Always at this time of year I neglect my website. Not on purpose you understand; it just seems to happen year on year. I’m no late starter when it comes to anything else, its just… January. So, despite it almost being February this is my first 2021 post. Happy New Year!
I’ve written before that I eschew resolutions at this time of year. The spring equinox has me thinking about changes, new starts and determination rather than a grey and bleary 1st Jan. January (and February come to think of it) does not work for me for new starts, but it is good timing for gathering yourself together, looking after you and yours and starting to think about spring and those new shoots, literal or metaphorical.
So, while I’m in R&R mode, these little madeleines fit nicely. They are a twist on a traditional patisserie recipe, but incorporate winter fruit and indulgent chocolate. I’ve coloured my white chocolate to match the Pink Lady apples I used, but you don’t have to colour the chocolate at all, and if you don’t like white chocolate, then feel free to dip them in your favourite milk or dark instead.
I’ve included the little step that gets the chocolate finish looking like its sculpted! Once you get the hang of turning them out without breaking the chocolate (this depends on the trickiness of the mould you own) you’ll be making them perfect all the time.
Madeleine moulds (any mould will do but silicone ones are easier for this recipe)
Spoon, flexible spatula, scales, knife and cutting board, pastry brush
Small heatproof bowl
125g unsalted butter
1 sweet eating apple – I used a Pink Lady apple
2 medium – large eggs
150g plain flour
145g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice
300g of white chocolate
Plus – extra butter, about 30 g, for the moulds
Melt the extra butter and paint the madeleine moulds with it using the pastry brush. Place the moulds in the freezer
Melt the 125g of butter in the saucepan over a medium heat and then immediately take off the heat
Whisk the eggs and sugar until they turn light and fluffy and have increased in volume
Folding gently with a spatula, now add the flour, salt, lemon juice and melted butter until combined. be careful not to over mix
Chop the apple (removing the core but keeping the skin) into small dice and immediately add to the mix
Chill the mix in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. This is an important step for madeleines
Warm the oven to 180C fan / 200C conventional oven
Spoon the mixture into the moulds, filling each to about two-thirds full
Bake the madeleines for about 12-14 minutes. They should be really springy to the touch
Leave to cool completely and remove from the moulds
Clean the moulds and dry thoroughly
Now melt the chocolate, adding a few drops of food colouring if you wish
Spoon a teaspoon of melted chocolate into one of the madeleine cavities in the mould and press back in one of the madeleines, so it squeezes the chocolate around it. Repeat with all the madeleines
Try not to jog the madeleines now and leave them to cool – you can speed up the process by putting them in the fridge
When the chocolate is fully cold, they should slip out fairly well from the mould
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.
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
It may be January, and sure, I’m off to a slow start but there are many things to love about this time of year. Days are already getting longer and there are buds stirring on trees and shoots pushing their way eagerly through the ground. There are even some early daffodils brightening up hedgerows and verges.
Once of the joys of January is the glut of blood oranges imported from sunnier climes. Of course, I’d prefer to use fruit and veg that hadn’t had its share of air miles, however that intense colour and flavour is truly a gift in grey January. I’m very thankful that these lovely citrus fruits are around at this time – I hope you find something to make this time of year enjoyable.
If it is out of the season for blood oranges, other good quality orange varieties such as Jaffa or navel can be replacements.
This recipe uses heart healthy olive oil rather than butter.
Small loaf tin
Greaseproof paper/parchment or cake liner
Milk – 60g (don’t used skimmed milk)
Star anise – 2
Cinnamon sticks – 2
Soft brown sugar – 150g
Plain flour – 275g
Baking powder – 1 1/2 teaspoons
Eggs, large – 2
Light olive oil – 70g (I used Filippo Berio Light and Mild)
Ground cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
Mixed spice – 2 teaspoons
Mixed candied peel – 60g
Blood oranges – 3:
Blood orange juice – juice of 1 blood orange
Blood orange zest – zest of 2 blood oranges
Additionally, some slices of orange for decoration from one of the zested blood oranges
First of all, pour the milk into the saucepan and add in the salt, cinnamon sticks and star anise
Warm the milk over a mid-heat, ensuring it does not come to the boil, and then leave to infuse for 15 minutes
While the milk is infusing, turn on your oven to 180 *C fan / 200*C conventional
Grease and line your loaf tin
Slice one of the zested blood oranges and select 4-5 of the nicest slices and set aside
Weigh out the remaining dry ingredients into the mixing bowl
Sieve the cinnamon sticks and star anise from the milk, and add the milk into the bowl and lightly mix in
Now mix in the eggs, oil, peel, orange juice and zest
It will take a little gentle mixing to incorporate the oil and juice fully
Pour into the prepared loaf tin and place the slices of orange on top, arranging them as you wish
Place the prepared cake in the centre of the oven
Bake for 45-50 minutes. The top will be well risen, and a skewer will come out clean when inserted for testing
This is a lovely cake on its own, but it is especially delicious with a little softly whipped cream or a vanilla ice cream (and even spread with a little marmalade first!)
