Christmas breadstick stars

A play on my traditional grissini, tweaked into a festive shape and covered with any toppings you choose, though here I have used hemp seeds, poppy seeds and parmesan.

Notes

Use a fine milled flour, an 00 grade if possible such as Murino Molina from Bakery Bits (which is what I used here) or plain white flour or bread flour for brioche. At a pinch, any strong white bread flour will work if you can’t get a fine flour, but it won’t give you the ultimate crisp snap of a proper grissino.

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Stand mixer with dough hook attachment – if not kneading by hand
  • Pizza cutter, bread scraper or long sharp knife (non-serrated)
  • Baking trays, lined
  • Rolling pin
  • Pastry brush

Ingredients

  • 300g tipo 00, fine plain or other white flour (see notes above)
  • 4 g fast acting dried yeast
  • 2/3 teaspoon of fine salt
  • 4-5 turns of a pepper mill
  • 15mg olive oil
  • 195g tepid water
  • Added ingredients of your choice, but I used:
    • poppy seeds (1-2 tablespoons)
    • hemp seeds (1-2 tablespoons)
    • grated parmesan (about 10g)
  • An egg, whisked and used as a wash
  • Additional flour, for dusting the surface as required

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients together into a scruffy mess and leave for 10 minutes
  2. Tip out and knead for 8 – 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and glossy or mix it in your stand mixer
  3. Leave the dough to rest in a lightly oiled bowl, covered with a tea towel or cling film until about doubled in size (if using continental flour it is likely to just rise by about another 50% instead). This could be anything between 30 – 90 minutes depending on the ambient temperature
  4. In the meantime, grate the parmesan and ready your seeds/flavourings
  5. When the dough is ready, lightly flour a surface and use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into as precise a rectangle as possible (any wobbly sides will need to be trimmed off)
  6. Cut strips from the dough, each about 1 cm thick – cut along the short edge
  7. Have the paper-lined baking sheets to hand
  8. Roll each of the strips lightly, so they form tubes rather than ribbons. Try not to stretch them too much (it will be easy to roll them on a less floured surface)
  9. Form a five pointed star with each strip of dough and pinch the two edges together at an end point:

    #breadstick #star #inksugarspice
  10. Complete stars with all the dough
  11. Cover and leave to rise again – for about 20-30 minutes until puffed up (they probably won’t double in size)
  12. Set the oven on to 200C fan / 220C conventional
  13. Paint an egg wash on each of the dough stars and sprinkle (or grate!) your favoured toppings on. I did a third of the stars in poppy seeds, a third in hemp seeds and the final third with grated parmesan
  14. Bake for about 17-18 minutes until a nice golden colour (under the toppings)
  15. Turn off the oven and leave for a further 5 minutes so they are crisp with a nice ‘snap’ when cooled and ready to eat
  16. Wonderful dipped in a little butter, hummus, salsa or to scoop up fondue or baked camembert
breadstick stars Christmas recipe by Inksugarspice

Mini panettone

I love a panettone at Christmas, but sometimes those large ones are just too large. You need a lot of family and friends round to get through it before it goes stale. These little muffin-sized panettone (or more correctly, panettoncini) are sometimes a better option, are delightfully cute and are also great as little individual bake-and-share Christmas gifts.

What’s extra handy with these (although this does degrade their quality a little) is that they can be frozen and brought out of the freezer to defrost at room temperature for half a day/overnight. So you can bake a batch in advance and defrost a few at a time.

Notes

Bake in muffin cases, or proper panettoncini paper cases are available. I purchase mine from Bakery Bits (they also have the large cases).

Traditionally, the large, full-size panettone need to be cooled while being hung upside down (skewers are in seated across the base to hang it). This stops the domed top from deflating. You do NOT need to do this with the panettoncini: they can cool in their cases standing up.

This is a wet dough – you can knead it by hand successfully, but it is so very messy! Simpler to use a stand mixer or food processor for this.

