Category Archives: hints and tips

What can a course cover?

Almost anything you like.  The photos below show the output from our last course which included basic white and granary loaves, focaccia, panettone, pesto swirls and spiced marzipan dessert bread.  We also covered shaping, knot rolls, 3 and 4 strand plaits, cottage loaves as well as small rolls for dinner parties and ‘shots’, very small rolls with olives in the centre.

Sicilian Schiacciata

Discovered Aromi in Cambridge, a cafe serving delicious Sicilian bread and cakes: http://www.aromi.co.uk/ Particularly liked their Schiacciata so made some on Sunday:

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Ok, not quite as good as these but this chap looks m,like he has been making them all his life.  You can watch him work the dough through the window of the Cafe!

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Its a 70% hydration dough and, using lots of semolina, it doesn’t get too sticky.  One to add to the flat bread course, Nov 8th.

 

 

Mixers

This is a very personal matter but here are my views for what they are worth.  The Kenwood Chef I have had for over 25 years is still going and is very reliable but about six months ago I needed to spread the risk and buy another mixer.  Looked at the Kitchen Aid but, frankly, it’s pricey and I am not a fan of the American retro look.  The Chef or its modern equivalent was also rather expensive and there was a deal on the K mix so K mix it was.

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It has a larger bowl than the chef and will handle 1300g flour which will make about 2.2kg dough so good for 4-5 loaves.  If you are serious about bread and using the mixer a lot, make sure the mixer has metal gears; much more robust than plastic.  Apart from a minor problem engaging the dough hook and the danger of dropping the arm because there is no resistance, the K mix works well and looks good.

Other mixers are available.

Seedy bread

There are many seeded flours available including one in the Waitrose range which includes chunky pumpkin seeds.  Holland and Barrett and other health food stores sell most seeds in bulk, usually at reasonable prices and they can be added dry or soaked overnight. They can be lightly toasted in a pan and my favourite mix is pumpkin, sunflower and linseed.

Whizzing them in a blender to reduce the size and improve the availability of the vitamins etc in the seeds. is a good idea.  In fact, linseed is so tough it will pass through you entire unless you break it up!

The Waitrose Love Life seeded and malted bread flour is currently 25% off so worth stocking up!  http://www.waitrose.com/shop

Holland and Barrett will deliver to your door and often have special deals  http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/shop/food-drink/

Flour

I forgot one of the better sites for home baker: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/.  Lots of advice, recipes and you can buy from their UK store too.

As far as flours are concerned, bakers can get very passionate about the flour they use, insisting on organic, stoneground for example.  I am not a great fan of anything organic, partly scientific and partly because of cost and, particularly if you are adding strong flavours or filling your dough, I don’t believe it is worth buying expensive flours.  I admit I have not done a side by side comparison but these are the ones I tend to use:

Strong white: any supermarket own brand

Wholemeal/brown: Sainsburys own brand especially good

Allinson Country Grain and Seed and grain: not cheap but great to work with.  http://www.allinsonflour.co.uk/products/

Waitrose Love life: the bright red, green or orange packets.  The flour is milled by Marriages and each is a very different combination of grains, seeds and malted flour in one case.  Although more expensive than many other flours they make a very nice loaf for a special occasion.  http://www.waitrose.com/shop/ProductView-10317–151014-Waitrose+LOVElife+seeded+malted+bread+flour.  You can also buy Marriages flour direct from their mill in 1.5Kg and 18kg bags: http://flour.co.uk/buy-our-flour

If you want to buy organic Shipton Mill has a very broad selection of bread flours: http://www.shipton-mill.com/flour-direct-shop/flour/bread-flour.

Advice, inspiration, help

For baking accessories: Bakery Bits is tops; http://bakerybits.co.uk/

I buy my Panettone cases from here as well as the Panettone essence so essential to making this loaf.  Also the Bannetons for sourdough are good; pricey but last forever.

For advice on baking, videos of techniques etc

http://www.weekendbakery.com/ is very good.  Although American, it has a lot of hints and tips, plenty of videos and is well worth a look;

http://www.sustainweb.org/realbread/; doing a lot to promote better bread and has lots of advice;

http://www.virtuousbread.com/how-to-make-bread/ is a great idea, teaching people to bake bread and then starting a community micro-bakery;

Fruit and nut

Tried another sourdough recipe from the Bread and Butter Project book last Saturday: fruit sourdough with raisins, sultanas and currants, soaked in tea of course.  I also added some roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped.  Took an age to rise and was rather flat but not dense.  Good texture and taste especially the nuts but not my favourite which remains Aussie fruit loaf: http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/19993/rich+fruit+loaf

I only use Cinnamon so it tastes different to hot cross buns and I don’t add any sugar plus I mix 1/3 strong wholemeal with 2/3 strong white flour.

Going to try walnut and fig this week; recipe on the back of Allinson Country Grain flour packet or here: http://www.bakingmad.com/walnut-and-fig-country-grain-loaf-recipe/