In the first part of this series on flavoured salt mixes, I explained a little about the types of salts available, where they come from, how they’re harvested, what gives tinted salts their colours and how to select salts for different uses. So, if you missed that post I do encourage you to read it first before continuing here as it gives the full background and a much better understanding. You can access flavoured salt mixes part one here.
In this second part I’ve included a couple of absolute classics – Italian and French herbs. However, the Italian mix does include the optional addition of adding dried tomato paste. This kicks the mix up a couple of notches if you can be bothered to try drying tomato paste – I recommend you do try. It’s also a great way of elongating the shelf life of an opened can, tube or jar of tomato paste as it can just be sprinkled into foods while cooking.
On a slightly madder theme I’ve included a “recipe” that involved DRIED MARMITE! Yes, I actually spent one afternoon inventing the perfect dried Marmite. I wanted to include that ultimate umami taste in a salt mix, but of course I couldn’t include it in its normal gooey state. This is an AWESOME mix – I use on tons of things. You’d never know that it is entirely vegetarian! It’s particularly great to give an intense BBQ flavour to vegetarian foods and it brings out an incredible flavour on chicken and steak in particular. There is a BBQ mix on the part one post, which is entirely lovely, but this one knocks your socks off.
Almost equally mad, but not because of an individual ingredient, rather the whole mix is the English Summer Sweet mix. Sweet and salt is not a new flavour combination, but it’s still rather unusual in this form and takes some getting used to. This is a beautiful looking mix, full of pinks, blues and yellows. The trick is to use it for taste but not waste it’s good looks buried inside a dish. It is lovely in a short pastry tart, sprinkled over the top of a pavlova or meringue kisses before they go in the oven or in an ice cream. It also goes nicely sprinkled on the top of a pasta ripiena/pasta in brodo dish or on tapas or similar.
Do you have any salt mixes that you have created yourself, or is there any that you think you’d like to see? Perhaps you use sme pre-made ones, such as those from the Cornish Salt Co, but are itching to have a go at creating your own. Please let me know in the comments below 💙
Anything you add to a salt needs to be dry – very dry! Although that comes with a caveat – in my English Summer Sweet mix below I’ve found that both calendula petals and lavender flowers are perfectly fine putting into a salt mix fresh – the only other thing I’ve found so far that will work fresh is chopped up rosemary leaves. Everything else needs to be dried. Either start with pre-dried herbs or dry out your own ingredients in your oven or de-humidifier. I’ve given the timings and temps for ingredients I use where I can
Buy a high quality base salt for these, as cheaper salts do tend to have added extra ingredients (mostly to enable the salt to stay free flowing) and are more processed, thus taking out or negating any beneficial additional minerals
I’ve given ingredients and ratios for a typical flavoured salt, but if you’re aiming to use a lot less salt in your cooking then don’t add quite so much as I’ve given
Think what you’ll use the flavoured salt for – most typically these will be as a last garnish to a dish. For most of these it will be best to buy a rock or crystal salt, but if you’re using the flavouring within the early stages of a recipe there’s less need for an expensive crystal salt as it will dissolve
You can store these in anything that will keep moisture out, such as a click lock plastic tub but they do look really gorgeous in tiny Kilner jars. However, if you’re leaving a salt out on the dining table as a pinch pot, then it really doesn’t matter what you store it in (an old cleaned out jam jar for instance), just present it in a nice little bowl on your table
For each ‘recipe’ you’ll need measuring spoons or a digital scale, a small bowl and a sterilised jam jar or Kilner jar. Most will need a pestle and mortar and some other ‘recipes’ need an extra item which will be explained in each method.
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
Drying the herbs
Dried herbs are easy to get hold of and it’s likely that a keen cook will have most of these in their cupboard already. For the unusual herbs that you’ve grown yourself, it’s best to let herbs dry naturally in a sunny, dry spot (I hang mine in my little green house or my kitchen window). However, you can dry them out in your oven enough for these salt mixes. Place a single layer of the herbs you need on a baking tray: that is, don’t overlap them and it doesn’t matter if there are different types of herbs in one go. Bake on the lowest setting for an hour and test to see how dry the herbs are – herbs will dry out at different rates. Leave any in for another hour that have not dried yet. Crush in a pestle and mortar or a quick whizz in a blender (both before adding to the salt).
Tip: if any herbs are proving difficult to crush, add a little of the rock salt or salt crystals to the pestle and mortar. The salt acts as an additional surface to tear the herbs more effectively. Don’t tip all the salt in though, or you will pound this to a fine dust along with the herbs, and you want to keep the integrity of the salt (otherwise you may as well use fine table salt).
