Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Vodka Cranberry Bread

About a year ago we got some New Zealand 42 below vodka and we managed to drink about two thirds of it. I don’t know why we left the rest of it - a very unusual situation in our household! Anyway, I was baking a lot of sweet goodies around that time, using real vanilla pods and we decided to experiment with adding used vanilla pods to the remaining vodka to see what that’s going to do to the flavour. A year later I discovered the bottle at the back of the drinks cabinet and it is just like a very concentrated, very alcoholic vanilla essence. I don't suggest you start prepping a year before making this bread, so you can just use vanilla vodka or regular vodka and a teaspoon of vanilla. However, if you do use vanilla in your baking, I definitely recommend you use real vanilla pod and make the full use of them by storing used vanilla pods in either vodka or sugar to make vanilla flavoured vodka or vanilla sugar.

Vodka Cranberry Bread

100g white starter (100% hydration)
170g water
100g milk
20g vanilla vodka
400g white flour
100g rye flour
1 ½ tsp salt
100g dried cranberries
50g unsalted butter, softened
60g brown sugar

You might think its an odd combination, but I can’t drink cocktails at the moment, so I’ve decided I might as well make cocktail-themed bread. Sea breeze works well as a cocktail, why wouldn’t it work as a bread?

Place starter, water, milk, vodka and flours into a mixing bowl of a free standing mixer and mix on speed 1 for 6 minutes. Leave to autolise for 20 minutes covered with a tea towel to prevent drying out. Add salt, brown sugar and dried cranberries and mix for a minute on speed 2. With the mixer still running, add butter bit by bit, to make sure that each bit of butter is well incorporated before adding more in. Total mixing time on speed 2 should not exceed 3 minutes, to prevent dough from over-mixing.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl and do three stretch and folds over the next hour and a half, every thirty minutes, covering between each stretch and fold. After the last stretch and fold, cover the bowl and leave it to prove at room temperature for 4 hours to 6 hours, until the dough doubles in size.

Again, it was getting late and I didn’t wait for the dough to completely double in size, and shaped it as it was – in an oval shape, covered it and placed it in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight.

In the morning take the shaped dough out of the fridge and leave it to warm up at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours or until it doubles in volume in the banneton.

Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 200C, about an hour before you want to bake. Slash the loaf.

Bake for 40 minutes, rotating it half way through to ensure even baking, until the loaf is nice and brown colour.

This is a beauty of a bread – cranberry and vanilla flavour really make through during the baking, and the vanilla flavour got even stronger a couple of days in.

I might experiment a bit more, adding a bit more vanilla vodka, to see how much it can take without being too over-powering. I had it for my morning with just butter, it doesn’t need anything else, balance of sugar and fruits is just perfect.


Malty Poppy Seed Bread

I had every intension to bake a Multigrain Bread, following Nancy Silverton’s recipe. Got a gook out, read all the ingredients, drafted a timeline to suit my weekend and the recipe and …. ended up baking two completely different loaves – all made up recipes too. What is it they say about best laid plans?

When I did ask Mr Ranty what I should bake, he mentioned a sandwich he buys from EAT that uses some of brown malty bread with poppy seeds in it. That sounded like an interesting idea, so I decided to give that a go. Bake bread to match something I’ve never seen and never tasted – if that’s not a challenge, I don’t know what is

Malty Poppy Seed Bread

118g white starter (100% hydration)
25g barley malt
25g molasses
90g milk
200g water
400g white flour
100g rye flour
1 ½ tsp salt
3 Tbsp poppy seeds

Place starter, water and milk in a free-standing mixer. Add barley malt and molasses into the mixing bowl – you can probably just chuck all the ingredients together, but I wasn’t sure whether it would be a good idea to poor sugary syrups directly on top of the starter, but I figured mixed with water it should be all right.
Add flours and mix on speed 1 for 6 minutes, leave to autolise for 20 minutes covered with a tea towel to prevent drying out. Add salt and poppy seeds and mix on speed 2 for 2 minutes.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl and do three stretch and folds over the next hour and a half, every thirty minutes, covering between each stretch and fold. After the last stretch and fold, cover the bowl and leave it to prove at room temperature for 4 hours to 6 hours, until the dough doubles in size.

I was a bit lazy and didn't wait for it to double, and it was getting rather late, so I shaped it as it was - it a round shape, covered it and placed it in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight.

In the morning take the shaped dough out of the fridge and leave it to warm up at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours or until it doubles in volume in the banneton.

Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 200C, about an hour before you want to bake. Slash the loaf.

Bake for 40 minutes, rotating it half way through to ensure even baking, until the loaf is nice and brown colour.

I am very pleased with the flavour of the loaf, especially as the molasses flavour developed a bit more and became richer but less stronger a couple of days later.

