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Bagels

Bagels are, in theory, very easy to make.  If you can make a simple bread then you have all the skills you’ll need for bageling.  However, it seems to be an acknowledged problem that unless you have very good luck your first batch won’t be great.  You have to learn by experience with bagels it would seem! *

[ * I have now given bagels another go and it was indeed my fault the first time, see my Bagel Update for how to get those holes in.] 

The problem with these bagels was that I left them for too long on the second rise coz the kitchen was occupied.  This meant that they just collapsed after poaching.  They’re still delicious but rather flat.  Something of a cross between an English Muffin, melba toast and a bagel really!  I also didn’t make the holes big enough so they have dimples instead.  But I make these mistakes so you don’t have to.  Take heed and don’t over rise and make a bigger hole! 

The other problem I’m having at the minute is the temperature.  We’ve got 6″ of snow!  Unless the fire’s going in the evening I don’t have anywhere to rise bread so I’m having to just about double the time for everything.  Even regular baking is going a bit haywire as everything’s too cold!  I did the first rise overnight but didn’t need to use the fridge, the whole house is a fridge! 

Makes 10

450g bread flour
7g fast action yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
250ml warm water
2tbsp honey
3 tbsp sugar
seeds for sprinkling
1 egg white

– Mix together the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. 
– Make a well in the centre and add the warm water and honey.  This should be quite a stiff dough so you may not need all of the water keep back a few tbsp and go very gradually, mixing a little between additions. 
– Mix with a spoon until combined into a dough. 
– Turn out onto a lightly floured worksurface and knead for about 10 minutes until soft and smooth. 
– Lightly oil a clean bowl and leave overnight in a cold place or in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.  Overnight is recommended as more flavour develops. 
– Prepare 2 baking sheets with baking paper brushed with oil. 
– Once risen knock down and divide the dough into 10 roughly equal balls. 
– Roll into spheres by cupping your hand over the ball on the work surface and rolling it around until even. 
– Poke a hole in the middle using a wooden spoon. 
– Use your fingers to coax the hole bigger until you can get your hand inside it. 
-Roll the circle a bit bigger and looser. **
– Lay down on your oiled baking paper keeping the hole at around 2 inches if you can.  The dough will be quite elastic so this will take a bit of cunning!
– Leave to rise for about 20 minutes until they’re puffed up. ***
– Meanwhile heat the oven to gas mark 7 and get a very large pot of water to the boil with the last 3 tbsp of sugar, you want the absolute biggest pot you can get and it wants to be a good 3-4″ deep.  It doesn’t want to be a rolling boil but just simmering. 
– Once the bagels have risen slip them into the water in batches and poach for one minute on each side using a spatula to flip them. 
– Fish them out and drain them off a bit and put them back on the oiled tray.  Brush with the egg white let down with a little water and whisked a bit and sprinkle on any toppings you like.  I used  nigella seeds.  
– Put the trays in the oven and cook for 10 minutes then flip over the bagels and switch the trays over and cook for another 10 minutes until golden brown. 
– Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes then enjoy!

** See the Bagel Update for a better technique, twirl the ball round the stick to get a bigger hole. 

*** This is unnecessary it would seem but feel free to give them a bit of a rest before poaching.

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Soft Bread Rolls

I’ve been having good successes with bread for a while now but I usually stick to the same recipe because it works and makes excellent bread.  However, while excellent, I was after a bread roll with a soft crust instead of a nice crusty one.  While sometimes a crusty bread roll is exactly what you need at others you really need something easy to bite, for example a bun to go round a burger.  I had thought I was going to have to find a completely new recipe to get this softness in my rolls.  Luckily I stumbled upon a tip that was so ridiculously simple it was brilliant.  Brush the bread rolls with melted butter when they come out of the oven.  So simple and it works! 

I changed the recipe from my usual a little bit as I’ve been experimenting with a few different things with my bread recently I find using milk instead of water makes a very nice bread and the top comes out slightly darker.  On a crusty loaf it seems to make a delicious chewy blistered crust with nice flavour.  But essentially this is the same as my regular bread and a doddle to make. 