“Recipes” – all are vegetarian
Rock salt or crystal sea salt – 2 tablespoons
oregano – 1 teaspoon
rosemary – 1 teaspoon
fennel or fennel seeds – 1/4 teaspoon
basil – 1 teaspoon
thyme – 1 teaspoon
lemon balm – 1/2 teaspoon
black pepper (freshly ground) – several turns of the grinder to taste
dried tomato puree – 1 teaspoon (optional but well worth the effort)
Method: Smooth two tablespoons of tomato puree as thinly as possible on a sheet of greaseproof paper and place on a baking tray. Bake in the oven at 70C for 1 hour. If after this time there are still some ‘rubbery’ bits of tomato puree then put it back in the oven for another 30 minutes and try again. The tomato puree with crisp up and go almost black. When fully baked, leave to cool and then crush or chop finely.
When the herbs and the tomato puree are dried, mix them with the salt and place in your container.
Some uses: in bread baking, for savoury pastry, pasta dishes, risotto and its also a nice addition to most meats and casserole-style meals.
Umami / intense BBQ
Notes: There is a BBQ salt recipe on the part one post, but though that is good, this one is awesome, highly unusual and includes my unique mad-kitchen-scientist dried Marmite powder. It tastes very meaty and rich, but it’s entirely vegetarian (and as such I throw it copiously on any appropriate veggie meals I make).
smoked sea salt – 2 tablespoons
vegetable bouillon – 1 teaspoon
garlic granules – 1 teaspoon
onion granules – 1 teaspoon
smoked paprika – 1 teaspoon
soft brown sugar – 1 teaspoon
parsley – 1 teaspoon
dried Marmite – 1 teaspoon
smokey chipotle powder (optional) – 1 teaspoon
Method: spread two tablespoons of Marmite on to a sheet of baking paper and then place on a tray in the oven. Bake at 70ºC fan / 90ºC conventional for about 25 minutes. It will puff up and it’ll really smell (fine if you love Marmite!) – don’t panic: it’s fine! Leave to cool then crumble (with dry fingers) before mixing with the other herbs and spices and the stock cube in a pestle and mortar.
NB: With this salt mix it is better to have finer salt particles that match the other particles of the mix ingredients. I ground the smoked salt with a pestle and mortar. If you don’t have smoked salt, you may as well use normal table salt here, then you don’t have to grind or crush anyway.
Some uses: great as a dry rub, or with a little oil as a wet rub. Also lovely in a chilli, in jambalaya etc, for other Cajun dishes (especially those with prawns) or to brush over meats (mixed into oil) for the barbecue. Just on almost anything savoury and great for livening up vegetarian dishes… this is my total favourite salt mix.
Also – this one is fabulous when mixed in with cornmeal or polenta (ration about 10:1) and used as a crispy coating on chicken or for wedges!
Sea salt flakes/crystals or sel gris – 1 tablespoon
tarragon – 1/2 teaspoon
rosemary – 1 teaspoon
parsley – 1 teaspoon
thyme – 1 teaspoon
bay – 1/2 teaspoon
chives – 1 teaspoon
Method: Chop a dried bay leaf into tiny pieces (it won’t crush with a pestle and mortar well). The other dried herbs need crushing together (take the leaves off the woody stalks of the rosemary and thyme first) before adding to the salt. If you need to dry your herbs quickly see the note above.
Some uses: use in place of bouquet garni or Herbes de Provence. Also useful for fish, lamb and beef (especially steak) dishes.
English Summer Sweet
Notes: I’ve purposely kept the salt low in ratio as compared to the other ingredients, because of the uses of this mix. Dried borage flowers and rose petals are easily obtained from a Turkish or Middle-Eastern supermarket or online, if you don’t grow them yourself (they are also more tricky to dry successfully in an oven than other herbal ingredients – if you have a dehydrator this would not be an issue. If you don’t have much luck drying these yourself as they’re so tricky, do buy pre-dried).
Himalayan pink salt, fine sea salt flakes or a good quality table salt – 1 teaspoon
calendula petals (edible marigolds) (need not be dried first – see method) – 1 teaspoon
dried rose petals – 1 teaspoon
dried borage flowers – 1 teaspoon
lemon zest (need not be dried fully first – see method) – 1 teaspoon
lavender flowers (need not be dried first – see method) – 1/2 teaspoon
Method: the calendula petals and lavender flowers do not need to be dried in an oven, as they are dried by the salt in the pot. The lemon zest can be dried in a 50C oven for 30 minutes at least or just leave it overnight between two sheets of kitchen paper which you have weighed down with a book or other weight. The rose petals and borage flowers need to be oven dried as per the lemon zest (or bought pre-dried) as they are more delicate and are prone to either making the other ingredients wet or looking very dishevelled if you don’t dry them first. Mix all lightly together so as not to crush the delicate ingredients before potting up.
NB: This is another salt where it is better to have finer salt particles (the hit of crunching into a large piece of salt would be too overpowering in a sweet mix). I actually have a salt grinder with Himalayan salt in, so I just ground the right amount. Also you can use a pestle and mortar. Alternatively, use normal free-running table salt here.
