Staffordshire Oatcakes

Staffordshire Oatcakes with Cheese and Bacon
Wotchers!

Staffordshire Oatcakes are, quite possibly, the best regional speciality you’ve never heard of.

In fact, that is much more of a generalisation than you may realise, because they’re specifically regional to North Staffordshire, centering on the region around Stoke-on-Trent.

It’s historic origins are mixed, with some anecdotes suggesting they originated from soldiers returning from India and trying to reproduce the chapatis they had eaten, with local produce. A more likely scenario, is as one of the various traditional ‘bakestone’ items found in workers cottages all over the country. With wheat being a valuable commodity, most people used flour from cheaper oats and barley, and with a cooking time of mere minutes, they are surprisingly sustaining.

They can be eaten hot from the pan, but as with other griddle bakes such as muffins, crumpets and pikelets, they can be made in batches, and then toasted as required, making, if anything, an even speedier snack.

Oatcake shops used to be small and plentiful, with sales being made through open windows. Alas, the last of this kind of  shop, the Hole In The Wall in Stoke-on-Trent, closed down due to re-development of the area in 2012. Commercial producers are still churning out batches in 6s and 12s, and they are even stocked by some of the large supermarket chains, but they taste best when home-made. Obvs.

Before we get to the recipe, a word or two about ingredients…

  • These oatcakes are made mostly of oats, in the form of oat flour. If you want to hunt out some oat flour, then have at it, but I’ve found, through trial and error, that whizzing some steel-rolled oats in a spice grinder is both easier and cheaper. You could probably use a blender as well, as they too have the off-set blades necessary to chop the oats into a suitable fineness. Whatever is easiest being the main order of the day.
  • You can use instant yeast, but I must admit, the batter made with fresh yeast always tastes better to me.
  • I’ve read a lot of recipes and watched many a documentary clip on Staffordshire Oatcakes and I’m going to confess up front that this recipe might be viewed poorly by oatcake devotees. It makes a batter that is rather thicker than the traditional, which results in a thicker oatcake. In my defence, it makes for a more durable oatcake which I can then turn easily in the pan without it breaking, and it ‘laces’ beautifully, with the surface becoming dappled with the characteristic pockmarks and holes seen also on pikelets and crumpets. The thickness also allows for a wonderful contrast when toasted between the crisp outsides and the fluffy insides. If all this is a heresy to you, feel free to dilute the batter down to your liking after the 1-hour rise.
  • If you have a decent non-stick pan, you can cook these fat-free.

Staffordshire Oatcakes

280g oat flour – ground from steel-rolled oats
110g stoneground wholemeal bread flour
110g strong white bread flour
1tsp granulated sugar
1tsp table salt
20g fresh yeast, crumbled or 1 sachet fast-action yeast
450ml whole milk – warmed
450ml warm water

  • Put everything into a large bowl and whisk together with a balloon whisk. Alternatively, use a stick blender.
  • Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to rise.
  • Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. If your pan is in need of a little help, use a sparing layer of fat (bacon fat or lard) to help prevent your oatcakes from sticking.
  • Gently stir your oatcake batter. The yeast and rising time will have turned it into a liquid with the consistency of frothy double cream.
  • Put 1 ladle/cup of batter into the middle of your pan and tilt the pan around until the batter has spread fully. Don’t be tempted to use the back of your ladle/cup to spread the batter out, as it’s very easy to spread it too thin and either make holes in the middle, or edges so thin they begin to burn before the middle is cooked.
  • The moisture in the batter will soon evaporate, leaving a lacy surface of holes and craters where bubbles from the batter burst.
  • Allow the oatcake to cook until there is no moisture visible on the surface – about 2 minutes.
  • Using a spatula or slice, loosen the edges and then the undersides of the oatcake until it is freely sliding around in the pan.
  • Flip the oatcake over and cook for another 2 minutes or until the surface is starting to brown (see photo).
  • When done, slide out of the pan onto a wire rack to cool.
  • Continue until all the batter is used up. This will make a batch of about 10 sturdy oatcakes.

As the oatcakes cool, they will soften and take on the appearance of a floppy pancake. Wrap in plastic and store in the fridge until required.

Oatcakes for Breakfast/Brunch/Snack/Whenever

You can put whatever you like in your oatcakes, but a filling of bacon and cheese is not only traditional but forms one of those rare, simple ingredient combinations that border the sublime.

