Bread, two ways

It has been a while since I posted here, so have a couple of quick and simple bread recipes that I used at the school wellbeing day…

Yeah. Wellbeing day. A whole day off-timetable, no kids, spend the time getting to know your fellow teachers and partaking of some fun activities. First up, laughter yoga. Keep an open mind, the email said, giving nothing away. Now, don’t know about you but I’m old enough and cynical enough that when someone says “Keep an open mind”, my mental blast doors slam closed faster than Han Solo can say “Close the blast doors” and, yeah. Anyway. Moving on.

Next up was my leading a dozen other teachers through making a couple of different breads. The recipes below, in fact. Showed them that making bread is nothing to be scared of, that there’s not a lot of actual hands-on time, and that the whole thing, start to finish, can be done easily in a couple of hours.

Big shared lunch (see cheesecake recipes elsewhere on here for my contribution, 3 of them), and then an afternoon walking around Ferry Meadows in Peterborough. Cold, windy, flat-ish.

Bread, take 1 – Soda Bread

Ingredients…

  • 500g flour – 250g plain white flour, 125g plain wholemeal, 125g of sometbing more interesting – Khorasan, Spelt, Rye, Buckwheat. I find Khorasan works really well.
  • 1tsp salt – I use sea or rock salt here, it ends up migrating into the crust. Gorgeous. If you’ve got smoked or chilli salt, even better.
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda. Clue is in the name.
  • 420ml buttermilk. Or thereabouts. I’ve never got the stuff in the house so, I cheat…
  1. Make the buttermilk. Take 200ml full-fat milk, add roughly 20ml lemon juice (a tablespoon and a bit). Mix. Leave it for 10-15 minutes. Hey presto, buttermilk.
  2. Weigh out your flours, put them in a bowl. Add the salt and soda.
  3. Mix everything together into a wet dough. And it will be a sticky one. So add a bit more plain wholemeal flour and mix a little more. You don’t knead this bread, you don’t want to rile the gluten.
  4. Lightly flour a baking tray and turn your dough out onto it. Shape into a ball.
  5. Grab a dough cutter if you’ve got one and cut your ball into 4 quarters, lightly flouring the cuts. If you’ve not got a cutter, a butterknife should do the job.
  6. Leave the dough to rise a little, 10-15 minutes again (enough time to mark some homework!) and then put your oven on to 200°C.
  7. Bake for ~35 minutes
  8. When the time’s up, test the bread – turn the loaf over and tap the bottom. If it sounds hollow and drum-like, you’re golden. Put it on a rack to cool and wait as long as you can be patient before cutting a slice off and slathering it with butter.

Total hands-on time, about 5 minutes. Total time, end-to-end, about an hour.

On wellbeing day, 4 bakers out of the dozen chose to make soda bread, each using a different one of the alternative grains. And we got 4 superb loaves, some of which even made it to the bring-and-share lunch!

Bread, take 2 – Single-rise white loaf

A lot of people think bread is complicated and time-consuming. This recipe proves otherwise. Quality white bread in about an hour and a half.

Ingredients…

  • 500g strong white flour. Best for bread making
  • 1 sachet instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 300ml warm water

We’re going to give this bread every opportunity, every chance, to rise and do well. So, without further ado…

  1. Mix together the warm water, yeast, honey, and oil. Much like the buttermilk-making, if you leave this for 10-15 minutes the yeast will activate, the mixture will froth up, and everything will be ready to rock and roll when you start mixing.
  2. Give the flour 30 seconds in the microwave, heat it up, so the yeast isn’t given a cold shock when it meets the flour.
  3. Now mix everything together and knead it in the bowl until it pulls away from the side. The more you knead, the nicer your bread will be. A good 5 minutes at least. Of course, if you’ve a Kenwood with a dough hook, whack it in there and ignore it for those minutes.
  4. Take your dough and split it roughly 2/3-1/3. We’re going to make a cob. Shape both parts into balls, place the smaller atop the larger, oil two fingers and deeply finger your balls (sorry, Bake Off and Pottery Throwdown both contain these single-entendres).
  5. Leave to rise for about half an hour. Oven to 200°C.
  6. Bake for, again, about 35 minutes and test in a similar way.
  7. This time, you’ll need jam or marmalade, I reckon.

This, too, was successful. None of the bakers wanted to share!

So there you go. Bread. Quick, straightforward, plenty of time to do other things while fresh bread is rising, or cooking and filling the house with a mouth-watering smell of things delicious. If you’ve got faster ways to bake fresh bread from scratch, I want to know.

Bake like you mean it – Bananananana Bread

As Terry Pratchett said, it’s a very hard word to stop once you’ve started.

So.  For Sport Relief here at school we had a bake sale, one that did very well as we have a hugely talented team of bakers.  Cupcakes, cookies, sports-decorated gingerbread men, cookies, brownies, rice crispie cakes, did I mention cookies?  And banana bread.

Now the banana bread was a slow burn.  Problem is, it doesn’t look the most appetizing and it’s not visually grabbing like the Sport Relief cupcakes or the bright red cookies.  But those who did try it loved it.  Therefore, by popular demand, here’s the recipe:

To make 1 big loaf (or a couple of smaller ones) you’ll need:

  • Greased and lined loaf tin/s – No need to line all 4 sides, just do the 2 long sides and the base so you can lift the loaf out once it’s done.
  • 125g soft butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4 over-ripe bananas, mashed – we cheat here and use a hand mixer to “mash” the bananas.  Works like a charm.  Remember, kids, the really sweet, ripe, bananas are the ones with all the black and brown bits on the skin.  Don’t be revolted because it’s not just on the yellow side of green.
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 250g self raising flour.  Leave this in a bowl on the scales…
  • 1tsp baking powder (you can use plain flour, but you’d then need 3tsp baking powder.  And if you don’t have baking powder it’s 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda and 1/2tsp cream of tartar to make 1tsp baking powder)
  • Oven set to 160C

Okay.  Lock and load.  This is an easy one.

  1. Mix butter and sugar until you’ve a paste.  You don’t need the full Kenwood butter/sugar->cream here.
  2. Mix in the mashed bananas, the vanilla extract and the eggs.  This gives you a gorgeous lumpy wet mix.
  3. Mix the baking powder into the flour then sieve this over the wet mix in 3 stages, folding in completely after each stage.  You want a mix that is still lumpy, not a silky smooth mush, so don’t over-fold.
  4. Pour into the prepared baking tin.
  5. Bake for an hour for a big loaf, 40 minutes for a pair of small loaves.  Test with a skewer when time’s up, if it comes out clean, it’s done.

I’ve had “issues” with banana bread being really, really, really slow to cook.  The first time I did this it took a good half hour longer (but still tasted great), so if the skewer comes out with batter on it, give it another 10 minutes and test again.  If it looks like the top’s burning, give it a foil hat at this stage.

Leave it to cool for about half an hour to an hour before you take it out of the tin.  Take it out too soon and mine have collapsed into a gorgeous, banana-bready crumbly pile.  If that happens, just add custard and pretend it’s what you meant to do all along.

This recipe has been adapted from the Banana Bread recipe found on page 209 of James Morton’s “Brilliant Bread” – this is the mark 3 for us according to my notes.  I have learned a lot from this book, most especially not to be scared of sourdough.  Get a copy.