And welcome to the second Great British Bake Off themed post. This week on the show it’s Bread Week, and so I’ve rustled up a little 18th century loaf for you to try, if you fancy baking along with the series this year.
I found this recipe in a French book on the skills of the artisan, specifically “Description et détails des arts du meunier: du vermicelier et du boulenger”, published in 1767 and written by Paul-Jacques Malouin regarding the skills of the miller, the pasta maker and the baker. If you’re wanting to dust off your rusty school-learned French, there’s a free e-book available for download here.
Helpfully, Monsieur Malouin included some illustrative engravings in his book, with notes on the various utensils and accoutrements of the trade, as well as identifying different loaves.
Some, like the loaf above, were to be enjoyed at specific meals, and the loaf here was known as type of soup bread – it’s special shape making it easy to tear off pieces during the meal. It was called artichoke bread, for its resemblance, albeit somewhat stylised, to a globe artichoke.
The illustration for the engraving is a tad small, but it gives the general idea of shape, if not size. An additional detail is that Monsieur Malouin suggests this bread be the last of a series of four breads that could be made from the one batch of dough. In order to retain it’s shape, the dough for this loaf needs to be rather stiff, ideal for making out of the trimmings and scraping of other, more refined, loaves.
I probably added a little too much liquid for the loaf in the photograph, as the ‘leaves’ have sagged somewhat. A short (3 minute) video clip of a real French artian baker, Monsier Jaques Mahou, forming artichoke loaves is available here, alas, we do not get to see them emerge from the oven. Edit: Many thanks to Karan (see comments below) who pointed out that we CAN see cooked versions of this, and Monsieur Mahou’s other artisan breads emerging from the oven HERE
I’ve just used my standard white bread recipe, with the one difference of making the liquid half milk and half water. Using milk makes for a softer crust, so mix it with the water how you like. If you prefer an extremely crusty loaf, omit it altogether, or for a super-soft crust, use all milk or even cream.
500g strong white bread flour
1 sachet easy-blend yeast
200ml warm water
200ml warm milk
- Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix.
- Stir the milk and water together and gradually add to the dry ingredients until the mixture comes together into a firmer-than-usual dough.
- Knead for 10 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
- Return the dough to the bowl, cover with oiled cling film and set aside to rise until doubled in size.
- Tip out the dough and pat down to remove the air.
- Shaping the loaf:
- Roll out the dough to a length of between 80-100cm, and between 5-8cm wide (Figure 1 above).
- Using a dough scraper or a sharp knife, make a series of cuts half-way through the dough all along one side, about 2-3cm apart (Figure 2 above).
- Scatter some flour over and between the slices, as this will help prevent them sticking together, as well as making for a nice floury loaf like the one above.
- Starting from the right (or left – it matters not one bit), roll up the dough as per Figure 3 above. If you’ve not already seen it – and maybe even if you already have – watch the video of Monsieur Mahou shape his loaf.
- Tuck the final piece underneath the loaf to help keep its shape and place on parchment paper or a floured baking sheet.
- Tease out the individual ‘leaves’ and, when you’re happy with the overall shape, cover the dough lightly with a cloth and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
- NB If you’re not happy with the shape, whether the leaves stuck together too much or the dough is too soft, just knead it back into one mass and roll it out again. As previously mentioned, the dough should be on the firm side in order to help hold the shape, so re-keading with a little extra flour can only be of benefit.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes until risen and well browned and sounding hollow when tapped on the bottom.
- Cool on a wire rack.
Serving suggestion: When you’re happy with the technique, shake things up a little by using differently-flavoured doughs: my Herb and Walnut springs to mind. And don’t think you’re limited to eating it with soup – a flavoured bread would be fantastic with some big, robustly-flavoured dips! Have fun!
Cor! It’s been a while since I made a post – apologies for that, but it’s been a bit hectic since the final of The Great British Bake Off aired.
Now I know this is still a Bake Off recipe, but I wanted to make it a blog post just to fill in some background on how I put the recipe together. I did actually go through the reasoning behind the recipe on camera, but obviously it never made it into the edit. To me, at least, it therefore seemed like I’d just given a pie a bit of a poncy name for no real reason. So for those interested, here is the background and how I put this dessert together. Feel free to skip down to the recipe.
Still here? Awesome! Ok, so the recipe request for the Week 5 Showstopper Challenger was for: A Unique Meringue Pie. The guidelines were very specific in two respects:
- It had to be something much more than a regular Lemon Meringue Pie, and
- It had to be big. Huge, even. At least 30cm diameter across the base.
