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

Pumpkin rolls

pumpkin rolls inksugarspice #pumpkin #bread

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

Equipment

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

Ingredients

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

Method

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

Cider and rye rolls

I’ve been neglecting my website and its recipes and articles for a while – but for a positive reason. I’ve been concentrating on my family over the summer months, as my twin sons have been back from their respective Universities, making the most of every single minute I can with them. We all need to take time out to reconnect and go offline.

While I’ve been enjoying focusing on my family it’s also afforded me more excuses for cooking and baking as it’s not just me and my husband to feed. So, Although I’ve not got round to adding new recipes in here over the past few weeks, I have been generating a stockpile of recipes and images. I hope to be bringing you a number of new recipes – and a few crafts and other articles – as autumn starts with its potential for mists and mellow fruitfulness (rather than just rain and grey cloudiness which is more the norm).

In order to perfect and test the dough for these rolls I’ve repeatedly made them for our lunches that we’ve taken out when hiking. I’ve mentioned this before but I do try to make each of my recipes a number of times before I add them here. They’re not just for adventurous eating though: they’re really tasty general purpose bread rolls and the dough even makes a great loaf (just bake for another 10 – 15 minutes).

As part of our time together this summer, in between all our working days, we’ve been upping the number of our walks in the nearby Dark and White Peak areas of the Peak District. Occasionally we link a hike to a pub visit but usually we take our own food, so that means an excuse for homemade bread. We like getting out as a family into the countryside and both our sons have had to get using to hiking and rambling with us as they’ve grown up. We’re pleased they’re both now as keen on it as we are (though they have got in to the specialist techy kit for wild camping and hiking more than us). We do rather look like a “Getty Images family” from the front of a hiking magazine when we go out…

Walks this summer have included Mam Tor, the Great Ridge and Cave Dale, Cromford to the Heights of Abraham and High Tor, Hathersage to Stannage Edge, Chatsworth and Birchen Edge and routes that we plan soon are Kinder Scout, Downfall and Low then Lumsdale Falls and Padley Gorge. Although many of these we’ve walked before – there are plenty of Peak District routes that give something new every time you walk them – it’s always great to add new walks to our ‘list’.

Halfway up to the Heights of Abraham path from Cromford (probably around 200ft up at this stage). This overlooks Arkwright’s Cromford Mill and the Derwent river (you can just see the Mill’s chimney and part of the Mill through the trees – a better view of the frontage is in the picture below. This is the world’s first water powered mill built in 1769).
Opposite you can see Giddy Edge – a walk that’s not for the faint hearted as it’s a proper alpine-style ‘via ferrata’ – a cliff edge walk that’s had to have iron railings to hold on to installed.

So, back to the actual bread roll recipe rather than rambling on about rambling…

Using any ancient grain will bring different textures, tastes, smells and structure (or lack of) to your bread. Many, including rye, can be quite strong and overpowering for some who are unfamiliar with anything more exotic than a white loaf with malt flakes added! For me, I think rye has a slightly warm nutty flavour with a little spiciness as an undertone. For this recipe I’ve developed, I’ve used around two thirds third of rye to one third soft wheat. This gives you enough of the taste and colour of a rye bread, provides enough soft wheat to have a good rise (though it will be significantly lower than 100% soft wheat) but is accessible. The addition of the cider gives a delicious, sweet note plus its high sugar content helps feed the yeast and encourage the rise.

Notes

  • Will make eight quarter-pounder sized rolls or you can make up to twelve smaller picnic rolls
  • Also makes a nice loaf – just bake for an additional 10-15 minutes (dependant on shape)

Equipment

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Dough whisk (or large fork)
  • Large baking tray
  • Scales – ideally electronic with a tare/zeroing function
  • Dough scraper or large straight bladed knife
  • Linen tea towel or cloth
  • You can use a stand mixer, but also this recipe is good by hand

