Chocolate ganache macarons

Macarons, macarons, macarons!!!

Tough to get juuust right but such a sense of achievement when do all turn out uniform, and most importantly with feet (that’s the bubbly area underneath).

They almost sound like little soldiers with little feet, wearing pink uniforms!

In order to get  your troops to match the above description, from my repeated experiments and extensive googling I have identified several key things that are important:

  • Firm White Glossy Peaks – that is, make sure that the egg whites form firm white glossy peaks, but these also should not be overmixed – as this can result in hollow macaron shells.
  • A Good Oven – consistent temperature throughout the oven and the macarons should be on a tray that is level. I mention this as I have made macarons in two different ovens using the exact same method, and had one batch come out lop-sided, but the other was perfect. Unfortunately problems with the oven may not be easily fixed, but at least you can have something concrete to blame that’s not to do with baking ability 😉
  • ‘Macaronage’ – this is the fancy term for folding the dry ingredients into the egg white mix. There are lots of videos on this out there – it is important to watch and get an idea of the necessary consistency. Also count – I do somewhere between 30 and 50 folds. Fold too many times and the batter will be too runny and macarons won’t hold their shape so well, fold too few times and the macarons will not have a smooth surface. 2 or 3 too many/too few folds can result in problems, as I have experienced! Macarons are frustratingly sensitive!
  • Preparation and Work Quickly – Have everything to hand that you will need. Make sure to first line a baking tray with non stick paper, and it also helps to get uniform macarons if you draw circles on to this (draw on to the reverse otherwise the pencil or ink will transfer onto the macaron) or place a template underneath. There’s nothing worse than finishing folding all the ingredients and then finding out that you still need to sort all this out, meanwhile those precious air bubbles are dwindling and making getting those ‘feet’ a distant dream. Also pipe straight down and not at an angle.
  • Rap and Form a Skin – meaning it is important that after piping out the macarons, to bang the baking tray multiple times firmly on the kitchen counter, this gets the excess air bubbles out and prevents the surface cracking during baking. Also don’t bake them straight away, set them aside, uncovered, and allow time (about 20 to 30 minutes, but can be longer due to humidity) for the macarons to form a ‘skin’ so when you gently tap the top it is sticky but holds together. Some recipes skip this step, but I have noticed that when I skip this the macarons end up cracked and/or footless.
  • Ingredients – The almond meal needs to be fine, and the ingredients need to be sieved so there are no lumps

Most of all, don’t worry when things go wrong. Macarons are just finnicky like that! One batch may be disaster because one tiny thing went wrong, but the next batch could be perfection. My main frustration has always been the price – almond meal is not cheap!

There are various different recipes for macarons with slight variations, but most recipes fall under the French or Italian method. I’ve only ever made macarons using the French method, I haven’t tried the Italian method (it involves beating the egg white over heat and using a sugar thermometer) but I wonder what the benefits of that is – I’ve heard it may be more full-proof.

Basic recipe for the macarons is from this website (allrecipes.co.uk) – though this recipe does not mention rapping the piped macarons, I have added this step because I think it is important.

Ingredients for the macaron

3 egg whites (approx 115g)

50g caster sugar

200g icing sugar

110g ground almonds

gel food colouring

Ingredients for the chocolate ganache:

150g dark chocolate

45ml heavy cream

Instructions:

Line a baking tray with non-stick parchment paper. Place a template under this to guide when piping macarons later.

Beat egg whites until foamy, then gradually add the caster sugar whilst continuing to beat the egg white until it is glossy and has stiff peaks. At this point add any gel colouring – I added pink colouring. The macarons will bake lighter than the mixture, so go a little darker than the desired result.

Sift icing sugar and ground almonds in a separate bowl and remove any large almond pieces that do not sieve. Fold this into the egg white mixture – this should take between 30 and 50 folds using a rubber spatula. The mixture should form a ribbon when falling off the spatula, and this should disappear into the mixture within 30 seconds. 

Spoon the batter into a piping bag with a round nozzle, and pipe on to baking sheet, following template as a a guide.

After piping, rap the baking tray on the kitchen counter, a couple of times on all four sides (you should see some air bubbles popping and the whole hitting the tray on the kitchen surface is very cathartic)

Then leave the macarons out at room temperature for about an hour, until they form a hard skin on top. (Time consuming yes, but this step is important. Meanwhile you can chill and have a cup of tea – or start prepping the ganache filling. Also, start preheating the oven to 140C just before the resting time is up.

Bake macarons for about 10 minutes – they should be set, with nice even feet and not browned.

Let the macarons cool before lifting from parchment (if they stick they may not be baked for long enough)

Sandwich the macarons with the yummy chocolate ganache filling.

