Brown Soda Bread topped with Oats

Brown Soda Bread loaf ready to bake!

Soda bread is my go-to when ‘a wedge of ballast’, to quote Mark from Peep Show, is urgently required and time is of the essence. It can be prepared in an instant (20 minutes max) and needs no time to prove, as it doesn’t contain any yeast; so including baking time can be on the table within an hour of turning on the scales!

A number of countries count soda bread as a staple in their diets, including Serbia, Scotland and Poland; none as famously though, as Ireland.

Irish flour has a low gluten content and so is not well suited to making yeasted breads. Around the mid 1800s, bicarbonate of soda was introduced as a raising agent in Ireland. The fact that there was no long tradition of yeast cookery in rural communities, as there was already in other European countries, meant that baking with bicarbonate of soda caught on; its speed and ease of use were just an added bonus for Irish bakers.

Soda farls, baked on a griddle, and wheaten and soda breads are still very popular today in Ireland and around the world. Brown soda bread, like the one pictured above and below, is usually referred to as ‘wheaten bread’ in Ireland and is sometimes flavoured with sweet ingredients. The name ‘soda bread’ is reserved for the savoury variety which uses only white flour. However, despite it containing wholemeal flour, this bread has a savoury flavour and so I have called it ‘soda bread’. It also doesn’t contain buttermilk, an ingredient used in traditional Irish soda bread, as I didn’t have any in the fridge in my hour of need! So I am not claiming this is a strictly Irish recipe by any means!

The buttermilk in traditional soda and wheaten breads is used to activate the bicarbonate of soda, as it contains lactic acid. Some form of acid is needed to get the bicarbonate of soda releasing carbon dioxide, which is the gas that causes the bread to rise (think back to those school science experiments involving sodium bicarbonate and vinegar!) Since I had no buttermilk to hand, I needed to concoct a similar mixture which contained both fat, for a soft, moist crumb, and some acidity, to create the rise. All that I had in the fridge was a 300ml tub of double cream. I was slightly pensive about using vinegar on account of its harsh flavour, so I opted for lemon juice to bring acidity to the mix. This didn’t bring the volume up to what I needed, so I topped it up with water; I thought this would be fine, as buttermilk is more liquid than double cream, so I knew it would not affect the balance of moisture in the bread.

Anyway, enough of the preamble! Here’s my recipe for brown soda bread! It has a lighter than air crumb and crisp, crumbly crust. Delicious eaten warm, straight from the oven. I dipped mine in a steaming bowl of fresh tomato soup. Gorgeous!

Ingredients:

  • 300g Plain Wholemeal Flour
  • 100g Plain Flour
  • 1.5 Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 0.5-1 tsp Salt (depending on personal taste)
  • 300ml Double Cream
  • 1 Lemon, thoroughly squeezed
  • 25g Butter, melted
  • Water to top up to 400ml (a little more maybe needed if the dough seems too tight)
  • 25g Jumbo Oats

To make the bread;

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Prepare one baking tray by flouring lightly.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat and set aside to cool.
  3. Sieve the dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl.
  4. In a measuring jug, measure the cream and add the lemon juice. Mix well with a fork.
  5. Add the cooled melted butter and use the fork to combine with the wet ingredients.
  6. Add water to the cream, lemon and butter mixture to bring it up to a volume of 400ml.
  7. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the cream and lemon mixture.
  8. Mix well using one hand. You may need to add a little more water at this point to help the dough come together.
  9. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly for a minute or so, just to incorporate the ingredients. Do not over knead here!
  10. Form the dough into a smooth ball.
  11. Generously scatter the work surface with oats and roll the ball over them, pressing gently so the oats stick to the surface of the dough.
  12. Place the ball of dough onto the prepared baking sheet and dust lightly with flour. Make a deep cross in the dough using a sharp knife. The depth of my cuts were around half that of the ball (see picture above).
  13. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes.
  14. The bread is ready when it makes a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.

As I mentioned above, by far the best way to enjoy soda bread is eaten warm, straight from the oven, with a generous slab of butter. This bread is so quick and easy to make, and if you do happen to have it in the fridge, you can substitute the cream, lemon and water mixture for 400ml of buttermilk. Although I found that the double cream made for a deliciously moist, soft crumb! Let me know how yours turns out!

