Iced London Buns

I’ve made these once before, they were lovely. Not sure why its taken me so long to make them again.

These Iced London Buns are from Justin Gellatly’s excellent book, Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding. You can tell they’re going to be tasty, before you mix the dough. Even the caraway seeds, which at first glance seem a bit odd, smell right when they’re in the bowl with everything else.

Greedy ants...

Both times I’ve made these I’ve not been too happy with the shape of the buns. They don’t turn out like the iced buns you buy from the shops, which are generally touching and have to be pulled apart. This is no bad thing, depending on your point of view.

Proving...

I’m not sure what happened when they were in the oven, as they didn’t colour up very well. Even with an egg wash, they came out slightly anaemic and patchy, rather than the stated golden brown. Maybe if I’d just brushed them with egg yolk, rather than whole egg, they would have been less patchy, who knows.

Out of the oven...

While my icing skillz leave a lot to be desired, I was relatively happy with how the icing on these turned out. I can’t help thinking that the icing would’ve looked better if I’d used a letterbox type icing nozzle, rather than just chopping the end of the icing bag. I might have to invest in some bigger icing bags and some nozzles and try that next time.

Iced buns!

If you fancy making some iced buns, then you could do a lot worse than these. I’d definitely recommend giving them a try.

Taleggio and Spinach Brioche Couronne

After watching the final episode of Paul Hollywood’s Bread, I really wanted to make his Savoury Brioche Couronne, but as it’s not vegetarian, I wanted to use a different filling. Step forward Yotam Ottolenghi and his Taleggio and Spinach Roulade from his new book Plenty More.

Making the brioche dough was pretty straight forward and it went into the colder of our two fridges to spend the night. Unlike the brioche that I’d made a couple of weeks before, I put this dough into a large enough container. Even so, it still ballooned enough to touch to the clingfilm that I’d placed over the top of the bowl.

The following morning the dough came out of the fridge a few hours before I knew that I was going to need to bake it. If I’m being honest, I could probably have got it out a little earlier, as the couronne didn’t see to rise that much once it was made. The dough was still quite soft, even though it had been in the fridge all night. The top had formed a little bit of a skin, so I might need to oil it a bit more next time, although it didn’t seem to affect the dough once it had been rolled out.

I had to use quite a bit of flour to stop the dough from sticking to the work surface and the rolling pin. It wasn’t as easy to handle as Paul made it look on the telly either, every time I tried to pick it up to turn it round I nearly put my fingers through it, as it was quite floppy. For some reason I didn’t get my measuring tape out, so I definitely rolled the dough out too large. It was supposed to be a 40cm x 50cm rectangle, but I went over on both dimensions, especially the width. This made the dough a bit on the thin side, which became a problem when it came to rolling up.

I was a bit worried about Yotam’s filling, as you have to slather some crème fraîche over the dough before adding the rest of the fillings. I was a bit worried that this would stop the dough from cooking properly, but given Paul’s recipe calls for four mozzarella balls, which are renown for outputting large amounts of liquid when melted, I figured that a little crème fraîche would be probably be fine. It was.

As I’d made the dough a little on the thin side, rolling it all up meant that the tomatoes and lumps of taleggio wanted to burst through the dough. In retrospect, I could have squished both flat with my hand, before scattering them across the dough. Eventually though, it was all rolled up and rolled out into long thin sausage. As I don’t own a Scottish Scraper, I just used one of my big Global knives to shop down the middle of the dough and split it in two.

When you see Paul twisting the two sausages of dough together on the telly, it looks relatively easy. In reality it wasn’t quite that simple, as the two sausages of dough just weren’t robust enough to be picked up and thrown about like that. You picked up and end and the dough just started to stretch, there was no way it was going to wrap itself into a nice looking twist with just a few flicks of the wrist.

Not to be deterred, I somehow managed to twist the two strands together and form the whole thing into a kind of ring shape. I did struggle trying to join the two ends, as can clearly be seen in the photos. Once it was successfully on a baking sheet, it was put into a polybag and left to rise for about an hour. I think it would have benefitted from a slightly longer prove, as it didn’t seem to have risen that much at all. After a bit of an egg wash, it was into the oven.

