50th Edition Parmesan Biscuits

Parmesan Cheese Sablés

To make about 25, using a 10cm shaped cutters

This is a foolproof cheese biscuit recipe. I made these with 5 and 0 cutters to celebrate the 50th edition of http://www.housing-technology.com at our 7th Annual Conference. I made loads but should have made more as they were quite popular. I also made ’21’ shapes for our son Tom’s recent birthday celebration and also ’18’ shapes for my niece Ellen’s birthday too. Lots of celebrations chez Grant at the moment.

These little biscuits are great with Champagne and I also love them with a good dry Martini http://cookupaparty.co.uk/how-to-make-the-perfect-martini.

 RECIPE

100g plain flour

Pinch each of salt, black pepper and cayenne

1/2 tsp dry mustard powder

90g unsalted butter

90g grated Parmesan or Grana Padano

1 egg beaten to glaze Small handful of poppy seeds or sesame seeds

 Method

1. Sift flour into a bowl or food processor and add the salt, pepper, cayenne and mustard powder.

2. Add the butter and rub in or blend until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

3. Add the cheese and mix the dough together until smooth. If should be soft and pliable.

4. Chill for 30 minutes, and then turn out onto a floured surface.

5. Pre-heat the oven to 190C/385F/Gas 5. Gently roll out to a thickness of 1cm. Using a round or heart-shaped cutter, press out the shapes and brush with the egg glaze.

6. Sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds and place on a flat baking sheet. Bake for approx 12-15 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown, and cool on a wire rack

Engery Boost Biscuits

Healthy Biscuits

healthy biscuits on slate plate with fruit

Perfect for breakfast on the go, mid-afternoon energy boost with a nice cup of tea or at any time of day. These are no-cook easily put together biscuits to keep in the biscuit tin for a healthy refuel. I keep all the ingredients for this in a separate airtight storage tub make up a batch quickly. These are also ideal for those of us students in need of a sweet distraction from staring at books.

 

 

 

 

Healthy Energy Boost Biscuits

Recipe

50g each of dried dates & dried apricots & 20g dried cranberries

100g porridge oats

30g wheat germ or oat bran

20g desiccated coconut

20g linseeds juice zest of one unwaxed lemon

1 Tablespoon of maple syrup or honey

2 Tablespoons cold-pressed flax oil

 

Lightly oil a small baking tin ( I use a square 8 ½ inch/22cm size)

Finely chop the dried fruits and add to the rest of the ingredients

Mix all the ingredients in a food processor until firm dough is formed. Press the mixture evenly into your tin to a thickness of about 2cm.

Chill in the fridge for about an hour, then cut into squares ready to eat. Can be stored in the fridge or in an airtight container in the cupboard.

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Rosemary Focaccia

Rosemary Focaccia 

This is a very easy bread to make and is ideal party food. Serve with some good quality Italian meats and cheeses as party grazing food. You can get lovely Bresaola beautifully sliced from http://www.vallebona.co.uk . It is also very good with a substantial home made soup for weekend lunch or supper. The dough is wetter than your usual loaf, so add the water gradually if making by hand. You can also use the food processor for mixing and for the first rise. See Tips, below. Happy Baking!

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Ingredients

500g/1lb 2oz strong white bread flour

2 tsp salt

2 sachets dried easy blend yeast

2 tbsp olive oil

400ml/14fl oz cold water

olive oil, for drizzling

sea salt crystals

fresh rosemary

Equipment – I use a  23 x 33cm (9″ x 13″) Swiss roll tin for my loaves. It needs to be at least 2cm deep.

Method

  1. Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and 300ml/10½fl oz of the water into a large bowl. Gently stir with your hand or a wooden spoon to form a dough then knead the dough in the bowl for five minutes, gradually adding the remaining water.
  2. Stretch the dough by hand in the bowl, tuck the sides into the centre for about five minutes.
  3. Tip the dough onto an oiled work surface and continue kneading for five more minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size. This would normally take an hour in a warm place, or longer if you put it a cold area.
  4. Tip the dough out of the bowl and spread onto the baking sheet, pushing to the corners, then leave to prove for one hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Press your fingers into the dough to create little hollows. Drizzle the loaves with oil, sprinkle with the sea salt crystals, and put small sprigs of rosemary into the holes you have created. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

TIPS:

  • I find half a loaf does a dinner party for six, so I cut it in half and freeze half of the loaf for another time.
  • It is quite a wet dough, so if you have a Magimix or food processor, you can make the dough in the bowl with the dough blade. Whizz for about a minute. Switch off and leave the dough to rise for an hour in the bowl. Then once it has rise to twice it’s size, whizz again with the dough blade for another minute or so to “knock down”. Once the dough has been knocked back, you can tip it into the baking tin to rise again. Continue as per the recipe above.

