Vigilantes

Tiny little folds of bread filled with jam (homemade of course) – don’t they just sound delicious.  Well they did to me, that’s why I decided to bake them…

These little buns come from Uruguay and Jane’s foreword about them says:-

“Get this: vigilantes are the snack of choice of the Uruguayan police force!  That has got to be reason enough to bake them”

Ingredients

  • 300g plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp instant yeast/1 tsp dry yeast/6g fresh yeast
  • 200g + 1 tbsp milk
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 50g butter

Filling

  • Jam of your choice (in this case homemade red currant and gooseberry jam)

Glaze

  • 1 Egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp water
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of sugar

Oven

220 °C, 425° F, Gas 7

 

First things first – the milk was put into a pan and brought up nearly to boiling point and put to one side to cool.  I think this is one of the things I love about this book, you can spread the whole bake out over the day to fit in with you.  It doesn’t seem to matter if you leave the mixture slightly longer than it states – well I don’t think it does, the buns I’ve turned out so far I’ve been more than happy with and so have the family  and they’re my worst critics, there’s no mincing of their words, if they don’t like it, then they tell me.  The speed in which the buns disappear, however, tell me that they’ve liked everything I’ve baked so far …

Anyway, on with the recipe.

Once the milk has cooledput the flour into a bowl and make a well, into which you add the sugar and yeast.  Into the well add the milk and flick the flour over the top of the milk.  Cover and put to one side for an hour.  As you probably all know by now, at this stage I normally take the dog for a walk – which I must admit is for more than an hour.  By the time I get round to the next stage the yeast has normally started bubbling.  I tend to use either instant yeast or fresh yeast for the buns and I definitely think the fresh yeast gives the buns a slightly better flavour and the bread appears to be softer.  That may just be a coincidence in the recipe I make with the fresh yeast.  Perhaps I ought to make the recipes again using a different form of yeast to see what I think!

The salt was then added and the mixture was brought together into a ball, at which point it was turned out and kneaded for 10 minutes.  I did find the mixture slightly sticky to start with, but I think my kneading skills must be getting better as it soon became smooth.  However it was at this point that the butter was added in small chunks, so it became sticky once more, but again after about 5 minutes the mixture stopped being sticky and became lovely and soft and smooth.  20 minutes of kneading in total for these recipes – that’ll tone my arms up in no time … hopefully!  The dough was returned to a bowl and covered and left to rest for 2 hours, which gave me plenty of time to do a little work!

photo 11

After 2 hours the dough had risen considerably so it was pulled out onto an unfloured surface.  I weighed the dough and divided it into 20 equal portions.  The work surface was then lightly floured and each portion was stretched into a little diamond shape.  I was a little unsure as to what size they should be but from the photos in the book you can roughly gauge how big to make them.  Mine were around 10cm square – I know that probably doesn’t make sense but basically I made them into squares and then put them on the work surface with a corner facing me, which made them into diamonds – didn’t it …

I did this with a few more and then put a little spoon of jam onto them, smearing it from the top corner to the bottom (see photo below).  The other two corners were brushed with a little water and then the left corner was folded over the middle and the right corner folded on top – a bit like wrapping a baby in a blanket!  Using my dough scraper these were gently picked up and transferred on to a lined baking sheet.  The process was repeated until all 20 had been made.  The buns were covered with a clean, dry tea towel and left for 45 minutes to rest.

photo 10

With 10 minutes to go the oven was put on to preheat and the ingredients for the glaze were beaten together.  The buns were brushed with the glaze and then popped into the oven.

