The Magic of Yeast Water

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First they came for the hand sanitizer, then they came for the TP. Finally they came for…the flour & yeast? Yeah- The Time of Covid has been a stressful, testing and, let’s face it, downright weird one. Panic induced mob-mentality has led to mass line-ups outside grocery stores and bulk buying of household items in order to weather self-isolation orders and solitude. 

Whether it’s genuine creativity or social media induced compulsion it’s also led to an exponential increase in people home-baking. Despite the majority of grocery market shelves being repopulated with once scare items, a social distance complying stroll through any baking aisle will reveal barren, flour dusted shelves that once accommodated flour of all varieties and it’s habitual partner-in-crime…yeast.

Yeast shortage bedamned! Whilst I realized that I did NOT have the space to accommodate a domestic flour mill, what I could set about investigating was yeast and it’s production. I mean- I’d had already gotten a pretty solid hold on the process of Kombucha brewing -whatever else there is NO shortage of scobies at my house! That process involved yeast and it’s cultivation so how different could growing yeast for baking be? Turns out not so much. Use of a base fruit to cause a fermentation reaction (I use raisins here) and a few more steps. Said reaction then causes the production of yeast with which you can make use of in bread-making. Seems easy right? Well technically it is. BUT don’t expect it to be a speedy process. It takes almost a week to brew the initial yeast water- and that’s BEFORE you actually start on the bread production- which is slow. It seems that making bread by using naturally grown yeast, weather via a dough starter or yeast water, is a slower process than using your packet or jarred variety. 

Please don’t think that I’m nay-saying the process. Quite the opposite in fact. Is the slow lengthy process of brewing and proofing so bad after all? In world now fraught with anxiety and frustration, is spending time on things so bad? Basking in the mindfulness of a task or hobby is hardly disadvantageous. I mean- time isn’t one of those things in shortage right now? Although a lengthy effort to make and bake with yeast water I can definitely say it’s one heck of a rush of elation and satisfaction when cutting in to the final baked loaf.  And I will say it’s a delay well worth waiting for once you taste the final protracted fruits of your labour. Using natural yeast adds so much more character and dimension to your loaf that you’ll never get with the speedy but banal convenience of quick yeast again.

Another positive aspect (if more practical) is that once the initial yeast water is brewed there is minimal, if none at all, upkeep of it in comparison to it’s celebratory sourdough starter cousin. “Apparently” it’s just a process of just drain off the fruit, storing the yeast-rich water in the fridge, using it when needed. You only need to add more components when the source water runs low and you need to make more. (I say “apparently” as I’m in the middle of this process myself – so expect updates!)

I’m still testing out varying methods of dough proofing and crafting, and in doing so am trying a various hodge-podge of principles and methods “a little of this, a little of that”. Initially I used a sourdough method of using a starter and levain. As this method resulted in success (see the final video) it’s the one I detailed here.

*Later in the recipe I use a bench scraper to help with the procedure. Whilst not essential, you can use your hands, it does make the job easier.
I also make reference to something called  “50/50 mix”. This is a half and half mixture of bread flour and rice flour. The smaller, coarser grains of the rice flour helping to overcome dough sticking

 

Yeast water base
  • 4 Tablespoons raisins
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup tepid water
  1. Add all ingredients to a 1 litre bottle (in the photogrpahs below I started off in a Kilner jar but later transferred to a bottle). I’ve used a spare SodaStream bottle but the main thing you want is something that can be sealed and airtight. Mix to shake and leave to ferment in a warm (room temperature) place. I leave it in my pantry. Over the next 4 days shake the bottle at least once a day to ensure than the contents remain mixed and to avoid mould growth on the fruit. Over this time you will gradually see the fruit starting to float and a layer of bubbles form on the surface of the liquid
  2. After the forth day release the cap carefully as the contents will be choc-full of carbonation and fizzing. You should also notice an odour reminiscent of beer/ over-ripe fruit. You’ll know it- it’s pretty distinctive. Once the contents have settled add an additional 4 cups of water and shake to mix the contents. leave overnight in your selected warm location
  3. The following day, again carefully release the cap and wait for the carbonation to subside. Add in a further 1 tablespoon of raisins and 1/2 cup of water. Shake again and set aside for at least 4 hours before initial use

