Saturday, 31 December 2016

Milk Bread Loaf

I have been thinking about making Zopf, which is a Swiss bread, introduced to me by my sister in Canada.  She had been given some and enjoyed it immensely.  But I decided that before I tried to make that, which requires the dough to be braided, that I would make a milk bread loaf.  This is probably very similar in texture and taste, since both are enriched dough, with milk and butter.  
I found a very good recipe in The Guardian, by Dan Lepard, from about 4 years ago.  This recipe called for a large loaf tin, which meant nothing to me, as it was rather imprecise.  But I was sure that the recipe amounts would make a much larger loaf than could safely fit in my 2 lb loaf tin.  So I decided that I would make the recipe, but would try to reduce the amounts to make a good sized loaf, that worked for my tin.

This recipe is unusual in that it doesn't really take much kneading.  Most of us think of bread as having to be kneaded  for quite a while, in order to get the right structure in the dough.  But for this recipe none of the kneading takes more than a minute at first and then 20-30 seconds or so each time.

I am very pleased with how my loaf turned out, it rose well and tastes simply wonderful.  Ideal just as bread with butter and jam, or marmalade, or for use in a sandwich.  The way I made it, forming two balls and placing them side by side in the loaf tin, means that it is easy to divide into two, for freezing half if required.

Milk Bread Loaf

Milk Bread Loaf - Video

  • 300ml whole milk
  • 80ml cold water
  • 12g fast action yeast
  • 500g stong white flour
  • 10g salt
  • 20g caster sugar
  • 60g softened butter
  1. Heat the milk to almost boiling point and pour into a bowl.
  2. Add the cold water to help cool the milk down.
  3. When the milk has cooled to a gentle lukewarm sprinkle the yeast over it and add a teaspoon of the sugar.
  4. Stir the mixture and set aside for 5 minutes, to activate the yeast.
  5. In a large bowl mix the flour, salt and remaining sugar.
  6. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture.
  7. Use a spatula to stir everything together.
  8. Once all the mixture has come together cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave for 15 minutes.
  9. Remove the plastic wrap and add the butter to the dough mixture.  
  10. Use your hands to mix it all together, giving a fairly vigorous knead for about one minute.
  11. Very lightly oil the work surface and tip the dough onto it
  12. Knead for about 10 seconds and form into a ball.
  13. Grease the bowl and place the dough in it.
  14. Cover with plastic wrap again and leave to rise for an hour, kneading for 20-30 seconds twice during the hour.
  15. Butter a 2lb loaf tin.
  16. Tip the dough out onto the work surface and shape.  Either divide in two and form into balls and place them side by side in the tin, or form into a single sausage shape and place in the tin.
  17. Cover and allow to prove until the dough has increased in size by about 50%(mine took 45 minutes)
  18. As the dough proves preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F.
  19. With a sharp knife slice the length of the dough about .5 inch deep.
  20. Sprinkle the top with flour.
  21. Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, until the top has browned nicely.  
  22. Remove and tip the loaf out onto a wire rack.  
  23. Tap the bottom to make sure there is a hollow sound(if not hollow sounding bake for a little longer).
  24. Allow the loaf to cool before slicing.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Blueberry Upside Down Muffins

I saw a lovely video on Joyofbaking for Cranberry Upside Down Muffins, which looked very good indeed.  I am not a lover of cranberries as much as I am of blueberries.  So I thought I would try to make the same thing, but with blueberries instead.

Of course I had to adjust the recipe since blueberries are much sweeter than cranberries, and also have more liquid to them.  But having done that I was able to produce a very nice muffin.  Though I didn't grease my muffin tin entirely uniformly, so the muffins rose a little unevenly.  But it didn't matter too much as they look fine once they are turned out, upside down. 

The recipe is an easy one and delivers a very pleasing result.  So if you like muffins and blueberries this is a good recipe to try.
Blueberry Upside Down Muffins

Blueberry Upside Down Muffins - Video

For the blueberry sauce:
  • 300g fresh blueberries
  • 75g granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
For the muffins:
  • 260g plain flour
  • 240 ml whole milk
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 medium egg(large in USA), lightly beaten
  • 56g melted butter

