Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Quick Cheesy Nutty Wholemeal Bread

This turned out to be a breakthrough bread. The reason being that it is the first loaf that I have made that my mum would call fancy that she has actually enjoyed. Mum even taking some to work for her lunch which is high praise indeed. She didn't even realise that it was a bread that hadn't been kneaded so I was saved the look of disgust I received last time I tried the recipe. (My mother is a stalwart traditionalist. Not kneaded bread? What a notion!) I thought the original was fairly successful and with practice comes progress but as always I decided to mess about with the recipe instead of getting it just right first. However, this time I seem to have got lucky and didn't have a disappointment. I was so glad I waited to have my lunch until the bread came out of the oven because I was dying to try some warm, and particularly to get the crust. The hardest part was resisting the urge not to rip into it as soon as I took it out - it would have been burned fingers and mouthes all round.

My rubbish photography doesn't show the lovely golden colour!

It seems rather unfair to take credit for the whole recipe when all I did was to add a few extra ingredients. James from this years Bake Off is the original creator and the recipe can be seen here. I only used half quantities for my experiment and used a 1lb loaf tin because I really didn't know if my idea would work and I didn't want to be left with a large loaf to throw to the birds if it did turn out to be a flop. Warm or cold, it goes lovely with a little salted butter but I also reckon it would make a good soup acompaniment. Maybe tomato to go with the cheese? Or chicken or vegetable? I would've like to have tried any of these but I finished it off today at lunch so no can do. Now this is where about 50% of the population will hate me. For lunch I put it with Marmite and tomato slices. Remember now, each to their own!

Recipe - sort of.

At stage one of James' recipe, add 50g of grated cheese. I used mild cheddar because that is all we had in but normally it would have been Red Leicester. A mature cheddar would give a more pronounced flavour but I see no reason why you can't use your favourite hard cheese as long as it retains some flavour after cooking. Try to remember to put the cheese in at this stage. It's harder to incorporate it after you have mixed it together as for stage 2. I found that out.

Carry on as the recipe states, giving an extra 5 of the scrapes each time as described in stage 3. This isn't anything to do with the added cheese - I just thought I'd give the gluten a bit more chance to develop and it must have worked because Mum thought it had been kneaded as normal. The stated 15-20 sscrapes might be adequate for you - mine just might not have been as vigorous. Either way, you still save your arms much effort.

While waiting for your dough to reach the end of stage eight, grate another 30g of cheese and mix with 30g each of sunflower seeds and chopped walnuts. If you really like cheese you could easily add some more. Once your bread has finished prooving, gently brush the top with beaten egg. Try not to let it drip so far down it touches the tin if you are using one because you don't want to glue your bread into it. You don't want to have to rip it apart to get it out. Once coated, sprinkle on your crunchy mixture, scooping up any bits that drop off for another go. Now it's ready to go into the oven. I baked mine at 220C for 20 mins then 10 mins at 200C with the loaf out of the tin and directly on the oven shelf. Cool on a wire rack, waiting at the very least a good five minutes before slicing and enjoying.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Smooth Bramble Berry Jam

*UPDATE July 2015 - I made this jam again and took much nicer photos this time. Have a look here. *

Recently I've been thinking of ways to make my blog better and while I was snooping around the all-knowing internet I came across the Woman and Home list of 100 best blogs. Some of the featured blogs (so very jealous of these writers) mentioned baking challenges and I felt rather silly because I hadn't thought of taking part in these before despite having heard before now that they exist. Plus they sound like lots and lots of fun. One of the several challenges on my list to enter is the Tea Time Treats Challenge run by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Kate at What Kate Baked, both of which are rather lovely blogs. 