Baked Brown Soda Bread

Spelt and Mature Cheddar Cheese Scones

scones

This morning I was craving a good, hearty, savoury breakfast. I had just settled my little man for his morning nap and wanted something quick and easy to fill the gaping hole in my stomach! Images of toasted English muffins, topped with poached eggs and lashings of Hollandaise flickered in and out of my mind; but baking muffins was out of the question due to time constraints and the next best thing seemed to be savoury scones! Scones are super quick and easy to make. They involve no rising or chilling time and so the dough can simply be mixed, rolled, cut and baked. I love baking with spelt flour (see my ‘Daily Spelt Loaf’), on account of its nutty flavour; plus, I wanted to add a touch of healthy wholegrain – these were for breakfast after all! I searched for a recipe online and went with the first one that cropped up. However, I changed this considerably as I didn’t have self-raising flour, which the recipe called for, and it didn’t include spelt flour either (Click here for the original BBC Food recipe).

As I eagerly measured, rubbed and rolled I was, in a hungry stupor, running through endless serving suggestions. As you can see from the picture above, I went with some crispy back bacon (and a squidge of ketchup!); but I also considered a slice of cheese with a dollop of spicy mango chutney and a handful of salad leaves (rocket would rock!); or a slice of salty salami and some of those yummy cocktail gherkins. Let me know what you go with!

So here’s my recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 190g Plain Flour
  • 35g Wholegrain Spelt Flour
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 55g Butter
  • 25g Mature Cheddar, grated (plus a little extra for topping)
  • 150ml Milk
  • 1 Egg, beaten (for glazing)

To make the Scones:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
  2. Weigh out the flours into a large bowl. Add the salt, baking powder and bicarbonate and mix thoroughly using a whisk or fork.
  3. Add the butter to the flour in small cubes. Using your fingertips, lightly rub the butter into the flour with a lifting and rubbing motion to help aerate the mixture. It should have the appearance of fine breadcrumbs once fully combined.
  4. Add the grated cheddar and mix through with a fork. You may need to break up any large clumps of grated strands so they are evenly incorporated.
  5. Add the milk and stir with a metal spoon, bringing the ingredients together into a soft dough. You may need to add an extra 10g or so of flour at this point if the dough is too sticky to work with.
  6. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead very briefly to produce a cohesive ball of dough.
  7. Roll out using a floured rolling pin, until roughly 3cm thick.
  8. Cut rounds using a corrugated cutter and arrange on the prepared baking sheet.
  9. Brush the tops of the scones with beaten egg (not the sides as this could inhibit their rising), and grate a little cheese over the top of each scone.
  10. Bake for 12-15 minutes. You could turn once after the first 10 minutes to ensure your scones brown evenly.

I hope you enjoy baking and eating these as much as I did – they’re SO easy and quick! The result is a light, almost fluffy scone with a great savoury taste – great for lunch boxes and snacks too. I reckon my little man will be pleased to wake up to one of these 🙂

 

Dark Chocolate and Macadamia Tear-and-Share Loaf

Chocolate and Macademia Tear and Share

Pulla is ubiquitous in Finland, where my partner, Jani, was born. The daily ritual of having coffee (kahvia), often together with family or friends, would not be complete without a variety of sweet buns and cakes to accompany it. Not to mention the rarity of breakfast in the absence of a ‘pitko’, or braided loaf, slathered in butter. Jani even likes to save the ends, leaving them until they are stale and dry, so he can make ‘köyhät ritarit’ or ‘poor knights’, slices of week old pulla soaked in milk and then fried in butter. Yes, the Finns are renowned for their gargantuan consumption of both butter and sugar. The excuse touted by most is that they need lots of calories to survive the punishingly cold winters. Well I need no excuse to make a big batch of pulla once in a while. The great thing about it is that it is very versatile. At its base, it is a simple sweet bread dough, the addition of crushed cardamom seeds gives it its signature taste.

It was during one of our pulla-making sessions that this loaf was born. This recipe makes a very large batch, 5 or 6 medium braided loaves; or 2 or 3 loaves and a batch or 2 of ‘korva puustit’ or ‘beaten ears’ (small cinnamon buns). I had a bag of dark chocolate chips, half a large bar of dark chocolate and two-thirds of a packet of macadamia nuts left over from several recent baking exploits and these gave me all the inspiration I needed to transform this wonderful pulla recipe into something even more naughty and a just a bit special.