Now here is where I have a confession to make.  I’ve actually made these twice.  The first time I made them I put the first tray into the oven and picked the second tray up to put in the oven.  I don’t know what I did differently, but the whole of the second tray slid off and went on the floor.  I was using a baking sheet with three slightly turned up sides and one open side.  As I bent down to put them in the oven I must have tipped the tray and they went all over the floor and yes, you’ve guessed they all landed ‘jam’ side down, messy!  My son came into the kitchen to see what had happened and we both burst out laughing – it was either that or I think I would have cried.  I shut the oven door on the 10 that had been successfully put in and cleared the other 10 up.  What a waste I thought.  I know you’re all thinking, well at least you saved half of them.  But no, I didn’t.  I was so worried about the mess on the floor and getting it cleaned up that I completely forgot to set the timer on the oven.  So after I had cleaned the floor up I stupidly set the timer for 15 minutes (as that is how long they were to cook for).  I had completely forgotten that it had probably taken me 10 minutes to clean and wash the floor and that they had already been in the oven that long.  I was after 10 minutes I began to think I could smell burning.  I rushed back into the kitchen opened the oven door, which promptly let a huge amount of smoke out into the kitchen, which then set the smoke alarm off in the hall.  The buns were black and didn’t look very appetising at all.  What a waste, what a day of baking!!

I did however, eat them.  Once you’d got past the burnt outside they did taste rather good, which gave me the incentive to bake them again a few days later.  This time I was very, very careful putting them into the oven and I watched them like a hawk whilst they were baking.  There was no way I was going to burn these for a second time.

The result was 20 lovely buns and believe me they were lovely.  I think they had all disappeared within an hour of making them.  They were so moreish, you couldn’t eat just one, you had to have another and …

I hasten to add I didn’t eat all of them I think they were shared equally out between the four of us!!

photo 9

Another favourite and one that will be made again and again in this household.

 

 

Chocolate Sticks

I actually baked these last week, but due to building work still going on and ‘paid’ work and time spent with the family, I haven’t found time to type this and several other recipes up.  These ‘buns’ sounded just up my street, chocolate and bread, yum!  The first thing that caught my eye was the photo of these in the book.  That’s one thing I really like about this book is that there is a photo of every recipe, so you know what they should look like!!

Jane’s comment on this recipe is:-

“In my first book there is a description of a bread safari in the Western Cape.  One of the amazing bakeries in that lovely region of the world is De Oude Bank Bakkerij in Stelenbouch.  The bread is fantastic and these chocolate sticks are super fantastic.  I have made the recipe up because I forgot to ask for it and I think the result is close to the real thing”

Well, if the photo didn’t make you want to bake these, Jane’s description certainly should.

Ingredients

Predough

  • 100g warm water
  • 150g plain white flour
  • Pinch of yeast (any kind)

Dough

  • 300g plain white flour
  • 50g sugar
  • ½ tsp instant yeast/1 tsp dry yeast or 4g fresh yeast
  • 200g milk, heated up to boiling point, then cooled to room temperature
  • 5g salt

Filling

  • 50g butter (melted and allowed to cool slightly)
  • 200g chocolate chips or chunks

Glaze

  • 1 egg
  • 1tbsp water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of sugar

Oven

230°C (450°F), Gas 8.

The first thing I noticed about this recipe is that you have to make a ‘Predough’, which means you need to start this recipe the day before you want to bake it.

So on Day One you need to mix together the flour, water and pinch of yeast in a bowl until they are well blended.  Cover the bowl with clingfilm (or in my case my trusty shower cap!) and put it to one side on your worktop for 12-48 hours.  The longer you leave it the tastier the sticks will be.

I didn’t actually make the sticks the next day, so my mixture had been standing for around 36 hours by the time I decided to (or rather found time to) make them.

I’m beginning to remember that if I want to bake then the first thing I need to do in the morning when I get up for breakfast is to heat the milk up  whilst I’m making my first cup of tea of the day.  This can then be left to one side and by the time I’ve eaten my breakfast, had a shower and got dressed, the milk will by then be at room temperature, so I’m ready for the next stage.

The next stage is to put the flour for the dough into a large bowl and make a well.  Sprinkle the sugar and yeast into the well and pour in the milk.  Flick the flour over the milk to close the well and put to one side to rest for an hour.  This allows me to take the dog out for his early morning walk.  I’m loving how this baking is fitting in with my routine!

