Category Archives: Breads

Our favourite bread recipes from English Country Cooking.

Basil and Olive Focaccia

Basil and Olive Focaccia fresh from the oven.  © Sue Todd Photography 2015

Basil and Olive Focaccia fresh from the oven. © Sue Todd Photography 2015

This is a Paul Hollywood recipe from his ‘100 Great Breads’ book and is delicious.  If you haven’t come across this book I can recommend it.  Paul used all black olives which I didn’t have, so ours used a mixture of green and black and worked well.  Gary prefers green olives so he loved it though I think I’d prefer it with all black olives – but what is life without compromise?

This goes wonderfully well with Gary’s Tomato Soup and together they make a smashing lunchtime treat that is substantial and warming as well as really tasty.

Ingredients:  Basil and Olive Focaccia for 1 loaf

  • 500g or 1lb 2 oz strong white bread flour, and extra for dusting,
  • 1 tbsp salt,
  • 100 ml/3 ½ fl oz olive oil,
  • 30g/1 oz fresh yeast,
  • 300 ml/¼ pint of water,
  • 125g/4 oz pitted olives, black or green, left whole
  • a handful of freshly chopped basil leaves,
  • salt water – made using 30g/1 oz salt dissolved in 100 ml/3½ fl oz warm water

Method:  Basil and Olive Focaccia

If you like to knead your dough with your hands,  tip the flour, salt, half the olive oil, the yeast and water into a large bowl.  I prefer to use my KitchenAid Stand Mixer to do the hard work so I put my ingredients in there and mix on speed 2.  Combine your ingredients in the bowl, before turning it out for kneading – approx 6 minutes.  I like to use a floured marble slab for kneading, but actually these days I prefer to let my KitchenAid do the work, so it continues and my dough generally spends about 10 minutes in total being well and truly pummelled.

I like to lift the dough out of the KitchenAid bowl and quickly oil the bowl lightly before popping the dough back in and setting it to rise on the AGA.  But any oiled bowl and warm place will suffice.  Cover with a clean tea towel and leave it to rise until doubled in size, time for this will vary depending on how warm it is but generally it shouldn’t take longer than a couple of hours.

I like to lay a sheet of greaseproof paper/baking parchment on a tray now instead of greasing the tray – it makes removal of the loaf so much easier when it’s cooked.  Paul recommends a baking tray  with raised edges (a bit like one for tray bakes), but I used a trusty cold shelf for the AGA instead.  His way may make it easier to inset the olives though!

Once your dough has risen, mix the basil and 100g or 3½ oz of your olives into the dough.  This is a bit messy and the odd olive may escape – our spaniels keep a keen watch out for any such tasty morsel.  Next put the dough into/onto your flat or tin and flatten it out until it’s about 2.5cm in thickness.

Basil and Olive Focaccia, ready to eat.  © Sue Todd 2015.

Basil and Olive Focaccia, ready to eat. © Sue Todd 2015.

Brush the surface of your Focaccia with olive oil and press indentations into the surface using your fingers.  Set to rise once again for about an hour.

If you are using a conventional oven you’ll need to preheat it to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

When it’s ready to go in, brush the dough with salt water before drizzling with what’s left of the olive oil.  Press the remaining olives into the surface of the dough before popping it in the oven.  If you are using an AGA, mine goes into the baking oven.

It will need to cook for around 20-25 minutes until its turning a nice golden brown.  Lift it from the oven and transfer gently to a cooling rack to cool.  This is where the parchment/greaseproof paper comes in very handy indeed – and it makes washing up a breeze too.

I think this works well with soup – see Gary’s Tomato Soup but it’s also great with cheese and makes a lovely light meal with a glass of wine.

Crumpets

Crumpets © Sue Todd 2015.

Crumpets © Sue Todd 2015.

