Khachapuri

Wotchers!

Bread and cheese is a classic pairing. With these two ingredients, you know you’re in for something tasty, and khachapuri, the cheese-stuffed Georgian breads, are a fine example of the very best dough-based snacking/carbohydrate comas that these ingredients can offer.

That said, there’s also a great deal more to khachapuri than just bread and cheese, and after years of gathering both recipes and information, I’d like to present a modest collection of just ten of the wonderful variety of dishes available under the khachapuri umbrella.

Khachapuri Dough

Whilst the regional differences of this dish can be quite startling, for the most part a great number of them can begin with one batch of dough. Whilst I have tried several over the years, this one is my favourite for the delicious softness and pillowy-lightness of the end result. To a certain extent, it is rather vague, as the flour quantity might well vary, depending on the moisture content of the other ingredients. For best results, allow the dough to mature in the fridge for 2-3 days, but you can also use it after only one night if you’re impatient

1 litre plain, fat-free yogurt
50g butter
40g fresh yeast
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tbs sugar
1tsp salt

Strong white flour to mix

  • Put the first six ingredients into a large bowl and mix to combine.
  • Gradually sprinkle in the flour until the whole comes together into a soft dough.
  • Knead thoroughly, until the dough is smooth.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic film and a clean cloth and allow to rise for 1 hour.
  • Tip out the risen dough and knock back.
  • Transfer to a suitable container, cover and chill in the fridge for up to 3 days, or until required.

 

Cheese filling

As previously mentioned, a great number of regional khachapuri can be formed from the one dough. A number also feature a mixture of local soft Imeruli and Sulguni cheeses. If you have no access to these cheeses, you can make your own mixture from those you do have to hand. A popular pairing that provides both the tang and melting qualities of the original is equal proportions of crumbled feta and grated/diced mozzarella. My own preference is for equal quantities of feta and Taleggio or Reblochon. The quantities required are, of course, dependant on the size and quantity of khachapuri you are making, but a generous 100-200g of cheese per 100g of dough is a very workable guideline.

Imeretian/Imeruli

From the central Georgian region of Imereti, the Imeruli khachapuri is a circular loaf with a cheese filling, and is the most common form of khachapuri.

For 1 Imeruli khachapuri:

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
100-200g grated cheese mixture
a little beaten egg (optional)
20g cube butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and using your fingers, press out into a 20cm diameter circle.
  • Pile the cheese mixture into the middle of the dough. You can use a little beaten egg to bind it together if liked.
  • Fold the edges towards the middle and gather them together, pinching them closed. Try not to trap any air inside as it will cause bubbles during the cooking.
  • When the dough is sealed around the filling, turn the dough over so that the seal is underneath.
  • Using the hands, gently press the dough out to a circle of about 20cm, taking care not to rip or tear the dough.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked and speckled with brown.
  • Stick a fork into the cube of butter and use it to rub the butter all over the surface of the cooked bread to glaze.
  • Cut into wedges and serve.

Mingrelian/Megruli:

As above but with an additional 50g of cheese sprinkled on top before baking.

Adjarian/Acharuli/Adjaruli:

In the south-west corner of Georgia, Adjaria lies on the coast of the Black Sea and has close geographical and cultural ties with Turkey. The Adjarian khachapuri is boat-shaped, and filled with cheese. Towards the end of cooking, an egg is cracked onto the bubbling cheese and the loaf returned to the oven until the egg white is cooked and the yolk warmed but runny. A  pat of butter is added just before serving.

For 1 Adjaruli khachapuri:

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
100-200g grated cheese mixture
1 large egg
20g cube of butter
additional butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and roll out to a rectangle 30cm x 15cm.
  • To form the sides of the boat, starting at one end, roll the dough towards the middle. Repeat for the other side, so that the dough then resembles a scroll.
  • For each end, cross one end over the other and pinch the edges together firmly.
  • When both ends have been pinched together, hold the dough at each end and push towards each other gently: this will force the rolls apart and thus form the boat shape.
  • Add the cheese into the boat and transfer to a lined baking sheet.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and stir the cheese filling. If liked, you can use the tines of a fork to scoop out any underdone dough from underneath the thick sides before cracking the egg onto the hot filling.
  • Return the khachapuri to the oven until the egg is cooked to your liking.
  • Glaze the edges of the pie with butter, add the cube of butter and serve.
  • You can tear off pieces of the edge to dip into the middle.

