Category Archives: food

New Year’s Resolution: Bread 5 of 12: Heritage Twirly Bread

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This bread-making business is getting kind of addictive, I enjoyed the breakfast rolls from April so much that I made them a further 2 times in May, but that doesn’t count so I also made a new kind of bread. This new awesome organic deli/cafe/shop opened up 2 minutes from my flat last month, I know – dangerous. Earthy has a really cool range of freshly baked breads and a huge variety of flours, enough variety to last me the rest of the year!

They have sour-dough flour, ciabatta flour, whole-meal flour, white flour and many, many more. I decided to go with Organic Heritage Wholegrain Flour made by Doves Farm. It is made from

a mixture of older wheat varieties obtained primarily from gene banks and now dominated by April Bearded, a popular 19th century variety and one of the first spring wheats ever grown in the UK. Dove Farm website

It is called heritage flour because when it is baked into bread it has the same consistency and taste as bread made hundreds of years ago, a dark wheaty artisan loaf. According to the website the bread is perfect for biscuits and cakes but alas I am making bread! Luckily the flour packaging had a lovely recipe for a loaf of heritage bread on the back. I followed the recipe instructions exactly, which called for a lot more airing of the dough before baking. I noticed that the dough was a lot more elasticated and pliable, this could mean that my kneading method is getting better or it could just be a characteristic of the flour.

As my experimentation with making rolls went pretty well last time I decided to play around with the shape of the bread again. As the heritage bread is very traditional I thought artisan-style twirls would work well. Now, I could have looked up how to make twirl shapes with bread but I decided to just go for it. This unfortunately resulted in awkward bumpy blobs of bread but never mind! Thankfully they still tasty nice.

It is recommended that only experienced bakers use this flour because it is very heavy and needs precise attention to detailing during the bread-making process, I’d agree that this is probably good advice. My bread was a little dense and moist so I ended up waiting for it to go a little stale and used it to make a bread crumb batter for home-made fish and chips.  On reflection I think this flour would be perfect for those that have a bread machine, or for professional bakers or for those looking to make artisan-style cakes and biscuits.

Nevertheless I’ve learnt some lessons and my bread crumb batter was extremely tasty, tasty enough to make this experiment worthwhile! 

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Red Velvet | I love you

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Photo by Lisa Djan via Pinterest

Ahhh Red Velvet cupcakes, delicious, delectable and totally adorable. These chocolaty, buttery, moist cupcakes are perfect for weddings and other special occasions (or just for all day, any day). They are delicate and with a winning recipe they can make any afternoon tea a lot more interesting.  

I start to get a bit itchy if I haven’t baked anything in a while so I decided to make some cupcakes. I’ve found that when baking simple, uncomplicated recipes always provide the most satisfying and flavoursome results. Red Velvet cupcakes are a little more sophisticated than your standard vanilla cupcake but are still very simple in terms of baking. It is the presentation and decorating that gives them the edge and makes them stand above other cupcakes, all the other cupcakes (apart from rainbow cupcakes, they are just awesome).

Red velvet cupcakes are a classic afternoon tea accompaniment. They are red in colour yet chocolaty in taste and are covered with a gorgeous cream cheese frosting. I used the BBC GoodFood recipe as a reference because it was uncomplicated and recipes from this website always come with a good reputation and lots of user comments. I adapted the recipe to make less, here’s what you need:

  • 1 1/2 cups of self-raising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 30ml red food colouring
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (good quality) vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

I also used cupcake tins rather than muffin tins so that they were a little bit smaller (I like lots of frosting to cupcake ratio). You make this recipe like any other cupcake recipe except you’ll have an extra addition to the method; the best way to evenly distribute the chocolate flavouring and red colouring without ruining the texture of the cupcake is to make a paste with the cocoa powder and colouring. You can then add this mixture directly after beating in the eggs. Making the perfect frosting can definitely make or break this recipe too, here’s what you’ll need for the frosting:

  • 100g unsalted butter, not margarine
  • 200g cream cheese, mascarpone is by far the best
  • 2 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

The consistency of the frosting should be thick, thick enough to pop in a pipping bag and hold its shape when it’s piped onto the cupcakes. To avoid melting the frosting make sure the cupcakes have cooled after the oven for at least half an hour. I had a bit of fun and experimented with some silver spray-in-a-can food colouring, this was something everyone who ate them commented on, and it went down a treat with the guys at work!

