So preoccupied with writing the final essay for a course I’m doing that I hadn’t even thought about baking bread this morning. It suddenly dawned on me as I was switching the coffee machine on that it was Saturday and, yes, I’d planned to spend the whole day writing but bread would only really take a minute. I picked the Spelt bread from River Cottage Bread book as I knew the method would pretty much be the same as the last couple of breads I made from that book and here is the finished result:The book suggested a longer knead (8 minutes in the mixer as opposed to 6) and I ended up with a pretty elastic dough that shaped very well. Was super happy with the shape of the final loaf even if it did deflate a tad as I plonked it onto the peel and into the oven. Must be gentler next time. Here is the cut loaf,This also has sourdough starter as well as yeast, so it is a more robust bread that you can spread cold butter on and the crumb is very good too. Just used some for cucumber sandwiches to have with tea, kept the crusts. Very old fashioned but not particularly planned either – fridge is so empty as I’ve been spending all my time out of work either writing this stupid essay or sleeping, that cucumbers are pretty much the only vegetables I have!
Obviously, the best thing about Easter. Home made Hot cross buns.
Last year I did Dan Lepard’s recipe from The Guardian and this year, a friend urged me to try the Lily Vanilli recipe from Waitrose Kitchen. OK, I thought and then had the idea to make them with sourdough starter instead of using yeast. This obviously meant that the buns took a lot longer – I started yesterday late afternoon and they were out of the oven just before 11 this morning but the end result is rather wonderful. Very fruity (with figs, apricots and sultanas, no currants), subtly spiced (sultanas were meant to be soaked in brandy and spices, I used strong jasmine tea instead) and surprisingly light (as well as rye in the sourdough starter, I used wholemeal and white flours, recipe only uses white and I reduced the sugar). For the glaze, I used Dan Lepard’s sugar and mixed spice syrup rather than Lily’s brandy and apricot jam glaze.
There were 10 an hour ago and now there are 6 left. They are huge too… Here is my adapted recipe:
For the sponge:
350g strong white flour
A couple ladlefuls of sourdough starter (or rather ‘tip some out of the jar’, I never weigh the starter
100ml strong jasmine tea
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
Zest of one orange
75g strong white flour
100g strong wholemeal flour
70g chopped dried apricots
70g chopped dried figs
75g butter, melted
1 egg (large)
50g plain flour
25g caster sugar
½ teaspoon mixed spice
Mix flour, milk and sourdough starter for the sponge into a wet dough and leave for 4-5 hours, covered. Pour jasmine tea over sultanas, spices and orange zest and leave to soak for the same length of time.
Strain the sultanas, discarding star anise and add sultanas to the dough. Add chopped apricots, figs, sugar, salt and the rest of the flours. Lightly beat the egg, add melted butter then add to the dough, mixing well to combine. Knead for ten minutes until soft and elastic then leave overnight, covered.
In the morning, deflate and briefly knead then divide into 10 balls. Place onto baking tray lined with baking parchment and leave for another 4-5 hours, covered until risen by half. I left mine for 4 and a half hours.
Preheat oven to 220C (fan assisted), mix the flour and water into a paste and pipe onto buns. Bake for 10 minutes then lower the temperature to 200C and bake for another 10. Meanwhile, bring all the glaze ingredients to boil until thickened into a syrup consistency. Leave to cool a little before glazing. Leave to cool a little more before devouring.
Sourdough is a wonderful thing, so far, I’ve only used my starter to make bread. As you feed the starter daily, you throw half of it away replacing with fresh rye flour and water. That’s really quite a lot of waste and I’m super grateful to Frugal Feeding for posting the recipe for sourdough pancakes a few weeks back. What a marvellous idea, would have never thought of this myself. Beloved was very excited when told that they’d come with bacon and maple syrup. Gone in seconds.
Note – I very likely used more starter than the recipe suggests, as I never usually weigh it when making bread, thought I wouldn’t weigh it now either. Might try adding some cream cheese to the mix as well and then have with blueberries or other fruit and yoghurt.
I picked this book up years ago (Borders bookshops were all the rage at the time), thinking it may come in useful some day then put it on a shelf and pretty much forgot about it for a few years. Typical, have lots of books like that. Then I remembered it had a recipe for elderflower cordial, which I’m making at the moment and off the shelf it came. It also tells you how to make butter – did not realise how simple making butter is so thought I’d try it. Last night was as good a time as any – words fail at the excitement and joy I got from this tiny little pat of butter I produced.
Am sure lots of people make butter at home – have never really thought about it before but so glad I did this. Here’s what to do:
– pour double cream into a jam jar and shake until it separates into a lump of butter and the remaining liquid is buttermilk. The cream should be a few days old, not fresh.
– pour out buttermilk and reserve if using for another recipe (e.g. pancakes), then rinse the butter by pouring water into the jar and gently swirling until water runs clear.
– press butter with the back of a wooden spoon to squeeze out any remaining buttermilk and do this properly or butter will go rancid. Add salt if you like salted butter (apparently it also keeps longer) or just put in fridge if you prefer unsalted.
That’s basically it. I probably had only about 100ml double cream left and the jar in the back of the picture is 500ml – gives you an idea on how much butter you get. The shaking didn’t take too long – perhaps around half an hour, was making dinner at the time so would just pick up the jar and give it a few vigorous shakes every now and then. Lost crafts book says some people make this in a food processor but I really see no need to do that.
Going to have my little bit of homemade butter for breakfast with yesterday’s black pepper rye bread.
In other bread news, I now have my first sourdough starter!! Am following Dan Lepard’s instructions from Short and sweet and have had a little dough ball (rye flour and water) for 5 days before mashing it with more water and adding more flour to make this mush last night. There are already bubbles in it this morning and it doesn’t smell particularly nice:
Can’t wait to make first sourdough but obviously still a while to go. Am likely to burst with excitement prior to actually producing any bread…
Last project this weekend – elderflower is currently steeping in sugar syrup so will be bottling my little batch of cordial later this afternoon when I get back from Taste of London where I’ve a little work to do. Shame the weather is rubbish, will probably get soaked…