No bread is an island

...entire of itself. (With apologies to John Donne!)
I live and breathe breadmaking. I’m an evangelist who would like everyone to make his or her own bread. I want to demystify breadmaking and show it as the easy everyday craft that it is. To this end I endeavour to make my recipes as simple and as foolproof as I possibly can.

I call my blog 'No bread is an island' because every bread is connected to another bread. So a spicy fruit bun with a cross on top is a hot cross bun. This fruit dough will also make a fruit loaf - or Chelsea buns or a Swedish tea ring...
I'm also a vegan, so I have lots of vegan recipes on here - and I'm adding more all the time.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Canapes (vegan), made with a bread dough

Ingredients:
200g strong white flour 
1 teaspoon bouillon powder
1 teaspoon mixed herbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh yeast
125ml lukewarm water
2 tbs olive oil 

Plus:
Pesto, roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes (chopped small), slices of tomato, mushroom, etc.
Black pepper
Olive oil to drizzle

Method:
1. Measure the water and stir in the fresh yeast. Place the flour, bouillon powder, herbs and garlic in a mixing bowl, stir to distribute the ingredients, pour in the yeast liquid, then add the olive oil.

2. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary, remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). Begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with a knife, cutting through the dough as it forms. When it gets too stiff for the knife, use your hand to squeeze the mixture together. As it forms into a solid mass, keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water to keep it soft! When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

3. Knead by flattening the dough out, folding it over and flattening it again. If the dough is too sticky, instead of putting extra flour on your worktop, place some in the bowl, put the dough back in and turn it round to coat it all over. That way you keep the flour under control and you won’t be tempted to add too much. Knead until the dough becomes smooth – and then stop before you get fed up!

4. Leave the dough to rest whilst you prepare a baking sheet and gather your ingredients. When you are ready to proceed, take the dough out of the mixing bowl and form it gently into a cob shape. Have plenty of flour to hand and liberally scatter flour over the dough and worktop. With a rolling pin, roll it into a circle about 25-30cm across. 

5. Use a pastry cutter to create circles of dough, or a pizza cutter to create 5-6cm squares and place them on a prepared baking tray. 

6. Spread half a teaspoon of pesto over each circle or square followed by a teaspoon of sun-dried tomato bits, then a slice of tomato or other topping. Sprinkle with black pepper and drizzle with a little olive oil.

7. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for between 8-10 minutes. They should be browning underneath.

You can vary these at will. I like to put chilli powder in with the flour.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Planning for the 4th session - fruited and sweetened breads

Each of you will have the opportunity to make 9 different breads with two different doughs:

First the fruit dough for all the different fruit breads; and then the plain, sweetened dough for all the filled sweet breads. Leave the second on the table with a bowl inverted over the top.

(We’ll make the 2nd dough a little bit sticky because we’ll have a chance to knead it a couple of times to give you some practice with the ‘Several short kneadings’ method.)

With the fruit dough we will make:
Either an apfel kuchen or a Swedish tea ring, plus Chelsea buns, spicy fruit buns and hot cross buns.

Divide it into 2 pieces and put one aside.
For AK: Roll the dough out to about 25cm (10”) long and half as wide. Place on BP and cover with slices of apple. Sprinkle the apple with 1 dessertspoon sugar mixed with 1 tsp of cinnamon. Leave to prove on top of, or near, an oven.
For STR: Roll into a rectangle a bit bigger than A4 size, spread with oil (about a dessertspoonful), sprinkle with sugar and strew flaked almonds over the top. Roll up towards you like a Swiss roll with the seam underneath. Form the dough into a circle and tuck one end inside the other (Demo). Now make a cut about halfway through the dough, at 2cm intervals round the ring. Place on tray and leave to prove on top of, or near, an oven.

Give the second dough 20 quick kneading actions and replace under the bowl.

Take the other half of the fruit dough and roll it out as per the STR – treat it just the same (leave out the almonds) right up to leaving the seam underneath.

Now divide the dough into two, and cut one of the halves into 4 equal pieces. Place on BP with the cut sides uppermost (esp. the end one!).

Now squidge the rest of the dough back together and knead it a couple of times to distribute the oil and sugar evenly.

Divide it into four rolls with the side of your hand and form bun shapes with them (Demo). Place on the baking sheet and press a cross into the top of 2 of them. Put to prove with your initial on there somewhere.