Starter dough

  • 30g Bread Flour
  • 30g Yeast Water (drained of any fruit)
  1. Mix these two ingredients together in a jar and set aside overnight in the same location as your yeast water. If you water is successful (ie alive!) the mixture should have increased in volume and be quite bubbly. If not I’m afraid it’s pack to the drawing board for you. Perhaps try fresh fruit instead of dried? I’ve read of some recipes where figs, dates, and even apples have been used. Also see my note below*

Levain

  • Rested Starter dough, as above
  • 60g Bread Flour
  • 30g yeast water 
  1. Transfer you starter mix from the jar to a large bowl. Add in the bread flour and additional yeast water. Stir to combine well (the mixture should be like a thick slurry paste). Leave this to rest for minimum 6 hours in the same location as your yeast water. The next step is were you’re actually going to make the bread dough! (A word to the wise here – select a bowl large enough to contain you’re final amount of dough after proofing)

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Bread dough

  • Rested levain, as above
  • 400g bread flour
  • 10g salt
  • 350g tepid water
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Using your hand in a “claw” shape mix them until they are well combined. Cover with oiled cling wrap or a plastic bag and set aside for 30 minutes (this is called the autolyse)
  2. After 30 mins remove the covering and again with your hand in a “claw” shape mix the dough. Continue for another few minutes until it gets to the stage where the dough is a roughly a single ball/ lump in the centre of the bowl and is “cleaning” the sides of the bowl of any residual mixture. It should still be quite sticky
  3. Transfer the dough from the bowl onto a counter top. I find there is no need to flour or oil it as this way helps it stick- enabling stretching and gluten strand formation. This are is where you’ll develop your own technique for kneading the dough. As a heads up while you knead the dough it will become firmer and dryer, sticking less to the surface. My method of kneading is to grab the dough by either side and pull it up, away from the counter surface, causing the centre to stick to the surface. If the complete doughball comes away slap it to the counter surface whilst still holding either end. Then fold either end back on top of the main body of dough and repeat. I think this part of kneading is quite specific to the person doing it- almost like a signature. I continue this for 15 minutes by which time the dough has become firmer, dryer and holds it’s shape a lot better. At this point transfer back to the large bowl for First Proof. Cover loosely with oiled cling wrap and leave in a warm location (you guessed it- same as your yeast water!) The proofing of this will be rather slow so I’ve left mine overnight until it has more than doubled in size. 

The following day

  1. Your next step in dough production! Tip the risen dough out on to a clean counter top lightly dusted wit a 50/50 mix of bread flour and rice flour. You don’t actually want to knock it back too much here unlike when you ‘re making a standard bread loaf. Using a bench scraper gently scoop up and fold the dough in on itself. You’ll want to do this all around the dough ball. I usually end up doing it at between 6 to 8 times. What you’ll end up with is a dough ball with a very smooth, tight bottom (!) and it’s seams gathered at the top. Gently scoop the dough ball up and transfer it to a prepared banneton (heavily dusted with 50/50 mix) or bowl lined with a heavy-dusted cloth. Cover the banneton/ bowl with oiled cling-wrap, return it to your “yeast water” place and leave to proof/ rise for a second time. I’ve had to wait up to 6 hours for this to happen. When it has risen and doubled in size it’s now time for the next step

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  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F at least 15 mins before wanting to bake. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Dust the top of your dough (in the banneton) with 50/50 mix. Place your lined baking tray over the top of the banneton/ bowl and quickly invert. The dough should fall out onto the prepared tray. If not it may take some gentle coaxing with flour dusted fingers. Once your dough has turned out onto the tray, slash/ score the top of it (as fancy or as plain as you like) and you good to go!
  2. Place the dough in your preheated oven and bake for 20 mins. After this time reduce the temperature to 390 degrees F and continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes. Your loaf should develop a hard, crisp out crust and sound hallow when tapped from below. Remove from the oven and leave to full cool before cutting

*If your initial yeast water doesn’t come to life another factor that may be effecting it is your choice of dried fruit. I’ve read in a few places that using organic dried fruit can result in a speedier process. This is due to the lack of potassium sorbate which an be used in some dried fruit to stop it spoiling. It’s a preservative that stops yeast from reproducing, and prevents any renewed fermentations from other yeast or bacteria.