I might use just a little bit less molasses next time and leave it to prove a bit longer before shaping, but in general, I am very very happy with this recipe.


Monday, 15 August 2011

Mexican Corn Bread

An impromptu bake – Mr Ranty was cooking up a storm , Elvis chilli (his phone miss-spelling Evil chilli) and I thought some Corn Bread would go nicely with it.
I’ve checked a couple of books I have and I couldn’t find anything that appealed to me, so I’ve decided to just try throw a few things together and hope for the best.
I also didn’t think of it until afternoon, around 3 pm, so I had to use some commercial yeast in the dough – something that I try to avoid as such as I can.

Mexican Corn Bread
100g white starter (100% hydration)
150g double cream
205g water
230g corn flour or very fine corn meal
230g white flour
¾ - 1 tsp dry yeast
3 Tbsp sugar
1 small jar of sweet corn (drained) - I use Green Giant, they are my favourite
1 ½ tsp salt

For topping :
1 small chilli, sliced (optional)
Cheddar cheese, grated

Place starter, cream, water, flour, yeast and sugar in a free-standing mixer with a dough hook attachment, mix on speed one for 6 minutes, leave to autolise (rest) covered with a tea towel for 20 minutes, add salt and corn and mix for another 2 minutes but on a faster setting - speed two.
The dough will be very wet and yellow, with lots of corn shining through. You have no idea how much self-control it took for me to put that whole jar into the dough - I love LOVE corn!! Mr Ranty has to hide it from me whenever he is making anything with tinned corn, I can eat it all day long!!


Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and leave in a warm place for about 3 hours. It wouldn't have doubled, but you should definitely see some increase in volume. Pour the dough out on an oiled surface and try folding it a little bit just to distribute corn evenly throughout.

Line a square baking tin with baking parchment and plonk the dough into in, smooth the dough out with your fingers, spread it out to cover the whole tin. Cover the tin with plastic and place it in a warm place for another 1.5 - 2 hours, until the dough starts looking quite puffy.

If using chilli (you can use fresh one or pickled or not at all), slice them up thinly and scatter them across the top of the dough. Grate cheese directly onto the dough, just enough to cover the top, don't over-do it, so it doesn't get too heavy while it bakes.

Place in a pre-heated oven and bake for 10 minutes at 210C, turn the temperature down to 190C and bake for another 10 minutes. Rotate the loaf around and bake for further 15 minutes at the same temperature 190C.
Take the bread out of the oven and cool for about half an hour or so, the bread is delicious while its still warm, great for dipping into Mr Ranty's chilli.
It is also good the next day with lashings of butter on top. The texture is wonderfully soft and very crumply, not too sweet and not too spicy.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Lets get it Started

As I’ve recently started giving away my starter (free to a good home), I thought I’d do a non-baking post, but one about the actual starter – how to care for and love it.
When I first started, gosh, it must be about four years ago now, I remember being very confused about what to do with it, how to feed it, how much to use, etc.
So, here is a dump of everything I can think of, things you might want to know when you first get into sourdough baking.

Acquiring a starter
Beg, steal or borrow starter from someone you know or your local bakery or friends. There are lots of places online you can buy starters from too, and they come with full instructions on how to activate it. I say “activate”, as normally you would receive starter in a form of powder, and you would need to convert it into a proper liquid starter. Failing all that, you can start your own starter, again lots of links on google that will tell you how to do that – it will take about a week or so to do it from scratch, but you’ll get a real sense of achievement from doing it (or is it just me? :)
One thing I would say, choose a simple flour and water starter instructions, there are lots of juice / milk / fruit / even yeast (!!) starter instructions out there – I’ve always stuck to water and flour ones and they work really well for me. I had one orange juice starter disaster right at the beginning of my bread obsession – never again, but, hey, it might work for you.

Whats your Animal?
So, lets say you have a jar of precious little animal that you call our own – your very own starter. My “animal” is called Marjorie – don’t ask. Again, when I first started, I used to keep three starters – “Marjorie the Whitty” (100% white, my own starter made from scratch), “Brenda Brown” (100% rye, daughter of Steve – converted from white into rye) and “Boris the Russian” (125% white, bought Russian starter).
“Brenda” died quite early on, and as I later learnt, there isn’t really a point in keeping rye starter, it isn’t very stable and doesn’t keep well for long periods. I tried creating “Brenda II”, taking a bit of white starter and feeding it wholemeal flour – that worked much better, the starter was much more stable and keeps well in the fridge.
“Boris the Russian” turned into “Boris the Stinker” – somehow I got an infection in my starter, it went all funny green-goo colour and got a really REALLY bad smell. Unfortunately that was the end of it, I had to throw it all out and get rid of the jar - it was that bad!!
So, “Marjorie” is still alive and kicking and so is “Brenda II”. Actually I completely forgot, up till now, that I used to name them, I guess its just one of those things that you do when you are a new baker (or is it just me again?)

