Basic Bagels

If I were to have to choose a last meal, fresh bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese would definitely be in the final shortlist. There is something about fresh bagels that no other bread comes close to matching; they are simply divine. A tiny bit of crunch on the outside and a chewy, satisfying filling make bagels some of the most delicious baked goods you can get.

Originating in Krakow, Poland, bagels have been around for just over 400 years. The name was derived from the Yiddish word beygal from the original German word beugel meaning bracelet, reflecting the shape of the bread. The ring shape not only helped with an even bake but also provided bakers with a way to promote their goods as the bagels could be threaded onto string or dowels for display in shop windows. Bagels were bought to England by Jewish immigrants and the Brick Lane district in London has been known for its fantastic bagel shops since the middle of the 19th century. In the early 20th century, bagels made their way to America. Introduced by Polish Jews leaving Europe, bagels didn’t really become popular until towards the end of the 20th century when the Bagel Bakers Local 338 (a local trade union which controlled the making of bagels) came to an end after the invention of the Thompson Bagel Machine which could make bagels far faster than humans.

Ignoring all the differences in toppings and flours, there are two distinct types of bagel which are separated by their method of cooking: the boiled bagel and the steamed bagel. Bagels are traditionally boiled which is what gives them their classic appearance, texture and taste but for mass production, the steam bagel was far easier. By removing the need to boil the dough, the speed of production was massively increased allowing steam bagels to be created in numbers much greater than bagels produced the traditional way. The injection of steam into the oven creates the smooth, glossy finish that most readily available bagels have and gives them a far lighter, fluffier texture.

The recipe below is for boiled bagels. They are definitely a little bit more work than steamed ones but really, they don’t take very much longer than plaiting a loaf of bread or even super artistic scoring. I hope you enjoy making them as they are great to break out for guests or even if you just want to treat yourself a little.

Bagels

Prep time: 30 mins

Rising time: 90 minutes

Cook time: 20-25 minutes

Total time: around 2 hours 30 minutes

500g strong white flour

350ml water

1 sachet (7g) instant yeast

1 tbsp sugar plus 3tbsp for the boiling later

2tsp salt

Place the flour, salt, yeast and one tablespoon of sugar into a bowl.

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Add the water and stir until everything starts coming together.

Turn out onto a surface an knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic – around 10 minutes.

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Place the dough back into the bowl and leave to rise for 90 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (210°C).

Heat a large pan of water and add the remaining three tablespoons of sugar to it.

Split the dough into eight pieces and roll them into balls.

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Using the end of a wooden spoon or one of your fingers, poke a hole in the centre of each dough ball.

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Stretch the dough until the hole is around three centimetres across. A common way of doing this is by spinning the dough around the handle of a wooden spoon.

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Once the water is boiling, add the bagels a few at a time (no more than three or four) and boil with the lid on for 90 seconds or until a skin has formed.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the bagels and place them onto a lined baking tray before repeating this with the rest of the bagels.

Bake the bagels for 22 minutes until golden brown and the base sounds hollow when tapped.

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Let the bagels cool before cutting as they retain heat incredibly well and whilst delicious, they are not worth burning yourself for!

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you love making bread, why not try out some vibrant, artisanal, vegetable bread or if you are looking for something a little bit more savoury, why not treat yourself to a butternut squash and sweet potato crumble? It’s easy to make, vegetarian and packed full of flavour.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a soup recipe which will keep you warm as winter approaches.

H

Fluffy Buttermilk Scones

There are many things that create conflict in this world. From politics to religion, people will always find something to argue about but one thing that is always guaranteed to get messy is: how do you prepare a scone. Cream then jam or jam then cream? This is not something that can be discussed in order to convince the other person you are correct, this is a matter of right and wrong. Despite following the Devonshire tradition of cream first, I appreciate that other people are welcome to follow the Cornish tradition of jam first. Of course, I also respect other people’s right to be incorrect but that is totally unrelated to this.