Soft Bread Pretzels

Makes: 8

Ingredients

Pretzel dough

  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons Quick-rise yeast
  • 320ml warm water
  • 65ml olive oil

Soda Bath

  • 3 litres water, boiling
  • 1/2 cup bicarbonate of soda

To finish

  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, melted
  • Sea salt flakes

Method

  1. Lightly oil a large bowl and set aside for the dough later
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the flour, salt (to one side), yeast (to opposite side) and brown sugar
  3. Add in olive oil and 250ml warm water and mix on low setting to combine the ingredients. Add in remaining water, if needed, to achieve a soft, slightly sticky dough. Continue to knead in the machine for a total of 7 minutes. (if you’re mixing the traditional way, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir using your  hand (in a claw shape) until the all come together. Tip out onto a lightly oiled surface and continue to knead for 10 mins until the dough is soft and slightly sticky)
  4. Tip the dough from the mixer bowl into the prepared oiled bowl, cover and set aside in a warm place to proof for at least 45 minutes, or until doubled in size
  5. Before you start working on the dough pieces, bring the 3 litres of water to a rolling boil in a large pot and add in the bicarbonate of soda
  6. Once the dough has finished proofing, tip out onto a lightly oiled surface. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and, in turn, divide each piece into 4 equal pieces. This will give you 8 equal pieces of dough to work with
  7. Roll each piece of dough into a long strand/rope approximately 30 inches in length. Take each end of the dough “rope” in the opposite hand and cross over simultaneously. Cross them over again to bring back the ends back to their original sides whilst bringing the tips down to the base of the loop. You should end up with a rough “heart” shape with the overlapping stands inside. Press the ends of the strands onto the loop so they stick
  8. Preheat your oven to 400°F
  9. This next bit is fiddly and a little patience & perseverance may be needed. Carefully pick up and drop the assembled pretzel to the pot of boiling soda solution (I use a slotted spatula) Take caution as there may be some splashing. Allow the pretzel to boil for 20 seconds (it should rise to the surface), the using a slotted spatula flip the pretzel on to it’s oppose side and continue to boil for another 20 seconds. Remove with the slotted spatula, drain and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough pretzels
  10. Brush each of the pretzels liberally with the melted butter and sprinkle with sea salt flakes to personal taste
  11. Bake in the your preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and brush with any remaining butter if desired. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly
  12. The pretzels are at their best enjoyed warm or fresh on the day of baking

 

Easy Pantry Recipes

 

 

I struggled for what to write here as anything I first attempted sounded flippant and vapid, making light of the situation and circumstances that each and every one of us are living through at the moment. What I wanted to do was…well to do “something“. I firmly believe in the calming and therapeutic powers of being in the kitchen. At the best of times baking for me offers a respite from daily chores and frantic everyday life, a place to get my headspace and mentally “breathe”.

My baking activity has definitely had an upsurge of late. In the uncertain circumstances of the world today I find there is a calming certainty in knowing that if I mix a certain bundle of ingredients together a known result will be achieved. Focusing on the task at hand helps to redirect my attention and anxiety away from the unnerving headlines and statistics we’re being bombarded with- a calm in the eye of the storm, no matter how briefly. I guess that’s what I’m trying to do here-  pass on these moments of calm to you in some small way. 

The recipes here offer little moments of indulgence and respite with minimal ingredients and skill needed. Hopefully most of the ingredients called for are already staples in your pantry or, failing that, will prove easy to get hold of. I hope you enjoy taking some time out and baking them.

Stay safe out there folks, see you on the other side.

You can find some further information on mental health considerations during COVID-19 Outbreak here

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Shown here served with crème anglaise

Chocolate Soufflé

Serves 4

Ingredients

• 2 cups chocolate hazelnut spread (I use Nutella – surprise!)

