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
1 litre vegetable stock – made to half strength
2 cloves garlic – minced
Salt and Pepper
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (2000C).
Slice the butternut squash into 1-2 cm thick slices and arrange on a baking tray.
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.
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
Let cool for a few minutes and then blend until smooth.
Add salt, pepper and more stock powder (dry) to taste
Enjoy hot with some bread and a sprinkle of chilli flakes
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!
The idea for this particular post actually came from one of my housemates. I was feeling rather uninspired and asked around what they thought I should make and one of them suggested this – I did make her a Battenberg birthday cake a few years ago. I am really glad she suggested this though as I forgot how nice fresh Battenberg could be!
Battenberg cake has a light, almondy sponge and can be flavoured with several different things. While the standard Battenberg cake is a long, 4 segmented pink and white chessboard, it has spawned a myriad of other cakes. The first one I made was back in 2011 after the Great British Bake Off technical challenge was Mary Berry’s Coffee and Walnut Battenberg. As a lover of both coffee and walnut cake and baking, I had to try it out! The cake itself was really good but as I discovered, I am not the biggest fan of marzipan! Since then, I have seen countless variants on the Battenberg popping up, some with chocolate, some with mint or green tea. You can even make circular Battenbergs now though that does seem a little time consuming to me!
It is traditional to glue the sponge and the marzipan together with jam (either strawberry or apricot) however I don’t really like jam that much so I tend to use buttercream. The cake is reportedly accepted to have been created for the wedding of Louis Mountbatten to Princesses Victoria (granddaughter of Queen Victoria) however there do seem to be appearances of the Battenberg cake under other names. The cake is so distinct that the black and white squares on police cars and ambulances are called Battenberg Markings as they look so much like the cake.
The recipe below can be doubled to make two or three cakes (depending on the rise). Cook the white and pink sponges separately and then carve them up to create the long squares for the cake. The last time I made this, the sponges didn’t rise as much as I hoped so I ended up with three slightly smaller, square Battenbergs instead of two larger but squashed cakes.
For the cake
175g softened butter
175g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract
150g self-raising flour
50g ground almonds
2 tbsp milk
For the Icing
100g very soft butter
150g sifted icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (1800C)
Line an 8 inch square tin and use the parchment to create a divider down the middle
Cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the extracts and beat again.
Add the eggs one at a time with a small amount of flour to prevent it curdling.
Add the last of the flour and the almonds and beat gently until it is all combined adding the milk to slacken the mixture down slightly
Take out half of the mixture and add a small amount of red/pink rood colouring until the batter reaches the desired shade.
Pour the two colours of batter into different sides of the tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Beat the butter for the icing and add the icing sugar and vanilla.
Beat until soft and smooth.
Trim the edges off the cakes to remove the caramelization.
Cut each cake in half lengthwise and trim until each piece is square.
Using a thin layer of icing, stick the four lengths of cake together, put a thin layer of icing around the outside and place in the fridge for half an hour.
Roll out the marzipan to you desired thickness.
Place the cake (icing side down) onto the marzipan and add a thin layer of buttercream to the exposed side of cake.
Wrap the marzipan around and trim off the excess.
Trim the edges of the cake the reveal the classic Battenberg pattern.
Use the excess marzipan to decorate the cake.
Let me know if you try this cake at home or tag me on Instagram (@thatcookingthing). I love seeing what you guys create.
Let’s talk about birthdays. I love birthdays – not just my own! I always find it incredibly stressful buying presents, especially at university. It’s really easy to get presents for your good friends as you know them but if you don’t know the person as well, what do you do? I have found that baking someone a personalised birthday cake just for them is a perfect replacement as it shows you are willing to put in a lot of effort for the person and you can tailor the cake to that persons tastes. The chocolate and orange cake in this recipe is a perfect example of this. I first made this cake during exam season last year during a large gap between exams when I was stress baking. I ended up giving most of it away as not only do I stress bake but my appetite goes down so I don’t want to eat what I make! One of my friends has just turned 22 and I ended up remaking it as his birthday cake as he really liked it last time.
This cake is wonderful as the syrup keeps it nice and moist and can give a bit of a kick if that’s what you want. It is also super adaptable as you don’t have to add the ganache which does make the whole cake a little easier to make or alternatively, you can cover the entire cake in the ganache for a beautiful shiny finish. You can also just not include the chocolate for a lovely orange cake which you can decorate with candied peel and piping work.
I like to make my own decorations for cakes which can be themed to the event the cake is for. For the cake in this recipe, I made mini orange meringues. This was more to test out the new Aga than to use meringues as decorations but luckily, they worked really well so I was able to use them on the cake. The other decoration (the chocolate nest) was made by piping tempered chocolate into a glass of Bacardi which had been in the freezer for a few hours. This meant that the chocolate set immediately into beautiful winding 3D shapes which I could then place on the cake.