Getting to know you
If you got given some starter, here are a couple of things you might want to ask about it:
– what hydration is it at
– what flour does it take
– what water does it take
– how does it behave
– does it like flowers or chocolates
okay, I’ve made the last one up, but the rest of them are actually valid questions.

Hydration : what water : flour ration is it being fed? Is it by weight or volume? Most common hydrations are :
100% - starter being fed equal parts of water and flour, by weight, say 30g of water + 30g of flour
125% - starter being fed equal parts of water and flour, by volume, say 37.5g of water + 30g of flour
50% - starter being fed one part of water and two parts of flour, by weight, say 30g of water + 60g of flour

I keep all my starters at 100%, just cause its easier for me that way, and when I see a recipe with a different hydration, I just adjust water / flour volumes accordingly.

Flour : use bread flour, strong bread flour, specialised flour, whatever, DO NOT use self-raising flour or cake flour. Extra additives in self-raising flour and bleached cake flour will interfere with the natural yeast in your sourdough starter and won’t work as well as bread flour. I use Italian flour for most of my breads – I buy it in bulk from Shipton Mill, in 25kg bags, but they do 1kg and 2.5 kg bags too. Again, when I first started, I used to buy all sorts of different flours from them, whether now I stick to Italian for my day to day loaves, French for baguettes, Canadian for bagels, rye (white and dark) for any rye breads and wholemeal for brown breads. Try baking with a few different flours, see which one you like the best.
Another thing to note, that different flours will have different absorption levels, such as wholemeal is more “thirsty” than white flour, but not anywhere near as much as rye flour. A 100% starter made from white flour look quite different to a 100% starter made from wholemeal flour – wholemeal would be much darker in colour (naturally) and much thicker than the white one.

Water : this is hardly worth mentioning, as most of people use regular tap water, however, in some countries / places water from the tap is quite hard or high in chlorine, and you might want to use bottled water.

Behaviour : its all about how quickly it reaches its peak after its been fed, it can vary anywhere from 2 to 6 hours, depending on the type of starter, the type of flour, temperature in your house, etc, etc…. The first time you are working with a starter, it’s worth marking / recording how quickly rises every hour or so just to give you an idea of what you are dealing with. You can use the starter any time within 24 hours past it’s peaked, it will have a small impact on the proofing time, but nothing too major – anyway, play with it to see what suits you best.

Feed me
Any starter that hasn’t been fed / refreshed for 3 days is considered to be “storage” starter, and I normally keep my storage starter in the fridge, only take it out when I am planning to bake.

Okay, so say you have your starter, either active and bubbling after you’ve created your own or bought one or it is quiet and sleeping, if you got if from someone else. What do you do with it? Take a tablespoon worth of starter, place it into a ceramic or glass bowl (not metal). The rest of the starter can go into the fridge – this will become your storage starter.

Add 30g of flour and 30g of water to the bowl with your tablespoon of starter.


Mix everything well, to make sure that flour and water well mixed up with the starter.

Cover loosely with plastic (I use shower caps for it) and leave for anywhere from 8 to 12 hours. Repeat “refresh” or “feeding” again – add another 30g of flour and 30g of water to the mixture, mix well and cover loosely with plastic again. Do this 2 to 3 days in the row, “feeding” starter with equal parts of flour and water every 8 to 12 hours.

In the first day (or even two) you probably won’t see much activity, all you going to see is a bowl full of goo, with not many bubbles and not much smell.
However, by day three you should definitely see some action – expect the mixture to be quite light and bubble and it should start smelling quite sweet and fruity – I know it sounds weird, but just trust me on this one.

Carry on feeding it until the starter looks very active and very healthy


Here is a suggested feeding schedule – I normally go with twice a day schedule, cause it suits me better.

Schedule 1
Day 1
Storage non-active starter = 10g
8am feed 1 = 30g flour + 30g water
4pm feed 2 = 30g flour + 30g water
12pm feed 3 = 30g flour + 30g water
Weight by end of Day 1 = 190g
Day 2
8am feed 4 = 30g flour + 30g water
4pm feed 5 = 30g flour + 30g water
12pm feed 6 = 30g flour + 30g water
Weight by end of Day 2 = 370g

Schedule 2
Day 1
Storage non-active starter = 10g
8am feed 1 = 30g flour + 30g water
8pm feed 2 = 30g flour + 30g water
Weight by end of Day 1 = 130g
Day 2
8am feed 3 = 30g flour + 30g water
8pm feed 4 = 30g flour + 30g water
Weight by end of Day 2 = 250g
Day 3
8am feed 5 = 30g flour + 30g water
8pm feed 6 = 30g flour + 30g water
Weight by end of Day 3 = 370g

370g of starter is plenty to do one or even two loaves of bread, but you don’t have to use all of it. If you have any left, you can either add it to your storage starter in the fridge or take whatever is left and carry on feeding it for the next few days to bake again in a few days, depends how quickly you go through your bread.