How to make the ganache: heat the cream in a saucepan on medium heat – the cream should be hot but not boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until the mixture looks even. Then let the mixture cool until it is thick but still soft, and then beat with a mixer until the chocolate looks soft, fluffy and lighter in colour.

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Cinnamon & Blueberry Pumpkin Challah

As the title suggests – this is my creation of a blueberry and cinnamon pumpkin challah! I was slightly concerned when making this that the blueberries would be too wet and make the dough soggy – but by using blueberries sparingly they have not not had that dreaded effect. The bread is sweet but not too sweet, and has that slight hint of pumpkin, and when you get to bite into the blueberries they’re like pockets of juicy goodness! I’m glad this turned out nicely in the end as it was a bit of a gamble – firstly with the use of the pumpkin in the dough, and secondly with the blueberries!

Ingredients for dough:

550g strong white flour

160g tinned pumpkin (no added sugar)

55g vegetable oil

70g sugar

3 large eggs

7g yeast

5g salt

Ingredients for filling:

2tsp cinnamon

50g sugar

200g blueberries

(plus an extra beaten egg to brush on top before baking)

Instructions:

Mix all the dry ingredients for the dough together, ensuring the salt is not poured directly on the yeast. In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix to form a rough ball. Let this sit for 10 minutes (this makes kneading easier later)

Tip this on to a floured surface and knead until the dough is elastic and smooth. It should be a little sticky/tacky to touch – though if it is really wet add some strong white flour to help with kneading. Careful not to add too much!! (pictures below are of the dough mid-way through kneading)

Place the dough into a large bowl and lightly cover with lightly greased cling film. Leave to rise for about an hour (depending on kitchen temperature) until over doubled in size.

Meanwhile, whilst the dough is rising prepare the filling by mixing the sugar and cinnamon – that’s it!

When risen, divide the dough into four equal pieces.

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Take one of the four pieces and roll lengthways into a long rectangle, then sprinkle over an even layer of the sugar/cinnamon mix. Add a few blueberries dotted around. Then roll this up lengthways to form a long rope-like shape with the filling sealed in. Gently press the edges together to seal. Repeat this with all four pieces of dough, so now you have four strands of dough, each encasing the sugar/cinnamon/blueberry mix. See pictures below for what I mean:

Now is the best part which is braiding the challah! For this follow a video/ picture instruction for a ‘four strand braid’ – I would explain it here but it’s much easier to understand if following pictures/video. This video is a good reference point.

After braiding – lift the dough onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover loosely with lightly greased cling film. (I chop off the ends of my challah after braiding so I was left with a little bit of dough which you can see in the picture below – didn’t want to waste it!!)

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Leave to rise for about an hour (depending on kitchen temperature). Get the oven preheated to 200C just before the dough has finished rising.

Brush the top of the dough with beaten egg then put the tray into the oven. Bake for 5-10 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 180C and bake for a further 20-25 minutes. Here’s some pictures of the bread baking – I thought it looked a bit like a puffy chicken!:

The crust should be a nice shiny, deep brown – though the crust being the right colour does not necessarily mean that it is fully baked inside. If the crust browns too quickly before baking time has elapsed, cover it with foil to prevent it browning further.

 It was berry berry tasty; sinfully cinnamon-y and pumped full of pumpKING!

Beetroot Tangzhong Buns

I adapted this recipe from hokkaido milk bread, still using the tangzhong method to get soft, fluffy bread – but replacing a lot of the liquid with beetroot (which is about 87% water!) to keep the hydration as similar as possible. There is actually a higher water content/hydration level in this recipe (200g beetroot = about 170 to 175g water) and consequently I did add a little bit more flour when kneading. It is different in texture as I have replaced milk with water – but there is no detectable in how soft this bread is. And it contrasts well with any greens that go in the bun…
Because it is PINK bread!!!! What more do you need??
For the Tangzhong:
25g strong white flour
100g water
Final dough:
All of the tangzhong
200g beetroot (chopped very very finely, then mashed – or blend in food processor)
7g yeast (instant fast action)
350g strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon of salt
60g sugar
1 large egg

30g unsalted butter (melted and tepid temperature)

Additional: Pumpkin seeds to sprinkle on top, plus an egg (whisked) to brush on top before baking.

Instructions

First, make the tangzhong paste (water roux). In a pan, mix the flour with the cold water until there are no lumps. Then, whisk quickly over a low heat until the mixture thickens to a paste. It should be about 65C if you have a thermometer. It should be a white colour, if it’s grey chuck it out and start again.

Cover the tangzhong and place in the fridge until cooled to room temperature.

Next, mix the tangzhong with the melted butter (should be warm but not too hot to touch) and egg. Then add the beetroot followed by the rest of the dry ingredients, ensuring the salt is not poured directly on top of the yeast.