Makes 6 small rolls, 4 large

250g strong bread flour
4g fast action yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
150ml milk, warm
2 tbsp olive oil
a little melted butter

– Mix together the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a medium sized bowl. 
– Make a well in the centre and add the milk and oil. 
– Mix until it forms a dough then turn out onto a floured worksurface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and soft. 
– Lightly oil a bowl using your hands and then continue to knead the dough with your oil  hands until the oil is worked in. 
– Put the dough in the oiled bowl and move around so it’s covered in oil. 
– Place in a warm place to rise for about an hour or until doubled in size. *
– Knock down the dough and knead it for a minute. 
– Divide the dough into the portions you want and shape into round balls by pinching the bottom sides together until you have a smooth top. 
– Place on a baking tray and gently flatten a little with the heel of your hand. 
– Repeat for each ball of dough. 
– Leave to rise in a warm place for at least 30 minutes until the dough has roughly doubled again. 
– Bake for 10 minutes at gas mark 7. 
– Remove from the oven and immediately brush the tops generously with melted butter. 
– Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes before serving. 

* I’ve started to rise bread in front of the fire now that it’s getting frosty.  I place it on the hearth with a glass bowl over the top to keep out the drafts.  Seems to work very well!

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Pizza

We have homemade pizza fairly frequently in our house.  We’ve tried dozens of different recipes and techniques trying to find the best pizza dough recipe, the most frequent problem is that the middles become soup so we got pizza trays with holes in, which helped a bit.  Last Christmas I got mum a pizza stone but it wasn’t as impressive as all that.  Up until tonight mum has always made the dough and done all the work but tonight I was put in charge.  So I turned to google and my usual foodie haunts trying to make the best damned pizza this family has ever had.  Boasting it may be but I may well have succeeded!

The secret would appear to be part cooking the base first.  It gets all big and puffy but when you put the toppings on that goes down and means that the middle doesn’t stay all goopy but still retains a bit of crispness.  We are also guilty of piling on the toppings, in the past I have been known to have up to an inch deep on mine.  I have no will power, you see.  We set up a little area with all the toppings layed out in bowls to build our own to spec. and I just keep piling it all on!  This, of course, means that they take longer to cook so be aware that if you’re spare with the toppings it’ll take less cooking time, if you’re like me they’ll need longer. 

Makes 3 large pizzas, if not from a family of gluttons makes 4 individual ones. 

For the dough:
500g strong bread flour
2 tsp salt
1x7g sachet fast action yeast
1 tsp sugar
300ml warm water
2 tbsp olive oil

For the sauce:
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped
2x400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp herbes de provence (or basil, oregano or any herb that’s good with tomato)

For the toppings:
Whatever you like!  I always think that cheese on top is the only must, below that anything goes! 

– First, as it’s now winter here in the uk, I would remind you to prepare a warm draft free place for the dough to rise.  By the fire, on top of a radiator or boiler, in a gently warmed oven, wherever works for you.  I usually put the oven on the lowest setting (Slow Cook) while I prepare the dough then turn it off when I put the dough in and leave it.
– In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, yeast and sugar. 
– Make a well in the centre and add the oil and water. 
– Mix with a wooden spoon until mostly combined, then get in there with your hands to get it together and get any bits stuck to the bowl off by rubbing the dough around.    
– Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic adding more flour if necessary.
– Wash your bowl if necessary then lightly oil the bowl using your hand to spread it about. 
– Continue to knead the dough for a minute or two with your oily hands. 
– Place the dough in the bowl then turn over so it’s coated with oil. 
– Cover and leave to rise in your warm draft free place for 1 hour or until doubled in size. 

– Meanwhile prepare the sauce and toppings.  Chop up whatever you’re putting on the pizzas and leave them ready for people to put on themselves if you’re doing it that way. 
– For the sauce melt a knob of butter and a small splash of oil in a medium sized pan. 
– Add the garlic and stir on a low heat until just starting to brown. 
– Add the onion and cook on a low heat for about 5 minutes until it is very soft and starting to go transparent. 
– Tip in the tomatoes, tomato puree and herbs and stir well. 
– Turn up the heat and simmer for at least half an hour until the sauce is reduced by half, making sure to stir it occasionally so it doesn’t stick. 

