Drying hydrangeas

A short blog post to show you how easy it is to dry hydrangeas.

These beautiful flowers look as lovely indoors, dried, as much as they do in the garden. Personally I do not like the blousy brightly coloured varieties, the sky blues and bright pinks, but there are plenty of gentle, antique-coloured hydrangeas. Of course, it’s up to you what you grow, but my favourites are the light green of Little Lime, the rich russet-maroon of Ruby Tuesday and I’ve picked up a plant of Vanille-Fraise this year, which should start properly flowering next summer (this is a panicle – pointed – variety that’s mainly white with strawberry coloured edges) .

There are also varietal types to describe the flower and leaf patterns, such as lace cap or panicle. Lace caps do not look as great as the others dried, because by their nature not all the flowers open, but they’re still cute.

It’s perfect to pick and dry hydrangeas at this time of year – late autumn/early winter (I’m writing this in November).

Uses of dried hydrangeas

Dried hydrangeas are great ornamentals in the home. I also use them in my festive wreaths.

Dried hydrangeas will look good for at least twelve months, so perfect for your replacements in a year’s time!

Drying in water

  • This sounds counter-intuitive but does work so easily!
  • Pick your flower heads with a fairly long stem
  • Remove all leaves
  • Trim a bunch of flower heads to the same stem length
  • Place in a vase and fill with water
  • After about 10-12 days when the water has evaporated (do not top up) the flower heads should be dried and ready

Drying without water

  • Pick your flower heads with a fairly long stem
  • Remove all leaves
  • For each flower head cut a circle of baking paper or printer paper roughly to the same diameter as the flower head
  • Cut a small hole in the centre and feed through the stem
  • The paper circle stops the flowerhead from sagging, keeping it in it’s round form
  • Place a few together in a vase and leave to dry
  • Do not leave somewhere too hot or they may brown too much, it’s best they dry slowly.

A note about hang drying

You can also dry them by hanging them upside down, but frankly I’ve had less success with this and often even when it’s worked the flower heads look misshapen, however you may have better luck.

Cinnamon buns

Notes

This makes 12-16 cinnamon buns, depending on how deep you cut each slice

Tin sizes don’t need to be exact – the buns will expand outwards and/or upwards. If using a rectangular tin, use one about 20 x 30 cm and if using a circular tin, use one about 30cm in diameter

This is a wet dough so you may want to use a stand mixer instead of your hands for the kneading stage

Preparation time – 2hr 15 (about 45 minutes of this is hands-on activity)

Cooking time – 20-25 mins

Equipment

  • a tin to place the buns in – rectangular or circular will do. See notes above
  • pastry brush
  • rolling pin
  • large bowl
  • sharp knife
  • small ceramic bowl/cup or small saucepan
  • stand mixer with dough hook (if not kneading by hand)
  • clean tea towel

Ingredients – for the enriched dough

  • 300g wholemeal bread flour
  • 150g strong white flour
  • 1 teaspoon of fast action dried yeast
  • 40g caster sugar
  • a pinch of fine salt
  • 120ml milk (doesn’t have to be warmed but it’s better if it’s not fridge-cold)
  • 70ml tepid water
  • 1 medium egg (beaten)
  • 25 olive oil

Ingredients for the filling

  • 95g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 50g demerara sugar
  • 100g chopped gale cherries

Ingredients for the glaze/topping

  • 30ml golden syrup or maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons of marmalade (with or without peel – your choice)
  • 30g – 40g of slivered almonds

Plus

  • extra flour for dusting
  • extra olive oil for resting the dough

Method

  1. Add all the dry ingredients into your bowl (that’s both flour types, sugar, yeast and salt) and mix them up a bit.
  2. Make a well in the middle and tip in the milk and water, beaten egg and olive oil and start to mix. This is a little wetter than bread and is messy so you may want to use a wooden spoon first to bring it together before you start to knead
  3. Alternatively, use a stand mixer with a bread hook instead of hand kneading
  4. If kneading by hand, tip out onto a lightly floured surface
  5. Knead for 8 – 10 mins (or in your stand mixer). The dough will have a smooth surface when it’s ready
  6. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with your tea towel
  7. Leave it to rise somewhere warm. This will typically take an hour and the dough will almost double in size
  8. Gently roll the dough out of the bowl on to a lightly floured surface and start to press it down gently into a rectangle (around 65cm by 15 cm)
  9. In a small bowl, mix the ground cinnamon, vanilla seeds, caster sugar and softened butter together
  10. Spread the cinnamon butter all over the dough
  11. Scatter over the chopped glace cherries
  12. Roll up the dough like a roulade/Swiss roll, starting from the long edge
  13. Cut the roll into 12-16 slices
  14. Place the slices end-on into your tin. If the slices have flattened as you cut them, you can reshape them by hand
  15. Space the slices around 1 cm apart
  16. Cover again and leave to rise a second time for around 30 mins
  17. Heat your oven to 180C fan/200C conventional.
  18. When risen, place in the oven
  19. After 10 mins turn the oven down to 160C fan/140C conventional and bake for 10 – 15 mins more
  20. Let the buns cool in the tin for 10 minutes
  21. Melt the syrup and marmalade together with a tablespoon of water – you can do this in the microwave or in a saucepan
  22. Brush the glaze over the top of the buns while they are still in the tin and then sprinkle with the almonds
  23. Leave until fully cool