While it was cooking, I knocked up a couple of salads to go with it. One was just a simple rocket, olive, tomato and feta affair with a simple white wine vinegar and olive oil vinaigrette. The second, was a chicory, mulled pear and taleggio salad, with a honey mustard dressing.

I was a bit unsure about the chicory salad, as it’s not something we really use. As we don’t have a griddle pan we can use on our induction hob, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to char it enough to soften it. I needn’t have worried though, a stinking hot frying pan did the job and the salad was really nice. A perfect use for one of the Kilner jars of mulled pears that didn’t seal.

Taleggio and Spinach Brioche Couronne

So what was it like? It was really nice, if maybe a touch on the doughy side, in my opinion. I’m not sure if I thought it was doughy because that’s just what’s like, or if it would have benefited from a longer final prove, or slightly longer in the oven. Never having made one before, it’s hard to know what the outcome is actually supposed to be like.

It appeared to go down well with everyone though and the leftovers I had for the lunch the following day were pretty tasty too. It’s definitely something I would do again, maybe with a slightly longer final prove though.

Gugelhupf

After seeing various Gugelhupf on the Great British Bake Off over the years, I had to have an attempt. As I’d been given a bundt pan for my birthday, I now had the perfect excuse to give one a go.

Originally, the bundt pan was for having a crack at an Angel Food Cake, although by the look of the internet, those pans are slightly different. I had a burning desire to bake a Gugelhupf though, one that had wormed its way into my brain and wouldn’t depart, so Mary Berry’s Angel Food Cake would have to wait. The first thing to do was try and track down a recipe, which was harder than it sounds.

I was under the impression that a Gugelhupf was made from an enriched bread dough, with the addition of booze soaked dried mixed fruit. Some of the recipes I stumbled across though, had you separating the eggs and whisking up the whites, before folding in all the other ingredients. Sorry, but that’s a cake, not an enriched bread. One of the problems with something like a Gugelhupf, is that everyone has their own recipe and they’re all subtly different. A bread book... What I was after was a reference recipe, one based on some tradition, that would give a known good result. I’m still looking.

Getting a bit frustrated with the internet, I asked my wife if she could pick me up a bread book from the local library while she was there one day. I was hoping that she’d come back with one that happened to have a Gugelhupf recipe in it, lo and behold, the only one in the local library, just happened to have one. I’ve no idea how authentic the recipe in The Bread Book by Sara Lewis is, but as I didn’t really have another one, I decided to give it ago. I was a bit disconcerted by it taking about the dough as a batter, as that’s more of a cake thing as far as I’m concerned.

I wanted to go with a mix of dried fruit, but only had some old mixed peel and sultanas. I remembered that I’d bought some barberries as Yotam uses them in his new book. I was a bit worried about them being too sharp and clashing with the other fruit, but as I didn’t have anything else, into some brandy they went. The dough, sorry batter, was pretty easy to make, bung everything into the KitchenAid and mix, then prove, knock back, shape into the bundt pan and leave to rise.

After baking, I left it too cool and the following morning, liberally doused the top with some icing. As you can see from the photo at the top of the page, I maybe should have made the icing a bit thicker, but I quite like that effect. Gugelhupf! The colour on the outside was quite strong, which I think might be down to me buttering the inside of the tin before adding the dough, it’s what the recipe said to do.

I’ve also cooked Mary Berry’s cherry cake in this bundt pan and it too had significant colour on the outside, even though it was only just cooked. Again the pan was buttered before the batter was added. Both the cherry cake and the Gugelhupf fell out of the pan when it was inverted, so I may not butter it next time, just to see what happens. The pan does has a rather heavy non-stick coating on it, so I’m assuming that buttering it as well is maybe a bit too much.

