Honey and walnut loaf

Honey and walnut loaf
Honey and walnut loaf

This bread had two firsts for me – first bread using wholemeal flour and first bread with bits in it.

So, firstly to tackle wholemeal (aka whole wheat) flour. Wholemeal loaves are often considered denser than white, because of the amount of fibre it holds. However they have more flavour coming from the wheat kernel (wholemeal flour uses 100% of the kernel whereas white flour only uses 75%) and is generally considered to be healthier.

From my research, the trick is to give it plenty of time and space. In this recipe, you let the dough sit for 30 minutes before your first knead which I’m assuming provides extra time for fermentation.

An article I read by Paul Hollywood suggested leaving it to ferment for 24 hours, but I’m never going to be that organised and I can’t see how it’s practical.

The bits were another complication, and it took some playing around to get all the walnuts incorporated.

I did notice early on that the dough was quite dry, so added some extra water. I also didn’t feel like I got to the really smooth, elastic stage with the dough after kneading so had a feeling it would be a bit heavy.

In the end, I had nothing to worry about. The bread came out soft, light and delicious!

Honey and walnut loaf (James Morton)

300g wholemeal flour
200g strong white flour
1 x 7g sachet dried yeast
10g salt
125g full fat milk, room temperature
30g runny honey
200g tepid water
200g walnuts, whole

In a large bowl, rub together both flours, yeast and salt – rubbing the yeast and salt in at opposite ends of the bowl. Remember, salt kills yeast!!

Add the milk, honey and water and combine into a wet dough. (Note: this is where mine looked a bit too dry so I added a bit more water)

Cover the dough and rest for 30 minutes. Once rested, knead for at least 5 minutes or until it’s beginning to come together. Add the walnuts, and keep kneading for another 5 minutes until they are distributed and the dough is really stretchy and noticeably smooth.

Cover and rest the dough for 1-1.5 hours, or until doubled in size.

Once rested, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape as desired.

Prove on a floured board for another hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 240C, then turn down to 210C when ready to bake. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until light and golden brown.

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Focaccia two ways

Paul's focaccia
Paul’s focaccia

I’ve been on holidays for the last few weeks and have been dying to get back into my kitchen and get my hands dirty.

And I couldn’t have picked a better bread to test out than focaccia.

This bread dough is seriously like play dough and great fun to prepare – totally flashback to childhood!

The reason is that it’s a very wet dough, almost like a thick cake batter, which creates its large, irregular hole structure.

Kneading wet dough
Kneading wet dough
Stretchy dough
Stretchy dough

The perfect focaccia needs to be chewy, flavourful and light.  I found a beautiful article in the Chicago Tribune by Nancy Silverton about making the perfect focaccia but the recipe was quite complicated and included a starter which is a stage I’m not quite at yet.

I decided to go for Paul Hollywood’s recipe, but split the dough in half so that I could test out a few of Nancy’s techniques – namely using a round cake tin to bake in and also pouring ¼ cup of olive oil into its base.

I also added some Kalamata olives to one of the loaves, pressing lightly into the dough just prior to the final prove.

I must say that I liked Paul’s version better – both were very light and airy, but Paul’s had more of the holey structure although Nancy’s had a delicious, crunchy base.

Nancy's focaccia
Nancy’s focaccia

Paul Hollywood’s focaccia

500g strong white bread flour
2 tsp salt
2 sachets dried easy blend yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
400ml cold water
Olive oil, for drizzling
Fine sea salt

Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and 300ml/10½fl oz of the water into a large bowl. Gently stir with your hand or a wooden spoon to form a dough then knead the dough in the bowl for five minutes, gradually adding the remaining water.

Stretch the dough by hand in the bowl, tuck the sides into the centre, turn the bowl 80 degrees and repeat the process for about five minutes.

Tip the dough onto an oiled work surface and continue kneading for five more minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size.

Line two large baking sheets with baking paper. Tip the dough out of the bowl and divide into two portions. Flatten each portion onto a baking sheet, pushing to the corners, then leave to prove for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Drizzle the loaves with oil, sprinkle with fine sea salt then bake in the oven for 20 minutes. When cooked, drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve hot or warm.

Caramelised onion and rosemary fougasse

Caramelised onion and rosemary fougasse
Caramelised onion and rosemary fougasse

After a couple of weeks cutting my teeth on basic bread recipes, I wanted to try something a bit different and came across John Whaite’s recipe for caramelised onion and rosemary fougasse.

Fougasse is a French loaf from Provence and is traditionally shaped to appear like a sheaf of wheat.

It’s a yeasted flatbread, so you’re looking for wet dough that creates bubbles when it rises, similar to focaccia but without the olive oil.

The dough was really sticky and difficult to work with at the start, but after about five minutes of kneading it came together and created a really soft dough.

Shaping it was also a challenge because the dough was so soft. I used a dough scraper to make the cuts, but nearly lost the shape entirely when transferring it across to the baking tray.

Caramelised onion and rosemary fougasse
Caramelised onion and rosemary fougasse

You can also use a baking stone or pizza stone for this recipe to achieve a really crunchy crust and soft centre. Simply preheat the stone and then place your dough directly onto it.

John Whaite’s caramelised onion and rosemary fougasse

Filling

1 red onion
Knob of salted butter
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar

Bread

500g white bread flour
10g salt
7g fast-action yeast (1 sachet)
2–3 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped (or herb of your choice)
350ml tepid water
Wholemeal bread flour for dusting

Peel and finely slice the onion. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a high heat, then add the onion. Immediately turn the heat down to low-medium and cover the pan with a lid. Allow the onion to cook gently for 15 minutes, then add the vinegar and sugar and cook for a further 5 minutes on a low heat, this time uncovered. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.

To make the dough, place the flour in a mixing bowl and stir the salt through it. Then stir in the yeast and chopped rosemary. Add the water in thirds, and bring the dough together into a sticky mass.

Tip the contents of the bowl out on to the counter top and knead for about 10 minutes. Then incorporate the onions, kneading for a few more minutes until they are evenly distributed and the dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a clean, floured bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Dust 2 of the baking sheets liberally with wholemeal bread flour, and dust your counter top, too. Gently tip the risen dough out on to the counter, using a dough scraper to help remove it from the bowl. When the mound of dough is on the counter, cut it into quarters using a sharp knife or dough scraper. You should then have 4 portions of dough, shaped like rounded triangles or leaves.

Take one portion of dough and, using the thin edge of the dough scraper, cut a line in the middle from the tip of the triangle to the flat edge. You are cutting right through the depth of the dough, but not to each end, because you do not want to cut the dough in half: there needs to be 2cm dough uncut at either end of the line. This line will be like a centre vein on a leaf. Then, on either side of that line, at a 45 degree angle, cut three little ‘veins’ in the same way. Stretch the dough slightly so the holes open up. Repeat with the other 3 pieces of dough. (See the photograph overleaf.)Place 2 leaves on each floured baking sheet. Allow to prove for 30 minutes more.

Preheat the oven to 230°C/Gas 8. Place the other 2 baking sheets in to heat up.

Slide the breads on their baking sheets directly on to the hot sheets in the oven, spraying a mist of water inside before you shut the door. Bake for 12–15 minutes.