• 5 eggs

Method

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F (190˚C).
  2. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and place into two separate bowls
  3.  
  4. Mix the chocolate hazelnut spread into the bowl with the egg yolks
  5. In the second bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form
  6.  
  7. Fold 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the chocolate/egg yolk mixture until fully incorporated. Add the remaining egg whites to the mixture and fold gently, but thoroughly, until the mixture is smooth
  8. Pour the mixture into the greased ramekins and bake for 15-17 minutes until risen
  9. Serve immediately
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Shown here served with crème anglaise

 


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Shown here served w/ Blueberry, Rosemary & Juniper berry conserve

Soda Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups All Purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk*

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F
  2. Line a tray with baking parchment and dust lightly with flour. Set aside until needed
  3. In a large bowl combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Whisk to combine and break down lumps. Make a well in the centre
  4. Pour in most of the buttermilk
  5. Using one hand stir the flour into the liquid from the outside of the bowl, turning the bowl as you do. Continue until the mixture comes together in a soft dough that is not too wet or sticky (you may need the remainder of the buttermilk here)
  6. Turn the dough out into a lightly floured surface and knead lightly for a few seconds. Don’t over-knead here- you just want to do it enough so that it holds it shape. Don’t do it to the extent that you would with standard bread dough!
  7. Using your hands, lightly floured, pat the dough into a round shape about 2 inches thick. Transfer to the floured baking sheet
  8. With a knife (I use a bench scraper) score a cross into the top of the loaf, so that it goes almost all the way through the thickness and over the sides of the loaf
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for 15mins then reduce the heat to 400°F and continue baking for an additional 20mins until cooked. The baked loaf will be deep golden in color and sound hollow when the bottom of it is tapped
  10. Remove and cool on a wire rack
  11. This type of loaf will cool with a hard, crispy crust. If a softer crust is desired wrap a clean kitchen towel around the hot loaf and allow it to cool

*If you don’t have buttermilk to hand you can make your own by combining 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon squeezed lemon juice or distilled white vinegar in a jug. Stir to combine and leave to sit for 15 mins. After 15 mins the liquid will have thickened slightly and small curds can be seen. Use in the recipe as required. Any remaining milk can be stored in the fridge.

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White Bread Bloomer

  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons quick action yeast
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 Olive oil
  • 1 1/4cups warm water

Method

  1. Lightly oil a large bowl and set aside for the dough later
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the flour, salt (to one side), yeast (to opposite side) and brown sugar
  3. Add in olive oil and 250ml warm water and mix on low setting to combine the ingredients. Add in remaining water, if needed, to achieve a soft, slightly sticky dough. Continue to knead in the machine for a total of 7 minutes. Proceed to Step 4.(If you’re mixing the traditional way, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and shaping you hand into a “claw shape”, with fingers slightly spaced, mix by hand until all the ingredients come together in a ball. Tip out onto a lightly oiled surface and continue to knead for 10 mins until the dough is soft and slightly sticky)
  4. Tip the dough from the mixer bowl into the prepared oiled bowl, cover with lightly oiled cling-wrap and set aside to proof for at least 45 minutes, or until doubled in size
  5. Once the dough has finished proofing, tip out onto a lightly oiled surface. Punch down the dough to knock bar the air and reduce it in size
  6. You can either leave it as one large load or divide into two for 2 smaller standard sized loafs
  7. Once the dough has been knocked back use oiled hands to shape into an oval shape and transfer to a large flour dusted baking sheet
  8. Cover with oiled cling wrap, set aside and leave to double inside for apx 30-40mins
  9. Whilst the dough is having it second proof, preheat your oven to 425°F
  10. Once the dough has proofed and risen, bake in the preheated oven for 15mins, after which reduce the temperature to 390°F and bake for further 10-15mins until deep golden in color and the base of the loaves sound hollow when tapped
  11. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool on a rack
  12. Baked loaves can easily be frozen and saved for later. Wrap in cling wrap, place in plastic bag, seal and place in freezer. Defrost for a few hours when needed

PB & J Oat Bars

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons salted butter, plus extra for the tin
  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 8 tablespoons grape jelly (or favourite fruit flavour)
  • 1/2cup light brown soft sugar, packed
  • 2 cups rolled oats

Method

 

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F . Butter and line the base and sides of a 9” square cake tin with baking parchment
  2. Set aside 3 tablespoons each of the peanut butter and jam in separate bowls for later. Combine the remaining peanut butter, jam, butter and sugar into a pan over a medium heat and stir until everything has melted together. Quickly stir in the rolled oats, then leave to cool for 5 mins
  3. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and gently press down with a small measuring cup
  4. Dot over the reserved peanut butter and jam, then bake for 20-25 mins or until golden brown. Leave to cool completely in the tin, then turn out onto a board and cut into bars (2 x6)
  5. Bars are best kept refrigerated in a sealed container for 2-3 days