  1. To make the blueberry sauce place the blueberries, granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil
  2. Allow to boil until the blueberries have broken down and released their juices.
  3. Continue to simmer until the mixture reduces in volume and becomes thicker.
  4. Set aside to cool completely.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F
  6. Grease a 12 hole muffin tin.
  7. Melt the butter and allow to cool
  8. In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together.
  9. In a separate bowl whisk the milk, butter, egg and vanilla extract together.
  10. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the wet mixture into it.
  11. Mix until just combined, but do not over-mix.
  12. Spoon the blueberry mixture, equally, into the 12 holes of the muffin tin, spreading over the bottom.
  13. Spoon the muffin batter onto the top of the blueberry mixture.
  14. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean(mine took 16 minutes)
  15. Allow the muffins to cool for one minute and then turn out, upside down, onto a wire rack, while they are still warm.  You need to do this after one minute to stop the sauce from setting and sticking to the muffin tin.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Pfeffernüsse - German Iced Spice Cookies

My sister in Canada mentioned that she had bought some Pfeffernüsse, which are a German cookie that is iced(some recipes just roll the cookies in icing sugar).  They are also very popular, with different names in Denmark and The Netherlands.    I thought they looked very good and with all the spices they are quite unlike anything I have ever tried.  So I decided to look around to see what I could find, and then make some.

They are popular in Germany at this time of year, and I checked with a German friend as to how they are traditionally served.  He said that his family always had iced ones.  So that is what I wanted to make.   I found a very good recipe on daringgourmet. In that recipe the spices used are called lebkuchengewürz and that same website has a recipe to make your own here.  The mixture of spices is cinnamon, allspice, cloves, coriander, star anise, ginger, mace, cardamom and nutmeg.  So I made mine, folowing that recipe, but reducing the amount of cloves by half, since I find that cloves can be rather overpowering. Of course you can just add your own amounts of the various spices until you have two teaspoons full, trying to balance the flavours to your liking. It is quite important to include star anise(aniseed) and it is readily available in UK supermarkets, though you may have to grind it.  If you cant find star anise but you can find ground aniseed powder that will be fine.

Although the recipe takes quite some time to make, it can be done in three very short stages, the first is to make the cookie dough, then it has to chill in the fridge.  The second is to shape and cut the cookies, and then bake them.  The third stage is to ice them when they are cooled.  Altogether the actual work time should be less than an hour.

For my cookies I converted the recipe into metric measurements as best I could, since that is how I prefer to work.

The resulting cookies, and this recipe makes about 50, are very good indeed. 

                                         Pfeffernüsse - Video
for the cookies:
  • 290g plain flour
  • 25g ground almonds,
  • 1/2tsp baking powder
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 1/4tsp ground pepper
  • 2tsp lebkuchengewürz
  • 45ml double cream
  • 70g unsalted butter
  • 110g light brown sugar(I used muscovado)
  • 1 medium egg(large in USA)
  • 80ml honey
for the icing:
  • 290g icing sugar
  • 60ml hot water
  1. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, Lebkuchengewuerz, white pepper and almond meal. Set aside.
  2. Combine the brown sugar, honey, butter, and cream in a medium saucepan and heat, stirring frequently, until melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes. Stir in the flour mixture. 
  3. Once incorporated stir in the egg until thoroughly combined. The dough will have a nice glossy sheen. It will be very sticky and that's how it should be.
  4. Turn the mixture out onto some plastic wrap and wrap the dough tightly. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, and up to two days.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350 F
  6. Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and immediately cut in half and oll it into two strands, each ¾ inch thick. 
  7. Slice the rolls into ¾ inch thick rounds and roll each round into a ball (each ball should be about ¾ inch large). Work quickly while the dough is still chilled.
  8. Place the cookie balls on a line cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. 
  9. Remove and let the cookies cool completely.
  10. To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar and water until smooth.
  11. Dip each cookie in the glaze, letting the excess drip off, and place them on a wire rack positioned over a cookie sheet (to catch the drips) and let them sit until the glaze is fully hardened.
  12. Store the cookies in airtight container in a cool place. Will keep for at least 2 weeks and the flavor only gets better over time.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Christmas Mince Pies

As Christmas approaches our minds turn to what treats we are going to enjoy.  High up on the list, in the UK at least, is always mince pies.  I read, only yesterday, that supermarkets sell 370 million of them each year, with the average person eating 27.  I find that average number rather high, but it is true that mince pies are a big favourite.

I made my mincemeat a couple of weeks ago and left it to mature.  So today I made the mince pies.  This is just the first batch, I will make the main batch nearer to Christmas.  Of course you can buy very good mincemeat in the supermarkets, so you don't need to make your own if you don't wish to.

The recipe for the pastry is very simple indeed, with just a few ingredients.  So if you want a delicious treat for Christmas you should try this recipe.