Mix this until all the flour is roughly incorporated, then tip on to a surface and knead until smooth and very elastic such that you can stretch it paper thin using your fingers. The dough should be a little sticky and difficult to work with initially, but keep kneading and it should become easier to work with. A dough scraper may come in useful too. I did add a little bit more flour to this recipe during the kneading process, but not loads! It should still remain a little sticky – that’s okay!

Once you have achieved this, place the dough into a container and cover with cling film. Leave to rise for about an hour, at room temperature.

Shape into 10-12 buns and arrange on a baking tray (there should be gaps between each once such that they will just meet when they bake – see below)

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They look super pink!

Lightly cover these with greased cling film and leave them to rise for about an hour.

When risen they should be just about touching and considerably larger in size. Brush these with egg wash and sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top:

Then bake for about 5-8 minutes in an oven preheated to 180C (at this point the bread should have formed a shiny brown crust), then bake for a further 25 (ish) minutes at 160C. Keep an eye on the baking and cover the loaf with foil once you’ve achieved the desired golden brown colour – this will usually only take about 5-10 minutes to!

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Yum yum yum! Nothing can ‘beet’ this!

Potato Onion Rye Meteil

 

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This is made following Peter Reinhart’s recipe from the book ‘Whole grain bread’ – one of the best books I ever chose to buy! It has some amazing techniques for making 100% wholemeal breads. This bread is with a rye and wholemeal flour mix – no white flour at all! The crumb is a more closed than you might get in a bread made with white flour, but it is soft on the inside and crunchy on the crust, everything needed in nice wholemeal bread! I think the potato really helps with giving it that soft texture. Also, the flavours from the wholemeal flours combined with the onion, molasses, rosemary and tang from the sourdough all thrown together in one loaf taste lovely!!

This isn’t my recipe but wanted to post about it because there are no photos of the finished bread in the actual book. Though there is a picture of his potato rosemary bread on the next page, but still no pictures of the crumb there! I essentially stuck to the original recipe, with the exception of halving the recipe to make one loaf instead of 2 (keeping all proportions the same), using a 100% hydration rye starter instead of 75% and using a little less vital wheat gluten (didn’t want the texture to have that gummy feel you get from vital wheat gluten!).

Reinhart calls this bread ‘potato onion rye meteil’ and really I had no idea what a ‘meteil’ was before making this – I would probably call it a loaf or a boule instead but thought meteil sounded french and fancy-ful!! When I googled ‘meteil’ all I found were a lot of french webpages and some immigration records – so I didn’t really get a greater understanding. I think it is something to do with ratio of rye flour to other flours. Please correct me if i’m wrong!

The techniques used in this bread are preparing a soaker and a starter the night before. The soaker helps to hydrate the wholewheat flour (as wholewheat can absorb so much more water than white flour) and soften the grain, as well as release flavour and start enzyme activity. It’s so much easier to work with wholemeal bread after it has just been given time to soak. Sourdough starter and yeast are used in conjunction in this recipe. I would like to make my own version in the future, where there is no need for yeast. Due to time constraints I stuck with using yeast on this occasion.

Also I enjoyed watching this Ted Talk by Reinhart about his wholegrain breads – particularly when he’s on about the life and death cycle that happens as grains go through the process to become flour, then dough, then finally bread! The grains die when they’re harvested, in the oven the yeast essentially brings the grains back to life, and then the yeast dies in the oven when it gets too hot for them, but that death brings life: BREAD! As such bread is a symbol of life. From wheat to eat!

This takes two days to make so it does take some planning!But that really isn’t much compared to other breads where it can take 4 days!

The life cycle of bread takes time apparently! I halved the original recipe as it made two loaves and i only wanted one. I have also tried to write the recipe in a way that shows how the timings can be fitted in around doing other things that you generally have to do in life, apart from making bread. I’ve organised the prep and fermentation times around when I need to sleep and be at work, whilst timing in when I will around to actually bring the bread together into a final dough and get it baked.

Here’s a rough time schedule that I used:

Night before at 10pm: Mix and prepare soaker

Night before at 12pm (midnight): Mix and prepare starter

8am on day of baking: place starter in fridge to delay fermentation

5pm: Take starter out of fridge to take chill off

6.30pm: Mix final dough

7pm: Leave dough to prove for 45mins to an hour

8pm: Shape dough and place in banneton. Leave to prove for second time, for another 45 mins to an hour.

9pm: Bake!

Bread should be ready just before 10, though by the time it’s finished cooling it might be quite a bit later! I usually save it to be eaten in the morning!

