life on a smallholding

not quite a business, but more than a hobby

English Muffins for a British bake off — Thursday, 29th August

English Muffins for a British bake off

English muffins
English muffins

After rushing around walking dogs and milking goats I finally managed to get seated in front of the box just in time for the start of the second in the series of the Great British Bake Off.

Their first task was breadsticks, something I’ve never attempted to make.  They appeared deceptively easy but I bet it’s tricky to achieve that “snap”.  There was only one that was slightly overboard, the sticks presented in a giant matchbox with the ends dipped in chocolate.  Very clever.

The technical challenge was something I make regularly, English muffins.  After last year when they had to make an 8 strand loaf, this looked like a piece of cake.  Again it was interesting to see the amount of variations produced from just one recipe.

The final test was to make a decorative loaf.  I was amazed to see a peacock, an octopus and a wreath to name just a few.  They reminded me of decorations made with salt dough and I didn’t think they looked terribly appetising but apparently they tasted good.  It was sad that the person who was eliminated was the only one that baked something actually resembling a loaf, albeit that it was trying to be a tomato!

Muffins rising
Muffins rising

As usual the programme inspired me to bake and I dug out my favourite recipe for English Muffins.  Unlike the enriched dough on shown on TV, this one is very simple and is relatively quick to make.  As they found on the Bake Off, it can be difficult to get them cooked all the way through and in the past I have popped them in the Rayburn for 10 mins after frying just to make sure.  If the worst should happen and you find they are doughy inside you can always toast them before serving.

English muffins

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Quick, simple, but utterly delicious toasted and spread with butter.
  • 450g bread flour
  • 9g dried yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 250ml milk
  • 55ml water
  1. Warm the milk and water together until just hand hot
  2. Whisk in the caster sugar and yeast and leave until frothy
  3. Pour the mixture into a food processor
  4. Add the flour and salt and mix well with a dough hook
  5. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball
  6. Leave somewhere warm in a covered bowl for around an hour to rise
  7. Spread some semolina onto the work surface then turn out the dough
  8. Roll out to approx 1/2 inch thick and then use a pastry cutter to cut into rounds (I got 8 muffins with a 3 1/4″ cutter)
  9. Sprinkle a little more semolina on the top of the muffins
  10. Allow to rise for around 30 mins somewhere warm
  11. Melt a little lard in a frying pan and when hot add the muffins (you will need to do them in batches)
  12. Cook them for around 7 mins each side until they are golden brown top and bottom
  13. Place on a wire rack to cool
  14. If you are not confident that they are cooked through, pop in a hot oven for around 10 mins
  15. Cut in half and serve with lashings of butter or you can toast them first

Absolutely perfect.

My 8 strand plaited loaf from last year - it made a fantastic BLT
My 8 strand plaited loaf from last year – it made a fantastic BLT
Better baguettes — Saturday, 18th August

Better baguettes

Fabulous baguettes

I was thrilled recently to receive a £10 voucher for Lakeland which is choc-a-bloc full of exciting things for dabbling bakers.  After a good look around the site, I settled on a baguette tray for £9.99.

Baguette tray
Baguette tray

I make bread two or three times a week, usually in my rectangular loaf tin but sometimes I shape the dough into rolls.  I like a nice baguette but have found that when I make them, they tend to spread out sideways, so I end up with a flattened loaf which isn’t great for our sandwiches.  This product looked like it may well put a stop to that problem.

When it arrived I discovered that it was floppy rather than the rigid pan I was expecting – should read the blurb properly before ordering.  I wasn’t sure how it would cope when the dough was in the grooves as when I use my silicone loaf tin, the dough tends to push the sides outwards when it expands rather than rising upwards.

It also meant I had to use a baking sheet under the tray and when I balanced it on my solid oven shelf, I came across another small problem in that the shelf is quite a bit shorter than the tray.  I realised that it may well be too long for the oven.

First batch with tapered ends
First batch with tapered ends

I decided to hope for the best, laid out my 3 lumps of dough in the channels of the tray and left it sitting on the shelf above the Rayburn to rise.