Obviously the size was going to test our skill in baking such a large pie, and the filling stipulation was going to test our creativity. So all this got me pondering how I could do something that was original, unique and achievable within the time limit of 3 hours.
Now when I think of a meringue pie, I naturally think of lemon meringue pie – and it just reminds me of a bright, sunny day: the circle of yellow like the sun, the mounds of fluffy white meringue clouds. So I thought it would be fun to make something that was a contrast – involving dark and light, very Ying/Yang. Then I thought about it a bit more and decided it wasn’t going to work – Ying Yang Meringue? Please.
So I crossed over to the Dark Side (Luke I am your father) and The Midnight Meringue was born!
Dark chocolate pastry, rich mocha filling and a dark meringue made with…..well, it went through several revisions, including (as some of you might remember) right down to the wire on the day itself! Treacle meringue, molasses meringue, coffee meringue – but on the day, brown sugar meringue won out.
I also decided to ‘assemble’ rather than bake the meringue, reasoning that less could go wrong that way – I could concentrate on each component individually and not have to worry about something over-cooking. The final dish consisted of a cooked Italian meringue made with brown sugar, a thick and rich custard filling flavoured with coffee and dark chocolate and a blind baked chocolate pastry case.
The meringue was piped in a huge swirl and finished off with a few blasts of the blowtorch to toast the edges.
The meringue was a little softer than the standard meringue topping because of the brown sugar, but I still think it was the right choice and really made the pie stand out.
This recipe is for a single large pie, but you could just as easily bake mini pastry shells and create individually-sized pies for a special occasion – and would probably be less stressful than worrying about one big pie. The fact that at least 2 of the components can be made in advance just makes it that much easier.
The Midnight Meringue
300g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
175g caster sugar
175g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tbsp milk
- Preheat the oven to 200C/180 Fan.
- Grease a deep, loose-bottomed, 30cm tart tin.
- In a food processor, mix flour, cocoa and sugar.
- Add butter, cut in small cubes. Blitz.
- Add 2 tablespoons of milk and blend again until mixture resembles coarse, damp sand.
- Press the mixture into the base and sides of your pie tin. Alternatively, press mixture together and roll out using a rolling pin. It’s quite crumbly, so this is rather tricky and best done between sheets of cling film. Depends how critical your guests are going to be 😉
- Line with baking parchment, fill with rice/beans/baking bead and bake blind, 200°C 180°C Fan, for 10-15 minutes.
- Remove beans, cover edge of rim with foil to prevent burning and return to the oven until fully baked (10-15 minutes).
- Allow the pastry to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then ease out of the tin and cool on a wire rack
The mocha filling
250g dark (70%) chocolate, chopped
6 large egg yolks
225g caster sugar
1 litre milk
2 tbsp espresso coffee powder
- Melt chocolate in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds to prevent burning.
- In a bowl, whisk together yolks, sugar and cornflour.
- Add the coffee powder to the milk and heat, stirring until the coffee has dissolved.
- Whisk hot milk mixture into the egg/sugar mixture.
- Return the custard to the pan and continue to heat, stirring, until it has thickened.
- Stir in the melted chocolate until fully incorporated.
- Check flavour. Depending on the strength of your chocolate, you may need to add more coffee powder.
- Cover with cling film to stop a skin from forming and chill until required.
The brown sugar Italian meringue 
150g egg whites (5 large)
pinch of salt
few drops of lemon juice
45g granulated sugar
15g powdered egg white
300g dark muscovado sugar
- Put whites, salt and lemon juice in a mixer bowl.
- Whip whites slowly until frothy, then fast until stiff peaks.
- Gradually add granulated sugar and egg white powder (mixed together). Allow each spoonful to dissolve before adding the next.
- Whip to stiff, glossy peaks.
- Heat sugar and water to 115°C
- Remove from the heat and allow the bubbles to subside.
- With the beaters running, pour the sugar syrup into the whipped whites in a thin stream, then continue whisking until bowl is cool to the touch and the meringue is stiff. This will take between 10 and 15 minutes.
- Place the chocolate pastry case on the serving dish.
- Whisk chilled custard filling and pour into the pastry case.
- Spoon (or pipe) over the brown sugar meringue. Make sure there are no gaps between the meringue and the pastry shell, and that the filling is completely covered.
- Use a blowtorch to lightly toast the meringue. Serve.