The recipe below doesn’t include the decorations however I will do a post about different types of decorations in the next few weeks.
For the Cake:
280g (10 oz.) Butter
280g (10 oz.)Sugar
280g (10 oz.) Plain Flour
5 tsp baking powder
Rind of 1 Orange
1 tsp Orange Extract
For the Syrup:
Juice of one orange
50 g sugar
¼ cup water
Triple sec/Cointreau (optional)
For the Icing:
375g Icing sugar (sifted)
150g Dark Chocolate
2 tbsp Cocoa
1 tsp Orange Extract
For the Ganache
150g Dark Chocolate
150ml Double Cream
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (1800C) and line three 8 inch baking trays.
Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the grated orange rind and the orange extract and beat again.
Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of flour for each egg beating after each addition.
Pour in the rest of the flour and beat until just combined.
Pour into the baking tins and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
While the cakes are cooling, you can make the syrup and the icing.
For the syrup, combine all the ingredients – excluding the alcohol – in a pan.
Bring to a boil making sure that all the sugar has dissolved and then remove the pan from the heat and leave the syrup to cool. Then add the triple sec.
For the icing, beat the butter until it is light and fluffy.
Add the sifted icing sugar a bit a time and beat until the icing is smooth and glossy.
Add the orange extract and cocoa and beat again.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave remembering to stir every 20 seconds to prevent it burning!
Pour the chocolate in and beat again. Do not do this with the beaters running as they will just knock the chocolate onto the sides of the bowl which is not particularly useful…
To assemble the cake, attach the first layer to the cake board or plate with a tiny amount of icing.
Brush a layer of syrup onto the top of the cake to keep it moist and then add a layer of buttercream
Repeat with the next two layers adding them upside down to give a smooth top to the cake.
Cover the entire cake in a thinnish layer of buttercream – there should be just enough left to do this without the cake peeking through too much!
Place the cake in the fridge for a few hours to firm up the buttercream before adding the ganache
For a raindrop look, heat up the cream in a pan and add to the dark chocolate in a bowl.
Leave for at least two minutes for the chocolate to melt and then stir until combined.
When the ganache is at room temperature, pour it into the centre of the cake and spread it evenly over the top of the cake.
Using a spoon or a piping bag, pour some extra ganache over the edges of the cake and let it run down the side.
To coat the cake completely in ganache, double the quantities in the recipe.
Decorate the cake with chocolate and orange decorations.
Let me know if you try this at yourselves and pop a photo across or tag me on Instagram at thatcookingthing! I love seeing what you guys create at home.
As promised last week, I return with the most amazing chocolate tart you will ever make. It contains not one, not two but four types of chocolate and a hidden layer of caramel. To be honest, this tart should probably come with a myriad of health warnings and possibly an ambulance on speed dial but it is 100% worth it!
I love making caramel. It can be a little bit daunting the first time and you do need to be careful as the melted sugar is very hot however homemade caramel is just so superior to shop bought that in my opinion, it is very much worth a little extra time making the filling instead of buying it. WARNING – melted sugar will burn instantly. If you do get any on you, immediately stop what you are doing (the tart can wait –you can not) and hold the area under cold water for at least 5 minutes if not more. It will hurt but isn’t too serious.
You have a couple of options when it comes to melting sugar for caramels or decorations. The slower but more controlled method which I use if I need a specific temperature of sugar or don’t want a deep golden caramel involves melting the sugar with a small amount of water and then boiling the sugar syrup until it achieved the desired temperature. This is particularly useful for making a large batch of caramel for things like a croquembouche. The other method, the one used in this recipe, involved holding your nerve a bit and directly melting the sugar in a pan. I am unashamed to admit that it took me about 5 years to become confident enough in my culinary skills to attempt this method instead of the syrup one.
Caramel is produced when you drive water away from sugar by heating it. If making large amounts, you will quite often add glucose syrup or a small amount of vinegar as it helps invert the sugar preventing crystallisation which will ruin your dish. This is where the caramel will suddenly turn solid and brittle again and no amount of heating can save it. You just have to start again! To prevent crystallisation, you should never stir the boiling sugar syrup once the sugar has all dissolved in the water and if making it via the more direct approach, treat the sugar incredibly carefully as it is a real diva in the kitchen. Inverting sugar is not always necessary as you can buy Invert Sugar Syrup in some areas however you don’t need it for this recipe! It occurs as glucose and fructose are isomers (they have the same chemical composition, just in a different formation. Think of them as anagrams of each other). The colour of the caramel comes in part from the long chain carbohydrates contained (24, 36 and 80 carbon atoms long!) and also from by products produced when the sugar is heated.