 

Ossetian/Osuri:

Ossetia straddles the border between Georgia and Russia, with Northern Ossetia under Russian control, and South Ossetia lying within Georgia’s borders. The Osuri khachapuri is circular, with a filling of potato and cheese.

For 1 Osuri khachapuri:

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
100g mashed potatoes
25g butter
125g grated cheese mixture
salt and pepper to taste
20g cube of butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Mash the potatoes while hot and stir in the butter. Mix in the cheese and set aside.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and using your fingers, press out into a 20cm diameter circle.
  • Pile the cheese and potato mixture into the middle of the dough.
  • Fold the edges towards the middle and gather them together, pinching them closed. Try not to trap any air inside as it will cause bubbles during the cooking.
  • When the dough is sealed around the filling, turn the dough over so that the seal is underneath.
  • Using the hands, gently press the dough out to a circle of about 20cm, taking care not to rip or tear the dough.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked and speckled with brown.
  • Stick a fork into the cube of butter and use it to rub the butter all over the surface of the cooked bread to glaze.
  • Cut into wedges and serve.

 

Kartopiliani:

These pies contain no cheese, being filled instead with a savoury mixture of mashed potato, fresh dill and onion.

For 1 kartopiliani khachapuri:

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
150g mashed potatoes
1tbs butter
chopped fresh dill to taste (optional)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2tbs cooking oil
salt and pepper to taste
20g cube of butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Mash the potatoes while hot and stir in the butter. Mix in the dill, if using, and set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions until browned. Add onions to the potato mixture and stir to combine.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and using your fingers, press out into a 20cm diameter circle.
  • Pile the potato mixture into the middle of the dough.
  • Fold the edges of the dough towards the middle and gather them together, pinching them closed. Try not to trap any air inside as it will cause bubbles during the cooking.
  • When the dough is sealed around the filling, turn the dough over so that the seal is underneath.
  • Using the hands, gently press the dough out to a circle of about 20cm, taking care not to rip or tear the dough.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked and speckled with brown.
  • Stick a fork into the cube of butter and use it to rub the butter all over the surface of the cooked bread to glaze.
  • Cut into wedges and serve.

Gurian/Guruli khachapuri:

Guria is a province in the west of Georgia, on the shores of the Black Sea. To the south is Adjaria, and Imereti lies to the north. The Gurian khachapuri also rejoices in the name of Christmas Pie and, unusually, is crescent-shaped. Baked as part of the celebrations during the midwinter feast, they are filled with cheese and hard-boiled eggs, the shape supposedly resembling the crescent moon or a hunter’s billhook.

For 1 Gurian khachapuri:

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
100-200g grated cheese mixture
a little beaten egg (optional)
1 hard-boiled egg
20g cube butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and using your fingers, press out into a 20cm diameter circle.
  • Pile the cheese mixture onto one half of the dough. You can use a little beaten egg to bind it together if liked.
  • Cut the boiled egg in half lengthways and lay, cut side down, on top of the cheese.
  • Fold the edge of the dough over the filling and pinch the edges together. Mould the filled dough into a more crescent shape if liked. Try not to trap any air inside as it will cause bubbles during the cooking.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked and speckled with brown.
  • Stick a fork into the cube of butter and use it to rub the butter all over the surface of the cooked bread to glaze.
  • Serve warm.

 

Ossetian

These circular breads are popular in South Ossetia. If you can’t get any beetroot leaves, you can substitute with Swiss Chard, kale, or spinach.

