I am home alone again, with M away in the US for work. I find I bake bread a lot more when this happens, sometimes simply because I run out and just can’t be bothered to go to the shops and sometimes simply because I feel like an edible treat. I am not a great baker, I do try though, my Gran was really very good, keeping secret recipes and regularly making biscuits and cakes for village events (and us!), I am just not that good, although my bread is pretty decent.
I am fickle and my favourite bread recipe changes often. The one I used to make the most was Nigella Lawson’s ‘Maple Pecan Bread’ from her book ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess‘, this was replaced recently by Merry Berry’s ‘Honey-glazed Walnut Bread’ from ‘Mary Berry’s Baking Bible’, which makes two loaves and it freezes amazingly well, so I always put one in the freezer.
My old favourite white loaf is also by Mary Berry, it’s light and soft inside and perfect for the boys who can sometimes get a bit fussy about my ‘nutty’ breads (or bread with bits in as they would say), and as our everyday bought sliced loaf is always wholemeal or seeded, they quite like the ‘treat’ of white bread occasionally.
Another recent winner, and one the boys will eat is the ‘Scandinavian Rye’ bread from the Hairy Bikers’ Bakeation series, it has added caraway seeds, which I didn’t realise I liked so much until I made this bread.
Also, a winner from this series, are the ‘Cardamom and Lemon Cookies‘. I have a bit of a thing about cardamom so these really hit the spot for me, I was very surprised that the boys liked then so much (which they did), they are perfect with a coffee (served here on my fab cup and saucer in the vintage Crown Devon ‘Stockholm’ design as given to my by my Sister-in-law for my Birthday last year – thanks A!).
As I’m chatting about bread, my favourite Focaccia recipe is one by Sarah Raven from her ‘Garden Cookbook‘, it produces the best air bubble filled of any recipes I’ve tried. The only additional thing I do is wash the top of the bread with a mixture of oil and water directly after it comes out of the oven, it gives the bread that same oily soft texture that I associate with Focaccia in restaurants.
(this is a photo of the lovely flour my local garage sells after it has done a full re-vamp if it’s attached ‘Spar’ – it now sells lots of local produce and is a 5min walk away – how perfect is that!)
Just recently I have jumped onto the ‘Speedy No-Knead Bread’ recipe bandwagon that is doing the blog rounds in a big way. You can find the original instructions here on the New York Times website, but if you want the UK translation (ie in grams) here is my version:
Speedy No-Knead Bread UK Style:
500g Flour (ideally white strong bread flour)
7g Fast Action Yeast
1.5 Tsp Salt
350-400ml Tepid Water
A ‘Glug’ of Olive Oil
Mix your dry ingredients in a very large bowl.
Add the water (start with 350ml) and stir to get a shaggy mess. I add a little extra water to make it really very soft and shaggy.
Cover with cling film and leave for 4 hours.
After 4 hours is up, put a big cast iron casserole dish into a 230 degree oven, with the lid on.
Pour some olive oil over (a big dribble) the now risen bread mixture and use a spatula (also coated in oil) to flatten and fold the dough a few times. Make sure the bowl and dough are coated in oil, cover with cling film again and leave for 30 mins.
Remove the now very hot casserole dish from the oven. Carefully tip the dough into it, ideally without knocking all the air out. Cook in oven, with lid on for 30mins, then for another 15mins with the lid removed.
Take out, and cool bread on a rack.
I am so in love with this bread recipe that I’m not sure I can ever make any other kind. It is airy, has a lovely crust and having made it over and over in the last few weeks, it comes out perfect every time.
embarrassingly, I started this post last year but never finished it. As it is all entirely relevent I have just updated it for today. Also, most recipes I have suggested that I haven’t linked up to can be easily found on other people’s blogs if you simply enter the bread name, I feel terribly guilty writing up direct recipes if I haven’t changed them slightly, not sure why as I’m sure the writers wouldn’t object to the free publicity, but there you go. Happy baking 🙂