You will need:

oatcakes
back bacon rashers – 2-3 per oatcake
grated vintage cheddar cheese

Sauce – brown or red (optional)

  • Grill your bacon or cook in a pan until beginning to caramelise. Set aside and keep warm.
  • Take your oatcake and put into a hot, dry pan – ideally the one you originally cooked it in. An oatcake has two very different sides, the pockmarked ‘front’ and the smooth, brown ‘back’. Put the ‘back’ of the oatcake into the pan first.
  • Allow the oatcake to heat through for 1.5-2 minutes.
  • Flip the oatcake.
  • Sprinkle the cheese over the hot ‘back’ (which is now uppermost) of the oatcake. It will melt as the other side toasts.
  • When the underside of the oatcake is warmed through and crisp, lay 2-3 rashers of bacon on top of the melted cheese on one half of the oatcake and fold the other half of the oatcake over (as in the photo).
  • Slide onto a plate and enjoy with sauce, if liked.
  • Repeat as often as necessary.

 


Stuffed Muffins

Stuffed Muffins
Wotchers!

Here’s an idea I came up with for a no-mess breakfast sandwich, snack on the go – or brunch whilst lolling around on a Sunday.

Stuffed muffins!

Stuffins!

Soft, pillowy muffin dough is folded around a filling of your choice, and cooked on the griddle (or in my case, a heavy-duty frying pan) for just 7 minutes each side. No more worrying that your filling is going to slide out from between your muffin layers, or spill down your front. Best of all, no greasy fingers!

I opted for a mixture of well-seasoned caramelised onions, chestnut mushrooms softened in butter and a feisty cheddar. It’s a combination that I’ve only recently discovered, having been rather ambivalent about mushrooms for many years, but now I’m slightly obsessed with it. The earthiness of the mushrooms, the richness of the onions and the sharp tang of cheese is seriously delicious. Chestnut mushrooms have a rich mushroomy-y flavour without the black of portobello mushrooms.

You can obviously customise the filling to your own tastes. I would heartily recommend a cheese of some sort – to bind everything together in a delicious, gooey bundle.

Stuffed Muffins

Makes 10

1 batch of fresh yeast muffin dough, after the first rise
6 onions, peeled and diced small
250g chestnut mushrooms – sliced thinly
60g unsalted butter
30ml vegetable oil
pepper and salt
100g cheese of choice

cornflour to sprinkle

  • Melt 30g of butter in a heavy pan over a medium heat.
  • Add the mushrooms, sprinkle with a little salt and cook until the mushrooms are softened and most of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool.
  • Melt the remaining butter and the oil in the pan and add the onions.
  • Sprinkle with a little salt and stir over a medium low heat until softened and starting to brown. Season with pepper.
  • Drain the excess oil from the onions by placing a sieve over a bowl and pouring the onions into the sieve. Leave to drain and cool.
  • Cut the cheese into small (5mm) dice.
  • Mix together the cheese, onions and mushrooms in equal quantities by volume. Use a cup. Any cup. You’ll have onions and mushrooms to spare. Keep the remainder in the fridge in plastic boxes to brighten up sandwiches and snacks.
  • Tip out your risen muffin dough and divide into 100g pieces.
  • For each piece of dough, fold the edges in towards the middle, then turn over so that the folds are underneath and the top is smooth. Cup your hand over the dough and roll it in small circles, shaping the dough into a smooth ball.
  • When all the dough has been shaped, for each piece of dough, roll out gently to a diameter of about 10cm.
    • Add 2tbs of filling to one half of the dough. Dampen the edge of the dough with a little water, then fold the dough over the filling.
    • Pinch the edges together neatly to form a tight seal.
    • Sprinkle the worktop with cornflour and set the shaped and filled dough aside to rise.
    • By the time you’ve finished filling and shaping all of the dough, the first ones will be ready to cook.
  • To cook the stuffins:
    • Heat a heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat until thoroughly hot.
    • Turn the heat down to low and add in 2 or 3 of the stuffins turning them upside down as you do so. By cooking the slightly dried top first, the stuffins will retain a more muffin-y shape.
    • Cover and cook for 7 minutes.
    • Gently turn the stuffins over and cook, uncovered, for another 7 minutes.
    • Cool on a wire rack.
  • Serve warm.
  • To reheat, zap in the microwave for 15-20 seconds, then toast each side for 1 minute in a dry pan.

Honey Granola

Honey Granola
Wotchers!