Some uses: sparingly in things like ice cream or meringue. Sprinkle a little on fruit or desserts or use in sweet pastry baking, such as tart cases or shortbreads. Gives a twist to savoury dishes nd particularly good with pasta and fish or sprinkled over salads or tapas for a pretty finish.
You are welcome to use these recipes for your home cooking (that’s why I write these things up online so others can try!)
However, please do not recreate them as a recipe anywhere or pass them off as your own (specially relevant for commercial use eg chefs, cooks, Home Eds, food stylists, restaurants etc). If you show them anywhere on social media you must credit me @inksugarspice.
Updated February 2019 – to include new images, plus composite breads and bread sticks.
I’ve taken a little time to look into the myriad and diverse range of bread shapes that can be created. I’ve looked at the most commonly found ones that you can create with your own fair hands from a standard (or close to standard) bread dough. There are many more of course, but this list comprises those I think you’ll see or make most often.
What I mean by ‘standard’ is that I am rather loosely lumping together all bread created with the basic flour-water-yeast-salt only combination and allowed to rise. Some of these will be made with doughs that have the addition of a little oil or maybe an egg, and they can be made with wid yeast, fresh or instant. These breads also need some (or a lot of) shaping by hand before a second prove.
What I’ve left out: I have purposely kept out enriched breads that have a different combination such as a lot of extra oil or butter or an unusual method or prove, such as brioche or ciabatta (which is exceptionally wet and can just about be shaped into its traditional slipper form), filled breads and things like focaccia or schiaciatta (where oil is drizzled on top to purposely retard the rise and create a flatter bread). This is because they warrant separate coverage. I originally omitted grissini/bread sticks and composite breads – but I’ve just added these in (so they weren’t included in my original illustration, below). I’ve also omitted flat breads, as they’re mostly encompassed by a few shapes, usually (but not always) don’t contain yeast and there are so many different flat breads so I felt they also merited a separate category (and maybe a post) on their own.
These shapes can all be made with a wide variety of flours; not just white. Actually, I do really like white flour but I rarely use it on its own; I tend to mix it with another flour type or add in some extras like malt flakes or seeds.
Also, some of the simpler shapes can be made with dough that includes a certain amount of sourdough starter (added to your traditional dough to liven it up). Complex shapes aren’t feasible with proper sourdough because they spread and merge during the longer rise. Also low gluten-producing flours aren’t that great either – as again you don’t get a discernible shape and it would be very tricky to mould or plait. I have successfully braided brioche, though, and bread where low-gluten flour is mixed 50:50 with strong white.
I’ve only given cursory instructions on how to physically shape the dough apart from I have a short clip of me plaiting a seven braided loaf right at the end.
I’ve listed the bread shapes in a rough order of complexity: from the simplest boule down to multi strand plaits.
All the breads shown here have been handmade by me (plus I’ve also styled and photographed them myself).
Cob or boule
Here’s where to start when shaping by hand! These can be hand shaped and raised or set for their second rise in a banneton. Cobs care most often plain topped (ie not slashed) but don’t let that stop you experimenting with covering them in seeds or malt flakes for example or to slash them (as the flower slash above – or in a Coburg shape). The simple cross-hatch slash will have been the basic historic bread shape from when leavened bread started to be baked in ovens rather than just on a stone and is a feature of soda bread, to help the loaves cook thoroughly.
Basically a cob with a crown-like slash, said to have been done to celebrate Prince Albert of Coburg, Queen Victoria’s consort. Can be with either three slashes/peaks or four.
Bloomer or bâtard
This is a longer, larger loaf where it is impractical to make into a round (would be difficult to slice that large or fit into an oven). Typically with diagonal slashes, but experiment with leaf and scroll shapes.
A real old traditional British shape. Potentially this developed to get a little height and spread (if slashes are used) without support during the rise. These are hand shaped entirely. Split your dough into 2/3 and 1/3 pieces and roll both into a ball. Place the small ball on top of the larger one and using one or two fingers push down, dead centre, to the table so that you are fixing the top to the bottom. This can have vertical slashes all the way round or left plain.
This is less shaped by hand and more by the tin: putting the dough into a loaf tin ensures straight sides, ends and bottom. The most common way of doing this is to let the dough rise as normal then the second proof is done in the tin. Following the second rise, draw one large, long slash across the top prior to putting it in the oven. I have read old recipes though where the dough is split into two and the first rise is done separately. Then, after knocking back the two halves are rolled into fat sausage shapes and lain side by side in the tin. I’ve not tried this, but I suspect the bread would tear in half easily.
Less a shape and more just an elaborated set of slashes. Shape as for a rounded cob loaf, then after the second proof draw at least three parallel slashes, evenly space out across the top of the bread. Turn the loaf 90˚, and do an equal number of slashes, so creating a set of squares, or the chequerboard effect.
