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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!