Ingredients

  • 400g rye flour (I’ve used Craggs and Co, but rye flour is fairly easy to get hold of)
  • 175g strong white bread flour
  • 200ml cider – I used Aspall’s for this but any plain cider or even a perry – to provide a pear version – will do (just don’t use one of those trendy fruit flavoured ciders)
  • 200 ml tepid water
  • 1.5 tablespoons of runny honey
  • 1.5 tablespoons of good quality olive or rapeseed oil
  • 1.5 teaspoons of fine salt
  • 1.5 teaspoons of fast acting dried yeast
  • Plus a little extra white bread flour for your hands and work surface
  • Plus a little extra oil for the bowl

Method

  • In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together into a rough mix, using a dough whisk ideally (as it’s very sticky!) but don’t knead it yet
  • Leave to autolyse for 10 minutes to make the dough easier to work
    [the autolyse process allows three main things to happen: fluid molecules start to seep into the starch and proteins, enzymes (amylase and invertase) in the flour get a head start on breaking down gluten and also protein strands start to alter their shape – all desirable in the bread making process and gives you a head start on kneading without any effort]
  • After giving time for the autolyse process, tip the bread out and knead until the dough is smooth and shiny. This will be about 7-8 minutes by hand. You can alternatively do this in a stand mixer with a dough hook if you prefer. Try not to use much additional flour, but add a little if you find it really is too sticky to work
  • Oil the bowl lightly (many recipes tell you to use a clean oiled bowl, but I find as long as you’ve oiled it makes no difference placing the dough back in the original mixing bowl and saves on washing up!)
  • Round off the dough with your hands and/or a dough scraper and place domed-side up in the bowl. Cover with a linen tea towel
  • Leave to develop and proof for about an hour at a moderate room temperature – because of the rye’s lower gluten content it won’t rise as much as a 100% strong white bread mix
  • Tip out onto a lightly floured surface
  • Flour lightly the bottom of a large baking sheet and have this close to hand
  • Weigh your dough and divide this amount by eight (or more if you want smaller rolls)
  • Each piece of dough should be 1/8th of the dough’s weight – this will be around 125-130g each mark for eight
  • Shape each piece of dough into a ball
  • Place the eight dough balls onto the baking sheet. You can either give them a lot of space or place in two rows of four set about 3cm apart so they slightly touch when baked, giving your the ‘batch roll’ look
  • Cover again with the lined cloth and leave to proof for about 30-40 minutes
  • After 30 minutes put your oven on to 220*C fan / 240*C conventional to heat up
  • The rolls will not have grown or risen that much – most of the rise will occur in your oven
  • When the rolls are ready, place in the oven (ideally placing the baking sheet on the pre-heated baking sheet)
  • Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 190*C fan / 210* conventional and back for a further 16-18 minutes
  • The rolls should sound hollow when tapped
  • Leave to cool on a wire rack (so no softened crusts) before eating
rye and cider rolls recipe - loaf version inksugarspice #baking 3bread #rolls #cider #rye
The cider and rye dough baked into a batard shape, and scored with a leaf pattern

Pesto and vine tomato schiacciata

schiacciata with pesto and vine tomatoes - inksugarspice

I hesitated labelling this as schiacciata, even though that’s what I’ve always called this particular bake. Should I label it as focaccia as that’s more widely known? Focaccia or schiacciata: it’s mostly down to regional naming choice, with schiacciata being the term for this bread in Toscana. In fact, although these two Italian breads are incredibly well known (granted one more than the other), most Eurasian countries have a bread that’s very similar, even indistinguishable, to these. Investigate down to a regional level in Italy though and both focaccia and schiacciata have many specific variations due to the added ingredients such as schiacciatta all’uva, a famous Florentine sweet version with grapes (and absolutely delicious it is too).

From my cookbooks and from devouring plenty of Italian breads there’s no real, confirmed clarity on any differences between the two. As mentioned above there are some specific recipes, but these are down to the included ingredients. There’s just a confusing mix of some people saying they’re exactly the same base recipe (ie it’s just local naming) to those who think schiacciata is thinner and crispier on the outside or that focaccia is fluffier in the middle (or vice versa). One thing that seems more consistent is that many sources indicate that schiacciata only has salt on the top, not in the dough. There’s even a sheet cake from Veneto that’s called a schiacciata to add to the confusion. Some of the listed differences could actually just be down to the technique of the baker. Press down on the dough a bit more and you’ll get thinner and crispier, bake in a slightly hotter oven you’ll bake the outside first and the insides will be less ‘done’ by the time the exterior is cooked.

