Tag Archives: baking

German-style rolls (Brotchen)

The sun was not quite up yet when I got up this morning

and…

the gibbous moon was still riding high in the sky ( I put this photo in because I was impressed that my small camera could zoom on the moon and I like the word gibbous, learnt reading The Moon of Gomrath when I was a little girl – now you know)

Saturday 23 Nov 2013

One of the many lovely bread blogs that I read is Brot & Bread written by Karin  (Hanseata).  I sometimes think that people who think and read most about bread  (and end up baking it!) are people who have moved to another country and find to their surprise that the foods of their mother country are either non-existent or just different in some way that does not please. Bread seems to be one of those foods that starts this journey.

Brotchen with sesame seeds

I grew up with a mother who couldn’t cook but complained bitterly about how horrible English bread was, it is too wet she used to say, or it has no substance. In her last years when she was in a nursing home, my sister and I would be sent on food missions, to find European chocolates, usually one particular variety which could maybe be found at an airport shop, or for the ‘right’ bread. Often when the ‘right’ bread was found it was left out to air and dry a little until it had the right textural qualities that she wanted.  It is a far cry from most people’s obsession with ‘fresh’ bread: wet and steamy, warm and squidgy, with that sweet and unique aroma – I can see its charms, but I tend to share my mother’s preference for the ‘right’ bread. It’s strange how these things work. I would have been so pleased to be able to take the ‘right’ bread to her, baked by me.

brotchen

So when I read Karin’s post about how hard it was to find the ‘right’ sort of rolls in the US, I had great sympathy and I was curious to make her rolls and see what she meant. Like all my good intentions, there has been some delay but I finally made these rolls with a good soft 00 flour with 10 g of protein per 100g which is about the softest I could find.   I looked at a bag of plain (soft) flour from the supermarket yesterday and it had 11.4 g of protein, hardly a weak flour if that is what one goes by.

I found this discussion of what 00 flour is matches my understanding best. There are a lot of other explanations of what it is on the net, some of which I am not exactly convinced by and some are just plain wrong. I am neither miller, nor grower, nor pro baker, so if you want to discuss this, I probably know as much,or less, than you, based on what I can read on the internet and from conversation with other bakers.

Karin’s recipe and method are very detailed and I followed them exactly, adding slightly more water to the mix. You can read it here on her blog.→  Wiezenbrötchen – German Rolls  ←

When I had finished mixing and kneading the dough was very tacky, but after the four folds described it was fine.  I tucked it away in the fridge overnight and made the rolls this morning.

They could have been a tad more golden, I think I opened the oven to rotate the trays one too many times and lost heat, but they are delightful even so.

Brotchen made with 00 flour

The crumb is fine, soft and tender, without being wet or squidgy and I am very pleased to be able to add this to my white dough repertoire and to have a truly soft roll to be able to offer to people who want them.  Thank you Karin!

Brotchen crumb

Guten Appetit!

Breakfast Brotchen with cheese

Brian Bakes Again (UHT Milk Bread)

I wrote this post towards the end of June but somehow forgot to post it, here it is anyway. There is still one of Brian’s loaves in the freezer…. As the weather has turned very hot, I am glad we have stored a little bread away as I don’t feel like baking when it is very warm here. 

Recently I wrestled with a very small bit of a border in our garden, as well as trying to sort out a tangle of climbers at the back of another bed and not getting very far. This bit was an after thought at the base of a wall that is at one end of the little lawn and only goes down so far before it hits rubble.  I took out some old plants and dug out the soil which was full of builders’ rubble, as is most of our soil.  Over the years we are digging it out,  but it makes even the smallest job hard on the wrists and extends the time it takes to do the simplest of tasks, as spades can’t shift half bricks buried in hard clay very easily and you have to winkle them out with a trowel.

Purple bells

I decided to see if the tomato plants would work in the ground outside with a wall at their back. It is now after midsummer and if they can’t go out now, when can they go out?  The soil isn’t very deep there so I figured it might work (thinking about those growbags which are very shallow) but they might not get enough sun there. I am trying to have fewer food plants growing in pots, as it is much easier to water them in the ground and generally look after them.  I hanker after a greenhouse or a polytunnel but there isn’t really room the way our garden is laid out.