– Heat your oven to as high as it will go.  Mine does gas mark 9. 
– Once the dough has risen knock it down and lightly knead it for a minute. 
– Cut into portions and cover the dough you aren’t working with. 
– Roll out the portion of dough into a very rough circle about 5mm thick. 
– Pick it up (you’ll lose the shape here) and place it on the pizza tray then pull and stretch the edges into a circle and neaten it up. 
– Repeat for each portion of dough. 
– Leave to rest for 10 minutes. 
– Put the bases into the oven and cook for 10 minutes.  *
– Remove from the oven and put the sauce on and spread out to the edges then put your toppings on. 
– Put back in the oven and cook for 15-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and the edge of the crust is golden brown. 
– Slide off the trays and onto plates to serve. 

*I had to do some improvisation with the oven shelves as I had 2 shelves and 3 pizzas.  I could have used the top oven as well but I’d rather only use one oven if I can and save energy.  I placed a deep cake tin on the bottom of the oven and put the grill tray on top of that to create an extra shelf.  Then I swapped the pizzas about throughout cooking so they were cooking at about the same rate.  Obviously opening and closing the oven so often meant they took longer to cook but better that than having the top one burnt to a crisp and the bottom one still soft!

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Maple Pecan Sticky Buns

I meant to post these last night but I’m sick with the most awful sore throat so I went to bed early last night.  Interestingly in the last 12 hours of ill I’ve gone off these.  Last night I was in love with them, this morning they make me feel a little sick.  They are incredibly sweet and sticky so may be that’s it, my body seems to crave protein when I’m ill. 

I have to say that even if I weren’t sick I probably won’t be making these the same way again.  The dough was brilliant.  Easy to work with and it was very tasty.  I’ve been looking for a sweet dough for doing things like this with and this one is a keeper!  I did have a bit of a problem getting it to rise but that was just one of the joys of trying to cook in the winter.  The kitchen is freezing and nothing ever cooks the same as it does over the summer.  Eventually I moved the dough through by the fire and thankfully it did its thing there. 

My problem with this recipe came from the filling.  Not only are pecans ridiculously expensive (£4 for 250g!) but the filling just wasn’t all that great, and at that price I expect great!  I think that in the future I wouldn’t put the sticky stuff all over the bottom but inside the rolls themselves, which may make this a little tidier.  It was an incredibly messy process in places and the original recipe had the cooking timings totally off so I took it out of the tin, tested it, found it was still dough in the middle then re-tinned it and put it back in the oven!  unfortunately they ended up a little too brown as a result, see the bottom pic.  I hope I’ve fixed that problem with my recipe here but do keep an eye on it. 

Makes 9

450g strong bread flour
50g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
85g butter
7g sachet fast action yeast
2 eggs, beaten
a scant 150ml milk
1 tsp cinnamon (original recipe said 2 tsp, I don’t like cinnamon)
85g light brown sugar
100g pecans
125g melted butter
125g maple syrup
50g light brown sugar
100g pecans, roughly chopped

– Mix together the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. 
– Rub in the butter with your fingers. 
– Add the yeast, egg and gradually add the milk, mixing until you have a soft dough. 
– Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and soft. 
– Place in a buttered bowl, cover and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. 
– In a food processor or blender blend together the cinnamon, light brown sugar and pecans to powder. 
– Butter a large springform cake tin or a large square one. 
– Once the dough has risen knock it down and roll it out into a large rectangle. 
– Brush the dough with melted butter. 
– Mix together the rest of the butter, the maple syrup, the brown sugar and the pecans and spread over the bottom of the cake tin. 
– Scatter the powder all over the dough, leaving a 2 cm strip on one of the narrow sides. 
– From the opposite short side roll the dough swiss roll style. 
– Pinch together the seam. 
– Cut the roll into 9. 
– Arrange these slices in the tin. 
– Cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes. 
– Bake at gas mark 6 for 30 minutes. 
– Either turn out or slide onto a plate, whichever you like, and leave to cool for a few minutes before serving. 

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Italian Stuffed Dough Balls

The filling for these dough balls came from a recipe called Italian Chicken so I thought I’d carry over the name.  Rather than being Italian in style the mix of flavours is what makes it Italian.  The tang of garlic mixed in with the bursts of tomato over the creamy base makes and excellent, and moreish, combination.  Tonight we had Italian Chicken and I thought I’d make some dough balls filled with the left over cheese mix.  I’ve tweaked the recipe from the first time I made Dough Balls and now they’re even better!  They only take an hour to throw together so it’s perfect if you don’t have time to make bread during the day. 