These cupcakes are truly scrumptious and utterly easy to make. The addition of buttermilk in the recipe makes the cupcakes irresistibly moist and the chocolate flavour is unexpected and an added surprise with every bite. These are great if you want to make an impression with your baking, simple yet effective. The frosting is fluffy and works perfectly with the moist cupcake underneath, add a touch of cinnamon to the frosting if you want to spice it up a little. I didn’t add enough food colouring so mine were a little dull, it’d be a good idea to test one cupcake out beforehand to see the colour – I’ll do this next time.

These cupcakes go so well with a lovely cup of chai tea latte, be careful though as one Red Velvet cupcake is never enough (hence why I cut down my ingredient portions)!

Have you got any additions or twists on this popular classic recipe? Let me know in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from all the fellow baking bloggers out there!

New Year’s Resolution: Bread 4 of 12: Breakfast Rolls

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Went a bit mental with the flour

To save some money here and there on lunches I decided to make some soup. Jamie Oliver’s tomato soup recipe is simple, easy and delicious! I made a huge batch of it, enough to last the whole week with some left over for the boyfriend. After a couple of days of soup without the accompaniment of bread I started to get a little bored and craved it a bit. To continue my money-saving streak I had a quick sift through my cupboards and decided I had everything I needed to make some bread. 

I got out my trusty bread recipe book that I bought a couple of months ago and had a look at recipes that might go with my soup. I decided on a simple bread recipe to go with my simple soup, lovely fluffy breakfast rolls or ‘baps’ as they are known in Scotland. They are really easy to make and went perfectly with the tomato soup. As always, I added a couple of things to the recipe to change it up a bit, here are my ingredients:

 

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 150g melted butter
  • 5 g dried yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp black pepper
  • bunch of basil leaves, chopped

I added the black pepper and basil to the recipe, mostly because my basil plant looked like it wanted to be used and I thought the black pepper would compliment the tomato soup. I was really stringent with the method this time. I left the dough to rise and re-rise for as long as possible and pre-heated the oven well in advance. The recipe suggested the rolls would take 20-25 minutes to cook but mine took 35 minutes, I think this is due to my rubbish oven rather than the recipe being inaccurate. I also had the oven turned up high for the first 10 minutes to crisp up the top.

The result? I was extremely happy with my bread rolls, they had the best texture out of any of the breads I’ve made so far this year. They were extremely fluffy, not dense at all. Having the oven up high for the first 10 minutes of cooking meant I had a lovely, golden, crusty tops to my baps. Another tip to perfect this is to sprinkle a bit of cold water on the dough when you first put it in the oven. I was really happy with my addition of basil and pepper, especially the pepper as it worked really well when you spread the bread with butter and dipped in the soup.

Breakfast Rolls with Black Pepper & Basil

I had a bread roll with my soup for the rest of the week and saved loads of money! This recipe proves that bread doesn’t have to be complicated to be perfect. This simple recipe was the best attempt at baking bread so far and I think my strictness with the method, rising times and oven temperature really made a difference.

What is your favourite kind of bread to serve with soup? Let me know in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you 🙂

 

New Year’s Resolution: Bread 3 of 12: Banana Bread

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Photo by Cindy Nelson via PinterestI’m a bit behind for March (sorry). I baked this bread at the end of March but haven’t got round to blogging about it yet. So basically, I had a pretty indulgent March, eating way to much bread and other naughty things. So I decided to cheat, just a little bit. Banana bread isn’t technically bread, although it has bread in the name, so ha I win. 