This tart is particularly good at a dinner party. Wow your guests with a delicious homemade dessert which looks like you’ve just picked it up from a professional patisserie. Serving it with fresh fruit like strawberries can give it some semblance of health even though we all know it’s only for show! You can also use this recipe to make mini tartlets which is what I do if I have enough excess pastry
Quadruple Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart
Preparation:1 hour 10 minutes
160g plain flour
75g unsalted butter
1 Large egg yolk
½ tsp vanilla
225g caster sugar
100ml double cream
125g salted butter
300g dark chocolate
200g milk chocolate
100g white chocolate
50g unsalted butter
½ tsp vanilla
For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, cocoa and butter into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it appears as fine breadcrumbs. Alternatively, rub the butter into the flour and stir in the other dry ingredients.
Make a well in the centre and add the vanilla and the egg yolk.
Mix until just combined, pour onto a worktop and knead until a homogenous dough is formed but do not overwork the dough!
Put the dough into the fridge to rest for an hour.
Preheat your oven to gas mark 5 (190oC).
Roll out the dough and line a 9 or 10 inch tart pan preferably, one that has a removable base – you may have to wait a few minutes for the dough to soften up.
Trim the excess dough leaving a little hanging off round the edge – this is so that if the dough shrinks, the excess dough will make sure the tart doesn’t lose height. Alternatively, you can trim all the excess dough off and then place the lined case in the freezer for another half hour to make it really firm which should prevent shrinking altogether.
Prick the bottom of the pastry case with a fork so it doesn’t crack, line it with foil and pour in baking beads (or rice/pasta/lentils if you don’t have them) – this prevents the case from bubbling up and keeps the base nice and flat.
Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the baking beads and bake for another 10 minutes so the pastry case if fully cooked.
If you still have bits of pastry overhanging the tin, use a sharp knife to trim off the edges and neaten it up.
To make the caramel, place a third of the sugar in a heavy based steel pan – non-stick pans encourage crystallisation which ruins caramel.
Heat the sugar on a medium heat and as it starts to melt, use a wooden spoon to gently move some of the unmelted sugar into the melted areas. Move the pan on the hob so no area gets too dark when melting. You don’t want to burn the sugar. Turn the pan onto a medium to low light for the rest of this.
Once about half of the sugar in the pan has melted, sprinkle on half the remaining sugar and gently stir the melted areas. The sugar may start to clump but don’t worry!
As more of the sugar melts, sprinkle on the remaining sugar and continue to agitate the melted areas in the pan to prevent burning and to bring the unmelted sugar into contact with the heat.
Once the sugar has all melted, you should have a light caramel. If it is cloudy, that means not all the sugar has melted! Swirl the sugar in the pan a little to help stir it but at this point, do not use the spoon as it will make the sugar crystallise.
When the caramel is clear, continue heating slowly until it is a deep golden colour. Swirling it gently will help mixing it in the pan so it doesn’t burn.
The moment the caramel is a rich golden brown, remove it from the heat and immediately pour in the double cream. BE CAREFUL – the cream will bubble and steam vigorously so make sure you are using a big pan so it doesn’t spit out of the pan. Stir the caramel to make sure it is all mixed. The area with the cream may be thicker than the melted sugar as it is cooled a little but it will remelt and everything will mix together nicely.
Let the caramel cool for a couple of minutes and then add in the butter chopped into cubes or slices.
Stir in the butter as it melts and once it has all melted and mixed together, pour it into the pastry case – you don’t need to wait for it to cool!
N.B – if you are unlucky, the caramel may split when you add the butter and you will end up with an oily layer on top. If this happens, let the caramel sit for a few minutes to separate out and then spoon off the oil that appears at the top.
Chop your chocolates and place in bowls – make sure the dark chocolate is in a large bowl as the others will be added at a later point!
Add 30g of butter to the dark chocolate, 20g to the milk chocolate and half a teaspoon of vanilla to the white chocolate.
Heat the cream until it’ just about to boil and then add 275ml to the dark chocolate, 150ml to the milk chocolate and 75ml to the white.
Let the chocolate stand in the cream for 2 minutes and then stir each bowl until it is filled with a smooth chocolate ganache.
Take a little of the dark chocolate ganache and put it off to the side – this is for decorating later.
Pour the milk and white chocolate ganaches into the dark chocolate making sure not to scrape the bowl out as the leftovers in the bowls are used for decorating.
Use a skewer to mix the ganaches – BUT ONLY A LITTLE – you want the variation in ganaches inside the tart.
Pour the filling into the tart filling it but not quite to bursting!
Use the leftover dark, milk, and white chocolate ganaches to spoon blobs and lines over the top of the tart.
Use a skewer to swirl the chocolate filling to give a beautiful and professional finish – don’t catch the caramel layer when doing this!