Equipment

  • 10-12 cases (see notes)
  • Stand mixer or bread machine on dough setting ideally. Or large bowl
  • Bread scraper
  • Scales, measuring spoons, knife, pastry brush
  • Small jug or bowl
  • Baking tray
  • Tea towel/cloth

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon of dried, fast acting yeast
  • 80ml milk, warmed to body temperature
  • 400g Tipo 00 or plain flour (not bread flour)
  • 2 teaspoons of (a good quality) dark cocoa powder
  • 2 medium eggs
  • Seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod or 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla powder
  • 120g golden caster sugar or light brown sugar
  • 50g of softened unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon of fine salt
  • 180g water
  • 75g dark chocolate, cut into chunks
  • 75g pistachios
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 40-50g pearl sugar

Method

  • Warm the milk to about body temperature and whisk the yeast gently into it. Leave for 10 minutes until it begins to froth
  • In a bowl (if you are hand kneading) or into your mixer bowl add: flour, cocoa powder, eggs, vanilla, sugar, butter, salt and water and then also tip in the milk/yeast mixture
  • Knead for 10 minutes in your stand mixer until the dough becomes smooth and glossy and still very soft. (If kneading by hand, tip out on to a counter and work for about 14 minutes. It will be tough and messy going but it will eventually come together)
  • At this point add in the chocolate chunks and the pistachios
  • Leave in the bowl, covered with a clean tea towel, to rise for about 60-75 minutes. It will rise somewhere around half as much again (it won’t fully double in size)
  • After the dough has risen, liberally flour a work surface and tip the dough out in to it
  • Roll the dough out into a rectangle and (this isn’t strictly traditional but I find it works). Roughly about 40 x 70cm but it’s more important to get a standard thickness than a “correct” size. Roll the dough up using the longest edge into a long Swiss roll shape
  • Place all your panettoncini cases out on to a baking tray, so they’re ready
  • Chop the roll of dough into twelve or thirteen equal fat discs and gently roll each one into more of a ball shape. As a guide the dough pieces should be roughly 80g each
  • Lightly roll each piece into a ball and then pop it into a case, with the smoothest side upwards
  • Leave to rise for 20-30 minutes, covered with a clean cloth
  • While they are rising for the final time, turn the oven on to 200 C fan oven or 220C conventional oven
  • Bake for about 20-23 minutes. You can test with a skewer as you would with a cake
  • Leave to cool upright in the cases
  • Warm the honey (unless using a very runny honey)
  • Brush the tops of the panettoncini with the honey and sprinkle on the pearl sugar

One last thing, should you have any left over, panettone makes an awesome bread and butter-style dessert.

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

Christmas cookie swap: festive caraway and cinnamon biscuit recipe

Christmas Cookies - Ink Sugar Spice

This year I’m participating in the festive cookie swap run by the wonderful (and award winning) blog “Jul’s Kitchen“, and thanks to a Twitter invite by the lovely Lucy Antal. Juls has stated that 230 people worldwide have participated this year, from countries as diverse as Taiwan and Argentina. Bakers only have to swap with those in their own country though.

If you’d like to read Jul’s blog post for the 2019 challenge you can here, though it’s now too late to join up for 2019. Perhaps set yourself a reminder for early November 2020 your calendar to get involved next year? Jul’s Kitchen is a collaboration between Giulia Scarpaleggia, a Tuscany-based food writer, photographer and tutor and her partner Tommaso Galli, who runs the communication, marketing and assists with tutoring.

The premise is to share the festive love! Bake a couple of batches of biscuits and dispatch them across the country, and you’ll receive cookies back. What’s not to love?! Sharing, having an excuse to bake, feeling festive, giving and receiving gifts and connecting with others.

If you want to look out for what the 230 participating people have shared then search for the hashtags #cookieswap2019 #julskitchen

I was delighted to receive some gorgeous Lancashire tosset biscuits from Lucy Antal and some Calzoncelli biscuits (in a little jar, with a cute pot of lemon curd!) from Katlin Stevens. Thank you ladies!

Here’s my Christmas biscuit recipe that I’ve developed and used for this cookie swap. It produces a relatively dry biscuit, as they did need to get posted. So, this recipe is idea for gifting – through the post or wrapped beautifully and hand delivered with love.