Scones are of course a particularly conflict inducing food because not only is there dispute about how to eat them, there is dispute about how to even pronounce their name. Is it scone or scone? The differences in pronunciation originate from both regional dialects and the old British class system. Scone as in gone tends to be more prevalent in northern England, Scotland and Ireland whereas scone as in cone is the normal pronunciation in both the south of England and the midlands.

Traditionally scones form the middle course of an afternoon tea; between the smoked salmon or cucumber sandwiches and the miniature cakes and pastries. They are bready and filling but not too sweet and are an easy way of getting the cream and jam to your mouth. Eaten around 4 o’clock afternoon tea emerged in the 1840s in the upper classes but by the end of the 19th century it was customary for the middle class to enjoy it too. Nowadays, going out for afternoon tea is a treat. That is of course, assuming you are not the Queen of England. She enjoys afternoon tea every day and is particularly partial to a slice of chocolate biscuit cake with it.

The recipes below are for plain, fruit and cheese scones but I wouldn’t advise using the last for an afternoon tea. When cutting the scone dough, it is important to use the sharpest cutter you can to avoid pinching the edges as this will prevent a vertical rise. You also want to work the dough as little as possible as overworked scones lose their fluffiness. Luckily, scones are very easy to make and of course, are absolutely delicious!

 

 

Scones

16 oz (450g) self raising flour (or 16 oz plain flour with 8 tsp baking powder)

4 oz (110g) butter

Pinch of salt

3 oz (85g) sugar

5.5 oz (150g) raisins with ½ tsp baking powder (optional)

284ml buttermilk (or 140ml yogurt with 140ml water)

Milk to glaze

 

Cheese Scones

16 oz (450g) self-raising flour (or 16 oz plain flour with 8 tsp baking powder)

4 oz (110g) butter

Pinch of salt

100g grated strong cheese + 25g to go on top

Pinch of cayenne pepper

½ tsp mustard

284ml buttermilk or 140ml yoghurt with 140ml water

 

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (2200C).

Rub the butter into the flour and stir through the salt.

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Plain (at the back), cheese (left) and fruit (right) scones all ready to be mixed into a dough.

Use a blunt knife to stir in the raisins/sugar/grated cheese and cayenne pepper.

Use the knife to stir in the buttermilk (and mustard if you are using it) until the mixture starts to come together.

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Once you cannot combine the dough anymore with the knife, pour it onto a surface and gently knead it together into a homogenous ball.

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Roll out the dough to ¾ inch  (2cm) thickness.

Cut out the dough into 3 inch circles and move onto baking parchment.

Use a pastry brush to brush a little milk onto the top of each scone. Make sure not to let it drip down the sides as this will stop the scones rising properly.

For plain and fruit scones, sprinkle a little caster sugar over them or for cheese scones, sprinkle the reserved grated cheese on top.

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Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes, or until the scones are all golden brown on top.

Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

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Serve plain and fruit scones with lashings of clotted cream and jam. Cheese scones go very well with a nice soup or piled high with grated cheese and chilli jam.

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Fruit scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam.
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Cheese scones with sliced cheddar and habanero pepper jam.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are considering making an afternoon tea, why not use a classic Victoria sandwich cake with it and maybe even make the sandwiches with some exciting artisan bread? Looking for a hearty dinner? treat yourself to a fantastic cottage pie. It serves four so you get leftovers too.

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a great filling for a chicken pie.

H

 

Butternut Squash Soup

This week took a turn for the cold. With the promise of warm air being bought from Ex-Hurricane Ophelia, we were looking forward to at least a bit less of a bite in the air however up in Durham, it’s just got colder and colder. One of the upsides of the cold is that it’s now soup season! When you are feeling cold after walking home from work or just a bit under the weather, soup is a wonderful pick me up that is really easy the make and incredibly warming.

I am a huge fan of butternut squash soup owing to its simplicity to make and also how delicious it is. You can get 6 portions from one recipe which is ideal as the soup freezes very well and can be whipped out, defrosted and reheated in the span of 15 minutes for a quick and easy dinner. It is also perfect for a starter when entertaining as soup is very easy to spruce up to give a posh finish. I tend to use a teaspoon of cream, a little chilli oil and some chilli flakes as I really like spicy food and the three garnishes give a professional look to the dish.