Once back from my dog walk it’s on with the next part.  Into the flour I added the salt and predough I had made the other day.  This was brought together into a ball and then pulled out onto the counter and kneaded well for 10 minutes.  This dough didn’t seem too sticky, so I thought I should be able to cope with kneading this myself.  If the dough’s really sticky,  I put it into my KitchenAid for 5 minutes with the dough hook to get it past the really sticky part, as I seem to end up with it all on my hands instead of the board.  At this point melt your butter, so that it has time to cool whilst you knead the bread.  Once kneaded this dough appeared very soft and silky.

I was surprised to see that the dough wasn’t at this stage to be put back into its bowl and left to rest for a couple of hours.  Instead the work surface had to be lightly floured (make sure it’s a surface on which you can cut) and the dough placed on top and rolled out in a rectangle to a thickness of 5mm.  Brush the top of the dough with the melted butter (about a third – as you will need the rest later) for the filling and cover it with cling film.  Now you can leave it to rest for 2 hours.

photo 2

After 2 hours it’s time for shaping!  Remove the cling film and scatter a third of the chocolate chips/chunks over the surface of the dough.  I used plain chocolate but I can’t see any reason why you couldn’t use milk or white chocolate.  I thought the plain chocolate would complement the sweetness of the bread best (similar to a pain-au-chocolat).  You then fold the left edge of the dough into the middle and fold the right edge in to meet it.  Flour the work surface around the edge of the dough.  At this point I turned the dough through 90° and rolled it out again.  The book doesn’t tell you to do this, but looking at the board I had put the dough on, I thought it would be too wide to fit once it had been rolled out again.  Some more of the butter was brushed over the top and another third of chocolate chips sprinkled over the top.  Fold the dough as above and flour around it again.  Roll the dough out flat once more and brush the remaining butter and sprinkle the remaining chocolate over the top.  After this third roll my dough was extremely big – it had literally filled the board I had put it on and was just falling off the edges!  Fold the dough one more time and lightly flour the top of it and then very carefully flip it over so the flour and folded side is down.  Flour the top and cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rest for 45 minutes.

Time now to preheat the oven.  Whilst the oven is preheating, mix together the ingredients for the glaze and brush it over the top of the dough.  I found the easiest way to cut the dough was using a pizza wheel, although you had to push down quite hard to cut through the chocolate chunks.  Cut strips about 2.5cm wide.  I wasn’t sure whether the strips should be really long or not.  My strips were about 30cm long so I cut some of them in half to make some smaller strips and kept some the full length.  Jane does say if they’re too long cut them in half, so looking at the photo she has in the book, I was pleased to see they had been placed next to a flour shaker, so you could work out roughly what length they should be.  The number you should be able to make depends on how big you make them!

photo 3

Once cut the sticks were placed onto the prepared baking tray (lined with non-stick parchment paper) and put into the oven for 15 minutes.  If there’s one thing I love about baking bread it’s the smell that fills the house and with the smell of melting chocolate too with these, it was heaven!!

After 15 minutes the ‘sticks’ were a lovely golden brown in colour.  They were removed and left to cool on a cooling rack.  Ok, that’s a lie, most were left to cool, but after a couple of minutes I couldn’t resist eating one.  They were absolutely delicious.  The bread was so soft and light and the melting chocolate … well, need I say more, go on give them a try I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed.

They didn’t stay around for long.  I think there were a few left the next day which were some gobbled down by the family for breakfast.  These are definitely something I’ll be making again – and I must admit that since then I haven’t bought any pain-au-chocolats from the shops as these are so much nicer…

photo 1

Easiest Buns in the World

I knew I shouldn’t have started this challenge quite yet.  It hasn’t been ideal having the builders here building our new kitchen extension and the plumber as well moving the boiler and lots and lots of piping!  Because of this I haven’t been able to access the existing kitchen very much and when I do it has only been for short periods of time – normally to make them tea or coffee!!

