Spring blooms and Hazel Maizel bread

I think it rather marvellous how a prospect of good weather for May Bank holiday weekend means that anyone who can will try to avoid work as much as possible on the Friday afternoon. We certainly witnessed quite a few people out and about yesterday afternoon as we did a little loop walk. We headed towards London Fields (full of people, a group was even barbecuing), Broadway Market (all outside eating and drinking spaces full), along Regent’s Canal (very busy indeed), up to Duke’s Brew and Que for a couple of pints and ribs then home. Four and a half miles of sunshine, glorious weather and gorgeous spring blooms:

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Today, the weather is not quite sure of itself so I spent the morning baking bread. Thought I’d try another recipe from River Cottage Bread Handbook and decided on this Hazel Maizel Bread – a wholemeal and polenta loaf with hazelnuts and honey. It also required apple juice, which I didn’t have and it was way too early in the morning for any shops to be open so I replaced juice with yoghurt. It’s a lovely, nutty bread with hints of sweetness from the honey, great crumb (I steamed the oven) and a lovely soft texture inside:

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Like the seeded loaf I did last weekend, this bread uses both yeast and sourdough starter and it benefits from a longer proving time but doesn’t take as long as sourdough bread. Since I adapted the recipe from the book somewhat, posting it here:

400g strong wholemeal flour, 100g polenta, 1tsp salt, 1.5tsp quick acting yeast, 1 ladleful sourdough starter, 20g melted butter, 1tsp honey, 150ml water, 200g greek yoghurt, handful of chopped hazelnuts

Mix all the ingredients except the hazelnuts in a bowl then knead by hand for 10 minutes or 6 minutes in the mixer with the dough hook attached. The dough should be pliable and elastic. Flatten the dough then sprinkle hazelnuts and knead briefly to incorporate. Shape the dough into a round then place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean cloth and leave for an hour. Take the dough out, deflate and shape into a round again and leave for another hour. Take the dough out, flattening and deflating it one more time, then roll it up tight, flatten again and blanket fold. Shape and leave to prove for an hour and a half in a floured basket or on a floured chopping board, covered. In the meantime, heat the oven to 250C or as high as it will go, placing an empty loaf tin on the bottom shelf and a baking stone or sheet in the centre of the oven. When the oven is hot enough, slash the dough with a serrated knife, spray with water and place on the baking stone/ sheet and pour boiled water into the loaf tin to create oven steam. Lower the temperature to 180C after ten minutes if the loaf is browning quite well or to 200C if the loaf is still looking pale and then bake for a further 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. 

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