Posts Tagged With: bread

Baked Comfort

Over the last few months I’ve been getting more adventurous with my oven usage. After something of a false start when I first moved in where it turned out the thermostat wire had melted through, I’ve been slowly getting the hang of my new oven. The rule of thumb appears to be, 10-20˚C lower than the recipe/packet suggests and 5-10 minutes less cooking time (180˚C on the middle shelf seems to be sweet spot of the oven) and you’ll be just dandy.

To my great delight – and relief! – unlike my last place’s oven, this one actually bakes cakes and buns properly, no more half-cooked blueberry muffins for me! They don’t weld themselves to the paper cases anymore either! I’ve now successfully made two different kinds of muffins (rhubarb ones and apple and cinnamon varieties) in the oven so I feel more able to be more adventurous with my baking again. I didn’t realise how much frustration and uncertainty about whether they’d come out okay had curtailed my baking.

Apple cinnamon muffins

The somewhat temperamental nature of the previous ovens meant I really only made pasta bakes and pies in it – though an honourable mention needs to be made for the delightful discovery of baked eggs. It’s been rather fun experimenting with roasted vegetables – I may never again eat sweet potatoes any other way – as it’s opened up a whole bunch of recipes that I previously avoided as they started with ‘first roast the vegetables’ and it was too much of a faff. It really does improve the flavour of a surprising number of vegetables.

I’ve also successfully made bread in the oven now – even if only from packet mix so far – something I never risked attempting in either of the ovens at my old place. Before I moved to Inverness I used to bake bread, not all the time, but at least on a regular basis. I’d got pretty good at making soda bread, and it became a ritual to make it every time I made pea and mint soup, something I now only really do when I’m home visiting my parents for Xmas. I’d forgotten in the interim, how easy and satisfying I find making – most, ciabatta never comes out right for me – bread until I had the dough under my fists pummelling it gently into submission. There’s a special kind of joy in going to check on my proving dough and finding it successfully doubled in size. In the way my whole flat smelled of warm bread for a good 24 hours afterwards, and the repeated pleasure I got every time I opened the breadbox to be greeted by the scent. The way the loaf was exactly the right size for me to have eaten it all before it went off, and the satisfaction of making sandwiches for lunch with it, the added pleasure of the casual ‘that looks nice bread’ comments from colleagues to which I could proudly respond ‘thanks, I made it myself’. There are few more comforting scents than fresh bread you made yourself, I find. An olfactory hug if you will.
Cheese and tomato bread!Cheese and tomato bread sliced!

Categories: feeling philisophical, new skills | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Bake More Often – 1/10

In a productive start to the New Year and my new challenges, I baked this weekend. Motivated by the presence of buttermilk creeping ever closer to its expiry date in the fridge I planned a baking afternoon for Sunday with the intent of making soda bread along with something sweet from my new Lorraine Pascale recipe book.

The soda bread plan led to my mum making a big pot of homemade soup to eat it with, which is motivation in and of itself to get round to making bread. Second day soup plus soda bread? Bliss. The second part of the plan went slightly adrift, but in a good way, due to remembering that Monday was my friend Alison’s birthday. Now surely, I hear you say, cake and a friend’s birthday are an excellent plan? Well, you’d be correct, but there was a potential issue…

Some time ago, Alison was diagnosed as coeliac and banished all wheat from her diet. We happened to get chatting about the rubbishness of many gluten-free baked goods and how difficult it was to get certain kinds right. In a moment of rash enthusiasm/foolishness, I promised her I would learn gluten-free baking and make her a birthday cake. As with so many good intentions, I kept meaning to try it out – I even bought Xanthan gum – but never quite getting round to it. And now it was the Friday and her birthday was in 3 days time and I still hadn’t done anything about it. I had a choice, admit failure and buy her some gluten-free cookies or forge ahead and make her a cake. * So of course, I spent Saturday searching through gluten-free cookbooks in the library and searching the shelves of my local town for rice flour. (There was a brief panic at the thought of trying to track down gluten-free baking powder, but thankfully the stuff I already had in the house turned out to be gluten-free by accident.) After some quick and cryptic enquiries with the birthday girl, I settled on making her an almond cake.

The recipe uses ground almond as a substitute for the flour, which actually gives a decent texture to the batter – it looks and feels like cake batter. I have, for various reasons, eaten quite a bit of gluten-free cake and generally found them to be dense and occasionally gritty in texture with a certain…aftertaste. I can’t vouch for the taste of the finished product – but some surreptitious sampling of the batter assured me that it tasted promisingly of almond. And my usual ‘is it cooked yet’ tests, suggested it was both a promising colour and the correct amount of bounce for a good sponge so the signs were hopeful.

Almond Cake

As promising as the recipe seemed, I did chicken out of its recommended icing – it started with soaking blanched almonds overnight and ended with sprinkling flaked almonds over the finished products and seemed altogether a bit excessive. So I stuck with a simple butter-cream icing, gently tinted pink with a dash of almond flavouring to tie it together. I sprinkled some pastel shaded 100s and 1000s over the top instead…

Decorated Cake

And as to the taste? Well it was a present wasn’t it? But the recipient assures me it was good so we’ll need to take her word for it won’t we…

*For those of you wondering why I didn’t just make her a batch of brownies – which are naturally gluten free – well it isn’t technically cake, I felt that was cheating.