Anyway, looking through the book the other evening I came across this recipe and it seemed ideal as I didn’t need to spend ages kneading the loaf.  It could be mixed together in the evening (once all the contractors had left for the day), put in the fridge and baked the next morning or whenever I needed some!  Perfect…

Jane’s comment on this recipe is:-

“I confess I am not a fan of the end-result of the ‘no knead’ method of making bread.  I am a kneader, I like the texture of kneaded bread better.  However, the ‘no knead’ bread method is very popular and even for committed kneaders, it has a time and a place; when you know you will be in a rush.”

Ingredients

  • 650g plain all-purpose white or wholewheat, wheat or spelt flour (or a mixture)
  • 600g water
  • 2g instant yeast/4g dry yeast or 8g fresh yeast
  • 12g salt
  • A handful of seeds, nuts or dried fruit, chopped (optional)

Oven

220°C (425°F), Gas 7.

I think it was around 9pm when I decided to start on the recipe.  Not having baked for over a week now, not even a cake, I needed to get back into the kitchen even if it was for a few minutes!

This recipe begins the night before you want your buns.  Basically you put all the above ingredients into a large bowl and mix them together.  The bowl was then covered with a ‘shower cap’ and put in the fridge for the next day.

photo 2

I love the wording in Jane’s book for this recipe she lets you know how simple this is by describing what you need to do in the morning.  Basically, you get up and preheat the oven, brush your teeth while the oven heats up and then decide how many buns you need to bake for that day!

You then return to the kitchen, take the bowl out of the fridge (I have to go to the dining room at the moment as that is where the fridge is whilst the building work is going on!!) and in Jane’s words, “Exclaim in delight as you see how puffy the dough is”!

Using two spoons you need to drop blobs of dough onto the baking sheet “stacking them as best as you can so that are more round than flat”.  The bonus about this dough is that you don’t need to use it all in one go, you can keep it for another 2-3 days in the fridge.

I decided that I’d make 4 buns to start with (the recipe makes a total of 16).  The blobs were put onto the baking sheet, but I think my dough may have been a little on the runny side compared to the photographs in the book.  It started to spread.  I tried in vain to scoop it back onto itself.

And again, Jane tells you to go and have a shower whilst they bake and then get dressed whislt they’re cooling!!

Into the oven they went for 20 minutes.  I hadn’t put any seeds or anything into the dough as the children can sometimes be fussy about this, so I thought I’d make some plain ones to start with.  After 20 minutes the kitchen was smelling of lovely freshly baked bread – yum!  The rolls were a golden brown, so they were removed and popped onto a cooling rack to cool.  Within minutes of taking them out my husband and daughter had already spotted them and decided to try them.  They both liked them, I myself wasn’t too sure, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what they reminded me of.  In the end, I decided they tasted a little like crumpets.

I decided that my dough was a little too runny as the buns had spread quite a bit, so I added a couple more spoons of flour.  I think if I make these again, I won’t add as much water as my dough, although thick, was a little too runny.

The next day I made another 4 rolls and decided to use the rest of the mixture up by making very small loafs in my miniature loaf tins.  I sprinkled the to of these with poppy seeds, linseed and a sprinkling of flour.   These were baked for about 5 minutes longer than the rolls.  They all rose slightly more on one side compared to the other and looked a little like slabs of cheese when I took them out!  However, my husband took a whole loaf with him to work that day, filled with chicken and salad and said it was absolutely delicious and could I make some more!!!  I can also say that my son and daughter liked them too.  Me, slightly torn.  They were easy to make but in my opinion they didn’t taste as good as the bread that has been kneaded and loved…

 photo 1

Monkey Buns

The book had arrived my challenge could at last begin.  The book looked wonderful and so enticing, I couldn’t wait to start.  

