Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas

It feels particularly relevant to serve these breakfast treats today in this early 1700s pewter platter, a Christmas gift which may well have held Emneth Worthies before.

I'd like to wish everyone who has been following my blog all around the world a Merry Christmas. I'm sitting here with the smell of Emneth Worthies baking, see recipe filling the kitchen while I wait for everyone to wake up and come downstairs for breakfast.

I tweaked this second batch of Worthies, adding more dried fruit and peel and the zest of one orange. I also soaked the golden sultanas in the Disaronno for 12 hours before incorporating them into the dough.  If ever you make these delicious brioche like buns, don't be alarmed by how biloowy and fragile the dough is, after the initial proving, you will find that when you knock it back it is very soft and sticky. The period that follows in the fridge will firm it up enough to handle, but you wuill need to do this on  a floured board and work quickly to form the 12 balls that you then pop into moulds.

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Emneth Worthies

If you type Emneth Worthies into a search engine, no sign of the original recipe for these delicious seasonal breads comes up, believe me I have tried. despite scouring the archive here at Hagbech Hall I have failed to find the recipe. It's certainly true that there hasn't been an Emneth Worthy for sale here in Emneth for over 50 years and I doubt if there is anyone still living in the village who can remember them.

I was reading a description of them, "A light bread sweetened with dried fruit and sweet wine, enriched with sweet butter and fresh eggs", to my friend Serjanus D'Umty when he pointed out that they resemble my brioche and surely I could modify the recipe. Here is the result of a bit of tweaking, and if mince pies and mulled wine are the sustaining treats while wrapping Christmas presents, Emneth Worthies and a large cup of Illy Coffee are certainly the choice for unwrapping them.

You will need:
500g of Strong White Flour
325g of unsalted butter
40g of sugar
6 eggs
50ml of warm milk
7g sachet of fast action yeast
9g of salt
100g of dried fruit and candied orange peel
1 teaspoon of vanilla
3 teaspoons of Disaronno Amaretto liquer

Begin by mixing the flour, sugar, yeast, salt, milk and eggs together to form a dough, then gradually add softened butter. I have the food mixer on full speed while the dough hook whips the dough, incorporating each 25g of butter before adding the next piece. Finally add the fruit and glacé peel, I used golden glacé cherries cut into pieces, golden sultanas and glacé orange peel, then add the vanilla Disaronno. leave the douhg to rise at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours. The dough should have more than doubled in size and as soon as you knock it back it will colapse completely, cover and place the dough in the fridge for 6 to 8 hours. Placing the dough in the fridge not only develops flavour but firms up the dough considerably, allowing it then to be portioned into 12 equal sized balls. Place each ball in muffin tins lined with large muffin cases. leave to rise for another 3 to 4 hours at which point they again should have more than doubled in size. Bake in a moderate to hot oven, 190 degrees C for 17 minutes at which point they should be a good golden brown colour.
Poppy asleep in the wrapping paper
Worthies once again in Emneth

I will soak the sultanas in the liquer the next time I make these in order to make the fruit more moist.
See second batch

Tuesday, 18 December 2012


I'm learning to be a little cautious in publishing recipes for foods from other parts of the world, after my recipe for M'hanncha caused concern. I am more than likely to get things wrong and my recipe for stolen is no exception, I can already hear roars of laughter from Hamburg to Munich. The result I have to say though was pleasing enough and far better than the poor examples available in the shops over here.

You will need:
400g of Strong White Flour
60g of sugar
70g of soft unsalted butter
2 eggs
7g of instant yeast
9g of salt
Enough milk to form a soft dough, roughly 150ml
200g of mixed dried fruit and peel
I teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of mixed spice
200g of marzipan Click here for recipe

Mix all the ingredients apart from the fruit,candied peel and marzipan, to form a soft sticky dough. Add the dried fruit and peel, I used a mixture of Lexia raisins, golden sultanas, golden glacé cherries and candied orange peel and mix well into the dough to distribute evenly. Knead on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes before leaving in a bowl, covered to prove for and hour or so.
Divide the dough in half, press each half out into a circular shape, roll out the marzipan into two sausage shapes and place each piece in a disc of dough, cover the marzipan to form a roughly oval shape and leave to rise for a further hour or so until risen but not doubled in size. Bake at 180 C for 35 to 40 minutes, cover the loaves with a piece of kitchen foil after 20 minutes if the tops are beginning to brown too quickly. Cool and decorate with a little icing made of icing sugar and lemon juice and some glacé cherries. I added a few slivers of pistachio for colour.