The recipe I am about to share with you has been passed down through Jani’s family for generations. As I have said, it yields a large batch, so feel free to halve or even quarter the quantities to suit your appetite!

To make traditional Pulla, add 3 teaspoons of crushed cardamom seeds to the mix before kneading. I have omitted them in the recipe itself, as they can overpower the taste of the chocolate (although you may prefer to leave them in).

Ingredients

  • 1.5 kg Strong White Bread Flour
  • 1.5 kg Plain White Flour
  • 1350 g Caster Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 litre Milk
  • 100g Fresh Yeast
  • 3 tsp Cardamom Pods, crushed (for traditional Finnish Pulla)
  • Approx 200g Dark Chocolate Chips
  • Approx 200g Dark Chocolate
  • 100g Chocolate and Hazelnut Spread
  • 200g Chopped Macadamia Nuts

To make the Bread

  1. Whisk the sugar and eggs in a large bowl until well incorporated.
  2. Heat the milk over a low heat until lukewarm. Remove from the heat and crumble in the yeast. Stir until dissolved. Too much heat here can kill the yeast so ensure that the milk is only just above hand temperature.
  3. I also melt the butter at this point, in a separate pan, and leave it to cool whilst I’m mixing the other ingredients.
  4. Add the milk and yeast mixture to the eggs and sugar and stir to combine. (Add the cardamom at this point, if required).
  5. Now, this is the part which is tricky without two people. If you are going solo, sieve the flours together into a separate bowl and then use one hand to tip the flour, little by little, into the wet ingredients, whilst kneading with the other.
  6. Since the mixture is extremely wet to begin with, I use a kind of grabbing or clenching action with my kneading hand to begin to incorporate the flour. Once all the flour is incorporated, add the melted butter and knead into the dough. I only begin to use my conventional kneading technique when the dough is firm enough to tip onto a lightly floured surface.
  7. It will take a while to develop the gluten since the amount of dough is so large, and also the recipe calls for plain flour as well as strong, which has a far lower gluten content. Hence you will be kneading for a good 20 minutes to achieve a cohesive dough with a nice sheen to it.
  8. Once kneaded, place the dough into a large, lightly oiled bowl for its first rise. This will take 2-3 hours.
  9. Once the dough has doubled in size, it is time to shape it and add the filling. Fold the dough in on itself until most of the air has been knocked out and you have a rough oblong.
  10. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough (giving it a quarter turn once and again) until it is approximately 5mm thick and, again, a large roughly rectangular shape. Depending on the size of your kitchen workspace, you may need to divide the dough into two or even three pieces before rolling.
  11. Spoon large mounds of the chocolate and hazelnut spread onto the dough and spread using a knife or the back of the spoon, almost to the edges.
  12. Scatter the chopped chocolate, chocolate chips and chopped nuts evenly over the dough.
  13. You may have seen Paul Hollywood ‘tacking’ one edge of his dough, about to be rolled up, to the surface so as to make it easier to make a tight roll. You could do this, although I managed fine without this method. As tightly as you can, roll the oblong starting from the longest edge, into a long sausage.
  14. Using a scotch scraper, cut off the two ends, as these will have less filling and may be strangely shaped if the oblong was slightly uneven (you can pop these on a tray and make some small buns out of them!)
  15. Then, start by cutting the sausage in half, then these two pieces in half again, then halving these, and so on and so on…Divide the sausage into small equal sections about 6cm in length.
  16. Arrange these in generously buttered tins, placing them first around the edges, leaving about 1.5cm gap between each on all sides as the buns will rise into each other whilst proving, then place more buns in a second ring within the outer one, and then maybe a couple in the centre (see photo of finished loaf for pointers).
  17. Cover each tin with a tea towel and leave the buns to prove for around an hour until doubled in size again.
  18. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  19. Once the buns have risen. Wash the tops generously with beaten egg and sprinkle liberally with caster sugar.
  20. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the top is a luscious brown colour (keep a good eye on them as sometimes the sugar glaze can begin to catch) and the top feels firm but with a good spring beneath.