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
The leaves from 4-5 beetroot
100g cheese mixture
salt and pepper to taste
20g cube of butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Bring a pan of water to the boil and drop in the beetroot leaves.
  • Allow the leaves to simmer for 3 minutes, then drain.
  • Repeat the blanching, then drop the drained leaves into a bowl of cold water to refresh.
  • When cooled, dry the leaves on kitchen paper and cut away the fibrous stalks. Chop the leaves finely before mixing them with the cheese.
  • Season to taste.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and using your fingers, press out into a 20cm diameter circle.
  • Pile the cheese mixture into the middle of the dough.
  • Fold the edges of the dough towards the middle and gather them together, pinching them closed. Try not to trap any air inside as it will cause bubbles during the cooking.
  • When the dough is sealed around the filling, turn the dough over so that the seal is underneath.
  • Using the hands, gently press the dough out to a circle of about 20cm, taking care not to rip or tear the dough.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked and speckled with brown.
  • Stick a fork into the cube of butter and use it to rub the butter all over the surface of the cooked bread to glaze.
  • Cut in

Lobiani Khachapuri:

Lobio is Georgian for kidney bean and lobiani is a seasoned, savoury paste makes a very popular khachapuri filling. Obviously, home-cooked beans will taste the best, but if you’re only making one khachapuri, then you can use ready-cooked, tinned beans. The recipe for cooking your own lobio is given below, and includes bacon, but this version is vegetarian.

For 1 Lobiani khachapuri:

100g risen and chilled khachapuri dough
1 x 400g tin of kidney beans
1tbs butter
chopped fresh savory to taste (optional)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2tbs cooking oil
salt and pepper to taste
20g cube of butter for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Tip the beans into a pan and slowly bring them to a simmer to warm them though.
  • Drain the beans and mash thoroughly with the butter and savoury.
  • Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions until browned. Add onions to the bean mixture and stir to combine. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Put the dough onto a flour-covered surface and using your fingers, press out into a 20cm diameter circle.
  • Pile the bean mixture into the middle of the dough.
  • Fold the edges of the dough towards the middle and gather them together, pinching them closed. Try not to trap any air inside as it will cause bubbles during the cooking.
  • When the dough is sealed around the filling, turn the dough over so that the seal is underneath.
  • Using the hands, gently press the dough out to a circle of about 20cm, taking care not to rip or tear the dough.
  • Transfer to a lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until the dough is cooked and speckled with brown.
  • Stick a fork into the cube of butter and use it to rub the butter all over the surface of the cooked bread to glaze.
  • Cut into wedges and serve.

 

Rachuli khachapuri:

Similar to Lobiani, but with the addition of meat in both the cooking of the beans, and the filling itself. The method is the same as above, so the recipe here is for cooking and flavouring the beans yourself. This makes a generous quantity, but the mixture can be frozen if it is not being used all at once.

For the seasoned bean filling:

500g dried kidney beans
250g smoked gammon or bacon
4 bay leaves
2 cloves of garlic
50g unsalted butter

  • Soak the beans overnight.
  • Drain, add the beans, meat, bay leaves and garlic to a pan and add enough cold water to cover.
  • Bring the pan to a boil for 15 minutes. This is important in order to destroy the toxin present in the dried beans.
  • Cover and simmer until the beans are thoroughly cooked through. This will vary according to the age of the beans: about an hour for relatively fresh beans, longer for older.
  • When the beans are tender, drain and discard the cooking water, garlic and bay leaves.
  • Set the meat aside and mash the hot beans with the butter.
  • Chop the meat into fine dice and stir into the bean paste.
  • Season and proceed as above.

Penovani khachapuri:

The Penovani khachapuri is the easiest, simplest and speediest of all the regional variations. Together with the cheese mix of your choice, all that is required is some puff pastry and a little egg.

1 square of puff pastry
100-200g cheese mixture
beaten egg to bind and for glazing

  • Preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
  • Lay the square of puff pastry on a floured surface.
  • Pile the cheese mixture into the middle. You can use a little beaten egg to bind if liked.
  • Fold the corners of the pastry towards the middle and pinch the edges together to seal, envelope-style.
  • Brush with beaten egg to glaze, then bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size, until the pastry is puffed and golden and the filling melted.
  • Serve at once.

Curry Bloom Buns

Curry Bloom Buns

Wotchers!

I used to live and work in Singapore, and one of the iconic snack foods there is the Curry Puff!

It’s basically a pastry turnover with a spicy curry filling – sometimes there’s meat added and/or other vegetables, but my favourite was the potato curry puff. More usually, the filling is diced potato, but the cafeteria at the school I was working at sold potato curry puffs with a smooth, mashed potato filling. I know – carb. coma material, amiright? The combination of crisp pastry and smooth, spiced mashed potato was very comforting, and over the years I’ve tried to reproduce their flavour but without much success.