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Easy Shortbread Cookies

 

  • 1 cup salted butter
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 275 degree
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (with paddle attachment) oe using an electric hand-mixer beat the butter and icing sugar together well.
  3. Slowly add in the flour (I use 1/4 cup increments) until it has all been added in. Once it all in, crank up the speed on you machine and whip it for 6 minutes. The mixture will become light and exceptionally fluffy
  4. Using a small cookie scoop (size about 1- 1/2 tablespoon) scoop the dough out onto the prepared  baking sheets
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30-35 minutes until bottoms of the cookies are browned.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes on the trays. Transfer to a rack to cool complely
  7. Baked cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week 

In the photographs shown I put a cherry on top of each prior to baking. The pre-baked cookies can be left plain or topped with whatever you like from your pantry such as chocolate chunks; nuts; candy pieces…whatever you have to hand in your pantry.

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Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes 18-20

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Peanut Butter
  • 1 Egg

 

Method

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degree. Line 2 cookie sheets with baking parchment
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a hand-held electric mixer, mix the ingredients together until well blended
  3. Using a small cookie scoop (about 1-1/2 tablespoon size) scoop doughballs on to ungreased cookie sheet
  4. Using a fork press down in one direction and then press again from the other side to form a criss-cross pattern on top
  5. Bake for 12 minutes
  6. Allow them cool on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely
  7. Baked cookies will keep for 3-4 days at room temperature in a sealed container

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Homemade Butter

I posted the recipe for this a couple of years ago. It such an easy thing to do but a lot of people think of it as a daunting task. You can find the recipe/method here

#Recipe Baking with kids…not literally!

Montage

We’ve now been resident here in Toronto for 5 months and things have pretty much settled. My husband has found his pace with his job, our kids have made a smooth transition to a new school, heck we even seemed to have navigated the whole “Daylight saving hours” thing without too much trouble. The only fly in the ointment is me trying to start Mr. Mom’s from scratch again. Whilst a brand new audience awaits from my take on baked goods, it also means a whole bunch of people who no NOTHING about you. And that’s an uphill climb! (If you do happen to work in the foodie sector and would like a food writer, or baker to work with  please do check out my Collaborations page here.)

Anyhoo I digress! As I mentioned above, our kids have (surprisingly) takenthe move to a new country in their stride with little or no tears and tantrums. This week had them on their “March Break” from school- seems to be the equivalent to a UK mid-term break. As well as taking them to the obligatory art galleries and museums (I don’t know who enjoyed it more!) I decided to introduce them to the world of baking. Now I’m not talking anything major- they’re not quiet ready for the cook’s torch or bain maire yet! However you’d be amazed how some simple stirring, cutting, and participation can ignite eagerness.

Here are some of the recipes that took place in Mr. Mom’s kitchen this week. Whilst they range from the sweet to the savory, they are all big on fun, flavour and involvement from little flour-caked hands. I’ve  also included some tips on getting kids involved in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not including this because I consider myself some kind of childcare expert and these are rules by which you should abide. They’re simply meant from the point of my being a dad who wanted to get his children involved in baking and these ways worked for me. I’ve left where to get your kids involved to your discretion as you know them best after all.

Some tips/tricks:

  • Put on some music. Not loud enough that you have to shout over it but loud enough for background. It helps to have something to pass lengthy tasks like kneading or blending. Also think sing-along or random exclamations of “Knead to the beat!”
  • Get the children to find and fetch the ingredients. Framed as a “Baking Treasure Hunt” I’ve seen it help reading skills and memory.
  • Weighing is a surprisingly enticing activity which always draws willing volunteers.  If they overshoot the mark when pouring, it’s no biggie (despite their possible panic!)