Now the sweetened dough. This will make a large jam tart, marzipan and apple tartlets, doughnuts, pain au chocolat and iced buns.

First the jam tart: Divide the dough into two pieces and roll one out to around pizza size. Cut out a square measuring about 15cm (6”), plus 6 fairly thin strips of dough. Place the square on some BP and put the strips around and across the square. Fill each square with some jam.

Marzipan and apple tartlets: Cut out 4 circles from the rest of the rolled out dough and add the trimmings to the set aside piece. Press out four small circles of marzipan and place them over the circles. Cut a quarter of an apple and cut the quarter into slices. Place two slices on top of the marzipan and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

Roll out the rest of the sweetened dough as you did the first, and cut out 6 circles of dough. Place three on some BP and put 1/2 a teaspoon of your filling in the middle. Place the other circles over the top and pinch the doughnuts all round (Demo).

Divide the rest of the dough into golf ball size rolls. Half of these will be iced buns and half petit pain au chocolat.

Iced buns: Either leave them as round buns, or gently roll them out into finger rolls. Place on baking sheet.

Pain au chocolat: Squidge a piece of chocolate into a piece of dough and squeeze the dough together to seal. Put to prove with your initial on top of one of the buns.

Notes:
I find it a good idea to soak the fruit overnight to make them plumper and juicier. If you do that, I find a jam jar is a convenient container to use.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Evening course - 3rd week

All of my students, 7 of them including a new student, are on email, so I thought I'd take advantage of that to give them advance warning of my planning for tonight:

Tonight we're making 5 breads, ciabatta, focaccia, grissini, pizza and Peshwari naan.

After introductions, and a welcome to Claire, we'll get straight into making the ciabatta.

This is a bread mixed entirely in a bowl and not kneaded at all. Since I want to be precise about the amounts we use, the ingredients need to be weighed:
200g strong flour (either all white or a mixture of white and wholemeal)
1/4 tsp salt
150ml lukewarm water (that’s 125ml + 25%, roughly)
1 tsp yeast
3 tbs olive oil (45g)
All this is mixed together and beaten for a couple of minutes, then left to rise in the bowl.
The 2nd dough (this will make a focaccia, some grissini and a pizza):
500g strong flour (either all white or a mixture of white and wholemeal)
1 /2 tsp salt
50g sun-dried tomatoes (minus 4 which will go on the top of the focaccia), chopped
325ml lukewarm water
1 dsp yeast
2 tbs olive oil
This will make a moderately sticky dough, which, once mixed, we’ll knead for 15-20 seconds then put to one side.
Peshwari naan – the 3rd dough.
200g self-raising flour (or use plain flour with 2 tsps of baking powder mixed in)
1 or 2 tsps curry powder
1 dsp sugar
50g grated creamed coconut
100g dried apricots, quartered (or sultanas if you wish)
Medium onion, finely chopped
125ml of water (cold is fine)
Have an oven tray and baking parchment ready, assemble the dry ingredients, and then add the water. Working fairly quickly, mix into a dough, shape it into a cob and roll it into a circle about 30cm across.
Place it on the baking sheet and put it straight into the oven – for about 10-15 minutes at 220C.
Knead the 2nd dough – put to one side.
Scrape the risen ciabatta dough onto some baking parchment and gently pat into your required shape. Put to prove on top of one of the ovens.
Take about 200g of the remaining dough and roll it out into a circle about 20cm across. Put it on some baking parchment and put it to one side.
Take off another 50g of dough, divide it into three pieces and roll them out into long breadsticks (grissini). Place them next to the pizza dough.
Form the rest of the dough into a cob shape and roll it out to about 2cm thick. Place on a baking tray and dimple the bread with your fingers. Leave to prove on top of the ovens.
Add the topping – tomato and cheese – to the pizza.

Cheers, Paul 

[Reflections on the session: I departed from the planning in leaving the ciabatta until last - and I'm not sure they had sufficient time to rise before they had to go into the oven. Apart from that, all the bread was pretty impressive - and, once again, I forgot to take pictures! However, some of the students did, and I've included them in the portfolio of the course.]

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Evening breadmaking course, Autumn 2010

It's my intention to create a portfolio of pictures of bread made by my students as a result of this course.