Another benefit of soup is that you can dip bread in it. Fresh bread – still warm from the oven – is the perfect item for dipping. It makes the whole meal special and just adds to the experience. I try to make soup at university as it is very cheap to make and takes very little effort which is good when I am tired at the end of a week. The recipes are very transferable and you can substitute in different vegetables of your choice to make the soup your own.

Butternut Squash Soup

Servings: 6 – Cost per serving: about 50p – Prep Time: 20 minutes – Cook time: 30 minutes

1 large or 2 small butternut squash

2 onions

1 litre vegetable stock – made to half strength

2 cloves garlic – minced

Salt and Pepper

Olive oil

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They only had small butternut squashes in the shop so I had to use two 😦

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (2000C).

Slice the butternut squash into 1-2 cm thick slices and arrange on a baking tray.

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Grind some pepper and and sprinkle some salt over the butternut squash, drizzle with olive oil and place into the oven for half an hour, turning halfway through.

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After it’s cooked, the butternut squash will go slightly darker and translucent

About ten minutes before the squash comes out of the oven, roughly chop the onions and fry them in a large pan over a medium heat until they start to turn translucent – add the minced garlic.

Remove the squash from the oven and add to the onions.

Pour in the stock and simmer for 10 minutes to make sure all the vegetables are cooked

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Let cool for a few minutes and then blend until smooth.

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I ended up blending the soup in batches as the blender wasn’t big enough for it all. Alternatively you can use a stick blender!

Add salt, pepper and more stock powder (dry) to taste

Enjoy hot with some bread and a sprinkle of chilli flakes

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Let me know if you try this at home – you can find me on Instagram @thatcookingthing. If you enjoy simple recipes, why not try my macaroni cheese or if you are looking for something a bit sweeter, try your hand at making a Battenberg cake. It’s easier than you would expect!

Have a good one and I’ll see you next Monday with a recipe for an amazing tiramisu cake!

H

Perfect Pizza

As a student, I don’t often get the opportunity to make pizza from scratch as I just don’t have the time to make the dough. Of course you could buy in bases or even just pop down to the local take away but the difference in quality is phenomenal! Not only is it far, far cheaper to make yourself, but you can make sure you have the toppings you want on it without having the faff of spending 10 minutes deciding what you want off the menu. This recipe does take time – there are no two ways about that however like all recipes with bread involved, you will have a couple of hours in the middle in which to do what you want.

I have only done this a couple of times at university because of the time constraints however homemade pizza is a good home recipe too – especially in the holidays. Be careful though as it is very easy to overeat these as they are just so delicious! I like to have mine with chilli, sweetcorn, chicken and I’m getting into onions too. Whilst personally, I am very much against pineapple on pizza, I do appreciate that for some people, it is a fantastic topping and the wonderful thing about this recipe is that you can make personal pizzas that don’t need sharing so no one can complain! I would always advise using precooked meats just in case as you don’t want to eat raw meat and get ill – especially if you have to study for exams.

This is a particularly good recipe for house meals as you can just make the pizzas larger and share them around and they are genuinely so much better than the ones you would buy on the way home from a night out. I love a good greasy take-out pizza however these can be far healthier – using low fat cheese or even cheeseless pizzas can be a good way of using up leftover vegetables and meats without too many calories.

The recipe I use includes a technique I have not yet covered on this blog – rubbing in. This is where you combine flour and fat in a way which keeps the fat from melting and makes sure the mixture is light and airy. Using the tips of your fingers, take a little of the mix in each hand and lift them above the bowl. Use you thumbs to brush the mix back out of your hands and into the bowl rubbing the fat into the flour as it falls through your fingers. Repeat this until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. It may look like nothing is happening at the start but trust me, it will all come together in the end. Just remember, if you really can’t get a technique to work for you, YouTube it! I have learnt a lot of new techniques by watching videos because I find it far easier to understand when I can see what is going on.