Notes

  • Makes about 35
  • Instead of dusting with icing sugar, for extra luxe dip in melted chocolate to finish

Equipment

  • Saucepan
  • Large bowl
  • Two baking sheets, lined
  • Fine sieve
  • Wire cooling rack(s)
  • Wooden spoons, scales

Ingredients

  • 70g of olive oil – I used Filippo Berio’s Classico (your choice of oil to meet your taste preference, but anything from a mild to an extra virgin will work: anything more special/rich/highly flavoured will affect the taste too much)
  • 112g black treacle
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 345g plain flour, preferably tipo 00
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 80g soft brown sugar
  • 1 medium – large egg
  • zest of one orange
  • plus you may need 15-20ml milk (depending on the size of the egg you used and humidity/dryness of other ingredients)
  • Icing sugar to decorate

Method

  • Warm your oven to 190° C fan / 210° C conventional or 400° F and set the shelves to the middle of your oven
  • Prepare two baking sheets with greaseproof paper or baking parchment
  • Weigh the black treacle and the olive oil both out into the saucepan and then add in the caraway seeds
  • Warm the treacle and oil over a low heat, while stirring with a wooden spoon, until the treacle softens and you can stir the two together (they naturally do not want to combine until warmed). Do not turn the heat up or the treacle will bubble
  • Once mixed, turn off the heat – do not keep on the heat longer than necessary
  • Weigh out all the other ingredients into your mixing bowl: flour, baking powder, all three spices, cocoa, vanilla extract, orange zest, sugar and egg and roughly mix them together
  • Using a sieve over the mixing bowl, pour out the oil and treacle mix so that the caraway seeds are captured in the sieve. (They’ve flavoured the oil and treacle but are now not needed)
  • Mix all the ingredients together
  • You may need a little extra milk if your ingredients feel powdery and are not coming together (this is normally due to a smaller size egg, but other things like lack of humidity in your kitchen etc can effect this). Add 15 ml of milk at first, and see if that is enough. Add a little more in tiny increments until you are satisfied – the mix should be robust but clump together well
  • Take a walnut-sized amount of dough (if you wish to be more precise, 20g of dough is a perfect size) and roll it in your palms to make a rough ball
  • Slightly squash the dough ball, so it becomes more disc-shaped and place on the baking tray
  • These biscuits do not spread much, so you can place them about 1-2 cm apart
  • Bake in the middle of the oven for 12 minutes
  • Transfer to wire racks to cool and dust with icing sugar when completely cooled
Christmas Cookies - Ink Sugar Spice

Thai flavours parsnip soup

img_0316Parsnips are not native to south east Asia, but they are growing in popularity in Thailand, and are now both a farmed crop and an import product. I find it interesting that one foodstuff can be pedestrian and common place in one continent can be seen as an unusual treat in another. I wouldn’t go as far as saying anyone thinks a parsnip is exotic however… I’ve seen them on sale in Thai markets next to more traditional veggies like kale and galangal roots, so parsnips + Thai flavours is not as crazy a combination as it may first sound, and it is a really fabulous flavour pairing.

This is a delicious alternative to make as a change to a typical curried parsnip soup. Although I love curried parsnip soup when it’s done well (which, let’s face it isn’t that hard), sometimes it can be a disappointment in a cafe when it’s just plain old boiled-down parsnip with some curry powder lazily tossed in. I’ve combined some authentic Thai tastes here, but I’ve tried to balance it so that you get the Thai flavours without overwhelming the parsnip. It’s all to easy to pile on flavourings and mask the main ingredient when you’re making a veggie soup, but parsnips have a lovely sweet, warming flavour and are deserving of a more delicate touch on stronger spices.

img_0615
Some photos from our last trip to Thailand

Notes

  • If you’re not worried about keeping this vegetarian you can use chicken stock, rather than vegetable stock
  • Remember that not all chillies are created equal, even in the same variety the heat can vary between plants. Two chillies bought in the same batch could be very different, so judge how much chilli you are using if you don’t like it very hot. I can give you two tips on chilli heat: tip one is to cut the chilli and lightly rub it on your lip and see how tingly it is – if it’s going to really upset you, you’ll be able to judge this way. Tip two if you’re less terrified is to blend in only half a chilli at a time before tasting: you can always add all two (or even more chillies) eventually, but taking away heat is not so easy as adding a little more in!
  • Can’t get a fresh coconut? Then a box of coconut milk powder is an awesome thing to keep in your kitchen cabinet: I use this in a number of my recipes. You can buy these ‘fairly’ easily now in the world food aisle in your bigger local supermarket or find a Caribbean store or market stall (brand names I’ve used are Maggi and Tropical Sun – I tend to pick up mine via an awesome local Caribbean market stall). Alternatively, you can use a tin of coconut milk, but drain out the liquid and use this as part of (not in addition to) the 1 litre stock content.

img_0095


Info

Serves about eight portions (this is large, but I’ve given this amount so that you can batch freeze), takes about 45 minutes to prepare and cook