 

Is your daily loaf making you ill?

What exactly is in our bread?

Surely we should be able to buy a loaf of bread and believe that it is a simple and necessary food. However many of us are turning away from bread due to bloating, feelings of lethargy and a general belief that carbs are bad for you. On the other hand, as a staple, bread should be the staff of life. Shouldn’t it? Unless we have the facts presented to us it is difficult to make a judgement.

The Real Bread Campaign exists to raise awareness as to what actually goes on in the bread making industry and to promote independent bakers. The Real Bread Campaign is part of the charity Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming and much of their work is raising awareness.

The nasty bits

The campaign has deep concerns about additives. They believe that people should be aware of the possible side effects from the long list of permitted additives allowed in bread. The Food Intolerance Network claims of propionates (an additive commonly found in packaged bread) that: “Reactions can be anything from the usual range of food intolerance symptoms: migraine and headaches; gastro-intestinal symptoms including stomach aches, irritable bowel, diarrhoea, urinary urgency, bedwetting; eczema and other itchy skin rashes; nasal congestion (stuffy or runny nose); depression, unexplained tiredness, impairment of memory and concentration, speech delay; tachycardia (fast heart beat); growing pains, loud voice (no volume control); irritability, restlessness, inattention, difficulty settling to sleep, night waking and night terrors.”  That might well make you think again when snatching a loaf of pre-packed bread from the shelf. Propionates (E280) are just some of the permitted additives.

The Real Bread Campaign produced a thorough report which took nine months to complete. In “Are Supermarket Bloomers Pants?” they contacted six major supermarkets to get them to come clean about what is in their so-called fresh baked bread. As you can imagine where they got a reply, it was not as full or informative as they would have wished for.

The Real Bread Campaign also state, “It should be noted that loaves, dough or flour imported from or via other EU or EEA member states is not subject to UK regulation.” So there is even less control on what goes into our food, which is particularly concerning when we have limited supplies of flour in the UK, due to the poor harvests caused by extreme weather conditions. The expensive so-called artisanal bread sold in supermarkets is often no more than an expensive rip off. The Real Bread Campaign is asking supermarkets to “stop using ‘artisan’ and similar terms for any bakery products that have not been made from scratch using all natural ingredients and traditional techniques by trained and experienced craft bakers”. What most people don’t realise is that they are not safe spending extra on bread that looks fairly rustic; they still contain the dreaded flour improver, or flour treatment. These are additives combined to improve baking functionality. Flour treatment agents are used to increase the speed of dough rising, which makes more bread, therefore more profit. A proper artisan baker will not use these, allowing their breads to rise naturally. It is commonly believed that this quick rise is the cause of the unpleasant bloating that can occur after eating bread.

Fight back

With this information, would you now think twice about spending your hard earned dough on what is essentially a big con? To make some small protest, seek out your local baker, making bread in the traditional way. Or bake your own. There is nothing more blissful than creating your own bread, either by hand or in a bread-making machine. Choose your flour carefully; many well known brands contain imported flour which is not subject to UK regulations. Doves Farm organic flours and some of the smaller mills produce good quality flour. Just remember to check the label. Bread making is surprisingly easy and the actual making process takes about 10 minutes; it is the proving (or rising) that takes the time and this can be fitted in around other activities. If enough people take up a stance on this, perhaps we can get more accountability for what goes into our bread. See my recipes for a simple way to make your own. The Weekend Loaf is an easy way to make bread for the weekend, cutting down on waiting for it to prove by a slow rise in the fridge overnight. For a really tasty and healthy loaf check out my Spelt Bread. Happy Baking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeded Soda Bread

 

Seeded Soda Bread

This is my eldest niece’s favourite bread, especially when topped with smoked salmon, or when in Cardigan, smoked sewin for an extra special treat. It is a very easy recipe using cup measurements. The size of cup I use is a standard teacup, which equates to 200ml. It is perfect party food, if you cut the soda bread into small squares and top with smoked salmon; ideal with your favourite glass of fizz.