Halloween Fougasse – or ‘boogasse’

I started making Halloween-shaped fougasse when my twin lads were tiny – it became a bit of a family tradition in late October to get them to help me shape the bread dough into ghouls and skulls. Now I carry it on as I still am a big kid myself and it’s simply just nice bread. It’s particularly gorgeous dipped into a very cheesy fondue, even dyed green if you’re into the full-on ghoulish experience!

I’ve shown my Halloween shapes for many years on Instagram but I’ve never previously shared my recipe, so here it is. Hope you like it and have fun making your own Halloween shapes – you’re not limited to the pumpkin and ghost I’ve shown here.

A previous year’s example of my boogasse, to show some alternative shapes:

Notes – this dough is a bit wet. If you don’t fancy kneading by hand pop it in your stand mixer with a dough hook.

Makes 2 large “boogasse” fougasse – enough for four people.

Preparation is about 1hr 45, though much of that is hands-off, with around 22 minutes baking.

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Scraper or knife
  • Two linen tea towels or a baker’s couche
  • Two large baking trays
  • Hand/stick blender or potato masher
  • Saucepan
  • Sieve
  • Measuring jug
  • Spoon
  • Scales

Ingredients

  • 135g of pumpkin or squash flesh, chopped
  • 500g strong white flour
  • 7g fast action dried yeast
  • 260g water
  • 8g fine salt
  • Several turns of a black pepper mill
  • 20ml olive oil, I used Filippo Berio organic extra virgin olive oil 
  • (optional – one egg as an egg wash if preferred)

Method

  • Place the chopped squash in a saucepan and add enough water to almost cover it
  • Simmer until soft
  • Strain the squash, but sieve it over your measuring jug – you’ll need to keep the water it was cooked in. Press the squash flesh to get as much water out as possible (this is so you can measure it more accurately)
  • Mash or blend the flesh so it’s not lumpy or stringy
  • Top up the liquid with water until it reaches 260g
  • Make your dough, by combining the flour, salt, pepper, the squash, olive oil, yeast and liquid in your large bowl
  • Mix roughly and leave for 10 minutes
  • Tip out onto a clean surface and begin kneading. This dough comes together quickly and is a little wet
  • Knead for about 7-8 minutes until it starts to become smooth and glossy. Only use additional flour if you feel it’s absolutely necessary
  • Once kneaded, oil the bowl and shape the dough into a ball. Place it into the oiled bowl and cover with a clean linen tea towel or similar
  • Leave to prove for about 45 minutes until risen
  • Divide your dough in half
  • Flour both baking trays
  • Take half of the dough and cut off a small piece. Roll this into a long sausage/string shape
  • With the rest of this piece of dough, flatten it out to about 1 cm thickness, shaping it into a pumpkin shape (like a fat ‘8’ on it’s side with a short stalk)
  • Take the string of dough, persist lightly onto where the stalk is and curl it on it self across the pumpkin shape. Do NOT make the indentations at this stage (see image below)

  • Cover the dough with a tea towel
  • With the second piece of dough, pull and flatten into a ghost shape – but do NOT make the holes for the eyes and mouth yet (as in image above)
  • Cover this one with your other tea towel
  • Leave both to rise for about 30 minutes
  • While the dough is on its last proof, turn your oven on to 200C fan / 220F conventional / 450F
  • When the fougasse has risen, use the edge of a spoon to make the indentations on the pumpkin shape – as the spoon is curved it makes it easier. Use the handle end of the spoon to create the holes for the eyes and mouth on the ghost shape
  • You can now lightly brush with beaten egg if you prefer – my pumpkin was brushed with egg and the ghost was left without (so you can see the difference)
  • Place them in the oven and immediately turn it down to 190C fan / 210C conventional / 425F 
  • Bake for 20-22 minutes until risen and getting brown
  • Leave to cool (or eat slightly warm)

Pickled baby peppers

I’ve had a glut of chillies and peppers this year, thanks – I’m assuming – to the unusually hot and sunny spring we had here in the UK. My tiny greenhouse is currently bursting with produce compared to how it’s done over recent years.

This glut of produce has lead to jars of pickles and chutneys, salsa, sugo/sauces as I’m sure many of you have made too, but here’s a method for pickling the baby peppers whole, with a mini ‘recipe’ further down for stuffing these with cream cheese (or similar).