I can remember vividly sitting round an open fire on a cold winters day with my grandmother toasting crumpets for tea.  She had an old hexagonal sewing table which she used to move in front of the fire, cover with a table-cloth and set out cups and saucers, plates, jam and cakes and we used to enjoy a lovely tea by the fire, toasting the crumpets over the coals with a toasting fork.  Dripping with real butter (in the days before margarine came along and ruined things for a while) and topped with home-made jam full of fruit and flavour.  I used to love going there after school and would often ‘skip’ the bus home to go there instead and then be collected later.

Crumpets are always associated with the Victorian era, but according to Wikipedia they may date back to the Anglo-Saxons when John Wycliffe mentioned ‘crompid cake’ in 1382.

The ones you buy in packets are a far cry from ‘real’ crumpets, you just have to look at the ingredients on the packet and the sell-by date that tells you they are packed with  preservatives.

They are actually quite easy to make and fun.  If you make a batch they can always go in the freezer and come out as you need them, either pulling them from the freezer before bed so they are ready next day or defrosting them in the microwave.  Defrosting food or heating coffee I’ve forgotten about are the only things I use the microwave for, oh, and if the AGA is off it may see some use – but generally only to reheat something from the freezer.

Crumpets Cooking on the AGA. © Sue Todd 2015

Crumpets Cooking on the AGA. © Sue Todd 2015

You’ll need crumpet rings for this and either a griddle or a very shallow heavy based pan that you can access easily.  I have a very old griddle given to me by my Nan many years ago, but we were lucky enough to be given a brand new AGA one for Christmas which I just want to use, use and use again.

Crumpet – Ingredients:

  • 175g/6oz strong white flour,
  • 175g/60z plain flour,
  • 14g instant yeast
  • 1 tsp caster sugar,
  • 350ml/12fl oz milk,
  • 150-200ml/5-7fl oz warm water,
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda,
  • 1 tsp salt,
  • sunflower oil for cooking

Crumpets – Method:

Put the flours and yeast into a bowl and mix well.

Warm the milk and dissolve the sugar in it.  Add this into the flour/yeast mixture in your bowl and beat it until it forms a smooth batter.  Alternatively use an electric hand whisk to achieve the same effect.  Your batter will have to be really smooth if you want it to produce the customary holes in your crumpets.

Pop a cloth over the bowl and leave it for between 20 minutes to an hour.  The batter needs to rise and then start to fall again.

Mix the bicarbonate of soda and the salt into the warm water and then beat this into your batter a bit at a time.  You need to keep adding it until you get a liquid the consistency of  double cream.  Cover this once again and leave it for a further 20 minutes.

Crumpets © Sue Todd 2015.

Crumpets © Sue Todd 2015.

Next heat a griddle on a medium heat.  If you don’t have a griddle then a heavy based shallow pan will do just as well.  Grease the insides of your crumpet rings and add <<<< to the griddle to melt.  Pop the rings on the griddle.

Drop a couple of dessert spoonfuls of batter into each ring.  Bubbles will begin to rise, appear at the surface and set, this will take around four to five minutes.  Flip them over carefully to cook the other side, leave them to cook for about 2-3 minutes.  Lift off carefully and remove from the rings.  Repeat until you’ve used up the mixture, either keeping these ones warm until you’ve finished if you intend to eat them straight away or pop them on a cooling tray for later.

Either eat when ready or toast later and serve with lashings of butter!

Home-made crumpets with smoked salmon and poached egg.© Sue Todd 2015.

Home-made crumpets with smoked salmon and poached egg.© Sue Todd 2015.

Crumpets: Serving Suggestions:

  • Delightful for a high tea with jam,
  • Good for a snack with pâté,
  • Great for breakfast with poached eggs and bacon,
  • Delicious with smoked salmon and poached eggs,
  • Scrummy with cream cheese and smoked salmon,
  • or as part of a full English Breakfast in place of toast.