I find this dough being enriched with eggs and sugar doesn't rise a great deal, unlike most breads or even brioche or panattone, but I think s it's all the better for being a little more dense. If a lighter texture is what you enjoy, add a further sachet (7g) of instant yeast.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Two Tips for Christmas Baking

I often hear people say they don't like Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and mince pies; when asked what they don't like about them it is that they are dark and bitter. I'm pleased to say currants are entirely responsible for this, which is why, at Christmas time, they are banned from the Hagbech kitchen. They have their place, of course, during the year in such things as pasta sauces and with flax seeds in Susan of Wild Yeast's wonderful Rustic Flax seed Currant bread Click here. In my opinion, adding currants to Christmas baking may reduce the overall cost but adds an unwelcome bitter note.

The other thing I often hear from people is that they don't like marzipan. This is almost always because their experience of marzipan is that of commercial marzipan which is often made from groundnuts and artificial almond flavouring. What follows is my recipe for home made marzipan, simple and easy.

You will need:
200g of Ground Almonds
100g of Caster Sugar
100g of Icing Sugar
1 medium size egg

Place all the ingredients in a food processor or food mixer and mix to form a cohesive mass. This marzipan can be kept for 2 to 3 weeks; it can be rolled out to put on rich fruit cake before finally covering with icing, it can also be used to make small petit four, it can even be formed into small rounds and baked at 180C for 11 minutes to make almond cookies.

I shall soon post my recipes for Christmas Cake, Mincemeat and Christmas puddings.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Beer & Malt Sourdough second batch

As I mentioned the first time I made this bread, I thought it would be a good idea, given the current cold conditions in my kitchen, to reduce the amount of liquid a little. These are the results. The bread recipe remains fundamentally the same but with 50g less water, Click here for recipe

Friends who bake agree with me that the joy of producing a loaf of bread is always partnered with an element of analytical observation, "how would I change things next time?" This isn't in itself a bad thing, after all it's how we all become better bakers, however I found with this bread that the twin responses of joy and critical observation were replaced by unbridled appreciation for what came out of the oven. If I have to choose a single bread recipe to eat for the rest of my life, it will be this one and I will be content. The leathery savoury crust with its slight warm sweetness keeps on delivering the more you chew. The crumb, rich and creamy in colour is moist and at the same time light, it is full of flavour and partners most things in a well mannered way.

I shall enjoy experimenting with different local beers, I used an ale from the famour Suffolk brewery, Adnams in this batch and today I bought some ale from the local Wisbech brewery Elgoods for the bread I shall bake on Monday.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Toffee Apple Crumble

The last of the Emneth Earlies are coming to an end and I fancied making a crumble, but adding caramel to the apples I thought might be a good idea, I was right, this variation on the old standard apple crumble is definitely worth making.

You will need:

For the Apple filling:
7 large apples, roughly 1200g equivalent
100g of sugar
750ml of apple liquor, apple juice is fine if this is not available
2 tablespoons of double cream, optional
1/2 teaspoon of salt.

For the crumble:
150g of plain flour
50g of rolled oats
125g of unsalted butter
40g of sugar
a few slivered almonds to sprinkle on top.