The only things that is a given is that schiaciatta comes from the verb schiacciata, to crush or press, indicating the way that fingers are used (on both focaccia and schiacciata) to press the dough down and create dimples for the oil to pool in before baking. I love it when food is named really basically by its description.

I expect I’ve made hundreds of focaccia and schiacciata over the years, as they’re one of our family’s favourites for sharing, dipping, turning into bruschetta, slicing sideways for sandwiches and just snacking on. And frankly these breads are fun to make and to swap ingredients and tastes around on.

All I know is they’re all lovely breads, tasty and versatile and that I use the same base bread recipe for either (though I do omit the salt from the dough if I am aiming to produce schiacciatta). The classic schiacciata is just topped with olive oil and salt, but this is a delicious and relatively common variation.

Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Notes

  • Makes one large schiacciata or you can make several small ones (if you want one each)
  • Can I add a plea here – if you’re making any Italian flatbread and are planning on using rosemary, please please don’t just throw it on the top: it’ll be a burnt crispy stalk of horror that you can’t eat. Either chop it up and knead it into the bread dough or sink any sprigs deep into the dough (so just a little is peeping out) and ensure they’re in one of the ‘dimples’ so that the olive oil pools around them and keeps them moist
  • If you can’t be bothered with having a layer of pesto inside the bread, you can just omit steps 15-20. Just press or roll out the dough to it’s final size before proofing and then the pesto and vine tomatoes on top and bake per the rest of the recipe

Equipment

  • Large baking tray (approx 44cm x 30cm)
  • Large bowl
  • Small measuring jug
  • Dough scraper
  • Clean tea towel
  • Rolling pin (not entirely necessary but does help)
  • Dough whisk (optional)
  • Wire cooling rack

Ingredients

  • Strong white bread flour – 300 g
  • Tepid water – 190 g/ml
  • Fast acting yeast – 1 level teaspoon
  • Caster sugar – 1 level teaspoon
  • Extra virgin olive oil, a rich and tasty variety is best – 1 ¼ tablespoons
  • Sea salt grinder (you’ll use about 1-2 teaspoons of salt in total)
  • Cherry or mini plum tomatoes on the vine – 1 large or two smaller ‘bunches’ of these vine tomatoes
  • Red pesto (I used Filippo Berio’s Grilled Vegetable Pesto here) – about 9-10 teaspoons
  • Additional olive oil for drizzling
  • Additional durum wheat flour (also called semola/semolina flour) if you have it for dusting or use bread flour