Here's the first - some fancy dinner rolls made by Collette at home:

And here's a couple from Nic:


These were made by Kath on Wednesday evening. We also made some grissini, but I expect they didn't last long!
Here's 3-year-old Zoe, Kath's daughter, making a fruit soda bread
Yesterday Claire (the new member of the course - this was her first ever attempt at making bread) sent me these four pics from her phone:

Sun-dried tomato focaccia with Parmesan
Peshwari naan (my non-authentic version). The letter C is there so that Claire can identify her own bread. You can just see her breadsticks that she made from the same dough as the focaccia.

Cheese and tomato pizza - base made from the foccacia dough.
Ciabatta
Here's a mix of pics (see what I did there?;)) from Collette. The pizzas were made at home.
Collette's Apfel kuchen
"They were seriously yummy! 
I shocked myself!! " Collette

Pizza by Charity (Collette's daughter)
Ciabatta
(More to come.)

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Letter of introduction to the evening breadmaking course

Dear Student,
Breadmaking at Court Fields Community School, 7-9pm on 29th September

I’m delighted to hear that the course is going ahead, albeit with low numbers. If you have a friend who’d like to come with you, it’s not too late (they would be very welcome!).

This letter sets out what I intend will happen in the first session and includes a list of ingredients and utensils which you will need to bring. If you are new to breadmaking, let me reassure you that it is much easier than you have been led to believe.

The session will begin in a relaxed fashion – the first thing you need to do is to find somewhere to park all the stuff that I ask you to bring, get yourself a drink and a stool to sit on. There is some necessary administration to complete, but it’s best if we go through this together. If you need any help with the forms I will be there to give you a hand, so there’s no need to worry. Bring a pen if you can remember, although I will have a couple to spare.

Before we start I’d like to spend some time finding out if you’ve had any experience in breadmaking, and what you expect to get out of the course, so that I can hopefully meet all your requirements.

The breads we will be making on the first evening are: Plain or fruit soda bread, and fancy dinner rolls or a loaf (traditional English loaf or a focaccia).

Each week you will make 2 varieties of bread – most of them chosen by you and the other students. Also there are various techniques I want to cover, such as ‘No-knead, overnight bread’, using the cloche method, etc. You will be given the recipes for all the breads we make, plus general breadmaking hints and tips. My aim is for you to become a competent home baker (if you’re not already!), able to bake any bread you fancy.

Bring a large cardboard box or basket to carry all your equipment and ingredients, and the finished products to take home with you!  Coffee or tea is available at 20p per mug – the kettle is always on. (Or bring your own, of course.)

I want to reassure all those students new to breadmaking that my first aim for this course is for everyone to enjoy their learning – I always delight in these sessions, and it’s my job to see that everyone else does. Breadmaking is an easy, everyday craft – as you’ll come to realise (if you haven’t already)!

If you have a particular variety of bread you'd like to make instead of one of the breads on offer, I'd be very happy for you to do that. Get in touch if this idea appeals to you and we will see how we could fit it in to the programme. Or if you have any questions, doubts, suggestions at all, please don’t hesitate to ring or email me. It’s always nice to make contact with my students before the course begins.

Finally, I’d like to draw your attention to the word ‘Companion’. The ‘com’ part means together – as in community – and the ‘pan’ part of the word means bread. So the word ‘Companion’ can be taken to mean, ‘Someone who makes bread with friends’. Which is what we shall be doing on these Wednesday evenings!

I look forward to meeting you and welcoming you on the course.

Paul (Course tutor)

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Evening breadmaking course in Wellington

Planning for this course...(Including letter of introduction)

We're making 2 sorts of soda bread (choice of) and a yeast-risen dough out of which can be made a loaf or a batch of rolls. 

In my demo for the soda bread, I shall show the students how I make a loaf of soda bread without measuring anything - just to show them how easy it is.

Then I'll demonstrate how I make a sticky dough - which I'll then knead several times, ending up with a manageable dough.

Out of this, students will be able to make a batch of bread rolls or a loaf.

The students will get recipes for these, plus a handout telling them why they should make bread, and giving them a mass of info including some relevant websites.

(I'm hoping the students will all have access to the web. If they haven't I'll need to do some photocopying!)

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Breadmaking courses - update

Here's the info on the courses I was hoping to run this Autumn.

The Wellington course is going ahead from next Wednesday - but only with 4 students, hoping to pick up more as the course goes on - so if there's anyone interested within range, give Somerset Skills and Learning a ring on 01823 663000.