Fortunately it was a perfect long June day for me to spend time pretending to garden, light cloud and not too windy and I stayed outside for hours. When I came in Brian had decided to make bread as there was none around. He made his favourite milk bread which he has simplified  a little and a batch of pita dough as well.  So I got to do the fun bits, shaping the dough and prepping the tins and making the pita itself.  We finally got round to eating around nine pm which is late for us, and had warm pita pockets stuffed with salad and some leftover bits and pieces.

4Milky bread

This is how Brian did it. It is based on this beautiful old recipe of Dan Lepard’s for a delicate milk loaf suitable for very refined sandwiches without crusts, the sort of cucumber sandwiches that they eat in The Importance of Being Earnest. We love crusts however!

This makes enough for four approx 500g loaves.; one for the next morning and three for the freezer. This is the sort of bread to make for people if you are trying to convince them that you can make soft white bread at home that is much nicer than the shop bought stuff.

 Brian’s UHT Milk Bread

  • 825 g UHT Milk (full fat)
  • 16g Active Instant Yeast
  • 525g of Strong Flour (still using last year’s Stanway Mill flour)

Brian mixed these up in the Kenwood at low speed for 4-5 minutes and then left the bowl to froth up for 20 minutes. The temperature in the kitchen was about 23 C so it went very fast.

He then added

  • 75g golden syrup (thank you for finally producing this in squeezy bottles, even though the tins are beautiful, squeezy bottles are easy peasy)
  • 600g Strong Flour (Stanway)
  • 16g salt
  • 75g unsalted melted butter (remember to reduce the salt if you use salted butter)

 He mixed this once again in the Kenwood for 5-6 minutes.  Left it to rest for 30 minutes. He  folded it twice by hand during the 30 minutes.  He then left it to double in size for 45 minutes.

At this point I came indoors and Brian had to make some phone calls. I buttered and floured the bread tins and divided the dough into four portions which I rounded up,  shaped and into the tins. They were left to prove and I investigated his pita dough and made it into balls which I  left sitting under a cloth and then stared out into the garden and watched the birds on their last round to the feeders of the evening.  This is one of Brian’s photos of the very harassed looking and worn out mummy blue tit feeding her ginormous baby on the fat balls. If anyone is in doubt about the value of putting out food for birds in the summer in England, don’t doubt it, just do it. The birds need us in our gardens and it really helps them survive all year round. If you don’t put out food then do put out water and change it regularly and keep the containers clean so the birds don’t pass disease between each other.

Bluetit feeding baby

Eventually we got it together to make some salad and find some things to put in the middle of the pita breads. I baked the pita off, they take 4 minutes in a very hot oven and we sat down and ate.  Once we had finished Brian put his tins in the oven. The dough was about two inches clear of the top of the tins.  It was warm last night so the final rise was maybe an hour or so.

5Milky bread

The oven was set at 210 ºC and he baked them at that temperature for about 20 minutes and then lowered the temperature to 190 ºC for a further 20 minutes. He wasn’t happy with them and thought they were a bit soft when they came out of the tins, so put them back out of their tins on the oven rails for another 6 – 7 minutes so they crisped up a bit on the outside.

Old faithful bread tins

The loaves were huge and toppy with lovely curlicues where the dough tumbled over the sides of the tins.  Cherry freezer jam and a scrape of butter on this for breakfast and a little sunshine!

Toast and Cherry Jam

Cheese and Onion Crispy Soft Rolls

4th July 2013

cheese and onion crisps Golden Wonder

I used to be completely obsessed with cheese and onion crisps and I suspect I am not alone in this. So you are in for a rambling old post today with a recipe at the end if you keep reading. Golden Wonder were the brand of my childhood, now overtaken by Walkers I believe, who have coloured their cheese and onion packets blue which confuses me utterly, because in my mind cheese and onion will always be green.  The power of the brand is strong in my mental map.