But first things first, I had to read through the fantastic introduction, after which there is a page on ‘Bun Ingredients’.  It was lovely to see that in all the recipes you could use fresh, dried or instant yeast.  A lot of the bread books I have only give measurements usually for one, so I was pleased to see this as sometimes I bake with fresh yeast and other times I use instant yeast, so there would be no excuse now not to bake (not that there normally is).  Jane gives a very detailed description of ‘Working with Your Dough’ which was quite different from the way I had been used to making bread, so  this should be interesting.  Finally there was a few pages on shaping techniques – again quite different from how I usually shape my buns!!

I was now at the recipes.  The next thing to do was to pick one, but which one.  I looked through the book numerous times and quite a few recipes jumped out at me, but I couldn’t decide which one to bake.  It was left to the family in the end of pick one.  However, I had one vital ingredient missing for the first recipe, but a couple of days later when I had to quickly nip into town for a few bits and pieces, I picked up the missing ingredient – Pecan Nuts.  The challenge could now begin…

My apologies, I think this blog may be a little long, but please keep reading..

At the beginning of each recipe Jane puts a few words explaining the bread, hopefully she won’t mind if I take this small extract from her book to let you know a little about it too

“The origin of the name Monkey Buns (also called Monkey Puzzle Bread, Sticky Bread, African Coffee Cake, Goden Crown, Pinch-Me Cake, Bubble Loaf and Money Brains) is uncertain. What is not uncertain is that it is delicious in almost any form”

Recipe

  • 600g plain flour
  • 12g fresh yeast/3g instant years/6g dry yeast
  • 50g sugar
  • 225g full fat milk (heated up to boiling point, then cooled to room temperature)
  • 12g salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g butter

For the Deliciousness

  • 100g brown sugar
  • 2 tblsp cinnamon
  • 100g chopped pecans
  • 100g butter

Equipment

  • Bundt Tin or Large (solid bottom) Deep Baking Tin

Oven

  • 200°C (400°F), Gas 6, Fan 180°C

Having read through the recipe quite a few times in the past few days, I knew the first thing I had to do was to heat the milk up.  So when I got up in the morning, I put a pan on the cooker and heated up the milk and put it to one side to cool, whilst I had my first cup of tea for the day, breakfast etc etc, the usual things we all have to do first thing in the morning.  By the time I was ready the milk had cooled sufficiently.  Into a bowl I put the flour (and I admit I was surprised to see that most of the recipes in the book actually use plain flour and not the strong bread flour that I am used to making bread with) and made a well.  Into the well I crumbled the fresh yeast and the sugar.  It was then time to pour over the milk.  Aaargh, when I went to weigh the milk I found I didn’t have enough, even though I’d followed Jane’s tip to heat up more milk than was needed as it has the ability to reduce in quantity dramatically once heated.  I quickly heated a little more milk up and poured this into my already cooled milk.  Luckily I didn’t need too much, so it didnt affect the temperature considerably.  The milk was poured into the well and then some of the flour flicked over the top of it.  This had to rest for an hour, which was perfect timing as it meant I could take the dog out for his walk before I went on to the next stage.  I do intend on taking quite a few photos of my experience, but I didn’t take a photo of this first stage as it really didn’t look much different from a ‘bowl of  flour’.

Having walked the dog, in the sunshine for once, I was ready for the next stage.  I was pleased to see that the yeast had started fermenting and a few bubbles were appearing through the flour.  The salt was sprinkled around the edge of the flour and the eggs and vanilla extract were put into the middle.  I started to mix everything together with a knife, but soon it was a case of putting my hand in to bring it all together to form the dough.