The dough also freezes nicely so if you are cooking for two, the third portion can be popped in the freezer – just make sure to defrost it fully and let it warm up to room temperature before using – or it can be used to make a garlic bread (spread over butter, minced garlic and parsley if you have it) or doughballs! If you want to cook for 4 people, multiply the recipe by one and a half but don’t increase the yeast! Once sachet can be used for up to 750g of flour – it might take a little longer to rise but it will still have an amazing flavour.

 

 

Serves 3 – about £1.30 per portion

Preparation – 30 minutes, Rising – 2 hours, Cooking – 15 minutes

 

Dough:

500g Strong white flour

50g butter (or block margarine like Tomor for example)

300ml water

1 sachet instant yeast (7g)

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp olive oil

 

Optional

Garlic/onion power

Grind of pepper

Grated hard cheese like parmesan

 

Toppings

500ml Tomato Passata/ 1 tube of tomato paste

A few cloves of garlic

375g Mozarella grated

 

If you are using passata, heat it in a pan and add a couple of cloves of minced garlic and a pinch of sugar.

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Reduce it until the passata is thick and non-runny.

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While the passata is cooking, place the flour in a large bowl, cube the butter and rub it in until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. (If you wish to flavour the dough, stir in the extra ingredients now!)

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Make sure the fat you use is cold when you add it to the flour to help prevent it melting during the rubbing in
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After rubbing in, the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs and will have a light yellow tinge

Make a well in the centre, pour the yeast, salt and sugar around the outside of the bowl at even intervals.

Pour in the water and oil and mix to combine.

Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, cover and leave to rise for about 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

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Basic ingredients for a Margharita pizza

 

Turn the oven to gas mark 6 (200oC).

Pour out the dough and divide into portions.

Roll the dough out until it fits the pizza pan you are using or until it has a radius of about 10 inches.

Spread out the thickened passata onto the pizza bases leaving about half an inch around the outside. Alternatively, if you are using paste from a tube, squeeze it into a bowl and add some water to thin it out a bit so you can spread it over the pizzas.

Sprinkle on the mozzarella trying not to get it on the dough around the edge of the bases

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We have a large pizza dish which holds two portions and a smaller one which is a single portion

Add toppings of your choice.

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Sweetcorn and mushroom pizza. I also like adding jalapenos however my dad isn’t fond of them so we go half and half
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Mushrooms, capers and olive pizza
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Mushrooms, capers and olive pizza

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.

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This meal is so amazingly yummy, I wish I could have it more often but it isn’t economical. It is however, perfect for a special event like having friends over or a date night or even if you just deserve a treat!

Let me know if you try this at yourselves and pop a photo in the comments! I love seeing what you guys create at home.

See here for the last Cooking from Basics recipe – an amazing Mushroom and Chicken Pasta Bake or here if you fancy making some super fudgy, gooey Chocolate Brownies.

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week for my death by chocolate tart which is sinfully delicious looks like it’s been bought from a professional bakery!!!

H

Artisan Loaves

Hey guys, I’m back with another instalment in my baking series. Last week I talked about the traditional Coffee and Walnut Cake and this week we are looking into at beautiful artisan loaves.

I love baking bread. It is an incredibly therapeutic activity especially as I am a student and I stress bake and few things make me feel better than having beaten a slab of bread dough into submission for ten minutes or so. Bread isn’t very difficult to make but a lot of people end up eating the same breads over and over and sometimes it can be exciting to jazz it up a bit.

I came across the idea for this recipe when my friend send me a video compilation of various breads being scored and baked. It was a very satisfying video to watch but the main thing that caught my eye was this one bright pink loaf with an amazing floral design scored into the dough. It set me thinking about how I could recreate this myself. I wanted to avoid using artificial dyes which I was successful in doing and thus the beetroot bread was born. I did forget to put salt in the first time but luckily, it didn’t taste too wrong – the second attempt (this time with salt) was a definite improvement.

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I was disheartened to discover that although there are many recipes for beetroot bread on the internet, they were not the most useful and they were all very different, no prevailing theme to make it easier to adapt at home so I decided to just go for it and throw in a blended beetroot to my standard bread mix and lo and behold, it worked! This got me thinking about other vegetables that could be used to make jazzy and colourful loaves and after a very fruitless search online, I chose to go ahead and see what would happen if I put spinach in instead. Thankfully it worked and the result, while not as striking as the beetroot bread on the outside, was a definite winner.

