Of all my food weaknesses I’d have to say bread and salted butter is my greatest. After having a week off work testing bread recipes I’ve certainly eaten plenty of slices this week!
Aren’t they the three best words to see together? I mean, of course there’s “I love you” and “Dinner is ready!” but…cheddar beer bread.
It’s been a bit of a month for bread around here, as I spend my weekends scouting out local bakeries and other produce and, well, it’d be rude not to take some home for the week, right?
But I’ll leave the complicated styles to the pros. This bread – the type that doesn’t require rising time or kneading – takes about an hour from start to finish, so it’s a great easy accompaniment to a hearty autumn stew or chilli. (The ease is a relief when you’ve spent the first half of your evening chopping, stirring, and lifting absurdly heavy pans in an effort to batch-cook something excellent.)
I feel like the base recipe also has plenty of scope for adaptions – herbs? Heavier beers and cocoa? More cheeses?
But we’ll start with this. Cheddar beer bread, I love you (dinner is ready!).
The pub was where I realised it: with just over 100 days to go, I am on a crash course for relearning patience. Perhaps not relearning; perhaps stretching through deep breaths and pressing outwards, like yoga. 100 days until the referendum, I mean, of course. Referendum debate is unavoidable now, whether it’s through facebook — oh god, facebook — or thrust into your actual face by a man waving The Sun, in a strangely accusatory manner, in a south London boozer.
Because that’s how the conversations start. Not through a natural topic change, but as a result of one person brandishing their opinion, treating their anecdotes like knuckledusters, as if when they hit you enough, they’ll win.
It won’t relent over the next three months; the same old arguments will continue to be trotted out by the same people, often unprompted, and unnecessary when we both know neither will change their mind. And I will be there thinking, “We could be talking about books right now, or food, or anything, honestly anything, else.” So we breathe, and we press at the barriers of our tolerance, feeling them expand, and we let these next few months run their course.
This bread, too, requires patience, and the ability to know when it’s time to walk away and let things play out. All the grinding and rising and warming and soaking and blitzing that has to be done before you can enjoy the waft of butter and spice from the oven.
But it’s worth it.
t my parents’, we have an annual Easter egg hunt, despite the fact that we are all at least 12 years too old for such antics. The point of the hunt isn’t really finding the chocolate and gorging until we have to allocate one person to roll the rest of us into the dining room for lunch. The real point is finding the most difficult places for the eggs for my oldest brother, so we can sit back and snigger as he wanders about looking for them.
Until this year. This year, with one heart attack behind us and a wedding in the near future, we’re foregoing the chocolate. Instead, I’ll have to live vicariously through you lot and Instagram. This month’s round-up slightly reflects this.
Last thing before we hop off to the good stuff…don’t forget that you can get £10 off at Bloom & Wild (in time for Mothers Day) here! This isn’t even a paid-for endorsement, they’re just…really good. Continue reading
couple of weeks back, on one of those many days when people were questioning if somebody had twisted the planet to place us back in February, with the threat of rain hanging over us, I went to a talk at Borough Market with Stephanie. It was based around what makes good food writing – the styles of recipe writing, how best to introduce a dish, how many ingredients is too many. The best bit of the night was probably the food after the panel, but as I tucked a blanket up around my neck and listened to how food writing should carry emotion and take a reader to another place, I couldn’t help thinking What if it’s just a recipe you like? What if it’s no more complicated than that?
So. Here’s something that I like. It doesn’t need a personal essay or a link back to childhood. The recipe is all about a sweet, pillowy dough that makes a light floof sound when you turn it out and the joy of painting with jam and studding it with chocolate. Continue reading
Hands up if you feel like switching your oven on right now!
Tumbleweed, as expected. The nation’s bakers are on strike. Grass is the colour of sand, and people are the colour of lobsters. As we enter the third week of real summer, the country is wilting.
I’m already dreaming of jeans and jackets and pumpkin puree in everything. I’m planning what I’ll make when the temperatures dip below 20 again – hey, remember that? – and I’m not avoiding the oven for fear of melting away like a snowman.
But there’s one major plus to the heat. I first made these rolls – and, indeed took these photos – in March. And by March I, of course, mean “the dead of winter, 2013”. I made the dough, sat the bowl on top of a hot water bottle, wrapped it lovingly in my duvet. I glanced at it every twenty minutes or so, waiting to see if it had grown. Two hours later, it had just about doubled. We’d managed to ward off the cold long enough to get that yeast going.
But these days? It’s just a matter of popping it in a warm room and watching it grow, like a nature programme time lapse video of a butterfly maturing.
The best way to eat these rolls – in any weather – is sliced in half, toasted, and spread with mashed avocado. Perfect.
100g wholemeal bread flour
400g white bread flour
7g fast action yeast (one sachet)
80g cheddar, grated
Lukewarm water (around 350ml)
1) In a large bowl, combine the flours, yeast, sugar, and salt, keeping the salt and yeast on opposite sides initially. Add around half the water, and turn the mixture with your fingers. Add the rest of the water a little at a time, until all the flour is picked up from the sides of the bowl. You may not need to use all the water. Continue to turn with your fingers until a rough dough forms.
2) Coat your work top with a little olive oil, then tip the dough out and knead for 5-10 minutes, until the dough is smooth. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Allow to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
3) Lightly flour your worktop and tip out the dough. Knock out the air by folding the dough inwards until the dough is smooth. Grease a 10 inch round cake tin (Springform if you have it!).
4) Split the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll one piece into a ball and then flatten out. Spoon around 2/3tsp pesto into the centre, and top with 1/8th of the cheese.
5) Fold all the edges in to make a ball and place in the cake tin join side down. Repeat with the remaining 7 pieces, cover the tin with a clean tea towel and leave to double in size. Preheat oven to 170C.
6) When the rolls have risen, pour about 3 inches of boiling water into a large roasting tin and place at the bottom of the oven. Bake the rolls on the centre shelf for about 40 minutes, until the tops are a deep golden brown and they make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.