There's also room on the Bridgwater one, starting in November.

The Bishops Hull Family Learning course (now only 5 weeks) has begun with 9 families attending (10 from next week!)

I'm also running an after school club (Bishops Hull Bread Heads - or BH squared) which has 5 youngsters attending (maybe 7 next week).

The 'Breadmaking for all' village project was a bit disappointing - I only had 8 for the  first session and 2 for the second. Both were extremely good fun, students included 3 children (3, 5 and 8) a grandmother and a father.

However, the TAH course hasn't happened yet since there aren't enough takers.

I'm offering a free taster course shortly, hoping to attract  a few more students.

The Albemarle course went extremely well, attracting up to 12 students  (many old friends amongst them!) - with plenty of support they were very successful.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

First loaf in the chiminea

Made my first loaf the other day in my chiminea – and also the first pizza (actually a calzone) that I actually finished off in there!

I’m gradually building up the amount of charcoal I’m using, and getting the timing better.

I made a flat loaf – a focaccia – and a calzone, which meant that I could turn them both over if necessary.

And, of course, it was necessary!

Risen - just about to go into the oven
The loaf was a simple focaccia with olive oil:

I gave it about 20 minutes, and then turned it over, since the bottom was well done by now. The oil had just about disappeared - absorbed by the bread - I do love this loaf!

Here's how it turned out after ten minutes upside down:

Not a great-looking loaf - but it was jolly tasty!
Here's the calzone: The base was made with  an Oxo cube, curry powder and dried mixed herbs; I spread the dough with a mixture of yeast pate, vegan pesto and tomato puree; then I added mushrooms and vegan sausage, finishing with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast.

Here it is before I folded it:

Before folding
And here it is, baked and cut in half:

At last - a pizza I'd started and finished in the chiminea!
Here's a link (with a bit more detail about the chiminea) on the Wood-Fired Oven forum.


Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Two more wood-fired pizzas

It was a beautiful morning, earlier today, "A great day for firing up the chiminea I thought! And a chance to practice my cooking skills on it!" (More chiminea tales here.)

We had visitors during the middle of the day, so I didn't get to start the process until 4.00pm by which time the sky was overcast and not very inviting at all!

However, the forecast was for a brilliantly sunny evening, so I began...As I usually do, making the dough for the pizza.

I stuck to the same pizza base recipe I've been using for the past few weeks - 200g flour, teaspoon Marigold stock, teaspoon herbs and a teaspoon of curry powder - except that I added 25g of tomato puree to the liquid. When the dough was made I divided it into 2 - one half was to be a pizza, and the other a sort of rolled up, slit and shaped into an S shape pizza (haven't really got a name for it!)

Once the dough was made I went out and started the fire. Hadn't really got it going when it began to rain - but it wasn't much, so I carried on. I'd just about added the heavier chunks of wood when it began to rain in earnest.

So, back to the pizzas. I rang the changes a bit with my pizza topping - first of all a mixture of mushroom pate, vegan pesto and tomato puree spread over the top, then I added roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and Kalamata olives.

Before rolling out
The other half of the dough I rolled out into a long rectangle and covered it with chopped polony, bottled mushrooms and grated Sheese (a vegan cheese). I then rolled it up, cut a slit in the top and pushed it into an S shape. (I only realised when it came out of the oven that I'd forgotten to include some fresh basil!)

And after shaping

When this was done, the downpour had stopped and I was able to cover the fire with charcoal.

After the charcoal had taken hold I put another layer of charcoal on top. When this layer was well alight I put the pizza in the oven.

Conscious that heat escapes through the door I propped up an oven tray against the hole.

Note the welder's gloves and a small kneeling mat - essential to keep my knees from developing deep grooves from the decking!

I still haven't got enough charcoal in there since it took about thirty minutes for the pizza to cook - almost! I still had to flash it in the oven in the kitchen for about 4 minutes to cook the top. Then I put the other pizza in the chiminea. Once again, after thirty minutes I had to take it out and put it in the domestic oven to finish it off.
The S-shaped filled pizza and all that's left of the other one!
I'm getting there. If I can just be a bit more patient and add perhaps twice the wood initially, then twice the charcoal, I think I may have it. (If only I wasn't so tight!)