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These recipes could be easily adapted to make colourful pizzas for a party, small rolls for burgers or even to make hollowed out rolls for serving soups in at a fancy dinner party. Their versatility makes the breads very useable in pretty much any culinary situation (that you would want bread in) and especially exciting if you are trying to make something brightly coloured without using food colourings.

I will be experimenting further with these ideas to see what other breads can be made with vegetables and it seems to be a rather uncharted territory at the moment.

I hope you enjoy making these yourselves. As always let me know what you think of them as I like knowing your opinions on these recipes. If you have any vegetables you think would work and want someone to try them, I am always up for a good challenge!

 

 

 

Ingredients

500g plain white flour

10g salt

1 or 2 tbsp sugar (1 for beetroot, 2 for spinach)

1 sachet instant yeast (7g)

1 large beetroot OR 300g fresh spinach

 

The first thing to do is to make up the liquid part of the recipe.

If you are using beetroot, peel and roughly chop the beetroot and place into a food processor with a quarter of a cup of water and blend until you have a paste (it will still be a little lumpy as the beetroot is so hard).

For the spinach bread place the spinach and a quarter of a cup of water into the food processor and blend to a paste.

Make the vegetable paste up to just over 400ml with cold water.

 

 

Place the flour into a bowl and pour the yeast, salt and sugar around the edge of the bowl.

Make a well in the centre and pour in the liquid.

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Beetroot Bread
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Spinach Bread

Use a spoon to start mixing the dough together.

Once it starts coming together, pour the mix onto a surface and knead for about ten minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

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Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise until the dough has over doubled in size – about two hours.

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Once the dough has risen, pour it onto a surface and knock it back (knead it again for about 30 seconds).

If you don’t have large banneton you can make one by placing a dishcloth into a large bowl and liberally sprinkle with flour.

Pull the dough tight into a ball and place into the bowl and cover with a cloth and leave to rise for another 45 minutes or so.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (210oC) and place a large dish filled with water at the bottom of the oven to create a steamy environment

 

Flip the dough out onto a lined tray and remove the bowl and cloth.

Score the dough to control how it rises. How you do this is an entirely personal choice! Traditional scoring is diamonds across the top but I like to go a bit fancier with these breads. I would advise going with a symmetric design as it will cause the bread to rise symmetrically in the oven but this is a purely ascetic choice.

Traditionally, scoring is done with a sharp blade called a lame. It is effectively a small razor on the end of a stick and can be dither curved or straight. I was lucky enough to discover my local cooking shop sold them for about £3 but up until this point, I had just used a standard kitchen knife which would work just fine. A lame may make the curved shapes easier to obtain though.

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Symmetrical scoring on the beetroot bread to ensure that it rises properly in the oven
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Floral scoring on the spinach bread

Place the bread into the oven and reduce the temperature down to gas mark 6 (2000C)

 

Bake for 20 minutes. Turn the bread and bake for another 20 minutes to ensure an even crust. The bread is done once it sounds hollow when the base is tapped. If in doubt, give it a few more minutes!

The spinach bread will gain a dark brown crust while the beetroot will be similar but the areas where the scoring was will be a deep purple colour! The beetroot bread will change colour inside during the baking too so the final result is a dark red as opposed to the aggressive pink of the dough!

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These breads are great for taking a gift or eating with a cheeseboard as they are a little more exciting than a standard loaf. The addition of the vegetables does not significantly change the taste of the bread which means they can be used for savoury or sweet toppings so the loaves are also very versatile in their uses.

 

If you have a go making either of these, let me know how it goes in the comments especially if you manage to snap a photo. I love seeing what you guys have been making and it makes me really happy to know that you are enjoying my recipes – for more baking ideas see my instagram thatcookingthing.

Join me next week for another instalment of my Cooking from Basics series, see here for last week’s bolognaise recipe and I look forward to chatting with you guys soon!

H