I’ve used Mini Bell Mixed variety peppers I’ve grown myself for this, but there are many snack sized varieties you can grow such or buy, such as the more commonly used Pepperdew. You could also pickle ‘fat’ chilli varieties, such as Padron, and large bell peppers, but you’d need to chop these into chunks (and you won’t be able to stuff these later).

This set of instructions is for a 1 litre jar – multiply the volumes up for additional jars.

Equipment

  • Saucepan
  • Wooden spoon/spatula
  • 1 litre jar which closes water-tight, such as a clip top Kilner jar
  • Apple corer, knife, small spoon, scales

Ingredients

  • 600 ml clear pickling vinegar
  • 360-400 g of small peppers
  • 20 g salt
  • 60 g granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of whole peppercorns
  • 3-5 chillies (I used three Thai chillies)

Method

  • Sterilise your jar – put it in a dishwasher on high heat, sterilise in a hot oven or use an infant sterilisation solution such as Milton fluid (follow the advice on the label). Full details on sterilisation in an oven can be found on my (very old – 2014 – but still good) lemon curd recipe post
  • Wash the peppers and either dry them with a clean tea towel or leave them to dry
  • Take take off the stalks and remove the pith and seeds from each pepper. My top tip for the EASIEST way to do this by far is to use an apple core to screw down over the stalk and into the pepper (stop before you come out the other side!). If there are any seeds or pith left, flick this out using the tail end of a teaspoon
  • Chop the chillies, removing any stalks. You can remove or keep the chilli seeds as you see fit (it doesn’t matter too much either way – it’s all just personal preference).
  • Warm the vinegar, sugar, salt, peppercorns in the saucepan. Stir until the sugar dissolves – you should not need to let it boil
  • Push all the cored peppers into the jar, with the holes facing upwards so that they will fill with liquid. Don’t push too hard or you’ll split the peppers; before they are pickled fully they are fairly easy to snap
  • Fill with the vinegar slowly. You may need to jiggle the jar or push the peppers down a little as you fill to get as much air out as possible
  • Close the lid and leave for 24 hours
  • After a day, open and push the peppers down a bit more into the vinegar as they will have softened a little in just those 24 hours. It’s likely that some weren’t fully submerged and this will ensure that they all get pickled (any peppers above the liquid level are at risk of going off)
  • If you can’t make all the peppers go under the level of the 600ml vinegar, top it up with a little extra plain distilled vinegar (no need to add any more spices and sugar etc)
  • Leave your peppers ideally for a full week until opening, but they will store for about 6-8 weeks (if all the peppers are fully submerged in the pickling liquid).

After a week they’re fine to use as you would any pickled peppers. Once opened best to store in the fridge and use within a fortnight.

Here’s how to go on to stuff them:

Cheese stuffed baby peppers

Equipment

  • Sieve or colander
  • Spoon and sharp knife
  • Piping bag (with or without large circular nozzle)
  • Bowl
  • and possibly: a sterilised jar up to 1 litre in capacity if you want to stuff them in advance of eating them. Please note though that they are best eaten soon after stuffing.

Ingredients – assumes you are stuffing ALL of the 1 litre jar of peppers (up to 30 peppers)

  • The pickled peppers
  • 500g of soft cheese*. Cream cheese, cottage cheese, brie, taleggio or similar are all good for this
  • 100 ml (approx) of extra virgin olive oil* (I used Filippo Berio Organic Olive Oil) Or use a flavoured oil, such as a chilli or garlic oil.

* If you are only stuffing a portion of the peppers: use about 100g of cheese and 20ml of olive oil for a quarter of the peppers. Scale as appropriate

Method

  • Take out the pickled chillies, shaking off the vinegar and place in a sieve or colander to drain
  • (You can re-use the pickling vinegar again once more, but only for short-term ‘fridge’ pickles. Do not reheat and use. For instance I have used it for a second batch of these peppers – then I’ve discarded it. If you are unsure, just discard)
  • If you are using a very runny cheese, it’s best to push it into a piping bag with a large nozzle and squirt the cheese into the pepper
  • If you are using a semi soft cheese, such as brie or taleggio or even a thicker cream cheese, scoop or cut teaspoon-sized portions of the cheese and push it into the peppers with the teaspoon
  • Place the stuffed peppers into a bowl and pour all the olive oil over them. make sure they are completely coated
  • You can now serve and eat straightaway – this is preferable

If you want to prep them a day in advance, pop the stuffed, oiled peppers into a new sterilised jar. Tip the oil left in the bottom of the bowl into the jar. Please note if you have a very cold fridge the olive oil can congeal – if this happens leave outside of the fridge for a couple of hours before eating

Blueberry muffins

I’ve been neglecting my blog – I think I do this every year about this time and I suspect others do too. Journalists call this the silly season: there’s so little news (and so few journalists about to report it) during the summer that there is a trend towards fluffy, odd little pieces of news. I imagine this year, though there is plenty of people taking leave, that there is enough ‘non-fluffy’ news to report on. We’ve managed a wet week in Cornwall ourselves, and for the rest of our two weeks’ leave I have just not been able to face sitting at the makeshift, uncomfortable ‘desk’ until i’d had some clear time away from it, so the blog has been a casualty.