 This quantity makes enough meringue to cover a single large meringue pie. If you want an awe-inducing mountain of meringue like the picture (although I feel obliged to point out that the picture is actually of a mini, 8cm pie), you might want to make double the quantity. If so, then I would suggest making two batches, because a single batch fills a standard mixing bowl.
Semi-final week on The Great British Bake Off, and the Signature Bake for Round 1 is a layered sponge and mousse cake.
My original recipe is listed on the BBC Food website, which was the version from the show and which was completed within 2 hours.
This version varies slightly in that, without the time-pressures of competition, I have suggested a gelatine-set orange gelee for the top. This can look especially impressive as it means that the gelee stands proud of the surface of the cake, as if by magic.
The instructions below are for a single, large mousse cake. The same quantity will also make 12 mini versions like the one pictured above, which stands about 6cm high. Instead of teeny tiny springform pans (I’m not even sure they make them that small), I used the ‘improvised baking rings’ (made from tinned peas tins) mentioned earlier in the Muffins post.
Joconde décor paste
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g icing sugar
100g egg whites
110g plain flour
orange food colouring
2tbs melted butter
180g egg whites, at room temperature
25g granulated sugar
225g ground almonds
225g icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
40g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
85g clarified butter, melted
Chocolate and orange mousse
1 orange, zest and juice
1 tsp powdered gelatine
175g plain (60%+) chocolate, broken into pieces
2 large eggs, separated
300ml double cream, whisked to soft peaks
300ml orange juice
3 sheets gelatine
300ml double cream, whisked to soft peaks
- Preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan
- Line two 45cm x 30cm (half sheet) baking trays with baking parchment and brush with the melted butter.
- Line the base and sides of a 25cm springform cake tin with baking parchment.
- Make the joconde paste:
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then gradually add the egg whites, beating continuously.
- Fold in the sifted flour then add the food colouring.
- Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 5mm plain nozzle.
- Pipe the mixture onto the buttered parchment in a swirl pattern and place in the freezer to harden.
- Make the joconde sponge:
- Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
- Add the granulated sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks are formed.
- Scrape the meringue mixture into a bowl and cover with cling film to prevent the meringue collapsing.
- Beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs in the bowl for 5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Turn the speed down to low and mix in the flour and cocoa powder.
- Gently fold in the meringue mixture using a large spatula.
- Put the melted butter in a small bowl and mix in a cupful of the sponge batter. Pour this back into the mixing bowl and gently fold into the rest of batter.
- Remove the baking trays with the decor paste from the freezer.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two baking trays, spreading it smoothly over the decorations and into the corners ensuring it is level. An offset spatula is useful for this.
- Bake for 5-7 minutes, until the sponges are cooked and springy to the touch and have shrunk away from the edges of the pan.
- Turn out by covering the sponge with a sheet of parchment then flip the baking tray over onto the work surface. Peel off the paper to reveal the pattern, and lay it lightly on top of the sponge. Leave to cool.
- When cooled, cut strips of sponge to line the sides of the cake tin, ensuring the pattern is facing outwards against the sides of the tin. Cut a circle of sponge to line the base and lay it patterned-side down, in the bottom of the tin. Cut a second circle to make the top of the cake and set aside.
- Make the mousse:
- Pour the juice from the orange through a fine sieve into a small bowl and sprinkle over the gelatine. Set the mixture aside for three minutes then place the bowl over a small pan of simmering water, taking care the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water, and stir gently until the gelatine has dissolved.
- Place the chocolate in a large bowl and melt it in the microwave, stirring every 45 seconds.
- Mix the orange zest and egg yolks into the melted chocolate, then stir in the gelatine mixture and fold in the whipped cream.
- Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks then gently fold into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mousse into the tin, level the surface and place the remaining sponge circle on top, pattern uppermost and chill in the fridge for at least two hours.
- Make the orange gelée:
- Cut the gelatine sheets into small pieces and put into a bowl. Add 60ml of orange juice from the 300ml and leave for 10 minutes while the gelatine swells.
- Heat very gently in a saucepan until the gelatine has dissolved, then stir in the rest of the orange juice.
- Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Don’t skip the cooling. If you try and pour the orange gelee over the cake before it has cooled and thickened slightly, it will just soak into the sponge.
- When the orange mix has cooled and is beginning to thicken, remove the tin from the fridge and slide a strip of food-grade acetate (or silicon sheeting) between the side of the springform tin and the sponge.