Method

  1. Mix in the sugar and yeast into the tepid water and leave for 10 minutes
  2. In the large bowl, measure out your flour and make a well in the middle
  3. Tip in your water, sugar and yeast and also the 1 ¼ tablespoons of olive oil
  4. Mix the whole lot with your fingers, a large fork or a dough whisk into a rough, messy mix
  5. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave for 10 minutes (for the autolyse process to start, which will help gluten develop and make kneading easier)
  6. Tip it all out onto your clean surface and knead for about 8 minutes. The dough will be a little sticky and messy but stick with it – it will quite quickly come together
  7. When the dough is transformed into a glossy, smooth dough, spread a little oil all over the bowl using your hands (so they are also now a little oily which will transfer to the dough)
  8. Round the dough off into a ball and pop back into the bowl and recover with the tea towel
  9. Leave the dough to rise for about 30 minutes in a warm place. It won’t have quite “doubled” in size but will be noticeably risen
  10. Tip the dough back out onto your working surface
  11. Knock out the large air bubbles by giving it a brief knead (just two or three ‘kneads and folds’ will do)
  12. Flick a palm-full amount of the durum flour (if you don’t have this, just use the bread flour!) on to the baking tray
  13. Pre heat your oven to 220 C fan / 240 C conventional
  14. On your work surface, press out the dough as thinly as you can – you should be able to stretch it to about 28 cm (11-12 inches) in width and almost twice as long – a large oval
  15. If this is difficult by hand, you can use a rolling pin to squash out the dough
  16. Dot over about 5 teaspoonfuls of the pesto onto ONE HALF only of the rolled/pressed out dough
  17. Fold the plain half of the dough over on itself to sandwich the pesto in between
  18. Roll or press out the dough to a neat oval shape, enlarging it slightly – the schiacciata should take up about 80% of a large baking tray: I get it to about 28cm width, 38cm in length, as you can see in the image further down
  19. Lift it up carefully and place on the baking tray
  20. Pinch the edges together on the three sides (other than the folded edge). I tuck the edges under, so that the ‘seam’ isn’t seen but it doesn’t really matter
  21. Try to ensure that the edges are not thicker than the rest of the dough, flattening it out as necessary
  22. Leave to proof again for about 20 – 30 mins, covered with a tea towel
  23. When risen a little (it won’t rise that much as you’ve flattened it out) use your finger tips to make indentations across the top for the oil
  24. Drizzle some olive oil all over the dough, moving it about with your fingers if there are conspicuously dry patches anywhere
  25. Dot several more teaspoonfuls of the pesto over the top of the dough, dispersing it about a little with the back of the spoon (but don’t ‘spread’ it out as you did with the first layer)
  26. Sprinkle or grind the sea salt all over the dough (remember there is none in the dough itself so you do need a little more than just a light seasoning)
  27. Lay the vine tomatoes out on the dough and gently press in

    schiacciata with tomatoes and pesto - inksugarspice
  28. Transfer the baking tray and schiacciata to the oven and bake for 10 minutes at 220 C / 240 C (as mentioned above)
  29. After 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 190 C fan / 210 C conventional and bake for a further 12 – 15 minutes
  30. When baked, transfer to a wire rack to cool
pesto and vine tomato schiacciata - inksugarspice
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Chilli salt grissini

Grissini - inksugarspice

I have written a previous recipe for grissini (flavoured with olives, parmesan or seeds) which is a good, reliable recipe. It may seem odd to be writing a second grissini recipe but I believe it differs enough to warrant a write-up: these grissini are taper-thin and have an exceptional crunch to them. I’ve also rolled them in a chilli salt mix. They’re awesome on their own as a light snack but are wonderful with a melted cheese dip or something rich and tomato-y.

As I mentioned in the original grissini recipe, homemade breadsticks are simply miles ahead of the hideous pre-packed ones. I’ll repeat what I said in the original: once you’ve made your own grissini you can’t go back. The bonus is that they are one of the simplest yeasted bread recipes to make and are very impressive (especially when you know they’re pretty easy).

Notes

Makes about 30-40 breadsticks, dependent on the length you’ve rolled the dough out to.

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • *Stand mixer with dough hook attachment (if not kneading by hand)
  • Pizza cutter or long sharp knife (non-serrated)
  • Two large baking trays, lined with parchment
  • Rolling pin
  • Pastry brush
  • Clean linen tea towel or cling film

Ingredients

  • Tipo 00 or plain white flour – 150g
  • Strong white bread flour – 150g (plus a little extra for dusting)
  • Fast acting yeast – 1 level teaspoon/5g
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon
  • Extra virgin olive oil – 1 and 1/4 tablespoons (I used Filippo Berio’s)
  • Water, just tepid – 200 ml
  • Added ingredients:
    • An egg, whisked lightly for brushing
    • either 3 tablespoons of my fiery chilli salt mix
    • or
    • 3 tablespoons rock salt + 1 tablespoon of chilli flakes