Ingredients for soaker:

71g whole rye flour

42g whole wheat strong flour

2g salt

85g potato water (cooled) – this is just the leftover water used from boiling potatoes. It helps to sweeten and soften the bread

2g vital wheat gluten (Reinhart’s recipe stated 3.5g of vital wheat gluten would be optional for this recipe – I thought I would compromise by using some vital wheat gluten but not as much as advised)

Ingredients for starter

35g whole wheat mother starter (recipe uses a 75% hydration rye starter but I used 100% and adjusted the other ingredients accordingly to keep roughly the same hydration ratios)

115g (whole wheat flour, rye flour, or combination of the two. I did 50g rye and 65g whole wheat flour)

74g water (room temperature, recipe asked for filtered or spring water, I used tap water!)

Ingredients for final dough

all of the soaker

all of the starter

64g of whole wheat flour or rye, or a combination (I used all rye)

5g salt

4.5g instant fast action yeast

113g cooked, mashed leftover potatoes

56g fresh, finely diced onion (recipe doesn’t specify what colour, I used a red onion)

7g molasses (recipe says to use honey, agave, molasses or sorghum syrup – I liked using the molasses as they give the dough a deeper brown colour)

1/2 tbsp fresh rosemary (recipe says to use either 1/2 tbsp of caraway or rosemary)

Instructions

I started preparing the soaker the night before. Mix all of the soaker ingredients in a bowl for one min, til there are no visible flecks of dry flour and it forms a ball. Cover with cling film/plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12-24 hours. (I left mine out from the night before at about 10pm until 6.30pm the next day, so that’s about 20.5 hours. Put the soaker in the fridge if it will be more than 24 hours. 

I also prepared the starter the night before. MIx all of the starter ingredients in a bowl, ensuring there are no visible bits of flour and all is hydrated. Let the dough rest for for about 5 mins, then knead again for a min. Dough will be a little smoother but still very tacky.

The recipe states to cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave for 4-6 hours at room temperature until doubled in size and the acidity is between 3.5 and 4 when tested with pH paper. I prepared mine at 12pm the night before and left it til 8am in the morning as I had a feeling it would take longer as it’s cold overnight! 12pm to 8 am is 8 hours, and that was just about the right length of time for my starter to double in size, not 4-6 hours. The recipe does state that it can take longer the 8 hours, though. I did not test for acidity though, I do not own any pH paper! I have been thinking maybe I should get some.

When the starter is ready, knead for a few seconds to get the gas out. It is now ready for using in the final dough. However! As my starter was ready after 8 hours and the soaker still needs time to ‘soak’, I put the starter in the fridge (covered with cling film) before going to work so that it would slow down its fermentation until when I got back home and would coincide with when the soaker would also be ready.

The starter just needs to be taken out of the fridge 2 hours before mixing in the final dough, to get the chill off.

When the soaker and starter are both ready, next is to mix the final dough!! Chop the soaker and starter into 12 small pieces using a dough scraper. Combine these with the rest of the ingredients. Stir or knead for about 2 mins. The dough should be quite sticky but still soft. Can add a little bit of flour but be wary of adding too much!

The dough can then be kneaded either by hand or with a machine. I used my hands as don’t yet have a machine – it should be kneaded for about 5 mins until softer and smoother, but still tacky. Tacky, not sticky. Let this rest for 5 minutes (I use this time to prepare a clean bowl), then knead again for a min. The dough is kneaded enough when it can pass the windowpane test.

Place the dough into the clean bowl and cover with cling film. Leave to prove for 45 mins to an hour, until about 1 1/2 times its original size.

When risen, form the dough into a loaf. I formed mine into a round boule. To give it strength stretch and fold the dough then shape into a round with a smooth, taut surface on one side of the round. Put this smooth surface face down into a well floured banneton. Cover loosely with cling film or an upside down large bowl, if this fits over. The recipe states to leave this to rise for 45 mins to an hour. I let mine rise for just over an hour, until it was about 1 1/2 times its original size. Start preheating the oven and a dutch oven (cast iron pot) about 3o minutes before the dough has fully proved. Preheat to the maximum temperature the oven can get to. Reinhart’s recipe says to preheat 218C but I like it to be even hotter to get maximum oven spring. I differ a little from the recipe here as I have used a dutch oven whereas they have used a steam pan. I think the dutch oven can produce more steam so is a little better – though it does limit me to a round shaped loaf.

When oven is preheated (as well as the dutch oven) and the dough has risen, remove the dutch oven from the oven and place somewhere heatproof (this is very important!!). Lift the lid off the dutch oven and gently turn the dough out from the banneton into the hot dutch oven. Replace the lid and put the whole thing back in the oven.

Bake for 20 minutes with the lid on (turning the temperature down to 200C after 10 mins), then turn down the temperature again to 180C, remove the lid and bake for a further 20 to 30 mins, until loaf is a rich deep brown and the internal temperature reaches at least 91C in the centre. I use a meat thermometer for this and it does the job!