Makes 12 dough balls

250g strong bread flour
1 tsp (approx 4g) fast action yeast
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
150ml warm water
250g soft cheese
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tbsp herbes de provence

– In a medium sized bowl mix together the flour, yeast and salt.  Make a well in the centre. 
– Tip the water and oil into the well. 
– Mix together with a wooden spoon until the mix comes together into a dough. 
– Once combined tip our onto a floured worksurface and dust with flour. 
– Knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is soft and elastic. 
– Set aside to rest in a covered, lightly oiled bowl for 10-15 minutes. 
– Meanwhile mix together the cheese, garlic, tomatoes and herbs in a small bowl. 
– Lightly knead the dough so all the oil is absorbed. 
– Divide the dough into 12 balls, covering the dough you aren’t working with. 
– Roll each ball out into to a circle about 3″ in diameter. 
– Place a heaped teaspoon of cheese mixture in the centre of each circle. 
– Gather the edges of the circle together and pinch closed so the seam disappears. 
– Place in an oiled baking dish leaving a little space between balls. 
– Bake at gas mark 7 for 12-15 minutes until golden brown on top. 
– Serve warm to enjoy them at their best.

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Dough Balls Recipe

I love dough balls from the supermarket but they’re a bit too greasy for my liking and I don’t always plan ahead and buy them.  This evening mum was making spaghetti and meatballs and I suddenly fancied dough balls.  I wasn’t going to drive to town and back just for dough balls so I had a look online to see what I could come up with.  Unfortunately I couldn’t really find any recipes that were what I was after so I simply made it up as I went along! 

These aren’t exactly the same as supermarket bought ones, obviously.  They’re bigger, the size of a small bread bun, and the filling escapes out into the dish but they are very tasty!  I made mozerella and garlic as I love cheesy garlic bread but you could just as easily leave the cheese out or use a different cheese if you wanted to.  They took me an hour from start to eating so they’re excellent for just throwing together. 

Dough Balls

Makes 12

250g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp yeast
150ml warm water
1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
1 ball mozzerella
~60g butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed

– Mix together the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl and make a well in the centre. 
– Add the oil and water to the well and mix well until it forms a soft dough, using your hands towards the end if necessary. 
– Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes. 
– Squish the dough out quite flat then add the 1 tsp oil and fold together. 
– Continue to knead until the dough is soft and smooth. 
– Cover and leave to rest while you prepare the filling. 
– Chop the mozerella into chunks and divide roughtly into 12 even piles. 
– Soften the butter (20 seconds in the microwave if straight from the fridge) and add the crushed garlic.  Mix well. 
– Roll the dough out into a large sausage and divide into 12 equal balls. 
– Place the balls back in the bowl and cover while working. 
– Use a rolling pin to roll out each ball to about 3″ diameter.
– Place a portion of mozerella in the centre then a teaspoon of garlic butter on top of that. 
– Gather the edges of the dough and pinch together over the filling, forming a smooth ball. 
– Place the ball in a greased, ovenproof dish seam down. 
– Repeat with each dough ball, leaving a few cm space between each ball. 
– Leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. 
– Bake for 15 minutes in an oven preheated to gas mark 7. 
– Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly and reabsorb the juices a bit before serving.

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Bread!

I love making bread.  This is kind of handy when I make it every few days.  Although I suppose that if I didn’t enjoy if I wouldn’t do it!  I started making bread back in July when I was bored out of my mind and bread was the first thing I could think of that would take hours to cook.  I haven’t looked back.  I’ve made bread loaves, cottage loaves, bread buns, pita breads, focaccia, and the usual free form round loaf to my heart’s content!  There is something so theraputic about making bread.  I enjoy the all of the kneading, rising and shaping.  It all adds up to make something so satisfying and delicious. 

I started out using an overnight rising technique with my easy overnight white bread recipe but now I’ve had practice I can make bread from start to finish in 3 hours.  It really breaks down into 4 stages, mixing, rising, second rising and baking.  I think that I can get everything together, measured out, mixed and kneaded in 30 minutes.  It then needs an hour to rise, then shaping takes anything up to 30 minutes when making rolls, then another 30 minute rise, then 25 minutes cooking.  If I start at 5pm then I have freshly cooked bread on the table for dinner at 8pm. 