 

Grain-free, wheat-free English Muffins

Gluten Free, Wheat Free, English Muffins © Sue Todd 2014

Gluten Free, Wheat Free, English Muffins fresh from the oven © Sue Todd 2014

I got really excited when I discovered a range of recipes online to make Paleo English Muffins.  These ones are really nice to have with marmalade or jam, but we warned I don’t think they work will with savoury things at all.  You may find them okay but to me they are too sweet to have with savoury items and I didn’t enjoy them with Eggs Benedict, however as an afternoon winter treat by the fire with home-made blackberry jam or honey …. simply scrumptious.

Most of the online recipes I’ve found use a microwave, but given I hate the microwave mine of course use the AGA instead.

Ingredients (to make 2 English Muffins):

  • 2 eggs,
  • 2 tbsp milk, (to make this dairy free too, use coconut or almond milk in place of cow’s milk)
  • 2 tbsp coconut flour,
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil or butter,
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder, (or 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda and 1/2 tsp of apple cider vinegar)
  • pinch of salt
Gluten Free, Wheat Free, English Muffins © Sue Todd 2014

Gluten Free, Wheat Free, English Muffins © Sue Todd 2014

Method:

Melt the coconut oil or butter in a small pan.

If you are using the bicarb and vinegar, mix those together well in a separate container and leave to one side for the moment.

Add the remaining ingredients (except the bicarb and vinegar) to the pan with the butter/coconut oil and mix well.  Now add the bicarb and vinegar if using and mix well again.

Split the mixture between two ramekins and bake in a hot oven for about 12 minutes, until they seem firm.  I used the baking oven in the AGA, I’m guessing you’d need to be around 200 celsius, 400 fahrenheit or gas mark 6 on a conventional cooker.  Apparently you can use a microwave and it takes about a minute and a half, which I guess is very fast if you are in a hurry, but I’d rather clear up in the kitchen while it cooks personally and then enjoy my muffins at leisure without a pile of washing up.

When cooked, loosen using a knife and turn out onto a board to cut in half.  We then toasted ours using the AGA toaster on the top of the AGA.

As I say because of the coconut flour I think these are best for having with sweeter things like jam or honey, rather than savoury items.  But they do make a fast gluten and wheat free alternative.

Gluten Free, Wheat Free, English Muffins © Sue Todd 2014

Gluten Free, Wheat Free, English Muffins © Sue Todd 2014

Fennel and Onion Bread

Caramelised Onion and Fennel Bread © Sue Todd 2014

Caramelised Onion and Fennel Bread © Sue Todd 2014

We wanted some bread to go with our Boston Baked Beans this evening and I fancied something different but which was still quite chunky and filling.  So off to the larder cupboard to see what we had.  I found spelt flour and spied some fennel seeds and remembered a recipe I’d used before for caramelised onion bread.  So it was a done deal!

However we also needed bread for breakfast tomorrow and Gary pointed out quite rightly that fennel and onion bread might not be ideal with marmalade for breakfast tomorrow!  So two loaves were needed now not one!  So I made one normal amount of our Every Day Bread and divided it in two to create two different loaves.

Ingredients:

  • 1 amount of Every Day Bread Dough’
  • 1/2 large onion,
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, (if you are not too sure about the taste of fennel, start with 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds)
  • 1 small knob of butter
Caramelised onion and fennel bread © Sue Todd 2014

Caramelised onion and fennel bread © Sue Todd 2014

Method:

Basically all I did was take my recipe for Every Day Bread and I used 250g of wholemeal flour and 250g of spelt flour.  Then just make the dough up and leave to rise for the first time.

While the bread is rising peel and chop the onion finely.  Add the butter to a pan and melt before caramelising the onion gently.  Once its cooked and nicely golden, remove from the heat and stir in the fennel seeds.  Put to one side until the bread has risen.

Grease a large tray or two smaller ones. I use a cold tray from the AGA which will comfortably hold the two loaves.

When the bread has risen, tip the dough out on to a floured board and cut it in half.  Shape one half into a small round and put on a greased tray.  With the other half, flatten it out slightly, tip on to it the onion and fennel seeds and knead them in gently.  Shape into a round and put on the greased baking tray.