So now on to the fun stuff- the recipes! These are a selection of what ended up on the cooling rack…

No Bake Chocolate Cookies

Pumpkin Bread

Sugar Cookies

Simple White Loaf ( and how this can be used to make Pizza)

 

Mud Puddles (aka No Bake Chocolate Cookies)

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Ingredients

200g caster sugar

125ml semi-skimmed milk

115g salted butter

4 tablespoons cocoa, unsweetened

1 tablespoon good quality vanilla extract

1 pinch salt

120g gram crunchy peanut butter

225g Jumbo Oats

225g Quick Oats

Method
  • Line baking sheets with baking parchment
  • Bring the sugar, milk, butter and cocoa to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, then keep on a rolling boil for 1 minute
  • Remove from the heat. Add the oats, peanut butter, vanilla and salt, and stir to combine
  • Drop spaced tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet
  • Leave to cool at room temperature for min 1 hour. After this they’ve set enough tp pick up and eat. I find they usually taste better and are easier to handle the next day
  • These can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days

 

Pumpkin Bread

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Ingredients

250g all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

400g caster sugar

170g unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

1 can (425g)  pumpkin (make sure it’s 100% pumpkin puree)

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Method
  • Preheat your oven to 160c or 325F.
  • Prepare two 1lb loaf tines with cake release or grease with butter
  • In a bowl sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices
  • In a stand mixer combine the sugar, butter and eggs and mix for at least 10 mins
  • Add in the pumpkin puree and mix on slow until just combined
  • Reduce the mixer speed to low and add in the flour mixture by heaped tablespoon at a time. Keep  the mixer going until just combined – make sure there are no white flour pockets
  • Remove the bowl, pour the mixture equally between the prepared tins and level the top
  • Bake in the oven for 60-70mins until a skewer comes out clean
  • Remove from the oven, remove from tins and leave to cool on a wire rack. When cool wrap in clingfilm until needed.
  • These loaves get better over time. After a couple of days wrapped they develop a fudgy, sticky texture which goes really with the warming spicy flavor (similar to McVities Jamaican Ginger Cake for those of you who know it?)

 

Sugar Cookies

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Ingredients

350g unsalted butter, softened

400g caster sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract

620g all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Icing sugar for dusting and rolling

 

 

Method
  • Preheat oven to 200C or 400F
  • Line cookie sheets with baking parchment
  • Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl
  • In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until smooth (mix for at least 10 mins)
  • Beat in eggs, one at a time,and vanilla
  • With the mixer on a slow speed, stir in the flour mixture one heaped tablespoon at a time until well combined and a dough formed
  • Tip the dough onto clingfilm and wrap tightly
  • Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight)
  • Dust a surface with icing sugar, sprinkle the dough with icing sugar and roll out the dough to a thickness of apx 5mm (*use icing sugar to prevent sticking to surface and rolling-pin)
  • Cut out shapes using cookie cutters and transfer to prepared baking sheets
  • Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 mins
  • Remove and use a wide spatula or palette knife to transfer the soft cookies to wire rack to cool. They’ll firm up upon further cooling.

* I made 50/50 blend of vanilla and chocolate sugar cookie by removing half the dough when refrigerating it and leaving half in the bowl. To this I added 50g unsweetened cocoa powder and 100g unsweetened chocolate chips. Mix until well combined then refrigerate and make as per the rest of the recipe.

 

Simple White Loaf

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Ingredients

500g Bread flour

12g fast action yeast

10g salt

40ml light olive oil

320ml warm water

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Method
  • In a bowl combine the flour, yeast (to one side) and salt (to opposite side)
  • In bowl combine olive oil and water
  • Pour the water/oil mixture into the flour bowl in a steady stream
  • With your hand in a “Claw” shape mix from outside of the bowl towards to centre. Continue until all the mixture comes together into a dough ball and the bowl sides are clean
  • Lightly oil a surface with olive oil and tip out the dough onto it
  • Knead the dough for 10 mins until it becomes smooth and elastic
  • Transfer the kneaded dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with some lightly oiled cling film. Leave to rise until doubled in size
  • Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and dust with bread flour
  • Again lightly oil a surface and tip out the risen dough
  • Punch and knead the dough, for about 5 mins, until all the air has been expelled from it (called “Knocking Back”)
  • Shape with your hands into a long oval shape and transfer to the prepared baking sheet
  • Cover loosely with some damp kitchen paper or oiled cling film and leave for 40-60 mins until risen
  • Preheat your oven to 225c or 435F
  • Once the dough has risen, lightly spray with water, slash the top of the loaf, dust with all-purpose flour and place it in the preheated oven. After doing this place a dish filled with 1 pint of water in the bottom of the oven (this creates a crust)
  • Bake for 25mins, at which point reduce the temperature to 200c or 390F and continue to bake for a further 15-20mins
  • Remove the loaf from the oven (careful of the steam!) and leave to cool

Pizza adaptation

I’ve also used this recipe to make pizzas which the kids absolutely go crazy for. I’m not sure that it’s as much for the taste of it as it is for the whole “I’ve made this!” boost to their confidence. To use this for pizza making follow the steps until the “Knocking Back” stage.

