Kouign Amann

Kouign Amman

Mini Kouign Amann showing sugary top (left), crunchy bottom (centre) and light, buttery layers (front).

Wotchers!

Oh my dears, have I got a treat for you this week!

The theme for Week 6 in this season’s Great British Bake Off is sweet dough, with a Showstopper Challenge of 36 sweet European buns.

The contestants will probably have to bake 3 x 12 buns, each with a different flavour, but rather than rush through three recipes, I’ve decided to concentrate on what would have been my number one choice, were I competing – the magnificent Breton specialty, the Kouign Amann.

To me, the name (pronounced ‘koo-een ah-man’) sounds very exotic, almost Arabic, but it’s actually from the native Breton language meaning ‘butter cake’ and couldn’t be more simple: a bread dough enriched with butter and sugar.

There are several recipes floating around on the internet, but my choice was only ever going to be that of Madeleine Kamman – the best French chef you’ve (probably) never heard of.

I’ve mentioned Madame Kamman before – hers is the recipe for Ratatouille that rehabilitated the dish back into my life after a good thirty years in the wilderness, and it can be found in her epic and invaluable The New Making of a Cook. Packed with clear explanations, occasional science and delightful anecdotes, if you’ve ever wondered ‘Why?’ in cooking, then this is the book for you.

Delighted as I am with my copy of The New Making of a Cook, it is Madame Kamman’s much later work, When French Women Cook, that I treasure most. In it, she chronicles her formative years in France both before, during and after World War II, and the impact on her life of eight remarkable women, the French regions they lived and in whose kitchens she worked and first discovered her love of cooking. Originally published in 1976, the book is one of the first gastronomic memoirs, and it has enchanted me from the moment I read it’s opening line: “Most of the recipes in this book have never been written down before.”

The recipes in the book evoke the very essence of each of the eight regions, but with the luxury of food availability in the 21st century, it is easy to reproduce them with the original ingredients specifid. Not that the recipes contain much that is either complex or exotic – many of them originate from times of hardship, when French women had to practice la Cuisine de Misère – the art of cooking with almost nothing. One of the first, and still one of my favourite recipes I made was the ‘Tarte aux Deux Choux’ – a tart of brussel sprouts and cauliflower – which sounds so simple – and it certainly was to make – but the flavours in the finished dish were incredible.

So how best to describe the taste of a Kouign Amann? It is similar to Danish Pastries and croissants, but sweet. The outside is deliciously crunchy and chewy, whilst the layers inside are soft and fluffy. For those of you familiar with regional British baking, it is a French designer equivalent of Lardy Cake. Now I love Lardy Cake (there’s a recipe in my book, she shamelessly plugged) – it’s delicious! But it is a whole world away from the buttery, crunchy, crisp confection of a fresh-baked Kouign Amann. The secret, of course, is in the butter, that pinnacle of Breton regional produce. If you look at a cheese map of France, you’ll notice that the region of Brittany is, surprisingly, quite bare of cheeses, because what the Bretons do best with their rich milk is make butter. It is possible to find butter from Brittany in the UK in some of the high-end supermarket chains, but you can also make this with regular butter, adding a scattering of fleur de sel or Maldon salt if liked.

More usually sold as a large cake, in keeping with the theme of this week’s Bake Off challenge, I’ve divided Madame Kamman’s recipe into individual portions to make ‘buns’. Thanks to a follower on twitter (@Edesiaskitchen ), I learned that these are called Kouignettes, and are now a ‘thing’ in Parisian bakeries. They come in a variety of flavours (see here) and appear to be formed differently, being rolled up in a spiral.  While certainly simpler and no doubt quicker to form, it also means that, in the heat of the oven, all the butter and sugar carefully layered into the dough will just melt and run out the bottom. Admittedly, this does mean a pooling of sticky syrup around the bottom of the pastry (not necessarily a bad thing), but keeping the layers horizontal as they bake, as in the method below, allows them to remain deliciously rich, and, as can be seen in the picture above, no excessive pooling of sticky syrup around the base. (Lordy! Anyone else fascinated/horrified by the torturous twists, turns and length of that sentence?? MAB)

Madeleine Kamman learned her Kouign Amann recipe from the accomplished Loetitia (pp267-308), a native Breton and ‘one of the finest Breton cooks’. You can’t get more authentic than that. Apart from adjusting the size for cooking, I’ve not changed this recipe. You will need 9 individual foil pudding basins like these.