I decided to bake banana bread instead of a savoury loaf because it’s easier to share something sweet (or send the boyfriend off with it to football practice or work). I picked banana bread because I haven’t made it before, I like bananas and it seemed nice and simple to make. I checked out a couple of recipes online but decided on BBC Foods recipe as it had a bunch of good reviews, I added a couple of things to the recipe – just to make it my own. Here’s what I used:

  • 285g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 110g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tbp vanilla extract (good quality)
  • handful of poppy seeds
  • 40ml buttermilk
  • 50ml stout (I used Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate Stout)

The stout and poppy seeds were my own additions; I was enjoying the stout whilst I was cooking and it seemed like a good idea to substitute some of the buttermilk for some stout… The addition of poppy seeds was because, well I like poppy seeds. This recipe was really easy and fun to make and the uncooked mixture tasted almost as good as the finish article. There are a couple of key elements to making this recipe perfectly.

Firstly, make sure the oven is fully pre-heated before baking your bread, this will stop soggy or burnt bottoms which ultimately ruin any cake or bread. This recipe requires you to cream the butter and sugar; ensure there are no lumps before adding any other ingredients, the cream mixture should turn a very pale yellow colour. Then fold in the rest of the ingredients, making sure not to take all the air out of the mixture. It says to mash the bananas, I mashed 2 bananas and thinly sliced the rest to give the bread more texture. The recipe calls for it to be baked for about an hour, mine took a little bit longer but I think that’s because my oven is rubbish. The easiest way to check if it’s cooked is the most traditional way, stick a knife in it, if it comes out clean it should be cooked. The top of the bread should be firm and golden grown.

So how did it taste? This is a very naughty, moreish bread and is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of chai tea. The bread has a cake-like moistness to it and the banana, vanilla and caster sugar make it lovely and sweet. This means it doesn’t need to be served with anything on it at all. I tried a couple of slices with some toppings, one with butter and one with peanut butter – both were lovely and made me want more and more. The stout gave the banana bread a lovely rich, nutty flavour – I can’t imagine the banana bread without the addition of stout now. The poppy seeds gave the bread lots more texture, check your teeth after you’ve had a slice though.

The Kitchin: An Unforgettable Meal

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The KitchinIt has been my goal for some time now to visit a Michelin Star restaurant, not because I’m a food snob that wants to pay stupid amounts of money for a plate of food, but because I want to experience the service of a Michelin Star restaurant (as well as the food). I was curious to see if I would feel awkward, out of place and out of my depth. I finally got the opportunity to visit one when my boyfriend got himself a new fantastic job, a reason to celebrate. 

I’m pretty blessed living in Edinburgh which is absolutely any foodies dream, there are independent cafes and restaurants on every corner and you can pretty much get any cuisine your heart desires. We decided we’d visit The Kitchin as he is a local Edinburgh boy, born and bred, not to mention that we’re constantly hearing incredible things about this restaurant. Weekends were booked up until June but they had a table available during the week so we went with that.

Tom Kitchin is bit of a celebrity chef now after a couple of appearances on Masterchef so we weren’t quite sure if he’d actually be there. After a couple of tweets on the day expressing our excitement for our first visit to the restaurant he replied saying ‘Looking forward to seeing you guys tonight’, so we guessed he would be there!

Gav put on a suit and I (reluctantly) put on some high heels and we jumped in a taxi to the restaurant. We’d already decided that we would go with the tasting menu, basically so we could try as many different things as possible – it’s not like we go to these kind of places every day! We got the wine tasting menu alongside, I know – ambitious on a school night.

I’m not going to go into huge amounts of detail about each dish but can I just say, The Kitchin is a truely incredible experience. From the minute you walk through the door you are met by a number of people ready and happy to cater to your every need. We were so happy we got the wine tasting menu because it opened our eyes to some incredible wines we didn’t even know existed. This was particularly eye opening for Gav who isn’t much of a fan of white wine but was shocked at how beautiful their choice of wine was.