I thought it was about time to post about all of the little tricks I’ve learnt to make the process go a little quicker and make my bread a little better.  I use the same basic white bread recipe I started with but it’s the techniques I’ve developed that have really made the difference to the quality of the bread that I produce. 

Plaited Bread Rolls

White Bread Recipe

Makes 1 large loaf, 12 small rolls

500g strong white bread flour
7g fast action yeast
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
300ml warm water

– Heat your oven up to the lowest setting it has.  Mine has Slow Cook.  This isn’t to do any cooking, it’s just to create a warm, draft free environment for yor dough to rise in.  In the summer I was leaving the dough in a basket in the conservatory as it was very warm but now that winter is approaching the oven is the best place I’ve found. 
– Put the flour, yeast and salt in a very large bowl and mix it about a bit. 
– Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and then add the oil and water.  To get warm water I use 200ml cold water and 100ml boiling mixed together. 
– Use a spoon to mix together the ingredients until it forms into a ball of dough. 
– Get in there with your hands, floured, to gather it all together and then turn it out onto a floured work surface. 
– Dust the dough with flour on top as well and start kneading.  Squish it out ahead of you, then fold it back and rotate 90*, squish, fold, rotate.  So long as you work the dough and move it all about a lot then it doesn’t really matter how you do it.  You should be picking up the lose flour and working it in to the dough as you go.  If the dough starts to get too sticky just dust a little more flour and keep working it. 
– Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.  You’ll notice the difference in textures, it wants to be soft and smooth feeling, no dust or lumps. 
– I then turn off the oven and wash out the bowl I mixed the dough in (it’s the only very large bowl I have) and then put about 1 tbsp olive oil in, a small glug, I use my hands to spread the oil all over the inside of the bowl then use my oily hands to knead the dough again for another minute until my hands are no longer oily. (I think this could be the key step for excellent bread)   
– Shape the dough into a ball and then put it in the oiled bowl, turn it over thereby coating all of the dough in oil. 
– Cover the bowl with a tea towel and then place it in the oven, or other warm, draft free place, for one hour or until doubled in size. 
– Take the dough out, dust the top of your risen dough lightly with flour and then plunge your fist into the middle of the dough. 
– Gather the dought together, wiping it around the bowl to pick up the bits then turn out and knead for another minute or two to knock out all of the air and mix in the small amount of flour used.  
– Prepare a baking tray, or two, with a dusting of flour or a sheet of baking paper. 
– Now you shape your dough into whatever you are making. 
– If you’re making a free form loaf then pull the edges of the ball underneath it and sort of pinch together so you have a smooth top then place it seam down on the baking tray and just shape it into the rough shape you’re after, remembering to keep height as it will spread out. 
– If you’re making a loaf in a tin then squish the dough into a rectangle, fold one third over then the other third over than and place seam down into a large greased loaf tin.  You’re probably better off only using 2/3 of the dough in a loaf tin otherwise it’ll be a really massive loaf!
– If you’re making buns then cut off portions of the dough, keeping the dough you’re not using covered int he bowl, and either pinch the sides of the ball to the bottom to make a smooth ball, roll into a line then tie in a knot for a knotted bun (I think they look like snails!), or divide into 3, roll into lines then plait together pinching the ends together and tucking them tidily under for plaited rolls. 
– Leave to rise again in a warm, draft free place for 30 minutes.  Fortunately I have a top oven/grill above the main oven where I can place the bread and pick up some of the heat from the bottom oven.  Unfortunately you may not. 
– Meanwhile heat the oven to gas mark 7 with some boiling water in an oven proof dish in the bottom. 
– If making a free form loaf dust the top with flour and slash a few times with a very sharp knife. 
– Place the bread in the oven and bake for 25 minutes for a loaf, 12 minutes for rolls.  Once the top is golden brown and the base of the loaf  sounds hollow when tapped your bread is cooked.  Rolls cooked on the bottom shelf may need a few minutes more on the top shelf to brown.  Cool on a wire rack. 
– Leave the bread to stand for at least 15 minutes before eating to develop a good texture. 

Assorted bread rolls

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