I’m still ovenless, so improvisation is still the name of the game here, with this gloriously crunchy and chewy granola you can make in the microwave!

I’ve used gluten-free oats and coconut oil to make it both gluten and dairy free, but you could easily substitute ordinary oats and butter.

You can customise the recipe by adding in your own choice of dried fruit after the granola has cooled. I recommend going for tart/sharp fruits to contrast with the sweet and crunchy oats and nuts.

You can also easily customise this recipe if you’re thinking of making edible gifts this Christmas. In addition to varying the fruit and nuts, you could also sprinkle some spice over the finished mixture such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, mixed spice, etc.

Honey Granola

250g gluten-free oats
60g coconut ribbons
120g pumpkin seeds
120g sunflower seeds
120g pecans – chopped
1tsp salt
250g runny honey
110g coconut oil
110g dark Muscovado sugar

To add after cooling

flaked almonds
currants
dried blueberries
chopped, dried apricot
dried cherries
dried barberries
dried cranberries

  • Tip the oats into a large, dry pan and stir over medium heat for 5-10 minutes until lightly toasted.
  • Transfer the oats to a large bowl and add the coconut, seeds, nuts and salt. Stir thoroughly.
  • Put the sugar, coconut oil and honey into a pan and heat gently until the coconut oil has melted.
  • Pour the warm mixture over the oat mixture and stir well to coat.
  • Pour half the oat mixture onto a piece of baking parchment and microwave on High for 2 minutes.
  • Stir the mix, then microwave on High for a further 2 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.
  • Repeat with the other half of the mixture.
  • When the mixture has cooled completely, transfer the granola to a large bowl and break up into clumps.
  • Add in dried fruit to taste and mix thoroughly.
  • Store in a sealed container. If the mixture is sticky, store in the fridge.

 


Ful Medames

Ful Medames
Wotchers!

Here’s a recipe that’s very close to my heart, and in essence it could hardly be simpler.

Ful Medames – pronounced Fool Med-Ammas – is, on the one hand, cooked, dried broad beans, and at the same time, a meal of almost infinite variety.

I became a fan of Ful when I was teaching in Kuwait and there was a Shwarma shop on the short walk between the school and my accommodation, so it was easy to call in and pick up the making of a meal if I was feeling lazy. The standard Chicken Meal was: a rotisserie chicken, a pot of creamy-smooth hummus – none of your lumpy ‘artisan’ hummus in the Middle East thankyousoverymuch – 6 flatbreads and a pot of Ful Medames. Although a warm chicken and hummus flatbread is divine, the pot of Ful was almost more enjoyable because of its simplicity – my desert comfort food, made all the more delicious I suspect because someone else had made it.

Of course, it helps if you like fresh broad beans, aka fava beans, to begin with, but by the same token, their flavour is quite different when dried and subsequently reconstituted. In the UK you can get British dried fava beans, which are small, skinless and a pale creamy colour when dried, but my preference is for the large brown mature beans with their skins intact, both for the added texture and flavour.

You can get fava beans, cooked, in tins, but I’ve never tried them myself. They might do if you just wanted a taster before soaking and cooking a whole batch of dried beans. Your call.

At its simplest, you soak the beans and then simmer them until they are soft and mashable – and that’s it. That is a plain version of Ful Medames, but if you like broad beans, isn’t objectionable. I’ll be the first to admit it’s a pretty dull version too, because the beauty of Ful is how the basic batch of beans can be tweaked and varied by the addition of some very simple ingredients. One batch of dried beans makes enough for five meals for one. Ful Medames is regularly eaten for breakfast in many countries in the Middle East, but it is also ideal for a weekday lunch if you have the means to warm it through at work. So I thought I’d offer suggestions for five different versions, to switch up things for a week’s worth of lunches. For a further twist, each recipe gives quantities for a single serving, so don’t forget to scale it up if you’re planning on serving more than just yourself!

