Wednesday 9 September 2020

Anne's Tomato Bread

Anne's Tomato Bread
This is one of the best breads we've made so far!  And it's so simple to make, fairly quick to prepare and complete, plus a couple of hours rising time and 40 minutes baking time.


425g of strong bread flour (I used ALDI's own brand bread flour)
33g of fresh yeast (mine came from Booth's but many supermarkets have it in the bakery section, just ask them) 
1½ tablespoons (tbs) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon (tsp) fine table salt
5 pieces of sundried tomato, chopped into small pieces
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic granules or powder
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp crushed or ground dried rosemary
2 tbs tomato puree
1 tsp olive oil
up to 1.5 cups of tepid water


Crumble the yeast into a bowl and add the sugar to it, leave to stand for around 10 minutes.

Yeast and sugar mix
The mixture will start to interact and liquify. Add around 1/2 a cup of the tepid water and mix together - don't worry if you still have uneven bits showing, they'll slowly dissolve and it'll all work once you add it to the flour.

Yeast, sugar and water mix
Into a large mixing bowl put the flour, salt, garlic and herbs, and mix them together well.

Flour, salt, garlic and herbs
Make a well in the centre of the flour mix, and pour into it the olive oil and the tomato puree.

Olive oil and tomato puree into the flour mix
Add the yeast mix...

Yeast mix added to the flour mix
And gently fold the flour mix into the well.

The mixture starts to combine
Add the chopped sundried tomato pieces...

It's best to use dried tomatoes rather than those in oil
Add more water as needed, a half cup at a time...

The mix is starting to combine well...
Nearly there, still needs a bit more mixing...
   ... until you get the dough to the right consistency (it should be firm and doughy, and not wet and sticky).
This is how it should look
Tip the dough onto a floured surface and knead for around 5 minutes, stretching and folding the dough - this is a great stress-reliever and a good workout for your arms and shoulder muscles!

After kneading, pop the dough back into the mixing bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and let it rise for around 2 hours in a warm place (not too hot or you'll kill the yeast!)

We stand the rising bowl on our brewer's pad (intended to help home brewers ferment beers or wines in demijohns) but you can use any warm place. If you're not sure if it's warm enough, add a hand towel or two on top of the tea towel to keep the dough warm (it's like having its own duvet!)

Once there is a bulge in the cloths at the top of the bowl your dough is ready for the next stage. This is how much our dough rose in 2 hours.

The risen dough should fill your bowl
Now preheat your oven whilst you do the next bit... it needs to be very hot - 450 degrees F (232 degrees C), or gas mark 8.  Lightly oil your baking pan and, if you are using a heavyweight pan or tray, pop it into the oven to heat up whilst you deal with the dough.

Tip the dough out onto the floured kneading surface again, and knead for 2 -3 minutes. Shape into whatever shaped loaf you want to make. 

Dough needs kneading!
As you can see here, we use a long enamelled cast iron pan for our bread, which takes a fair while to heat through, so the preheating of it is vital. Lift your shaped dough into the pan and put the pan back into your hot oven.  Bake for around 35 - 40 minutes.

Your pan should be big enough for your loaf to double in size during baking.

If you prefer to use a baking tray instead, you could line it with a sheet of baking parchment instead of oiling it, and place the dough in the centre of the tray, allowing space around it for it to spread and rise. 

Make sure you use a lower shelf in the oven to allow space for the bread to rise as it cooks.

Check the bread is cooked through by lifting the pan from the oven and lifting the bread from it, tap the base of the loaf, if it sounds hollow it's baked through. If it isn't done, pop it back in for another 5 minutes or so and check again. 

Once you're happy it's baked through pop it onto a wire cooling rack (if you don't have one then use the rack out of your grill tray, it's to stop the bottom going soggy).

Beautifully baked tomato loaf cooling on the rack
Cover with the clean tea towel again and leave to cool thoroughly before slicing and eating.

One slice or two?
This is how the inside should look - spread with your choice of butter / margarine / cheese spread or try it plain, it's yummy that way too.


Thursday 30 July 2020

Adventures in Cheese: A Champagne Cheese!

"What?" I can hear you saying, "a Champagne cheese, what's that all about?"   Let me tell you about this most delicious cheese, from the Champagne-Ardenne region of Normandy in France. It's called Vignotte and is a high-fat, triple-cream cheese from pasteurised cow’s milk.

Vignotte contains nearly 75% fat due to the amount of cream it includes, and the cheese has a powdery white bloom on its outside and an seriously creamy, rich texture within. It's Brie on steroids! 
With a slight lemon-citrus flavour, it's delightful to eat on its own, or with crackers or artisan bread, and is one of the most delicious cheeses I've tried so far. I found it on sale in our local Booth's Supermarket at Carnforth. It's highly recommended if you enjoy rich creamy French cheeses.

Wednesday 5 February 2020

Medovníky: Slovak Spiced Honey Cookies

We're feeling somewhat down in the dumps this week, after the media brouhaha about BREXIT last Friday, so the boy and I did we always do when the world gets us down: we retreated to the kitchen to cook, or in this case, bake!

We had a mammoth session of international cake making as a way of saying we reject the demonisation of immigrants and foreigners that seems to have been unleashed by the UK leaving the EU.

The result was two blueberry bundt cakes (American), a batch of cinnamon rolls (originally Scandinavian), and an enormous batch of Medovníky or Slovak Spiced Honey Cookies (Slovakia).

The latter is something he has wanted to try for ages, but it's one of those recipes that takes a bit of time to prepare, as it has to be left overnight to chill and firm up, and only then can you get to the interesting bit: baking and eating them!

Medovníky are traditional festive cookies often served at Christmastime in Slovakia and are often beautifully decorated with white icing patterns or swirls. Not being artistic, he decided to split the dough into halves and one batch were topped with a half glace cherry, the other batch were sprinkled with Aldi's Winter Spice baking fudge pieces, then all were glazed them with beaten egg (rather than the recipe's egg white) before baking. We also left out the optional almonds due to my nut allergy.

The flavour and aroma was really interesting, as you might guess reading the list of spices that go into these cookies, they reminded us of lebkuchen but with a difference.

The recipe made 36 cookies each of which is about the diameter of a round beer mat, so we'll probably be eating them for days!