Sunday, 29 November 2009

Fresh from the oven - White tin loaf

Firstly, apologies for the lateness of this post, I've been rather disorganised recently and despite having a whole month to bake this, did it right at the last minute. No, I'll probably never learn! Hence the slightly dodgy photo too!

However, I really wanted to post this because I was very excited to find out what the baking challenge for this month's Fresh from the oven group was when it was revealed. Our host for this month is Linda from With knife and fork and she has chosen white tin loaf, a very British plain loaf, but no less delicious for that. However the thing that excited me most was the method she wanted us to use to make it. Regular readers of the blog will know that Dan Lepard is my favourite baker - his recipes for cakes and breads are innovative and inspiring and his bread kneading technique has certainly revolutionised my bread making. I had never really consistently had success with bread making until I tried his kneading technique, which is explained below (reproduced from the original at with knife and fork). Essentially you do very little kneading (which being lazy suits me well!) and you don't knead on a floured surface, but an oiled one. This is the key and while it might sound odd, please, please give it a try - it's the one thing that made dough, even relatively soft/wet dough manageable for me. (Although I'm not claiming to be an expert in bread dough by any stretch of the imagination, and doughs I feel are wet are probably childs play to a seasoned baker!)

I scaled the given recipe slightly as I have found in the past that 500g flour makes slightly too much dough for my 2lb loaf tin, so I scaled to 450g and altered the liquids accordingly. The other change I made was to bring my milk to the boil before using it. The reasons for this are explained in this recipe, published later than the one which inspired our recipe this month, I guess life is a learning process and since what Dan says makes good sense I decided to follow it. I therefore used cold tap water to cool the milk down, which worked well.

My altered quantities are:
180g semi-skimmed milk, scalded
135g cold water
1tsp dried yeast
150g plain flour
300g bread flour
1tsp salt

I baked the loaf at Gas 7 for 5 minutes, followed by 30 minutes at Gas 6, then 5-10 minutes upside down at Gas 6, worked out from experience of my oven! This dough wasn't as active as some I've worked with, but it was quite cool in my kitchen when I was making it, and it has given a beautifully shaped loaf (you're lucky you don't get to see some of my day-to-day thank-goodness-it's-only-me-eating-it type loaves!!!). It doesn't taste at all milky, but has a lovely crumb, quite close and eminently suitable for sandwiches. I'll continue to use a proportion of milk in my doughs if I have spare in the fridge because I was really pleased with this loaf.

Check out everyone else's loaves at the Fresh from the oven blog!

Dan Lepard
says he developed this when he was working full time in commercial kitchens (that made artisan hand kneaded bread) because there wasn’t time for full 10 minute knead of all the different bread batches so he switched to short kneads spaced out and found it works just as well, part of the development of a good gluten structure is dependent on the time elapsed not the vigorous kneading. I liked the idea because I’d not been getting good textures with either a machine or a normal hand knead. I am now a wholesale convert.

You must use oil not flour on the kneading surface and your hands. Something like vegetable oil is good.

The dough must be quite sticky and soft to start with. It will firm up when kneaded and as time progresses.

Once you have soft sticky dough leave it covered in the bowl for 10 minutes.

Now oil your kneading surface and hands and tip the dough out.

Knead for about 12 seconds by folding in the edges to the centre, a bit like shaping a round loaf, rotate the dough as you go.

Flip the dough over, leave it on the surface and cover with a cloth. Wash out the bowl and then oil it lightly. Put the dough back in the bowl and cover.

Leave for 10-15 minutes and then do another 12 second knead. You will notice the dough is already less sticky and firmer.

Leave for 20 -30 mins and repeat the fast knead. You are aiming to have kneaded the dough 3 times in the first hour.

Leave covered to rise until at least 50% larger but not more than double in size (kneading once per hour if it takes more than hour to increase in size).

Tip out onto the oil surface and press the air out of the dough using the tips of your fingers so its square-ish in shape. Repeat the fast knead process (or fold in to thirds then rotate through 90, flatten again and fold into 3rds again).

Shape the dough as required for the particular loaf you are making. Put it in a tin, or supported in a floured cloth in a bowl.

Leave to rise until at least 50% larger and preferably almost double in size.
Slash top and bake as per your recipe.

White Tin Loaf (based on Dan Lepard’s Quick White Loaf, p63 of the
Handmade Loaf

2lb loaf tin greased and floured or lined with baking parchment (no need to line the short ends just oil them).