Leave to rise a second time before putting in the oven to bake.  It should take about 20 minutes in total.

Caramelised Onion and Fennel Bread  © Sue Todd 2014

Caramelised Onion and Fennel Bread © Sue Todd 2014

NB:  If you want to just make Fennel and Onion bread use a whole onion and 2 tsp of fennel seeds (or 1tsp if you are not sure about the fennel flavour).

Every Day Bread

Everyday Bread - Gary's loaf from earlier this week © Sue Todd 2014

Everyday Bread – Gary’s loaf from earlier this week © Sue Todd 2014

I’ve made this bread so often now I think I could make it in my sleep.  It is really dependable, reasonably fast to make and good to eat. I always use fresh yeast if I can get it.  No idea why, I just like it better and it’s how I learnt to bake bread many years ago now.

I’ve not tried this recipe in a bread maker, mine retired to the garage when I finally got an AGA, and it’s not seen the light of day since.  It is possible to make this every day and I certainly have, though because I’m cutting back on wheat at the moment I’m not baking it quite so often.

This recipe is my standard go to especially if I’m in a hurry, it’s very forgiving and you can use whatever flour you have to hand, I’ve even used a mixture of left over bits of flour.  All you have to do is adjust the amount of water slightly.  Wholemeal flour generally needs a drop more than white flour.

The amounts quoted will make a loaf like the one above or about a dozen bread buns as shown below.

Ingredients:

  • 500g flour – you need plain flour but use whatever you like, wholemeal, white, a mixture, a bit of rye, just be prepared to adjust the water to get the right consistency,
  • 1 tablespoon of honey,
  • 2 tablespoons oil,
  • 1 teaspoon salt,
  • 300 ml warm water – the water should be just warm, not hot,
  • 14g fresh yeast or 7g dried yeast

Method:

Put the flour into your mixing bowl or mixer, add the yeast, the salt, the honey and the olive oil. If like me, you are using a stand mixer, turn the mixer to a low speed (Kitchen Aid 2) – you don’t want to go any faster than this as the mixer won’t be able to cope.  Otherwise mix the ingredients in your bowl with a spoon. As the ingredients are mixed together slowly add the warm water until the consistency is right.  You want to achieve a firm dough that seems elastic  with a smooth consistency which is neither too dry nor too moist.

At this point, either leave the mixer to knead your dough for 8 to 10 minutes or knead it yourself after turning it out on a floured board.  Before I got my Kitchen Aid I used a marble slab for this as its nice and cool for the dough and easy to clean afterwards.

Once you’ve kneaded your bread, it needs to go into a large oiled bowl.  I tend to oil the Kitchen Aid mixing bowl and return the dough to it unless I’m planning on using the mixer again straight away – it saves washing up!

Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel or some cling film and put in a warm place to rise.  The tea towel is the greener option.  I like to put mine on the warm plate of the AGA as it rises the bread really quickly.  How long this will take really depends on how warm it is.  On the AGA it can take as little as 30-40 minutes.

Grease your tin at this point.  You can use a proper loaf tin, a flat tin and make a large round loaf or a large flat tin and produce bread buns.  It’s useful to get this ready before the next stage though.

Once your dough has doubled in size it’s time to knock it back. Again just a floured board and some gentle kneading.  Then shape it how you want it, ready for a loaf tin, into one large flattish loaf, a cob, buns whatever.  Pop the dough into the prepared tin and leave to rise again covering it with your towel again.

Every Day Bread - Wholemeal buns © Sue Todd 2014

Every Day Bread – Wholemeal buns © Sue Todd 2014

Once the dough has risen generally doubling in size again, its time to put it in the oven to bake.  I use the baking oven in the AGA and it takes about 20 minutes.  If I’m making bread buns I check them after 15 minutes and then again at short intervals  until done.

When done the bread should tip out cleanly and if you tap on the base it should sound hollow.  Put the bread to cool on a cooling rack and leave to cool before eating, though that is tricky, certainly in our house!