Let the bread cool for 1 hour before cutting into.

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Enjoy!! I ate this plain with butter and also dipped in hummus, which was yummy!

I really liked the use of potato and potato water in this bread and is definitely something I want to continue using. Also want to try make this purely sourdough, rather than a mix of yeast and sourdough. Though that will making timings more difficult as I cannot fit in two sourdough rises in one evening – might have to be a weekend job!

Also I apologise for the VERY specific quantities referred to in the ingredients sections – Reinhart’s original recipe is very specific and I did not want to change that. Though I probably rounded to the nearest 5 when making this.

Beetroot & Caraway Boule

beetroot and caraway boule

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This loaf contains beetroot which gives it a bit of colour. It actually has an effect of making the bread look wholemeal but it isn’t at all! I really liked this bread – baking it in the cast iron dutch oven made the oven spring and crust amazing. Though I think I will add even more beetroot next time to get a pinker dough. And maybe make a sourdough version.

Ingredients:

500g bread flour

175g beetroot

6g salt

7g fast action dried instant yeast

2tsp caraway seeds

220g water

Instructions:

Boil beetroot until soft for about 40 minutes, or use pre-cooked packaged beetroot as this doesn’t need boiling. Then blend until smooth in a food processor.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, caraway seeds, salt and yeast. Add the pureed beetroot (make sure it’s cold) and add the water. Mix with a spoon until the dough roughly comes together. It should be tacky and a little wet.

Tip the dough out on to a kitchen surface and knead until it becomes smooth. Give it a few stretches and folds. Then place it in a bowl and cover until it is risen and puffy and over double its size.

Once risen, tip out on to the kitchen surface – shape the dough by  performing a few stretch and folds, then creating a ball shape and creating a smooth, taught skin over one side of the dough. This side of the dough will go face down into the banneton – becoming the top of the dough when turned out after the second prove. Ensure the banneton is well floured.

Cover the dough loosely with lightly oiled cling film. Leave to rise until over doubled in size.

Meanwhile, whilst the dough is rising, pre heat the oven to 250C, and keep the dutch oven in the oven in order to get it really hot.

When the dough has fully risen, carefully take the dutch oven out and place it somewhere heat proof (super important!! And protect your hands!!)

Take the lid off the dutch oven. Quickly and carefully (don’t get any fingers burnt) tip the banneton out in to the dutch oven. Then, still working quickly, using a sharp blade or lame (I use a razer blade) score the top of the dough into desired pattern, then replace the lid.

Quickly pick up the dutch oven and place it in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the lid, turn down the temperature to 220C and bake for a further 30-35 minutes. It should spring up and rise in the oven during those first 20 minutes with the lid on, and then brown after the lid has been taken off.

When baked (best way to check is by getting the internal temperature which should be 98C) let the bread cool fully before slicing and eating.

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Rye & Caraway Bread

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Rye & Caraway Bread

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Having a bit of a caraway thing at the moment! Getting carried away with caraway. Carrryaway! I really liked how this loaf turned out, and I think the results are all down to the extended autolyse (letting the flour and water sit untouched for several hours).

Ingredients

300g wholemeal rye flour

200g white flour

7g yeast

5g salt

360g water

Instructions

In a large bowl, mix together all the flour and water. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for 10 hours. That’s it! I did this in the morning before work, so it’s ready when I get back. It takes two mins to sort out in the morning. If your time schedule isn’t quite the same, the same effect could be achieved by following the same steps above except storing the mixture and letting it ‘autolyse’ at room temperature on the kitchen counter for 3 hours instead of 8.This can also be done overnight in the fridge, if that works with your time schedule better. This long autolyse really changes the feel of the dough and makes it much easier to work with. Try doing it without the autolyse (basically just a rest period!) and see what happens!!

If you’ve gone for the longer autolyse in the fridge, first take the autolyse mixture out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature (about an hour). If you haven’t done a long autolyse you can get started straight away.

Add the yeast and salt and then mix and knead to properly distribute it. The dough should be easy to handle but should also be tacky to feel.

Knead the dough until it becomes smooth. Give it a few stretches and folds. Then place it in a bowl and cover until it is risen and puffy and over double its size.

Once risen, tip out on to the kitchen surface – shape the dough by  performing a few stretch and folds, then creating a ball shape and creating a smooth, taught skin over one side of the dough. This side of the dough will go face down into the banneton – becoming the top of the dough when turned out after the second prove. Ensure the banneton is well floured before putting the dough in!

Cover the dough loosely with lightly oiled cling film. Leave to rise until about doubled in size.