Saturday, 4 September 2010

First pizzas in wood-fired chiminea

Well, first pizza(s) tonight in my new chiminea! (Click here for the first part of the story and here for more recent updates.)

Here’s how it happened:
(I started at 5.41 in the evening – but I’m going to call that 0000. The notes are not as accurate as they could be, as I’m not sure I noted everything down – but they give you a rough idea.)

Colne Valley Yorkshire Bitter (bit slow with the camera - the head had subsided somewhat!)
0000 Poured myself a pint of home-made real ale (thanks, Leo!):
0002 Started the pizza dough – 200g white flour, 1 tsp Marigold stock powder, 1 teaspoon curry powder, 4 large pieces of grilled peppers, chopped small, plus 10g yeast dissolved in 125g lukewarm water and a good glug of sun-dried tomato oil.
0015 Dough finished and proving
0025 Ashes cleared from grate, and kindling placed in position
0026 Lit the fire
0033 Fire well alight, pizzas rolled out
0039 Added a layer of charcoal to the fire – manoeuvred oven shelf into position with my new welder’s gloves
0045 Placed the frying pan on (in the kitchen) with some oven chips

0055 Topping placed on the pizzas – a mixture of vegan pesto, mushroom pate and tomato puree plus slices of tomato and mushrooms
0103 2nd layer of charcoal – spread out
0105 One pizza in bottom oven and one in the top. I used an oven tray to try and block the opening of the bottom oven – but there was still a large gap at the top.
0118 Pizza in bottom oven burned on the bottom, not cooked on top – swapped them over, but the top wouldn't cook
???? Turned the oven on in the kitchen – just the top element. Once it had reached 200C I put one of the pizzas in for four minutes to cook the top. The other I’ve left out – it can go in the freezer and then be cooked for 5 or so minutes.
0152 Sat down to dinner with large glass of home-made red!

Done underneath, but top not quite finished
The chips were well over done, but the pizza was delicious. Even though the bottom was a bit charred it made no matter.

Conclusions:
1. I need to light the fire on the shelf, rather than the floor of the oven, and just cook in the top oven. Once I’m happy with that, then I can start experimenting with two shelf cooking.
2. I need to give the charcoal quite a bit longer before I put the stuff in to cook
3. Just need to tweak a few timings - but we're on our way, folks!

I'd like to fire it every day - but there's only so many pizzas you can eat, and I've a freezer full of bread!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Pane frattau

This is an adaptation of a traditional Sardinian peasants' dish.

It is a very loose version of a lasagne, in that it uses bread soaked in broth instead of pasta. (I've used grated vegan cheese instead of a cheese sauce.)

Ingredients:
1 bowl of vegetable stock
3 or 4 cartas di musica
1 batch of rich tomato sauce
Vegan cheese (grated) for sprinkling

Method:
Split the carta di musica in two and soak each half in the vegetable broth.
In an oven-proof dish place a serving spoon of tomato sauce and cover it with a layer of the soaked bread then sprinkle with the vegan cheese.
Continue layering up the dish until you run out of either sauce or bread,  finishing with the cheese.

Bake at 200C for about 20 minutes when it should be a golden brown.

Monday, 30 August 2010

LENTILS AND RICE WITH MUSHROOMS AND CABBAGE

I'm a great lover of lentils - they are the most versatile ingredient, IMO, and they're so quick and easy to cook they're almost a fast food!


Here's what I did after coming home late from the cricket on Saturday - it took me exactly 30 minutes:


Boiled the kettle, put 100g each lentils and rice in a pan, covered them with the hot water and left them to simmer.


In another pan, in a little sunflower oil, I fried a chopped onion, a teaspoon of cumin seeds, a couple of teaspoons of my own curry powder plus a teaspoon of asafoetida. (Not for everyone - most people use a pinch or two, but I love the stuff!)

To this I added several chopped mushrooms and some shredded Savoy cabbage. (I like to keep the cabbage in strips.)

After several minutes I added boiling water to this and let them cook until the veg were soft - meanwhile stirring the lentils and rice.

To the vegetables, I added a teaspoon of stock powder, a good dash of mushroom sauce, a sprinkle of dried herbs, several squirts of tomato puree and a dessertspoon of vegan pesto (Meridian).

When the veg were cooked I added them to the lentils and simmered the dish for a little while, while I defrosted, sliced and olive oiled a wholemeal roll. (I use olive oil which has been frozen and kept in the fridge as a spread - it stays solid and acts just like marge.)



