Garlic Bread

Garlic Bread - cut

Asda has a special place in my heart. When I was a child we still had butchers, grocers and bakers within walking distance so most shopping was done daily. But for the big stuff like washing up liquid, cereal, frozen food etc we had “the monthly shop” which involved a family outing to the nearest big supermarket which was Asda.

Food shopping has changed significantly since then and so has Asda. Today the branch of Asda nearest to where I work sells plantains and okra as well as potatoes and milk. This visit I came away with samphire and smoked garlic. The samphire came with cooking instructions telling you not to add salt, which on tasting it I can see why. I like salty food and this certainly didn’t need any extra! Poor LSH is not a fan of salt and I doubt it will find its way back into my shopping basket any time soon.

Garlic Bread - smoked garlic

The smoked garlic was more successful. For starters it smelt delicious – very rich and smoky! Just the thing to pop into a chicken for roasting. But I thought that it might be good to try it in bread and so I gave Paul Hollywood’s recipe for garlic bread in How to Bake a go.

Garlic Bread - roasted garlic

The recipe is pretty straight forward as it’s essentially a basic white dough with roasted garlic cloves. I made a half the quantity as I only wanted the one, so I used just one bulb of garlic. The bulb is split into cloves and all the skin is removed before it’s roasted in olive oil until soft and golden.
When the dough has completed its first rise the recipe tells you to knead the cloves into the dough and then to shape it before proving. Once proved you are then supposed to coat with olive oil and oregano before baking. Trying to get the cloves evenly distributed through the dough was a challenge and I didn’t have oregano so I used finely chopped fresh rosemary and the olive oil that the garlic had been roasted in to increase the overall “garlicness”

Garlic Bread - baked If you have the book you will see couple of key differences between my version and the one illustrated there – the location of the garlic and the shape of the loaf. In the book they are all at the top of the bread and sit level with the crust. In mine they are towards the bottom of the loaf. The bread itself is much flatter, more ciabatta like in shape, whereas mine was more domed and loaflike in shape, which was largely a result of trying to get the cloves spread through the dough. With the cloves incorporated I found it difficult to flatten it out. I suspect that the book version was shaped first and then the cloves pushed in before baking and this is what I would do in future.

The final bread had a lovely crisp rosemary scented crust with garlic cloves dotted through the crumb. Alas there was not much sign of the smokiness that I loved in the unroasted bulb though – I suspect that this lies in the skin that was removed at the outset. Despite this though it was tasty. So tasty that LSH managed the beat his own record for bread eating as within 15 min all that was left of it was this!

Garlic Bread - the end

A Perfect Spelt Loaf

Spelt loaf 3

Spelt is one of the oldest grains. It’s been used in Britain since before the Romans landed on these shores but fell out of fashion and was replaced by wheat. It’s lower in gluten than wheat and supposedly helps to protect against bowel cancer. All of which makes it sound like its going to produce a loaf like a brick, hence whilst I’ve used both white and wholemeal spelt in loaves, I’ve shyed away from just using spelt. Then I came across this during one of my Waitrose outings.

Spelt flour

Sharpham Park specialise in spelt flour. As well as white and wholemeal they also do a 60:40 mix they call Baker’s Blend. It sounded appealing and the recipe on the back of the pack looked straightforward enough so I decided to give it a go. However I didn’t follow the method as, according to Paul Hollywood, spelt is prone to spread and so I decided that a loaf tin was the best way.

I mixed 500g of the Baker’s Blend with 1 tsp salt,1 tsp easy blend yeast, 2tblsp olive oil and 300g warm water. As its lower in gluten I decided to mix it into a rough dough and leave it covered for 15 minutes before kneading.

I then gave it a quick 10 second knead on an oiled work surface before leaving it another 10 minutes. I repeated this twice more before adding a touch more water on the second knead as it seemed a bit too dry (I just dipped my hand in water so it was damp before kneading the dough).

lt was then given a light coat of olive oil and left covered for about an hour in black bin bag.

By this time it had risen quite a bit. I floured the work surface and turned it out, padding it into a small rectangle. This time I decided to devote a bit more time into shaping it rather than just plonking it in the tin. I didn’t take photos of the process but if you have the River Cottage Bread Handbook it’s essentially the stubby cylinder in there.

Spelt - pre prove

After another hour it looked like this. As you can see it had risen a lot and was very “bread” shaped! I clearly need to shape it properly in future.

Spelt loaf - post prove

I preheated the oven to 220C with a roasting tin in the bottom. When the loaf was ready I gave it a decent topping of flour and slashed it before putting it in the oven before quickly pouring boiling water into the roasting tray.

It was then baked for about 30 minutes to produce this.

Spelt loaf 2

This is probably the prettiest loaf I have ever baked! All it needs is Hovis imprinted on the side. I am completely in awe of the amount of oven spring it got, the way it kept its shape, the colour… Seriously I didn’t even want to cut into it, it was so pretty.

But cut into it I did. It had a good crunchy top crust and a sandwich worthy crumb.

Spelt loaf - sliced

Tastewise it’s difficult to describe. It’s not wheat – it tastes “softer” than that, but it’s not so different that it’s hugely noticeable. In fact LSH has been eating it for the last couple of days and hasn’t noticed that he’s been eating a “health food” (well not til he reads this anyway!) I would definitely make this again – my only worry is that on the website it is listed as sold out. Hopefully I’ll still be able to get this from my supermarket. I may have a go at making my own “Monday Baker’s Blend” and see if I can replicate it.

Love Baking Bread

Bread magazineI’ve often wondered why there isn’t a magazine devoted to bread. My local newsagent is full of ones dedicated to cupcakes and cake decorating but not one on bread – till now. Love Baking Bread is brought to you by the same people who bring you those pesky cake mags but thankfully (with the exception of an ad on page 88) it’s a cupcake free zone.

Instead there is page after page of bread recipes and other bread related stuff. I’m already making a list of recipes that I want to try and there are quite a few. I couldn’t find any information on whether this is a one off or whether it will be coming out on a quarterly basis so fingers crossed this is the first of many.

However, I do have a slight reservation about it which is that none of the recipes look to be original to this magazine. If you already have recipe books by many of the bakers included here then you may find there’s little new for you. But if, like me, you’re at the beginning of your bread making journey then you’ll find the magazine acts as a good “sampler” of what various bakers’ recipes are like. So if you want to try recipes by the likes of Hollywood, Bertinet, Hadjiandreou, and others before committing to buying an entire book, then give this magazine a go.

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns

I love hot cross buns. Even in the days before I liked dried fruit I would eat them, carefully picking out the big squishy sultanas to leave on the side of my plate.

Now I eat every bit of them but I’m invariably disappointed by supermarket offerings which never seem to match up to the bakery bought specimens of my childhood.

So now I have the baking bug I thought that this year I’d have a go at doing my own. I decided to have a go at the Paul Hollywood recipe on the BBC Good Food site as I find that his recipes tend to be a bit more forgiving for the novice baker.

A quick trip to my local supermarket and I was ready for an evenings baking. I tweaked the recipe by adding some mixed spice as well and shortened the cooking time to 15 mins. Even then they were a tad darker than I’d have liked.

And it was a full evening baking – I started at about 5.30 and the buns were finally out of the oven at about 9.15! They were nice (despite the somewhat wonky crosses!) but next time I’d add more spice and make them slightly larger. I’d also soak the dried fruit before adding it- I needed more “squishy sultanas”!