Dough x 4The dough was turned out onto an unfloured board and with the timer set for 10 minutes I was off kneading.  The buzzer soon went off and I had a lovely smooth dough.  The next part was another first for me.  Usually I put the butter in at the beginning, but in this recipe you cube the butter up and add it now to the dough.  I flattened the ball of dough out slightly and put half the butter into the middle and pulled the edges over the top of it.  I kneaded it a few times and then spread it out again and added the remaining butter.  With the timer set for another 10 minutes, I was off kneading again.  Hopefully I’ll soon get rid of my bat wings with all this kneading (I hope so anyway!).  This is where it started to become a little messy.  Although the butter had come straight out of the fridge, the cubes were so small that they soon began to soften.  To begin with it wasn’t too bad, the butter was in the middle of the dough, but as I kneaded it a little more, thedough began to split and the small cubes were being spread across the board.  Not to be disillusioned, I scraped them up with my dough scraper, put them back onto the dough and carried on kneading.  Within 5 minutes the butter had all been incorporated and I had a lovely smooth dough to knead for the last five minutes.  Back into the bowl it went.  I coveredit  with a ‘shower cap’ (just one of the cheap ones, which covers the bowls perfectly).  It now had to be left for two hours.  I’m loving this recipe, it means I do a little, have time to go off and do something else and then come back and continue with it!

It was actually a little longer than 2 hours when I returned as the dog had to have yet another visit to the vets – I actually asked them if they did a loyalty card as I seem to have spent most of the month and most of my money this month with them!  They are lovely there and the dog actually loves going to see them, although my purse doesn’t.  Anyway, enough of that, back to the recipe!

Coming Together x 4

It was now time to shape the dough.  The dough was tipped out gently onto an unfloured board, I was determined not to use any extra flour and divided into 4 portions.  I actually weighed the bread so that each portion was the same.  Each portion had to be shaped into a tight sausage.  You’re probably all thinking, hang on she hasn’t knocked the bread back.  No, that is another thing that you shouldn’t do. Instead you should ‘stretch and fold’  the dough.  I quickly turned to the beginning of the book to make sure I did this correctly.  Basically you need to pretend your dough is a clock.  Starting at noon, pinch about 1cm from the edge of the dough and pull it away from the blob, stretching it as far as you can  without breaking it.  Fold the pinched piece back over the blob and gently lay it down.  Continue around the blob, 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, etc etc.  I found it easier to turn the dough around, rather than trying to twist yourself and your hands around the dough.  Once this had been down it was time to shape the dough into a tight sausage.

Each sausage was then cut into 6 pieces, so you ended up with a total of 24 even pieces.  These were put onto a board and covered with a clean tea-towel and left to rest for 15 minutes.  Whilst the dough was resting I greased my bundt tin (although a deep round tin can be used if you haven’t got one).  A great tip in the book is to use a pan with a solid base not a removeable one because the butter that goes on at the end will leak out and go all over the bottom of your oven.  I’ve made that mistake in the past, so I was pleased to see this tip in the book!

I also took the opportunity to get the ‘deliciousness’ ready.  The brown sugar and cinnamon was mixed together and the pecans were chopped up.  In a jug I melted the butter and allowed it to cool (you don’t want it at boiling point).

Once the pieces of dough had rested, they had to be rolled into tight balls.  This is something I love doing when making buns, for some reason I find it very relaxing and theraputic (I’m easily pleased).  To roll the dough into a ball, cup your hand over the dough with your fingertips on the table and your palm touching the dough.  Move your hand around in a circle, keeping your fingers on the table and your palm gently on the dough (don’t push down).  Because the dough is slightly sticky it creates enough tension to pull the surface of the dough around itself.

Six dough balls were placed in the bottom of the bundt tin and a third of the cinnamon sugar was sprinkled over the top, together with a third of the pecan nuts.  This process was repeated until all of the dough balls, cinnamon sugar and pecans had been used up.   The tin was covered with the shower cap again and left for 45 minutes.  I was pleased to see after this time that the ‘buns’ had increased in size.

With 10 minutes to go the oven was put on to preheat.  I reduced the temperature by 20°C as I have a fan oven and I wasn’t sure whether or not the temperature in the book was for a fan oven or not, so to be on the safe side I thought I’d reduce the temperature for the first recipe.

