Artichoke Bread

Artichoke Bread


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!




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

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


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


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)
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

No-Knead Bread – Jim Lahey

No-Knead Bread


Here’s another great loaf for anyone apprehensive about kneading dough to a good consistency. As with The Grant Loaf, there is no kneading involved at all – but whereas the Grant Loaf is ready in under two hours, this loaf requires the best part of a whole day before its ready. The waiting time is the price you must pay – but it is so worth it. The recipe has been knocking around the internet for about 5 years, but it might still be new to some in the UK.

Jim Lahey devised this minimalist method of bread-making back in 2006 at the bakery he owns at 533 West 47th Street in Manhattan. With no special techniques, equipment or ingredients, Jim’s method achieves the crisp, crackling crust that bigger bakeries normally have to rely on giant steam ovens to achieve. So passionate is he for everyone to succeed with their bread-making, he published his recipe and released an online video.

The slightly unusual method used to bake the bread requires something both lidded and oven-proof. A cast-iron casserole is ideal, but since The Great Shelf Collapse of 2008 when all my cast iron cookware got smashed (yes, all of it *sobs*) –   I’ve had to improvise, and can report that either Pyrex or ceramic is just as effective.

I’ve doubled Jim’s original recipe because I know from experience, once out of the oven, it goes really quickly and then you’ll be disappointed if you have to wait another day in order to eat more.

Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising.

Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread
820g plain or bread flour, plus more for dusting
0.5 teaspoon rapid-action yeast
2.5 teaspoons salt
Semolina, polenta or cornmeal as needed.

  • In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 700ml water, and stir until blended; the dough will be very wet and sticky.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it to rest for at least 12 hours, preferably 18, at room temperature. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.
  • Sprinkle flour over a work surface and scrape the dough from the bowl onto it. Sprinkle with more flour and fold each side towards the middle. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 15 minutes.
  • Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently shape dough into a ball.
  • Sprinkle a tea towel generously with flour or cornmeal or semolina. Carefully pick up the ball of dough and drop it onto the towel, with the gathered edges on the underside. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour.
  • Cover with another cotton towel and leave to rise for about 2 hours. When ready, the dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
  • At least a half-hour before the dough is ready, put a large heavy covered pot or casserole (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven and turn the oven on to its maximum setting.
  • When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from oven and remove the lid. Slide your hand under towel and turn the dough over into the pot (think of it as a ‘delivering a custard pie’ motion) so that the seam side ends up uppermost. Shake the pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.
  • Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is nicely browned. Tip out the loaf and cool on a rack.

 Yield: One large loaf.

Cost: £0.58 (August 2011, using Strong Bread Flour)

No Knead Bread – The Grant Loaf

The Grant Loaf


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)

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


  • 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