Begin preparing the apples, peel, core and cut into small pieces. Then make the caramel; I find the easiest way to do this is to place the sugar in a heavy based pan on a low heat and with the sugar spread out over the bottom of the pan, heat until it begins to melt. The important thing is to NEVER stir the sugar, simply shake the pan and tilt it slightly so that all the sugar becomes melted. Caramel will turn from a a clear colourless liquid to a golden brown, then dark brown in a matter of moments, so it's essential that you watch while this process is going on, switch the heat off as soon as the colour begins to deepen, it is better to have a slightly pale caramel than a bitter dark one. As soon as you are happy with the colour, add the apples, they will spit and spatter due to the high heat of the caramel, add the liquor of juice and place the pan back on the heat. At this point you can begin to stir the apples gently to dissolve the caramel. Add the salt and continue to cook on a low heat to reduce the liquid and slightly cook the apples. This is the time to adjust the flavour of what has become a sauce with the addition of a little more sugar and a spoonful or two of double cream if you like a creamy toffee sauce. Transfer the apples in their sauce to an oven proof dish.

Make the crumble; weigh out the ingredients and mix in a food processor or by hand to form a breadcrumb consistency. Spread the crumble mixture onto the cooled apples, topping with a sprinkling of slivered almonds. Bake at 180C for 35 t 40 minutes until the top is golden and the sauce shows signs of emerging at the sides.


Notes: It's important to use apples that hold their shape for making this dish, rather than cooking apples which will simply form a mush.                                                                                                            

Beer & Malt Sourdough

There is something special about the notion of making bread with nothing more than flour, water, salt and wild yeast. The french even have laws concerning it. For those of us who dare to add ingredients however, there are occasional rewards that make it all worthwhile. This bread that I put together using locally brewed beer and malt extract has the most wonderful crust and delicious cream coloured crumb. The crust, because the bread uses wild yeast, is chewy and has great depth of flavour, the slight sweetness from the malt enhances the savoury notes from the caramelization.

Here is the recipe that produced these loaves, however I shall tweak the proportion of liquid in my next batch. Click here for the second batch The low ambient temperature, although excellent for flavour development, is more suited to a slightly firmer dough.

For the ferment:
1 tablespoon of starter
200g of strong white flour
200g of water.

For the main dough:
All of the ferment
1200g of strong white flour
100g of malt extract
400g of water
300g of beer, I used a locally brewed ale called Hares Hopping.
22g of salt.

Begin by putting together the ferment, mix the ingredients and place in a 2 pint bowl to gently get on with fermenting until you achieve a billowy mass. This is described in earlier posts. I usually allow 12 hours from morning to night to do this, but then I live in a cold climate.

Last thing before going to bed, I mix all remaining ingredients, apart from the salt, to form a soft dough. Leave covered to ferment overnight. In the morning, mix in the salt and leave the dough to rise, stretching and folding every hour for 4 hours. Divide the dough in two and form two large round boules. Place the dough in proving baskets, seam side up and leave to rise for 3 hours before baking in a hot (220 degrees) oven for 35 minutes.

I placed a ring of plaited dough in the proving basket before placing in the loaf, but despite taking time to do this, the result was a bit pathetic and certainly requires more thought on my part!

This is most definitely the bread to make breadcrumbs for the Christmas puddings.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Crackers for Cheese

I have been thinking about how to achieve a decent gluten free pastry for my friend Julia, these crackers I made the other day may hold the answer. When making a good short crust pastry, it is essential that you add only sufficient water to bring together the dough, adding just a little too much will result in pastry more akin to cardboard. However the added "toughness" of this cracker dough makes the crackers less crumbly. Pastry made with gluten free flour is always too crumbly so experimenting with extra water may produce a better result, I will let you know. Meanwhile here is the recipe for the crackers.

you will need:
150g of plain flour,
60g of unsalted butter
3 teaspoons of olive oil
60g of mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower and sesame in this case)
1 teaspoon of Bouillon powder (I use this in place of salt, but if it's not available, use half a teaspoon of salt)
1/2 teaspoon of umami (available from Chinese supermarkets)
1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
100ml of chilled water.

Begin by placing the flour and butter in a food processor and pulse until you achieve a fine breadcrumb texture. Add all remaining ingredients apart from the water, pulse again until the all is well mixed. Slowly add the water while continuing to pulse the machine until you achieve a sticky dough. Turn the dough out onto a well floured board and knead lightly for a moment or two.