The only problem with the bundt pan, is that it’s not really a Gugelhupf pan, it’s too wide and not deep enough, so you don’t get that classic Gugelhupf shape. That’s not to say that what came out of it wasn’t tasty though, it was and the whole thing disappeared in a couple of days. The next step with this kind of enriched bread, utilising the bundt pan, is a friends Rosinenstuten (raisin bread) recipe.

Brioche

Brioche

I’ve been baking a lot of bread recently, at least one loaf per week, sometimes as many as three. All of them have just been my usual mix of 400g of Strong White, along with 100g of Rye, which I quite like. I wanted to try some sort of enriched bread though, something like a Gugelhupf or a Panettone, but as I had neither a Gugelhupf or a Panettone tin, I decided to have another attempt at some Brioche

I hadn’t realised that it had been so long since I’d last attempted some Brioche, nearly two years, so was keen to try again. Rather than use the recipe from Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3, I decided to use the one on Paul Hollywood’s website. I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve found that I’m getting better results using Paul’s recipes, rather than Dan’s. Brioche dough trying to escape... It might just be that I’m not over proving my bread anymore, either way, Paul’s recipes just seem to produce nice bread.

I mixed up the dough and stuck it into the fridge before going out for the evening. I popped back to the house to pick something up a few hours later and opened the fridge to check on the dough, it had decided to try and break free from its shackles and was almost out of its container. There was me thinking that yeast doesn’t work at low temperatures, the Allinson dried active baking yeast that my wife accidently bought (it was supposed to be the Doves Farm quick yeast) certainly seemed happy enough to keep going for a couple of hours at least.

The following morning I shaped the dough, which was still quite sticky and pliable, into a ball and popped it into our 23cm springform tin and left it on the work surface to rise. I was a bit worried that the yeast might have exhausted itself in the fridge the night before, so after a couple of hours of inactivity, I put the tin onto a bit of work surface that had sunlight on it. Hey Presto, it’s Safeway, an hour later the dough was peeking over the top of the tin, so into the oven it went.

It required a few minutes longer than the time stated in the recipe, but then the tin I used was also an inch smaller, so presumably the Brioche was a bit thicker and needed a few extra minutes to finish. Brioche, with mulled pears, sour cream and pomegranate molasses... It came out of the tin with no issues and was left to cool while we all went down the pub for a few halves of Oakham Green Devil IPA. I must have been going on and on about it down the pub, as I ended up coming home and cutting a few slices to share around the pub garden.

The end result was fantastic, if I do say so myself, the kids must have thought so too, as they were even asking for it in the mornings before school. As I had a kilner jar of mulled pears that hadn’t sealed, I toasted some of the Brioche and had some of the pears, with some sour cream and pomegranate molasses for my breakfast. Any day that starts with a slab of toasted Brioche has to be a good day.

Sourdough

Sourdough

I’ve been meaning to write about my adventures in sourdough for a while. It was back in January that I first muttered on here about making some, mainly so I could have something to slather my marmalade on, while drinking a mug of freshly ground black coffee. Since then, I’ve made two different sourdough starters, one with Rye flour, the other with Spelt and had a bash or three are making some bread with them.

The Rye starter can't be contained!So far the results have been rather less than successful, with each batch having more resemblance to a lead frisbee rather than a light and airy loaf of bread. So I decided to change what I was doing at the weekend and produced easily my best sourdough loaf so far.

I’ve been following the method outlined in Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3, but my results, as stated, haven’t been very good. I think there are a number of reason for this though. Firstly, I’ve been using some stone ground wholemeal flour from a local mill, which makes for quite a dense crumb. I’ve also just been turning the proved loaves out of their banneton baskets, directly onto a baking sheet, so there’s been nothing to stop them from spreading out and collapsing.

The crumb on this sourdough made with the Spelt starter was great, shame it was almost pancake flat...Enter the sourdough episode of Paul Hollywood’s Bread, which I finally got round to watching last week. So on Saturday I decided to follow Paul’s method, albeit with stone ground strong white bread flour, rather than just strong white bread flour. This meant that I didn’t knock back and prove repeatedly, just the once and that I turned the risen loaf out onto a baking sheet with some semolina flour on it.