Before baking the buns the melted butter was poured evenly over them – the reason you don’t want to use a loose bottomed tin!  Into the oven it went for 45 minutes.  Within about 10 minutes the smell of buttery cinnamon was wafting through the house.  After 30 minutes the top of the tin was covered with foil so the buns didn’t go too brown during the last 15 minutes.  Once removed from the oven the buns were allowed to rest for 10 minutes before turning out.  I’ll admit I didn’t think they would turn out, I thought they would stick, but they didn’t.  The finished product looked amazing, although it did look a little too brown compared to the photograph in the book.  I think in hindsight I should have used light brown sugar, but I used dark brown sugar (well it wasn’t that dark more of a medium brown) – hopefully it wouldn’t make too much difference to the flavour.  The bottom of the ‘bun cake’, ie before turning it out looked the same colour as the photo in the book.

I couldn’t wait to dive in.  I ripped a bun off the stack and wow, they were amazing, I don’t think I have every made such light buns.  The buttery cinnamon sugary outside was to die for and the pecans topped it all off.  Even my son liked it and he is so, so fussy, he drives me mad when I bake things and he says he doesn’t like it.  Within minutes he was back for more.  It is the sort of bread you can eat any time of day.  My husband had some for his breakfast the next morning and even took some into work – it must have been good.

So pleased with my first recipe, although it does look a little dark, but it’s definitely not burnt, I think the buns have taken on the colour of the sugar –  obviously the sugar I used was a little too dark!  Can’t wait now to bake the next recipe!!

The Bread

My New Challenge

Having finished my last challenge before Christmas last year, I’ve taken a few months off,  baking from the other books I have  (and believe me I have quite a few, well more than a few) and experimenting with a few of my own ideas.

However, now has come the time to pick a new challenge.  Having spent the last few months browsing through books and on the internet trying to find something that will both challenge my baking skills and something which the family will also enjoy eating,  it came down in the end to two categories – either pastry or bread.  Bread (I’m pleased to say) came out the winner.

It was then a very hard decision on which ‘bread’ book to bake the whole way through.  Initially I was drawn to  Richard Bertinet’s books from  Bertinet Kitchen and Paul Hollywood’s books, but looking through these they were mainly breads I had heard of or seen already in my local bakery.  I wanted something a little different, so I carried on looking.  I spent a lot of time in my local Waterstone’s store, where I’m sure the staff must have thought that lady is always in here but never buys anything,  but spends hours looking through baking books!  After a month of so I found myself being drawn back to the same book again and again.  I had finally made my decision!

So, you’re all thinking what is the book you are going to bake from.  Well, it is…

The Book of Buns - Hardback - 9781849754354 - Jane Mason

This book looked so exciting, the front cover said it all to me – ‘Over 50 brilliant bakes from around the World’.

It wasn’t your usual loaves and buns, it was something a little different from all the other books.  Each recipe states where it is from and Jane gives a small foreword at the beginning of each recipe to tell you a little about its history.  Looking through the book I knew it was something that not only I’d enjoy baking, but also my family and friends would enjoy eating.

Jane opens the book with the statement  ‘A bun’s a bun the world around’  – There are hamburger buns and hot dog buns; hot cross buns and iced buns; steamed buns and sticky buns; cinnamon buns and coconut buns.  There are thousands of kinds of buns – sweet and savoury, for celebration and daily bread – from almost every corner of the world.

I was hooked already after just reading the opening paragraph!

Jane carefully describes the ingredients she uses and gives you fantastic instructions on working with the dough, together with all the shaping techniques needed.

The hardest decision was deciding on which recipe to bake first!  The book had been passed around my family quite a few times with all of them picking a recipe or two for me to bake first.  To begin with there was always one ingredient missing from the recipes they had picked.  However, on my next visit into town I remembered one ingredient that I didn’t have enough of,  I purchased the missing item.  I could now bake the  first recipe …

I hope you enjoy reading how I get on with this challenge, I’m really looking forward to it and hopefully by the end I will have mastered bread making or at least ‘bun making’!