I ate these every day on the 716 Green Line Bus that swooped down into Hammersmith Broadway on its cross-capital journey (from Welwyn Garden City to Chertsey and Hitchin)  and away to Kingston on Thames after a long school day. Continue reading

Raisin Goats Milk Kefir Bread (no 3)

Raisin Kefir Bread Cooling Copyright Zeb Bakes

This is the third time I have made bread using kefir inspired by Celi @ thekitchensgarden.com.

My first attempt I made the bread in tinned form and encouraged by the enthusiasm with which they were received I have had a couple more goes.

I have switched to feeding my kefir grains with goats milk as I prefer the smooth results I get with this and I can make a simple cheese with it too.

Room temp 67.6 º F 19.8º C (new thing, I am going to try and always note the temperature of the room if I can when baking) as it makes a huge difference to how fast or slow the processes go.

Kefir Bread Preferment
Stage 1
Make a pre-ferment with
  • 150 g  room temperature water
  • 200 g freshly fermented bubbly kefir (made with semi skimmed St Helens goats’ milk)
  • 150 g very strong flour (Canadian 15% protein from Waitrose)
  • 2 dessertspoons Glastonbury honey

Mix the above ingredients together well till they form a smooth mixture.

Leave in a covered bowl for 15 hours at about 19º C, it will ferment quicker or slower depending on your ambient room temperature.

If you make a note of the temperature and the times each time you bake then you will get an idea of how it works where you live and in your season.

Stage 2
Put the pre-ferment in a bowl
and add
  • 350 g very strong flour (high gluten 15% protein)
  • 350 g Stanway Mill (all purpose culinary white stonemilled flour)
  • 14 g salt
  • 185 g water room temperature
  • 40 g light olive oil or softened butter if you prefer butter
You will also need :
  • A big handful of large raisins or whatever fruit you have available

Mix all the above ingredients (except the raisins) together well to form a dough. I am currently mixing in a stand mixer and it takes about 3-4 minutes to get a good dough which leaves the sides of the bowl by the time it is ready. Be prepared to adjust the water (or, heresy I know add more flour if the dough is not to your liking),

Leave to prove for 2 – 3 hours in a lightly oiled and covered bowl until you can see that there are bubbles forming in the dough and it feels alive under your fingers. It should have risen by maybe a third to a half.

Divide the dough into two parts and make one part as a plain boule and the other as raisin bread.

I used some very large raisins to do this. I wasn’t happy the last time I tried this.  I had added the raisins at the mixing stage and they broke up and smeared inside the dough and I couldn’t control their distribution very well,  so this time I did it differently.

I patted the dough out into a very rough rectangle and placed my raisins over one third of the rectangle. I then folded this over the centre part and placed more raisins on top of the fold and so on, always keeping the raisins inside the dough. I then patted it out again and repeated. I then gently shaped the folded parcel into a boule and tucked it seam side up into a well floured banneton and popped the usual shower caps on top to cover the bannetons.  As you can see in the final photo it came out a little tight at the bottom but none of these huge raisins were on the outside burning and I was pleased with the distribution inside.

Kefir Bread Proving Zeb Bakes CopyrightThe second prove was a leisurely five hours in length and could probably have gone for another hour I suspect.

The loaves were baked at 220 C  (conventional electric top bottom heat on a kiln shelf) for the first twenty minutes with steam in a tray and then the oven temperature was lowered to to 200C  for another twenty five minutes. I put the loaves back in the oven once I had turned it off for another ten minutes as they felt a bit soft.

So I reckon you could bake them for at least 50 – 55 minutes if I make them again.

This bread is soft and mild and full of good calcium for old bones like mine and it has been a hit with everyone who has tried it. I have experimented with mixing the kefir with some white sourdough starter and it produced a much more sour flavour to the bread. It still rose but we prefer this mild and delicate taste.

Copyright Zeb Bakes Raisin Goats Milk Kefir Bread

A couple of other lovely bakers making kefir bread with their tweaks and variations are:-

Carl Legge  and ofbreadandquinces both of whom have good experiences with doing this and I suspect there are many other quiet kefir bakers around the world. Real bread – but made a different way from the normal sourdough.

Oh and Zeb likes it too, but he likes most things apart from pickles…

And after all that I completely forgot (birdbrain that I am)  to show you Kefir Levain no 2.