When it was ready, I carefully slid it into the oven and although it was a tight fit, I managed to get the door closed.  I glanced in a couple of times during the baking and I could see that because the dips in the tray aren’t very deep, as they were rising, the loaves were joining together at the sides.  I had visions of getting one big flat loaf.  However, when they came out of the oven and I put them on the cooling rack, they pulled apart easily into three lovely looking loaves.

Baguettes ready for the oven
Baguettes ready for the oven

The first time I used it, I shaped the bread so that the ends were tapered, which caused them to bulge outwards in the middle.  With subsequent loaves I have made the dough even all the way along the length and I’ve found that the bread rises upwards and doesn’t join forces with the one next door.  This way I end up with perfectly straight baguettes.

Overall I am delighted with this product, it has been a huge success with both white and wholemeal loaves and I have made some delicious garlic baguettes.  This loaf tin gets my vote and 5 stars.

Baguette rolls
Also excellent for baguette rolls

Milk and honey baguettes

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Milk and Honey Baguettes
  • 500g Strong white flour
  • 325g Milk
  • 1 tbls Honey
  • 10g Salt
  • 1 1/2 tsps yeast
  1. Preheat oven to 190C.
  2. Warm the milk to approx blood temperature (38C).
  3. Stir in the honey
  4. Add the yeast and leave to stand for approx 15 minutes until it starts to froth.
  5. Pour into bowl of food mixer and add flour and salt.
  6. Using dough hook mix well until a dough is formed. (Alternatively you can mix by hand).
  7. Turn out onto a lightly floured worktop and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is elastic.
  8. Oil a large bowl and place the dough in it.
  9. Put in a warm place, cover and leave until doubled in size.
  10. Tip out onto a floured worktop and cut into 3 equal pieces
  11. Roll each piece into a sausage shape using your hands.
  12. Place each baguette onto the baking sheet.
  13. Cover and leave in a warm place to rise for around 30-40 minutes.
  14. When well risen, slash* the top and leave for another 10 minutes.
  15. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until well risen and golden brown.
  16. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
  17. Move to a wire rack to cool completely or enjoy warm.
Notes: *I use a razor blade to slash the bread as it makes a better cut than a knife.


The perfect baguette
The perfect baguette

Enhanced by Zemanta
Flower power — Saturday, 26th May

Flower power

Herby scrambled eggs
Herby scrambled eggs with wild garlic flowers

The Tea Time Treats challenge for May on Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked was all about flowers.  Although I enjoy looking at them I have never really bothered to grow flowers, concentrating all my efforts on vegetables.  However at present it seems that flowers are the new veg and everybody is eating them so I have planted a few here and there.

Wild garlic flowers
My pretty wild garlic flowers

The snowdrops and daffs are long gone, not sure if they are edible anyway, and the nasturtiums are nowhere to be found just yet, but at the beginning of May I did have some beautiful white wild garlic flowers to work with.

I’m also lucky enough to have a seemingly endless supply of delicious free range eggs, including chicken, duck and goose.   So, for an incredibly quick, scrumptious and filling tea time treat I picked some fresh herbs from the polytunnel – chives, rosemary, oregano, plus some rocket and of course, a leaf or two of wild garlic and cracked open half a dozen of those eggs.

Herby scrambled eggs with wild garlic flowers on honey and oat rolls*

  • 6 free range eggs (chicken or duck)
  • Handful of fresh herbs (chives, rosemary, oregano plus rocket and wild garlic leaves)
  • Wild garlic flowers
  • Seasoning
  • 1 tbls oil
  • Knob of butter
  1. Toast the rolls, butter and keep warm.
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan.
  3. Roughly chop the herbs.
  4. Break the eggs into a bowl and beat well.
  5. Mix the chopped herbs and seasoning to taste into the beaten eggs.
  6. Pour into the hot pan and stir until the eggs start to scramble.  Keep stirring.
  7. Remove the eggs from the heat just before they are completely set (they will continue to cook when off the heat) and check seasoning.
  8. Spoon the eggs onto the warm, buttered rolls and decorate with the peppery wild garlic flowers.
  9. Enjoy!