Update: You can double the recipe, make the squares of butter/dough 20cm and cut the final folded dough into 16 squares. Only 1tbs butter per portion – it’s practically health food! 😉

Kouign Amann

190g strong white flour
1tbs cornflour
1/2tsp orange flower water[1]
a pinch of salt
1tsp fast-action yeast (1/2 a sachet)
warm water to mix
125g slightly salted Brittany butter
125g granulated sugar
caster sugar to glaze

  • Mix the flours, salt, yeast and orange flower water.
  • Add warm water and mix into a soft dough.
  • Knead for ten minutes and then shape into a disc 15cm across.
  • Place on a buttered plate and lightly cover with greased clingfilm.
  • Leave to rise until doubled in size – 45 mins to 1 hour.
  • Pat the dough down and reshape into a 15cm square.
  • Cover the butter top and bottom with cling film and bash thoroughly with a rolling pin to soften. As with puff pastry and other laminated doughs, when rolling out it is best to have the dough and the butter at the same temperature/consistency. Shape the softened butter into a 10cm square.
Butter and dough placement

Butter and dough placement

  • Turn the dough so that it lies with corners top and bottom, like a diamond. Place the butter square in the centre as per diagram.
  • Fold the four corners towards the middle, covering the butter. Press the edges of the dough together to join.
  • Roll out the dough until it is at least 30cm long, keeping it just 10-12cm wide.
  • Sprinkle 1/3 of the sugar over the dough and roll the rolling pin over it to press the sugar into the dough.
  • Fold the top third of the  dough down and the bottom third upwards so that the dough forms three layers.
  • Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. NB If you chill for longer, the sugar will begin to leech moisture from the dough, and turn to syrup, which will make the dough difficult to work with.
  • Remove the dough from the fridge and place it in front of you like a book, with the fold lines vertical.
  • Roll out as before, sprinkle 1/3 of the sugar and fold top and bottom inwards.
  • Turn the folded dough 90° and roll out for a third time, sprinkling the last of the sugar and folding the sugared dough into thirds.
  • Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Roll out for a fourth and final time, this time rolling it to about 40cm long. Fold the pastry in a ‘book fold’, that is fold each end to the middle, then fold again making 4 layers. This fold has the advantage of enclosing the sticky ends of the dough inside and making for a cleaner finish.
  • Roll out the dough to make a square of at least 20cm.
  • Cut the square into nine smaller squares (3 x 3).
  • Lightly butter the foil pudding cases.
  • Set one piece of dough in each pudding case, either tucking under the corners, or folding them upwards and towards the middle.
  • Arrange the cases on a baking sheet, cover with cling film and set aside to rise for 30-45 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Sprinkle the tops of each pastry with a little caster sugar and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Turn the baking sheet around after 20 minutes, to ensure even colouring.
  • Allow to cool in the foil tins.
  • Best eaten on the day of baking, preferably still slightly warm. To enjoy later, refresh in a cool (100°C) oven for 10 minutes first.

[1] A good quality Orange Flower Water is made by Nielsen-Massey. If yours seems a little on the weak side, feel free to increase the quantity accordingly.


Orange Blossom Tart

Orange Blossom Tart

Wotchers!

Here’s a wonderfully aromatic and delicious dessert that I have adapted from a recipe that appears in Hannah Glasse’s “The art of cookery, made plain and easy”. It must have been popular, because Hannah gives no fewer than four recipes for Orange Pudding, each slightly different. Copyright infringement back then being rife, it is highly likely that Hannah is not the original author of this recipe, but I have yet to find an older version with these particular ingredients.