During the activation process, feedings and in-between, keep your starter at room temperature, loosely covered.
Now what
Righto, you have your starter, it’s alive and kicking, what can you do with it now? If you follow a recipe from a book or online, you will have all the instructions you need as to when start your bread and when it is likely to be ready.

If you are looking for generic guidance on how long the whole process takes, you can use my schedule as an example :
1 day bread
Morning
Mix all ingredients – ½ hour to an hour, including autolise (rest time between mixing all the ingredients and adding salt)
Fold and stretch – 1 ½ hours, 3 stretches, every half an hour
Afternoon
Bulk fermentation – 4 to 6 hours, depending on the type of dough, weather, etc.
Shape – 10 minutes
Evening
Second fermentation – 3 to 5 hours, again, depending on a number of factors
Bake – 40 minutes
Cool – overnight
Next morning
Ready to eat

2 days bread
Late afternoon / Early evening of Day 1
Mix all ingredients – ½ hour to an hour, including autolise (rest time between mixing all the ingredients and adding salt)
Fold and stretch – 1 ½ hours, 3 stretches, every half an hour
Evening of Day 1
Bulk fermentation – 3 to 4 hours, as long as you can really
Before you go to bed of Day 1
Shape – 10 minutes
Place the dough in the fridge overnight (6 to 12 hours)
Morning of Day 2
Take the dough out of the fridge and leave to warm up to room temperature – 1 to 2 hours
Afternoon of Day 2
Bake – 40 minutes
Cool – 4 to 8 hours
Evening of Day 2
Ready to eat

Rye breads need to be wrapped in plastic and left to develop for another 24 hours before you can slice them up, otherwise they will be wet and gummy inside.
Never ever be tempted to slice into a still-warm loaf of sourdough bread, the flavour will not be the same. I mean, it will still taste nice and everything, but you won’t get that rich, slightly tangy flavour that a fully developed and cooled sourdough has.

That’s all I can think of right this moment, but that should give you enough to get you going – good luck and happy baking.


Shout if you have any questions.

I've had a couple of requests for a basic sourdough recipe, so here it is:
150g active 100% hydration white starter (as activated above)
280g water
500g white flour
1 ½ tsp salt

or

150g active 100% hydration white starter (as activated above)
290g water
400g white flour
100g rye flour
1 ½ tsp salt

Mix everything but the salt together on speed 1 in a free standing mixer for 6 minutes, leave to rest covered (autolise) for 20 minutes, add salt and mix for further 2 minutes on speed 2 this time. Place in an oiled bowl and leave to prove at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours, until it doubles in volume. Knock the dough back, shape, cover again and leave to prove again for another 3 to 4 hours, until it nearly doubles again.
Slash the loaf and bake for 40 minutes in a hot oven, at 200C, rotating the loaf once, half way through the baking.
Thats about it

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

WholeWheat and Chocolate Cherry

I didn’t think I’ll be baking again until the weekend, but what do you know – all the seeded bread is gone and only a tiny bit of challah remaining. Time to get baking again, not that I am complaining or anything :)

With all the rioting going on in London I’ve decided to work from home, just to be on a safe side. Which means that I have a bit more time in the morning to do the mixing, can do shaping late in the afternoon, and will have some bread ready by tonight – 1 day sourdough, sounds like my kind of project.

I normally prefer to retard my sourdoughs in the fridge for 8-12 hours, especially if I am making a more rustic bread, but with some recipes you can have it all done and dusted in a day, starting first thing in the morning and baking it last thing at night. Just to be on a safe side, I am going to add a bit of sugar of the recipes to speed up the whole process, I don’t feel like staying up until wee hours in the morning just to finish baking (I have done that before, I am that mental or sad, depends how you look at it :)

This is another take on a wholewheat honey bread – bread I’ve discovered in US delies and I’d love to be able to re-create. I haven’t came up with a recipe I am completely happy with just yet, so I’ll carry on trying.