Enjoy this loaf still warm from the oven or the next morning with a big milky cup of coffee! Let me know how it goes 🙂 x

Karelian Pies

Karelian Pies

These rich, buttery, rice-filled pies are a Finnish staple. They originated, as their name suggests, in Karelia (Karjala), a region of eastern Finland; where my partner Jani grew up. Now they are in every Finnish supermarket, sold both fresh and frozen, and are eaten for lunch or as a snack topped with anything from the traditional ‘egg-butter’ or munavoi, to ham, cheese or just a thin layer of unsalted butter. There are two traditional fillings: rice, as my recipe contains, or mashed potato. If you have some left over mash, whip in some extra butter and salt and use it to fill these crisp, wholesome pastry cases – another delicious way to eat these!

When I first came across karjalan riisipiirakat, on holiday in Finland, I found it really strange eating pastry with a starchy filling topped, as if it were bread, with ham or cheese. Jani maintains that because of the harsh winters in Finland they needed as many calories and as much energy as they could cram into one small pie, and this is how Karelian Pies came about! I don’t know, but they certainly taste amazing and add some extra sustenance to lunchtime if there are slim-pickings in the fridge.

So here goes…

Ingredients:

for the pastry:

  • 250g Rye Flour
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 200ml Water
  • Plain Flour for dusting
  • 75g Unsalted Butter

for the filling:

  • 150g Pudding Rice (Short-grain)
  • 250ml Water
  • 750ml Milk
  • 1 Tsp Sea-Salt

To make the Pies:

  1. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  2. Start by making the filling. Place the rice in a saucepan and cover with the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Add the milk and continue to cook over a low heat for 30-40 minutes until most of the milk has been absorbed and the mixture has the consistency of thick rice pudding. Don’t forget to stir occasionally, as the rice may stick if left untouched.
  4. Add the salt and stir well before setting aside to cool whilst you make the pastry.
  5. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
  6. Put the rye flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and add the oil.
  7. Gradually add the water, mixing by hand until the ingredients come together to form a dough.
  8. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a long sausage shape.
  9. Using a Scottish Scraper (or a large knife), divide the dough into 20 pieces and roll each piece into a ball.
  10. Using a floured rolling pin, roll each into a thin round, roughly 10cm in diameter.
  11. Place two tablespoons of the rice filling into the centre of each round, leaving about 2cm of pastry around the edge.
  12. Using both hands, begin to lift the edges of the pastry in towards the filling and pinch together with your thumb and forefinger. Repeat this until the edges of the pastry are upstanding and are encasing the filling (see picture above).
  13. Pour the melted butter into a wide shallow bowl (I used a large Tupperware tub for this), and, using a slotted spoon, lower each pie into the butter so it is fully immersed, then place on one of the prepared baking trays.
  14. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and crispy around the edges.

I really hope you love these as much as I do! Please let me know how you get one making these and what you think 🙂

BunzBakes is now on Instagram!

Sourdough Loaf

Hello Everyone!

Don’t forget to follow me on Instragram @bunzbakes for lots more delicious home-baked snaps! I can post pics faster than I can write posts, so there will be many a pictorial delight to be had there!

I have a personal account which I constantly fill with my baking photographs and I’m worried my friends think that is all I do! So @bunzbakes will now be the home of all my #freshlybaked #picsoftheday!

Happy snapping!

The Best Baton: A Guide to Shaping.

I have promised a post on shaping bread, so here’s the first of a large batch! I am baking bread for our work summer picnic next week and thought it prudent to do a test run to avoid disaster and the shame of turning up empty handed! I will post the recipe shortly, although you could look it up for yourselves (it’s another from the Nordic Bakery Cookbook, Miisa Mink), Rye Baguettes. Interestingly, and rather delightfully I thought, they have raisins in them and Miisa tantalisingly suggests they would be good with a slice of Brie, yes please!

As a result of my tiny penchant for baking books, I have trialled many a manual on how to shape bread and this method comes from Dan Lepard’s, ‘The Handmade Loaf’. I have chosen this particular technique because it is easy and, thus far, foolproof! So here are my own step by step pictures and guide for how to shape a brilliant baton:

Best Baton: Steps 1-4Best Baton: Steps 5-8a) (prior to the steps shown) Once your dough has doubled in size for the first time, firmly press it down (or knock back) with your fists. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into the number of pieces required by your recipe. Shape each piece into a smooth ball (not pictured) and place seam side down on a floured surface. Cover with a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes. Dan advises that this will produce a smooth ball which will give you a more even oval for shaping in the next step.