Hannah calls this a pudding – and indeed it is certainly something that you might eat after lunch or dinner, but it is in fact what we would term a tart, and I can honestly say it is unlike any tart I’ve ever tasted before, for the very best of reasons.

The most striking aspect is the flavour – a mixture of Seville orange, orange flower water, rosewater and white wine. Rather surprisingly, the word that popped into my head when breathing in its aroma was ice-cream – and that was before it was cooked! Once cooked and chilled, the flavours mingle together and taste extraordinary – the only way I can think to describe it is like plunging your face into a bunch of fresh flowers – but in a good way! This isn’t soapy/perfumed – it’s light and fresh and rounded. None of the flavours overpower, it’s just fantastically floral.

One of the challenges when adapting old recipes, is that specific quantities are sometimes a bit of a challenge. This recipe is a good example, because amongst other things it calls for “the crumb of a halfpenny loaf”. Although food prices were relatively stable before the industrial revolution, wheat, and by extension bread, was especially subject to price fluctuations due to harvest yield. So much so, specific laws were created concerning the manufacture and sale of the various types of bread (The Assize of Bread) and books of tables drawn up specifying the size of loaves depending on the cost of wheat.

Even with the Assize of Bread tables to hand, it’s still not clear which loaf the crumb should come from: white, wheaten or household. Household bread was the coarsest, and therefore unlikely, I reasoned, to have been used for such a delicate dessert. That left either white or wheaten and at just over 6oz and 9oz for a penny loaf, the difference in the quantity of crumb was going to be significant. The only solution was to make two tarts, and try each to see if one quantity was more suited than the other.

The photograph at the top shows the result. The slice on the left was cut from a tart made with 150g fresh white breadcrumbs. The slice on the right from a tart made with just 100g. Personally, I prefer the one on the left – the texture is like baked cheesecake, but not heavy and cloying. The slice on the right has a much softer consistency – if you’re a fan of baked custards, then this is the one for you. For an even more delicate texture, you could even try with just 50g of breadcrumbs – do let me know if you try this!

This is a wonderful springtime tart and I really hope you’ll give it a try.

Orange Blossom Tart

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
225g plain flour
140g butter
60g cornflour
85g caster sugar
1 large egg
grated zest of 1 lemon
ice cold water
egg-white for glazing

  • Put all the ingredients except the water into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • If the mixture is too dry, add some ice cold water 1 tablespoon at a time until the pastry forms a ball.
  • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface and knead smooth.
  • Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  • Grease a 22cm fluted, deep, loose-bottom tart tin – a lemon meringue tin if you have one, is ideal.
  • Remove the chilled pastry from the fridge and place on a floured surface.
  • Roll out thinly (7-8mm) and line the prepared tin, gently easing the pastry into the sides.
  • Let the excess pastry hang over the sides of the tin for now.
  • Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork and put the lined tin back into the fridge to chill for another 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Remove the tart from the fridge and trim the excess pastry. Don’t remove too much – allow 3-4cm to overhand the side of the tin – this keeps the pastry from shrinking back into the tin and can be trimmed after cooking.
  • Line the pastry with baking parchment and fill with baking beads/beans/rice.
  • Bake for 12 minutes, then remove the parchment and beads and bake for another 5-6 minutes until the pastry is cooked through.
  • Brush the inside of the pastry with lightly beaten egg-white and return to the oven for 5 minutes. This seems like a faff, but it will ensure you pastry is both cooked AND resistant to the wetness of the filling until it is cooked. *lying* I deliberately undercooked the pastry on the left in the photo to demonstrate.