I know you’re thinking why on earth do a blueberry muffin recipe; there’s plenty about? I’ve seen a few appear over the past couple of months and they’ve struck me as basically recipes for large fairy cakes (cup cakes). Not muffins: cake. Muffins need some element of sour dairy in their ingredients. Here I’ve developed one which uses milk + lemon juice, rather than buttercream (which is more traditional, but not always easy to get a hold of).

By adding a sour element, it helps the baking powder chemical reaction to work and gives both a tang and a really springy texture to the muffin.

Notes

  • You can substitute any in-season fruit. I tested this recipe twice with blueberries and once with picked hedgerow blackberries. I can imagine it’d be perfectly adaptable to raspberries, chopped up plums/nectarines/peaches/apples, slightly stewed rhubarb, gooseberries and more.
  • Do put the baking powder in last. Any chemical leavener starts its reaction immediately but due to the amount of lemon juice and fruit in this recipe, the chemical reaction will be quick and vigorous and needs to happen in the oven, not while you’re still mixing! For further information please see my Chemical leaveners / raising agents post.
  • Makes 8 large muffins or 10 smaller ones (using fairy cake cases).
  • If you don’t have pearl sugar, you can substitute a large granulated sugar instead.
  • Takes about 45 minutes – 20 minutes prep, 25 minutes bake time

Equipment

  • One large bowl
  • One small bowl
  • Bun tin with 12 bun cavities (or two x 6-cavity trays)
  • Muffin cases (or large fairy/cup cake cases)
  • Wooden spoon
  • Flexible spatula
  • Large spoon and a fork
  • For measuring: scales, teaspoon, tablespoon and small liquid measuring jug

Ingredients

  • 1 small yellow or slightly browning banana (or half a large banana)
  • 30 ml milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 medium eggs (approx 125g weight including shells)
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 55g demerara sugar
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 135g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 100g blueberries

plus:

  • 1 tablespoon of pearl sugar (sometimes also called nibbed sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons of flaked almonds

Method

  1. Turn on your oven to warm: 170 C for a fan oven or 190 C for a conventional oven
  2. Place your muffin cases in the bun tin(s) – this makes 8 large or 10 regular size muffins
  3. In the small bowl, mash the banana with the back of a fork with the lemon juice and the milk. Leave to one side
  4. In the large bowl cream the sugars and the butter together
  5. Break in the eggs and add the flour (do NOT add the baking powder yet). Mix until thoroughly combined
  6. Mix in the banana mixture and then add the baking powder and give a thorough, quick stir
  7. Add in about three quarters (approx 75g) of the blueberries into the mixture and stir gently in (no need to weigh, this can be a best guess!)
  8. Portion out the mixture between the cases. You should fill each case to just under level with the case edge – that is, they should be pretty full
  9. Portion out the remaining blueberries equally on top of each of the filled muffin cases and just slightly push each blueberry down a little into the batter. Don’t fully submerge them. This is so that the blueberries are nicely distributed through each muffin as you bite into them
  10. Now sprinkle over the flaked almonds and the pearl sugar
  11. Place straight into the middle of the oven
  12. Bake for 25 minutes and leave to cool before eating
Blueberry muffin recipe - inksugarspice website

Pumpkin rolls

pumpkin rolls inksugarspice #pumpkin #bread

Delicious at any time of the year, but particularly fitting to make for Halloween, these pumpkin rolls don’t just look the part, they taste it too as they’re made from a roasted pumpkin (or squash) dough.

I’ve written out the instructions (with some images) how to make these rolls into pumpkin shapes, but they can also be made into ‘normal’, round dinner rolls too. The dough is also marvellous when baked into a full sized loaf (top with toasted pumpkin seeds for extra oomph).

Notes

It’s a bit tricky to cut up just the right amount of pumpkin/squash for this recipe, so I suggest using a whole, small pumpkin or butternut squash. Once roasted it’s easier to weigh out the correct amount and any that is surplus to the recipe can be used up elsewhere (freeze for later, turn into soup, add to a pasta dish, mix into mash potato for example).

You can skip the shaping instructions and just make round rolls if you prefer.

Do make sure you get rid of all the string before serving!