Ful Medames

500g dried broad beans or fava beans

  • Put the ban into a bowl and cover with water to a depth of 5cm above the level of the beans.
  • Leave the beans to soak overnight.
  • Next day, drain the beans and transfer to a large pan.
  • Cover with fresh water.
  • Bring to a boil, cover with a lid, turn the heat down low and simmer until the beans are tender. This should take between 2 and 3 hours, although possibly longer depending on the age of the beans.
  • Check for tenderness after 2 hours, and add a little more water if necessary.
  • When the beans are tender, drain but retain the cooking liquid.
  • Return the beans to the pan and mash whilst hot. I prefer to leave some larger pieces mixed in for texture.
  • Gradually add some of the cooking liquid back into the mashed beans until the mixture resembles porridge. Personally, I like the mixture to be relatively thick and holding its shape on a spoon. If you prefer a more liquid version, add more of the cooking liquid. It is important to get it to the consistency you like before it cools, as it will set firmly when cold. Adding liquid to cold beans runs the risk of it being too sloppy once it’s warmed up again.
  • This is the basic state you need to get your beans to, then you can pack the Ful into plastic boxes and pick one of the serving suggestions below. 500g of dried fava beans will make 5 x 250g portions of prepared Ful.

 

Ful MedamesKuwaiti Style

I suspect that this is probably the Egyptian style of serving, having been brought to the Gulf countries by the many expatriate workers, but it is the version I was introduced to by the Shwarma Shop and is my favourite.

250g cooked fava beans prepared as above
1 small clove of garlic
1tbs lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil
½ tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil to drizzle
1tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
½ tsp ground sumac

  • Put the beans into a small pan over a low heat to warm.
  • Put the garlic, lemon juice, oil and cumin into a mortar and pound into a paste.
  • Add this mixture to the beans and stir to combined.
  • Allow to simmer together for five minutes.
  • Taste and add salt and pepper to season.
  • When you’re happy with the flavours, spoon into you serving dish and drizzle with a little more olive oil.
  • Sprinkle over the parsley, onion and sumac and serve with warmed flatbreads.

ful2Ful with fresh vegetables

250g cooked Ful beans
2 flavoursome tomatoes, vine-ripened if possible, peeled if liked
1 shallot
1 clove garlic
4 tbs chopped fresh coriander/cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil to drizzle
1tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
½ tsp ground sumac

  • Put the beans into a small pan.
  • Chop the tomatoes, garlic and shallot and add to the pan with the coriander.
  • Simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes or so until the tomatoes have begun to break down and the onions softened.
  • Taste and add salt and pepper to season.
  • When you’re happy with the flavours, spoon into you serving dish and drizzle with a little more olive oil.
  • Sprinkle over the parsley, onion and sumac and serve with warmed flatbreads.

Breakfast FulBreakfast Ful

You don’t have to go to Egypt to enjoy Ful for breakfast, this mix of egg, salad and warm beans is deliciously comforting eaten outside on a cool spring or summer morning.

1 portion of Kuwaiti-style Ful
1 hardboiled egg
1 ripe tomato, diced
A 5cm length of cucumber, diced
1 shallot or spring onion, sliced thinly
2tbs lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil to drizzle
sprig of parsley to garnish

  • Prepare the beans with the Kuwaiti seasonings.
  • Peel the hardboiled egg and slice thinly
  • Dice the tomato and cucumber, slice the onion and toss the salad in the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Spoon the beans into your serving fish and arrange the egg and salad on top.
  • Sprinkle generously with black pepper and serve with warmed flatbreads.

Hot and Cold FulHot and Cold Ful

I do like contrasts in a dish and this version of Ful is a great example. The warm, earthy beans and fresh, cool, juicy tomato, the fiery chilli and chilled, creamy cheese, all set off by crisp, dry flatbreads. You can vary the strength of the chillies from mild de-seeded jalapenos, through fiery birds eyes to “Are ya CRAZY!?” Scotch Bonnets and the like. Similarly with the cheese. Any mild, white cheese is delicious. Labneh (scroll down for the oh-so-simple recipe here) is traditional, but cream cheese, goats cheese and feta are all just as good.

1 portion of either Kuwaiti of Fresh Vegetable Ful
1 chilli of your choosing, sliced thinly
40-50g white cheese of your choosing, diced if applicable
1 fresh, juicy tomato, diced
olive oil to drizzle
¼ tsp sweet paprika
coarse ground black pepper
parsley to garnish

  • Pour the prepared beans into your serving dish.
  • Spoon over your cheese and sprinkle over the chilli.
  • Add the tomato and parsley.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle over the paprika and pepper.
  • Serve with warmed flatbreads.

 

Ful with HummusFul with Hummus

This is surprisingly substantial. It is a vegetarian version of a Lebanese dish of spiced ground beef served on a bed of hummus. The combination of the creaminess of the chilled hummus and the warm, spiced beans is fantastic. With flatbreads, it is definitely main meal size, unless you reduce the quantities by half.

