Super Soft Pretzels…

Last weekend in a fit of pure hunger I decided to try and make homemade pretzels. I wouldn’t say the recipe I used was the most traditional as these were larger and more bread roll sized but they were very tasty and the bread dough was super easy to make! Topped off with plenty of sesame seeds they were delicious with lashings of butter! I definitely didn’t eat two of them to myself in one afternoon 😉

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To make these pretzels I used a recipe by the Hairy Bikers which is available at this link. The recipe is time consuming but most of that is proving time. Overall I’d say they are easy to make. This recipe made 4 large pretzels but you could make smaller ones or even one large pretzels to cut into pieces.

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I finished my pretzels with an egg wash to give them a golden glossy colour and topped them with handfuls of sesame seeds but you can choose your topping. Other ideas could be fennel seeds, sea salt or even a sprinkle of mixed spice. I’m sure you could also easily adjust the recipe to add a little more sugar, a little less salt and a few chocolate chips! There is plenty of room for experimentation so give it a go!

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Spiced Cumin and Fennel Bread…

This recipe is a twist on a traditional white loaf. It demonstrates that you can add pretty much any spice to bread to create an unusual alternative to the normal supermarket loaves! I found this bread kept really well for a homemade loaf, it made fabulous toast and worked really well with pate, adding an extra dimension of flavour! The recipe came from The Great British Bake Off recipe book and it works brilliantly!

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Here’s how to make it…

Ingredients

500g Strong White Bread Flour

1 tsp Salt

2 tsp Cumin Seeds

1 tsp Fennel Seeds

1 x 7g Sachet of Dried Yeast

350ml Lukewarm Water

Olive Oil for kneading

Wholemeal flour for sprinkling

Method

1. To begin in a bowl mix the flour, salt, cumin and fennel. Add the 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of the dried yeast and stir. Reserve the rest for another recipe.

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2. Add the water to the flour mixture and mix with your hands to make a soft shaggy dough (its a bit messy!). Cover with a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes.

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3. Next pour a little oil onto your work surface and lightly oil your hands. Tip the dough onto the work top and flip it to coat in oil. Fold the dough in half and then holding the two edges, push the rest away with the heel of your hand, fold again and repeat this motion ten times. Return the dough to the oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave for 10 minutes.

4. Repeat this process twice more but after kneading three times cover as before but this time leave for 30 minutes.

5. After the 30 minutes repeat the kneading process one last time. Shape the dough into a ball. Place on a baking tray sprayed with oil. Loosely cover with cling film and leave for an hour at room temperature or until doubled in size.

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6. While the dough proves, preheat the oven to 220C (Gas mark 7).

7. When it has proved, sprinkle the dough with water and dust with wholemeal flour (this makes a good crust!). You may need to reshape your dough slightly at this point too if its gone a bit odd!

8. Place a few ice cubes in the base of the oven to create a steamy environment and then add the bread on the baking tray. Bake for 15 minutes before reducing the temperature to 190C (gas mark 5) and bake for a further 25-30 minutes. The bottom should sound hollow when tapped if its ready! Place on a wire rack to cool then enjoy!


Tip Top Bread Tips…

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I’m far from an artisan baker but recently I’ve been experimenting more and more with making bread. I’ve tried a whole series of recipes and had some really great successes and some pretty awful failures! To stop this happening to you I’ve compiled a list of top tips to help you on your way to gorgeous tasty loaves!

1. The measurements are very important! In savoury cooking you can often get away with throwing in ingredients without measuring. Baking is a science though if you throw in ingredients your likely to end up with rock hard bread that looks like a brick. Avoid!

2. Flouring the worktop before you knead is really important but don’t use too much as this alters the recipe!

3. Kneading bread may seem like a chore but it doesn’t knead to be (get it! Haha). There are loads of videos on You Tube explaining this and if in doubt think Karate Kid style wax on wax off!

4. When you’ve kneaded the bread you’re looking for an ‘elastic’ texture. When you stretch or press the dough it should spring back to its original shape!

5. Spray Oil. It’s your saviour! Spray your baking tray before you place the dough on and spray your cling film before you cover your dough to rise. It really stops things sticking!

6. To help your bread rise it needs to be in a warm place. If you don’t have an airing cupboard place it next to a warmed oven or, as I do place it on the floor under a radiator!

7. Your bread needs to be finished before you cook it. There’s plenty of ways to do it. Adding sprigs of rosemary, adding a sprinkle of sea salt or a dusting of flour. Flouring it makes it rustic spraying it with oil makes it shiny and crisp!

8. When cooking the bread either spray some water into the oven or place a handful of ice cubes in the bottom. This will create a steamy environment in the oven which helps the bread crisp up!

That’s all you need to know! So give it a go it’s not as hard as you think!


Easy Peasy Bread…

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Now I’m no bread expert and I’m not claiming that this is the best way to make bread but it is definitely one of the easiest! This recipe is from Lorraine Pascale’s ‘Home Cooking Made Easy’ series on the BBC. Now while I have her baking recipe book I don’t have the book to accompany this series so I don’t know if this recipe is in there! This was on Episode 4 of the series and is a recipe to make Pain D’epi bread. The programme was on I-player for a while but after they took it off they didn’t put the recipe on BBC Food. Luckily I had it written down. Here it is!

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Ingredients

275g Strong White Bread Flour

1 Sachet of Dried Yeast (7g)

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1Tsp Fine Salt

175ml Warm Water (emphasis on the warm!)

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Method

Plonk all the ingredients into a bowl. Give it a quick mix (I tend to use the handle end of a wooden spoon!) Just to get the mixture together. Tip onto a floured work surface and knead for ten minutes. There are loads of You Tube videos showing how to do this! Roll into a sausage shape and place on a slightly oiled baking tray covered with oiled cling film. Leave to rise (double in size) for an hour or so.

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When its risen don’t remove from the tray simply snip the dough with scissors diagonally but not all the way through (see picture!). Then turn these ‘leaves’ to alternate sides. The idea is that the bread looks like a wheat sheaf! Heat the oven to 200C (180C if you have a fan) spray the top of the loaf with oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown! This bread is excellent and each ‘leaf’ can be pulled from the loaf to create individual rolls! The bread looks really impressive and is super quick to make!