The recipe below will make about 18 mince pies, if you roll the pastry as thin as I did, and use patty or bun tins.

I used a food processor to make the pastry, for quickness, but doing it by hand is easy enough.  It just takes a little longer.

For the recipe below I give the hand mixing method.  If you wish to use a food processor just put everything except the egg in the processor and pulse until it is fine breadcrumb-like.  Then add the egg and pulse until it comes together.
Mince Pies 

Mince Pies - Video
  • 574g mincemeat,( if you are buying it then 454g/1lb jar will be enough, if you slightly reduce the amount for each pie)
For the pastry:
  • 375g plain flour
  • 260g unsalted butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 large egg, plus 1 beaten egg for glazing
  1. Place the flour, sugar and butter in a bowl and rub together to a crumb consistency. 
  2. Add the egg, and mix together. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and fold until the pastry comes together, be careful not to over mix. Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill for 30 mins.
  3. Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7/425 F. 
  4. Roll out the pastry to 3mm thick. Using a round cutter (about 10cm), cut out 12 bases and place them into patty/bun trays. 
  5. Put 1 1/2 tbsp mincemeat mixture into each. 
  6. Brush the edge of each pie with a little beaten egg. 
  7. Re-roll out the pastry to cut 7cm lids and press them on top to seal. 
  8. Glaze with the rest of the egg, sprinkle with caster sugar, then make a small cut in the tops.
  9. Roll out the pastry again to make more pies, after you have baked the first batch.
  10. Bake mince pies for 15-20 mins until golden brown. Leave to cool before releasing them from the patty/bun tray and dusting with icing sugar. 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Danish Pastries

I have been wanting to make some Danish Pastries for quite a while, but I have put it off as the process is quite time consuming.  However today I finally bit the bullet and made some.

The lovely puff pastry that is so redolent of Danish pastries, in various shapes and filled with any number of different things, is just delicious.  I have enjoyed them so often, from shops, cafes etc.  I thought that it was about time I tried to make some.

For the dough I used a Paul Hollywood recipe since I have found that his recipes usually work very well.  The recipe uses strong white flour, though I have seen lots of recipes that simply call for plain flour/all purpose flour.  That will work too, but the texture with strong white flour is a little softer and I think works very well with puff pastry as it helps to give more structure.

Having made the pastry, which takes a long time, it was then time to create the Danish pastries.  That is the point at which you can become inventive, using whatever shapes you care to create and whatever fillings you wish to use.

For mine I was sure I wanted some raisin swirls, so that would account for half my pastry.  Then I decided to try some pin wheels, with some pecan and maple syrup centres and one other shape, which I don't have a name for but which I saw someone do on The Great British Bake Off a couple of years ago. I filled that shape with passion fruit curd and apricot.

As I mentioned you can use any filling you want, even savoury fillings, though you may wish to eliminate the sugar from the dough in that case.

The result of my bake, as can be see below, isn't too bad.  The raisin swirls and the passion fruit and apricot one look fine.  The pin wheels had rather too much of the pecan paste and it spread more than I wanted.  But all three taste very good indeed.

I should say that I made too much of the pecan and maple syrup mixture, so in the recipe below I have now halved that amount.

