Recipe: Homemade Focaccia, Two Ways (Rosemary & Seasalt and Red Onion & Feta)

When exam season rolls round, one of my favourite things to do is bake bread.

 photo Homemade Focaccia_zpsfflgjlps.jpgFirst up, there’s the procrastination aspect. Everyone loves a good way to get out of studying – and why not make something yummy in the process? But there’s other slightly more sensible reasons to. It forces me to take regular breaks. Almost like the pomodoro approach, I can concentrate for forty minutes whilst the dough rises, have a quick break whilst I knead it, then get back to work. But then best thing for me? Kneading really helps with with my RSI. So exams = lots of homemade bread in this house. And right now my ultimate favourite is focaccia.

 photo Homemade Focaccia30_zpsiydr3nif.jpg photo Homemade Focaccia31_zpspcxgppw8.jpg photo Homemade Focaccia34_zpstn8i4uwy.jpgIt’s super easy, doesn’t require too much shaping, can be eaten hot from the oven (priorities!) and it is damn delicious. I like it on it’s own, dipped into balsamic vinegar, made into a sandwich (sliced lengthways and filled with pesto and salami – it’s amazingly good), as part of a meze board or even dipped into soup. I can imagine it would with great with my tomato-free bolognese too!

As with most of my bread recipes, I’ve adapted this from James Morten’s Brilliant Bread. I just love his approach to baking bread, how simple his recipes are, and the amount of explanation he gives to the science behind it. By far the best bread book I’ve tried, though I’m still yet to be successful with sourdough!

 photo Homemade Focaccia8_zps7jd1br8n.jpg photo Homemade Focaccia7_zpsfiyjzawb.jpgIngredients

  • 500g bread flour
  • 7g salt
  • 7g yeast
  • 400g water (around the temperature of a warm bath, nothing too hot!)
  • 40g olive oil
  • Toppings – either sea salt, extra oil and half a packet of fresh rosemary, or use some of my red onion chutney and a sprinkling of feta).

Mix the water and olive oil together. Weight out the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl. Rub them together, then quickly add the water-oil mixture and stir to combine. James gives a health warning here, and I agree – the mixture is very wet (particularly compared to the bagel dough). Don’t add any extra flour. Instead, wet your hands slightly and give it a little knead. Cover the bowl with cling-film and leave to rise for an hour.

Drizzle one hand with a little olive oil, then use this to separate the dough from the bowl. Knead for a few minutes (I keep it in the bowl, saves me making too much mess!) – you want the dough to be able to support itself, and it should also feel a lot smoother when you are done. It doesn’t need to be perfect though! Re-cover and rest for another hour – or if you’re not studying, you could throw it in the fridge for 8-12 hours instead.

Add around a tablespoon of olive oil to a baking tray, and make sure the base is fully covered. Tip your dough into the tin and flatten it out – you want to try and fill the whole tray, so you might need to give it a quick knead first. Leave to prove for a final half hour (or again, throw in the fridge for 8-12 hours).

Once proved, make indentations in the dough by pressing all the way down to the tray. Sprinkle with your chosen toppings, drizzle over a little more olive oil, then bake at 220C for around 20 minutes, until golden and crisp on top. Try to let it cool a little before tucking in!
 photo Homemade Focaccia1_zps256af1n8.jpg photo Homemade Focaccia26_zpsptceqbc8.jpg

Do you make your own bread? What’s your favourite procrastination method?

Recipe: Chocolate & Hazelnut Spiced Loaf

Another backdated Bake Along, this time from bread week. Now, I make a lot of bread. In fact I’m determined by the end of the year to eat as little bought bread as possible (my weakness = M&S Baguettes). Between us me and W make a damn good white loaf, decent bagels, wholemeal rolls and even pitta breads. We’re also currently attempting sourdough which is an interesting and ever-so frustrating process.

 photo Chocolate Spiced Loaf_zpsyit52po4.pngWhat we’d never tried before, however, was a sweet loaf. Inspired by Rav’s creation on GBBO (I was a little disappointed by him, I was expecting some inventive vegan recipes but apparently not!) this sweet loaf is gentle spiced, rich with chocolate and textured from hazelnuts. As it’s a two-strand braid it doesn’t require any complex plaiting skills (neither of us was up to that!), and a lot of time is spent waiting for it to prove, making it perfect for lazy Sundays – bread making is perfect for those days where you snuggle up with a film.