So, the food. The tasting menu was a whopping seven courses long including an amuse bouche, pre-starter, starter, middle course (take a breath), fish course, meat course and dessert. There were a couple of dishes that really stood out for me. Tom Kitchin’s signiture dish Pig’s Head & Langoustine was on the tasting menu, I’d heard of this one. This was absolutely stunning, the pig’s head tasted like pulled pork but ten times richer and the ear salad had the most delicious dressing, this was a favourite of Gavin’s too. Then there was the Razor Clams starter: razor clams from Arisaig served with these gorgeously cooked diced vegetables with chorizo oil and lemon confit. This was so moreish and I can’t even describe how good it was! It was creamy yet light and delicate but so flavoursome, so yummy!

Obviously we had a load of other food but those were my highlights. The service was something we’d never experienced before either, an extremely knowledgeable sommelier presented each wine with a brief description of each without over pushing it or interrupting our meal. Each meal was perfectly timed and we were left to enjoy, and digest our food before the next course (I love it when you’re not rushed).

This experience was well worth the money and I don’t know how I am going to eat anywhere else now! I think Castle Terrace will be the next place on our list as Kitchin had a hand in starting up the restaurant. The Kitchin’s ability to present beautiful Scottish produce so perfectly and seasonally and in such an exciting way was inspirational and the experience was truly a pleasure. Here are some sneaky photos I took whilst we were there, just to make you all jealous!

New Year’s Resolution: Bread 2 of 12: Festival Bread

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My new bread book

I’ve left it quite late this month but it still counts! I went and bought myself a book, a bread book: River Cottage Handbook No.3 – Bread. It’s nice and compact, has a lovely section on making bread and taking care of your bread and still has loads of recipes. 

After making a pretty simple granary loaf last month, I decided to mix it up a little but still remained pretty unadventurous. I’d like to perfect my bread-making technique before I try anything too outrageous (if you can describe bread as outrageous). I decided upon a simple recipe in my new book, Festival Bread.

I wondered over to Waitrose in the hope that they might have a better selection of bread flours than our trusty Tesco, I was right – Waitrose has a fantastic baking section. I managed to get everything I needed, including rapeseed oil, which I’ve been looking for for a while now. The author of my new bread book describes festival bread as:

A celebration of the inaugural River Cottage Festival, we thought we’d have a bit of fun. So, from a choice of five or six different flours and a couple of dozen other ingredients, around sixty guests, my co-host Steven and I came up with this unlikely recipe – through nominating, voting and a little cajoling. The alfalfa seeds got in on novelty rather than merit. Steven was the only voice in favour of poppy seeds, so we put some in.. to keep him happy.

Festival bread is a mix and match of ingredients that results in a rich, satisfying loaf of bread that sits perfectly buttered with a hot mug of tea. I don’t think it’s the kind of bread that you’d use to make a sandwich or serve with soup, it’s more of a sweet snacking bread. Here’s the recipe:

  • 500g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 5g powdered dried yeast
  • 10g fine salt
  • 150ml warm water
  • 150ml warm cider
  • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • handful of flaked hazelnuts, poppy seeds, alfalfa seeds and raisins

I won’t lie, I chose this recipe mostly because it included cider, one of my guilty pleasures but it turned out great! I followed the classic bread making method, used in my new bread book, that calls for less raising and kneading time for the dough than the previous method I used. I think that the combination of this and ingredients, such as cider and honey meant that the bread was very moist and rather dense. On reflection, I think I’d have added less liquid and left the bread to rise for a longer period of time, just to compare the results.

Despite this, my boyfriend assures me it was very tasty and especially nice warm. It almost tastes a little bit like a dough-ier fruit cake. The texture of the bread is thick rather than airy and light but I think this is due to the ingredients rather than the bread-making method.