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  • After knocking back the dough divide into equal pieces (I usually get 4-5 good size pizzas from this quantity of dough).
  • Preheat your oven to 250C or 475F (with baking sheets or pizza stones in)
  • Sprinkle a surface with a 50/50 combination of all-purpose flour and semolina
  • Dust the dough with some of the flour/semolina mixture. Flatten and stretch the dough until thin into which ever shape works best for you- circle, oval or rectangular. It just depends on what fits with your oven
  • Dress to your (and your kids!) taste with toppings. All of the following are good- tomato passata (as sauce); cheese shreds; bacon; tuna; pepperoni; chicken; fresh herbs; fresh mozzarella; thinly sliced figs…thre list can go on!
  • Carefully remove and dust your baking sheets or pizza stone with flour/ semolina mixture
  • Transfer your pizza(s) to baking sheets or pizza stone and bake for 10-12 mins until ready
  • Remove from oven, brush the exposed sides with extra virgin olive oil and servepic 8

So there’s a brief selection of some o the tasty goods from my kitchen. I hope you enjoy baking them, getting your kids to pitch in and tasting them as much as we have.

 

 

 

 

 

#Recipe- Egyptian Flatbreads

Egyptian Flatbreads 4

This started life as yet another “Popcorn” recipe which was consigned to the “Not Right Now” folder on my desktop. With the weather taking a turn for the better I’ve decided to dust it off and let it see the light of day. The flatbreads are really easy and they’re fantastic for picnic or BBQ weather. The popcorn feature ingredient can easily be omitted and the breads will be just as good- maybe not as much of a talking point though?

I love these with smeared with fresh, homemade hummus and sprinkled with some pomegranate seeds. They’re also ideal halved and stacked with slivers of BBQ’d meat, fresh juicy tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil. A definite taste for the summer!

Makes 4

Flatbreads

500g strong, white bread flour

10g salt

10g fast (easy) yeast

375ml warm water

40ml olive oil

2 tablespoons honey

 

Dukkah paste

100g chopped hazelnuts

50g sesame seeds

50g coriander seed

10g cumin seed

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

50g nigella seeds

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

14g Lemon & Fennel popcorn, crushed

Olive oil

Egyptian Flatbreads 1

  • Place the flour in a bowl, add the yeast to one side, and the salt to the other.
  • Create a well in the middle and add 275ml water, the olive oil and the honey and mix with your fingers until combined. Continue to add the rest of the water a little at a time until all the flour in the bowl has been incorporated. You may not need all the water- you want a dough that is well combined and soft, but not sticky or soggy. By the end your dough should be smooth and elastic.
  • Lightly oil a clean bowl and transfer the dough. Cover loosely with oiled cling film and leave to rise until doubled in size.
  • Whilst the dough is rising, prepare the dukkah.
  • In a pan add the chopped hazelnuts; sesame seeds; coriander seeds; cumin seed; nigella seeds; and paprika. Toast over a medium heat until fragrant.
  • Add the salt and pepper and grind until rough.
  • Add in the crushed popcorn and mix to combine.
  • Drizzle in enough olive oil to create a rough paste.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, tip out onto a lightly oiled surface and knock back to remove the air (knead for about 5 minutes).
  • Cut the dough into 4 (roughly) equal pieces, and flatten with your fingers in a rough circle shape. With a lightly oiled rolling pin, roll into a larger circular shape, approximately 10-12cms diameter.
  • Transfer to 2 baking trays lined with baking parchment (2 dough discs on each).
  • Smear each of the dough circles liberally with the dukkah paste, covering the entire surface. Leave to rest for 20 minutes.
  • Whilst the dough is resting, preheat your oven to 225 degrees.
  • When the dough is rested, place the baking sheets in the oven- one on top third of oven, one in lower third of oven. After 6 mins, swap the positions of the trays, also turning them 180 degrees (front to back). Continue to bake for another 6 mins.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool on their baking trays for a further 5 minutes. After this time transfer from the baking trays to wire racks.
  • The flatbreads can be served warm, or cool.