With a glass of home-made red wine, this went down a treat! (And there's loads left for tomorrow!)


(Thanks to Mamta, who introduced me to asafoetida!)

Friday, 27 August 2010

Petit pain au chocolat

I'm not a great fan of pain au chocolat made with a croissant dough. I much prefer  them made out of a plain, slightly sweetened dough. (As does Elizabeth David!)


Ask yourself - what could be easier than pressing a piece of chocolate into a golf ball sized piece of dough and squidging the dough around it?


(Here's a step-by-step pictorial guide to shaping these - in an on-line baking session report.)

Ingredients:
400g strong white flour
2 dessertspoons sugar
1 rounded teaspoon fresh yeast
250ml lukewarm water
Splash of olive oil

Plus:
16 pieces of decent eating chocolate

Sugar glaze:
1 rounded dessertspoon of sugar and two dessertspoons of boiling water

Method:
1. Place flour and sugar into a mixing bowl, followed by the yeast. Pour the water over the yeast to start it dissolving and add the olive oil.

2. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary, remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). Begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with a knife (starting with the yeast first, to dissolve it properly), cutting through the dough. When it gets too stiff for the knife, use your hand to squeeze the mixture together. As it forms into a solid mass, keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water to keep it soft! When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

3. Knead by stretching the dough out, folding it over, stretching it out and so on and so forth. Do this until it is smooth – or until you get fed up!

4. Leave to prove for about an hour on your worktop, covered with a dry tea towel. Or place in an oiled plastic bag until you are ready for step 5.

5. When you are ready to proceed, take the dough out of the mixing bowl and place it on your worktop. This time, don't 'knock the dough back'! Just divide the dough into 16 pieces. Use the side of your hand as a 'knife' and cut the dough into 2, then 4, etc.

6. Press the chocolate gently into the middle of a piece of dough and squidge the dough together to seal the chocolate inside the dough. Place seam side down on the baking tray.

7. Cover and leave to prove until they have grown appreciably in size. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7, for about 15 minutes.

8. Whilst the rolls are baking, make a sugar glaze with a dessertspoon of sugar and two dsps of boiling water. When the rolls are done (look for colour underneath) brush them with the glaze straightaway.

Variation:
Put a dried apricot along with the piece of chocolate in each parcel.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Some recent breads

The one on the left is supposed to be a traffic light pizza, with grated carrot in the middle and  spring onions (the green bits) at the bottom, says my granddaughter. They're both vegan, one with a tomato sauce and mushrom pate - the other with the pate plus vegan pesto.


Jam and banana (and chocolate) calzone. The chocolate was a late addition by my granddaughter.
This didn't last long!

Grape and mushroom calzone
Soft and moist and oozing with marzipan!

Woodburning chiminea come pizza oven

Well, I finally got my chiminea/woodburning pizza oven!
I would have got it earlier in the summer, but we had to get a three piece suite first (don’t ask!), and we ordered one of those last Saturday! (Hooray!)
I bought it from these people – certainly the cheapest I could find on the net at £158.99:
And, as we were passing close by on the way home from visiting my son and his family, we collected it and saved £30 delivery costs.
I’ve put it together and it now sits happily in my garden awaiting its first firing – hopefully tomorrow. I’m told I need to fire it a couple of times before I bake any bread in there – I wonder if I’ll be able to resist! 
Saturday:


I had to finish a few chores first, but finally got around to fixing the door on this afternoon and lighting my first fire:


Just a small fire to start with - not sure about the location, though - just outside the kitchen door..

And here it is in the barbecue mode. No bread yet, but I'll get  a couple more fires going over the next couple of days - and then we'll get cracking!
Click here for more of my chiminea adventures! (Start reading at the bottom.)

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

120 bread rolls for a birthday party

I've been asked by a long-ago acquaintance to make 120 bread rolls for a party next Saturday.

This would have been dead easy had I still got access to my friend's bakery, but, alas, that was long ago.

I should have said, "No, I don't make bread any more, I only teach these days," but - I like making bread, and I thought it was doable.

We agreed that I would deliver in two lots, Wednesday and Saturday - 60 white, 40 wholemeal and 20 granary. 100g rolls (before baking) - I figured I would make them in batches of 20.