Pullman – baked in a special tin with a lid to create a perfect block shape. Named after Pullman train cars as they mimic that shape. I have never made one of these – you need to own this specialist Pullman tin and I don’t like the square shape enough to buy one (I’d rather buy another banneton or couch cloth). I can imagine that you would have to stick rigidly to the correct volume. I assume that if you did anything other than a plain loaf where you can easily measure the total loaf size and predict the rise, you’d have to try to calculate the effect on the final size of the loaf. For instance, if you added a lot of inclusions it may be too big for the tin and if you used a flour with less gluten it would be too small – perhaps not reaching the lid.
Milk roll shape – similar to the Pullman in that it is baked inside a completely enclosing tin. However, the milk roll tin is two semi circular halves, clipped together.
Pouch or ear
A change on the cob shape. This is shaped into an oval after knocking back and one long slash is made holding the blade at a shallow angle, digging in to the dough. That is hold the blade at about 30* to the loaf. This is usually easier with a curved lame/grinette with the concave part of the blade facing the top of the loaf. This creates a large tear which the steam from the bread forces into a ‘lip’ or ‘ear’ of crust on one side during the bake. You should be able to get your fingertips under this lip to lift the loaf up – or it may curl over completely, fully opening up the loaf and exposing more crust and allowing more rise (as above).
This shape dates back to its massive popularity in Victorian times and was particularly eaten as breakfast bread rolls. So named, as it mimicked the rolls served in Viennese tea houses. It is shaped with softly tapered ends like a very short baguette. After proving, roll out to a sausage shape and tuck the bread over on itself lengthways once or twice and pinch the bread together at the seam to seal. The seam should be baked on the bottom. Apply a long slash either straight down the length of the bread or slightly at an angle. It can also be dusted with poppy seeds or linseeds etc before the slash is made (as in the above picture of my breakfast rolls).
Bread sticks or grissini
You may think I’ve added these little crispy sticks havea bit far down the complexity list. However, bread sticks are deceptively difficult to get looking good. Producing a straight and even bread stick is quite a skill – your first few attempts at making them will no doubt leave you with some awesomely delicious bread sticks, but you may or may not be that pleased with the results on how they look. Weighing your dough and dividing into exactly equal pieces will help with creating bread sticks that are all the same length, but it’s the practice of rolling the dough out into a long sausage that’s tricky. That’s because you’re dealing with quite a thin stand of dough and if it catches on your unfloured hands or the table, or you drag your palm across one area with greater force it will not be a nice long tube but a bumpy, bending caterpillar. It just takes practice. Bread sticks can be scattered with seeds, plaited, twisted, have a scrolled end or shaped – they’re quite fun to play around with.
We all know this one! An extra long slim loaf, its ends are pointed or rounded depending from baker creates them. Traditionally it is slashed several times at an angle across the top (such as with my spelt sourdough baguettes above) – here the top of the second slash show overlap the first to stop the loaf spreading strangely and putting bulges into the bread (the overlap is supposed to counteract the bulging). I’ve seen some baguettes though with slashes at all sorts of angles and single long slashes – some of these have been gorgeous so it’s worth experimenting yourself.
Now we’re getting into more detailed shaping and slashing. Fougasse is a flattish loaf, similar to foccacia but is traditionally shaped into a large leaf shape. This leaf is then peppered with small short cuts (all the way through, not just top slashing) so that the cuts resemble the veins on the leaf. However, I rarely produce a leaf shape fougasse: I’ve made spookgasse/boogasse in the shapes of ghosts and ghouls for Halloween, letters, rings/circles, flowers etc. Have fun with this one and it’s a particularly great bread to give to children to produce as they can have fun with the shapes.
Pain d’epi /wheat ear bread
This is a long stick of dough, prepared similarly to a baguette with is then cut and splayed on alternate sides. It’s easiest to snip the cuts with scissors rather than use a blade. It is supposed to resemble an ear of corn. It’s a lovely tear and share bread – each ‘ear’ forms an individual roll. I personally love this loaf shape and make it often.
Spiral/snail – normally these are made with very large amounts of dough and creates a very large loaf – 600g or above, although it is often used in individual rolls. A long roll of dough is shaped and is shaped so one end is gently tapered. Start with the fat end and coil the spiral around itself, tuck/pinch the end of the coil onto the rest of the dough to anchor it together otherwise it may start to separate during baking. I have to say I don’t like this shape (it looks rather like a giant poop – but don’t let me put you off! I don’t like cupcake toppings piped in this shape either…) but it is quite traditional for some European breads, like potica.
Very similar to the spiral but keep each end of the long tube of dough a little slimmer than the middle. Take one of the ends and roll it round until it reaches the mid point of the dough, then take the other end and wind it in the opposite direction to meet in the middle. Produces an elaborate S shape. Common in roll shaping too and is one of the typical shapes in Scandinavian St Lucia saffron buns (such as Swedish/Norwegian lussekatt).