Until now.

Having said that, the recipe this week isn’t for a traditional curry puff at all. Traditionally, curry puffs are deep fried, occasionally with spiral pastry (similar to that used for sfogliatelle), but the thought of deep fried anything tends to fill me with the horrors these days. Another option would be to bake them, using regular pastry, but even that has a relatively high fat content, so what I decided to do was use bread dough in place of pastry.

Stuffed, filled bread buns are the ideal mobile meal or picnic item – the filling is self-contained,so there’s nothing to fall out or dry up or get soggy, and to my mind they are even more tasty because the dough wrapper seals in all the flavours during cooking. My recipe for Bierocks, for example, has such simple ingredients, but tastes amazing!

Over the years my attempts to reproduce the filling have stumbled over the spicy flavouring. I’ve tried numerous combinations of spices and each one has had some major flaw. Thinking I’d had a Eureka moment, I even tried mixing in sweet potato with the mashed potato but no *shudders* Oh dear me, that was such a ‘no’.

But now I’ve got a filling I’m happy with because I opted to buy curry paste. *waits until the shrieks of horror die down* Yes, I opened a jar and I’m not ashamed to admit it! It turns out that what my taste buds had been yearning for wasn’t an authentic, hand-crafted spice mix – it was just *waves hands about vaguely* ‘curry’. Sidebar: I also buy basic, value curry sauce – sometimes called ‘chip shop curry sauce’ and pour it over cooked chicken – with the family, it’s just as popular a meal as the home-made-from-scratch butter chicken (and made in a fraction of the time!) Go on, indulge in a jar today – it’ll set you back 20p.

Having said that, the range of curry pastes available in the supermarkets means that you can ring the changes as often as you like. Because the curry paste is concentrated, you don’t need to use much at all, and there’s also no risk of making the filling too soggy. I’ve flavoured the filling quite strongly, because there’s just a small quantity in each bun. If you want to use more filling and make turnovers/pasties, consider using less of the curry paste.

You can make these buns plain – just as a round bun with filling inside, but you can also pretty them up into the flower shapes shown above. Too often we spend a lot of time faffing with decorations for sweet things, and savoury items tend to be the poor relation, so I decided to redress the balance somewhat. An added bonus of the flower shapes is that they can be eaten delicately, by breaking off a petal at a time to nibble on! – Oooh! Get me, Mrs Etty-Kwette!

Curry Bloom Buns

The following quantities make 8 buns.

Dough
300g strong white bread flour
1 sachet easy-blend yeast
1tsp salt
30ml oil
100ml water
100ml milk
1 large eggwhite

Filling
300g cooked potato – riced/mashed
2tbs curry paste of choice – I used Patak’s Rogan Josh

Glaze
1 large egg yolk
1tbs water

Decoration
black sesame seeds or kalonji/nigella seeds
white sesame seeds

  • Put all the dry ingredients for the dough, plus the oil and egg-white, into a bowl.
  • Heat the water and add to the milk. This should make a warm mixture of blood heat temperature. Test by dipping a finger into the mixture to make sure it’s not too hot.
  • Gradually add the milk and water mixture to the other ingredients until they come together in a ball. You might not need all of the liquids.
  • Knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth.
  • Brush the dough with oil and place in an oiled bowl.
  • Cover with cling-film and set aside to rise until doubled in size.
  • Over a medium heat, cook the curry paste in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes, to bring out the flavours of the spices.
  • Remove pan from heat and add the mashed potato. Stir thoroughly to combine, until the colour is even throughout.
  • Once the dough is risen, tip out from the bowl and gently press to deflate.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.
  • Divide the dough into eight pieces.
  • Divide the filling into eight pieces.
  • For each bun
    • Pat the dough into a circle about 10cm in diameter.
    • Put a ball of potato filling in the middle of the dough.
    • Damp the edges of the dough with water.
    • Gather the edges of the dough around the filling and pinch to seal.
    • Turn the dough parcel over and press to flatten until it measures 10cm in diameter.
    • Using a sharp knife, add cuts to the flattened dough as shown in the diagram below.
    • Bun cuts
    • Twist each piece to the left 90° so that the filling is visible and gently flatten to make the petal shape.
    • Transfer the bun to the prepared baking sheet.
    • Allow the buns to rise for 15 minutes (after the last one is shaped).
  • Whisk the egg-yolk and water together and brush over the shaped buns.
  • Scatter the black sesame seeds in the centre of each bun, and sprinkle the pale seeds over the ‘petals’.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked and golden.
  • Wrap in tea-towels and set on a wire to cool, to keep the crust soft.