July's challenge, hosted by Karen requires entrants to submit something yummy that contains fresh fruit. This bramble berry jam I made last year tasted lovely even if it was a little, errr, thick and although it is another month until the berries will be ready again for round two I'm hoping it will still be a suitable post for my first ever blogging challenge. In my book, jam is definitely a tea time treat because it can go with so many tea time things. Toast, sandwiches, scones (under or on top of cream, you pick), in cakes, in biscuits, jam tarts......I really want jam on toast now, this minute. Sigh. I would have another go at strawberry jam for the challenge instead but I never have the chance. I always eat them before I can put them away let alone prepare them for jamming. Though I'm going to have to make more of an effort to restrain myself if I want to experiment with that cheesecake idea I've got.

Anyhoo, here it is, my experience of making bramble berry jam. And because I can't get you a berries picture until next month, here is a picture of the baby apples on the tree in our garden instead. Hmm, I wonder if apple and bramble berry jam pie would work?

My mother has the patience of a saint. An unbelievably-so-patient-practically-comatose saint. The reason for this? Last week I was bored reading my newly arrived copy of Chemistry World magazine so on a whim I put on my rain mac and took myself off blackberry picking, to the great disgust of my German Shpeherd Cassie whom I left behind. I felt rather guilty at this but this is the same fluffy monster who pulls every time she goes on a lead, whines incessantly while you are stood outside the pharmacy with her waiting for Dad's prescription and just when you are walking to the village without any plastic bags decides it's a good time to... well I'm sure you can imagine. So I'm  sure you can imagine why I didn't want to be holding the lead while balancing precariously over bramble bushes and stinging nettles to reach the best fruit. I know wild fruit is nature's bounty and everything but why are birds so inconsiderate that they eat the berries that right on the edge of the bushes instead of those that are too high up or in the middle of a mass of thorns? After an hour of trudging around the edge of a muddy field getting blown about by the wind and bitten by brambles I had gathered about 2lb of fruit an headed home. I was pretty tired by this poitnt and had had enough of looking very silly to any members of the public who happened to walk by as I was out so I went home to thaw out (yes, I really did have to thaw out in August, thanks to our wonderful British weather) with a biscuit before letting the fun really begin. Mum arrived home to me boiling the berries in their juice and washing water with her kitchen upside down around me and her favourite wooden spoon dyed purple. Her only words were "Something smells nice, I can smell blackberries." Cue me with a sheepish grin. 

Toast will be on the menu for a while!

This recipe required a lot of faffing about but I really think it was worth it. You get a jam with a lovely flavour though and no pips, or, if like me you are using a sieve with a tear in the mesh near the rim then a very few. I had to do the jam in stages because I had a chicken pie to cook as well and the food shopping to do but by supper time we were all eating gorgeous, if a little thick (my fault!) blackberry jam on toast. Yummy!

Granulated sugar
(You'll need 3/4 lb to every 1 pint of puree you yield)

1. First of all get yourself a big pan. I used the base to the pressure cooker (wonderful inventions!) and then fill it with hot water and a massive squirt of washing up liquid as soon as I'm done so I don't have as much scrubbing to do.

2. Pick over the berries to get rid of any nasty ones or bits of unwanted foilage. If whilst doing this you come across any insects, try not to throw the ones you are holding around the kitchen sides. You will only have to pick them up. Trust me, I know.

Freebie fruit

3. Rinse the berries in a collander and tip into the big pan. I added maybe a couple of tablespoons of water because I didn't trust there was enough water from washing for the next bit.

4. Starting on a low heat, slowly bring the berries to the boil, then reduce the temperature to a simmer, cover and stir occasionally. I bashed the berries about a tiny bit to release some juice while I was waiting for them to boil because I still wasn't convinced there was enough water from washing. Simmer for 15 minutes.

5. Press the now mushed up berries through a sieve and collect the puree, discarding the bits that won't go through. I was determined to get a high a yield as possible so I pressed as much through as possible, scraping it off the underside of the sieve each time to allow more through, then maybe 3 or 4 times I put the remaining pulp into another bowl while I rinsed the sieve and started again. This stopped the sieve from getting clogged up with seeds and whatnot. Once you think you get can't any more puree/your arms are top tired measure the volume of what you've got and weigh out how much sugar you need. I got a smidge over 1 pint from 2lb of berries so I needed 12 oz of sugar. However, ever since making it I have the awful feeling I used a whole 1lb of sugar but it's a bit late now.

