Freshly baked bread… you can’t beat the smell and the taste!

I have been given a sourdough starter a while ago and it’s a bit like having a plant you need to water and feed. In the beginning I fed and watered it every day. Then I started to read up on sourdough and discovered that I don’t have to do that every day, I can keep it in the fridge and it even can be frozen. I bought the Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3 and it has been very useful. It has made me quite confident in baking bread. The page Sourdough has sourdough splattered all over it, even though I actually know the recipe by heart now. But I feel if I don’t have the book open on that page I might forget something. Stupid, I know.

I have had a few mishaps in the past where my dough didn’t rise as much as I hoped for, but the last two weekends my bread turned out wonderful, probably due to the warm weather as I just plonked my big bowl with the dough in it into the sun (covered with a damp towel) and it rose beyond expectation!

Last weekend I tried out wholemeal seeded flour and made three small loaves. It was tougher kneeding the wholemeal dough than the normal strong flour dough which irritated me and I ended up pummeling the dough quite a bit and also bashing it onto the kitchen counter. I think that also helped with how the bread turned out!

I should have listened to Hugh though, make the sponge the night before and not in the morning of the day you want to bake bread. It’s quite time consuming as you need to let the sponge develop over night (ideally), then in the morning you add the rest of the ingredients, kneed it for 10-15 minutes and then let it rise for an hour at least. Then you need to shape it and let it rise again and for best results you need to repeat this process a few more times. But I didn’t. I got up Saturday morning to make my bread and that’s the reason why I ended up having a slice of still warm bread with butter and homemade jam at midnight instead of hours earlier.

Baking bread is so satisfying, everyone can do it and it doesn’t have to be anything complicated. Go for it!

Wholemeal seeded sourdough bread

Wholemeal seeded sourdough bread

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Cheese and Onion Bread

This is a recipe by Ruth Clemens, from the Pink Whisk. I got to know Ruth from the Great British Bake Off, which I loved watching. They are now doing a second series and for a split second I thought about applying to partake but then I thought I am nowhere near as good as any of the great bakers who featured in the last series so I left it!

The Cheese and Onion Bread is really easy to make and while it takes a while (the dough needs to rise and then rise again) it is totally worth doing!

Ingredients:

1 onion, diced
25g butter (1 knob)
450g strong white plain flour
200g mature cheese, grated
1tsp salt
1tsp caster sugar
1tsp fast acting dried yeast
200ml milk
100ml water
25g butter, melted
Cayenne pepper

Sautee the chopped onion gently in a pan with the butter until soft. Place the cooked onion in a bowl to cool to room temperature. Grate the cheese and split in half. To a large bowl add the flour, salt, and sugar.

Measure out the liquids, it needs to be tepid so if you use milk straight from the fridge top up with water from a boiled kettle. In a small bowl place the dried yeast, add a couple of tablespoons of liquid from the jug and mix them together. This gets the yeast activated. To the flour mixture add 100g of the cheese and the cooled onion. Give it a good stir. Make a well in the centre and add the liquid and the yeast. The easiest way to work it all together and forming a rough dough is by using your hands. Of course, you can use a machine as well but I haven’t got one (yet).

Knead the dough for a few minutes. You shouldn’t need any extra flour on the work surface, the dough may seem a little sticky to begin with but as you work it together it will stop sticking to you and form a smooth dough. After kneading the dough will be much smoother and elastic.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise for an hour or until doubled in size. It will need to be somewhere fairly warm otherwise it will take longer than an hour.
After it has doubled in size tip the dough out onto your work surface and knock it back. A quick pummel with your fists and fingers does the job nicely and you will feel the air puff out of it. Knead the bread for a couple of minutes. Then split the dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball. Take a square shallow baking tray, approx 9″ square is ideal, and grease well. Place all the balls of dough into the tray.

Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise again somewhere warm for an hour or until the balls are nice and puffed up. Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7. Melt 25g of butter and brush liberally over the dough.

Sprinkle with the remaining 100g of grated cheese and sprinkle some cayenne pepper over it.
Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until beautifully golden brown and cooked through.

The Great British Bake Off

Last week was the final of the Great British Bake Off on BBC2 and my two favourite people, Edd and Ruth, made it into the final. Over the series I went from wanting Ruth to be the winner then to Edd being the winner and then back to Ruth but in reality it didn’t matter to me that much who was going to win, they were both outstanding with their baking skills and both just so nice (it was Edd who won it in the end). I was sad that Miranda didn’t make it into the final, her cupcakes were absolutely perfect and contrary to what Paul Hollywood said about cupcakes not being “fancy” enough, sorry, but if I ordered an afternoon tea at the Ritz I’d expect cupcakes. We do have the year 2010 after all and cupcakes have made headlines for quite a number of years now and are still all the rage. (I despise the whoopie cake, it’s simply too big and too messy and too ugly to look at).
I thought it was quite shabby from Paul to put off Miranda even before he saw or tasted one of her cupcakes. I felt he wanted to make sure that Edd made it into the final; ever since Edd baked the perfect bread Paul wanted him to win.  At least that was my impression.
I loved watching this series and I hope there will be another one next year. I’ve only recently started baking and am no where near these people with my baking skills but it has inspired me to bake more at home so I baked two lemon cakes over the weekend; one for my friend Paul, who celebrated his birthday on Saturday and who says, my lemon drizzle cake is his favourite one and then I baked another one yesterday morning after my friend Fay complained that the last three times she’s seen me I had baked cakes for someone else but her!
The recipe I use is from Barefoot Contessa and it’s actually a lemon yogurt cake and I’ve made this cake so often, I can make it in my sleep. I slightly changed the recipe however, I add 1 tsp of lemon essence and half a cup of lemon juice to my cake dough and when the cake comes out of the oven I glaze it first with lemon sugar syrup and about half an hour later I frost it with a lemon icing (icing sugar, lemon zest and juice and some normal sugar for the extra crunch).

Whenever I take the cake out of its form I am worried that it might be too moist. The cake I baked for Fay yesterday turned out to be one of the best ones so far… fluffy, moist and wonderful lemony!