Easter Simnel

Simnel, circa 1655

Wotchers!

We’re back to the history books this week, with an original Simnel recipe from the 1650s. And yes, I’m exactly a week late, since they were originally enjoyed on Mid-Lent Sunday, which has, over the years, segued into Mothering Sunday/Mothers’ Day. Still, they were popular throughout the Easter celebrations, so there’s still time to rustle some up if you feel inspired.

Three regions of Britain lay claim to strong Simnel traditions: Devizes in Wiltshire, Bury in Lancashire and Shrewsbury in Shropshire. The Devises Simnel is recorded as being star-shaped and without a crust, and the Bury Simnel is traditionally flat, but the Shrewsbury Simnel was the most popular and which went on to develop into the Easter cake we know today.

The Shrewsbury Simnel of 350 years ago was much different to the traditional almond-paste-filled cake made today. Originally, it was an enriched and fruited yeast dough wrapped in a plain, yeasted dough,and then boiled before being baked, in a method similar to the way modern bagels are made. There are similarities with today’s Scottish Black Bun, the difference being both the use of unleavened pastry and the much richer filling of the northern version.

Shrewsbury Simnels

Shrewsbury Simnels, from The Book of Days, Robert Chambers, 1863, Volume 1, p336

 

15thC simnels

Overhead and side view sketches of an early Tudor Symnelle (from A Pictorial Vocabulary of the 15th Century, in “A Volume of Vocabularies” by Thomas Wright, 1857, p266)

Whilst descriptions and images of what Simnels looked like are well known, recipes have, to a great extent, been either extremely vague or pretty much guess-work, as all the original recipes have vanished over the years.

Until now.

For, as I was browsing through the digitised 17th century manuscripts of The Wellcome Library, I found a recipe for a Simnell. It’s made in the traditional manner of first boiling then baking, and someone has subsequently crossed it out, but it’s still legible and much older than anything I’ve been able to find until now, so in terms of authenticity, that’s good enough for me.

Manuscript Simnel Recipe

Simnel recipe from The Wellcome Library’s digitised manuscripts collection

It’s a little sparse on quantities and details such as cooking times and temperatures, but there was enough for me to muddle along with my own interpretation. Interestingly, there’s no mention of the traditional saffron flavouring, these cakes being ‘gilded’ with egg-yolk glaze only, so maybe the use of this spice was a later development.

It also fails to mention what size these festive cakes were. There’s anecdotal evidence from several 19th century sources, that claim Shrewsbury Simnels were made in all sizes from miniature up to cushion size, and also of them being sent all over the country as gifts. One account tells of a bemused recipient using hers as a footstool, not being aware that there was a delicious cake within the double-cooked crust. I opted for pork-pie-sized cakes for a couple of reasons:

  • The recipe says to “take it upon the back of your hand and pinch it” – difficult for a large sized cake.
  • The baking instructions are “bake them as cakes or small bread” – so bread roll size rather than loaf sized.
  • Mention I found of cymlings or simnels in the notes of early American settlers on the local vegetation.
    • In 1690, the Reverend John Banister recorded in his Natural History [of Virginia]

    We plant also Cucumbers & Pompions, the common, & the Indian kind with a long narrow neck, which from them we call a Cushaw. Of Melopepones or the lesser sort of Pompions there is also great variety, all which go by the Indian name of Macocks; yet the Clypeatae are sometimes called Simnels & because these others also from the Lenten Cake of that name which some of them very much resemble.

