The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

helend's blog

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I posted this in respose to quip from Paddyscake on th boiled fruitcake thread but know I will forget where I put it so am creating a new blog

adapted from a Terence Stamp wheat, dairy and sugar free recipe and can be made using a single dried fruit eg apricots, plums or sultanas.

My wheat version (note dairy option) here as follows:

  • 2 tsp easy-blend yeast
  • 6 oz white or wholemeal flour (spelt in my case)
  • 3 tsp mixed spice
  • pinch salt
  • 3 oz ground almonds
  • 3 tbs rapeseed oil or melted butter
  • 1 grated eating apple
  • 1 grated carrot (or small courgette)
  • 8 oz dried fruit
  • approx 6 fl oz water or milk

Preheat oven to 170c (fan oven). Line a 7" round cake tin.

Sift flour, spices and salt into a large bowl. Stir in yeast and almonds, then grated apple, carrot and dried fruit.

Drizzle ove oil, then use enough water or milk to make a soft dropping consistency mixture.

Turn into tin, level and bake for approx 1 hour until skewer comes out clean. Take out, wrap tightly in tea towl and leave until completely cool.

To take in to work on my birthday I made this using dried plums cut small and shaken with 2 oz sugar, a tsp almond essence and whole almonds on the top - oh and a good splash of Amaretto liqueur. It seemed to go down well!

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I've ben practising this recipe for a while. I syill can't quite manage the same crumbly texture as the famous McVitie brand but getting closer ...

They aren't that pretty to look at but taste good

For approx 2 dozen biscuits:

10 oz wholemeal flour

6 oz fine oatmeal

2 tsp salt (nec for the sweet/savoury balance but you could use less)

2 tsp baking powder

6 oz butter/marg

3 oz dark brown/muscovado sugar

5-6 tbs milk

Preheat oven to 150c. Sift dry ingredients together, rub in butter, stir in sugar, use minimum milk to make a dough. Roll out just under 1/4" thick, cut out with a 3" cutter, prick and bake on greased baking sheets for 18 minutes until just browning. Shift to a cooling rack asap.

PS You can use about 10 oz of chocolate, melted to cover the tops.



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What to do on a wet weekend.

With the remainder of the household in the garage or asleep time to use a coolish oven to full potential so ... tried-and-tested recipes yield a batch of digestive biscuits; a boiled fruitcake; a 14" pepperoni pizza and a pudding cake with freshly picked tayberries and time to try something new.

Got this recipe from the news link on the site and sort of halved it (except for the yeast). And found it good! Result: a beautifully light and fluffy crumb with a thin crisp crust. It slices beautifully. The chocolatey colour is quite startling but the flavour quite sophisticated - mild and moreish.


NB It wasn't great still warm out of the oven, definitely worth waiting for it to get cold when it was fantastic freshly sliced; plain, with butter and chocoholic joy - with chocolate spread. (Not very sophisticated but hey - so what!) For breakfast today it was delicious lightly toasted with butter and marmalade. This recipe may be old but a definite keeper.

Now - I think I might try this with cinnamon, chocolate chunks or a swirl of both? Also need some cherry jam .... maybe some cream cheese?

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Haven't had time to draw breath recently let alone sit and browse so being on holiday (finally) today has been a real treat - time to enjoy what everyone has been up to, follow some of the threads and finally update my photobucket and blog.

I decided at the begionning of January to concentrate for a while on slow rise tin breads and focus on crumb when working with "heavy" ingredients eg rye, wholemeal and seeds without resorting to oodles of yeast. So a good trawl through the back comments (and particular thanks to Qathan for a rye bread recipe using a rye and a bread flour starter mixed) which gave lots of ideas on proportions and methods.

Nothing too revolutionary but making a starter with only an eighth of a teaspoon of yeast left for 12-18 hours and then only 7/8 tsp yeast with flour etc to make as wet a dough as I can manage - maybe 70% hydration, no extra flour to knead (wet hands) and a shortish final rise to 60% increase NOT doubled for better oven spring.

Although I have made most of these breads before I am really pleased with how modifiations to my technique have improved the resulting loaf even after only a few experiments.

My photography isn't up to much (despite a lovely christmas gift) but maybe this shows what I mean:



The recipe is basically Floyd's honey wholewheat but the crumb is defineltey lighter and "holey" in the "after" picture - actually more like white bread in comparison to most 100% wholewheat breads. Also it slices thinly REALLY well. THis dough was a liitle too slack hence the odd oven spring (the rye below was a tiny but firmer)

My husband prefers the light rye - about 25% light rye and 65%/10% wholemeal/white spelt as he says the honey wholemeal is too sweet. The oven spring was HUGE - a 2lb loaf in front of a 6 kilo sack of rye flour

No pictures of the crumb there (sorry!) but I will finish with this - a traditionally tasty but "solid" 100% wholemeal seed bread (this one has linseeds, rapeseed oil, sesame and sunflower seeds and currants) that is amazingly light by my usual standards!

I have been told that my fan oven is drying out any steam from a bottom pan of water too quickly and it is the dough's internal water that makes the difference to the crumb and crust. I wonder how wet I can get?!