Wreaths can be made in many ways. As long as it results in a ring of dough, it’s a wreath, even by just joining a long plain strand of dough together or using balls of dough. Kringles and slashed plaits, a circular pain de epi and 3+ multi strand plaits are all elaborate and fun wreaths to make. Other special festival wreaths include those with fillings but I won”t include those here (as I’m excluding filled breads). A wreath is usually cut into individual portion sizes and used as you would a roll or chunk of bread rather than finely sliced. Alternatively, the whole thing can be sliced in two horizontally and filled like a giant bagel, from which individual portions are taken. Typically a celebratory or show-off bake.
Layered, tiered or composite loaves
These are great, fund breads to make [I’ve added this category Dec 2018 as I’ve changed my mind on it being a filled bread. Most commonly these are made with fillings, but they can be made with just a little butter or oil, or plainly, so I’ve decided to posthumously add them here].
These include monkey breads, where balls of dough are gathered together usually in a ring shape, fantans and layered loaves including my own ‘bookshelf bread‘ recipe.
Now we’re into the plaited section and I’ve only included three to cover the multitude that can be done. the simplest you can do is to twist two strands of bread together and affix them at each end, but a typical simple plait uses three braids. Three plait braids make lovely little dinner rolls too. Make sure you really press the ends together or it will unravel. Above are three and four plait examples.
If you come across a ‘zopf’ loaf this is German for plait (which should actually be thicker at one end, representing a plait of hair), and likewise the French term is tresse.
Instead of plaiting you can knot a single strand of dough into what looks like a complex shape. This is much easier, and more common, to do with rolls but can be achieved in a loaf. Knots include a simple overhand knot (ie the first over-and-under that is used in a reef or bow) or where the strand of dough is looped then wound round itself. The post below shows me making overhand knotted rolls. Please also see my recipe for these knotted pesto dinner rolls.
This is one of my favourites. Not only is it highly attractive but it serves to keep the bread in a lovely shape as it goes through its second rise. At first this looks a complex plait but you get used to it very quickly. Four dough strands are used to create this. The ends of the dough strands can be tucked under after the plaiting is done to help lift the top of the bread upwards and keep the nice dome shape. I also like to double up sometimes when making this shape, by which I mean I use two strands together as if they were one – ie I roll out eight strands and use them in pairs. This makes a real showstopper of a loaf.
Any number of strands of bread can be made into a plait, although I’d suggest nine is an utter maximum or you’re getting really silly and into finger-knotting territory to complete, and the loaf will be as wide as it is long. I most often pick five or seven strands to plait for a complex large loaf. There are a number of set patterns which can be applied to plaiting – I was going to write these in here but I think this merits an entire post on its own. So bear with me and I will write one. Above is a video clip of me braiding a seven strand – and a photo of the outcome loaf (below).
If you want to create a showstopper of a braid but you think you can’t do a multi strand plait, you can actually always ‘cheat’! Divide your dough into two uneven pieces, one being 2/3rds of the dough, the other 1/3rd.
Divide each of these pieces of dough into three. Roll out the dough so that the smaller three balls of dough become thin strands nearly as long as the larger three pieces. Make two plaits: a larger and smaller one. The smaller braid can be placed directly on top of the larger braid, giving the illusion of a complex plait.
Top tip: the best advice I can give on making a neat multi strand plait is to make sure your strands of dough are as even and smooth as possible before you start. Any lumpy strands will result in a (still lovely but) mishapen plait.
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When 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
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)
A very large bowl
A smaller bowl
Casserole dish, about 26cm – 30 cm in diameter
Cling film or a clean tea towel
Frying or saute pan
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)
Mix the flour, yeast, salt, eggs, milk and butter together in the large bowl – it will be a rather gooey mess!
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
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
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
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)
Once cooked sufficiently, leave to cool on a kitchen towel sheet
Strip the herbs (if using fresh)
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
Chop up the cheddar and combine with the herbs and the cooled onion
When the dough is risen, place on a lightly floured surface and knock back
Flatten the dough to about 1cm in depth and shape into a large oblong
Lightly flour the base of the casserole
Sprinkle the cheddar, onion and herbs onto the dough and roll up from a long side into a Swiss roll shape
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)
Cover the casserole dish and leave to rise and fluff up for another 30 – 40 mins
Just before the bread is risen fully, warm your oven to 200º C fan / 220º C conventional
When ready, drizzle over a little olive oil, scatter some rock salt and the reserved portion of herbs
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
You know why I love Madeleines so much? Shh, don’t tell anyone but they are soo quick and easy and people often think mistakenly they require some sort of high-level patisserie savoir-faire. Mais non.
My utmost favourite to make is a butterscotch Madeleine, but these are lovely too. Nice to have some fresh fruit in them as well so you can convince yourself that cake, at least in this instance, is contributing to your ‘cinq par jour’.