Oven to be pre-heated to its maximum setting (R10/250C) and with a tray of water in the bottom to create steam.

200g semi skimmed milk at room temp (Dan uses whole milk but semi skimmed seems to work fine)
150g water at room temp (remember 1g = 1ml but its easier to be accurate weighing fluids)
1 tsp fast action yeast (or 2 tsp fresh yeast crumbled)
200g plain white flour
300g strong white bread flour
1 ½ tsp fine sea salt


Mix the flours and salt together in a bowl.

Mix the water and milk together in a separate bowl and whisk in the yeast.

Add the liquid to the flour and mix with the fingers of one hand to a soft sticky rough dough. You may need to add a little more liquid do this a teaspoon at a time until you have a soft sticky dough.

Follow the kneading instructions above.

The first rise will probably take about an hour from the last knead.

To shape for a tin loaf, flatten the dough to a square about the same width as your tin. Roll the dough into a cylinder and press the seam firmly, fold under the two short ends and place in the tin seam side down.

Allow to rise (covered) to 1 ½ to 2 times volume i.e. to the top of the tin.

Slash the top of the loaf along it length and put it straight into the oven for 10 minutes at maximum temperature. After 10 minutes check how it’s browning and drop the temperature as follows (these baking guidelines are from the River Cottage Bread Book):
R6/200C if the crust is pale
R4/180C if crust is noticeably browning
R3/170C if crust is browning quickly
And cook for a further 40-50 minutes.
I usually check again part way through this time and either adjust temperature again or cover the top with foil if it’s brown enough. Also note that with a traditional gas oven (i.e. one without a fan) the top may brown far too quickly on the side near the heat at the initial temperature so you might want to start at a lower setting of R8/9 for the first 10 minutes. Adapt the setting for what you know about your oven and how things usually bake.

When it’s cooked turn it out of the tin and allow to cool.

Then when it’s cooled cut a big huge doorstop of a slice, toast it and slather with lashing of butter. Yum.

The recipe also works well with a mix of 50:50 wholemeal and white bread flours. You’ll probably need 2-3 tbps extra water.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Cinnamon apple cake

This is a Dan Lepard inspired recipe. Well, it's more than that really - it's his recipe, but with my substitutions for ingredients that were unavailable. The original recipe was for rye apple cake, and can be found here, on Dan's forums. As you can see, it's receiving rave reviews (and rightly so if this incarnation is anything to go by) and so I really, really wanted to make it. Apples are perfect right now, and a touch of spice is just right for the miserable rainy, windy, chilly weather we're having here at the moment.

Before I went shopping, I checked my cupboards and was sure I had rye flour. On my return and closer inspection, I didn't have rye flour, so I had to substitute normal plain white flour. I was also obliged to substitute the ground almonds. I do sometimes wonder why I end up wanting to make recipes that require ground almonds when I clearly can't eat them and there are so many recipes out there without nuts in!!! Almonds are much higher in fat than flour, and have a different texture and various other properties, so it's not necessarily just a case of a straight swap for flour. I'm never sure what the best substitute is but in this instance I spotted some semolina that I thought might add a little of the texture of the almonds (although not the fat or the flavour) so I used that instead. I was hoping that these changes didn't mean that the apple chunks would sink..... and fortunately they didn't! If you don't have nut allergies to contend with, use the almonds, I'm sure they're delicious!

You can see the lovely soft apple surrounded by a layer of cinnamon in the picture below. I guess that the apple lost moisture as it baked and that's why the apple pieces appear to be sitting in their own little holes. I was really impressed that the apple pieces stayed suspended so well in the mixture, I had worried that they would sink, but they were evenly distributed. And I didn't just pick a good slice to photograph - it was like this through the whole cake! Some people noted that it took longer than stated to cook - mine was fine at about 40 minutes from what I remember.

I'd love to make this again with the rye flour and see how it changes the taste and texture of the cake, and how it complements the apple and cinnamon, but this cake is delicious in its own right, and I'm certainly glad that I didn't let having no rye flour put me off trying the recipe!