  1. Having left your ball/s of dough for 10 minutes, take one and flatten into an oval.
  2. Imagining your oval has four corners, take two adjacent corners and fold them towards the centre (see picture above)
  3. This will create an almost pointed outcrop in the dough. Take this projection and fold it into the centre. Don’t be afraid to press down quite firmly so that the dough bonds together.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 with the opposite edge of your oval. You will be left with a sort of canoe shape.
  5. Fold one of the long edges over onto the opposite edge and press down firmly to create a seam. Your dough will now resemble a sausage!
  6. Roll gently using both hands to elongate the shape slightly – I press down slightly harder with my outside two fingers on each hand to create the tapered ends. Remember that these batons will now be given a second rise, so don’t be shy when you are creating their pointed ends, as these will fatten up as they prove.
  7. Place on a lined and/or floured baking sheet and bake for the time specified in your recipe.

…and there you have it! A step by step guide to creating a beauteous baton! Let me know how it goes 🙂

Dough Quandaries: Too much Water?

I have decided to begin a series of posts called ‘Dough Quandaries’ as I often find myself in them, not knowing what on earth to do and worse, not knowing what has gone wrong! Although I’m sure it would amuse some to know the frequency and severity of my dough disasters, that is not what I have planned for this particular series of posts. Sometimes I have an epiphany moment (OK, epiphany might be a little hyperbolic), when a whole series of experiments seems to pay off and it feels like I have cracked some long and torturous crime mystery. Again, this analogy may sound over the top, but don’t underestimate the frustration, the disappointment, the anguish of much cared for dough ending up in the bin; a waste of ingredients, time and effort, I’m sure you’d agree! So, ‘Dough Quandaries’ aims to address some of the culprits that cause these dough debacles and discuss the reasons behind them so we can all make better bread!

So, here goes:

Many books about bread contain the mantra ‘wetter is better’ when it comes to dough. Indeed, in an earlier post I too embraced the notion that pros make wetter dough; and that adding too much flour to your dough will lead to a dense, brick-like loaf. Of course, by wet I didn’t mean swimming in it; when you add water to the point where it will no longer incorporate into the dough it was probably time to stop about 100 ml ago! No, I firmly believed, mainly on account of what I had read and heard from the mouths of the experts, that, within the confines of a recipe (which often state a minimum and maximum volume of water), more water rather than less was preferable. I knew that this led to a more sticky dough to begin with, that stands to reason, but, again as many professionals would reassure us, with a thorough knead this sticky, unmanageable dough will become ‘smooth and silky’.

Au contraire! On numerous occasions recently, as I have been growing more confident with my kneading technique, I have become somewhat gung ho with the amount of water I have been adding (obviously only to the point that the dough has been slightly wetter than usual) and I have only just discovered that this has been the culprit for several failed attempts at potentially delicious loaves.

To make these posts more useable for all you bakers out there, I have separated my unscrupulous pre-babble (above) from what follows:

The symptoms of adding too much water:

  1. An early sign is that, at mixing stage, the dough no longer has a ‘shaggy’ consistency; but has begun to come together into a more cohesive ball. My most successful loaves have been turned out for kneading not resembling a ball at all, so although you should continue adding water until flour begins to come away from the sides of the bowl, don’t be tempted to keep going until everything comes together into one mass of dough.
  2. With a dough that is too wet, you may be surprised by how little kneading it takes to seemingly produce a cohesive, shiny-looking dough. I was! On a number of occasions, I put this down to my brilliant kneading, but I now think this was because I had added just a tad too much liquid.
  3. Once the dough reaches the shiny stage, it will still be very sticky. It will seem much more elastic and will want to stretch in one long piece, although when you try the gluten window test you will notice that the dough is easily torn and that the consistency feels weak and stringy rather than strong and firm. It may also feel cool and damp to the touch.
  4. More kneading will produce a bubble-gum like mass, which will stick to your hands and stretch into lots of long tendrils. When prodded with a finger, dough with the correct texture should put up some resistance, dough which is too wet will just stick to the end of your finger.
  5. At this stage you may think it is ready for proving, as you may have been kneading vigorously for half an hour or more and think the elasticity is a sign that the dough has been kneaded sufficiently. However, upon first proving the dough, although it may rise very well, will fall back very quickly (one of my failed attempts rose to double its size and then fell back within the space of half an hour). Dough which has risen and then begun to fall back will have lots of little dimples on its surface and look deflated (which it is!) A well risen dough will spring back quickly when touched with a fingertip; not so with over-wet dough. A gentle prod will either cause the dough to deflate or will leave a dimple on its surface.
  6. The natural reaction to over-proofed dough is to re-knead and prove again. Although, you will find with dough that is too wet that no matter how many times you knead it, it will never relinquish its stickiness. Its structure does not contain a high enough ratio of flour to water, therefore its structure will never be strong enough to rise and produce a satisfactory texture for a loaf.