This Chocolate & Hazelnut Spiced Loaf is moist with a tender crumb, the crust is soft and sweet from the glaze, and the whole thing is fragrant with cardamon. It certainly made the flat smell good!

 photo Chocolate Hazelnut Spiced Loaf 3_zpsdeipvuil.jpg photo Chocolate Hazelnut Spiced Loaf 2_zpsbutlqv0w.jpgIngredients

  • 120ml milk
  • 50g sugar
  • 1½ tsp yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 275g white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground green cardamom seeds
  • 50g very soft butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 60g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
  • 30g chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 egg yolk (we used the white to make a whisky sour cocktail…), to glaze
  • 125g sugar & 110ml water – for the sugar syrup

For the dough, combine the milk, half the sugar and the yeast in a jug. Add the egg and lightly beat to combine. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, cardamom and the remaining sugar until well combined. Add the milk mixture and combine. Knead in the bowl until you have a smooth dough – we found it to be quite a sticky dough, so cheated and popped it into our Kitchen Aid with dough-hook attachment.

Rub about 10g of the butter onto a clean work surface. Tip the dough out and knead in another 20g butter until well combined and the dough forms a smooth ball. Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered bowl and cover with cling film. Prove in a warm place until doubled in size, whilst you make the glaze. Heat the caster sugar and 112ml/3¾fl oz water in a saucepan. When the sugar has dissolved, set it aside to cool – this is the sugar syrup.

Tip the risen dough out onto the work surface and roll out into a rectangle approximately 26x35cm. Spread the remaining butter on the dough and sprinkle over the chocolate and hazelnuts. Roll it up like a sausage and pinch to seal. Slice the dough lengthways to make two strands, then pinch together at one end and tightly coil together. Transfer to a loaf tin, cover and put in a warm place to prove again until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 200C.

Whisk the egg yolk with 2 teaspoons water then brush onto the proved loaf. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden-brown – if you tap the bottom of the loaf (out of the tin) it should sound hollow. Leave to cool a little in the tin, then brush the sugar syrup onto the loaf. Remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

 photo Chocolate Hazelnut Spiced Loaf 4_zpsyqvijrzd.jpg photo Chocolate Hazelnut Spiced Loaf 5_zps75c1ztsg.jpgWe found that this took a lot of work, but it was worth it. I loved it served slightly warm with a cuppa, whilst W really enjoyed it for breakfast. I imagine it would be great toasted and spread with Nutella too! I did think that the cardamon flavour in ours was a little too strong, so I’ve reduced it in the amounts above – next time I’d also be tempted to add a little grated orange zest just to add a bit of sharpness.

Have you been baking recently? Who was your favourite GBBO contestant of 2016?

Recipe: Homemade Bagels

I’ve finally had time to get this post live! In my defence I have been tinkering with the recipe slightly, trying to work out the least-work method, making sure the ingredient ratio is exactly right. And I think I’ve finally cracked it!

 photo Homemade Bagels_zpsxrnvoguz.jpg photo Homemade Bagels 11_zps3alvzytf.jpgThis bagel recipe is slightly crusty, very chewy, flavoursome and just damn yummy. These are great for throwing in your freezer for university lunches, toasting and topped with peanut butter for a quick breakfast, or made into a warm melty sandwich. I like mine with pastrami and mustard when I’m feeling more spendy, but they are fab with ham or even cheap chorizo.

It’s super easy too – I’d have never considered making my own bagels until I was that bored over summer, but now they’re my bread of choice. This recipe makes 8 good sized bagels – with minimal effort and very little washing up. The recipe is based on both James Morton’s and from Waitrose magazine – but doesn’t really follow either. I’ve reduced the salt, made the proving time as lazy as possible and developed my own hashed-up way of shaping them.

 photo Homemade Bagels 8_zpsnlqqtte1.jpgIngredients

  • 500g plain bread flour
  • 7g yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey (+1tbsp for boiling)
  • 250ml water (I use 100ml boiling, and the rest cold to make it hand-hot)

Tip the flour into a large bowl. Add the salt to one end, the yeast to the other, and rub into the flour. Mix 1 teaspoon of honey into the warm water. Make a well into the centre of the flour and add the water, then use your hand to bring it all together – the dough should be a lot drier than normal bread dough, but add a small amount of extra water if it isn’t combining.