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Scraper
  • Linen tea towel
  • Two large baking trays
  • Roasting tray
  • Sharp, large chef’s knife and potato peeler
  • Sieve (not fine gauge) and large spoon
  • Smaller bowl
  • Butchers/bakers string and scissors
  • Saucepan or microwavable bowl/jug (for warming the milk)
pumpkins - inksugarspice

Ingredients

  • 1 small pumpkin or squash (you will only need 120g once roasted, see notes above)
  • Strong white flour – 475g
  • Fresh yeast – 15g (or replace with fast action dried yeast – 7g)
  • Milk – 200g
  • Fine salt – 1 teaspoon (plus extra for the pumpkin)
  • Black pepper – several turns
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of a good quality olive oil, I used Filippo Beri organic extra virgin olive oil (plus about another 3 tablespoons to drizzle on the pumpkin for roasting and to oil the bowl)

Method

  • Warm your oven to 180C fan / 200 conventional / 400F
  • Halve the pumpkin or squash and scoop out the seeds
  • Take the skin off the pumpkin and cut into large chunks (about 3-4cm)
  • Spread the pumpkin pieces out into your roasting tin and drizzle with olive oil, about three tablespoons’ worth and then sprinkle with some salt
  • Bake for about 25 minutes. The pumpkin pieces should be soft when pressed with a fork or spoon. If they are not ready, leave in for another 10 minute
  • When ready, leave the pumpkin pieces to cool a little until you can handle them
  • While the pumpkin is cooling, gently warm the milk in a microwave or a saucepan a little and stir in the yeast. Leave this to one side while you prep the pumpkin flesh
  • When the pumpkin flesh has cooled enough to handle (but is still warm), press the pumpkin through the sieve into the smaller bowl. It’s easiest to press it through wi th the back of a large spoon. This will remove any little crispy edges that you wouldn’t want in your bread and break down the fibres so that it incorporates into the dough more thoroughly
  • Make your dough, by combining the flour, salt, pepper, mashed pumpkin, olive oil and the milk/yeast mixture in your large bowl
  • Once combined roughly, tip out onto a clean surface and begin kneading. This dough comes together quickly because of the pumpkin flesh, so knead it for about 7-8 minutes until it starts to become smooth and glossy. Only use additional flour if you feel it’s absolutely necessary
  • Once kneaded, oil the bowl and shape the dough into a ball. Place it into the oiled bowl seam side down and cover with a clean linen tea towel or similar
  • Leave to prove for about 45 minutes until risen
  • Divide your dough in to eight equal pieces
  • Cut up eight pieces of the butcher’s string – each about a metre long
  • Taking one of the pieces of dough, shape into a ball
  • [See the images below for the following steps) Take the string and its centre point over the middle of the ball of dough, flip the dough over and make a loop round the dough and finish with a little twist of the string – your ball of dough should have a loop over it. Make sure you come back to the middle of the ball of dough and ensure the string is not tight or cutting into the dough
  • Twist the string and repeat another loop at 90 degrees to the first, so the ball of dough looks like a parcel
  • Repeat twice more, keeping the string between the first two loops – so that the ball of dough is eventually sectioned into eight wedge shapes. Tie off loosely and trim off the ends of the string
How to tie up the pumpkin rolls with string so they get that quintessential pumpkin shape when baked - inksugarspice #pumpkin #bread
  • Place the dough ball on a floured baking tray
  • Repeat with the remaining seven balls of dough
  • Cover the dough and leave to rise for about 30 minutes, until the dough has started to rise through the string and created a pumpkin shape
  • While the dough is on its last proof, turn your oven on to 220C fan / 240F conventional / 475F
  • When the rolls are ready, place them in the oven and immediately turn it down to 200C fan / 220C conventional / 400F
  • Bake for 20-22 minutes until risen and getting brown
  • Leave to cool and when cold, snip off the string from the underside of the roll and pull through the threads to ensure there is no string left before serving
pumpkin rolls inksugarspice #pumpkin #bread

Savoury brioche

SavouryBriocheFinishedAngleWhen you think of brioche, you automatically think sweet breakfast rolls or pretty marbled loaves (mmm sliced and made into eggy bread/cinnamon toast). But it doesn’t have to be sweet – a savoury or plainer brioche is a lovely, fluffy, bouncy thing and there are probably more savoury versions than sweet; it’s just what we tend to see sold or made most often. What you may come across is the description ‘enriched bread’ rather than savoury brioche.

You can find below my recipe for a delicious cheese and caramelised onion savoury brioche. It makes the most gorgeous rolls for a lunch, a wintry picnic or to go with some delicious seasonal soup.

So what is an enriched bread? It does what it says on the tin, so to speak. A normal flour, water, salt and yeast dough* is enriched with the addition of at least one (and sometimes all) of the following: eggs, extra fat (usually butter but sometimes a good oil) or milk or quark/other too. For a sweet version there’s also honey or sugar and often in either case (sweet or savoury) there are additional ingredients to add flavour and texture, such as chocolate, dried fruits or cheese and herbs. A laminated dough such as a Danish or croissant pastry can also be described as enriched, although here the fat is layered in to get the laminated leaves, rather than mixed in.  (*enriched doughs can use wild yeast sponges).