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the bread dough together (tipo 00 flour, bread flour, yeast, salt olive oil and water) into a scruffy mess
  2. Leave for 10 minutes to autolyse (this period helps the gluten develop initially before kneading)
  3. Tip out and knead for 8 – 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and glossy (or mix in your stand mixer if you prefer not to knead by hand)
  4. Lightly oil the bowl you were using and pop the dough back in, and cover it with a tea towel or cling film until it has risen by about half as much again (it won’t ‘double in size’). This could be anything between 30 – 90 minutes depending on the ambient temperature
  5. When the dough is ready, lightly flour your working surface and tip out your dough onto it
  6. Flour your rolling pin and roll the dough out in as precise a rectangle as possible to about 0.5 cm / 1/4 inch thick (or as near as you can get it – don’t worry too much)
  7. Leave to rest covered with a tea towel for about 20 minutes
  8. Set the oven on to 200C fan / 220C conventional
  9. When rested (and risen a little) use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut as many 0.75cm / 1/3 inch strips as you can from your dough rectangle

    Grissini - inksugarspice
  10. Scatter the chilli salt mix in a spread out pile on your working surface
  11. Using a pastry brush, spread the beaten egg lightly over the dough strips, turning them over to coat both sides
  12. Taking a strip of dough at a time, roll it gently in the salt and chilli, trying not to press too hard as you only want to roll the dough into a more rounded shape rather than lengthen it – the salt and chilli should stick on
  13. Carefully transfer the dough strip to your lined baking tray
  14. Repeat with all the dough strips, so they are all covered in the chilli and salt

    Grissini - inksugarspice
  15. Make sure there is a little space between all the dough strips on the baking trays and aim to line them up straight
  16. Set the oven on to 200C fan / 220C conventional
  17. Bake for about 14-16 minutes until a nice golden colour
  18. Leave to cool in the trays
  19. They should be crisp with a nice ‘snap’ when fully cooled
Grissini - inksugarspice
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Nine top tips on artful bread scoring

White boule sourdough made with pomegranate molasses with flower scoring

White boule sourdough made with pomegranate molasses

I’ve been known to share more than a few images of my bread with stylised scoring and detailed plaiting techniques… it’s lead to a few comments over time asking me for hints. I’ve sidestepped this for a while, assuming that there are plenty of other out there, way better than me posting about it. I still believe that, but as I do continue to get asked I thought I’d write a short piece on slashing bread.

ALL the photos in this article are breads made by me, to my own recipes or to the tried and trusted standard loaf ratio: 400g flour, 5g yeast, 5g salt, 280ml water – or a slight variant thereof.

Some are flavoured, a few are sourdough. Notice that none of my scored loaves have large inclusions like fruit in or are of a brioche-style. A few have flavourings or malt flakes or flours other than strong white bread flour. This is because some recipes don’t really align themselves with slashing: strong sourdoughs, enriched breads, breads thick with inclusions like Bara Brith, composite breads or plaited or styled breads should all be left as they are already gorgeous and don’t slash well.

One exception is a rolled, enriched loaf with fillings which is simply cut in order to show off the fillings, such as this wild garlic scroll:

Wild garlic bread in a slashed scroll form

Wild garlic scroll

Best choose a ‘standard’, fairly simple loaf in a simple shape: a cob/boule, a bâtard, a bloomer, a stick etc to start off with and learn which recipes work as you progress. For a list of common breads shapes please see my article Bread shapes – making at home


So here are my top seven tips to bread scoring…


ONE: Have a sharp blade. A VERY sharp blade

A sharp blade slices through the sticky bread dough – using a blunt blade will drag and tear the ‘skin’ of the loaf. While a loaf is proving, the outer skin will dry somewhat, useful for keeping the shape of the loaf intact and for your scoring definition. This skin is minimal and your blade will cut through it and into the wetter dough underneath. If your blade is blunt it will catch and drag as you slice through the dough, causing puckering. It will also make manoeuvring the blade round corners and curves more difficult for you and can even mean you have to ‘re-cut’ the same cut over and over, which results in a very jagged and messy pattern.

White sourdough, with a minimal prove and a free-form scroll design

White sourdough, with a minimal prove and a free-form scroll design

You can use a strop and chalk to keep your blades sharper for longer (as for keeping leather and wood working tools sharp) but even if you do this, eventually your blades will need to be replaced. If you don’t use a strop then your blades will need replacing very frequently. Be careful to dispose of them safely and correctly.