I have the minutest video clip of Brian cutting the finished bread in half on my Flickr Photos

listen to that crunchy honey scented crust!

What’s for Tea? Lemon Madeira Cake

Madeira Cake Pam Corbin Cakes

I make a cake maybe once a month or so – I try not to eat all the cake myself but share it with people. We had a very nice coffee and walnut cake last time which took me forever to make as I cracked a whole bag of walnuts to do it, as the prepacked ones in the shops always look and smell rancid to me and today for tea we had a lemony Madeira cake from Pam Corbin’s Cake book.

I used a narrow based high sided Matfer tin, the one I use mostly for making high rye tinned breads  which holds a litre of water, so I hoped that is what Pam Corbin meant by a litre tin. Most mysterious.

This produces a nice slim cake, with the possibility of lots of small slices.

I adapted the recipe to use a proportion of Light at Heart stevia sweetened sugar and, oh horror of horrors, some Stork margarine, curious to see if I could taste either if I only used a bit of each. Well I can’t taste either of them in these proportions.  So I can hear you thinking, what next? Is she going to go all processed food on us? Is she going to start making cakes with coconut oil and icecream from cauliflower? Who knows? I might, but I think it is fairly unlikely.

I don’t like Stork and I don’t like margarine but I know lots of people who prefer the taste of both to butter. Cake is cake and infinitely adaptable.

So for my version of this cake, perfect for a lunch box or just for carving small slices off at random and as necessary

 

Lemon Madeira cake adapted from Pam Corbin’s recipe in Cakes

  • 200g of self-raising flour
  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • 50g Stork margarine
  • One large lemon finely zested
  • 1/2 tsp of Sicilian Limone essence from Bakery Bits
  • 4 large eggs
  • 100 g of organic granulated sugar
  • 25 g of Light at Heart
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice

For the icing

  • 100 g icing sugar
  • lemon juice as needed and a bit more Sicilian Limone essence
 

And then it is the usual thing of beating softened butter with sugar till light and fluffly, mine always looks wet and fluffy, not sure why and mixing in the zest and limone essence.

At some point I give up and get to the nitty gritty of the affair. I advance towards the hurdles of adding the eggs one at a time with a few teaspoons of flour with each one, Very similar to hurdles at which I was rubbish at school I may add.  I warm the eggs first and wish very hard that they don’t curdle. I am getting better at it slowly, but my heart is always in my mouth and my brow furrowed slightly while I do this.

Usually somewhere just after the first egg has gone in, I remember the tin, in fact I have a minor tin panic attack and rush around pulling tins out and staring at them as if I hope they will speak to me and say ‘Me, me, pick me’ but they never do.  Remember to turn the oven to 180 C (conventional electric not fan) /Gas Mark 4 if I am on a winning streak at this point.

I went for my old Matfer tin, greased it with butter, and popped a symbolic piece of baking parchment in the bottom. Turned the oven to 180 C/Gas 4. Did I mention nothing has ever stuck to this tin so far. The silver lining of my sometimes dark and thunderous cake making attempts is this tin and a couple of others. If you have a tin that won’t let go of your cakes, let go of the tin, you won’t regret it, I promise.  Sorry where were we?

Oh yes fold in the rest of the flour. Add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice,  Wince a bit more, waiting for the cake mixture to scream and separate. Feel slightly disappointed when it doesn’t curdle for once.

Plop the mixture in the tin, set the oven time for 40 minutes, long narrow tin bakes quicker than a more traditional low slung loaf tin. Leave to bake, test with wooden stickie thing. Take out. Leave to cool in tin for ten minutes. Tip out onto cooling rack…

Next day.. mix up 100 g of icing sugar with a little lemon juice and plop it on the top. Go out in the garden and in a homage to the seriously good cake makers out there, pick some primroses, violets and geranium flowers and stick them on the top. Don’t they look fancy?

To those of you who have read this blog for a while a big apology that I still have mild panic attacks about making cakes, I think it is something to do with knowing that the ingredients are much more costly than for making bread and therefore there is more pressure on me to get it right, also there is in my eyes at least more that can go wrong. I don’t trust that the process will replicate itself each time I do it and while a slightly misshapen loaf is charming and rustic, a sunken cake that has left a big chunk of itself in the tin is just sad.