1 portion of ful beans finished off in any of the preceding ways
100-150g hummus
a few chickpeas to garnish
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp smoked paprika – sweet or fiery, as you prefer
coarse ground black pepper and parsley to garnish

  • Spread the hummus onto your serving dish and mae a hole in the centre.
  • Spoon the prepared beans into the middle of the dish and add the chickpeas and parsley garnish.
  • Sprinkle with the spices and serve with warmed flatbreads.

 

 


Luxury Bath Buns

Bath Buns

Wotchers!

Here’s a variation of a recipe in MY BOOK  – brazen, shameless plug! – which I have adapted from one of my favourite vintage recipe books, snappily entitled “Morning and Hot-Plate Goods including Scones, Buns, Teabread, etc” by John Boyd.

It is a book for professional bakers, in that the recipes inside involve ingredients measured in pounds rather than ounces, but it is compact nevertheless, with a jaunty yellow cover and both line and photographic illustrations throughout. It is undated, but after a quick search of t’internet, the mid 1940s seems a good guesstimate of age.

The book claims that this is the original recipe of those NORTY buns in the 18th century that caused everyone ‘taking the waters’ in Bath to put on so much weight, allegedly forcing Dr Oliver to invent the altogether much less fun Bath Oliver biscuit for people to nibble on instead. The dough is a deep, golden colour from all the butter and eggs, and dotted with crunchy sugar and orange peel. Don’t be alarmed at the quantity of nutmeg, it looks a lot, but it’s not overpowering at all – skimp on it at your peril.

These buns are definitely an indulgence  –  a delicious, DELICIOUS indulgence, but the freezer is your friend and thus these treats can be spread over a few weeks, rather than having to consume them all in one sitting, however tempting that may be.

Since my book came out, I’ve picked up a couple of snippets of additional information about Bath Buns. Despite their rich ingredients, their appearance wasn’t supposed to be a smooth, spherical ball of dough, rather they were deliberately of a rough and craggy exterior, which, I must admit, is a great contrast to their soft, luxurious interiors. The iconic sugar nib topping remains.

Some recipes suggest using a pair of spoons to portion out the soft dough, but thanks to a quick flick through MANNA by Walter Banfield, I discovered an altogether easier method (see below).

The recipe calls for fresh yeast – my latest fad – but feel free to substitute rapid-rise yeast if preferred.

Luxury Bath Buns

Makes 16-ish

450g strong white flour
4 large eggs
225g unsalted butter
30g granulated sugar
30g fresh yeast
60ml milk
2 whole nutmegs – grated
225g sugar nibs
2oz candied orange peel – finely chopped
3 drops lemon essence (original) or the zest of a lemon (my suggestion)

1 large egg for glazing

  • Heat some water in a small pan.
  • Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the milk.
  • Whisk together, then put the bowl over the simmering water and whisk until the mixture is warmed, but no hotter than blood-temperature (dip a clean finger in to test).
  • Whisk in the yeast and 50g from the flour and set aside  to rise for 30 minutes.
  • While this is working, in another bowl, gently warm the butter over the simmering water until soft. Add the granulated sugar, nutmeg and lemon essence/zest and whisk to combine.
  • Combine the two mixtures after the yeast has been working for 30 minutes and stir into the remaining flour.
  • Knead well for 10 minutes. It is an extremely soft dough, but please resist the temptation to add any more flour as this would compromise the texture of the finished buns (I use a stand mixer & a dough hook).
  • Adding the nibs and peel: Here you have a choice. You can add in 150g of the nibs at the end of the kneading, then set it to rise, OR you can add in 150g of the sugar after the first rise. Adding the sugar straight after the kneading will mean it leeches moisture from the dough and starts to dissolve as the dough rises, leading to less of a crunch in the bite of the finished bun. Add 150g of sugar nibs after the first rise, and they are still relatively large and crunchy, even after baking. The rest of the nibs will be scattered over the top of the buns, so their crunchiness needs to be factored into your decision as well. The peel can be added at either time, but I generally add it after the kneading to allow its aroma to permeate the dough.
  • Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise for 1 hour.
  • Tip out the dough and pat down.
  • Add the sugar/peel if not already done so.
  • Portion the dough into pieces weighing 150g. Form these pieces into neat balls, then gradually stretch the ball of dough between your hands until it pulls in half – pretty much like those diagrams of cells dividing. Place the buns with the torn side upwards onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. In the recipe in my book, the buns were placed atop a sugar cube soaked in lemon juice. As the buns cooked, the sugar and lemon juice melted together to give a deliciously crunchy coating to the base of each bun. These buns are so rich from the butter and the sugar nibs, this isn’t necessary, however the parchment is a must to ensure they don’t stick.
  • Whisk the egg with a little water and glaze the buns, then allow to rise for 45 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan.
  • Glaze the buns again, then top with the remaining sugar nibs
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, turning the tins around after 10 minutes to ensure even browning.
  • Remove from the oven and leave on the tins. Cover the hot buns with clean tea towels to keep the crust soft as they cool.
  • Enjoy warm.