I thought I'd get ahead of myself and bake a batch today which I could put in the freezer overnight.

Accordingly, after lunch I began - and because I had plenty of time I thought I'd use method B from this recipe:

http://is.gd/edtPJ:

1200g white bread flour
12g salt
840g liquid, including 10g of fresh yeast
50g olive oil

I mixed this together and found it extremely wet. I realised I'd only ever used wholemeal flour in these amounts before, and, of course, wholemeal requires more water than white.

So, while I was kneading for short periods every ten or so minutes, I began adding flour to get the manageable dough I was looking for.

Unbelievably I'd added an extra 250g of flour before I finished!

This gave me a dough weighing in at 2350g - giving me 24 rolls in total.

I left the dough, covered by the upturned bowl, until after dinner when I set about shaping the rolls. (I had to keep knocking the dough back, since it kept trying to creep out from under the bowl.)

Four hours after I started, I began shaping some fancy dinner rolls. It took me about a minute a roll - clearly I wouldn't be able to make all the rolls this way, there just wouldn't be time.

By the time I'd shaped the last one, the first rolls were beginning to rise, so I put the oven on to heat up while I brushed the rolls with water and sprinkled seeds - poppy and sesame - on top.

Sprinkled with poppy seeds


And with sesame seeds

I baked them one tray at a time for about 20 minutes, turning them round in the oven after 10.

The finished article:
Poppy seeds at the top, sesame seeds at the bottom

I really enjoyed making these - but with the next 100 or so I'll be much more up against the clock, I reckon! And next time, I'll use much less water.

Day 2:

Made a white batch (1200g flour to 750g water) and a wholemeal batch (1200g to 840g) this afternoon. Both were sticky doughs which I kneaded at intervals.

I left them for an hour, then shaped them. Some of the wholemeal rolls were baked under the roasting tray and some were baked normally. You might be able to see the difference in size, which, in real life is substantial. I had more time with the last tray of white, so I did some more fancy dinner rolls, but mostly the rolls were plain.

The 'undercover' rolls, on the right, came up much bigger than the ones on the left, baked normally.
















You've got to admit - I'm having fun!
I delivered the first 3 batches tonight - the recipient was very pleased. I'll finish the order off on Saturday, so the rest will be fresh for the party.


For the last 60 rolls, I was asked to make a few smaller ones, so I reduced the amount of each batch to roughly 1.7kg -1kg of flour to 700g of water for wholemeal, 650g water for white and 625g for granary – with 50g of olive oil in each batch.

I divided each dough into two unequal pieces – 1kg and 700g – and then divided each piece into ten, giving me 10 rolls at 100g and 10 rolls at 70g.

After shaping the rolls I brushed some of them with water and sprinkled them with sesame, poppy and sunflower seeds


It was a 60th birthday party, and the birthday girl said she'd have me back again to make some rolls for her 70th!


I did enjoy making these - but I don't think I'd bother doing it again. Teaching pays better! (and I'll be in my 80s in 10 yrs time!)

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Pitta (pita) breads

The pitta on the left was done in a hot oven
The one on the right was done in a frying pan
(Makes about 8 medium sized pittas)

Ingredients:
200g strong white flour
200g strong wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp salt
250ml lukewarm water
1 teaspoon of any sort of yeast, dissolved in the water
Tablespoon olive oil (optional)

Method:
1. Measure the water and stir in the yeast. Place the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. When the yeast is dissolved (dried will take longer than fresh) pour in all the yeast liquid, then add the olive oil if using. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary, remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). 
2. Hold the bowl with one hand and begin to stir with the other. Mix together into a soft dough, stirring and bringing in the flour round the side of the bowl, adding more flour or water as needed. As it forms into a solid mass, keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water to keep it soft! When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

3. Knead by flattening the dough out, folding it over and flattening it again. Knead until the dough becomes smooth – and then stop before you get fed up! (If the dough is too sticky, instead of putting extra flour on your worktop, place some in the bowl, put the dough back in and turn it round to coat it all over. That way you keep the flour under control and you won’t be tempted to add too much).

4. Leave the dough on the worktop, covered with the mixing bowl for about an hour – or go ahead and shape the pittas straight away.

5. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape them into rounds. Flour the worktop and roll each piece out into circles about 15-18cm across.