Divide the dough into two parts, take each part and roll between two sheets of baking parchment to a thickness of 3 to 4mm. I find it makes peeling back the top sheet much easier if you lightly oil the parchment. Peel back the top sheet of paper, divide the rolled out dough to the desired number of crackers and repeat the process for the second piece of dough. bake at 180C for 15 minutes. remove the trays of crackers, reduce the oven temperature to 100C, replace the trays and leave the crackers to completely dry out for a further 1 hour.

These crackers can be flavoured in a variety of different ways, dried rosemary and black onion seed, parmesan and sage. Cumin seed and chilli, really anything you can think of.
Pulsing the mix with the seeds before adding the water results in a dough that has chopped seeds more evenly distributed, but if having whole pumpkin seeds is what you desire, simply add the seeds at the point where you knead the dough.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Light Rye with Caraway

My earliest memory of being able to find a loaf of bread baked using wild yeast was back in the early 1980s in Cambridge, where I lived at the time. The bread was sold in the Italian deli Balzano's, it was baked somewhere in the north of England was packed in a polythene bag and of course by the time I bought it, it was already a day or two old. The bread was delicious, dense with a hint of caraway, I imagine it came from an East European family bakery.

When I was thinking about making some rye of my own, the memory of the caraway came back and despite not knowing how much I should add to 600g of flour I seem to have gauged it correctly, for me at least.

This recipe makes two loaves and you will need:
For the ferment,
1 tablespoon of starter,
100g of Strong White Flour
100g of Rye
200g of water

For the main dough
All of the ferment
400g of Strong White Flour
200g of Rye
10g of Caraway seeds
450g of water
14g of salt.

Begin by activating the starter and creating the ferment. Mix all ferment ingredients and leave covered in a bowl (I use a 2 pint pudding basin) for at least 12 hours. The ferment should be bubbling well and rolling in on itself at the point where it's ready to add to the main dough ingredients see Fig 1

Last thing before going to bed, add the ferment to the main dough ingredients, omitting the salt. Leave the dough, covered overnight to rise. In the morning, add the salt and mix to distribute thoroughly. Leave the dough now to rise, stretching and folding the dough every hour for 3 or 4 hours. Form the dough into 2 loaves and place them in well floured baskets and leave for a further couple of hours to rise before slashing and baking in a hot, 220 degrees oven for 30-35 minutes.

Click here for many more recipes.

This bread, like the Porcini and Hazelnut bread carries a subtle yet delicious flavour throughout the crumb.
 Different flour absorbs water at different rates, so quantities of water are always approximate and it is best to gauge for yourself whether or not to add it all. Begin by adding nearly all the water recommended, then decide for yourself what is best.

Friday, 30 November 2012


There are times when standing and staring at the leftovers in the fridge is a prelude to producing an excellent dish. When enjoyed by friends and commented on however, I point out that often there are well over a dozen ingredients if you add them all up from the three meals that went to combine what we are eating.

The other day we ate such a dish; there was some left over dahl, not enough to stretch to anything on its own, but with the addition of a handful of frozen peas, always a standby, it might form a bigger part, I had also some roast potatoes that simply needed 10 minutes in a hot oven to bring back to life. I put these two together but at the last minute the desire for something a little fresh to finish it off, made me finely chop a couple of dill pickles and a few sprigs of fresh coriander to sprinkle on top. It's difficult to believe this simple combination, not many ingredients in this case, tasted as wonderful as it did, but somehow it delivered on almost all taste levels. I ate it up thinking about what would make it complete and yesterday made it all again from scratch, including everything from the first time but with the addition of some scallops.

This post is really my recipe for dahl, but if you wish to go on to make this totally unexpected dish, there are directions at the end of the recipe, what ever you do, do try the dahl, it's delicious.

You will need:
200g of split lentils
4 cloves of garlic
1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder
1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
Some curry leaves
1 tablespoon of dried methi (fenugreek) leaves.
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil or ghee.