Honey WholeWheat – Take I
185g white starter (100% hydration)
140g milk
150g water
155g wholemeal flour
345g white flour
30g honey (I am using Rowse - liquid honey)
1 ½ tsp salt

Combine everything, but the salt, in a free-standing mixer, mix for 6 minutes on speed 1. Cover with a towel and leave for 20 minutes to autolise, add salt and mix on speed 2 for another 2 minutes.
If you count honey as one of the liquids, it makes the bread 69% hydration (water in the starter + milk + water + honey) or 65% hydration if you leave the honey out of the calculation. I would say its probable the later – this dough can definitely be mixed by hand, it had a nice smooth feel to it, cleaned out sides of the mixing bowl with no problem, all wrapped up around the dough hook.
Transfer the dough into an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic and leave it at the room temperature for an hour and a half. Do 3 stretch and folds during that time, either directly in the bowl or on a counter. Cover the dough with plastic again and leave it to ferment for four to five hours, until almost doubles in volume.
Transfer the dough onto a clean (unfloured) surface and shape into a boule – my shaping is still a bit shaky, so I won’t do any videos / instructions just yet (something to come in the future), just do your usual shaping or follow any boule shaping videos on the Net.
Cover the shaped boule with plastic and leave at the room temperature for another 3 to 4 hours, until it nearly doubles in volume again.

Slash the top of the loaf (I did my slashes very shallow, as I think I’ve left it just a tad bit too long) and bake in a pre-headed oven at 210C for 20 minutes, rotate and bake for another 20 minutes.

It came out looking a lovely golden colour, not as dark as I would have expected. I guess the sugars haven’t had enough time to develop and break down, but that’s what you get from a one-day bread. Not much of an oven spring either, which I am a bit disappointed with, but its feeling quite light, can’t wait to cut it to see what it looks like inside.



Well, this one is a bit of an odd-ball one for me. I wanted a sweet type of bread for my morning toast, and was getting a bit bored with making my spicy loaf (not bored with eating it, mind you, just bored with making the same recipe over and over again). A quick rummage through spice draws revealed lots of currants and sultanas, dates, prunes and chocolate – first two can stay where they are for now, as I’ve baked a lot of currant / sultana bread recently, now – what can I can I can from the other three? Dates? Might be quite dry, not sure, might leave that for now. Prunes and chocolate sounds quite good, I think I saw a recipe for it in one of my books. But before I had a chance to do anything, I’ve lost prunes to Baba, as she grabbed them out of my hands – they are “good for her” and she is going to eat them “as they are”, well, that kind of kills my plans, doesn’t it? Not to worry, I found a small pack of sour cherries that I bought from WholeFoods a while ago, I could always use them instead, and they look too dried up and wrinkly (my, it must have been quite a while ago that I bought them) for Baba to be interested in them.

Sour Cherry and Chocolate Bread

150g white starter (100% hydration)
290g water
410g white flour
90g white rye flour
5 Tbsp sugar
30g dried sour cherries
100g milk chocolate (I used milk Valrhona chocolate), chopped
50g unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ tsp salt

Place starter, water, flours, sugar and dried cherries in a free-standing mixer and mix on speed 1 for six minutes. Cover with a towel and leave for 20 minutes to autolise.
I am not re-hydrating cherries, that’s why I’ve decided to add them together with the liquids to give them a chance to “perk up” a bit.
Add salt and chocolate and mix for 2 minutes on speed 2, with the mixer still running, add soft butter, in small pieces, making sure that each piece of butter is fully mixed in, before adding another piece. Do not mix for more that 4 minutes in total, post-autolise, to avoid over-mixing.
Oil a bowl with sunflower or olive oil and transfer the dough into it – don’t worry if the colour looks a bit uneven – I had streaks of chocolate dough mixed together with pure white dough, I figure stretch and fold would take care of it. Cover the bowl with plastic and leave at room temperature for an hour and a half, doing stretch and fold every half and hour. After last stretch and fold cover the dough with plastic again and leave it to ferment for four hours – it won’t double in volume, all the chocolate and cherries weighing it down, but it will increase in size quite a bit.
Shape the dough – I went for an oval shape this time around – the dough was a bit sticky, so I used a little bit of rye flour to stop it from sticking to the counter. Flour the banneton quite heavily to make sure that it doesn’t stick during the final proofing, sprinkle with a little bit of rye flour on top and cover with plastic (a bit of flour on top is to stop it sticking to the plastic on top). Leave at room temperature for three to four hours, slash and bake in a hot oven. I slashed quite deep, as it was looking a bit under-proofed, and baked it for 20 minutes at 210C, rotated over and baked for another 20 minutes at 190C.

My, my, did it spring in the oven or what?!! I turned down the temperature after first 20 minutes, as 210C was getting too hot for all the chocolate and cherries, and I didn’t want it to burn.