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Browsing the news feed led me to this recipe for a yeasted pumpkin bread from the World bread day link. I have slightly adapted it and it turned out well although I can't say it is too exciting - a useful recipe for using up an excess of pumpkin I guess.


It is slighltly more orange than the pictures imply with a good caramelly chewy crust and is quite moist but the crumb is a bit tight - although it slices quite well.

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Yesterday was not a good day in many ways. Woke up tired and headachy and the pouring rain didn't help. Nothing much to do except paperwork and then England performed abysmally in the ODI.

So ... time to make something new. As usual The Fresh Loaf is the first port of call and a trawl through the "in the news" column once again paid dividends.

This is my version of "Chocolate Babka" a bread I have not heard of before. I left out the nuts (my husband doesn't like them), added a little chopped milk chocolate and could only use 1tbs melted butter for the filling. The streusal toppping seemed odd proportions - for 1tbs butter I needed a lot more flour/sugar to make a "crumble" and have ended up with a bowl left over.

However the rest of the recipe went well and the result pleasingly sweet and moist, cheering us all up with hot tea and a cosy fire in the afternoon.

One to keep!

PS Sorry about the fuzzy image - oops!


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This is one of my favourite country breads and is fantastic with either cheese or toasted with honey or jam. The smell of the walnuts is amazing as it cools and the walnut oil means it keeps well for days - the crust changes from crusty and crunchy to soft and chewy.  I sometimes make a sweet version with honey and raisins but this is best and, if Isoak the flour first is easy to work by hand.  Have bought some "special" cheese (which no-one else in the family likes!) just to treat myself :)



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Been away a while enjoying the fruits of someone else's baking labours, very relaxing. Managed to stop scrutinising the daily baguette and pain a l'ancienne for crust and crumb after a couple of days and just enjoyed eating good artisan bread - a rare treat for me. As usual came home determined to 1: go to france more and 2: bake better bread!


Coming home always makes me feel a little strange, mostly because I see things through "stranger's eyes" for a day or two and this time the strangest thing were the freezers! I had quite simply forgotten the astonishing array of baked goods that I have been squirrelling away over the past few months so, feeling ashamed of my lack of domestic organisation skills we have been eating the strange assortment as I attempt to "spring clean" (!) the freezers. Major resolution - NO more baking until we've eaten the freezers!


After kaiser rolls, potato bread, more rolls and rye crispbreads with soup and cheese and there is half a sliced white sandwich loaf defrosting on the counter - two more equally unidentifiable sliced loaves are still there - I really can't tell whilst they are still in rock form what they are ...note to self: LABEL FOOD BAGS!


The site of a fat round disk heavily sealed in foil and plastic confused me completely, especially since it was in the vegetable drawer but I finally remembered using up two oranges and the last of my ground almonds to make the simple mediterranean orange cake that we both love in the summer the night before we went away ... another note: buy almonds.


I was determined to stay with the resolution bu then checked out the veggie patch. Oh those courgettes! Why do they alwys grow when I'm away so (carefully avoiding the sight of the bags of frozen ones under the cake in the freezer), I gave in, decided against defrosting further and made a large chocolate cougette loaf using the recipe from the Green and Black's organic chocolate cookbook. It always works well, is low in fat and sugar and moist with a plain rather than milk chocolate flavour. It rose well and I felt warm and fuzzy about home baking again. Maybe I'll just start a sponge for a rustic boule or two ...

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Realised how time flies when you're having fun when trying to explain to a friend what I had been doing whilst on 8 weeks sick leave. Well I said, I've been soooo busy ... doing what? hard to say. Of course she said, you're one of those ... HOME BAKERS!!! I've never thought that it keeps me busy but I am still surprised that other people don't bake all their family's bread and cakes. Mind you I don't know where the time has gone but I know that going back to work will be difficult to fit in!

So I thought it was about time I did some "housekeeping" and started with the serious en of things - sorting through digital pics (essential for a tidy life!) and came up with some of my recent exploits.

Firstly pita breads - I am so pleased with my efforts as- touch wood - they seem to come up every time now even with wholemeal four. I still love peering through the oven door to watch the pocket rise and get the greatest sense of achievement (and wonder!) at how well it works.
My husband likes them to be quite crusty for eating straight away so I leave the last ones in a little longer and they stay puffed up for ever. The batch in the photo are 50% wholemeal for eating with chilli and rice.

Even quicker are chapatis which are so quick and I find best made with 100% wholemeal - I stll "puff" them over a naked flame but am working on the girdle technique.

Finally I had forgotten this but a happy accident meant I "found" 3 hot cross buns lurking in the bread crock a day too late - so a perfect excuse for a late "Easter" bread and butter pudding.

I am still experimenting with my own rustic bread recipe especially for spelt flour and hope to perfect it yet ... well maybe one day.

So another batch of oat, raisin, cherry and chocolate chip cookies have gone, as has the brack and chocolate loaf cake. Guess I'd better go do "one of those" things in the kitchen again. :)

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Big smile as I leafed through new copy of Food Illustrated - magazine from supermarket (Waitrose which may only mean something if you're British).

Entitled "slow cook issue" amomgst some great winter dishes a whole selection of breads supplied by Dan Lepard - including soda bread, hot cross buns and - personal favourite - a viennese loaf. Can't wait to get started ...


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