Meanwhile, whilst the dough is rising, pre heat the oven to 250C, and keep the dutch oven in the oven in order to get it really hot.

When the dough has fully risen, carefully take the dutch oven out and place it somewhere heat proof (super important!! And protect your hands!!)

Take the lid off the dutch oven. Quickly and carefully (don’t get any fingers burnt) tip the banneton holding the dough out in to the dutch oven. Then, still working quickly, using a sharp blade or lame (I use a razer blade) score the top of the dough into desired pattern, then replace the lid.

Quickly pick up the dutch oven and place it in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the lid, turn down the temperature to 220C and bake for a further 30-35 minutes. It should spring up and rise in the oven during those first 20 minutes with the lid on, and then brown after the lid has been taken off.

When baked (best way to check is by getting the internal temperature which should be 98C) let the bread cool fully before slicing and eating.

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Ginger Cat Scones

These are my cat interpretation of the ‘Fat Rascals’ that Betty’s Tea Rooms are known for. Their fat rascals are essentially like a scone or a rock cake, and also feature a distinctive angry ‘rascal’ face, detailed with cherries and almonds. It looks like this:

Betty's fat rascal

I wanted to do a cat version so I’ve called it ‘Ginger Cat’ – it’s a cross between a scone and a carrot cake, with candied orange pieces, raisins and pumpkin seeds. I thought that with the orange and the carrot it befits the ‘ginger’ description’, and the little cat face (pumpkin seed eyes, raisin nose, candied orange whiskers) completes it as a ‘ginger cat’! I think the carrot makes the scone much more moist and soft, and the fruits give it a good amount of sweetness! And the faces are cute! I thought about creating ears somehow, but decided not to as the whole idea was for it to be kept as simple as possible, because that’s how the fat rascals are! The raisin nose was an after-thought, but I do think it makes it look more cat like. There’s also a mini ginger cat which I made with the last bit of leftover dough. I was going to use it as a tester but it was impossible to resist turning it into a baby ginger cat.

Ginger-CatGinger Cat scones

There are some similarities – right?

The recipe was adapted from this Waitrose recipe, I adapted the amount of flour, added candied orange, increased the amount of pumpkin seeds and added the cat face. I added a bit more flour as I found the mixture was too wet.

Ingredients: 

260g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

50g butter (in small cubes)

30g sugar

100g carrots (with excess water squeezed out)

35g pumpkin seeds (lightly roasted)

50g sultanas

50g candied orange (small chunks)

125ml milk

1tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

Mix the flour and baking powder together in a large bowl. Then rub in the butter until a breadcrumb-like consistency is achieved.

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Then mix in the sugar, candied orange, pumpkin seeds, grated carrot  and sultanas.

Then make a well in the centre and add the milk and vanilla extract.

Using a spoon to begin with, then using hands, bring the mixture together to form a soft dough.

On a lightly floured surface, pat the dough out to a thickness of around 2cm and cut into rounds. Place these on to a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.

Loosely cover the scones with cling film and place in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C (fan assisted).

Just before baking, brush the tops of the scones with milk. Bake for 15-20 mins.   They should rise and look golden in colour.

Decorate with pumpkin seeds, raisins and candied orange peel. Use a sugar syrup to secure the face on to the scone! I had candied my own orange the day before, following this BBC recipe.

These are lovely served cold or slightly warm with butter or cream or jam!

Cinnamon tangzhong wreath

Cinnamon tangzhong wreath

Cinnamon wreath bread

Cinnamon tangzhong wreath

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This is a nice, light and sweet bread – and the wreath/couronne shape makes it look quite pretty, yet it’s really easy to form the shape with the cinnamon sugar filling, as the filling isn’t too wet!

Like lots of my favourite bakes, it’s made using the tangzhong method – which ensures that it’s really soft and fluffy inside. It’s best eaten slightly warm with maybe a bit of butter spread on it. This lasted for a few days wrapped in a bit of foil. I was eating it for breakfast quite a bit as it’s not very very sweet! But the sugar quantity can be adjusted if you like your sweet breads sweeter!

I haven’t got any pictures of the shaping process this time, but have used the same technique in previous recipes, such as in this sourdough brioche couronne – there are pictures of how to do it there!

Ingredients for tangzhong paste:

25g strong white flour

100g water

Ingredients for dough:

All of the tangzhong paste

125 ml whole milk

7g fast action yeast

350 g bread flour

60 g sugar

1 teaspoon or 5g salt

1 large egg

30 g unsalted butter (melted)

(plus an additional egg for brushing on top before baking)

Ingredients for filling:

40g melted butter

2.5 tsp cinnamon

80g sugar

 

Instructions:

First, make the tangzhong paste. Though this is an added step, it is really quick and easy to do, and makes a big difference! In a small pan, mix the 25g strong white flour with 100g water (cold), until there are no lumps of flour remaining. Then gently heat the paste whilst stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens and reaches approximately 65C (though you don’t have to use a thermometer!)