To make the rolls you need:

Honey and oat rolls
Honey and oat rolls
  • 250g strong white bread flour
  • 200g wholemeal flour
  • 50g porridge oats
  • 1 tbls honey
  • 325ml water (or whey if you have it)
  • 1 1/2 tsps yeast
  • 10g salt
  1. Warm the water to approx blood temperature (38C).  Stir in the honey, then add the yeast.
  2. Leave to stand for approx 15 minutes until it starts to froth.
  3. Pour into a bowl and add the porridge oats.  Leave for another 15 minutes.
  4. Add the flours and the salt and mix well.  Alternatively, you can use a food mixer with a dough hook.
  5. When completely mixed, sprinkle a worktop with flour and turn out the dough.
  6. Knead well for approx ten minutes or until it is smooth and stretchy.
  7. Cover and leave somewhere warm until doubled in size.
  8. Tip out onto a floured worktop and roll into a sausage shape using your hands.
  9. Divide into 8 equal pieces and shape each piece into a rough round.
  10. Place onto a non-stick baking sheet with a small gap between each roll and leave in a warm place to rise for around 30-40 minutes.
  11. Bake in the oven until well risen and golden brown.
  12. When done, take out and leave to cool or enjoy straight from the oven with lashings of butter.

Easy cheesey — Wednesday, 18th April

Easy cheesey

Goat's cheese with wild garlic
Goat's cheese with wild garlic

A few years ago my Mum sent me some wild garlic bulbs from her garden in the English Riviera and I planted them in my polytunnel, not sure if they would survive outside in a Scottish winter.  They have done really well, reappear annually and are taking over the end of the tunnel.  Not only are the plants pleasing to look at, they are also very tasty and versatile.  In addition to the bulbs, both the leaves and the pretty flowers can be eaten and they are great in salads.

Last year I made wild garlic pesto, this year I’m branching out a bit and I’ve made wild garlic and goat’s cheese scones which we devoured with my own chilli jam.   I’ve used them in an omelette, bread and best of all, when I made new a batch of goat’s cheese I chopped some of the wild garlic leaves and added to the cheese before pressing.

Resembling that well-known soft cheese Boursin, the aroma was wonderful when I unwrapped the muslin.  I baked some wholemeal rolls and for tea we spread the garlic infused cheese on the warm bread.  Lovely.

But you don’t have to use wild garlic, you can add anything that you fancy or is in season.  I often roll the pressed cheese in cracked black pepper or chives.  Alternatively mix in some chopped chilli or even chopped horseradish leaves.

Making the cheese is simple but does take approximately 48 hours before it’s ready for eating so you need to start it a day couple of days in advance.

I always use a “starter” which you can buy from Goat Nutrition Ltd.  The starter comes in the form of a powder that you mix with milk, freeze in ice cube trays and use as required.  You only need to buy it once, just make a new batch from a cube when you get low.  I also use rennet which can be bought at the same place.  You can choose animal or vegetarian rennet.   It is possible to use vinegar or lemon juice instead but I have better results with rennet.  For the cheese mould I have an old vitamin tub with holes drilled in it and a jam jar filled with water makes a handy press.

When you drain the curd, you will be left with a bowl full of whey.  Don’t pour this down the sink, you can use it in your breadmaking, just substitute it for water or, it is rumoured to be an excellent feed for roses or potatoes.

Lightly pressed goat’s cheese

You will need a pot with a lid, muslin, cheese mould (my mould is approx 13cm high x 8cm dia) and a weight.  All your equipment should be clean and sterilised before you begin.