Scone Eggs

Scone Eggs

Wotchers!

Scotch Eggs are delicious, I think we can all agree that that is fact. Alas, they are also usually deep fried, and can thus be prone to being either overcooked or dry, or greasy or, heaven forfend, all three. Something needed to be done!

Behold  my new creation – The Scone Egg™!

Everything you love about scones and Scotch eggs in a single, warm, comforting bundle of deliciousness!

These are also a natural progression from some savoury scone variations I included in MY BOOK </subtle>. If you’ve got a copy[1], you will find the scone recipe on page 248. A couple of pages later, there are some suggestions for customising a basic scone recipe. The savoury scones are very popular with The Lads that look after my car, at my local garage[2].

What started out as an attempt to combine all the deliciousness from a Breakfast Sandwich into a scone, took a bit of a detour and here we are at Scone Eggs! Soft, crumbly scone, spicy sausage, an egg that is still runny in the middle[3],  and no deep frying!

These are ideal for brunch, either as is, or you could go completely over the top and combine them with all the fixin’s for Eggs Benedict. *dabs drool from keyboard*

To ensure a liquid center to your egg, they should be boiled for no longer than 5 minutes. This makes them a little tricky to peel, but if you follow the instructions below, you will be blessed with a much lower egg ruination rate. Alternatively, go for hardboiled eggs and make the whole process altogether less fiddly, and which would also make them more sturdy and therefore suitable for picnics, etc.

You will need some small individual pudding bowls to bake them in – I use foil ones like this – which can stand several uses with careful washing between bakes.

The key to baking a light scone is, as ever, the speed with which you can get them into the oven after adding the liquid to the dry ingredients, whilst avoiding being too rough with the dough. Have everything ready – eggs boiled and cooled, foil cases oiled – and your oven at temperature before stirring in the liquid and you should be able to have them in the oven in about 5 minutes.

Scone Eggs

Makes 4-6

I’ve specified more eggs, just in case there are cracks or breakages when removing the shell. In addition, depending on how thickly you wrap the scone mixture around the egg, you may get up to 6 Scone Eggs  from this recipe. Or not. But you will most definitely get four.

6-8 large eggs

1 x 400g pack of good-quality sausages[4]
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp coarse ground black pepper
½-1 tsp dried thyme
½-1 tsp dried oregano
½-1 tsp dried sage
¼ tsp celery seed
¼ tsp red pepper flakes

225g plain flour
30g unsalted butter
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp cream of tartar
1 large egg
½ tsp salt
80ml plain yogurt
80ml milk