Also, the thinner the blade the easier it is to use to cut and the less likely it is to drag. So, while you can get reasonable straight cuts from a highly sharpened normal kitchen knife (forget using one unless you’ve just sharpened it especially), it will only be good for basic straight cuts, like a cross. I have a locking No. 8 Opinel knife I keep exceptionally sharp that I use when I go on a self catering holiday – I confess I try and bake even when I’m away (the pouch ear bread below was baked in a holiday let kitchen!), although that also doubles up as my foraging knife.

White and chestnut flour boule with symmetrical diamond design

White and chestnut flour boule with symmetrical diamond design

Which blade to use? Craft knives and scalpel blades are effective, very sharp, cheap and easy to get hold of, store well and are my go-to blade of choice.

Razor blades – these are fab but lethal! You can get the traditional double blade cutthroat razor type (which usually are popped onto a grignette) and the safety type, which has only one sharp side. These are brilliant, but tricky to get used to employing without slicing off a layer of skin. If you’re using a double-edged blade on it’s own without a holder/grignette be careful! The best way to pick it up is between thumb and finger on the short edges only and watch out how you score as you’ll be exposing that flap of skin between your thumb and forefinger to the edge of the blade. Avoid if you’re worried and stick to a craft knife!!

Grignettes and lames: a grignette is the holder (with or without the blade in it) and a lame is just the blade. This is basically the go-to set up for creating slashes with height and forcing curvature on the bread cut. This occurs because (typically, but not always) the lame is placed slightly bent into the grignette, creating a curved blade. Using this curve opens up the cut at an angle as well as slicing downwards through the dough. This gives the skin of the loaf room to lift away from the bread causing maximum expansion. Really typical for use to create ear/pouch cuts and for baguette slicing.

Here is a short video I made on my YouTube Channel about making your own DIY baker’s blade:

Pouch slash loaf, cut using a curved grignette - notice how it's got maximum expansion and ripped the 'ear' away from the loaf

Pouch slash loaf, cut using a curved grignette – notice how it’s achieved maximum expansion and ripped the ‘ear’ away from the loaf


TWO: Lubricate the blade

Another way to stop the drag on the dough is to lubricate the blade. You don’t need this every time, but it’s helpful if you have a particular dough with a high hydration level. You can lubricate with water or with oil (any cooking oil is fine). If you use water, tap off the excess (without wiping dry) as the addition of extra hydration can cause the loaf to expand in ways you’re not expecting! With practice, you can get used to the way that this adds additional expansion to cuts in the loaf – sometimes I hydrate a blade on some cuts and not others. The oiling technique is more even and reliable, but don’t have the blade dripping in oil. The way I do it is to oil a sheet of kitchen towel and then swipe both slides of the blade over the oil.

Stoneground organic flour loaf with another of my Union Jack slashes

Stoneground organic flour loaf with one of my signature Union Jack slashes


THREE: Pre-plan if you’re not sure

The worst thing to do is hovering over the loaf, blade in hand thinking “What do I do?”. At least have an image in your mind before you start, or know the shape of the cuts you’re going to make (as in I’m going to make a stripy, freeform cut loaf). The best thing is to get some inspiration and to make a little sketch first.

I’ve gathered some of my own and others’ beautiful breads on a Pinterest board, which may help give your ideas or you can copy from (there are also other pretty breads that are not slashed on here).

And start with the basics, do something like a cross or a chequerboard design to begin with: it’s all just straight lines but looks totally impressive!

stoneground checquerboard cut loaf - simple straight cuts but totally effective

A stoneground checquerboard-cut loaf – simple straight cuts which are the easiest to achieve but give a totally effective and impressive slashed loaf

Graduate to something freeform and swirly (as below – no pre-planning) to get used to turning the blade, then just go for it! Make lots of lovely bread and practice, practice. Who cares if your first few are a bit wonky? It’ll still taste lovely and with each loaf you’ll improve.