  • 1.5 – 2 litres milk (I use raw goat’s milk fresh from the goat*)
  • 1 ice cube of starter
  • Few drops rennet diluted in a 1/4 cup of boiled and cooled water
  • Sea salt (approx 1 tsp or to taste)
  • Flavouring of choice
  1. Pour milk into a suitable sized pot with lid (*if your milk is straight out of the fridge you should warm it to around 30 degrees C)
  2. Add an ice cube of starter
  3. Stir well until the cube has melted and it’s thoroughly blended into the milk
  4. Add the diluted rennet and stir well
  5. Put the lid on and leave for 24 hours (I get a better curd if I leave in a warm room)
  6. After that time the milk should have formed a solid curd
  7. Cut into cubes using a pallet knife
  8. Pour into a sieve lined with muslin
  9. Leave it for a while and then hang in the muslin and let it drain for a few hours
  10. When most of the liquid is gone open the muslin and spread the curd
  11. Add the sea salt and mix in (rather like kneading)**
  12. Spoon the curd into your mould lined with muslin
  13. Pack it in tight, cover the top and add a weight (I use a jam jar filled with water)
  14. Leave for 24 hours in a cool place
  15. Take out of the mould, unwrap the muslin and roll in black pepper, chives or the flavouring of choice
  16. Eat and enjoy

**If you want to mix herbs into the cheese, do this after you have mixed in the salt in the same fashion


Cheese mould

Curd draining
Curd draining

Adding herbs to curd
Adding herbs to curd

Curd packed in mould
Curd packed into mould

Pressing cheese
Pressing cheese

Goat's cheese with with wild garlic
Goat's cheese with with wild garlic

Goat's rolled in cracked black pepper
Goat's rolled in cracked black pepper

The craft of breadmaking — Tuesday, 23rd November

The craft of breadmaking

Milk and honey rolls
Milk and honey rolls

I make a hell of a lot of bread.  I can’t remember the last time I bought a loaf.  Sometimes I go for weeks making the same old loaf and then suddenly I branch out and make a whole lot of weird and wonderful ones.

My favourite at the moment due to a fridge full of goat milk is my milk and honey loaf.  Another one at the top of my list is honey and oats.

I use fresh yeast if I can get it free from the supermarket, otherwise the dried stuff works fine.

A few years ago I was into making leaven bread and made a starter with flour, raisins, yoghurt and water which I fed everyday but only used once in a blue moon.  The main problem with it was the amount of time it took for the dough to rise.  Eventually I threw the gooey mess away and stuck with yeast.

My fizzing starter
My fizzing starter

Last week I decided to revisit leaven breadmaking and made myself another starter.  After a week of generously feeding the beast it was bubbling nicely yesterday so I jumped in and got going on a loaf.

Thank goodness I work from home otherwise it would  have been impossible.  I mixed a large dollop of the starter with water, flour and salt.  At first kneading was every 10 minutes, only 15 seconds at a time but it took 5 minutes after that to get the dough off my hands and if the phone happened to ring at the wrong moment I was stuck.

I moved on to 30 minutes, then 1 hour, then 2.  Eventually I divided the now lovely smooth dough into two and left it for 4 1/2 hours to rise on the warm and cosy rack above the Rayburn.

More like large rolls than loaves
More like large rolls than loaves

Well, it didn’t rise exactly, just kind of spread out, but I baked it anyway.

The Rayburn wasn’t at it’s best, anything that requires a hot oven is best cooked in the morning.  By the evening it’s winding down ready to relax with it’s embers overnight.

After about an hour I removed two smallish loaves which were more like large rolls.  They were heavy and felt quite dense.  I would have to wait until tomorrow to try them.

For breakfast I cut a small sliver off the end and toasted it for myself.  Himself, of course, had a couple of slices smothered in peanut butter so it could have been anything underneath.

Inside the leavened bread
Inside the leavened bread

The inside certainly looked the part with large air holes, although not as many as I had hoped.  I was a bit disappointed with the texture, instead of being soft and crumbly it was quite solid and even waxy.

For dinner we had a sausage casserole, made with the sausages from last week’s epic sausage making day and to accompany it we had the leaven loaf.

It had the classic flavour of sourdough bread, I think it’s just the texture that needs improvement.

Looking at my starter today it’s almost fizzing out of the jar, whereas yesterday it was only bubbling so it would probably make a lighter loaf now.  I shall have to wait a few days before baking more bread as not only will we be drowning in goat’s milk we will be up to our eyebrows in loaves.

Two books I recommend for inquisitive breadmakers are The Handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard and Dough by Richard Bertinet.