Category Archives: Bread

Hot Cross Buns

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I know full well that in Britain, it is possible to buy Hot Cross Buns all year round. However in keeping with my personal philosophy of only eating most foods when in season, I only eat these at Easter time, and as I no longer live in Britain, but in Italy, that makes it easier to do. Italians do not know what hot cross buns are. So at Easter I make hot cross buns, because we like them, and because they are relatively easy to make, and the few Italian friends who have tried them, like them very much. Who wouldn’t? What is not to like?

This recipe calls for strong bread flour, and I have made these buns with white and wholemeal, both with good results. You could (I have) make this with plain flour, but you would need to add powdered gluten, to enable it to rise. If you choose this route you would need to add 1 tablespoon of gluten per 500 gm/1 lb flour. Finding somewhere that sells powdered gluten, however is another thing altogether.

The most difficult part of this recipe is achieving the right piping consistency for the cross. It really has to be quite thick if it is not to disappear during the baking.

Makes 16. Preparation about 75 minutes. Cooking 15 minutes

Ingredients for the Buns

250 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup milk

75 gm/2 1/2 oz/ 1/3 cup  sugar

90 gm/3 oz melted butter

2 sachets of instant yeast

500 gm/ 1 lb strong bread flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground mixed spice

250 gm/ 1/2 lb sultanas, lightly chopped

Ingredients for the Cross

3 tablespoons of plain white flour

2 teaspoons white sugar

water to mix

Ingredients for the Glaze

65 ml/2 fl oz/ 1/4 cup water

65 gm/2 fl oz sugar

Method

In a small pan, gently warm the milk to about hand hot temperature and no hotter.

Cube the butter and add to the milk to melt it.

Add the sugar and 2 sachets of yeast, stir thoroughly to dissolve all ingredients.

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In a large mixing bowl, put in all the dry ingredients and then put in the milk and yeast mixture. Using a wooden spoon stir the mixture to bring it all together, then using your hands knead thoroughly for 5 or 10 minutes or until the dough is silky smooth. Cover with a tea cloth and leave in a warm place for 1 hour.

If you have a bread machine put all the dry ingredients for the buns into the mixing bowl, add the milk and yeast mixture and put the machine on to a dough cycle.

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After 1 hour turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide equally into 16 balls and arrange them in a greased baking dish of approximately 23 x 30 cm/12 x 15 inches, cover with the tea cloth and leave for 15 to 20 minutes in a warm place.

Meanwhile make the cross batter by combining the flour and sugar in a bowl. Add water in small increments until you arrive at a thick consistency that can still be piped. A very thick cream like consistency is what you want to achieve.

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Pipe the crosses on each bun and then put the buns into a hot oven set at 230 C/ 450 F/Gas 8/ Very Hot, and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until they are golden brown. They should also grow in size while they are baking.

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Meanwhile make the glaze by combining the water and sugar in a small saucepan, and put over a low heat. Stir to ensure the sugar dissolves and simmer for 5 minutes.

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Use a brush to glaze the buns while they are fresh from the oven and piping hot, brushing them at least 2 times to get a good glaze.

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My preferred way to eat these is to cut them in half, when they are cold, and toast them on the cut side. Then slather them in butter. Eat immediately while they are still hot.

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These are eaten at any time of the day, hot or cold, with or without butter, jam or cheese.

 

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Filed under Bread, Easter, Spring

Pizza Dough

 

DSCN5768An Italian pizza is a thin crust confection, that follows the mantra ‘less is more’ when it comes to the toppings, and that is because the the wood fired ovens used all over Italy are fiercely hot and cook the pizza in about 5 minutes or so. Too much topping and the crust would be overdone by the time the topping is cooked. I don’t think it is possible to buy a deep pan pizza in Italy, but then why would you?

At our local pizzeria, they don’t use rolling pins to create a disc of dough. Upon receipt of your order they take a ball of dough, from a batch quietly rising, and pull and stretch it over the curved edge of a marble topped work surface, using one hand to turn the ball/disc of dough around and the heel of the other hand to form it, constantly turning a few degrees at a time and forming. Their circles of dough are almost perfectly round and achieved in just 1 or 2 minutes to the correct diameter. Wonderful to watch their dexterity.

I have been using this recipe for making my own pizze (Italian plural of pizza, so no apologies) for about 20 years, and I have never given it much thought until my friend Helen reminded me that I gave her the recipe several years ago and because it is so reliable that I should share it. So here it is. I usually make my dough using a bread machine, so that I can be doing other things while it is working, but the dough is just as good if you kneed it by hand.

The quantities below yield sufficient dough to make 2 pizze of 30 cm/ 12 inches diameter, which is what I usually make for 2 or 3 people.