1 large egg for glazing

  • Prepare the eggs.
  • Bring a pan of water to the boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer (this will help keep the eggs from cracking).
  • Add the eggs, gently lowering them into the water with a spoon. Allow them to cook for 5 minutes, then drain the water and cool them in cold water. The eggs will be easiest to peel once completely cold, so either add some ice or more cold water if necessary. For hardboiled eggs, cook for 10-12 minutes.
  • Once the eggs are completely cold, remove the shell. I won’t go into just how many eggs I went through in the development of this recipe, but let us just say it was substantial and resulted in the method outlined below:
    • Take a teaspoon and with the back of the spoon, tap around the ‘equator’ of the egg, making sure the shell breaks into small pieces.
    • Then use the back of the spoon to break the shell around each end of the egg.
    • With the point of a sharp knife, break away the shell from the ‘equator’ region, until you can peel both shell and skin away together, preferably still attached to one another. This is key in removing the shell smoothly and successfully. Sometimes bits of the shell will drop away leaving the skin intact. Use the point of the knife to break through until you can hold shell and skin together between your fingertips.
    • Once you can hold both skin and shell together, peel around the middle of the egg, then peel each end.
    • Lay the peeled egg carefully on a plate – its soft middle will mean it doesn’t hold its shape entirely, but enough until you’re ready to wrap the scone mixture around.
  • Prepare the sausage
    • Remove the skin from the sausages and put the meat into a frying pan over medium heat.
    • Sprinkle with pepper, salt, herbs and spice to taste.
    • Using a spatula, break up the sausage meat as it cooks.
    • Continue chopping and turning the meat until cooked through. Set aside to cool.
    • When cold, tip the cooked sausage into the bowl of a food processor and blitz very briefly to break up any large chunks. You don’t want it as fine as breadcrumbs, but at the same time no piece larger than about 1cm.
    • Set aside.
  • Make the scone mix.
    • Preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
    • Put the flour, butter, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar, salt and egg into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until it resembles breadcrumbs.
    • Tip the mixture into a bowl.
    • Weigh out 200g of cooked sausage meat and add to the scone ingredients. Stir through.
    • Whisk the milk and yogurt together.
    • Check you’ve got everything to hand to get the scones into the oven, pudding tins greased, egg for glazing whisked, pastry brush handy, oven hot, etc.
    • Using a rounded knife, gradually add the milk mixture, stirring the dry ingredients as you go. You might not need all of the liquid, depending on the moisture in the sausage, so proceed cautiously – you can still bake an overly moist scone mixture, but it might slip off the egg before it is fully cooked.
    • When the mixture has come together, tip out onto a floured surface. With floured hands, roughly shape it into a circle, then divide it into quarters.
    • For each egg, do the following:
      • Take a piece of dough and place it in the palm of your left hand.
      • Use your thumb and fingers to shape a hole or pocket into the dough. Be careful not to press the dough too thin – it should be 1.5-2cm thick.
      • Take one boiled egg and place it into the pocket.
      • Mould the scone dough around the egg until it is smoothly covered. Pinch off any excess dough and put on one side. You will end up with sufficient dough to wrap another 1 or 2 eggs.
      • Decide which end of the scone is smoothest and then drop the moulded scone into a buttered pudding tin, smooth side uppermost.
      • Place on a baking sheet.
    • When all scones are formed, brush over the tops with the beaten egg.
    • Bake for 15 minutes, turning the baking sheet around after 10 minutes to ensure even colouring.
    • When fully cooked, allow to firm up for 5 minutes before gently easing them out of the tins. Run a knife around the edge first, in case the glaze has caused it to stick to the tin. Set onto a wire rack to cool.
    • Enjoy at once.

[1] You DO have a copy, don’t you!? No pressure…..

[2] I take a box of warm scones in whenever my car needs some TLC.

[3] Caveat: as long as you eat them within 30 minutes of baking – as they cool, the yolk will continue to cook and longer than half an hour and it will be solid.

[4] Should be at least 90% pork, certainly not less than 85%. My UK recommendations are

  • Black Farmer Premium Pork Sausages
  • Debbie & Andrew’s Harrogate Sausages
  • Sainsbury’s Ultimate Pork Sausages, Taste the Difference Range

This list is by no means exhaustive, they are just the brands I have tasted and can vouch for personally.


Brissants

Brissants

Wotchers!

Another holiday-ish inspired post – Brissants!

“Quoi!?” I hear you exclaim. Quite. Allow me to elaborate.

Picture the scene…

France.

Breakfast.

The sun is barely over the horizon and the first decision of the day is already upon you: Brioche? Or croissant? Even the soothing balm of fresh coffee fails to make this no less stressful a judgement.

Brioche: so rich, doughy, soft and comforting – but there’s no crunch!
Croissants: so flaky, buttery and crisp – but there’s no substance!

I’d be willing to bet even Solomon himself would have chewed his lip a bit over this dilemma – but no more!

For here lyeth the answer……*drumroll* Brissants!

A  name cleverly thought up by my daughter to describe this fabulous combination of buttery brioche dough and buttery, flaky croissant layers.

Buttery, buttery, buttery.

Butter.

Flaky spirals

More substantial than a croissant, lighter, crispier, flakier than a brioche.

Confession: Apart from the name, there’s nothing new about this recipe. If you want to get all nit-picky, it’s proper name is “Brioche feuilletée au beurre”  but that isn’t very descriptive if your French is a bit rusty, and “Brioche made-all-layered-and-puffed-and-stuff with butter” is a bit long-winded. (I may have missed my calling as an international translator of unique repute.) Not sure who came up with the idea – I like to think whoever it was was working from an old baker’s book whose pages were stuck together: started off as a brioche, unwittingly ended up as a croissant method. Win!