6. Place them in pairs on a piece of baking parchment and cover them with a dry teatowel. Leave them to rise for about 20 minutes.

7. Meanwhile, turn the oven on to its highest setting – mine is about 245C and place a couple of baking trays in there.

8. When the oven is hot enough, place each pair of pittas on an upturned baking sheet and slide them off onto the hot baking sheets in the oven. Bake four at a time. The pittas should swell to form the pocket. This should take around 4-5 minutes, take them out when they begin to colour. Repeat with the other four pittas.

9. Wrap them in a teatowel to keep them soft.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Why not start with some sizzlers - great for lunchboxes

Yeast is a scary thing for some people, but all my teaching is geared towards removing that fear and showing it to be the simple tool that it is.

All my recipes follow the same path – and they all contain three simple breadmaking rules.


For those who haven’t made bread before, bear in mind that if you mix flour, lukewarm water and yeast together – you cannot stop your bread from rising!

Your dough will be soft and squishy, and it will rise like a dream.

Remember that!

The three simple rules which you should bear in mind when making bread are:

1. Use strong, breadmaking flour – look for the words ‘strong’ or ‘bread’ on the packet. Plain flour will work in an emergency, and a mixture of strong and plain will work fine.
2. Use lukewarm water, and don’t put your dough anywhere too hot. Forget airing cupboards and radiators, the bread will rise on your worktop.
3. Give your bread time to rise before it goes into the oven. White bread will double in size – a pizza base should look puffy compared to when you rolled it out.

And that’s it!

There’s also a couple of things to bear in mind, but aren’t rules a such:
1. Make sure your dough is soft and squishy – never be afraid to add more water whilst you’re mixing the dough.
2. If you have the slightest doubt whether your bread is done or not, put it back in the oven for a few more minutes. Look for colour on the bottom of your bread.

Whatever yeast you’re using – fresh, active dried (comes in a tin) or easyblend (comes in sachets), treat them all the same.

Mix them in the lukewarm water until dissolved, then add them straight into the flour.

Here we go – cheese and mushroom (or tomato, or pepper or onion) sizzlers. So called because when the come out of the oven you can hear the cheese sizzling. They’re like a bread wrap and they’re gorgeous. Check out this video of the method.

Sizzlers

(Makes 8 sizzlers - but this amount of dough will make 8 rolls; or a medium sized loaf; or two large pizza bases! ):

Ingredients:
400g strong white flour 
1/2 tsp salt
1 rounded dessertspoon fresh yeast (or good teaspoon dried yeast, or a sachet of easyblend yeast)
250ml lukewarm water 
Splash of olive oil (optional)

(Or: 2 mugs of flour to 2/3rds water)

Filling:
6 medium tomatoes or 8 mushrooms or a combination of these
150g grated Cheddar

Method:
1. Measure the water and stir in the yeast. Place the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. When the yeast is dissolved (dried will take longer than fresh) pour in all the yeast liquid, then add the olive oil if using. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary, remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). 

2. Hold the bowl with one hand and begin to stir with the other. Mix together into a soft dough, stirring and bringing in the flour round the side of the bowl, adding more flour or water as needed. As it forms into a solid mass, keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water to keep it soft! When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

3. Knead by flattening the dough out, folding it over and flattening it again. Knead until the dough becomes smooth – and then stop before you get fed up! (If the dough is too sticky, instead of putting extra flour on your worktop, place some in the bowl, put the dough back in and turn it round to coat it all over. That way you keep the flour under control and you won’t be tempted to add too much).

4. Divide the dough in two and put one piece to one side. Divide the other into 4 and form each piece into a bap shape. Flour the worktop and roll each piece out into a circle about 15cm across. As you roll out the dough, keep turning it to make sure it isn’t sticking.

5. Place slices of tomato across the middle of each circle. Sprinkle grated cheese over the tomato and fold the sides of the circle over the filling, leaving the sizzlers open at each end. Place on a baking sheet and repeat with the other circles.

6. Repeat with the second piece of dough.

7. Leave to prove until the dough is risen and puffy and bake at 220C, 425F or gas 7 for about fifteen minutes. There should be some colour under the sizzlers to show that they are cooked right through.

Suggestions:
For 4 sizzlers use half of the ingredients.
Vary the cheese – Red Leicester or Lancashire, for example.
Use peppers or onions instead of tomatoes/mushrooms.


Have fun!