This was gorgeous - the cinnamon-y warmth and the soft apple in a lovely moist cake. I didn't put flaked almonds on mine before baking but added a (very) generous sprinkling of demerara sugar before baking (my hand didn't slip, honest!!!) and this provided a lovely sweet crunchy top to the cake. Didn't last long at work and received appreciative comments.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Chocolate pear cake

Perhaps not the most attractive photograph, but certainly a delicious cake. I had a desire for a basic chocolate cake, but also wanted to use some of the seasonal fruit around at the moment and pears and chocolate seemed like a good combination. Based on a recipe in 'Mix', a compilation cookbook from the Australian Women's Weekly (a recent payday cookbook purchase....) I had bookmarked this one a while ago to try. It didn't disappoint and I will be making it again.

The recipe is for a plain chocolate cake with a chocolate icing and I decided to peel and thinly slice a large-ish pear and place it on the top of the mixture before baking, in the (rough) shape of spokes of a wheel. I had sort of hoped that the pear would stay on the top, but it largely didn't, sinking mostly without trace into the mixture as it cooked - you can see a piece of sunken pear in the picture at the top. One piece did stay up though, and with hindsight it's perhaps best that most of the pear sank because the piece remaining started to discolour quite quickly - a cake best eaten on the day of making.

The cake has quite a high proportion of sugar, but doesn't taste too sweet, instead it seems to have a moist dense but not heavy crumb, sort of tending towards brownie. Delicious in other words! The pear worked well with the chocolate, and there's something about the grainy texture of cooked pear that I really like - it's a similar texture to tinned pear, which I also like!

Chocolate pear cake
1 medium to large pear, peeled and thinly sliced (I used quite a ripe conference pear for this)
125g butter, softened
1tsp vanilla extract
275g caster sugar
2 eggs
150g self-raising flour
50g semolina (the original recipe said 200g self raising flour)
50g cocoa powder
160ml water

- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease and line a deep 20cm/8" round cake tin and line with baking parchment.
- Beat butter, extract and sugar together until well combined. Add eggs, sifted flour, semolina and cocoa and the water and mix on a low speed until combined. Increase the speed of your mixer and beat about 3 minutes until the mixture is smooth and paler in colour.
- Spread mixture into cake tin. Arrange the pear around the cake in a spoke design. Bake for about 1 hour, although mine took about 1 hour 10-15 mins.
- Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.

This would make a really delicious warm dessert with some vanilla icecream, but was equally as good cold with a cup of tea.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Buttermilk raisin cake revisited

Oh, this is just such a delicious cake that even though I've already posted about it once here, I want to sing its praises all over again. Last time I made it, I can't say the experience was a total success, but the flavour was so amazing that I needed to attempt it again and seeing the last piece in the freezer from last year (what can I say - my freezer is full enough that I could lose anything in there!!!) was all the prompt I needed to dig out the recipe.

The recipe was originally from the Caked Crusader, and I haven't really made any changes to the proportions of the cake, just to the overall size. As mentioned last time, the cake took far longer to cook than I expected, resulting in an overcooked edge. To recify this I decided to keep the tin size the same but to make 2/3 of the recipe. This worked admirably, and the cake cooked in around an hour at the same temperature. Perfect. I was really pleased with the texture of the crumb and the edge wasn't too thick or dark this time. I served it au naturel, but if you want to gild the lily, I suggest you hop over to the Caked Crusaders blog for her custard buttercream recipe to serve with it, which sounds rather divine!

I can't explain the flavour of this cake well enough to do it justice, but it's sweet yet not too sweet and the raisins and buttermilk combine beautifully - the sum is so much greater than the parts and I urge you to try it even if you're not the world's greatest raisin fan.

I used the following quantities this time round, but followed the same method as last time, found on the Caked Crusader's blog.

Buttermilk raisin cake170g butter, softened; 170g caster sugar; 2 eggs; 1 tsp vanilla extract; 200g raisins; 250g plain flour; 1 tsp baking powder; 115ml buttermilk. You will need an 8" square cake tin, greased and lined with baking parchment.

Monday, 9 November 2009

A different Parkin for Bonfire night

Yep, it's that time of year again, and although I'm a couple of days late, I'm going to post this anyway. I wrote about making Parkin last year, so you can read that post for some more of my thoughts on this rather delicious treat. This year, I decided to try a different recipe, just for a change, and to see if I could lose the rather burnt looking top from the other recipe (I'll just reiterate that although it always looks burnt, it never seems to taste it). I debated making the other recipe but only doing 2/3 so that it cooked more quickly, but was browsing through the forums over on Dan Lepard's website (bet you never saw that one coming did you!) and found his recipe for 100 year old parkin. Well, it'd be 102 year old parkin now, but what's two years among friends?!?