Let the tart set in the fridge for a couple of hours or even overnight to fully harden up.
When serving, place your knife in a jug of hot water and then wipe it off on a tea towel before cutting. This helps make the cuts incredibly clean and prevents the filling sticking to the knife too much.
Serve with a little cream and a selection of berries.
This is one of my favourite desserts and I hope it will be one of yours too! As an added bonus, this tart also freezes really well – assuming you have any left!
Let me know if you try this at yourselves and give me a tag on instagram (@thatcookingthing)! I love seeing what you guys create at home.
See here for the last recipe from my Baking series – the gooeyest chocolate brownies you can find or here if you fancy making a delicious dinner of homemade pizza!
Have a good one and I’ll see you next week with an exciting recipe for spiced turkey burgers. Fab for using up odds and ends and wonderful as a filling for other dishes too!
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.
50g butter (or block margarine like Tomor for example)
1 sachet instant yeast (7g)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
Grind of pepper
Grated hard cheese like parmesan
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.
Reduce it until the passata is thick and non-runny.
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!)
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.
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
Add toppings of your choice.
Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.
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.
I love chocolate brownies. They are some of the most amazing things to have been created in the kitchen however they still cause dispute between people who make them. Should they be cakey? Should they be fudgy? Personally, I fall very strongly on the fudgy side of the argument. If I wanted something chocolatey with a cake like texture, I would make a chocolate cake, not a chocolate brownie! These brownies are about as fudgy as you can get. You need to watch out though as with such a high butter and chocolate content, they are liable to soften up in the heat if you make them in summer and whilst not an issue if you are at home, this can cause problems if you are taking them on a picnic! Try adding an extra minute or two to the cooking time if you know they brownies will be in the heat for an extended time before you eat them as they will stay fudgy but won’t melt everywhere which from experience, is incredibly messy (but really, really yummy)!
The fudgy chocolate brownie is generally accepted to be a descendent of the Bangor Brownie. This came about after the creation of brownies in the late 1890s and in the 1900s, the Bangor Brownie with its fudgy, dense texture was created. It differed from the original brownies by adding extra chocolate and eggs to the mixture. The recipe I am using today is a take on the Nigella Lawson recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess – a book I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who enjoys baking. Unlike Nigella, I do not put walnuts into the brownies and have been known to add chocolate chips to them.
They are very simple to make too requiring minimal experience and always go down well. Not only that but you don’t have to eat them just as brownies. If you are hosting a dinner party or having friends over, chocolate brownies make a wonderful base for a dessert or can be warmed up and served with ice cream. Baking times really do vary dramatically by oven so making something like brownies a couple of times is a good way to get to know your oven and also leaves some rather nice leftovers.
If you are feeling adventurous, why not try adding a swirl of caramel or peanut butter (thinned down with a little milk and sugar to make it smooth) into your batter in the tins to make the brownies a little more exciting? You could also add small pieces of fudge, candied orange peel, chopped nuts or a tiny amount of coffee to add to the flavour and texture.
Prep time 25 minutes, cook time 25 minutes
375g dark chocolate
375g unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
225g plain flour
100g white chocolate roughly chopped (or chips)
100g dark chocolate roughly chopped (or chips)
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (180oC)
Line two eight inch square pans with baking parchment
Place the butter and dark chocolate into a large, thick based pan together and heat on a low light until it has all melted and combined. Keep stirring to prevent the chocolate from burning. I have also found that putting the butter into the pan first helps prevent the chocolate from catching.
Measure out the sugar and the eggs into a jug
Add the vanilla to them and beat until they have all come together
Once the butter and chocolate have melted together, remove from the heat. Allow the mixture to cool for a minute if it feels hot to prevent the egg from curdling when it is added.
When the chocolate mixture is slightly warm, slowly pour in the eggs and sugar whilst stirring to combine it all together – depending on the temperature of the chocolate at this point, the combined mixture may thicken slightly as the egg is added
Once all the other ingredients are combined, slowly stir through the flour in two or three batches making sure that there are no clumps left over. I tend to do this with the balloon whisk that I use for beating the eggs and sugar earlier
Add in the chocolate chips and stir through and immediately divide the mixture between the baking pans to make sure the chips don’t melt into the rest of the batter
Bake for about 23/24 minutes or until the surface looks cracked and there is a slight wobble. The brownies will still cook a little after they are removed from the oven but make sure they are not raw in the middle!
Once the brownies are cool place them in the fridge to firm up before cutting as they can be really fudgy if they aren’t quite cooked enough for the flour to set.
Let me know how these went for you in the comments – I love seeing what you guys have been making at home! See here for last week’s Cooking from Basics recipe for Chicken and Mushroom Pasta Bake and here for the last recipe in the Baking section, 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.
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.
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!
500g plain white flour
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!