One of my summer projects was to make sourdough bread. I made my own starter and tried out a few different recipes/techniques. What initially seemed like a massive faff to make bread, quickly developed into a bit of an obsession and I’m now making sourdough whenever I’m home at the weekends. It’s time consuming in that the dough needs to be mixed and stretched and risen over 24 hours, and you do need to plan ahead. But once you know the routine, there’s something quite relaxing about tending to the dough periodically throughout a day.
I follow the instructions from The Kitchn almost to the letter. I use slightly less water and my rising period in these cool climes can be longer. Instructions here.
I forgot we had red currant bushes. In years past, what little crop was produced was eaten by the birds. Not sure what happened this year but we have more red currants than we can handle! Red currants have topped salads and cereals and they’ve been made into jelly and cordial. The best way to eat them is by the handful straight from the bush but these muffins are a close second for me.
Red Currant and Almond Muffins
150g plain flour
100g ground almonds
3 tspn baking powder
50g caster sugar
225ml milk (plus extra if required)
60g butter melted
1 cup red currants
1 tblspn almond extract
- Preheat oven to 190oC and butter a muffin tin.
- Sift together the dry ingredients into a large bowl then stir in the red currants until evenly distributed.
- Briefly whisk together the wet ingredients and add to the bowl. Use a large metal spoon to fold ingredients together. Do this briskly and do not over mix. Add a little extra milk if required.
- Spoon batter into tins (approx ⅔ full). Bake for 25 mins until risen and golden on top.
6kg of butter later, my course at the John C Campbell Folk School is over.
Wonderful week in a wonderful place with wonderful people.
This summer I’m heading back to the John C Campbell Folk School to teach a British baking course. Very exciting.
On the list to teach are Hot Cross Buns – beautiful, spiced tea cakes that are eaten around Easter. I’d never made them before and expected them to be tricky but it turns out, they are very straightforward to make at home and are miles better than anything I’ve ever bought in the shops. They also make the house smell utterly divine. Can see these being made all year round from now on.
Hot Cross Buns
300ml full-fat milk
10g sachet dried yeast
500g strong bread flour (plus approx. 50g more)
1 tsp salt
75g caster sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tspn mixed spice
60g mixed peel
1 egg , beaten
For the cross:
75g plain flour
For the glaze
3 tblspn caster sugar & 1 tblspn water
- Heat the milk and butter gently in a small pan until the butter has melted and the milk is warm. Remove from heat and leave until the milk is tepid. Add the yeast and leave for 10 mins.
- Meanwhile, sift the flour, salt, sugar and spices into a bowl. Stir in the sultanas and mixed peel until well distributed.
- Make a well in the dry ingredients then add the yeasty milk and egg. Stir to form a sticky dough. Tip dough onto a floured surface then knead for 10 – 15 minutes. If the dough is too wet to control, add a little more flour but do this very gradually. You’re looking for a soft, light dough. I do this by hand as I’ve found it difficult to get the consistency right in a mixer.
- Once dough is smooth and elastic, place in an oiled bowl. Cover and leave somewhere warm until double in size. Remove from bowl. Punch out the air and knead for another minute. Place in bowl to rise again.
- Once dough has doubled in size, remove from bowl and roll into a sausage shape. Cut tangerine sized pieces off the dough (75/80g) and roll into a ball. Place dough balls on a baking tray lined with parchment, 5cm apart. Continue until all the dough is used. Cover with a clean dish cloth and leave in a warm place to rise again. Preheat the oven to 220oC / 200oC(fan).
- Mix together the plain flour and water until a smooth paste has formed. It shouldn’t be too runny. Spoon into a plastic sandwich bag and cut the very tip off one corner. The dough squeezed out should be approximately 5mm wide – it’ll spread. Once dough balls have doubled in sized, slowly pipe crosses on each of the buns.
- Bake the buns in the oven for 10/15 mins until buns are bronzed and risen. Remove from oven.
- Whilst buns are baking, make the glaze. Add the sugar and water to a pan and heat gently until sugar is completely dissolved.
- Brush the hot buns with the glaze immediately after they come out of the oven. Place buns on a wire rack to cool down.
Best eaten warm with butter and/or jam. If you aren’t eating these on the day, freeze once cooled.
Sundays are for long walks with Marco and baking bread. This morning there’s a distinct autumnal chill in the air. It’s not quite hat weather but it’s not far off. We’re heading to our favourite woods to chase pheasants (Marco) and pick mushrooms (me) and when we return, I’ll make my current favourite bread: Spelt, Fig and Walnut.
I’ve taken to kneading my bread by hand again. For a while there, I was using a mixer to do all the work and a fine job it did of it too. Missed the therapy of working the dough myself, though. It feels oddly right now that those 15 minutes have returned to my Sunday routine.
Fig and Walnut Bread (Got the idea for this bread from the back of the Doves’ spelt flour package. I’m not so keen on bread make entirely with spelt though. This ratio was more to my liking.)
300ml tepid water
1 tspn dried active yeast
1 tspn brown sugar
150g spelt flour
350g strong white flour
1 tspn salt
6 dried figs
A little oil
- Add the yeast and sugar to the water and set aside for 10 mins.
- Sift the flours and salt into a large bowl. Add the water and use your hand to mix to a rough dough.
- Turn out on to a clean surface and knead for 10 – 15 minutes until dough is silky and pliable. Place in a lightly oiled plastic bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for an hour or two until doubled in size.
- While dough is rising, briefly toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan then chop roughly. Soak the figs in hot tea for 30 mins, blot dry then chop roughly.
- When dough is risen, tip on to a lightly floured surface and knock the air out. Stretch dough out into a flat rectangle and sprinkly across the nuts and figs. Roll dough up then knead again for a couple of minutes until filling is evenly distributed and dough is holding together again (it’ll be a little tricky at first but it will happen).
- Shape into a ball and place on lightly floured baking sheet. Cover ( I put a big plastic bowl upside-down over the dough) and leave to rest in a warm place for another hour.
- Meanwhile, heat the over to 190oC. Make sure there is a baking tray heating on the shelf below the one you’ll put the bread on.
- When the dough is risen, sprinkle with a little white flour then slash diagonally three times. Place in the oven. Pour a cup of water into the hot baking tray then shut the door quickly. This will create lots of steam to give you a good crust.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes. Bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
- Let cool completely before slicing.
Very good with some salty butter and/or sharp cheddar.