Equipment

  • Large, deep saucepan with a lid (or cover with a plate)
  • Stick blender or stand blender

Ingredients

  • Parsnips – about 5 large parsnips / roughly about 900g
  • Vegetable (or chicken stock) – 1 litre
  • Banana shallot or red onion – 1
  • Garlic – 3 cloves
  • Fresh ginger – about a 1 cm piece, peeled
  • Red chillies – 2 (you need to adjust this according to your preferred heat level!)
  • Lemon grass – one fresh stalk
  • Oil, a plain olive oil or rapeseed oil – 1 tablespoon
  • Coconut, either freshly grated or use coconut milk powder – 1 cup/around 90g
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • Salt – ½ teaspoon
  • Fresh ground pepper – ½ teaspoon
  • Ground turmeric – ½ teaspoon
  • Coriander or spring onions to garnish
  • Additional chillies to garnish

Method

  1. Chop the shallot/onion, the garlic and the (peeled) ginger – they don’t have to be finely chopped as, of course, they’re going to get blended later
  2. Fry the shallot/onion, garlic and ginger in the oil over a low heat until they are starting to soften
  3. Peel the parsnips and chop them into medium-sized chunks
  4. Add the parsnips to the saucepan and turn up the heat to medium-hot and fry off for two-three minutes until the parsnips are nicely coated in the oil and vegetables
  5. Pour in the stock, add the salt, pepper and turmeric and turn up the heat until it all starts to bubble gently
  6. From the bulb end of the lemon grass stalk, make a long cut along its length but don’t cut it into half – so you’ve split it but it’s still joined by about 2cm at the thin end
  7. Place the lemon grass stalk in the pan
  8. Leave to simmer very gently for about 20 minutes, with the lid on
  9. Chop the chillies
  10. When the parsnips are soft (but before they’re mushy) add in both the coconut and the lime juice and stir until the coconut is melted in
  11. Add in the chillies (or half of them if you want to test the heat level) and turn off the heat
  12. Using a stick blender, whizz up the soup in the sauce pan, or decant into a stand blender
  13. Taste test – add more chillies (or chilli powder) to your soup if it’s not hot enough for you
  14. Serve hot, decorated with more chillies (if you love it hot as I do) and a chopped handful of coriander leaves or spring onions (or even both). other ingredients that are nice sprinkled over this soup are more coconut, crispy fried onions or toasted peanuts/cashews

img_0315

img_0709

Stencilled beer cob

image1 (1)Although this contains my recipe for a delicious beer bread, this post is more about the creation and application of a stencil for the top of the loaf.

I’ve designed a two-part stencil of a mediæval sun face and included it here as two separate PDFs so you can print it out and choose to use the stencil in either one or two colours (as I have done on this loaf). For a first try at stencilling on bread, I’d recommend just going with the mono stencil of the sun image. the second part of the stencil is the orange halo – which is by far much easier to cut out, but of course you do have to negotiate using two stencils.

This stencil is also useful for cakes! It would make a great cake centrepiece, either painted or piped/flooded on, and you could alternate the colours of the rays and give a different colour to the face. To do this in icing, have your covered plain cake ready and use a large needle to trace inside the outline of the stencils which you can then edge pipe and flood in.

Please note: I have no problem anyone using this stencil for as long as they’re not a commercial baker etc: it’s just a freebie for home bakers. There are no restrictions on printing it out for home use and please do go ahead and share the page link with others. If any commercial baker wants to use this, please get in touch for permission.

sun2colours

Download the colour two part stencil here

sunmono

Download the single, mono stencil

Cutting out the stencils

  1. Print on normal printer paper – it’s thin and easy to cut out. You can use thicker card or a plastic sheet if you want the stencil to last, but these are harder/trickier to cut out from
  2. Place on a completely flat surface, and protect that surface from the knife – so use a cutting mat ideally, or if you don’t have one a layer of cardboard or piece of MDF is useful
  3. Use a sharp, point-end craft knife – a blunt blade will drag the paper and cause tears
  4. When cutting arcs and curves, keep the knife still and rotate the paper, not the other way round
  5. If you make a mistake and cut a bit off that you didn’t want to, use sticky tape to tape the piece back on and re-cut
  6. Cut out the stencils in advance, or you can do them while your loaf is proving

Using the stencils

  • The stencils are positioned in exactly the right spot on an A4 sheet, so you can use the top edge and corners to match up the stencils, placing the images in the right position