The bread came out looking gorgeous, dark brown with wide slashes and beautiful aroma.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Saffron Challah

I felt like another enriched dough, I’ve need looking at challah recipes for a while and decided to give that a go. I’ve tried making it twice before - once following Rose Levy Beranbanm traditional challah recipe from her site and once from Nancy Silverton’s La Brea Bakery book. Rose’s version turned out really nice, lovely and buttery and light, amazing tear-y texture., but a bit bland on the taste front The one from Nancy’s book was a disaster, didn’t rise much, and the flavour was quite bad, I ended up throwing most of it out. I must have cocked something up, because normally Nancy’s recipes work really well for me.
So, this time I’ve decided to do a bit of a mix of both recipes - vanilla and saffron challah, using just sourdough, with no commercial yeast.

Saffron Challah

118g water
10 strands of saffron
100g white starter (100% hydration)
425g white flour
10g salt
3 eggs
60g honey
70g unsalter butter, softened
1 vanilla bean
2 Tbsp poppy seeds (optional)
1 tsp caster sugar (optional)

Pour 50g of boiling water in a bowl, add saffron and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes. Add cold water to came up the required water amount (add 56g of cold water) and add in 225g of flour and all starter. Mix everything together with a spoon until everything is roughly combined together and leave to autolise for 30 minutes.
Place the pre-mix into a mixing bowl, add the remaining flour (200g), salt, 2.5 eggs (add two full eggs, break the last one in a small glass, whisk it lightly with a fork, pour half of it in the mixture, and reserve the other half for egg glaze later), honey and vanilla bean - split a bean in half, and scrape all the seeds out and add them to the mixture. I use ndali, that you can buy in most of supermarkets, Sainsbury’s have it and so do WholeFoods, some Tesco’s might sell it too. I love these vanilla beans, I normally reserve the actual bean, once I’ve used the seeds and store it in a container with sugar, which lightly flavours my sugar, adds a nice touch to your morning coffee.
Mix everything (but butter) on speed 1 for 4 minutes, turn the mixer up to speed 2 and run it for another 3 minutes. With the mixer running, add softened butter, one bit at time, making sure that each piece of butter is well incorporated before adding another one.
The dough is so soft and sticky, I am a bit tempted to add more flour, as I know I’ve increased the hydration recommended in Rose’s recipe. But no, I am going to leave it as it is, folding is going to be tricky, but oh well. Butter a large bowl and transfer the dough into it - it was a bit of a messy process and I used a dough scraper to help me. Cover the dough with plastic (shower cap) and leave to prove for 2 hours. Try doing stretch and fold in the bowl, again, use a scraper if you have one to help you, otherwise just wet your hands lightly and try stretching it and folding it on itself. Cover and leave for another four hours at room temperature.
Bu the time I got to that stage, it was around 1 in the morning, so I’ve chucked the dough in the fridge and went to sleep.
Next morning (after about 6-8 hours in the fridge) take the dough out of the fridge and leave out to warm up slightly, for about half an hour. Take the dough out of the bowl, place it on a floured counter, divide it into 6 even pieces and shape them into long skinny sausages, about 40 cm long.
I am not even going to attempt to describe how to shape a challah, the only way to do it is to watch a video and try to recreate it. I followed this video here, had to stop and pause it a couple of times, but it worked out well at the end.
Mr Ranty bought me a Dell tablet for my birthday last week, and it is just marvelous - I had the video going, touch screen, pausing and re-playing the video as I was working the dough - doesn’t get better than that!
Transfer shaped challah onto a baking tray (line it with baking parchment first), cover it to prevent drying and place in a warm place to proof for the next two to three hours. I use a very large rubbish bag (clean, obviously), and place the entire tray with dough inside of it, and then just tuck the ends of the bag under the tray. That way the dough is cosy and warm, and doesn’t stick to the plastic bag too much.
Preheat the oven to 190C an hour before baking. Remove plastic cover from challah, brush it with the remaining egg, covering all the little folds and crooks, sprinkle with a bit of poppy seeds and a bit of caster sugar, if desired.
Bake for 20 minutes, rotate and bake for further 10 minutes. Take the challah out and leave out to cool completely, for about 4 or 5 hours before slicing it.

I am really pleased with how it came out - nice and brown colour, it didn't get that much oven spring, a little bit, but nothing too crazy. I was also careful not to put too much sugar and poppy seeds on top, so it doesn't weigh it down.

As far as the taste goes, I must say, it's a bit bland for my liking. Saffron and vanilla do add an interesting flavour, saffron over-powered vanilla a little bit, might have to reduce saffron to 6 or so strands. But you can see vanilla seeds in every slice, and saffron does add a nice orange tint to the crumb.

Lovely photos by Mr Ranty - I've asked him to take a photo and next thing you know, massive camera came out, two different lenses and a tripod - well worth it though.