There are a number of differences between a straightforward loaf and an enriched loaf. Obviously there’s the taste: the eggs give it a richer, more rounded flavour and the fat content gives a softer mouthfeel. The dough will rise higher (although some enriched doughs use plain not strong white flour and this will be negated) during the proving process and it’s stickier and harder to knead the ingredients together – in fact it can get quite messy. You may want to use a stand mixer, but either way stick with it as it produces the glossiest, shiniest dough with a slight warm tinge from the egg yolks.

One other characteristic is that because of the fat and protein content the dough can take a lot of handling so is really great for plaiting and shaping. Many regional speciality enriched breads (sweet or savoury) have their own particular shape. Think of Challah with its definitive plait or the reducing braid of butterzopf.

Bagels, Austrian kifli, German mornhörnchen, Slovakian vánočka, German Zweiback, Japanese milk bread and Italian pane di Pasqua (see my own recipe), pannetone and Pand D’oro (also see my recipe for this) are other examples and there are many more.

Savoury brioche rolls with cheddar, herbs and caramelised onions

Notes

Makes twelve fluffy rolls or can be made into a loaf  (just fold in the ingredients after knocking back the dough and bake for a total of 30 minutes)

Equipment

  • A very large bowl
  • A smaller bowl
  • Knife
  • Casserole dish, about 26cm – 30 cm in diameter
  • Cling film or a clean tea towel
  • Frying or saute pan

Ingredients

  • Strong white flour – 400g
  • Eggs, large – 3
  • Fast acting dried yeast – 1 teaspoon (levelled off)
  • Salt, fine  – 10g
  • Milk, warmed (use semi-skimmed or full fat milk) – 90ml
  • Unsalted butter – 90g
  • Red onion – 1
  • Strong or aged cheddar – 80g
  • Fresh thyme – a small sprig* or 1 teaspoon of dried thyme (about 4-5 cuttings roughly 5cm long)
  • Fresh oregano – a small sprig* or 1 teaspoon of dried oregano (*see note for thyme above)
  • Olive oil
  • Rock salt

Method

  1. Mix the flour, yeast, salt, eggs, milk and butter together in the large bowl – it will be a rather gooey mess!
  2. Now it requires kneading – you can do this by hand but if you don’t want to get too messy it can be done in a stand mixer or on the dough only setting in a bread machine
  3. Knead for around 10 -12 minutes until the dough is glossy and smooth skinned. It is a messy job, but try not to resort to adding too much extra flour as that will dramatically alter the ratios of the ingredients and change the outcome of the bread.  To start off by hand you are more likely to be making a scraping action rather than kneading as the dough will want to grasp hold of the surface and your hands, but do persevere: it will eventually start coming together
  4. Lightly oil the bowl and leave to rise, covered with a tea towel or cling film somewhere relatively warm (but not too hot). Make sure there is plenty of room between the top of your dough and the rim of the bowl or it will rise and hit your cling film/tea towel as it is a vigorous bake (if using cling film you can oil the underside of it to act as an added method to stop the dough sticking to it). The dough will need 40-60 minutes to rise
  5. Meanwhile, finely chop the onion into little shards and gently fry in some olive oil until it becomes translucent – this will be a good 15 minutes (beware instructions that imply softening onions is a quick job! This is slow and low)
  6. Once cooked sufficiently, leave to cool on a kitchen towel sheet
  7. Strip the herbs (if using fresh)
  8. Mix the herbs together in the small bowl – take out about 1/4 of the herbs to sprinkle on the top of the bread and place to one side
  9. Chop up the cheddar and combine with the herbs and the cooled onion
  10. When the dough is risen, place on a lightly floured surface and knock back
  11. Flatten the dough to about 1cm in depth and shape into a large oblong
  12. Lightly flour the base of the casserole
  13. Sprinkle the cheddar, onion and herbs onto the dough and roll up from a long side into a Swiss roll shapeSavouryBriocheFilling
  14. Cut the roll into twelve equal slices and arrange them in the casserole (easiest to place nine round the edge and three in the middle)SavouryBriocheBeforebakingjpg
  15. Cover the casserole dish and leave to rise and fluff up for another 30 – 40 mins
  16. Just before the bread is risen fully, warm your oven to 200º C fan / 220º C conventional
  17. When ready, drizzle over a little olive oil, scatter some rock salt and the reserved portion of herbs
  18. Place in the hot oven for 10 mins, then after this time reduce the temperature down to 180º C  fan / 200º C conventional and bake for another 20 – 25 minutes

SavouryBriocheFinishedAbove

“Mothers ruin” chutney

chutney2_2018Tapping fingernails on the table and looking wistfully through the window: I wondered what can I do with all those stubbornly-still-green tomatoes left on the vine in the greenhouse (or in the greengrocer’s) at this time of year?

They’re plump, juicy with a shiny skin but are just totally colour-change refuseniks. No matter how sunny your windowsill they just won’t budge their coloration now. You could fry them off or add to casseroles, but they’re a little too tart to eat like a fully scarlet tomato so I’ve turned my glut of green goodies into a gin-soaked unctuous and fruity chutney. Hence the mothers ruin title, and the gin does make it a rather delish yet not-so-ordinary relish.