Paul’s method also calls for a lower oven temperature, rather than the “as high as it’ll go” approach (which for me is 270°C, although I don’t normally go above 250°C). I don’t know if this was a factor, but I got some rise out of the oven for a change, normally my loaves don’t do much other than cook in the oven, so it was nice to finally see one puff up a bit.

My first sourdough, like a lead frisbee...All this meant that on Sunday morning, I had a few slices of my sourdough, with my marmalade slathered all over them and washed down with some freshly ground strong black coffee. While it’s not the first time I’ve managed to do this, it is the first time I’ve stood there and been quite pleased with what I’ve produced.

Hot Cross Buns

On the same day I made Queen Fairy Cakes with my daughter, I also made Hot Cross Buns with my son. We get through quite a few packets of shop bought ones, they appear to be a favorite with the rest of the family, so we had to have a bash at trying to make our own. The KitchenAid takes all the hard work out of doing something like this, which I find can be quite useful in keeping the kids engaged, as they don’t have to spend ten minutes getting bored of kneading.

The recipe, from the Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3 book, was pretty straight forward, but unlike Paul Hollywood’s The Great British Bake Off Easter Masterclass ones, they didn’t have mixed peel in them. Personally, I don’t think you can omit the mixed peel, it’s what makes a hot cross bun for me. We did have a bash at doing Paul’s version the next weekend, but that’s probably worthy of another blog.

The main issue with these ones though wasn’t the lack of the mixed peel, but the piping of the cross onto each of the buns, what a nightmare! In retrospect, the flour and water mixture was far too wet, so it just went everywhere, I’ll make sure it’s much, much thicker next time. We also used some homemade bramble jelly, rather than apricot jam, for the glaze. It was OK, but I think sieved marmalade would have worked really well, especially if the buns had had mixed peel in them.

They were OK, totally different from the shop bought ones. While I think they that we could maybe have cooked them for slightly less time, they were still pretty tasty for a first attempt. The kids seemed to devour them pretty sharpish anyway…

Dhal with Naan Bread

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I find that dhal is such a deceptively easy dish to over cook. It looks so watery that the temptation is there to cook it until all of it is absorbed, or evaporated, by which time it’s too thick and stiff when served. Rather then cook it until it looks like how I want it, I cooked it until it was still a bit too runny, so that when it was served, it had stiffened up just a bit and was still nice and slack.

This time I used the recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Everyday, although I’ve used one of Madhur Jaffrey’s in the past; they all seem pretty similar to be honest. It was very tasty and much slacker than I’ve made in the past, which was great. The kids still wouldn’t touch it though…

For me, you have to have your dhal with naan bread; nothing beats scooping up all that soft steaming dhal with a bit of warm soft bread. I’ve made these twice now, the recipe is from Madhur Jaffrey’s Eastern Vegetarian Cooking and while its easy to prepare, it takes ages to actually cook all the naan’s. They need four to five minutes in the pan and another one to one and a half under the grill, so unless you have a very large pan, or two pans you can use, you can probably only make one at a time. With nine to make, it takes quite some time, and resulted in quite a late dinner when I made them for the first time.

I’ll definitely be doing these again, although I might have another go at the dhal recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s book now that I know I need to leave it quite watery in the pan as it will stiffen for serving.

Cooking Over Christmas

I did quite a bit of cooking over Christmas, but I didn’t take photos of everything as sometimes it just wasn’t possible, or appropriate. There’s plenty of draft posts sitting waiting to be finished though, as I did take quite a few photos and want to jot down some notes on things for the future. In the meantime, here’s a few photos of some of the things I cooked over Christmas…

Brioche

Brioche

I’ve been wanting to make some brioche for ages, well, ever since I got the River Cottage Bread Handbook really. Not sure why I’ve not done it before, but probably a combination of the suggestion that you use a stand mixer to knead the dough as it’s a bit sticky and not having enough confidence to attempt it free hand.