The Solution:

If you notice more than one of the first 5 symptoms, your dough is likely to be too wet. But never fear! Your dough is entirely saveable and won’t have been harmed in the process, as some will lead you to believe (‘re-kneading will lead to a reduction in final loaf size of up to 20%’).

So, what to do? Well, if you have proven your dough and it has fallen back, re-knead adding enough flour to relieve the dough of its bubble-gum like qualities – you will see as you knead in the extra flour that the dough begins to stretch firmly, rolling out in more of a lump than stretching out into a stringy sausage. Its tackiness will lessen and with a full and thorough knead it will pass its sticky stage and become that soft, silky ball you were originally hoping for!

If you are lucky enough to spot this issue during your original knead, simply add some extra flour to the dough until it obtains the right consistency. Although do beware of adding too much as, (I’m sure most of you are aware!) this will have dire consequences for your dough which are far harder to remedy!

Please get involved and add your experiments and epiphanies as comments below 🙂

**I will be adding a photograph to this post – watch this space!**

Wholesome Wholemeal Loaf with Oat Bran

Wholemeal Oat Bran Loaf

Whilst flicking through one of my Scandinavian baking books, I noticed that a few of the recipes call for oat bran or wheatgerm and this intrigued me. I’m all for healthy baking and, as I’ve said in previous posts, I am a lover of baking with a variety of different flours. So this bread incorporates a number of them, with a dash of oat bran for extra fibre-y goodness! The recipe that inspired this loaf was that of Norwegian ‘grovbrød’; a rustic brown loaf, great with thin slices of smoked fish and a squeeze of lemon. I chose to use rapeseed oil rather than olive oil as it has a more neutral flavour and I wanted to let the flours and grains do the talking. You needn’t add the honey, but I always think it adds to the flavour of wholemeal loaves.

Ingredients:

  • 100g Strong White Bread Flour
  • 300g Strong Wholemeal Flour
  • 50g Rye Flour
  • 40g Oat bran
  • 15g Rye Flakes
  • 350-390 ml Tepid Water
  • 10g Fast Action Dried Yeast
  • 10g Salt
  • Tbsn Honey
  • Tbsn Rapeseed Oil and extra for kneading.

To make the bread:

  1. Measure out the flours, oat bran and rye flakes into a large bowl.
  2. Add the yeast to one side and the salt to the other, avoid mixing the two as direct contact can retard the yeast.
  3. Add the honey and rapeseed oil to the bowl.
  4. Add roughly 350 ml of the water and begin to mix with one hand. Continue adding water until the flour is lifted from the sides of the bowl and the dough begins to come together.
  5. Tip the dough onto a lightly oiled surface.
  6. Knead until the dough is no longer sticky and has a silky, elastic texture. This may take substantially longer than a white dough to achieve this texture, so don’t give up! Also, this dough will seem tighter than other wholemeal doughs, I think this is on account of the oat bran, which soaks up a lot of water and makes the texture more dense. However, with some working it will become smoother and more like conventional wholemeal dough. I used a slightly different kneading technique, rather than holding with one hand and stretching with the other, I used both hands to roll and then fold the dough. As I say, this will take longer, but will achieve the right result in the end.
  7. Leave the dough to rise in a lightly oiled bowl covered with a tea towel. Find a warm place for this one – rye flour doughs take marginally longer to rise, and I find that a warmer place than usual helps this process along.
  8. Once the dough has doubled in size (after 2-4 hours), tip onto a lightly floured surface and pressed firmly into an oblong. Fold in the edges and press again to form an oblong the length of your 2 lb loaf tin. Roll the oblong and place into the tin, with the seem facing downwards.
  9. Leave to prove until doubled in size (around an hour and a half). Meanwhile preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Place a baking tray in the bottom to heat up.
  10. When your loaf has doubled in size, dust with wholemeal flour and cut a slash lengthways across the top with a sharp knife.
  11. Boil a kettle full of water and pour into the heated tray, leaving it in the bottom of the oven.
  12. Bake your loaf on the middle shelf for 35-40 minutes. When the loaf is done it will sound hollow when tapped underneath.
  13. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

