Thyme, cheddar and walnut soda bread with fig jam

Thyme, cheddar and walnut soda bread with fig jam

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This week’s bake off was such a good one! Although I do think Paul should have been given Star Baker for his amazing bread lion sculpture, but I do understand why Ian got it instead. It was easy deciding what to bake for this week’s Great Blogger’s Bake Off – I didn’t have the time or patience to attempt a bread sculpture (or enough people to feed it to!), and baguettes looked a bit boring, so soda bread it was! I really liked the idea of soda bread being something you could whip up in the minimum time – indeed my loaf took 45 minutes from start to finish – yet still look like an impressive loaf to serve.

This thyme, cheddar and walnut soda bread is so easy to make, you literally chuck all the ingredients into one bowl and mix them up into a dough. The thyme is supposed to be subtle, but to just set off the flavour of the cheese with a herby edge. The fig jam is, of course, optional, but we have a prolific fig tree in the garden which produces more fruit than we can eat, so this jam is perfect for using them up.

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Orange and berry plait

Orange and berry plait

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So last week on the Bake Off was Advanced Dough! I thought all the bakers did well, I especially liked the look of Richard’s doughnuts, and I can’t believe he was star baker for the 4th time! I was sad to see Martha go, but she did amazingly well, and I’m sure we will see more of her in the future!

I decided to make a fruity enriched plait, with orange zest in the dough and dried berries and cherries kneaded in. These pictures are from the second time I tried it, the first time I made it I think I put too much orange zest in, and it retarded the yeast, because it didn’t rise properly, and came out really flat and odd! But the second time I made it it turned out well!

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Orange and berry plait

For the enriched dough:

  • 350g strong white bread flour
  • 40g softened butter
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 7g instant yeast
  • 6g salt
  • 1/2 a beaten egg
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 150ml warm milk
  • 50ml water

For the filling:

  • 70g mixture of dried berries (I used dried cranberries and cherries)
  • beaten egg to glaze

1 greased and floured baking sheet

  1. Bring the milk and water to the boil in a saucepan and then remove from the heat and leave to cool.
  2. Add the sugar, yeast, salt and flour to a large bowl and mix. Stir in three-quarters of the lukewarm milk and water mixture, then mix in the egg, softened butter and orange zest.
  3. Combine, using your hands, and then add as much of the remaining milk and water as you need to get a soft, sticky dough.
  4. Knead on a lightly floured clean work surface until smooth, elastic and no longer sticky. Knead in the berries, shape into a ball, place in a large oiled bowl, cover and leave for 1-1½ hours, or until doubled in size.
  5. When it has risen, knock back to push some of the air out, then divide into three and roll each ball out into a sausage about 40cm long.
  6. Place all three lengths onto your baking tray and secure them together at one end. Plait the dough together, and then secure the other ends together so you have a nice plait shape.
  7. Prove the plait for 45 minutes until doubled in size, then brush with egg and bake for 35- 40 minutes until golden brown and cooked.

This post is entered in week 7 of the Great Bloggers Bake Off, run by the lovely Jenny Paulin over at http://www.mummymishaps.co.uk/.

Orange hot cross buns

Orange hot cross buns

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Easter just wouldn’t be Easter without Hot Cross buns, and they are the perfect thing to bake on Easter Saturday: leave them to prove during the day, bake them in the evening, and they’ll be ready for Easter Sunday breakfast!  When I was little I used to call them ‘hot scone buns’, but now I think they’re much better than scones – especially flavoured with orange and cinnamon and studded with raisins and citrus peel like these ones.

These are best eaten freshly baked from the oven, but are just as good up to 3 days after, lightly toasted and spread with butter. Image

For the buns:
  • 300ml milk
  • 50g butter
  • 500g strong bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 7g sachet fast-action or easy-blend yeast
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 200g mix of raisins, sultanas and mixed peel
  • zest 1 orange
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the cross

  • 75g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

For the glaze

  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  1. Bring the milk to the boil, then remove from the heat and add the butter. Leave to cool until it reaches hand temperature. Put the flour, salt, sugar and yeast (see Tip, below) into a bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour in the warm milk and butter mixture, then add the egg. Using a wooden spoon, mix well, then bring everything together with your hands until you have a sticky dough.
  2. Tip on to a lightly floured surface and knead by holding the dough with one hand and stretching it with the heal of the other hand, then folding it back on itself. Repeat for 5 mins until smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hr or until doubled in size and a finger pressed into it leaves a dent.
  3. With the dough still in the bowl, tip in the sultanas, mixed peel, orange zest, apple and cinnamon. Knead into the dough, making sure everything is well distributed. Leave to rise for 1 hr more, or until doubled in size, again covered by some well-oiled cling film to stop the dough getting a crust.
  4. Divide the dough into 15 even pieces (about 75g per piece – see Tip below). Roll each piece into a smooth ball on a lightly floured work surface. Arrange the buns on one or two baking trays lined with parchment, leaving enough space for the dough to expand. Cover (but don’t wrap) with more oiled cling film, or a clean tea towel, then set aside to prove for 1 hr more.
  5. Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Mix the flour with about 5 tbsp water to make the paste for the cross – add the water 1 tbsp at a time, so you add just enough for a thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag with a small nozzle. Pipe a line along each row of buns, then repeat in the other direction to create crosses (see Tip below). Bake for 20 mins on the middle shelf of the oven, until golden brown.
  6. Bubble the honey and sugar in a saucepan until syrupy, then brush over the buns to glaze.

Recipe adapted from Paul Hollywood

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Pesto Stromboli Rolls

Pesto Stromboli Rolls

Pesto Stromboli rolls

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I came back from university last weekend to find that both my sister and my dad have given up cakes and biscuits for Lent, which means no baking sweet things for a while, although I’m sure I still will! This meant that I had to give bread another try, but luckily these Stromboli are very easy to make, and don’t need to long to prove either.

Stromboli is a type of bread which has a filling inside, and is then rolled up, basically a savoury cinnamon roll. They are perfect for lunchboxes, and keep really well, and can either be frozen, or reheated in the oven once they are a couple of days old.

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Pesto Stromboli rolls (recipe adapted from John Whaite)

For the Pesto:
Bunch of basil, roughly torn into pieces
20g pine nuts or cashew nuts
15g parmesan, finely grated
Glug of olive oil
Salt and pepper
For the dough:
500g white bread flour
10g fast action yeast
10g salt
320ml water
30ml olive oil
For Filling 1:
1 batch homemade pesto
50g grated cheddar cheese
For Filling 2:
50g sundried tomato pesto
50g grated cheddar cheese
2 spring onions, roughly chopped
 
  1. For the dough, put the flour, salt, yeast, oil and water into a large bowl and work together into a dough. Tip onto a clean surface and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and shiny.
  2. Lightly oil the dough and put back in the bowl, then cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size, roughly 1 ½ hours, depending on how warm it is.
  3. While the dough is rising, make the pesto by blending all the ingredients together until you get a rough paste. Then knock the dough back and roll into a square roughly 30cm by 30cm.
  4. Spread the homemade pesto over half the dough, and sprinkle with the cheese, then spread the tomato pesto over the other half and add the spring onions and cheese.
  5. Roll the dough up tightly lengthways, then cut into 12 pieces. Place each piece into a hole in a muffin tin, then leave to rise for 30 minutes while the oven is pre-heating to 180°C.
  6. Once risen again, cook until the Stromboli are golden and risen. Put on a wire rack to cool and drizzle with some olive oil.

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