 

Ingredients

 

3 cups of wholemeal flour or seed and herb blend flour from Y Felin, St Dogmaels

1 cup of rolled oats

2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

450ml natural yoghurt

 

Method

 

  1. Turn the oven to 200’C
  2. Combine the flour, oats, bicarb and salt
  3. Add the yoghurt and mix together to form a sticky mixture
  4. Place in a lined 2lb baking tin, or shape into a free form round shape
  5. Bake for 30-40 minutes until cooked.

 

Note:

To check if the loaf is thoroughly cooked you can insert a skewer, as for cake testing. However, most bread bakers use the time honoured method of the thump test. To do this, remove the loaf from the tin or baking sheet, turn upside down and tap on the base. It will sound like tapping on a hollow tree if the loaf is cooked through. It’s hard to explain but after a number of times, you get to know.

Best eaten the day it is made, it is quick and delicious. It is important to use good quality flour as this makes all the difference. We like to buy ours when on holiday from the mill in St Dogmael’s, but Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Seeded Flour is also good.

Easy Spelt Bread Recipe

Spelt Bread Recipe

After extensive research into what goes into the bread we buy I decided to make as much of my own bread as possible. Experimenting with some white spelt flour from Wessex Mill, I was delighted to discover how easy it is to work this dough. It quickly forms a dough ball without too much clinging to your fingers and needs very little oil or flour for kneading.  The dough felt light and elastic when kneading. The resulting loaf was really tasty, so much so that I made another batch and formed into rolls after the first rising. For 12 rolls follow the instructions below but cook for 13-15 minutes. You could also leave to rise the first time overnight as in The Weekend Loaf

INGREDIENTS

500 g   White Spelt Flour or Wholegrain Spelt Flour

3 tsps  Salt

7g   Quick Yeast

300ml Warm Water

3 Tbsp Olive Oil

Method

  1. In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, and quick yeast.
  2. Add the water and oil and roughly mix it into the flour in the bowl.
  3. When the dough has come together enough, turn out onto a lightly oiled or floured surface and  knead well until it feels smooth and pliable.This normally takes 4-5 minutes.
  4. Leave the dough covered with oiled cling film in a draught free place, for it to double in size. (This should take about an hour).
  5. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead the dough firmly for five minutes.
  6. Shape the dough and put it into an oiled 1kg/2lb bread tin or place it on an oiled baking sheet.
  7. Cover with oiled cling film and leave dough to rise for about 30 minutes in a warm place.
  8. Pre heat oven to 220°C/Fan200°C/425°F/Gas 7
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for about 35 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven, slide the loaf upside down onto your hand, protect form heat with a clean cloth. Tap the bottom to listen for the “hollow” sound, which will indicate if your loaf is done. See
  11. If you think it still needs a few minutes, but is brown on top, return to oven upside down to finish off cooking the base of the loaf.
  12. When the loaf is fully cooked, remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack to cool.

Very Easy Bread Recipe

Bread for the weekend: start Friday evening, cook Saturday morning for warm delicious brunch

  • Only four ingredients
  • Friday: Take two minutes to weigh  and mix ingredients
  • Knead for five mintues
  • Leave to rise overnight in fridge
  • Saturday morning: Punch air out of risen loaf, knead again for five minutes, shape and leave for final rise
  • Delicious bread ready to eat in 35 minutes

AT A GLANCE:

2 minutes to weigh and mix ingredients

5 minutes kneading

60 minutes for first rise

5 minutes to knock down and knead again

35-60 minutes for second rise in tin

35 minutes to bake in oven

 

Recipe:

  • 500g strong white bread flour*, plus a little extra for dusting
  • 2 teasps salt
  • 7g fast-action dried yeast
  • 3 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 300ml tepid water

Method:

  1. Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl and mix well with your hands. Make a well in the centre and add the oil and water, and mix well. If the dough seems a little stiff, add 1-2 tbsp water, mix well then tip onto a lightly floured work surface and knead. Once the dough is smooth, place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Place in the fridge to allow it to rise slowly overnight.
  2. The next morning remove the dough from the fridge and knock it back, gently kneading for around three minutes. Mould into the shape you want and place on a baking tray lined with parchment or place in a loaf tin. I like the free form shape as it appears more rustic.
  3. When shaped, cover loosely with cling film and leave to prove for a further hour until doubled in size.
  4. Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Dust the loaf with a little flour and cut three slashes across the top of the loaf with a sharp knife. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Allow to cool on a wire rack and enjoy while still warm.

* Select good quality flour; see http://cookupaparty.co.uk/is-your-daily-loaf-making-you-ill/