No apologies for the smattering of pidgeon-French, it just tickled me…
Makes about 18 Madeleines
You could use small bun tin, but really you need a shell shaped tin or it’s just a ‘little cake’. Normally I wouldn’t care about this sort of thing and I understand about not being able to afford additional bakeware, but this is one instance where it sort of does matter. Still would be nice as small cakes, but a Madeleine? Non.
Electric whisk/stand mixer/balloon whisk
Large bowl and a smaller bowl
Unsalted butter – 100g
Plain flour – 120g
Eggs – 2 medium
Soft brown sugar – 35g
Icing sugar – 85g
Salt – a pinch
Raspberries – a handful/70g
extra butter and flour to prepare the moulds
Préparation de la recette
Gently heat the butter in a small sauce pan until it starts to froth and goes a nice toasty brown colour
Leave the butter aside to cool a little
Prepare the Madeleine moulds/tin – melt a little extra butter and paint this on the shell cavities. Then sprinkle over a little extra flour and tap the extra off
Turn the oven on to 190 C fan / 200 conventional
In a small bowl, smoosch up the raspberries a little with a fork – you don’t want to completely obliterate them, what you’re aiming for is a few whole, some in pieces and some crushed so the juice is oozing. This gives the Madeleines a variety of fruit textures and a few streaks of raspberry juice
Whip up the eggs with the icing sugar in the large bowl for about 4 minutes until fluffed up and pale
Whip in the soft brown sugar
Fold in the plain flour, trying not to collapse the mix much (it will deflate a little but the only leavening agent in the recipe is eggs, so you’re relying on the lift you created from whipping eggs and sugar)
Fold in the butter – it will seem a lot at first but it will fold in smoothly
Fold in the smooshed raspberries
Using the tablespoon measure, fill each shell cavity with the mix – it should be about 75% full
When they’re all filled, place in the oven for 10 minutes
Test doneness by pressing one Madeleine lightly with the tip of a finger – if it springs back then they are ready. If it leaves a little indentation, then pop in for a minute longer
The original dessert Mont Blanc may be French in origin (though I’ve seen mention of it being created for the Borgias – really?) but for me it’s synonymous with Switzerland. I’m not sure there has been any dessert menu I’ve looked at in Switzerland that hasn’t included it, even away from the alpine cantons. When I’ve looked around to spy on what other diners have ordered and what the dishes look like, there has always been at least one person tucking into one. I think I tried my first one in the panoramic tourist restaurant on Mount Titlis. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Switzerland a few times, as I have close family that moved near Aarau some years ago. Such a stunning place. Along with strong smelling fondue, rösti, butterzopf bread, brightly coloured hard boiled eggs, Rivella (a whey-based drink), cervelat sausages, co-operatively made schnapps and raclette grills this really does conjure up memories of Swiss food for me. Even if the real Mont Blanc is a little way along the Alps, over the border into Chamonix.
Traditional recipes for Mont Blanc use a sweetened chestnut cream, but although chestnuts are plentiful in the UK during autumn it can be difficult to source them throughout the rest of the year. So, I’ve stepped away from the chestnuts and the result is a very different version of the dessert and which could be perfect even in summer, especially if you serve it with fruits like strawberries, raspberries or figs.
My alternative recipe replaces the chestnut puree with a spiced biscuit cream, making it slightly more appropriate for warmer days and not just confined to the autumn months. The result is just as delicious, perhaps even more so if you never quite acquired a taste for chestnuts in desserts (like my children).
These are individual-sized Mont Blanc Pavlovas constructed on chocolate meringues, with a strawberry centre, chocolate ganache and a spiced biscuit cream (spiced biscuit spread mixed with cream).
This recipe features on the Inghams holidays site as part of their Foodie Finds cookbook.
Jars of ready-made biscuit spread from Biscoff can now be easily found in the jam and preserves section at most supermarkets, but you can make a close version yourself. I have prepared a separate recipe for a spiced biscuit spread which makes the right amount for this recipe.