    • Earlier, in A Description of New Albion (1648), Beauchamp Plantagenet (what an AWESOME name!) observed “strawberries, mulberries, symnels, maycocks, and horns, like cucumbers” on Palmer’s Isle (now called Garrett Island)  at the northern end of Chesapeake Bay.

The vegetable they both refer to is nowadays more commonly called the pattypan squash.

Pattypan Squash

Pattypan Squash

The recipe below will make four, individual-sized Simnels. Feel free to enrich the filling for the dough even more by adding extra fruit, spice peel, sugar, butter and eggs. The mix below, however, will make a delicately spiced and fruited tea bread that is delicious on its own as well as spread with butter and/or toasted. Provided your Simnels don’t burst their seams during baking, the hard outer dough will ensure that they keep very well for a couple of weeks.

Shrewsbury Simnels

For the plain dough:

250g white bread flour
0.5tsp salt
0.5tsp mace
0.5tsp nutmeg
0.25tsp cloves
1/2 sachet easy-blend, fast-action yeast
warm water to mix

  • Sift the flour, salt, spices and yeast into a bowl.
  • Slowly add enough warm water to bring the ingredients together into a firm dough.
  • Knead for 10 minutes.
  • Put into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic film.
  • Set aside to rise for 1 hour.

For the filling dough:

250g white bread flour
0.5tsp salt
0.5tsp mace
0.5tsp nutmeg
0.25tsp cloves
1/2 sachet easy-blend, fast-action yeast
1 large egg
60ml double cream
50g butter
2tbs sugar

100g raisins
100g currants

2 large egg yolks for glazing.

  • Sift the flour, salt, spices and yeast into a bowl.
  • Cut the butter into small pieces and put into a pan with the cream and the sugar.
  • Warm gently until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved
  • Whisk the egg and add to the warmed ingredients. NB Make sure they aren’t so hot that they cook the egg.
  • Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture and knead for 10 minutes.
  • Put into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic film.
  • Set aside to rise for 1 hour.
  • Put a large pan of water on the cooker to boil. I use my preserving pan. Do it now because it will take practically the whole hour to come to heat up.
  • When the dough has doubled in size, knead in the raisins and currants.

To assemble the cakes:

  • Divide the plain dough into 8 even pieces and roll each piece out thinly (3mm).
  • Line 4 small deep pie/tart tins with cling film. This will help turn out the finished cakes.
  • Use 4 pieces of plain dough to line the tart tins. Leave the excess dough hanging over the edge of the tins, as it will help in forming a good seal around the cake dough.
  • Chill in the fridge together with the remaining pieces of dough, which will form the lids, for 20 minutes. This chilling will firm up the dough and make it easier to form the crust on the cakes.
  • Divide the fruit dough into four and knead until firm and smooth. If you’ve added extra fruit or your tins are on the small side, you may need to reduce the size of the dough balls.
  • Remove the chilled dough from the fridge. It is best to form one cake and then place it in the hot water immediately. If left to one side while you make the other cakes, the dough will warm up, rise and potentially burst its seals.
  • Place a ball of fruit dough in each tin.
  • Moisten the edges of the dough with water and cover with one of the dough lids.
  • Press firmly and pinch together to form a seal around the fruit filling. Trim any excess dough.
  • Crimp the edges of the cake according to your own design.
  • Fill a large bowl with cold water.
  • When the water is simmering, place each cake on a skimmer and slowly lower into the water. It will sink to the bottom of the pan initially. When the cake rises, use a skimmer to gently turn it over so that the lid cooks for about a minute.
  • Lift the cake from the hot water and lower it gently into the bowl of cold water.
  • When cooled, set the cake  onto a silicon sheet (so that it doesn’t stick) to dry.
  • Repeat for the remaining cakes.
  • Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  • Place the Simnels onto the baking sheet.
  • Brush with beaten egg-yolk to glaze.
  • Bake for 45-50 minutes until firm and golden. They should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Don’t be tempted to take them out too early, even with the dip in the hot water, these will take a relatively long time to bake.
  • Cool on a wire rack.


Artichoke Bread

Artichoke Bread

Wotchers!

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.

Pain artichaut from M.Malouin's book

Pain artichaut from M.Malouin’s book

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.

Artichoke Bread

500g strong white bread flour
1 sachet easy-blend yeast
1tsp sugar
1tsp salt
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:

Artichoke Bread assembly instructions

    • 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!