My main interest in brioche stems from seeing loads of photos of burgers on twitter and not from wanting to replace the horrendous chocolate chip brioche finger monstrosities the kids eat at the weekend, like a good Dad would. I’m sure I also read somewhere that all these trendy London burger vans were using brioche rolls, rather than white baps, so I thought that I could do something similar at home.

Being a vegetarian does have its drawbacks occasionally, and veggie burgers are one of them. It’s either some sort of textured vegetable protein, or some mass produced bread crumb encrusted bean burger, or heaven forbid, some Quorn based monstrosity. So my plan was to buy either The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet or Veggie Burgers Every Which Way and each Saturday make a burger and some brioche buns for lunch.

I keep flicking through the burger books with Amazon’s Look Inside feature, a great way to sneak a few recipes out of a book you’re thinking of buying before you splash the cash. I always come away from them with the nagging feeling that the kids wouldn’t eat what I’d make and it would all be a colossal waste of time. There’s plenty of veggie burger recipes out there on websites like BBC Good Food, so for the moment, my hard earned cash is staying in my pockets. But I’m digressing…

I suddenly decided the other Friday that I was going to stop sitting on my hands and actually get my finger out and make some brioche. So after a few beers and just before going to bed, I stumbled into the kitchen and started to get all the ingredients together. I grabbed the strong white bread flour and started to measure out the required quantity, I didn’t have enough. Never mind I thought, I have another bag, all be it a different brand, but that still wasn’t enough, so I made up with some plain white flour. I had an inkling that I should really have stopped at this point.

The eggs were the next problem, as I didn’t have any medium eggs, so instead of four medium ones, I used three large ones. I should really ensure I have all the ingredients before spontaneously deciding to make something. After combining everything in a bowl, it was time to turn it out and start kneading, at this point I realised why they recommend a stand mixture, they weren’t joking when they said it was sticky.

After ten minutes or so of slapping the dough round the kitchen worktop, it had smoothed out a bit, so I scraped it off my fingers, shaped it into a round and deposited it into a bowl, it then went into the fridge to stiffen up until the morning. Whereupon it was divvied up into eight roughly equal bits, shaped into rolls on a baking sheet, covered in a bin bag and popped into the dehydrator to prove. The only problem with this is that the dehydrator blows air onto the bag, which then collapses onto whatever is on the baking sheet, which I’m sure has an impact on how high it got as it proved. I don’t have this problem when using my banneton baskets, as the dough doesn’t rise above the side, I might have to create a support to put over the baking sheet.

After quite a few hours in the dehydrator, the dough had come alive, but had expanded out the way, rather than up the way, so I wasn’t very hopeful that they would be any good. I nearly ditched them into the bin at this point, but decided to bake them anyway, just to see if I could learn anything for future attempts. I’m glad I did, as halfway through baking they had risen quite a bit and weren’t looking too bad, so I turned them round and put them back into the oven. I should have taken them out sooner, but as I’m always afraid of under cooking things, I left them in for a too long, so they were more of a David Dickinson mahogany, than a light golden brown.

As they were ready in time for lunch, I broke out a mass produced bread crumb encrusted bean burger and set to work. I slathered some home made saucy haw ketchup on the base of the bun, then the bean burger, followed by some home made chilli pepper jelly and finally some grated cheddar. Other than the bun being slightly too small for the bean burger, the crust was a bit thick and the inside was a bit on the dense side, but overall it was much, much better than I was thinking it was going to be.

I had another for Sunday lunch, this time with added homemade red onion marmalade, which got me thinking. The brioche, saucy haw ketchup, red onion marmalade and chilli pepper jelly were all made by me, just the bean burger and cheese were bought in. Given the books and website I mentioned earlier, making my own burgers will be easy, so I need to start looking into making my own cheese, I want the whole stack to be created by me. I’ll have to grown some lettuce and tomatoes in the garden next year too, just so I can say I grew or made everything.

I’ll definitely do brioche again, but I think I’ll ensure that I have ample strong white bread flour and medium eggs before I do…