I cannot figure out how to post my own comments on here, so I am just going to update this blog :


"Thank you for your comments, I will look up Jeff Nathan to see what I can learn from his recipes.
In my head challah is more of a sweet bread, so I thought vanilla would be appropriate. It didn’t really add that much to the flavour to be honest – I like the little vanilla specks in the crumb more than the flavour it brought to the table. Saffron actually developed quite nicely in the last couple of days, so I think that’s worth keeping in"


Friday, 5 August 2011

Banana Brioche Bread

Very active starter and three manky bananas call for another go at Banana bread.
I nearly used up all of my storage starter, so I used the last of it to make up a big batch of starter, to save some as a stock in the fridge and to use some this week and test out another bread recipe. Due to all the warm weather we’ve been having in London, the process didn’t take long at all and by Wednesday morning I had enough starter to store away and to play with. This time I decided to play with a recipe for Banana bread.
I’ve made Banana Bread from Breadtopia website a number of times in the last few years. But I find the texture and the flour of it more cake-like rather then bread-like, and I was looking for something a bit more like a loaf of bread for my morning toast.
I saw a recipe for Banana bread on FreshLoaf website which looked amazing, but looked too complicated for me. However the blog did say that banana bread went really nice with peanut butter, and that was it, I couldn’t get that idea out of my mind – this is what I ended up with …

Banana Bread

50g milk
130g water
125g white starter (100% hydration)
3 (270g) small very ripe bananas, mashed
25g honey
440g white flour
200g whole meal flour
40g unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ tsp salt

Place all liquids (milk, water), starter, bananas, flours and honey in a mixer and mix for 6 minutes on speed 1. Cover with a towel and leave to autolise for 20 minutes. Add salt and turn mixer on speed 2, mix for 4 minutes, slowly adding softened butter, making sure that each bit is well incorporated before adding another one. The dough will be really soft and tacky, but mix it until you the dough starts coming as a ball around the dough hook and pulls away from the sides of the bowl – you’ll be able to see lovely dough strands forming and pulling in the mixer.
Oil a bowl with sunflower oil or butter, transfer the dough from the mixer into the bowl and leave to rest at room temperature for an hour and a half, doing stretch and fold every 3- minute. The dough is very very soft, don’t be tempted to add more flour, it will come together at the end, trust me.
After the last stretch and fold leave the dough at room temperature for about five to six hours, until it doubles in size. I actually ended up with lots more dough that I could fit into a single banneton, so I’ve decided to try something I don’t do very often – bake my loaves in bread tins.
The dough was still quite soft and tacky, so I thought I might need a bit of flour on the kitchen counter to help me shape the dough, otherwise its just not going to work. I’ve divided the dough in two – 1/3 and 2/3 to make one small and one large loaf. Shape each piece into a log (as much as you are able to shape it), just try to get a bit of surface tension, don’t worry about making it look pretty or anything. Place the shaped loaves into two bread tins, lined with baking parchment – I used one medium size tin and one large one. Cover the tins with plastic (good old shower caps) and leave to rise at room temperature. Again, because its so warm, it only took three hours for the loaves to rise well above sides of the tins, doming over and threatening to go over the sides. Before too late, I chucked the loaves into a hot oven (preheated to 200C), didn’t even bother with slashing, as I didn’t want to risk deflating them. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating once half way through. After first 20 minutes the loaves looked nice and golden and I was tempted to take them out already, but I decided to let them bake to the end. After full 40 minutes the tops were dark brown rather than golden, but the sides of the loaves were lovely and crisp, deep golden colour.
I left the loaves to cool overnight, no matter how tempted I was to cut a slice off and try it right there and then.
I had two slices of it for breakfast this morning, yes, with peanut butter, as I pictured it in my head. And it was just as good as I imagined – I had to call Mr Ranty just to tell him how good it was and that he should definitely try that for breakfast.

The banana flavour is not particularly strong at the moment, but I think it might develop over the next couple of days – that is if I am going to have any left still :)
The texture is very much brioche like, which is quite surprising, considering that last time I’ve made a version of this recipe, it had standard bread-like crumb.
I’ve been experiencing with a few enriched breads lately, and I think I am going to leave this one as it is now, I am very happy with this version.

Orange Whiskey Loaf and Seeded Boule

Another weekend, another day to try things out. I've made my fruity loaf last week, and it was gone, in like, four days. I ran out of bread in the house - had to buy some shop stuff - shock, horror!! Reminded me how much I hate the shop-bought stuff. To make sure that I don't have to do anything as awful as buying bread for a shop again, I've decided to make two loaves this morning.

I was drinking my morning glass of OJ this mornings, and decided that would make a great inspiration for a loaf of bread, something sweet for a morning toast. I’ve ended up adding some whiskey to bread as well to make it a bit more interesting, but it wasn’t cause I was necking whiskey first thing in the morning, just thought orange and whiskey would go well together.