Find a pretty spot in the garden to take a photo and test at teatime.  Well, it’s cake innit?  Mine all mine, and even with those suspicious ingredients, still far nicer than most cake you can buy in the regular shops. And you can’t buy fresh flowers in a packet…

PS As there is a little bit of interest in the Matfer tin I used, judging by the comments, here it is:

 They aren’t cheap, but it has lasted and looks almost as good as when I bought it. It measures 10” x 3.5” (250 mm x 85 mm) around the top, narrowing by half an inch at the base. It is 3.25 “ deep and is deceptive in that it holds around 750-800g dough / a litre of water.  It has a rolled edge and sharp clean corners. I also have the smaller sized one of these which holds approximately 400g dough.

Matfer Loaf Tin

Ginger Up Those Dan Lepard Tea Cakes

dan Lepard teacakes

So I asked Brian what he would like in the way of baking and being a man of few words he said ‘Buns please’ – once more unto Dan Lepard’s top teacake recipe dear friends. This time I think I have  just about got the bake time for a smaller sized bun spot on. This batch are near enough perfect. I like this recipe because it is a proper light-on-the-sugar bun, relying on the fruit and spice for sweetness.  If you like buns drenched in sugary syrup and crammed with all sorts of bits, this is not the bun for you, but it is Brian’s favourite sweet bun and he would happily eat them all day.

I used organic cocoa butter instead of white chocolate and 100 grams of Buderim ginger, 150 g of sultanas and 50 grams of dried pears as the fruit. A teaspoon of cinammon, half a teaspoon each of ginger and mixed spice, and St Helens semiskimmed goats milk. I add the cocoa butter to the heated milk before pouring it over the other goodies so that it melts easily. I am getting quite into goats milk these days on account of the kefir which likes it better than cows milk, don’t ask me why, I hated everything goat when I was a child but my tastes have changed over the years.

I divided the dough into 16 balls of 90 g about half the size suggested in Short and Sweet,  and baked them for exactly 10 minutes in a fan oven at 200 C.  The buns come out soft and light if you keep the bake short and hot. If you leave them in too long they get dry and tough,  so if in doubt pull them out of the oven. The rich colour is from the egg wash, don’t forget the egg wash!

Fri am : Adding a couple of crumb shots for Charlie @ Hotlyspiced.com

Crumb shot Top Tea Cakes Dan Lepard Buderim Ginger IMG_1721

…and they defrost beautifully and toast like a dream….

Maybe it was the fresh yeast, maybe the goat's milk, who knows, these are the  lightest, and most melt in the mouth teacakes I have ever made!

Maybe it was the fresh yeast, maybe the goat’s milk, who knows, these are the lightest, and most melt in the mouth teacakes I have ever made!

Singing Crusts and Rising Bread

Zeb Bakes Apple Bread

This is going to be what I now believe is called a ‘longform’ post. i.e. more than three lines and two photos.

It has been about five years now since I picked up a bag of flour and wandered dustily down the bread road.

Other people in the same time span have started their own businesses, gone to baking school, and done all sorts of wonderful things seduced and entranced as they are by the whole baking world.  I still haven’t made croissants or doughnuts, but I like to think I can make a reasonable loaf of sourdough and great pitta bread.

In this post I just wanted to have a little chat and a meander through my baking past such as it is,  because I sometimes think that people don’t quite believe that we all go down the same road more or less trying to figure out this bread thing, which is how to make bread that makes us and the people we share it with happy!

I have spent a bit of time trawling through old photos, many of which were taken by Brian, (the clue is that his have that fancy blurred background thing going on).  I will try and do a ‘with hindsight’ running commentary on what was going on, and what might have gone wrong, but it is hard to know exactly. If you knew me when I posted on Dan’s forum you will have seen these photos before as I puzzled over what to do to put things right the next time…

First Mill Loaves!

Here we have two of my very earliest loaves, I was very ashamed of them, but I also thought they were quite funny so I took their photo vowing that I would do better next time.