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Soda Bread Success

I have a culinary success to report. A couple of years ago I got caught up in all the hype around making your own bread – they made it look so easy on the Bake Off – and decided that the next step on my path to becoming a fully rounded cook, was to learn to make bread. Also my beloved Lorraine Pascale cook books had a whole selection of breads in them and well, she’d never led me wrong before so I felt confident that this was a thing I could master. I started myself off simply enough with rolls (which were decent) and English muffins (which were delicious) so I felt ready to tackle an actual loaf. I love Italian food so I thought focaccia would be the best place to start….this was NOT the case. My mum, who watches far more cookery programmes than I do, assures me that actually it’s a bit of a finicky bread and the art is in the proving so is not really the best place to start with bread making, but all I know is that I’ve tried to make it several times to different recipes (including one of those little packet mixes that are supposed to make it easy) with results that varied from ‘a bit rubbish’ to inedible. I was, I must confess, a bit scunnered with bread making.

However, when I put together my original 30 recipes list, I put soda bread down on it as here was a bread that required no proving, and after my most recent jaunt over to Belfast in October I was reminded how much I like soda bread and wanted to learn to make it myself. I spent all of November procrastinating over the subject, gathering what I needed to make it and generally making excuses to not get round to it. This weekend I determined I was going to make it, for two reasons, one I hate admitting defeat and two if I didn’t make it soon the buttermilk was going to go off and I hate wasting food.

So today I made soda bread. I stuck with Lorraine – because she’s right 90% of the time – and just adjusted for taste (no treacle as I hate the taste of treacle). It was quite an unusual process because it’s quite a sticky dough (the temptation to add more flour is great!) and you don’t knead it for very long, nor do you leave it to rise at all. The only effect the lack of treacle seemed to have was that I couldn’t get the nice smooth finish to the dough when I shaped it. Otherwise it all went well, it cooked away in the oven and once done it had a promisingly hollow sound.

Soda Bread

It was approximately twice the size of the loaf you see in the picture, because the instructions said ‘serve warm from the oven’ so we cut a couple of slices to see how it was and ended up eating half the loaf warm with butter. I was also instructed that I’m to bring a loaf for the family festive celebrations, as it will go perfectly with the pea and mint soup I’m making. So I think we can call this one a resounding success!


Victory over (soda) bread is mine!

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List Progression

Slowly and surely, progress is being made. I ended up having to knock one of the recipes off the list, as I’d mistakenly thought I had couscous in the cupboard when in fact it was polenta. However the list is now 20 items long, and I have been making decent progress on cooking up the cupboard contents, though not necessarily from the list.

  1. Dal Paneer Nawabi (Dal Cookbook)
  2. Parsee Dal
  3. Rasam with Gourd and Toor Lentils
  4. Lentil Kutu with Green Beans
  5. Moong Dal with Cauliflower
  6. Flaked Rice with Potatoes/Batate Pohe (India’s Vegetarian Cooking)
  7. Bamboo Shoots in Coconut Milk/Kirla Ghassi
  8. Rice and Mung Stew/Mung Khichdi
  9. Rich Root Soup (Easy Vegetarian)
  10. Lentils and Couscous (Guardian)
  11. Pappardelle with Leek
  12. Pumpkin Curry (Wagamama)
  13. Yasai Dotenabe
  14. Yasai Yaki Soba
  15. Sake Poached Pears
  16. Rosemary and Thyme Focaccia (Packet)
  17. Cheddar Cheese Scones (Lighter Way to Bake)
  18. Bite-sized Pinwheel Snacks
  19. White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
  20. Baked Lentil and Bean Cottage Pie


I have made a few things from the list though, largely because last week, I finished compiling my list and was utterly horrified by how little I’d actually cooked off the list so far and went on a bit of a cooking spree. That’s actually harder than it sounds for me, as I tend to bulk cook to accomodate my shifts and we also have a tiny freezer so I have to strike a happy medium between making several days meals at once and making so much of one thing that I scunner myself of the meal in question.

Rich Root Veg

I made the Rich Root Soup, which was very tasty and filling, though mostly brought home to me that I need a proper BIG pot for making soup in, my current large one really isn’t up to the task.

Lentil and 'Couscous'

Then I decided to make the Lentils and Couscous recipe, only to discover that I don’t actually have any couscous in the cupboard. Handily though, the recipe had a variant option where you replace the couscous with brown rice (which I do have in the cupboard) so I made that instead. It was a bit bland, but I suspect the couscous takes on the lime juice flavour more so worth trying again with actual couscous.

Then I had a go at making focaccia. This is actually my second attempt at focaccia – I wasn’t happy with my original attempt so a while back I picked up one of those little flour bags that claim to be bread mix to see if that would work better. No. Nope. Not at all. Total disaster. Wouldn’t rise, wouldn’t cook, I ended up cooking it for twice as long as the recipe recommended and still when I cut it open the dough was still raw inside. Win some, lose some, I guess. Perhaps I should just take it as a sign that I’m not meant to make focaccia…

So four recipes tried; sixteen to go. Clearly I’m not going to make them all before the end of the month, but I’m going to have fun trying to squeeze them all in!

Categories: being veggie, challenges, October cook-up | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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