Beer bread recipe and stencilling the loaf

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Scraper
  • Linen tea towel
  • [Circular banneton – not necessary but you can use if you have one]
  • Two large baking trays, or one + a baking stone/pot
  • Sharp craft knife
  • Print out of the three stencils
  • Fine sieve

Ingredients

  • Strong white flour – 600g
  • Fast action dried yeast – 7g / 1 teaspoon
  • Water  – 140g
  • Beer (at room temperature – not from the fridge!) – 280g (I used an English Pale Ale)
  • Fine salt – 1½ teaspoons
  • Black pepper – several turns
  • Honey – 1½ tablespoons
  • A little oil for the bowl

Also…. for the stencilling you need two powders of different colours. One can be a white flour, and then you can use anything else edible you can find in your kitchen, such as cocoa powder, freeze-dried fruit powders, edible-grade charcoal, ground spices like turmeric or chilli powder. I have used turmeric for the halo and normal bread flour for the face.

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl – I prefer to use a dough whisk for this process, though you may like to use fingers, a flexible dough scraper, a table knife or a dough hook on your machine. It will form a very rough-looking sticky mess
  2. Leave for ten minutes
  3. Tip out on to a clean surface and use your dough scraper to get all of the residue out. Have your flour and scraper handy
  4. Knead the dough until the surface becomes silky and smooth – this will be about 10 – 12 minutes
  5. If – and only if – the dough is far to sticky to work with, dust a little flour on to the table. Otherwise you should persevere with kneading the dough without adding any more flour (this actually will change the ratio of flour to liquid and other ingredients so it’s best not to dust if you can). It should eventually start to come together without the flour and you can use your scraper from time to time to ensure all the dough is getting kneaded by scraping along the surface
  6. When the dough starts to come together, oil the bowl to prevent it sticking (if you have not managed to take the dough out without leaving a lot behind, you may want to use a clean bowl)
  7. Roll the dough up into a dome and place in the floured bowl
  8. Cover the bowl either with the tea towel/cloth or cling film (or if you have one a cheapo shower cap is ace for this)
  9. Leave to rise somewhere that isn’t cold until the dough looks like it’s about twice the height it was before. (This could be anywhere from 50 minutes to three hours depending on how cold a space you have)
  10. Lightly flour the counter you’re working on and the baking tray or peel
  11. Tip out the risen dough gently into the middle of the flour on the counter and press down gently with your finger tips all over to knock back the dough. Don’t be too vigorous – a lot of issues with bread are when the knocking back is too fierce
  12. Fold the dough over on itself from one side then the other and then fold the ends in
  13. Pinch the loose edges together to get them to ‘stick’
  14. You’re aiming to make the dome of the loaf tense and smooth without tearing it. By folding over towards the centre you create a tension in the surface of the loaf – it should look smooth and taut, and as circular as possible (but don’t fret too much about this)
  15. Liberally flour your tea towel/couch (or prepare your banneton with enough flour)
  16. Place the shaped dough with the seam side down in the middle of the cloth. Push the sides of the cloth up to gather it at the sides of the bread in order to support the shape and stop the bread spreading (though if you have successfully given the surface of the loaf enough tension it should hold, but this will still help)
  17. [If using a banneton,  place with the seam side facing upwards and cover]
  18. Leave for the second prove – roughly an hour depending on the temperature. It will be ready when and it springs back into shape if you press it gently with the pad of a finger
  19. Just before your loaf looks ready, start to heat your oven to 220 ºC fan / 230 ºC conventional and put in the baking tray or stone
  20. When the bread and the oven are ready, carefully scoop up the loaf and remove the cloth that’s been supporting it, lightly flour the tray and place the dough back down  on it [or tip out from the banneton to this sheet]
  21. Now it’s time to use your stencil(s)
  22. Using a soft pastry brush, sweep away any flour from the top of the loaf
    1. Using just the sun face/mono stencil? Position it in the middle of your loaf – using a sieve dust the stencil thoroughly but not too thickly and then gently lift off the stencil. Don’t peel or angle the stencil as you may tip the excess flour/powder onto the areas you don’t want it
    2. Using two stencils? Then use the background, orange halo first on your bread. Using a little sieve, dust the stencil lightly with turmeric as I have here, or either cocoa powder, edible charcoal or a freeze-dried fruit powder, without building up too thick a layer. Remove the first stencil and position the sun face stencil correctly over the first image, and dust with your second colour
  23. Irrespective whether you’ve used one or two stencils you do need to slash the loaf around the outside of the image, to ensure that the bread does not crack across your lovely hard work and ruin it!
  24. I’d suggest four quick slashes making a box shape as a ‘frame’ for the stencil
  25. Transfer the tray with the loaf on into the oven and onto the baking stone/tray (doing this ensures that you are working on a cool tray but the loaf benefits from instant heat from the bottom when placed on a hot tray)
  26. Spray the oven or pour a little water into a small tray at the bottom of the oven
  27. Shut the door and set the timer for 10 minutes
  28. After 10 minutes, turn the temperature down to 180C fan/190C conventional and bake for another 25 -30 minutes
  29. The bread should be nicely dark (though not burnt) where the slashes or cracks have occurred
  30. Test the loaf’s ‘doneness’ by tapping the bottom of it – it should sound hollow
  31. Leave to cool on a wire rack or something else that will allow airflow to the bottom of the loaf or the evaporated moisture that comes off a new loaf will gather and cause a soggy bottom (yes, this problem isn’t just confined to pastry!)
  32. Admire your handywork! And if you post your creation to social media, tag me in @inksugarspice so I can see what you’ve been up to 💙