They were both made from the same dough, the flatter of the two on the right had stood for about an hour longer than the other one before being baked and was completely and utterly overproved. The very dark one had been in the oven for ages at a very hot temperature. All those hours of waiting and I wasn’t very impressed.

However my best loaf possibly ever and the one that makes me smile the most is this one:

Mouse Cathedral 1

This was an experiment in not kneading and not folding and putting dough in the fridge overnight. I thought I would be even more minimal than the most minimal of bakers and very clever. I hadn’t really understood that you have to get rid of some of the bubbles in the dough, or stretch and shape it.

Mouse Cathedral 2

As you can see it turned into a mouse cathedral, and rose in a way I have never been able to replicate since. I think there was so much air in the dough that it just didn’t know what to do. Ah me.

White LevainThis was my first attempt at a basic white sourdough made with Dan Lepard’s recipe in the Handmade Loaf. It is a simple dough but not an easy one to handle if you are starting out. I read somewhere the other day that simple is not the same as easy, and this certainly applies to bread making. I think I had used so much oil to handle the dough that the crumb took on a shine resembling my face after a day in the kitchen. Using oil to shape dough is very useful, but too much can cause problems, particularly when it comes to sealing the seams underneath with a firm dough. Use it sparingly and save yourself this grief.

At this point I spent a lot of time reading about flour and reading bread books and decided that if only I had the ‘right’ flour I would make much better bread. In fact I hummed and hawed about this a lot, bought all sorts of different flours and experimented madly, and spread myself so thinly that I never really knew what I was doing.

Sourdough overnight baguettes - 9

I made an attempt at  overnight sourdough baguettes and was appallingly pleased with myself. In fact it is just sourdough in baguette shape but no matter. As I have said before I am not a perfectionist and am easily pleased! Look at their funny little shapes and their slashes!

IMG_2989

I proved these in my old cotton teatowels, no fancy couche cloth here, not a clue really what I was doing, but I do remember eating these, baked from cold from the fridge and being extremely happy and greedy.

How many can I eat?

I carried on making breads and posting about them on Dan Lepard’s forum, I shyly chatted away to people who also posted. I made friends, I asked questions, I began to think I knew some of the answers and tried to help people who also turned up, the curse of being an ex teacher and wanting to share knowledge, partial though it was and still is.

It was a lovely forum, with a great mix of people from experts to beginners and was very gentle and friendly. I admit I bought brotforms, in those days not as easy to find as they are now,  so I ordered some from Germany. I found two french banettons with linen liners in a catering suppliers in the UK too.  My early banetton loaves had a ghostly white pallor as I had read somewhere to dust them with potato flour to stop the dough sticking. It works fine but doesn’t change colour in the oven at all. The loaves were beginning to look like loaves that made sense to me at last.

Mill Loaves again

I am not the most consistent of people and I maybe never took the baking or the blogging quite seriously enough to be a bona fide food blogger nor a baker but every so often I get a nice comment or an email from someone who has been brave enough to make something based on what I have written here and then I feel very pleased that I have helped which brings me to the highlight of my blogging week:-

Highlight of the week

JoH Bakes Beautiful Sourdough

Look at that crumb!

Look at that crumb!

Sharing and Baking

These are photos of JoH’s sourdough that she sent me this week which I am allowed to show you.  I think her bread looks just great and I am delighted that she too is jumping up and down with happiness at making a loaf that pleases her. She was working from my weekly sourdough sheets which you can find here → Weekly sourdough pdf

So here’s to all of you brave and foolhardy people who drag a bag of dry flour into the kitchen, squint at a recipe, wonder over instructions like ‘give the dough a turn’ or ‘ form a boule’, who convert cups to grams and ounces to handfuls,  burn your arms and skid on semolina, to those of you who sit by your ovens and smile as the bread rises,  feed your friends and family, share pictures and stories, advice and lore on the internet, with your salt and your leaven, your ferments and baskets, I salute you, may your bread rise and your crusts sing and crackle!

Oh and a last word of my best well-meaning advice – don’t worry about what they do on TV, follow your instincts, take it all with a pinch of salt, they don’t know it all, no one does – question everything, practise lots, study your failures, as they will tell you more than you think, and have a good time!