Makes 6-7 mini Pavlovas
Ingredients – meringues
2 large egg whites (reserve the yolks for something else, like ice cream or custard)
110g caster sugar
2 tablespoons of a high quality milk hot chocolate powder (Swiss if possible)
Ingredients – chocolate ganache
300g of fine quality Swiss chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids
Strawberries (enough for each meringue plus a few extra to serve)
Ripe figs or other summer fruits
Two piping bags – one with a 2mm round nozzle, one with a 3mm nozzle (or both thereabouts)
Large, squeaky-clean bowl for the meringue
Large baking tray, lined with parchment or a silicon mat
Balloon whisk, hand electric mixer or stand mixer for the meringue and the cream
Small, heavy bottomed saucepan
Two smaller bowls (for the ganache and biscuit cream)
Two very small bowls or cups to pre-measure the caster sugar and hot chocolate powder for the meringue
A blender if you are making the biscuit spread yourself
A selection of spoons and a sharp knife
Method – meringues
Put your oven on to 90C fan / 110C conventional
Line a large baking tray with a silicon mat or good quality baking parchment (anything less and they may stick)
Measure out the caster sugar and the hot chocolate powder before you start in separate bowls
In a large and very clean bowl, whip the two egg whites until they form stiff peaks
While still beating the egg whites slowly add in the caster sugar, little by little, until it is all incorporated. The meringue will stay the same consistency but become glossier
Using a sieve to ensure there are no lumps, add the hot chocolate powder onto the meringue mix, and then mix in
Using a large spoon, put two spoonfuls of meringue mix at a time in a heap on the baking paper – if you use two spoonfuls, each heaped meringue will be the right size to give you 6 or 7 Pavlovas in total
Swirl each meringue mound with the back of your spoon to flatten them slightly into heaped disc shapes
Bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hr 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and jam the oven door open with a wooden spoon and leave the meringues in there for another hour. The Pavlovas should have a crispy underneath but be a little gooey in the middle
Whip the double cream until it is very thick (but stop before the unwanted clotting stage)
If you are making the biscuit cream yourself, crunch all the biscuits into a blender and whizz until fine crumbs. Add in almost all of the evap milk and whizz again. Test the consistency of the cream – it should be like a smooth peanut butter. If it’s too stiff add in the rest of the evap milk and whizz again
Mix the biscuit spread (homemade or from the jar) into the whipped cream until there are no streaks of cream showing
Put your smaller circular nozzle (about 2mm diameter) in a piping bag and spoon in the biscuit cream. It’s quite thick so won’t run out of the nozzle
Twist the end tight and pop the piping bag in the fridge for later use if not constructing immediately (the biscuit cream is fairly soft and will still be pipeable straight out of the fridge)
Method – chocolate ganache
Break up the chocolate into a heatproof bowl
Warm the cream in a saucepan over a moderate heat
Just as the first bubbles start to appear in the cream (ie just prior to it boiling) pour the cream over the chocolate pieces
Leave it all for about 3 minutes, allowing the cream to soften the chocolate itself, then mix it all together until smooth
Allow to cool, then place it in a piping bag fitted with a medium round nozzle (about 3 mm in diameter)
Cover the end of the nozzle with a bit of kitchen foil to stop leaks, twist the end and set aside until you being to assemble (if not preparing on the same day place the ganache in the fridge in its bowl before putting in to the piping bag – them warm slightly before use)
Method – construction
Slice the bottom off a strawberry so it sits flat. Place it on a meringue with a dab of chocolate ganache, so it doesn’t move about
Pipe a layer of the chocolate ganache over the strawberry, totally encasing it
Over the top of the ganache, pipe a continuous swirl of the biscuit cream. You’re aiming to make it look like a nest or a mound of spaghetti and try to hide all the ganache so that none shows through
Using a sieve, sprinkle some icing sugar over the top of the dessert so it looks like a dusting of snow on the top of Mont Blanc
These are little morsels of melting delight, if I do say so myself!
Makes 20 small biscuits
Two large bowls
Balloon whisk or hand/stand mixer
Piping bag with large star-shaped nozzle
Piping bag with smaller circular nozzle
baking trays lined with parchment/paper
Ingredients – biscuits
Unsalted butter – 100g
Icing sugar – 25g
Plain flour – 100g
Baking powder – 1/4 teaspoon
Vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon
Ingredients – cream
Unsalted butter – 80g
Icing sugar – 200g
Mascarpone – 2 tablespoons
Pistachio paste – 2 teaspoons
Turn the oven on to 170C fan / 180C conventional
Cream the butter and icing sugar together with a wooden spoon
Mix in the rest of the ingredients – you need the mix to be somewhere between a batter and a dough: only just liquid enough to squeeze (with effort) through a large nozzle piping bag (if it is any more runny than this it will not hold its shape from the nozzle and will flatten)
Transfer the mix to the piping bag with the large star nozzle
Pipe 3cm rounds until all the mix is used up. This will be hard work as the mix is thick
Bake in the oven for 12 minutes (you may need to turn if your oven cooks unevenly)
Leave to cool for a few minutes in the trays (the biscuits are soft and will split if move too early) and then cool completely on a wire rack
In the second bowl (or in a stand mixer) combine all the ingredients for the pistachio mascarpone cream together and then whisk vigorously – if you can mix for five minutes until thick and unctuous, so much the better
When the biscuit rounds are cool, pair them off in twos (especially if they are not all exactly the same size)
Spoon the cream into the remaining piping bag (fitted with a circular nozzle) and pipe the cream neatly on to the bottom of one biscuit and immediately fit its matching biscuit on top
Repeat to fill all the Viennese biscuits
These do not store for long – they won’t last longer than 48 hours as they are very delicate biscuits indeed, but this shouldn’t be a problem!