- Carefully pour the orange mixture over the top of the cake and return to the fridge to set (2 hours)
- To decorate:
- Release the sides of the springform tin and peel off the acetate/silicon. Transfer to a serving plate .
- Whip the double cream to stiff peaks (be careful not to over-beat) and pipe swirls around the edge of the mousse cake.
- Cut thin strips of peel from the oranges and curl them around a straw.
- Decorate mousse cake with orange zest curls and dust with cocoa powder.
Cost: £9.50 (September 2011)
Oooh, I’m getting all behind like a cow’s tail, as Mother used to say! Still says, actually. I was wanting to do my macaroons to show that they weren’t ALL disasters, then there’s the chicken pie and the meringue pie from last week too – and it’s only a few days until Program 6 of The Great British Bake Off and cheesecake/roulade/croquembouche!
But first, Bread.
In the showstopper challenge for Bread Week on The Great British Bake Off, we had to bake 2 different types of rolls, and a basket to display them in. I chose sweet Chocolate and Chilli rolls and these savoury Herb and Walnut.
I also chose to bake some of them in flower pots, having read that Eliza Acton used to bake in ‘earthen pans’ instead of the loaf tins we know today. There’s nothing special about the pots – they’re regular clay flower pots from the local garden centre. HOWEVER – they must be seasoned before use – and not seasoned as in salt and pepper – seasoned as in treated so that the bread dough won’t stick to the insides.
How to season flower pots for baking.
- Wipe the pots with a damp cloth and arrange them on a baking sheet right side up.
- Using a pastry brush, paint the insides of the pots with vegetable oil.
- Turn the pots over and paint the outsides and the base.
- Bake in a hot oven for 30-40 minutes – Best to do this when you’ve got the oven on to bake bread (you ARE baking bread, I hope! 😉 ).
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- Repeat the painting with oil and baking 3 times (for a total of 4 times altogether). As the pots bake, the oil will soak into the clay and gradually build up a kind of non-stick surface.
- Don’t wash the pots after you use them – soapy water will undo all the good work you put in seasoning them. A quick wipe with a damp cloth when they’ve cooled down will suffice.
The recipe itself is another mix of flours and flavours. Spelt flour can be tricky to work with due to the low gluten, which is why I’ve teamed it with some rye and some white flour. Stoneground wholemeal flour just made the dough way too heavy, so I lightened things up by using just brown bread flour. The herbs really do pack a delicious punch when fresh, but dried the intensity of flavour just isn’t there. Go with what you can get, though. If you like a really nutty flavour, toast the chopped walnuts in a dry pan for 5-10 minutes.
Herb and walnut flowerpot rolls – Makes 8-12, depending on size
300g brown bread flour
200g spelt flour
50g rye flour
50g white bread flour
1½ tsp salt
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 sachets dried fast-acting yeast
about 500ml/18fl oz warm water
2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp vegetable oil
200g/7oz walnuts, roughly chopped
For the glaze
1 free-range egg
1 tbsp water
- Mix the flours with the salt in a large bowl then add the herbs and the yeast and make a well in the centre.
- Mix together the water, sugar and oil, pour into the flour then mix until ingredients come together to form a dough – you may need to add a little more water.
- Turn the dough onto a floured board, knead for 10 minutes then place in an oiled bowl, cover and leave in a warm place until doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Knead the walnuts into the dough.
- Divide the dough onto portions and shape into rolls.
- Oil the insides of your flower pots and place a square of baking parchment over the hole in the bottom.
- Drop the balls of shaped dough into the pots. To ensure there’s enough room for rising, they should be no more than 2/3 full.
- Place pots on a baking sheet and cover with a cloth. Leave to rise until the dough springs back slowly when pressed with a fingertip. You want the dough to be about 3/4 risen and to finish rising in the heat of the oven. If you wait until it’s fully risen before putting it in the oven, it will deflate, especially if you knock the baking sheet as you put it in.
- Mix together the egg and water. Brush the rolls lightly with the egg mixture – try and avoid letting the mixture pool against the side of the pots – it’ll stick the dough to the pot.
- Bake in the oven for 12 – 15 minutes or until the bottoms of the rolls sound hollow when tapped. If you have trouble getting the rolls to pop out of the pots, slide a knife around between the side of the pot and the side of the bread, then poke the handle of a wooden spoon through the hole in the bottom of the flowerpot.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack.
Cost: £3.45 (Herbs from my garden, September 2011)