Fenland Celery and Onion Bread

Fenland Celery and Onion Braid

At the moment we are lucky to be able to get my favourite sort of celery, the old fashioned varieties which are mainly grown in East Anglia with its deep fertile peat soil.

 It is a labour intensive business to grow as it has to be earthed up in order to blanch the stems and to develop the distinctive flavour that makes it special. It has a sweet nutty, almost almondy taste and it is very good.  It’s around now, so keep an eye out for it if you are in the UK.  This is my attempt to use seasonal food in my bread for this month anyway!

Celery and Onion Infused in Milk with Bay Leaves

As a rule I’m not that keen on breads stuffed with bits and pieces. It limits what you can eat with the bread and often makes the crumb quite doughy. But I wondered if, just this once, I would be brave and see if I could adapt a favourite Dan Lepard recipe to accomodate my celery love; it worked surprisingly well and has left me wondering whether other vegetables could be used in a similar way in a bread. Infusing the flavour of the veg by slow simmering in liquid means you can get the flavour into the crumb twice, once from the infusion and once from the pieces of vegetables themselves.

Edited to remove recipe in case it breaks copyright rules. 22/2/2012

I went for a four strand braid and some rolls with this dough. I haven’t done any braids for a while now and this dough was ok except the bits of vegetables popped out a bit and it was quite hard to roll out the strands evenly, so it looks ‘rustic’. Maybe not the best choice of doughs to try and braid but hey, you never know!

Celery and onion crumb

 I made a tray of eight rolls and the braid, left them for another hour until they had increased in size by about a half and baked them at 210 º C. The rolls took 22 minutes and the braid 35 minutes to bake.  I didn’t want dark crusts so I floured the tops before I baked them.

The crumb was very moist and soft and a little on the heavy side with the extra vegetables in there as I thought it might be,  something I have noticed with breads made with roasted peppers say, or lots of roasted onions or garlic too.

But you know what? It was delicious and we have really enjoyed eating it.  It got better the next day when the celery taste had somehow got stronger. The rolls defrosted well after freezing too.

We ate the buns with egg and bacon for a brunch and I also put some thinly sliced rare sirloin steak and mustard  between some slices from the braid for a treat of a steak sandwich!

30 thoughts on “Fenland Celery and Onion Bread

  1. heidi

    This sounds perfect- and your pictures are lovely!
    The flavoring of the milk and adding the diced veg is such a great idea- I wish I could drop over for a bite of this bread with egg and bacon on the side!
    I like the breads you come up with on your own- they are so exactly what you are wanting, aren’t they?
    Is this celery very white, with the dirt mounded up around it- like asparagus shoots that are white when covered? And I imagine that the flavor is intensified because of that.
    Thanks for sharing- I am so curious about the tastes from different cuisine.

    1. Joanna Post author

      The celery gets whiter as the season goes on apparently, yes very similar to asparagua. The Italians do it with cardoons, though I have never tried them. And then there’s Yorkshire rhubarb grown in dark sheds. And chicory leaves are grown in the dark, it must reduce bitterness and enhance sweetness?

      I would love to offer you brunch one day Heidi :)

  2. Suelle

    You’re lucky to get hold of traditional celery – I live in the Fens and haven’t seen any for many years!

    The bread sounds very tasty – I love celery in a cheese sandwich, so that’s what I’d eat with this bread.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Do you have Waitrose ? They have been stocking it, it’s marketed as Fenland celery. That would be too silly if they don’t sell it locally :(

  3. sallybr

    Also never thought of adding celery to bread, very nice touch… I remember the recipe from the Handmade Loaf, but haven’t done it.

    as usual, too many breads, not enough time (sigh)

    beautiful post, Joanna!

  4. Mariana

    Oh my. There is no end to your imagination when it comes to creating breads. This recipe is a definite keeper for that future bread cookbook that deserves to be published.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I don’t create breads, at least I haven’t done so to date – though it is sweet of you to say that. For the last two years or so I have been baking my way though other people’s recipes and I realise that there is very rarely such a thing as a totally new recipe. What there are though, are new techniques or methods that are transferred from one area of food production to another, or a use of an ingredient that is novel and that is where things get interesting from a creative point of view. All I did here was adapt a recipe that I knew worked beautifully to use another vegetable and altered the proportions of the flours. But thank you for being so kind :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thank you,hotlyspiced, there are so many wonderful and dedicated bakers out there I am always a bit surprised when people compliment me ! I should say that this one is really not that hard to make and of course one can always make the original recipe just with onion in the milk if the celery idea doesn’t appeal. Dan’s book is currently so inexpensive to buy on Amazon that I am tempted to buy several copies to give as gifts at Christmas.

