave to rest for 10 minutes. Stretch the dough and leave at room temperature for 30 mins, covered with a clean tea towel. Stretch the dough again and leave for another 30 minutes. Take the dough out of the bowl to fold, then return it to the bowl & leave it for an hour. Fold the dough again and leave once more for around 2 hours. Now we can shape the dough.

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Weigh out roughly 100g balls of dough. Roll them in your hands then pinch them into a rough boule shape. Place them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment so that each bun is just touching. I easily fit all 20 buns on one baking sheet. Leave these at room temperature, covered with a tea towel, for 3-4 hours until fully risen.

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Once the buns look like they’re nearly ready, heat the oven to 180C fan. Mix a little plain flour with a little water to form a paste. The consistency needs to be soft enough to pipe, but not so runny it’s going to dribble out of the nozzle as you spoon it into the piping bag. Pipe crosses across the hot cross buns in continuous lines from one side of the baking sheet to the other. Bake these for 25 minutes until golden.

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As they come out the oven, mix a tablespoon of caster sugar & a tablespoon of boiling water and brush over the buns while they’re still hot to give that traditional shiny glaze. Once cool break them apart, cut in half, toast, smear with butter and enjoy…

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Sourdough Loaf : Attempt 4

Ok so I got tired of all the failures & decided that I’d give this loaf a helping hand. I added about 3/4 tsp of dry yeast to help the sourdough along. I had a really good feeling about this try. The dough felt good & springy as I stretched & folded it and it was rising well in between. But I just can’t get the final proof right.

It was 2.20pm by the time I’d stretched it, folded it, rested it & shaped it, so I left it all afternoon, checking every couple of hours. At 10.20pm it hadn’t risen quite enough, but I was worried that by the next morning it would have collapsed so I baked them hoping for some oven spring. I don’t understand what I’ve done to upset my oven but I’ve lost the ability to get a final rise in the oven. They just don’t grow at all in the oven and as you can see the slash just stays as it was cut. So when I pulled these out of the oven last night I thought they were a disaster like the last lot. I went off to bed, despondent.

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But I was pleasantly surprised when I got up this morning. Ok, the rise wasn’t good enough and the crust had gone a bit soft from underbaking but the crumb was light and even and the flavour was lightly sour and delicious. It was a good loaf! So while progress may be slow, I am making progress. Despondency be gone!

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Now I just need to crack this proofing business. With or without the helping hand of some packet yeast!