Voila Brissants![1]

It’s the Cronut for 2015 without all that greasy deep-frying. *shudders*

They are made with fresh yeast. *waits until you’ve stopped running round shrieking a la Edvard Munch*

scream

Oh no! Not fresh yeast!

Be not alarmed – it’s a ‘throw it all in the mixer’ method. No sponges, no Faff™.

The only downside, if any, is the rising time. Brioche, with it’s enrichment of butter and eggs, already takes longer-than-average to prove. Add to that the layers of butter and it rises (see what I did there? </subtle>).  You can’t – let me rephrase – you shouldn’t put it in a warm place to prove, because the interleaved butter will melt and run out and all your hard work will be for nothing. Best to accept it’ll be about 2 hours and plan accordingly.

These Brissants are unflavoured, apart from the richness of the eggs and butter, but as such are infinitely customisable.

  • Philippe Conticini adds a sprinkling of nibbed sugar in his recipe, before rolling up the dough.
  • Maple sugar is another option, as indeed are all the caramel, dark sugars such as Muscovado and Demerera.
  • If your butter tends towards the ordinary, try whipping in some citrus zest. NB If you try this, do it far enough ahead so that it has time to chill thoroughly to firmness before adding to the dough.
  • Flavouring the dough with orange-flower water, vanilla, cocoa (remember to remove an equivalent weight of flour), chocolate chips…. Have at it!

Brissants

I use my stand mixer and a dough hook to mix, but you can also use a bread maker or do it by hand.

500g strong white bread flour 
60g caster sugar 
10g salt 
15g fresh yeast
75ml warm water
4 large eggs
100g butter, cut into cubes

For the lamination
150g butter

1 large egg to glaze

  • Put the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl and stir to mix. Crumble in the yeast and add the water and two of the eggs. Mix.
  • Add the rest of the eggs once the mixture has started to come together.
  • Knead thoroughly for 5 minutes.
  • With the mixer running, add the butter piece by piece. You don’t have to wait until it has been worked in before adding the next piece, just don’t dump it all in at once.
  • Knead until the butter is fully incorporated, about another 5 minutes.
  • Tip out onto a floured surface, shape roughly into a flat square and wrap in plastic.
  • Put into the freezer for 10 minutes. NB  No more than 10 – this is important – you want it chilled enough to match the consistency of the butter, but not so cold as to kill the yeast, so SET THE TIMER.
  • While the dough is chilling, prepare the butter. Flatten it roughly, then wrap it in an envelope of baking parchment, making a 15cm square. Make sure all the folds are underneath, then use a rolling pin to roll the butter out. The envelope will contain the butter very effectively, allowing you to spread it right to the edges to make a very neat square. Chill. The butter that is, not you. Unless you’re becoming a little frazzled making an enriched, laminated dough, in which case – Chill!
  • Remove the dough from the freezer and roll out to a square large enough to hold the butter.
Butter and dough placement

Butter and dough placement

  • Fold the corners in and pinch the edges to seal.
  • Roll out into a long rectangle and then make a book fold – that’s folding the edges into the middle (or preferably a little off-centre), and the folding them in again, like a book.
  • Turn 90 degrees so the fold is on the left and the edges on the right and repeat.
  • Wrap in plastic and chill in the freezer for another 10 minutes. Set the timer.
  • Prepare your tins – I used mini pudding cups like this, but you can also use individual foil cases. Brush with butter or spray liberally with cooking spray.
  • After chilling, roll out the dough to a rectangle 0.5cm thick. Roll up from the wide edge into a sausage, as you would cinnamon buns.
  • Cut into 12 thick slices and place end-up into your prepared tins, so the spiral is visible. The dough should half-fill your tins.
  • Set aside to rise for about 2 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C Fan.
  • Whisk the egg and lightly brush the top of the dough. Try not to get it dripping down the sides – it’ll glue your dough to the tin and impede the rise as it bakes.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes until risen and brown and glossy.
  • Cool on a wire rack and devour with gusto! Or a fresh coffee. Your call.

[1] Or Crioches,  as my far-too-clever-for-his-own-good friend Dr Dan suggested *shakes fist at his cleverness* 😉