Bierocks

Bierocks

Wotchers!

This week’s recipe is another great comfort food and snack item that originates in eastern Europe, and migrated from Russia, through Germany and travelled with the food traditions of German immigrants to North America. Variations are also known as Fleischkuche, Runza’s, Kraut Pirok and Cabbage Burger.

A soft, white bread dough is stuffed with a mixture of seasoned beef mince, onion and cabbage – and that’s it. You’re thinking it sounds a bit plain and dull? Yes, me too when I first read about these, but reading the reviews of these buns on recipe sites and blogs,  you discover that these simple stuffed rolls have a huge fan base out there – so much so that they are made commercially in the US. The mix of meat, onions and cabbage is moist and savoury and comforting. Sometimes the most flavourful things come from the simplest of ingredients.

These rolls are best served warm, and served with salad they can be a simple and tasty lunch. Alternatively, they also freeze well – great for grab-and-go weekday lunches, they will have defrosted by lunchtime can be warmed up either in an oven or microwave.

Although the basic recipe is delicious, you can also add a little extra flavourings to your taste. The most popular variation includes a little sauerkraut with the cabbage: I personally wasn’t keen, but then I only had shop-bought sauerkraut to try it with. Home-made sauerkraut is probably much better. The second variation I tried was to add a little cheese. I went with some grated Grana Padano (a strong Italian cheese similar to Parmesan, but much cheaper) for maximum flavour without adding too much bulk to the filling. I really liked this little addition, but please do try the original mixture too – it really is delicious.

You can use any cabbage, but I like both the colour and texture of the Savoy cabbage – it holds its colour really well and makes the filling look fresh and juicy as well as taste that way.

Bierocks – Makes 12

Bread Dough
500g strong white flour
1 sachet fast action yeast
1 large egg
1 tsp salt
1.5 tsp sugar
100ml whole milk
100ml boiling water

Filling
500g lean beef mince
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 small Savoy cabbage, finely shred
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
grated Grana Padano cheese (optional)

  • Make the bread dough:
    • Put the flour, yeast, egg, salt and sugar into a bowl.
    • Add the boiling water to the milk and add gradually to the mixture until it comes together into a soft dough. You may need more liquid, depending on the moisture in the flour and egg.
    • Knead the mixture for ten minutes, cover and set aside to rise for an hour.
  • Make the filling.
    • Heat a non-stick saucepan over a medium high heat and crumble in the meat. No need to have any oil, even lean mince has a certain amount of fat in it which will come out as the meat cooks.
    • Stir the meat around until it is browned and shiny.
    • Add the onion and continue stirring while the onion softens.
    • Finally add in the cabbage and cook until the cabbage has softened – probably no more than 2-3 minutes.
    • Stir in the salt and pepper, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  • When the dough is risen, tip out and pat down.
  • Divide dough into pieces weighing 75-80g.
  • Roll dough out into a 15cm square.
  • Put a measure of the cooled filling into the middle of the dough. I use an 80ml measuring cup.
  • Add 1 teaspoon of the grated cheese, if using.
  • Bring the corners of the dough together and pinch along the edges to seal in the filling. What you will end up with looks like the back of an envelope.
  • Turn the buns over and place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Dust the buns with flour and set aside to rise for 15-20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Bake the buns for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.
  • Remove the buns from the oven and immediately cover the baking sheet with some tea-towels. This will trap the heat and create steam, which will soften the crust of the buns.
  • Eat warm.

Herb and Walnut Rolls

Herb and walnut rolls

Wotchers!

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)


Ploughman’s Loaf

Ploughman's Loaf

Wotchers!

Well, here we all are again – another week, another Great British Bake Off round. This week, as you probably already know, was Bread.

When the first series ended, I was so excited at the idea of a baking competition that I decided to write down what things I would have baked, had I been in the competition. I didn’t have a signature loaf (who does? I mean really – ‘fess up now), but I knew I wanted it to be distinctive.

I really like picnics and eating outdoors, but soggy sandwiches just ruin things – so I started thinking about how to get the bread to taste so great, you wouldn’t need to make sandwiches at all – reasoning that with a flavoursome loaf, some water and a couple of apples, you’d be all set for a picnic and no danger of squished sandwiches.