Danish Pastries

Danish Pastries - Video

For the dough:
  • 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 10g salt
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 10g instant yeast
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 90ml cool water
  • 125ml tepid full-fat milk
  • 250g chilled unsalted butter
For the fillings:
Raisin Swirls:
  • 50g raisins
  • 50g softened butter
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 50g icing sugar, if you want a simple glaze to go on top
Pecan and Maple Syrup Pin Wheels:
  • 45g pecan nuts ground finely
  • 13g softened butter
  • half tbsp maple syrup
  • 25g light muscovado sugar
  • chopped hazelnuts and muscovado sugar to sprinkle on top
Passion Fruit and Apricot Shapes:
  • 8 tsp passion fruit curd
  • 8 tinned apricots (halves)
To make puff pastry dough:
  1. Put the flour into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. 
  2. Add the salt and sugar to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. 
  3. Add the eggs, water and milk and mix on a slow speed for 2 minutes, then on a medium speed for 6 minutes.
  4. Tip thedough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball. Dust with flour, put into a clean plastic bag, or a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap,  and chill in the fridge for an hour.
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out your chilled dough to a rectangle, about 50 x 20cm and about 1cm thick.
  6. Flatten the butter to a rectangle, about 33 x 19cm, by bashing it with a rolling pin. Lay the butter on the dough so that it covers the bottom two-thirds of it.
  7. Make sure that it is positioned neatly and comes almost to the edges.
  8. Fold the exposed dough at the top down one-third of the butter. 
  9. Now gently cut off the exposed bit of butter, without going through the dough, and put it on the top of the dough you have just folded down. 
  10. Fold the bottom half of the dough up. You will now have a sandwich of two layers of butter and three of dough. 
  11. Pinch the edges lightly to seal in the butter. Put the dough back in the plastic bag and chill for an hour to harden the butter.
  12. Take the dough out of the bag and put it on the lightly floured surface with the short end towards you. Now roll it out to a rectangle, about 50 x 20cm, as before. 
  13. This time fold up one-third of the dough and then fold the top third down on top. This is called a single turn. 
  14. Put the dough back in the plastic bag and chill for another hour. Repeat this stage twice more, putting the dough back into the fridge between turns.
  15. Your dough now needs to be left in the fridge for 8 hours, or overnight, to rest and rise slightly. It is then ready to use.
  16. Take the dough from the fridge and cut in half.
  17. Roll out one half to a 36cm square
  18. Cut the square into 16 9cm squares
  19. Make 8 pin wheels by taking 8 squares and cutting into each corner towards the centre but not going all the way.
  20. Dab some egg wash in the centre and take one corner of each cut piece and pressing it into the centre.
  21. Place on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper.
  22. Take the other 8 square and fold each in half, into a triangle.  Cut from the folded edge up toward the point of the triangle, but not going all the way.  You need to do this about 1 cm from each edge, so two cuts.
  23. Unfold the triangle back into a square.
  24. Egg wash the centre square and fold one L shaped outer edge over onto the furthest edge of the centre square.
  25. Fold the other L shaped edge onto the other far edge of the centre square.  You will now have an elongated pastry with two layers forming a square in the centre.
  26. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  27. For the raisin swirls roll the second half of the pastry out to about 30x30cm. spread  the raisin mixture over the pastry, leaving a gap at the edge.
  28. Egg wash one edge.
  29. Roll the dough up into a sausage, pressing it down onto the egg washed egg.
  30. Cut into slices, as thick or thin as you wish.  I cut mine into 10 and discarded the ends.
  31. Place onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and press them down to flatten them.
  32. Egg wash all the pastries and leave to rest and rise a little, for two hours.
  33. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/350 F.
  34. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until the pastries have gone a nice golden brown.
  35. Remove from the oven and brush immediately with heated apricot jam if you want a nice sticky shine.
  36. Take the icing sugar and add a little water and mix together until you have a thick dripping consistency and drip onto the raisin swirls.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Sultana Loaf Cake

I do love sultanas, they are nice and juicy and give a great texture and taste to almost any cake.  This loaf cake has sultanas that have been soaked in cold tea for at least 5 hours.  I have also added some mixed spice to give a wonderful additional flavour.

I saw the recipe, without the mixed spice element, on a number of different websites without any particular attribution.  But I did see on one site a reference to a Delia Smith cookbook.  So maybe the base recipe is originally one of Delia's.

The recipe has no fat in it, getting its' moisture from the plumb tea-soaked sultanas, with a residue of tea as well.  Also a large egg adds a little extra moisture.

This is a very simple recipe, and results in a very stiff batter/dough, but it bakes well and delivers a wonderful cake.  From my reading I see that the flavour deepens if left for 2 days in an airtight container.  Of course that was never going to happen in my case, as I am always keen to taste what I have baked.
Sultana Loaf Cake

Sultana Loaf Cake - Video
  • 225g sultanas
  • 175ml cold black tea
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 175g demerara sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten(extra large in USA)
  • 1.5 tsp mixed spice
  • inch of salt
  • extra demerara sugar to sprinkle on top(either before it goes in the oven or when it comes out depending on preference.
  1. Place the sultanas in a bowl with the cold black tea and allow to soak for at least 5 hours.  Overnight is good.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350 F.
  3. Grease a 2lb/900g loaf tin, or line with parchment paper or loaf paper.
  4. Place the sultanas and residue of the tea in a large bowl.
  5. Sift the flour, mixed spice and salt over the sultanas and stir in.
  6. Add the sugar and stir in.
  7. Add the egg and stir in.
  8. Spoon the thick batter into the loaf tin and spread evenly, pushing into the corners.
  9. Bake in the oven for 1 hour, checking after 50 minutes.
  10. As soon as a skewer, poked into the centre, comes out clean remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before removing from the tin and allowing to cool completely.