Sunday, April 22, 2012

My favourite things, in a cookie

This weeks #shortandtweet challenge focussed on cookies and I chose to make the 'Sesame, date and ginger bscuits' from page 255 of Dan Leppard's book Short and Sweet. It was a no contest choice as this recipe included some of my favourite ingredients when it comes to sweet baking: warm spices, sweet dates, minerally black treacle and sesame seeds.

The cookies are easy to mix together and following an hour of cooling in the fridge the dough becomes firm enough to handle without getting your hands or utensils in a mess. The instructions advise you to shape the dough into walnut size pieces but I must have a mean perception of the size of a walnut as I was shaping up far more than the 15-18 cookies that the recipe estimates you will make. I quickly resized my portions of dough to get closer to the target number of cookies and then rolled them into the sesame seeds and pressed them onto the baking tray.

They baked up nicely in the time stated and as Dan instructs you should leave them on the tray to cool. I was impatient to try one but they really are very delicate and crumbly while hot so best to wait if you can find the patience.

The cooled cookies have a lovely light and delicate texture but pack a punch of flavour.

I had one with an espresso style coffee as recommended and the two go really well together. I have yet to try the after dinner option with a shot of grappa but it sounds good to me.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

So So Soda Bread

I have no idea why but I have never been enthusiastic about soda bread, but I love scones.

The ingredients, proportions and the method are not so dissimilar between the two, but for me the results are quite different. When I want something quick and savoury I always make cheese scones rather than a soda bread.

I still feel this way about soda bread despite making a quite tasty loaf of oatmeal soda bread for this weeks #shortandtweet challenge. Of the recipes up for trying I opted for the Oatmeal soda bread which has you making a porridge with the oatmeal before adding the other ingredients. You bake the batter in a square tin rather than a loaf or free form shape.

We ate the bread fresh from the oven with a ploughman's type lunch. I liked the chewy crust but found the crumb a little too damp for my taste.

I will try again with Dan Lepard's breakfast soda which uses baking powder rather than just baking soda. It seems a little wasteful but when my bread baking does not go as well as planned I have some 'ladies'  who are always grateful for anything other than chicken pellets and they are rather pleased when the baking is under par.

Meet Louise and Thelma, otherwise known as useless and the layer.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Pleased as Punch

I have not seen a Punch and Judy show for a long time but they were in full flow at the Ruby Country Market at Hatherleigh today and despite the chill in the air they had a full audience of enthralled children. The market was packed with stalls and entertainment and was really well organised. I do hope that both the organisers and stall holders were delighted with the turnout. We came away with local wine, bread and cheese, perfect.

It was only when I returned home and looked into a little of the history to Punch and Judy that I learnt the phrase 'Pleased as Punch' comes from this very old puppet show. I hope Punch will not mind my borrowing it for my title, but it really sums up how I feel about my Good Friday hot cross bun baking.

The #ShortandTweet challenge this week focussed on  the sweet and fruit bread section of Dan Lepard's book Short and Sweet and I went for the 'Banana maple pecan buns', pictured above, and the 'Spiced stout buns'. I had just planned to do the stout buns but when I found myself with some spare ripe bananas it seemed a good idea to try them both.

I managed to get the banana buns out of the oven in time for a late breakfast on Good Friday and we ate them still warm and with plenty of butter. This recipe has quite a mix of flavours as it includes cocoa, cinnamon, ginger, raisins and muscavado sugar as well as the banana, maple syrup and pecans.  Quite a balance to strike but it does work and the buns made a very welcome lazy breakfast.

The recipe I was even more intrigued by was the 'Spiced stout buns' as you not only added stout to the dough you also soaked the dried fruits and peel in hot black tea. As the recipe was already quite exotic to keep with the theme I rummaged in my tea leaf stores and found my Russian Caravan tea from Drury Tea & Coffee ,which seemed up to the task in hand.

These buns are packed with spice and fruit which I think of as traditional and personally love, but I realise many folks do not enjoy highly spiced and fruited breads.

They baked to a lovely moist crumb with a thin crust and odd as it may sound they went really well with some cheese for lunch. I am also fond of eating gingerbread with cheese for an afternoon snack so cheese purists should possibly turn away now. The dark ale that I used was Cotleigh Peregrine, described as a porter and to my taste more suitable than Guinness type ales.

The recipe makes a lot of buns so many are now in the freezer but we have enjoyed them toasted for breakfast since the day they were baked and I will most definitely be using the Stout bun recipe again for my Easter buns.

So in the words of Punch  "That's the way to do it!"

Sunday, April 1, 2012

One step forward, one back

This weeks #shortandtweet challenge offered a range of loaves to try with the hope that the sunny weather would continue and we could indulge ourselves with home made loaves for a picnic in the sunshine. Well the weather has stayed pretty light and sunny but my loaves are rather leaden.

I have made two attempts at the Multigrain and Honey Loaf from page 39 of Dan Lepard's book Short and Sweet. In my first attempt I produced a very damp loaf that had a beautiful looking and tasting crust but there the beauty ended. The crumb was damp and leaden and only very thin slicing and toasting made it at all pleasant to eat.

Grain and Honey Loaf Loaf Version 1 

I blamed myself for this as I had not allowed the loaf to rise quite as much as I thought it should but I was running late and wanting it baked up so I could get to bed. I had baked it for the full amount of time in a hot oven so was quite surprised when the crumb was so damp and heavy.

Grain and Honey Loaf Loaf Version 2

I really liked the flavour of the loaf, so a few days later I had another go but when making the 'porridge' of oats and seeds I only added 75ml of boiling water instead of the 100ml called for. The dough was less sticky to handle and I was optimistic of a better result. I may have proved the loaf slightly too long though as when it was baked up I had no oven spring at all. My central cut barely moved apart during the baking.  I baked the loaf for longer than stated giving it another 15 minutes out of the tin, directly on the hot bake stone.

I do have a better crumb this time but the crust is not so good, thicker and hard, rather than crispy and sweet.

So good flavour, serious problems with texture and not really a picnic loaf but not bad toasted and buttered and as Dan said it does stay moist.