A honey loaf (recipe here) for which I've purposely covered in flour to create a huge contrast between slash and surface

A honey loaf (recipe here) for which I’ve purposely covered in flour to create a huge contrast between slash and surface


FOUR: Flouring … or not

While you can score any rounded-off loaf you’ve made without doing anything else to it, you will get the most dramatic results when there is a colour contrast between what has been cut and areas that are intact. (See the honey loaf above for a dramatic contrast example). In order to facilitate this, the easiest thing to do is to flour your proved loaf, smooth the flour into the skin of the dough. While you are doing this it helps to brush off excess flour and to ensure that flour is evenly distributed and not blotchy/patchy. White flour gives the most impact between itself and the cut marks, as they brown in the oven. You’ll get a white-ish background and a toasty-brown pattern. That said, experiment with other flours and vegetable powders.

Beet powder covered loaf, scored with a clover leaf pattern

A loaf covered in beetroot powder and scored with a cloverleaf design – the beet powder bakes very hard and can sometimes crack (as you can see). I now mix beetroot powder with a little maize flour, which helps counteract this cracking

Also, bear in mind that some doughs themselves will affect how visible the cuts are. How browned will the dough be after baking, have you added vegetables or fruit to it? Will it be very dark – or quite light?

Union Jack slash - this is pretty much my signature bread art! I've posted many loaves with these slash marks on in Instagram

Union Jack slash – this is pretty much my signature bread art! I’ve posted many loaves with this scoring design on Instagram

It’s similar to the consideration that the use of colours for typefaces on a web page requires where you have to think of visible accessibility: will the background help the foreground stand out or will it all merge together? Also, for some slashing this contrast doesn’t even matter – baguettes, pouch ear slashes, checquerboards and many others don’t need this layer of flour dusting as the expanded cuts are so visible the contrast isn’t needed.

Spelt sourdough baguettes - no extra flouring needed here: the slashes are wide and defined

Spelt sourdough baguettes – no extra flouring needed here as the slashes are wide and defined anyway (notice how the slashes ever-so-slightly overlap each other – this stops the loaf from bulging too much around the slashes)


FIVE: Make sure the loaf is ready

Your loaf needs to be almost at the point where you are going to bake it when you slash it. It should respond/bounce back when lightly depressed with a fingertip. Don’t let your loaf over-prove when you aim to score a design into it, as given longer, the yeast creates more and more carbon dioxide and the air pockets in the dough get bigger and bigger (and then also the yeast fatigues). You risk popping an air pocket if you leave the bread to prove too long, plus over-proving means the bread might not rise further or worse still, collapse in the oven. And if it collapses, that means it’s doing the opposite of what you need: you need it to expand and show the slashes to good effect. If it collapses or fails to grow in the oven then you don’t see the effect.

If you want to know more about how yeast works in your bread, creating these air pockets (and a lot more besides) then please read my popular article on the Science of bread making – how yeast works.

Beet scored bread - Lynn Clark/inksugarspice

Leaf slash beetroot loaf


SIX: Go in with a little vigour!

Don’t faff about with your cutting – do it with aplomb! If you cut lightly and gently you risk not cutting deep enough to make any impact, making a lot of ragged cuts that need to be joined up (these produce messy slashes) or worse having to recut into a previous cut (these look a bit of a mess – I do know: I did this myself in the past). If you are nervous, again you could end up having to make many ragged, untidy cuts where one large be stroke of a blade would have been better. That all said, don’t turn in to Sweeney Todd and get all aggressive with it as this can be just as bad – see my next tip…

Turmeric starter sourdough batard with leaf slashes

Turmeric starter sourdough batard with leaf slashes


SEVEN: Don’t cut too deeply

As bad as timid cuts look, at least you’ll still have a nice loaf of bread if you’re tentative. If you go in with a heavy hand you can cut deep into the air pockets and collapse that part of the loaf entirely! Sourdough and other slow prove loaves are riskier to cut than other breads as they have larger air pockets, so this increases the chance of even a shallow cut popping the air bubble and flattening the loaf. I only score a sourdough loaf where I am used to the recipe and I know that the air pockets aren’t massive. New recipes or ingredients in sourdoughs make me nervous of this and so I do not slash these – I leave them as they are to crack and expand on their own or I make a very shallow simple cut, or an angled cut (see the next tip) so that it doesn’t go too deep. You’ll get used to the heaviness of the dough and it’s number of air pockets as you bake more and score bread more – you’ll be able to judge how deep you cut and also what the effect of shallow and deep cuts will make on the expansion in the oven.