This bread is delicious eaten, as the Scandinavians would, for breakfast or lunch with slices of mild cheese (I like Emmental), some ham and maybe a pickle or two. It is equally as delicious with smoked salmon or Gravad Lax and a squeeze of lemon. I even love it toasted and slathered in butter with some sharp and sweet marmalade and a cup of tea – delish!

Enjoy Budding Bakers! Don’t forget to let me know how you get on 🙂

Daily Spelt Loaf

My Daily Spelt Loaf

As well as being a cookbook fanatic, I have a fetish for flours. Find me a new variety and I’ll have a bag in my basket before you can say ‘Paul Hollywood’! I love finding recipes that contain lesser used flours like spelt, buckwheat and Khorasan. Even the thought of a new rye recipe gets my creative juices flowing better than your average strong white ever could.

This loaf evolved from a pure spelt loaf, made with only wholegrain spelt flour into this recipe, which contains strong white flour (and if you like, wholemeal too) as well as wholegrain spelt. Using spelt flour alone produces a loaf which has an interesting flavour and texture – lighter in colour and crumb than a wholemeal loaf, with a greater depth of flavour than a plain white one. All things considered, it was its distinct flavour that caused me to want to use a mix of flours for this loaf. Pure spelt bread is lovely eaten with a meal, to mop up delicious casserole juices or such like; but for me, its characteristic flavour needs dumbing down for use as toast or sandwich bread – which my ‘daily loaf’ frequently is!

This is not to say that this loaf isn’t deliciously flavoursome. It just has a more neutral (for want of a better word!) taste, which provides a delicious base for other ingredients.

Note: You needn’t add the Greek honey if you’re a purist and prefer to stick to the core ingredients. However, I think it adds something special to this everyday loaf and complements the nutty notes in this loaf.

Ingredients

  • 205g Wholegrain Spelt Flour
  • 300g Strong White Bread Flour (for a wholegrain loaf, reduce the quantity of white flour to 200g and add 100g of Strong Wholemeal Flour)
  • 1 tsp Salt (I add a generous teaspoon)
  • 1 tsp Fast Action Dried Yeast
  • 1 tbsp Greek Honey
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 400 ml warm water

To make the bread

  1. Mix the flours together in a large bowl, I do this roughly and by hand.
  2. Add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Then drizzle over the honey.
  3. Pour over the warm water (the temperature of which needn’t be measured, it should feel slightly warm to the touch) and begin to mix using one hand.
  4. Add the olive oil and continue to bring the mixture together until you have a ‘shaggy’ (to quote HFW – but this is the most useful, if not very technical, term I have come across to describe the dough at this stage!) dough.
  5. Tip the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface (you can use flour, but be careful not to add much more at this stage as your bread could become dense and mealy).
  6. Knead for 10-20 minutes (I always knead by hand, but feel free to use a mixer if you have one) until the dough is elastic and appears to have a sheen to it. If your dough feels wet and sticky, you could add a touch more flour, but try to knead through this stage as a wetter dough produces a more open crumb with a lighter texture.
  7. Leave to rise in a lightly oiled bowl until roughly doubled in size (approx 1hr). I place the bowl in a large plastic bag, inflate it slightly and then use an Ikea plastic clip to seal it, stopping any draft from halting the proving process.
  8. Since I use this loaf daily, mainly for sandwiches and toast, I like to bake it in a 2lb tin, but you go ahead and get creative with your shaping if the feeling takes you! (See future post on shaping bread). I lightly oil the tin and my bread hasn’t gotten stuck yet!
  9. To shape, tip the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Press all over with the palms of your hands to knock out any air bubbles. Shape into a rough rectangle. With one of the long edges closest to you, fold in at either side so that the left and right-hand edges overlap slightly. Now flatten slightly so it matches the length of your tin.
  10. Taking the long edge closest to you, roll up like a Swiss roll so you have one long seam along the dough.
  11. With the seam facing downwards, place the dough into the tin. (This method is very similar to Paul Hollywood’s in ‘How to Bake’, which also has great pictures that may help if you’ve had problems shaping in the past.)
  12. Place the tin in a large plastic bag and leave to prove for 1/2 an hour to an hour or until doubled in size.
  13. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Place a baking tray in the bottom of the oven.
  14. When your dough has doubled in size, place a kettle on to boil and pour the boiling water into the baking tray – this will create a steamy atmosphere, which will produce a loaf with a thin but crunchy crust with a nice shine to it.
  15. Dust your loaf with flour and make several diagonal slashes across the top (I use a sharp serrated bread knife to do this).
  16. Place your tin in the middle of the oven to bake for 30-35 minutes. To check if your loaf is baked, turn out of the tin and tap – if you hear a hollow sound your loaf is ready, if you hear a dull thud it needs longer in the oven!