Place the tangzhong in a bowl and cover with cling film (to prevent the paste from forming a skin).Place this bowl in the fridge to let it cool down.

When the tangzhong paste is fully cooled, mix it with all the rest of the ingredients for the dough. It can make it easier if the paste is first mixed with all the wet ingredients, followed by all the dry ingredients. This ensures that the tangzhong is nice and evenly distributed.

This should come together as a sticky ball of dough. This needs to be kneaded until the dough becomes smooth, soft and elastic. It should be such that you can stretch a small piece of the dough into a very thin, almost see through rectangle. Use a small amount of flour to prevent sticking whilst the dough is kneaded, but not too much as this will affect the final product!

Once the dough is fully kneaded, place it in a bowl and cover with cling film. Let the dough rise at room temperature for about 1 hour (depending on the temperature of the room this can vary a lot)– until it’s more than doubled in size.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling (takes 2 minutes!) and have a cup of tea. For the filling, just mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl, and have the melted butter ready in a separate bowl. Have a pastry brush to hand as well.

Once the dough is fully risen, it should be easier to handle and ready for the next step! On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into an even rectangle. Brush melted butter over the rectangle, then evenly sprinkle over the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Then, starting from the longer edge, roll up the rectangle into a rope/sausage shape. Then, using a sharp knife, slice this lengthways. You should then have two long pieces of dough, with the filling and layers exposed. Now these two ropes of dough need to be twisted together and then the ends to be pressed firmly together to form the circular crown shape. (This is hard to explain in words but I have some step by step pictures using this technique here).

Gently lift the couronne and then place it on to a baking tray lined with grease proof paper. Lightly cover the couronne with cling film, and allow it to rise until doubled in size again (about 40 minutes to an hour, depending on room temperature).

Have the oven ready and preheated to 180C (fan assisted) just before the dough is ready to go in. Just before baking, brush the dough with a beaten egg (to help make the crust shiny and deep brown coloured). Bake for 5-10 minutes at 180C, then turn down the oven temperature to 160C and continue baking for a further 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on the colour of the crust, as soon as it gets to the desired colour, cover the bread with foil to prevent further browning!

More pictures:

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Fudgey oreo brownies

Fudgey oreo brownies

Fudgey oreo brownies

Fudgey oreo brownies

I changed up a previous brownie recipe to make these (originally based on this excellent recipe from inspiredtaste.net) – with the addition of a layer of whole oreo biscuits AS WELL AS crumbled oreo pieces atop a substantial layer of frosting, these are even more delectable! I love this recipe as it uses cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate – which I find is cheaper and less messy. Brownies really don’t need melted chocolate to get that gooey consistency, just cocoa powder and the right amount of everything else. Not having melted chocolate also lets you control the sugar content a little bit more, which is nice. These are extremely soft and fudge-like, and sweet but not sickly… even with all that frosting. This is definitely a go-to brownie recipe, and so easy to change up. This can be baked without the oreos, with extra chocolate chips, with fudge chunks (see this recipe!), or just all out with lots of oreos and frosting – as I’ve done here!

Ingredients:

145g unsalted butter

250g granulated sugar

65g cocoa powder (unsweetened!)

1/2tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 large eggs

70g plain flour

 a big packet of oreos

for the frosting: (might not need it all!)

210g butter

420g icing sugar

2ish tablespoons of milk

plus some extra crumbled oreos

Instructions:

Mix butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a heat proof bowl. Place this over a pan of boiling water (not touching the water) and stir until the butter melts. When it’s ready it should look a little gritty but with all the ingredients properly distributed. Then, remove from heat and let rest till the mixture is tepid but not too hot to touch.

Add the vanilla and eggs (one at a time) and stir lots after adding each egg. When all the eggs are incorporated and the mixture looks shiny, add the flour and stir until fully incorporated. Then beat the mixture a few more times such that it becomes really thick and glossy looking. The batter should be quite thick so don’t worry about it being too thick!

Prepare a baking tin by lining it with parchment paper. Let the paper hang over two sides so that it is easy to pull the brownies out of the tin.

Pour half the brownie mixture into this tin. Then, carefully arrange whole oreo biscuits on the surface, leaving space between each one. Pour the remaining brownie mixture over this.

Bake for about 25-35 minutes in an oven preheated to 160C. You know it’s baked when it’s not too wobbly and a skewer comes out moist but not too gooey. You want it to be a little gooey, especially because it continues to bake a little once you remove it from the oven, and it will firm up a bit as it cools. And cake-like brownies are the WORST!!