  5. Misk Cooks

    You are a very clever girl, and as always the photos are superb. For some reason I’m intimidated by rolls. Haven’t tried making them yet. P is still buying the darned things at Sainsbury’s bakery. Surely I must be able to equal their mass produced ones.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Shall I do a post on shaping rolls? I will make those teacake buns hopefully again over the weekend and I can use that dough to take some roll shaping pics if that would help. There’s a little knack to it, easy to show and hard to explain in words :)

  6. emilysincerely

    I know I never would have thought to put celery in my bread. I do put different herbs. One of the favorite combinations is black olive and rosemary – yes, there are black olive chunks. Kind of like that. Great for toasting with butter, but you are right – it limits you to what you can eat it with. for me it’s either butter or cheese. your bread looks soft and wonderful!. Lovely with the egg on top and bacon on the side. I am hungry! Oh I think caramelized onion in my next bread might work… I better go eat something. Emily

    1. Joanna Post author

      I’ll try and get Brian to take some helpful photos. Caramelized onion is lovely in bread and caramelised garlic too is wonderful. Black olives, green olives, rosemary, yes I love all those too :D

    1. Joanna Post author

      I am very impressed by anyone who makes their own dim sum – all those lovely textures in one little mouthful :D

  7. C

    It looks gorgeous. I know what you mean about incorporating ‘wet’ things into dough. I tend to either stick to straight bread doughs, or make sure it’s something that will go well with cheese – I eat lots of cheese so there’s not usually a problem eating up bread that goes with cheese!

    It does sound like a really good combo, and I like the idea of infusing the liquid with the vegetable flavours for a double hit of flavour in the loaf. Sadly I dislike celery, so not for me, but I might steal the ideas…

    Must be more adventurous, but a little pushed for time at the moment. Roll on holiday time!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi C. when I worked for a ‘marketing’ man in between jobs years ago, he was always going on about ‘added value’ and unique but significant difference’ which basically equated to adding bits and pieces to a basic product so you could bump up the price. So a chicken for roasting, sprinkled with herbs and a topped with a slice of lemon would be deemed more attractive by the consumer than a plain chicken. Sigh. I feel like that about a lot of the breads you see for sale now, full of bits that are supposed to attract you but have the opposite effect on me, but I think I”m in the minority. I think this might work though with something like butternut squash or one of the sweeter root veggies too. It would be interesting to try one day. :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      It makes a lovely soft milky dough, I do like milk breads anyway for their tenderness and they make wonderful toast because of all the sugars in the milk. I don’t know how often I would make it, but I thought it was interesting enough to share with you Kari – thanks for the nice comment :)

  8. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Lovely Joanna. Now if only I had had a wedge of this for my lunch instead of what I did have. I will have to look at Dan the Man’s book again as I don’t remember that recipe at all.
    I love celery and like some of the other’s wouldn’t have thought to pop it in to some bread. (Funny, as I seem to put everything else in there :-))

    1. Joanna Post author

      No it’s a funny one, celery, the back note to all those stews and soups along with carrot and onion. A real lurker of a vegetable. Even if you don’t do the celery option do have a go at the original onion and bay in the book. It is a lovely soft loaf that goes well with all sorts of things. Very popular with teenagers for some reason too :)

  9. Ruth

    I’m also not generally a fan of bread stuffed with other ingredients, but somewhow I think I would like this a lot…. thanks for sharing – it’s definitely one for the ever-growing ‘must-bake’ list!!

    1. Joanna Post author

      I think that is why some people decide to go into business and make breads for markets, just so they can get the practice and have a serious excuse to try to bake all the things they dream about, when people get bitten by the bread baking bug they really get bitten hard :)

      1. Ruth

        Yep. It could almost be classified as a disease…but I’m happy to suffer through it, hee hee!

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