Filling
150g fresh white breadcrumbs
250ml double cream
75g caster sugar
5 large egg yolks
60ml white wine [1]
1 tablespoon orange flower water [2]
1 teaspoon rose water [2]
zest and juice of a Seville orange [3]
70g clarified butter – melted

  • Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and set aside to let the flavours mingle. It will have the consistency of porridge.
  • When the pastry base is finally cooked, turn the oven down to 160°C, 140°C Fan.
  • Cover the top edges of the pastry with tin foil, to prevent them from burning.
  • Pour the filling into the cooked pastry case and bake for 25-30 minutes until the filling is set. There should be a slight joggle to the middle of the tart, but nothing too fluid.
  • Set aside to cool for at least 1 hour.
  • When cold, trim off the excess pastry, remove from the tin and place on a serving plate.
  • Eat slightly warm or at room temperature. Alternatively (and my own personal preference) chill thoroughly in the fridge for at least 5 hours.

[1] The original recipe called for sack, a fortified wine similar to sweet sherry. You could use sherry, madeira even marsala if you like. Whilst I love the flavours of all three, I thought them a little rich for this recipe, so I chose a regular white wine. A sweet and aromatic dessert wine would also be delightful.

[2]Both of these fragrances are available in the baking aisle at the supermarket. They also tend to vary greatly in strength and aroma according to which brand you use. The original recipe called for equal quantities of both, but the rosewater I use is rather strong. In contrast, the orange flower water that I use is rather lightly perfumed, so I used slightly more. if you use different brands, my advice is to use just 1 teaspoon at a time and taste as you go until you’re happy with the flavourings.

[3] If, like me, you made Seville orange ice cubes with the zest and juice back in January, then all you need is one cube. If not, then use the zest only of a sweet orange, together with the zest of either a lemon or lime for added sharpness.


Coconut Gingerbread Cakes

Coconut Gingerbread Cakes

Wotchers!

Gingerbread is such a classic teatime treat – and I’m a huge fan of classics! – it’s just that I don’t usually feel very inspired when I hear the word ‘gingerbread’. I think of a treacle-dark cake, rich, sticky and aromatic with ginger – sounds yum, no? – but the main thing that springs to mind is….a brick slab!

It probably goes back to the large, family bakes of my childhood, where the cake-of-the-week was kept wrapped in foil in a tin and slowly chiseled away at during the week until it was all gone. There wouldn’t be another cake until this cake had been eaten, and it used to lurk in the tin in all its brickiness, standing between me and… any other baked treat. The chances were high that it would eventually be replaced with something equally heavy and fruity – but that new cake’s attraction would be, initially at any rate, mostly due to the fact that it wasn’t the gingerbread.

The image of heaviness and brick-like shape has lurked in my culinary memory ever since – which is a shame because what it SHOULD bring to mind is crisp winter nights, spiciness and fireworks, treacle-richness and bonfires. So I thought I should try and rehabilitate it, and bring it up to date. Ironically, I achieved this by referring to a recipe over 165 years old, from Miss Eliza Acton.

Heroines of Cooking: Elizabeth ‘Eliza’ Acton (1799 – 1859)

Originally a poet, Eliza Acton is considered by many to be the first to write a cookery book as we would recognise it today. Her Modern Cookery for Private Families (1845) was the first to separate a list of ingredients from the methodology, and was aimed specifically at small households. Additionally, the author’s observations on potential problems and recommendations for subtle variations were included, illustrating Eliza’s personal experience with the recipes, unlike many of her contemporaries and cookery authors that were to follow. It was an immediate success and remained in print for almost 60 years. She was to write only one other book The English Bread Book (1857), in which her strong views against the adulteration and processing of food would still be being echoed by Doris Grant almost a century later.

After several experimental baking batches, here is Eliza’s recipe for Coconut Gingerbread Cakes, scaled down to a manageable quantity. Baked in a mini muffin tin, the recipe makes approximately 24 bite -sized cakes with all the dark richness of traditional gingerbread, with the added coconut giving both a lighter texture and more complex flavour. Fresh coconut is a little time consuming to prepare, but very much worth the effort.