Anyway, the recipe is here and as I stuck to it pretty closely I'll not reproduce it, but will leave you to find it yourselves! The only changes I made were to use salted butter and omit the salt, use 100ml milk (rather than 50ml, a change suggested by Dan later in the thread) and to substitute crystallised stem ginger for the mixed peel. I quite like mixed peel if it's the stuff you cut up yourself, but I wanted to go with the overall gingeriness (is that a word?) of the parkin.

I was really pleased with how this turned out - it's delicious. Nubbly and oaty and gingery and biting into a piece of crystallised stem ginger is particularly good - I might add more next time. You really do want to leave this to mature after you've made it. I left mine wrapped up for 5 days before cutting it, and it continued to improve for a few days after that, getting stickier on top (and then it was all gone....). I hate to say it, but I think J's recipe from the Cordon Bleu cookery course may have been ousted in favour of this one. Thanks Dan.

And you can see that the top isn't burnt either - woo-hoo!!! Success all round. Colleagues were really pleased when this arrived at work - ooooh, Parkin!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Oven dried tomato and basil rolls

These rolls are what happened to the rest of the dough that I used to make the bread bowls and foccacia here. You can find the recipe in that post, so I'll just outline how I made these here.

I had some cherry tomatoes in the fridge crying out to be used up, so I decided to roast them with a little dried thyme and a drizzle of olive oil. I used a 250g punnet of tomatoes, halved them and roasted fairly slowly, probably on a medium heat (although I can't quite remember, about Gas 4 ish) for a while (oh, this is so precise isn't it!!!) until they looked shrivelled but not cremated. Probably around an hour, but start checking earlier and keep checking. I had other things in the oven at the same time, so I'm not sure exactly how long they took. Remove and allow to cool.

When the dough was ready for shaping, I patted it out into a rectangle, and spread the roasted tomatoes (I probably used about half of the punnet) over the dough, and add a liberal amount of fresh basil. Roll into a sausage and cut 6 slices. I then pinched one side of the slices together to stop the tomatoes escaping from inside, and turned the rolls onto that sealed side, so that the open side faced upwards, see below.

I allowed the rolls to prove for around 40 minutes (I think, again these were a side line to various other things going in and out of the oven) and then baked at 200C/Gas 6 for around 30 minutes - again check to make sure they're not burning.

They were delicious - the sweet tartness of the tomato worked really well with the silky soft, smooth olive oil enriched dough, which was moist and very more-ish. I was really pleased with the way these looked and would definitely make them again. Really good with any Italian meal requiring a bread roll, or with soup for winter lunchtimes. Perfect when there's frost on the ground and a nip in the air.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Milk Chocolate and Orange Cookies - Sweet and Simple Bakes

Happy November everyone! Where exactly has this year gone? - I can't believe it's November already and time for the next installment of Sweet and Simple Bakes! Maria has chosen a cookie recipe for us this month, and I have to admit to being a little unsure about cookies. Cakes, yes, cookies, hmmm, maybe. It's not that I don't like eating them, more that I'm just not very good at making them. I have a tendency to over-bake them and they come out too crispy and not as soft as I'm hoping for. Perhaps the cure for this is just to bake lots and lots of cookies! Doesn't seem such an onerous task does it! So let's start with the Sweet and Simple recipe. You can find the recipe here, at the Sweet and Simple recipe blog and be sure to check out the round up, published tomorrow at the Sweet and Simple bakes blog, here.

As with all of the sweet and simple recipes these were easy to put together, once I'd remembered to leave the butter out of the fridge to soften (difficult when my kitchen is so cold that the butter stays hard anyway!). I decided to use milk chocolate, as I sometimes find white chocolate too sweet and I thought milk chocolate would go well with the orange flavour. My absolute preference would have been dark chocolate (70% or so) but I know this isn't that popular at work and didn't want to have to eat the whole batch myself! These really spread a lot during baking, so be sure to leave adequate room between them for expansion. If you don't you'll end up with one ginormous cookie, as shown below.....oops!!!

Cookie sheet!!!

Luckily I was baking in two batches, so managed to get some normal shaped cookies too! So what were they like? Well, they seemed to go pretty well at work, and were very nice. But I feel that I did succumb to my old weakness of cooking them for too long as they were mostly crunch with very little chew. This is a perfectly nice recipe, but my quest for the perfect cookie has just begun. Stay tuned.......

Perfect cookie!


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