Lightly flour a work surface and tip out the dough. Knead vigorously (it’s a real workout!) for ten or so minutes. At first the dough should be dry and break easily, but it should become a little stretchier and more flexible. Pop back in the bowl, cover with cling-film and either leave on the side for an hour or two, or pop in the fridge for 6-8 hours. Or leave it on the side, forget, realise you have to go out and shove in the fridge until the next morning – it’s a really forgiving dough unlike normal bread!

After proving the dough should have risen. Press it down to remove the air, then divide into 8 equal parts. One at a time, roll into a sausage, then shape – I like to overlap the ends, then roll them together to seal. Place on an oiled sheet of greaseproof paper, repeat with the remaining dough, cover with clingfilm and leave for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C and heat a large pan of water to boiling point. Swirl a tablespoon of honey into the water. Then drop a bagel into the water, wait until it floats then add another – I can get four into a pan at once. Boil for 30 seconds, flip and boil for another 30 seconds. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon, draining off as much water as possible. Repeat until all bagels are boiled, then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden then cool on a wire wrack (this prevent it going soggy).

 photo Homemade Bagels 6_zpsjal9qkp4.jpg photo Homemade Bagels 5_zpswdad59qk.jpgThey might not look perfect on your first try (mine all liked to come undone and look a little croissant like!), but they will definitely taste yummy. Annoyingly these photos were taken of my second batch and I reckon they’ve improved greatly since – my latest batch had a lovely shiny texture and were pretty much perfectly evenly sized (take that Mary Berry!).

 photo Homemade Bagels 9_zps1ydqq9oy.jpgMaking my own bagels is the perfect way to take out some of my frustration on dough, it’s a cheap way of getting my bagel fix, and they are great thrown in the freezer for lunchboxes. Yum yum!

Have you ever made your own bagels? Do you make your own bread? What do you like on your bagel?

 

Recipe: Quick Cheesy Cornbread & A Lazy Brunch Idea

I love me a good bit of brunch, and this is probably one of the best brunches I’ve had. I’m all about making my own as frankly a lazy weekend morning doesn’t involve getting dressed for breakfast…

 photo Cheese Cornbread Brunch 8_zpsfbeuyicl.jpgThe basis of this brunch is good bread, here I’ve made a Cheesy Cornbread. It’s unbelievably easy to do, and so, so quick – it took me 40 minutes from wandering into the kitchen to getting it out of the oven to cool. The cornbread is crisp on the outside, dense in the middle, cheesy throughout (with pockets of more cheese for good measure), and it’s got a warmth from the chilli too. It’s not overly spicy, but you could increase the heat if you fancied.

The rest of the brunch is standard fare. Bacon. Eggs. Done. I also added a little chilli butter to my plate, simply soft butter beaten with a few dried chilli flakes, as my recent course of antibiotics seem to be killing off my taste buds. Oh, and my grill decided to not turn on, so I might have crisped up the cornbread in the bacon pan…

 photo Cheese Cornbread Brunch 7_zpsbzsimtem.jpg photo Cheese20Cornbread20Brunch202_zpswt4vjnab.jpgIngredients (1 Small Cornbread Loaf/3 Mini Ones)

  • 175g cornmeal (“raw” polenta)
  • 50g plain flour
  • 125ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 grated chilli
  • 50g cheddar cheese, crumbled
  • 1.5 tablespoons of cottage cheese (soured cream or yoghurt would also sub in really well here)

Now, I’ve taken inspiration from Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food book here, however I’ve made the recipe slightly heavier on the cornmeal, cut out the actual corn and not pickled the chilli. It’s slightly less sharp, it’s richer and possibly slightly drier – however I like it that way.

 photo Cheese20Cornbread20Brunch201_zps0v1pisrx.jpgTo make up the mix, just throw all the ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Pour into a lined tin (I used three mini loaf tins to make more individual portions) and bake at 200C for 20 minutes.

This easy cheesy cornbread is great served simply warm with a little butter, but I also love it dipped into a chilli, or obviously as a delicious weekend breakfast…

Cheesy Cornbread Chilli photo 43320635-0a57-44e6-8e53-3709717ad5cf_zpsnfgpgdsf.jpg photo Cheese Cornbread Brunch 9_zpstaltutpw.jpgFor the brunch option, simply slice and grill/fry your cornbread until crisp and top with bacon and an egg – I’m planning a post on cooking the best eggs soon so stay peeled for that one!

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What’s your favourite brunch dish?