One thing I am particularly happy with is the crust which is perfectly browned and crusty. I think this is a result of me turning the oven right up to the hottest setting for the first ten minutes of baking and splashing the bread with boiling water, it seems to have worked. I added a sprinkle of poppy seeds straight before baking which has given it a really nice look. They have seeped into the textured cuts in the top.

I’m going to give this bread 6/10. It is a lovely filling loaf that doesn’t rely on density and relies more on the texture of the ingredients and taste, but it isn’t very versatile and couldn’t be used in place of a standard loaf. Like I said, it will work best fresh from the oven with a hot cup of tea, or toasted and spread with homemade peanut butter with a bottle of cloudy cider (or in my case the leftover cider from the recipe!)

The finished article: Festival Bread

Let me know if you try this recipe, I’d love to find out how yours turned out and if the texture is down to method or recipe. 

New Year’s Resolution: Bread 1 of 12: Seeded Granary Bread

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I made a silly number of New Year’s Resolutions for 2012. I don’t know what possessed me but I’ve decided that 2012 is going to be the year I do lots of things. So this year I’d like to jog a half marathon, write more blog posts, save more money and attempt to learn how to bake.

Bread tin & mixing bowl

So I’ve set myself a target of baking a different kind of bread every month. I got myself some bakers’ tools (bread tin and large ceramic mixing bowl) and got myself some recommendations from resident Edinburgh food geeks and baking enthusiasts.

I decided to start off with something quite simple, at least until I can get the kneading process down to a tea. After a little bit of research I found out that the art to bread is the way in which you knead the dough – basically the way you air the mixture. I wanted to try something with plain-ish flour but didn’t want to go as simple as the plain white loaf.

I decided upon a seeded granary loaf using the method of a simple white loaf. I picked up some dried yeast, wholemeal flour and a variety of seeds (caraway, pumpkin, sesame and poppy). I’ve chosen a very simple method in the hope that I can work from that method, tweaking and changing it in the future so that it works for me.

The method basically goes like this:

  1. Mix the ingredients (make sure to mix the yeast with lukewarm water before adding to the rest of the ingredients – to activate the yeast)
  2. Knead dough for 10 minutes until elastic and slightly sticky
  3. Roll back into a ball and place back in the mixing bowl, cover with cling film and leave to double in size for 1 hour
  4. Knead again for 5 minutes
  5. Place in a well oiled bread tin and leave to rise for another hour
  6. Bake for 40 minutes

I got some great tips from some bread-making experts on twitter, some that I utilised and some that I didn’t and wish I did. I set the oven on the highest heat setting for the first 10 minutes of baking the bread and sprinkled the loaf with water to create a nice little crust, these tips worked really well! It was also recommended to me that I use rapeseed oil instead of the standard olive oil in the mixture. It is said to be less heavy than standard olive oil and provides a more delicate taste. I didn’t do this as Tesco didn’t have any but I will next time to compare the difference in texture and taste. I will also be using sea salt instead of table salt for my next loaf to compare the differences.

Seeded Granary BreadSo, the finished article. I’m overall really happy with my first attempt at baking bread. It seems that by sticking to the simplistic method I haven’t made anything more difficult than it should be and it’s something I can really work from. The bread is a great size and filled out the bread tin nicely and also had a fantastic crispy crust.

Inside the bread is textured, nutty and buttery. It is very slightly dense but I’m sure as my kneading method gets better the breads will inevitably get more air and will hopefully be lighter. It was quite messy to cut, I think if I made this loaf again I wouldn’t bother putting seeds on the top of the loaf as most of them fell off when I started cutting the bread anyway.

I’d give this loaf 6/10. It’s pretty uninspiring in terms of flavour and ingredients used and I hope to change this next month. However I’m really happy that it came out actually looking like bread and hopefully after another couple of months I can be producing top quality loafs to be proud of!

I served this bread topped with butter with a home-made creamy garlic rabbit stew that I cooked in my slow cooker for 8 hours. The perfect Sunday supper!