 Let the brownies cool completely. Meanwhile, make the frosting by beating the butter with the icing sugar, and then adding a little milk to loosen this.

When the brownies are cool, decorate with the frosting and crumbled oreos. I just break the oreos up with my hands.

Then place in the freezer to firm up before slicing into squares. It’s easier to slice if it’s put in the freezer beforehand!

And that’s all! These really don’t take long to make and are a nice treat! They’re really rich and gooey and fudgey; basically everything you want and need in a brownie! You’ll definitely get brownie points if you feed people these 🙂

Also all the ingredients are easy to get your hands on when the brownie craving strikes. I know there’s been many occasions when all i’ve wanted to do is bake brownies and all the recipes I can find require me to go to the shop to buy chocolate or cream and going to the shop is the last thing I can be bothered to do! I think these cocoa based brownies are also much cheaper to make because a tub of cocoa powder lasts quite a while. Just make sure it’s pure cocoa powder and not hot chocolate powder as that does make a massive difference!

As an experiment, I’ve also substituted gluten free flour into this recipe and that was also a success! I actually baked these ages ago and only finally getting round to posting them. Got a bit of a backlog having been really busy with loads of interviews, getting a new car and getting a new job!

Porridge bread with sundried tomatoes and parmesan chunks

Porridge bread with sundried tomatoes and parmesan chunksPorridge bread with sundried tomatoes and parmesan chunks

Porridge bread with sundried tomatoes and parmesan chunksPorridge bread with sundried tomatoes and parmesan chunks

Porridge bread with sundried tomatoes and parmesan chunks

The addition of porridge in this bread gives it a really nice creamy texture, and then it’s lovely when you get bites of parmesan chunks and the sundried tomato! This is the first time I’ve incorporated cooked porridge into a bread – and I’m definitely going to do this more often as it gives a great texture, though it doesn’t taste of porridge at all!

Ingredients:
450g strong white flour
200g cold porridge (made with half milk, half water)
250g water
8g salt
4g yeast
140g sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
120g parmesan cheese, chopped into chunks
2 1/2 tablespoons of tomato puree concentrate

Instructions:
Mix the flour with the salt and yeast. Then add the water, tomato puree concentrate and porridge and mix until no visible bits of flour are present. The dough should be quite sticky and wet.

Keeping the dough in the container and using oiled or wet hands (which stops the dough from sticking), perform a stretch and fold by stretching one edge of the dough and then folding it back over the top of the dough. Rotate the bowl and repeat this. Do this two more times, rotating the bowl each time so that all four ‘corners’ of the dough are worked in this way. When oiling my hands I used the leftover oil from the sundried tomatoes!

Over a one hour to one hour and a half rising period (at room temperature, covering the bowl with oiled cling film) repeat this stretch and fold procedure every 15 minutes.

Note: this stretch and fold technique works well to develop the gluten in high hydration wetter doughs, but alternatively if you have a stand aid mixer this can be used to knead the dough prior to a bulk rise.

After the first rise, roll out the dough into a rough rectangle and spread over the sundried tomatoes and parmesan cheese chunks. Roll this rectangle up and then knead with your hands to distribute the added ingredients. A stand mixer can be used at this stage, if you have one.

Shape the dough by performing a few more stretch and folds to form a parcel, then forming this into a ball – stretching the skin really taught on one side (this side will go face down in the banneton and will be the top of the loaf) and pinching the seams on the other side.

Place this into a well-floured banneton and cover with lightly oiled cling film. Let this rise at room temperature for 45 to 1 hour 15 minutes.

Whilst the dough is still rising, get the oven preheated to 250C, and place the dutch oven (I use two cast iron pans that slot together, forming a lid) inside to preheat. Once preheated, remove the cast iron pot from the oven and place on the hob. Remove the lid. Transfer the dough to the cast iron pan, being careful not to burn your fingers in the process! I just flip the banneton into the pan as quickly and carefully as possible, then gently remove it. Another method is to tip the banneton’s contents on to a greaseproof sheet and then lift and lower the sheet into the cast iron pan/pot. The latter method would be really useful if you’re using a quite deep cast iron pot and don’t really fancy the idea of burning any fingers. The dough will sizzle and cook a little from the immediate heat but that’s normal!

Slash the dough as desired, then place the lid back over the base and transfer the whole thing to the middle shelf of the oven. It’s quite heavy, at least I think it is, so be careful! Bake for about 20 minutes with the lid on and at maximum temperature, then a further 20-25 minutes with the lid off and at a slightly lower temperature of 220C.

More pictures:

Porridge bread with sundried tomatoes and parmesan chunksPorridge bread with sundried tomatoes and parmesan chunks

Thanks for having a look 🙂