I really hope you enjoy this loaf as much as my family and I do! I would love to see pictures of your loaves and, of course, hear how you got on using this recipe!

Happy baking, but more importantly – happy eating! 🙂

A Finnish Birthday Cake

Finnish Cream Cake

A Traditional Finnish Birthday Cake

I baked this for my wonderful boy’s first birthday. I chose this cake, not only because my partner is Finnish and this is a traditional Finnish cake (as the title of this post suggests!), but because it is full of fresh fruit sandwiched between layers of light, moist sponge; without the thick layer of gloopy white icing we have all come to expect from supermarket cakes aimed at young children.

I was first taught to bake this by my partner’s cousin, Sanna, who introduced me to a wonderfully simple way of measuring out the ingredients for this fatless sponge. At the time, I assumed it was a family recipe but I have since seen it crop up in a number of Scandinavian and Nordic cookbooks; so I guess it is the traditional way of making it!

So here you go, you will see that I have omitted the quantities of fruit in this recipe. This is because the amount of fruit you will need depends on how you wish to decorate your cake. Similarly, the amount of fruit required for the filling is a matter of personal taste.

Ingredients:

For Cake:

Equal quantities (in volume not weight) of:

  • Eggs (use half an egg per person)
  • Caster Sugar
  • Self-raising flour
  • Orange juice (for moistening after baking)

I usually use one of my glass tumblers (of which I have many) filled to a certain point with the eggs. Then use another, filled to the same point with the sugar and then the flour.

For topping and filling:

  • Approx. 800ml whipping cream
  • 200g Icing sugar
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Kiwi

To make the Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
  2. Follow the instructions above for measuring the eggs, sugar and flour.
  3. Place the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat vigorously until the colour lightens slightly and the mixture is light and frothy.
  4. Add the flour, little by little, folding in gently to retain the air.
  5. Bake in a tin lined with greaseproof paper for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer, inserted into the centre, comes out clean.
  6. Once the cake is baked, leave in the tin and make several small holes in the surface using a cocktail stick or fork.
  7. Using a small jug, pour the orange juice generously into the holes and let it soak into the cake while you get started on the filling and topping…

To make the filling and topping:

  1. Mix the cream with the icing sugar and whist until firm and spreadable.
  2. Crush some of the strawberries to a pulp, leaving behind enough to decorate your cake.
  3. Mash 2 or 3 bananas and mix with the crushed strawberries.
  4. Thinly slice the remaining strawberries from top to bottom for decoration later.
  5. Once your cake is completely cooled, turn out onto a wire wrack and, using a palate knife, slice evenly through the middle.
  6. Use a broad metal spatula to lift off the top layer and transfer the bottom layer carefully onto a serving plate.
  7. Spread the strawberry and banana mixture onto the base of your cake and sandwich on the top layer.
  8. Again using a palate knife, spread the sweetened whipped cream evenly over the top and sides of the cake. You could use the knife to create a peaked or wavy effect.
  9. Decorate with the thinly sliced strawberries and other fruit to finish.

Enjoy! This is a true celebration cake both in look and taste. I sometimes add a layer of butter cream to the filling. As well as balancing out the acidity of the fruit, it prevents the bottom layer of cake from becoming soggy over time. This is not a traditional addition, however, and I have left it out of the main recipe for fear of reprisals from Finns, who will undoubtedly claim that this is certainly not how their grandmothers used to make it! As well as for birthdays, this is an unashamedly summery cake, light and fresh and covered in summer berries, which wouldn’t look out of place as the centrepiece for any Summertime soiree.