Sunday, 23 August 2015

Quick Cornbread

I love making bread. I love the smooth, elastic feeling of well-kneaded bread. I love the spongy feel of the risen dough. I love the smell of the bread in the oven.

And, of course, I love eating it.

There's a sense of reward that comes from baking bread that doesn't come from many other bakes. Bread takes time and it takes effort. You have to knead the bread and wait for it to rise twice before you even put in it the oven. You really have to work for those gluten strands.

That's the reason I rarely make bread any more. It can take up to a whole afternoon. It can take longer.

But this week on Great British Bake Off the contestants made quick breads, which use baking powder or bicarbonate of soda to get the bread to rise. It can take less than an hour, easily.

So I followed suit this weekend and made cornbread with guacamole.

If you want to make a quick bread, here's how.

You will need:

150g fine polenta (cornmeal or maize flour to my American friends)
150g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
half a tsp bicarbonate of soda
half a tsp salt
1 tbsp caster sugar
300ml milk
half a tbsp lemon juice
2 eggs
melted butter, to grease
a square 9 inch baking tin, 2 inches deep

1. Preheat the oven to 220C, grease the baking tin and put it in the oven to heat up. Mix together the flour, sugar, polenta, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl.

2. Whisk together the eggs, milk, lemon juice in a separate bowl.

3. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, pour in the egg and milk mixture and fold together the wet and dry ingredients. Pour into the preheated tin.

4. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the bread is pulling away from the sides of the tin and a skewer inserted into the middle of the bread comes out clean. Leave to cool and then slice into wedges to serve.

This recipe serves four people (depending on how hungry they are).

Happy baking!


Sunday, 16 August 2015

English Muffins

For those who are not familiar with English muffins, let me explain the difference between English and American muffins.

The English muffins is a bread product that is round in shape, fluffy in texture and dusted with semolina or polenta. It is traditionally sliced open and toasted, then buttered and eaten while still warm. For a more substantial meal, the muffin is sometimes topped with ham or smoked salmon and then with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce.

An American muffin is an oversized cupcake that you get overcharged for in Starbucks.

I and my housemate, Julie, had a lengthy “discussion” with another colleague during the week on which was the “proper” kind of muffin and which was invented first. I can confirm that the answer to both of these questions is the English muffin.

So when I fancied making something special for breakfast this weekend, it was to the humble English muffin I turned. I made eggs royale - muffins topped with smoked salmon, poached eggs and homemade hollandaise.

The muffins were excellent - fluffy inside, marked with the distinctive pale golden brown circles on the top and base and only improved by their toppings.

I used a Paul Hollywood recipe. This will produce 8 muffins.

You will need:

a 9cm straight sided biscuit cutter
300g strong white bread flour plus extra to dust
6g fast action yeast
6g salt
15g caster sugar
15g softened butter
15g polenta or semolina
1 egg
170ml milk
olive oil, for greasing

1. Put the flour in a large bowl and add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt on the other side. Add the sugar.

2. Stir the flour, sugar, yeast and salt together. Make a well in the middle of the mixture and add the butter, egg, milk then beat in to form a soft dough.

3. Tip onto a clean, floured work surface and knead with well floured hands for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.

4. Roll the dough into a ball and put in an oiled bowl, Cover with clingfilm and leave for an hour until doubled in size.

5. Dust the work surface with a mixture of flour and semolina or polenta and roll out the dough to a thickness of 2.5cm. Cut out 8 muffins with the biscuit cutter and place on a tray dusted with the same flour/polenta mixture.

6. Cover the tray with clingfilm and leave to prove for 30 minutes. Close to the end of proving. heat an ungreased griddle pan over a low-medium heat. When the muffins finish proving, cook them in the pan, flipping after 5 minutes to cook on the other side until each side is cooked to a pale golden brown.

7. To serve, slice open, toast and butter the muffins, add your desired topping and eat.

Happy baking!


Sunday, 2 August 2015

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

I love eating carrot cake. It's moist, lightly spiced, has a great texture and certainly doesn't make me feel like I'm eating a vegetable.

Not that I mind eating vegetables, being a vegetarian and all.

The only problem is, I hate making carrot cake. Grating five to six carrots, quite probably chipping a nail as I do so, is not my idea of fun.

Luckily for everyone else (except my housemate, who will probably be finding carrot gratings for weeks), I can be easily persuaded to make carrot cake.

I made this cake for my friend and colleague Karolina's birthday.

You will need:

For the cake:
225g self-raising flour
250ml sunflower oil
250g carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
large pinch of salt
225g soft light brown sugar
3 large eggs 
2 cake tins of the same size
a handful of pecan nuts, roughly chopped

For the icing:
225g cream cheese (such as Philadelphia)
25g icing sugar
50g butter at room temperature

1. Grease and line the cake tins and preheat the oven to 180C. Beat together the brown sugar and oil. Beat in the eggs one by one.

2. Mix together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and fold into the sugar mixture. 

3. Add the grated carrots and fold into the cake mixture.

4. Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. If a knife inserted into the centre of a cake comes out clean it is ready. 

5. Leave the sponges to cool. Beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar and butter.

6. When the sponges are completely cool, spread the icing over the top of each sponge and stack one on top of the other.

And there you have it.