The Ploughman’s Lunch is a classic of many British pubs, and although some maintain that it is an invention of the English Country Cheese Council in the 1960s, evidence exists to suggest that a ‘Ploughboy’s Lunch’ was being served in pubs in wartime Britain, and farmworkers have traditionally eaten bread and cheese for lunch in the fields for centuries.

After many variations and tasting by friends and family, I finally settled on the recipe below.

Here is my Anatomy of a Ploughman’s Loaf:

  • Granary Flour – wholesome and nutty with the malted flakes, but lighter than using 100% wholemeal – since I was going to be adding extras into the mix, I didn’t want to start with a base flour that was too heavy.
  • Rye Flour – for extra flavour
  • Oats – Very nourishing and filling – toasting them in a dry pan enhances the flavour . Do try and get the whole rolled ones if you can – ordinary porridge oats will do at a pinch, but they’re much more floury and liable to disintegrate.
  • Cheese – a nice, strong cheddar, cut into 1cm cubes so that they didn’t just disappear into the bread, but left pockets of cheesiness to enjoy. If you’re using the UK system of grading cheese strength, I would recommend a 5 or 6 (strong) cheddar. If you can find it, Collier’s Welsh Cheddar, in its distinctive black wrapper, is amazing. See those holes in the picture? That’s where the cheese cubes were before baking – and now those holes are lined with melted cheesy goodness.
  • Onions – after discounting using actual pickled onions and then trying many variations including red onions, shallots, spring onions and chives, I finally settled on ordinary onions, caramelised in oil over a low heat for about an hour. This both reduces the moisture content and intensifies the flavour.
  • Beer – the traditional accompaniment to a ploughman’s lunch, I decided to mix the dough using a bottle of nicely flavoured traditional ale. I chose Speckled Hen, but feel free to experiment. Replace with water if preferred.

The smells coming from the oven as this loaf bakes is amazing. It’s so tasty, I don’t think it even needs butter – just eat it plain. The unplanned surprise bonus is how awesome this tastes when toasted – the cheese re-melts, the onions soften, and the crunch of the granary flakes and toasted oats make for a hearty mouthful.

Be warned though, this really is a meal in a loaf – it is very, very filling and will last several days, even in households with the most hearty of appetites.

I hope you enjoy!

Ploughman’s Loaf

500g  Malthouse (Granary) Bread Flour
70g whole rolled jumbo oats
85g rye flour
500ml beer (1 bottle)
salt
sugar
2 sachets fast action dried bread yeast
150g strong cheddar cheese
4 onions
vegetable oil
white bread flour for kneading

  • Put the rolled oats into a dry frying pan over medium heat and toast until lightly browned and toasted.
  • Mix the dry ingredients, including yeast and toasted oats.
  • Add beer and stir to combine.
  • Dust work-surface with flour and tip out dough.
  • Knead to elasticity (10 mins), using scraper to lift and turn the dough.
  • When the surface of the dough is nice and smooth, roll it in oil and set to rise in a covered bowl until doubled in size.
  • While the dough is rising, chop the onions. Don’t cut the pieces too small or they will just disappear in the loaf – about 2cmx2cm is ideal.
  • Heat some oil in the frying pan and slowly cook onion until caramelised (40 mins-ish).
  • Transfer the onions to a sieve set over a bowl to drain and cool. NB The oil that drains from them has an amazing flavour – try using it to flavour another dish
  • Cut the cheese into 1cm cubes.
  • When the dough is risen, knock back and fold in the cooled onions and cheese. NB It’s a little tricky, but try and get the onions and cheese to sytay on the inside of the dough. The onions especially will ‘catch’ very easily in the oven. Try patting the dough out fairly flat, sprinkling the cheese and onions, then folding the sides in until all gathered together. Make sure the seam is on the bottom.
  • Form into a loaf shape and set to prove again.
  • Heat oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • When the loaf is risen, dust it with Granary flour. Use a sharp, serrated knife to cut slashes in the top and then bake for 40-50 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow.
  • Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Cost: £4.60 (using beer), £2.90 (using water), August 2011