Sticky crumble topped gingerbread

imageSearching for a gingerbread recipe can be a bit confusing – for a start gingerbread can be a rich loaf cake, a pain d’epices, or it can be a crisp biscuit for gingerbread houses or little iced biscuits (see my own recipe for Gingerbread foxes). This is neither! Inspired in part by Grassmere gingerbread (a Lakeland classic) this is a gooey, soft biscuit with a spiced crumble topping and perfect for a Christmas treat.

Notes

  • Makes about 22 triangular biscuits, but you can chop them into any shape.
  • This is a double bake recipe, that is you need to bake shortbread first, then use this shortbread as part of the main bake.
  • These make awesome foodie Christmas gifts.

Equipment

  • small saucepan
  • small baking tray (about 18 cm x 24 cm)
  • parchment/baking paper/silicon mat
  • large bowl and a smaller bowl or cup
  • scales, measuring spoons
  • wire cooking rack
  • wooden spoon

Ingredients for the shortbread base

  • Plain flour – 145 g
  • Ground almonds – 30 g
  • Caster sugar – 70 g
  • Unsalted butter at room temperature – 110g

Other ingredients

  • Light brown sugar or demerara – 70g
  • Ground ginger – 2 teaspoons
  • Ground cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
  • Golden syrup – 40 g
  • Treacle – 30 g
  • Unsalted butter – 50 g
  • Crystalised ginger – 55 g
  • Lemon zest – zest of half a lemon

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 °C fan / 200 °C conventional
  2. Place some greasproof or baking paper in your baking tray
  3. Crumble the ingredients for the shortbread together in a bowl, mixing it in with your fingers until you get fine sand
  4. No need to roll out the shortbread – you are going to bake this as crumbs
  5. Tip the crumbed shortbread dough onto your baking sheet and spread it out so it’s in one thin layer
  6. Bake for 13-14 minutes until it’s starting to go a nice golden brown
  7. Remove and leave to cool a little
  8. Do not turn off your oven
  9. Crumble the cooked shortbread back into the bowl – leave the baking tray with the greaseproof paper to one side as you will use it again (and there is no need to lay a new piece of paper down)
  10. To the bowl, add 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and the light brown sugar
  11. Mix thoroughly and ensure there are no large pieces of shortbread
  12. Spoon out about 25% of this crumble and put it to one side in a separate small bowl or cup
  13. Into the remaining shortbread crumble mix (still in the bowl) add in another teaspoon of ginger and the zest of half a lemon
  14. Finely chop the crystalised ginger and add that to the bowl as well
  15. In a saucepan, melt the additional 50 g butter with the treacle and golden syrup
  16. When melted (don’t let it bubble or boil) tip this into the crumble mixture in the bowl and mix it all together
  17. Pour this mixture out onto the lined baking tray and press it down so that it makes an even layer
  18. Bake for 10 minutes
  19. Remove the tray from the oven, sprinkle the reamining crumble (that you kept aside) all over the gingerbread. Even it out with your fingers or a fork and then press the crumble down slightly into the gingerbread (with your fingers or the back of a spoon)
  20. Bake for a further 4 minutes
  21. Leave to cool and cut into triangles or squares

image

 

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