Just click on The Book of Buns to follow their Facebook page,  follow Jane on Twitter by clicking on @VirtuousBread or visit her website at Virtuous Bread

Chocolate Orange Cake

I found a Chocolate Orange lying around, left over from the Christmas stash of chocolates and sweets.  I could, quite easily have unwrapped and tapped it and eaten it all myself, but thought I’d put it to good use in a cake!  Unfortunately the cake was eaten so quickly that I didn’t manage to get a photo of the inside, but it did taste good!  Next time I have a chocolate orange spare (haha), I’ll make this again and update the photo!

Chocolate Orange Cake

Ingredients

  • 200g Self Raising Flour
  • 200g Caster Sugar
  • 200g Butter (softened)
  • 4 eggs
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • Grated zest of one orange
  • 2 tbsp orange juice

Buttercream

  • 100g butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • Half a Chocolate Orange

Method

  1. Lightly grease and line the bottom of 2 18cm sandwich tins.  Preheat the oven to Fan 160°C.
  2. Put all the ingredients into a bowl  (sieve the cocoa powder) and mix until thoroughly combined.
  3. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins and level the tops.  Place in the oven for approximately 20-25 minutes.  A skewer inserted into the top should come out clean.
  4. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
  5. Melt half the chocolate orange and put to one side to cool slightly.  In another bowl cream together the butter and icing sugar.  Add the chocolate and mix again until fluffy.
  6. Either put half the buttercream in the middle of the sponges and spread the rest on top of the cake, or spread a third of the buttercream in the middle and spread the remaining on the tops and sides of the cake.
  7. Finish the cake off by using the remaining half of the chocolate orange to decorate the top.
  8. For an adult version you could always try adding a bit of Cointreau to the cake mixture or buttercream!!

Duffins

Time for a mix up – a cross between a doughnut and a muffin – a duffin?

This is a very easy recipe and so quick to make.   Whatever you do, do this using a bowl and spoon, DO NOT use an electric mixer, it will not work out very well as the mixture will become too runny, it does not need to be whisked or beaten!

Duffins

Recipe

  • 140g caster sugar (plus extra for rolling the duffins in afterwards)
  • 200g plain flour (or self-raising flour)
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (omit this if you use self-raising flour)
  • 140g melted butter
  • 100ml buttermilk OR natural yoghurt (they both produce lovely duffins, but slightly different – try each to see which one you like best!)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract (I prefer the paste)
  • Filling – jam, nutella, whatever takes your fancy really

Method

  1. Take a 12 hole muffin tin and lightly grease it.  Do not use muffin cases!  Preheat the oven to 190°C
  2. Into a large bowl weigh out the sugar and sieve the flour and bicarbonate of soda into it.  Mix thoroughly together.
  3. In a separate bowl mix together the melted butter, buttermilk (or yoghurt), eggs and vanilla paste.
  4. Add this to the dry ingredients and very gently fold the mixture in.  Using a fork works best!  Stop folding as soon as the dry ingredients are combined.
  5. Using two-thirds of the mixture spoon this in to the 12 hole muffin tin.
  6. Add about 1 tsp of your filling to each duffin.  I use home-made jam or nutella (which is delicious in these).  Spoon the remaining mixture on top of the filling and using a spoon or your finger gently make sure the filling is completely covered.
  7. Pop the tin in the oven for 15-18 minutes until  they are well risen and golden brown.  Remove from the oven and leave them in the tin to cool slightly for approximately 5 minutes.
  8. In a small bowl tip a quantity of caster sugar.  Remove each duffin from the tin and roll in the sugar to coat completely.  Finish cooling them off on a wire rack.

These are very simply to make, but don’t take a bite into one when they’re still warm as you may burn your mouth on the filling!