Coconut Gingerbread Cakes – Makes 24

75g plain flour
75g ground rice
2 tsp ground ginger
grated rind of 1 lemon
110g treacle
40g butter
40g dark brown soft sugar
80g fresh grated coconut

  • Mix flour, ground rice, ginger and lemon rind in a bowl and set aside.
  • Put the treacle, sugar and butter into a saucepan and heat gently until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolved. Remove from the heat.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the warm treacle mixture and stir to combined. Stir in the coconut and then set mixture aside to cool.
  • Heat oven to 120°C, 100°C Fan.
  • Divide cooled mixture into 20g pieces, roll into a ball and drop into greased mini-muffin cups.
  • Bake for 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
  • Keeps very well in an airtight box/tin.

Cost: £1.37 (August 2011)


Muffins

A pile of muffins

Wotchers!

No, not those kind of muffins – the other sort!

Think bready, not cakey.

In fact, not just bready, but fluffy pillows of enriched bread dough – and a world apart from those beige hockey pucks wrapped in plastic that lurk on the supermarket shelf. Best of all – no oven required! Muffins are cooked on top of the stove on a flat griddle or heavy pan.

Bread muffins are quintessentially and traditionally British and have a very particular appearance – golden brown on their flat tops and bottoms, with a broad band of pale softness around the middle.  Recipes can be found at least as far as the mid 18th century, but there seems to be a lack of anything older. I suspect the reason for this is that muffins were traditionally made by bakers as opposed to the home cook, and therefore had no place in domestic cookery books. So – a professional baker might well have been the original source of Hannah Glasse’s muffin recipe.

Heroines of Cookery: Hannah Glasse (1708 – 1770)

Hannah Glasse is best known for her cookbook, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, first published in 1747 and constantly in print for almost 100 years – although her authorship was allegedly only definitively established in the 1930s. She wrote in a very no-nonsense manner, advocated the use of fresh, seasonal, inexpensive ingredients and made her opinions regarding pretentious and wasteful foreign cooks known in no uncertain terms:

“So much is the blind folly of this age, that they would rather be imposed on by a French booby than give encouragement to a good English cook.”

The Art of Cookery covers all aspects of food preparation in a straightforward and concise manner. Impressively, Hannah also includes chapters on preserving meats, bottling and pickling, tips on how to buy fresh produce at market and also includes a seasonal calendar of fruits and vegetables. Free digital copies of her famous book are available here and here.

I think Hannah must have been quite a character. Her recipe is entitled “To make muffins and oat cakes” – but in enthusing about the proper way to make muffins, she wanders off at a tangent and gets so distracted, that the oat cakes are never mentioned again. She even goes so far as to include instructions for building the cooking surface upon which you are supposed to do your muffin cooking. On one point, however, she is most clear: knives should not be used on muffins. Toast them whole and then tear them apart by hand, and be rewarded with pillowy-soft, honeycombed centre, but…

“…don’t touch them with a knife, either to spread or cut them open, if you do they will be as heavy as lead…”

*saluting* Yes, Ma’am!

Having said all this, the recipe I’m going to share is not actually Hannah’s – she lost me right about stove-building time – but this recipe is both simple and straightforward, so I think Hannah would still approve.

UPDATE October 2013: Whilst they are nice for consistency of size, rings aren’t absolutely necessary unless you’re very particular about the size/shape of your bakes. If you don’t have any baking rings, simply shape the dough into balls and set aside. Move carefully to the pan to bake by sliding a thin slice underneath. The dough will naturally settle when the muffins are turned and still have the recognisable browned and flattened tops and bottoms with the pale band of dough around the sides.