Preparation time:  between 1 and 2 hours depending on the rising of the dough and the dough cycle of your bread machine

Ingredients

325 gm/11 1/2 oz/ strong white bread flour

225 ml/7 1/2 fluid oz hand hot water

15 gm/ 1/2 oz butter melted

1 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon dried yeast

a little olive oil for greasing the pizza pans

Method

It is important to be accurate when measuring out the ingredients so that the finished dough is pliable and does not stick to your hand. Having said that if your dough does seem a little sticky just add a little more flour.

If using a bread machine pour the water into the bread pan, then add the melted butter. Sprinkle the flour over the water, and then put the salt and the sugar into opposite corners. Finally sprinkle the yeast over the top of the flour. Put the bread machine onto a dough cycle and wait for it to complete.

Making it by hand, dissolve the sugar in the water and then add the yeast and give it 30 minutes or so, to start bubbling. Then you put the flour into a large mixing bowl, stirring in the salt. Add the melted butter to the yeast mixture and the stir into the flour. Work the mixture together with your hands until it comes together as a ball of dough. Kneed and work the dough for 5 minutes and form into a ball. Cover and allow it to rise for 45 minutes.

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Knock back the dough for a few minutes and then divide it into two. Taking each piece of dough in turn, form into a ball, then flattening it with your hand.

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Then taking a rolling pin, roll out on a floured surface until it reaches about 30 cm/12 inches in diameter.

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Transfer to a greased pizza pan, by winding it onto your rolling pin and unrolling it onto your dish or tin.

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Push the dough, with your fingers, into the corners

Cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rise for 15 minutes.

When putting your desired topping on, remember that ‘less is more’ and then bake in a pre-heated oven set at 220 c/425 F/Gas 7/Hot for 20 minutes or until golden and sizzling.

Serve immediately.

 

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Real Grissini or Breadsticks

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Let’s talk about grissini, or bread-sticks, and I do not mean the anemic pencils that come in a sealed bag that one is offered in an Italian restaurant. How can anything that has a use-by date 1 year down the line, be called food.

In Italy there are many independent supermarkets, and in these one can happen upon amazing food. So it was several years ago that we went to such a supermarket and there on the deli counter was this basket of proper grissini that had been baked that morning. There were 2 types on offer, green olive and walnut. We bought some to go with our lunch, and they were a revelation. Absolutely no comparison with the industrial stuff offered in a restaurant. They were lumpy and miss-shapen and they had been crafted by hand.

They are simplicity to make and they do not dissolve in your mouth and clog up your teeth either. The beauty of it is that once you make some it is very easy to make more with different flavours and textures. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed

This recipe makes between 15 and 20 depending how thick you make them, and the instructions are for the full kneading method, however if you have a bread making machine, as I have then just put everything in the bowl and select a dough programme, and do something else while it is working.

Preparation time about 2 hours (but most of that is waiting for the dough to rise) and cooking time 20 to 25 minutes

Ingredients

225 gm/8 oz/2 cups bread flour (all white or 1/3rd wholemeal:2/3rds white)

2.5 ml/1/2 teaspoon salt

15 gm/ 1/2 oz yeast or half sachet dried yeast

135 ml/4 1/2 fl oz/scant 2/3 rds cup warm water

30 ml/2 tablespoons olive oil

shelled walnuts

green olives roughly chopped

Method

In a jug, cream the yeast with the water.

Sift the flour and salt together. Pour the water and yeast in to the middle of the flour, add the oil and mix to a soft dough.

Knead on a floured surface for about 5 or 6 minutes and then put it into a bowl, lightly oiling the surface, cover and leave to rise for an hour in a warm place.

While the dough is rising chop the olives.

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Using a sharp knife, cut the dough in 2, and then roll each out into a rectangular shape about 12 mm/ half inch thick.

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Cut into lengths 12 mm/half inch wide.  Roll each piece with a rolling pin so that it is about 30 cm/12 inches long and about 3 mm/ 1/8 inch thick.

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Taking each rolled piece, drizzle pieces of walnut or olive pieces along the length

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and then carefully roll up the pastry across the width enclosing the filling, and sealing the gap.

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Place seam side down on a baking tray that has either been oiled or has parchment on it. Do the rest and then lightly brush them with oil and leave them covered in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in a pre-warmed oven set at 200 C/400 F/Gas 6/Moderate to moderate hot oven. They need to be baked until they have a crust but not crisp all the way through. When they are baked cool them on a rack.

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These can also be made plain, or with seeds of your choice (sesame,  caraway or whatever takes your fancy)

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Quick Loaf

 

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How many times have you wanted to make a loaf, looked at the clock and thought ‘No not enough time’. Or thought yes I would like the loaf but I haven’t time to do all that kneading., and bread machine loaves are sort of OK, but they are the wrong shape and have a hole in their bottom. Well your problems are over as this recipe for quick bread, courtesy of Leonie from Traisa near Darmstadt.