So, here’s praise to autumn and the excuse for bottling and preserving all of nature’s generosity and a hearty Cheers! to green tomatoes. And that toast is not something you hear everyday when applying a dollop of chutney to a cracker!

Notes

  • You need to prep the fruits the day before and leave to soak overnight
  • Makes four full sized jam jars (typically these are between 330mml – 390ml)
  • I’ve stopped wanting to make huge volumes of chutneys, pickles, jellies and jams as I don’t sell them on. I think three to four jars of something is enough for us. This is one to open now, a couple to keep me going and one to give away. But then I don’t have an allotment so I’ve not got kilos and kilos of produce to use up, just a greenhouse and a few planters’ worth. This recipe does multiply up easily, so if you have that enormous allotment glut of tomatoes (and an outlet for the many jars you’ll produce) then do double, triple (or more) the quantities
  • You can use red tomatoes for this recipe, no problem at all
  • You can use any gin – but a fruity one is most suitable. I’ve used Brockman’s which has a considerable taste of blackberry to it

Sterilising glass jars

Put pre-washed clean glass jars in the oven at about 130˚C for 20 minutes or put them through a dishwasher cycle on your hottest setting

Be careful handling the hot jars out when done

NB:  don’t put any rubber seal in the oven; it’ll just melt. Wash these in hand-hot water and leave to dry on a kitchen towel or clean tea towel

greenTomatoes

Equipment

  • Large, heavy bottomed saucepan or pickling pan
  • Large wooden spoon
  • Knife, cutting board
  • Small bowl
  • Cling film or plastic bag
  • Four clean, sterilised jam jars (see notes above)
  • Shallow, large container or dish

Ingredients

  • Green tomatoes – 600 – 630g
  • Fine salt – 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon
  • Red onion, large – 1
  • Celery – 1 stick
  • Sultanas or golden raisins – 100g
  • Dates, chopped – 70g
  • Sharp eating apples, 2 (such as Granny Smith or use 1 x cooking apple)
  • Brown sugar – 150g
  • Ground ginger – 1 teaspoon
  • Allspice – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Chilli flakes – 1 teaspoon
  • Black onion seeds – 1 teaspoon
  • Cider vinegar – 225ml
  • Gin – about 60ml

ISS_painted

Method

  1. Douse the sultanas and dates with the gin in a small bowl the day before making the chutney. Cover with cling film and leave to soak up the gin overnight
  2. Wash and chop the tomatoes, place them in a shallow container and scatter over the tablespoon of salt and mix in lightly. Leave to one side for at least an hour
  3. After an hour or so, rinse the tomatoes of the salt and pat dry in a clean tea towel
  4. Chop all the ingredients into little cubes/pieces (or use a food processor if you have one but chop the ingredients in batches or you’ll process them too finely).
  5. Do not throw away any gin that was not soaked up by the fruit – you can pour this straight into the large saucepan for the next stage while you chop the ingredients
  6. Put everything in the large saucepan, give it a good stir and bring to a boil
  7. Boil for a couple of minutes and strain off any scum
  8. Turn down to a simmer and let it simmer away for 90 minutes, stirring and checking on it regularly (though you don’t need to stand guard for the whole 90 minutes, please don’t leave it for more than a few minutes at a time as it will catch on the bottom of the pan)
  9. It should reduce to a moist but not soggy chutney. If the ingredient pieces are too big for your liking, you can use a stick blender to chop them further, but do use this by pulsing it rather than having it on constantly or you’ll have a pulpy preserve, rather than one with nice chunks of fruit and veggies in
  10. While still hot, carefully decant into the pre-sterilised jars
  11. Leave until fully cold

chutneycloseup

 

Halloween mummified pizzas

stripImageHorribly easy and terrifyingly tasty mummy pizzas to make with your little pumpkins in the run up to All Hallow’s Eve or to give as treats for spooks and wizards who come knocking on the door. Dead simple, no tricks!

I love Halloween… I’m deeply disappointed that it’s a combination of complete apathy and some tatty cheap costumes for the most part. It doesn’t all have to be plastic bats, giant spiders and motion sensor-activated ghost noises (especially if you don’t have little children in the house). I tend to sculpt and paint a few pumpkins for the front door and inside I’ll arrange smaller decorative squashes, conkers, hops and other foraged greenery and light a number of candles and lanterns. For All Hallow’s Eve I usually bake (any ol’ excuse) and give out jelly wormy cupcakes or the like to squeals of delight/horror when trick or treaters knock. I do like the dressing up bit (read in to that as little or as much as you will!) and have made a number of costumes for my lads, my husband and myself. One year my husband looked like Sweeney Todd a bit too realistically and several parents were a bit perturbed…

As a change from dishing out yet more sugary treats to children, these mini pizzas make a great alternative. And, if you pass them out still warm they’ll have both fuel and a toasty belly on what’s a usually pretty cold evening as they traipse door-to-door. Of course, you could black out all the rooms, pretend you’re not in when they knock and scoff these yourself with a spooky film and a nice glass of Chianti. Now that’s a neat trick.