Muffins – makes 12-15 small muffins

420ml whole milk
50g butter
1 tsp salt
2 tbs granulated sugar
1 large egg
3 tbs potato flour [1]
400g strong white bread flour
1 sachet instant yeast
rice flour, for shaping (optional)[2]
semolina, for cooking

Equipment
Stand mixer with paddle attachment.
Improvised baking rings [3]
Griddle pan or heavy (cast iron) frying pan
fish slice/spatula

  • Cut the butter into small dice and add to the milk. Heat gently (microwave/saucepan) until the milk is warmed and the butter melted.
  • Put all ingredients except the semolina and the rice flour in the bowl of your stand mixer and stir slowly to combine.
  • When thoroughly mixed, increase speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes.
  • If the dough is looking stretchy and shiny, then cover and leave to rise for 1 hour. If not, add more(3-4 tbs) flour and beat for another 5 minutes. Cover and leave to rise.
  • Tip out the dough and knock it back (i.e. pat it down to deflate).
  • Divide dough into 80-100g pieces, depending on the size of your rings. NB You want the dough to fill no more than half your baking ring. Any thicker and the muffins will turn out too thick and lose their characteristic shape during cooking.
  • Shape the dough into balls and drop into your greased baking rings. No second rise is needed.
  • Heat your pan over a low heat. Do not add any grease or oil.
  •  When the whole pan is of an even heat, scatter semolina into the bottom of the pan.
  • Use a fish slice/spatula to move the muffins (inside the rings) into the pan. Depending on the size of your rings and also your pan, you can probably cook several at a time. [4]
  • Cook gently until the undersides are nicely browned – between 5-8 minutes, depending on the size of your rings – then use your spatula to turn over the muffins. Remove the rings once the muffins have been turned – they should hold their shape. If they don’t, and they start to sag, then the dough must have been too thick and so you might want to re-portion the remainder.
  • Cook the second side for a slightly shorter time. If you’ve made a test muffin, you can pull it apart to check the insides are fully cooked.
  • The semolina helps keep the muffins from sticking to the pan, but it does get very browned, so wipe the pan clean after every batch and add fresh semolina before the next batch.

Cost: £1.40 (July, 2011)

[1] Available at health food stores, Holland & Barrett, Oriental food shops.
[2] I got this tip from Elizabeth David’s book English Bread and Yeast Cookery. The rice flour dries the surface of the muffins without making them sticky or leaving clumps, so the excess is easy to brush off. If unavailable, substitute with cornflour or just use regular flour.
[3] If you’ve got the real deal, then that’s great! I, however, don’t – and I have no immediate plans to fork out £3.50+ per ring. So I’ve improvised and gone to my local supermarket and curb-crawled up and down the aisles looking for suitable tins. I was wanting to make mini muffins, and I found a small tin of processed peas for £0.21 – so I bought a dozen and opened both ends with a can opener and vwa-as they say-la! Bargain improvised baking rings AND a whole heap of peas! Nom! Can you do any better? 😉 Other suitable tins (depending on what size you’re going for) include tuna tins (medium) and steamed pudding tins (jumbo!).
[4]  At this point you might want to try a test-run on just one muffin, just to see if the quantity of dough is correct.


No Knead Bread – The Grant Loaf

The Grant Loaf

Wotchers!

If you’re going to bake your own bread, you could do worse than start with this one – it doesn’t require kneading, it only needs a very short, single rise, and you can have a batch of three loaves cooling on a rack in an hour and a half! The recipe has been around for almost 70 years – read on to find out more about it and its creator!

Heroines of Cooking: Doris Grant (1905-2003)

Tireless campaigner for healthy eating and the promotion of unadulterated foods, Doris Grant was a champion of fresh, natural ingredients and the minimal processing of food, and she maintained a running battle with major food companies in the UK for more than 60 years.

Almost crippled with arthritis in her youth, Doris found relief from her symptoms by following the food-combining diet of Dr. William Hay. With her health restored, Dr. Hay encouraged Doris to write her own book for the UK market, and thus began her publishing career. Alongside her many best-selling books, she is immortalised as the creator of The Grant Loaf.

Originally, The Grant Loaf was a mistake. While teaching herself to bake in the 1930s, it was several months before Doris realised she had not been kneading her bread dough.  It didn’t seem to have made much of a difference to the loaves, and was a great deal easier and quicker than the traditional method, so she included her ‘mistake’ in her 1944 book Your Daily Bread. Here, with only a few adjustments, is that original recipe.