It takes about 10 minutes to mix and 1 hour to cook, no kneading and straight forward, and yields a loaf weighing 1 .5 kg/3 lb 5 oz

Ingredients

800 gm/ 1 lb 12 oz/ 7 cups strong bread flour/white or wholemeal etc

2 packets of quick acting yeast

2 level teaspoons of salt

750 ml/ 25 fl oz/3 cups water

4 teaspoons of vinegar

Method

Put all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir well to disperse the yeast and salt.

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Add the water and vinegar and stir very well.

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Pour and scrape in to a loaf tin

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Place in the middle of a COLD oven.

Switch it on and set the temperature to 220 C/425 F/Gas 7/Hot.

Set your timer for 60 minutes

When the time is complete, just check the loaf with a skewer or thin knife, as you would for a cake, to check that it is done. It might need 5 or 10 minutes more. There is likely to be some variation depending on the flour that you use.

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Cheese and Onion Party Loaf

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This is a fun, pleasant and tasty way to start off an evening with friends or family, and is straightforward to make. Although you might need an extra pair of hands to keep the bread still while you are cutting it and loading it with cheese. Straightforward to make it will be a hit with everyone, and of course you can always change the cheese and the topping to experiment with the final flavours.

Serves from 6 to 8. Preparation about 15 minutes. Cooking about 35 minutes. Total 50 minutes.

Ingredients

1 Bloomer Loaf, fresh. Approximately 1.5 kg

400 gm/12 oz/2 cups Cheddar/Gouda/Parmesan

125 gm/4 oz/ ½ cup of Butter

3 Cloves of Garlic minced

1 bunch/125 gm/4 oz/ ½ cup Spring Onions/Scallions/Green Onions

2 Teaspoons of Poppy Seeds

Directions

Using a very sharp bread knife, cut the loaf down the length and across the width, down to the bottom crust but not through it. The cuts need to be about 2 cm/1 inch apart or there about.

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Place the loaf on cooking foil, and on a baking tray

Put slices of cheese into the cuts. An extra pair of hands can be useful here, because once the loaf has been cut it takes on a life of its own.

Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the spring onions and the garlic, and saute gently until they have softened. Season well.

Spoon the onion and garlic mixture all over the top of the loaf. Sprinkle the poppy seeds over the top.

Fold up the foil around the loaf and seal it by folding over the edges.

Bake for 25 minutes in a pre – heated oven set to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4/Moderate for about 20 minutes.

Unseal the foil and fold it back and put the loaf back into the oven to allow the cheese to melt for about 15 minutes.

Serve immediately.

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Finally you could add chopped red and/or yellow pepper to bring a little extra colour to the topping.

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Filed under ALL Recipes, All Year, Antipasti, Bread, Cheese, Student Food

Bowl of Roses

 

DSCN3875This is an interesting way to present bread to the dinner table. We were recently at a dinner party where all the participants had been asked to bring along a favourite dish, and one woman had brought this. It is known as ‘A Bowl of Roses’ and it looked good when it was put on the table. Very basically you make a foccacia dough and roll it up with a stuffing of your choice, slice it into short lengths and place them on end in a round spring-form baking tin and bake them. The bowl of roses at the dinner party was stuffed with long leaf radicchio and onion, which is what I have repeated here. However one could use any combination of ingredients that you desire for the stuffing, or none at all.

Serves about 6 with preparation taking about 20 minutes and baking about 35 minutes

Ingredients For the Foccacia

600 gm/20 oz/4 cups strong white flour

360 ml/12 fl oz/ 1 1/2 cups/ warm water

2 tablespoons olive oil

yeast, live or dried (your choice)

1 teaspoon sugar

pinch of salt

For the stuffing

1 small onion finely chopped

About 8 leaves of long leaf radicchio roughly chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

Method

Start the yeast off in the warm water with the sugar stirred in.

Meanwhile chop the onion and the radicchio.

Then either in a large mixing bowl or in your bread machine(I use a bread machine for mixing dough) add the flour, salt and water. Start mixing and and allow to the first rise for about 30 minutes.

Gently fry the onion and radicchio for about 10 minutes and then remove from the heat.

Gently knead the bread and then roll out to a rectangle approximately 30 x 45 cm (15 x 22 inches).

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Spread the stuffing evenly over the surface leaving a clear border of about 2 cm/1 inch around the edge.
Roll it up like a Swiss roll using some parchment paper if you need.

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Using a very sharp knife, cut the roll into 8 lengths, and place end up in a greased 25 cm/12 inch round spring-form cake tin, spacing them out so that they have room to expand.

Cover with a lightly oiled plastic bag and allow to rise/expand in a warm place for about 40 minutes.

Place in the centre of a preheated oven  set at 210 C/410 F/gas 6/hot oven for about 25 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.

Put on a wire cooling rack until cool and then release the spring-form and place the ‘Bowl of Rose’ on a serving plate.

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