There’s little nicer than a big stew, some soup or even just cheese with a fresh loaf of bread and a glass of wine.

Lavender Focaccia

Lavender and Garlic topped Focaccia © Sue Todd 2014

Lavender and Garlic topped Focaccia © Sue Todd 2014

You may be able to see a bit of theme here, between Lavender and Focaccia what with Lavender Macaroons and Blackberry Focaccia having already made it to the blog.  I was determined this summer to make good use of our Lavender and I’m trying to build myself up to going grain free again, so I need to get bread out of my system, though I love it so much that will be tricky.

I was searching for Lavender recipes when I came across one for lavender focaccia and thought it had to be tried.   This is my interpretation of the recipe from What’s Cooking America :  http://whatscookingamerica.net/Bread/LavenderFocaccia.htm with English measurements and a few little changes.

Not being one for eating flowers I was a bit dubious about this one.  This was my first attempt at cooking with lavender and to be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect, however, it made for a wonderful surprise and its a bread I’ll be making again and again.  We ate it for lunch with Gary’s shin of beef with fennel and Chianti and it was a perfect match.

Lavender Focaccia served with shin of beef © Sue

Lavender Focaccia served with shin of beef © Sue Todd 2014

 

Ingredients:

  • 1tbsp honey,
  • 300ml of warm water
  • 7g dried yeast or 15g of fresh yeast
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 2tsp salt
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 1tbsp dried lavender
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1tbsp of salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Method – For the Bread:

You can mix and knead the ingredients by hand if you wish, but I like to use my Kitchen Aid, it does a far better job of that first round than I do.

Add the flour to your mixing bowl, followed by the salt, honey, and olive oil. Switch the Kitchen Aid to a low speed like 2, and begin to add the water.  If you are doing this by hand, make a well in the centre of your bowl before starting to add water.  Keep mixing and adding water until it forms a dough.  I find that depending on the flour you sometimes need a bit less or a bit more water, just keep an eye on it and aim for a nice soft dough that comes away from the bowl cleanly.

At this point either leave your stand mixer to knead the dough for about 10 minutes OR tip the dough out on to your work surface and knead by hand.  If the dough sticks to your hands add more flour, a little at a time.  With the stand mixer if the mix is too dry add a little more water, if its too wet then add a little more flour.  The dough should be really smooth.

Once you’ve finished kneading the dough needs to go into an oiled bowl to rise. This is the point where I juggle the dough in one hand while oiling the mixing bowl with the other so as to re-use the mixing bowl and save washing up.   Shape the dough into a smooth round and pop it into the oiled bowl.   If you are using a mixer you can manage this shaping in your hands without needing to clean up the work surface later.  Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and pop the bowl in a warm place for the dough to rise.  You can use cling film but it doesn’t feel very eco-friendly to do that somehow, because it’s not like you are going to wash and re-use it, unlike the towel.  The back of the AGA plate is ideal.

Leave to rise until doubled in size.  Time here will vary depending on how warm it is and if your yeast is good or getting old.  If you use dried yeast and have had it some time it may not work as well.  While its rising lightly oil a large baking sheet ready for your loaf.

A conventional oven will need to be preheated to 400F/200C or Gas Mark 6.  With the AGA it wants to go in the baking oven of the four oven version.  I can’t advise on the two oven AGA as the only one I’ve ever had the misfortune to use didn’t work often or well – through no fault of AGA I hasten to add, I managed to cook very little in that one.

Once your dough has doubled in size, lightly flour your work surface and knock the dough back gently before rolling it into a large rectangle.  Transfer the dough  gently to the oiled baking sheet, cover with a clean tea towel and let rise approximately 30 to 45 minutes or until it doubles in size once again.

Method for the Lavender Garlic Topping:

You can make this topping while your dough is rising.  Chop your lavender finely and mix it in a bowl with the garlic and the remaining olive oil, then set it to one side while you wait for the bread to rise.