Orange Whiskey Loaf
150g white starter (100% hydration)
100g orange juice
180g water
30g whiskey
400g white flour
50g wholemeal flour
90g rye flour
4 Tbsp orange jam or marmalade
50g unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ tsp salt

We’ve tried making orange whiskey marmalade last year - pain orange marmalade turned out well, set really well and was tasty. With the orange whiskey marmalade I think we went a bit overboard with whiskey, and the marmalade never set, no matter how long we boiled it. Oh well, the flavour was still quite nice, gives you a bit of a kick with your toast in the morning :) I’ve had a jar of it opened in the fridge and decided to use it in this recipe.

So, for the actual bread - place starter, orange juice, water, whiskey, all flours and orange marmalade in a mixer. Mix on speed 1 for 6 minutes. Cover and leave for 20 minutes. Add salt and soft butter (in small pieces) and mix on speed 2 for two more minutes. The dough will be quite soft, with a nice citrus smell and very buttery feel to it.
Counting all the water in the recipe (including water from the starter) and all the flour (including flour from the starter), it would make the dough 62% hydration.

Oil a large bowl with sunflower or olive oil and place the dough into the bowl. Cover the bowl with glad wrap or a shower cap, stretch and fold three times during first hour and a half and then leave out on a counter, at room temperature for another four hours.
Four hours later, the dough is ready, its looking very puffy and the smell has developed even more - both orange an whiskey smells are very distinctive - so far, so good. Shape the dough into a loaf - I think an oval shape, and continue proofing in a banneton. the shaping was a bit tricky, to be honest - the dough was very very sort still and quite tacky - i had to oil both my hands and the kitchen counter a bit, that seemed to do the trick.
All that sugar and alcohol did its magic, and it only took three hours for it to double in volume, the loaf rose well above the sided of banneton and was still smelling heavenly.
A couple of shallow slashes, and its ready to go into the oven.
Preheat oven to 210 an hour or so before baking to make sure that its super hot. Bake for 20 minutes, rotate and bake for further 20 minutes.
The whole house now smells like jam making factory - properly orangy, I like it, I like it a lot.
I left it to cool down overnight and had a slice for breakfast, toasted with some butter - i could taste both orange and a hint of whiskey, but nothing too over-powering.

Had another slice of it the next day - man!!! did it taste orangy now?! Its really nice just toasted with lots of butter on top, but I went over-board the other day, and used both butter and orange marmalade with it - sooooo good.



Mr Ranty likes bread with lots of seeds and grains, what he calls a "knibbly" bread, something that goes well with savoury spreads and cheeses and other yummy toppings. Mmmmmmmm, cheese, now I am thinking about grilled cheese on toast or maybe a cheesy bread .... something for next weekend perhaps.

Seeded Loaf
100g white starter (100% hydration)
290g water
515g white flour
80g seed mix
1 ½ tsp salt

I was a bit lazy this morning and instead of making up my own seed mix, I've used Shipton Mill 5 Seed Mix, but you can use any mix of seeds and grains. I really like flax seeds, brown or golden, millet, oats, sunflower seeds, anything you can think of, really.
This is a very easy recipe - place everything, but the salt in a mixer, mix of speed 1 for 6 minutes, cover and leave for 20 minutes, add salt and mix for another 2 minutes, on speed 2. The ususal business for the proofing stage - stretch and fold three times over first half an hour and then leave it to it for the next four hours. Keep the dough covered with plastic or a tea towel to stop it from drying out. Its quite warm in London today, so I have to be careful not to leave the dough in the direct sunlight. I am not sure whether its actually going to do anything to the dough, but I'd rather be on a safe side.
If you count seeds as part of dry ingredients, together with the flour, it would make the dough 53% hydration, or 60% hydration is you don’t count the seeds. It felt a bit of the dry side, and by now i started to worry whether the bread would turn out to be a brick. Nothing to do but wait and see.

After four hours of bulk fermentation the dough has doubled in size and is ready for shaping, I think I am going to do a round shape for this loaf. The dough was very easy to shape, didn’t need any extra flour or oil on the counter - shape the dough into a boule and place in a floured banneton, cover with plastic and leave to proof at room temperature for about four hours.
It could have probably done with another hour or so of proofing, but it was getting quite late, and I decided to go ahead with it anyway - a few deep slashes, to help it spring in the oven, and in it goes. Bake for 40 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 210 C, rotating once half way through.
It didn’t spring a massive amount during baking, but I shouldn't have worried, the bread turned out really light and soft inside. Between the three of us, we finished it in two days, that says something.


Oh, and it did go really well with grilled cheese on top, just in case you were wondering

Photos thanks to Mr Ranty - nice focus, I think