The dough ends up a lot wetter than traditional dough – so wet in fact, that kneading would be impossible if it weren’t already unnecessary. The bread itself is firm without being brick-like, and has a wonderfully nutty flavour as well as making great toast. I bake it in our house as our everyday bread, including sandwiches and packed lunches.

This recipe makes three loaves for two reasons:
1. It uses a whole bag of flour at once – no messy half-bags to clutter up your cupboards and spill over everything.
2. It makes sense, as well as efficient use of the oven, to cook more than one loaf at a time and the additional loaves can easily be frozen for use later.

The Grant Loaf
1.5 kg (1 bag) stone-ground wholemeal bread flour
2 sachets rapid-rise yeast
1 litre + 300ml warm water
25g salt
25g muscovado sugar (or any brown sugar, or honey)

Equipment
Large bowl
Large jug
3 loaf tins (25cm x 10cm x 7.5cm)

Method

  • Put the flour into a large bowl and place in a gentle oven to warm. It doesn’t much matter if you don’t warm it, but it does speed up the rising.
  • Put the sugar and salt into a large jug and add half the water. Stir to dissolve.
  • Grease the bread tins using cooking spray or oil.
  • Mix the yeast into the warmed flour and pour in the sugar/salt mixture, then add the rest of the water.
  • Stir until the flour is fully mixed in. This is probably easiest to do using your hands, but using a utensil works well, also. Personally, I use a large two-pronged wooden fork from an otherwise unused set of salad servers, because the prongs move easily through the wet mix. I regularly manage to whip up a batch of this bread without touching the mix with my hands at all! Remember: you’re only mixing, not kneading – so as soon as all the flour is incorporated, stop. The dough will be much more moist than traditional bread dough – more like a fruit cake mix or thick, badly-made porridge.
  • Spoon the dough into the bread tins, making sure it’s evenly divided – each tin should be approximately ¾ full. If you want to measure by weight, it’s approximately 950g per tin.
  • Set the tins on a baking sheet somewhere warm to rise by about 1/3, until the dough is just above the top of the tins and nicely rounded. It should take no more than 30 minutes. If, like me, you’re lucky enough to have a double oven, then put the baking sheet onto the shelf in the top oven while the main oven heats up. NB Don’t put the tins onto the floor of the top oven – even if they’re on a baking sheet – it will get too hot. Otherwise, anywhere warm and draft-free will do.
  • Preheat the oven to 200C, 180C Fan.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the baking sheet 180° and bake for a further 20 minutes for a total of 50 minutes.
  • Remove the tins from the oven and tip out the bread. Arrange the loaves on a wire rack.
  • Put the loaves back into the oven for 5 minutes to crisp up the crust.
  • Cool on the wire rack.

Variations: This method can also be used with brown bread flour, for a slightly lighter loaf.

Cost: £1.50 (July 2011) – 50p per loaf


First Post!

Wotchers!

Welcome to my food blog.

I’m hoping to share some awesome recipes, handy hints and tips and delicious menu ideas that I use on a regular basis in cooking for my family and friends.

I love a bargain, and feeding my family for pence rather than pounds is always a challenge – so there will be tasty morsels that don’t break the budget, as well as suggestions of what to do with those odd items you pick up because they were on special.

A key part of this budget-busting approach will be some great ideas for what to do with Déjà Food (aka leftovers) – I prefer to think of them as advance preparation for the next meal, rather than remnants of a previous one – and if half my ingredients are already prepared, then its going to be less work for me to do. Win!

I’m a huge fan of traditional recipes, especially from the British Isles, and believe we could do a lot worse than look to recipes from times gone by for delicious inspiration. Maybe even revive a long-lost dish for enjoyment today!

Along the way, I’d like to introduce you to some of the many (nowadays) unsung heroines (and occasional heroes) of cooking that have inspired me, and share some of their amazing recipes with you.