Once your bread has risen for the second time, make little dimples in the dough with your fingers, then brush the topping all over the surface of the bread and into the dimples you’ve just made.  Finish it off by sprinkling coarse salt and pepper on top.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. The bread should be firm. Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack to cool, before eating. Enjoy!  If you try it I’d be interested to hear what you think.

Blackberry Focaccia

Blackberry Focaccia © Sue Todd 2014

Blackberry Focaccia © Sue Todd 2014

Having finally gotten some sort of harvest in an abundance of blackberries (thanks to the assorted wildlife who’ve eaten our garden), I wanted to do more than just the same old fruit crumble, not that there is anything wrong with fruit crumble.  So it was off to the web and off to my collection of cookery books and magazines.  Gary bought me Nigel Slater’s Tender volumes 1 and 11 for Christmas a couple of years back and it was there I found Nigel’s recipe for Blackberry Focaccia.  What a revelation!  Having said that I ought to have paid more attention to the number of servings – it serves 8 and there’s just the two of us! Whoops.   I’d like to add though that not a morsel was wasted.

Nigel thinks it is more suitable for tea than dessert, but we had some for dessert and it was delightful, and although he says it should be eaten while warm and doesn’t keep, we had some with coffee next day and it was still lovely.  I think it would be fabulous picnic food too.  We used what was left to make a bread and butter pudding – and that was delicious.

Ingredients – for the dough:

  • 450g strong white flour,
  • 7g dried yeast (or 14g fresh yeast),
  • 1tsp of sea salt,
  • 1tbsp of caster sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
  • 350ml warm water

Ingredients – for the topping:

  • 250g blackberries
  • 2tbsps olive oil
  • 2tbsps caster sugar (again I used vanilla sugar)
  • icing sugar for dusting

Method:

I always use my Kitchen Aid for bread making these days, it merrily kneads while I clear up and since I use the bowl to raise the bread, the only extra washing up is the dough hook.  It’s a ‘win-win’ kind of thing.  Simply put the salt, flour and yeast into the bowl, add the sugar and then as you start to mix it up add the water slowly.  You can either use a food mixer or combine the ingredients with a spoon before turning it out on a floured surface to knead lightly for about five minutes.  I just left the Kitchen Aid to get on with the kneading while I put stuff away.

Once done, it needs to go into an oiled bowl (Nigel says floured, but I always use a bit of olive oil or butter round the bowl) to rise.  I simply grab the dough in one hand from the mixing bowl, slosh a bit of oil into the bowl with the other hand and pop the dough back in, covering with a clean cloth and put it in a warm place to rise.  It should take about an hour, but it will depend on the temperature really.  I popped mine on the AGA and it didn’t take that long.

Once it has doubled in size its time to knock it back.  You then need to combine half of the blackberries into the dough.  This wasn’t as messy or as tricky as I’d envisaged.  Nigel recommends a shallow tray, but I always use an AGA cold tray for bread so that’s where it went. Now scatter the rest of the blackberries over the top of the dough and press them in gently.  Cover the dough and leave to rise for the second time.

Nigel states you need an oven temperature of 220C or Gas 7 if you have a conventional cooker, and you’ll want to preheat it.  I use the baking oven in the AGA.

Once your loaf has doubled in size again, its time to drizzle the olive oil over the top and then scatter your castor sugar before it goes in the oven.  Mine took a bit longer than the 45 minutes, but I did have to add a cold shelf above it to prevent it burning and give it time to cook to the centre.  Next time I think I’ll either make half the quantity as there’s just the two of us or if I’m making the full amount I’d cut the dough into two separate loaves after the first rising to make sure it cooks evenly.

Blackberry Focaccia fresh from the oven © Sue Todd 2014

Blackberry Focaccia fresh from the oven © Sue Todd 2014

It should be golden brown, crisp but still springy to touch when its done.  Let it cool before dusting with the icing sugar and then its ready to serve.  Enjoy!