Wholemeal sourdough batard with leaf slash

Wholemeal sourdough batard with leaf slash


EIGHT: The angle is important

How you hold the blade (whatever you’re using) matters. If you hold it perdendicular to the loaf you’ll cut straight and deep. Great for a precise and defined cut with a medium expansion in the oven. Many scores call for the blade to be angled about 30º which cuts in and under the skin of the loaf, effectively making a bit of a ‘pocket’ shape. Pouch or ear loaves are the perfect example of this on one long cut, but this technique can also be used on smaller cuts, and it creates a bulge opposite the ‘ear’ so you can use this knowledge to plan design shapes for slashing.

I used a simple perpendicular light slash for the 'rays' and an angled slash to create the large, open wave in the centre - an example of changing the angle of the blade to achieve different effects - you may notice I accidentally popped an air pocket with the large slash, luckily it was quite a small one and didn't affect the rise of the loaf (a large air pocket that is popped is likely to deflate the loaf!)

I used a simple perpendicular light slash for the ‘rays’ and an angled slash to create the large, open wave in the centre – an example of changing the angle of the blade to achieve different effects – you may notice I accidentally popped an air pocket with the large slash, luckily it was quite a small one and didn’t affect the rise of the loaf (a large air pocket that is popped is likely to deflate the loaf!)


NINE: Rest the loaf briefly

I’ve found that if I’m after a good expansion on the slash marks then after scoring I rest the bread for about 3 – 5 minutes before popping it in the oven. Don’t leave it longer than that as you don’t want the loaf to over-prove and fail to rise or collapse. (See point 5 above). You must factor in this additional ‘rest’ period to the length of time of your second rise on your loaf, ensuring that it does not over-prove before baking.


Extra tip TEN: a visual tip

Here I am slashing a star pattern into a white and wholemeal loaf with added malt flakes. This type of loaf recipe is trickier to slash as the blade can get snagged on the malt flakes (you can just notice it happening). Can’t believe it was nearly three years ago I posted this little video to Instagram and Twitter! Here, I’ve used a surgical scalpel blade as the pattern includes some tight curves.

Happy slashing!! Just don’t say that in public or the police may well tail you – you can always placate them with a lovely slice off your pretty new loaf though 🙂

If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer but I’m no bread guru, just an enthusiastic hobby baker (although I confess I have been baking – and plaiting, slashing and stencilling – bread for over 30 years).

Slashed batch rolls

If you’ve enjoyed this post or found it useful please ‘like’ it or better still leave me a nice comment or even ask a question – thank you!

Bread shapes: making at home

plaited brioche courronne

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.

breadShapes

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).

Simpler shapes

Cob or boule

flowerSlash

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.


Coburg

coburg

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

slashedLeafSourdough 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.


Cottage loaf

Cottage loaf with twist top - by Ink Sugar SpiceA 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.


Split tin

splitTinThis 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.


Chequerboard

checkerboardSeededLoafLess 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

pouch-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).


Vienna

breakFastRoolsThis 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

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.


Baguette

speltSourdoughBaguettes

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.


Complex shapes

Fougasse

IMG_1332

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

CQFa3j9WcAALiQA.jpg_largeThis 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.


Scroll

scrollWildGarlicVery 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).


Composite shapes

Wreath

wreathWreaths 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

bookshelfBread

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.


Simple plait

Challah

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.


Knots

knots

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.


Ball plait

ballPlaitDough

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.


Complex plait

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.

7PlaitBread13

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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 💙

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