A pretty good yield I thought

 6. Wash enough jars in hot, soapy water and place on a baking tray. Warm the sugar in the oven at 110C and heat the puree until boiling then remove from the heat and add the warmed sugar. (Turn the oven to 140C and put the jars in the oven when you take the sugar out. This sterilises them.) Stir over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved - thankfully this happened quite quickly for me which I was surprised about as I forgot about warming the sugar so it didn't get very long in the oven. 

7. Whack up the heat and rapidly boil the fruity sugariness until a sugar thermometer reads 104C. The book I used actually says 106C/220F but the BBC Food website gives 104C/220F. Choose whichever you believe. Okay so that isn't particularly good advice but I'm guessing that with all baking and cooking there comes a point where you have just got to use your own judgement. This recipe originally came from a rather old book so you would think it has the support of time but lots of other places, including the BBC Food website have tested recipes so someone somewhere has got their conversion wrong. I suppose if you aren't confident in your own decision then it is only really a problem if you are using a digital thermometer instead of the traditional ones with have different stages already marked on. My mum's sugar thermometer is very old and much loved so I just go with the marking that says 'Jam' and be done with it. As much as I love Mum's thermometer, I am dying to get my hands on a digital thermometer so I don't have to hold my had over a busily steaming pan, getting burned by all the jam splashes. Digital thermometer goes in, takes a reading and comes out again. Easy. Even better would be a themospatula from Lakeland which hopefully I'll get to buy on Friday when I go shopping at Meadowhall. Then I can stir and watch the temperature at the same time. Double easy. In theory!

8. Anyway, if you don't have a suitable thermometer another test you can do is the cold plate test. Before starting place a stack of plates in the fridge then when you think the jam is ready take one out and put a teaspoonful of jam on it, taking the jam pan off the heat. Leave for a minute then gently push it. If it wrinkles the jam is ready but if not put the pan back on the heat to boil for a few more minutes before trying again. 

9. Once you are happy the jam is ready, take the pan off the heat and the jars out of the oven. Place the jar lids in the sink and pour boiling water over them. Spoon the jam into the jars (right to the top) or if you are sensible and have a jam funnel, use that. It will save a lot of kitchen side wiping later on. 

10. If you have some, place waxed discs over the jar tops. If not, then cut a rough circle of baking parchment, place over the jar tops and trim so it is just a little bigger. Obviously waxed discs give a better seal but I didn't have any so had to make to. Carefully so as to not burn your fingers, pick up the lids and waft around in the air for a bit to get rid of any water drops. (Using a tea towl to dry them is more likely to introduce  nasty stuff to the so far sterile jars, which you want to do as little as possible. You want to keep the jam mould free as long as you can.) Screw the lids onto the jars and pop the jars in a safe place to cool down.

11. Clean up.

12. Eat toast and jam, jamm sandwiches, swiss roll, jam roly-poly, jam sponge... Mmmmmm.

Things to remember when making blackberry jam:-
* It is not a good idea to go blackberry picking in a knee length dress. Brambles hurt! The scratches on my hands are now healed but the big one across my leg hasn't yet.
* Blackberry juice, puree and jam gets EVERYWHERE. Be prepared to be srubbing pans and utensils and wiping sides continuously.
* I promise you, you do not need any lemon juice. I know it is quite unusual in a jam recipe but early blackberries/brambles are a medium pectin content fruit so the lemon juice isn't needed to add it. I kept questioning the book (The Complete Farmhouse Cookbook by Yorkshire Television) I was using, especially when Mrs Beeton used some in her version, so I added just a teaspoon and ended up with very thick jam.
* Remove any pale items of clothing or cover with scruff clothes. (See point two).
* It's all so worth it.