Notes

  • Makes 12 small pizzas
  • To make vegetarian, swap out the salami for mushrooms or thinly sliced peppers
  • if you don’t have chilli flavoured olive oil, just use your normal olive oil and sprinkle a few dried chilli flakes in

Equipment

  • Two large baking trays
  • Baking paper or parchment
  • Long knife, pizza wheel or mezzaluna
  • Wide straw
  • Large bowl
  • Clean linen tea towel or cling film
  • Rolling pin
  • Small bowl
  • Spoon
  • Scissors

Ingredients – base

  • Strong white bread flour – 500g (plus extra for dusting)
  • A rich or virgin olive oil, I’ve used the Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Filippo Berio – 1¼ tablespoons (plus a little extra for the bowl)
  • Fine salt – 1¼ teaspoons
  • Granulated sugar – 1 teaspoon
  • Lukewarm water – 350ml
  • Dried, fast acting yeast – 1¼ teaspoons

Ingredients – toppings

  • Sun dried tomato pesto – 70g
  • Concentrated tomato puree – 70g
  • Chilli flavoured olive oil – 1 tablespoon
  • Mozzarella – two 125g balls (you’ll need about 1 ½ balls for the pizza topping and a little extra to cut out the eyes)
  • Salame/pepperoni – 120g of sliced meats of your choice or a veggie alternative like mushrooms or peppers
  • A few black onion seeds, Nigella seeds or cracked black peppercorns for the pupils

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the bread (flour, oil, salt, sugar, water and yeast) together in a bowl, using your fingers
  2. Tip out on to a clean surface and knead for ten minutes, you may need to add a little flour to the work surface if it continues to stick (but try kneading for a few minutes without adding the flour if you can)*
    * you can use a stand mixer or food processor if you prefer, rather than hand kneading
  3. When the dough becomes smooth and slightly glossy on the surface, it’s been kneaded enough and is ready for proving
  4. Rub a little olive oil round the bowl and place the kneaded dough in
  5. Cover with the linen tea towel or cling film and leave to rise in a warm (but not too hot) place for around an hour until it has risen well and a few large bubbles have appeared under the surface
  6. Lightly dust your work surface and tip out the dough
  7. Punch down the dough to knock the air out of it
  8. Using the rolling pin and/or your hands, flatten out the dough as thinly and evenly as possible into a large rectangle. You should be able to get it to the size of a typical large baking sheet (40 x 27cm / 15″ x 10″)
  9. Cut off a third off the end of the rectangle – you will need this for the mummy ‘wrappings’
  10. Gently transfer the large portion of the flattened dough onto a piece of baking paper (this makes each mini pizza easier to pick up and move)
  11. Cut this dough into twelve equal pieces, by first cutting along the middle lengthways, then making five equally spaced cuts. You should have twelve mini rectangles, about 20cm x 5cm (plus the ‘spare’ piece of dough you cut off)
  12. Using scissors, cut the baking paper around the twelve pizzas, so they each have their own portion that they are sitting on
  13. Cut the spare piece of dough into long strips of about 1cm widthdoughStrips
  14. Put your oven on to 210ºC fan / 230ºC conventional
  15. Mix the pesto, puree and chilli flavoured olive oil in a small bowl to make a pizza sauce, then spoon it out equally between the twelve mini pizzas, using the back of the spoon to spread it outpesto-puree
  16. Cut two thin slices off the mozzarella and keep to one side for the mummies’ eyes
  17. Rip up the rest of the mozzarella evenly between the twelve pizzasmozzarella
  18. Now lay the pepperoni, salame or veggies (whichever you’re using) on top of the mozzarella
  19. Taking one of the dough strips, you can now start to make the mummy ‘wrappings’
  20. Lay a dough strip diagonally across the pizza and cut to size. Repeat in a random crisscrossing pattern until you’ve ‘wrapped’ each mummy pizzawrappedDough
  21. You do need to squash the ends of every strips just slightly into the pizza base, otherwise when they bake they will lift up. Pinching the end of a strip to the base fixes them together
  22. Place six pizzas spread out on each of the two baking trays, so they have some space to rise and spread out
  23. Bake for 14 – 16 minutes until the bottom of the pizza is baked, the top of the wrappings are a nice golden brown and the mozzarella is gooey and a bit crispy round the edges
  24. While the pizzas are cooling a little, you can make the eyes. Using a wide straw punch out circles from the remaining mozzarella slices and arrange in pairs (or even some threes!) on the pizzas, so it looks like the mummies are peering out from their wrappings
  25. Add a Nigella or black onion seed (or a little piece of black peppercorn) to each eye so it looks like a pupilindividual
  26. Best served still warm, but can be eaten cold

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