Begin by boiling the lentils in a litre of water, cook until the lentils are tender and disintegrating. Slice the garlic finely, chop up the fresh ginger and get together the spices. Heat a separate pan, I  use a small deep frying pan, add the oil and add the cumin and mustard seeds, as soon as they begin to pop, add the garlic and fresh ginger then the turmeric and chilli powder. Adding the powdered spices at this stage, when the garlic and ginger have reduced slightly the temperature of the oil will help reduce the risk of burning the spice. Continue to cook until the garlic begins to take on a little colour, this should take no more than a minute or two at the most, overcooking garlic brings out a more bitter flavour. Add the spice mix to the cooked dahl along with the curry leaves and the dried methi. I usually grind up the methi in the palms of my hand to create a more dusty texture, it seems to distribute the herb throughout the dahl. Cook the dahl on a gentle heat for a further 20 minutes adding more water if you find it getting a little dry. I usually eat dahl a little on the drier side myself, drier than the more soup like consistency you find served in many Indian restaurants, the choice is yours.

 If you feel moved to make the final dish you will need:
a quantity of the dahl
a cupful of frozen peas
a number of roasted potatoes
some cherry tomatoes chopped with a little balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper added
2 dill pickles finely chopped with fresh coriander
scallops, 3 or 4 per person
some cavolo nero, finely shredded and deep fried as a garnish (I warned you it was mad)

Heat the dahl, roast the potatoes, deep fry the cavolo nero and fry the scallops in a very hot pan with a little oil for no more than 1 minute on each side, this should allow you to not overcook them and at the same time create a nice caramelization on the outside. Over crowding the pan will reduce the heat and the scallops will stew rather than fast fry.

Assemble the dish, pile the dahl in the centre of a warmed dish, surround the dahl with the potatoes and the scallops, place a small amount of the marinaded tomato around the outside along with a sprinkle of the pickle and coriander mix, finally place a small pile of the deep fried cavolo nero on the very top. Deep fried greens are served in this country in Chinese restaurant as sea weed, they provide a delicious crunchy texture which is well worth making the effort to make. Be careful to use a large enough pan, the brassica will foam up rather quickly, but when the foaming subsides, the fine shreds should not take more than another minute to cook, drain on kitchen paper.

I, like many, read and flick through recipe books, I scan the list of ingredients, I study photos, always useful, and form an opinion as to whether or not I will ever create such a dish. I will be the first to admit, this one would pass me by and I would never have a second thoughts, however I stumbled across a dish, made of bits and pieces, the result delivers a combination of flavours and textures that makes me very happy I did.

I did cook the chopped stems of the cavolo nero in the dahl. but this was merely a way of avoiding waste, the dahl as described above is a perfectly complete dish, however the addition of butter would add something magical.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Seeded Sourdough

Deciding to toast the sesame seeds in this seeded sourdough bread, gives the bread a wonderfully nutty flavour. You can of course add any seeds you fancy, I chose sesame, sunflower and pumpkin.

for this bread you will need:
for the ferment,
1 tablespoon of starter from the fridge
100g of Strong White Flour
100g of Strong Wholewheat Flour
200g of water.

For the main dough,
All of the ferment
700g of Strong white flour
200g of Strong wholewheat flour
75g of whole sesame seeds, toasted in a dry pan on a low heat for a couple of minutes.
75g of pumpkin seeds
75g of sunflower seeds
650g of water
20g of salt.

Begin by creating the ferment, I leave mine in my rather cool kitchen all day to get on with growing. This means I put the ferment ingredients together at around 8.0 and leave them covered in a 2 pint pudding basin until 10.0 at night before adding all the main dough ingredients apart from the salt.

Create the main dough by putting together all the ferment and all the main dough ingredients, apart from the salt, and mix to form a soft dough, leave covered overnight.

In the morning, add the salt , mix in thoroughly, this takes just over a minute in my food mixer. Leave the dough to rise, stretching and folding it every hour for 3 to 4 hours. The dough will become stronger and holds its shape slightly more as this process goes on. You should find it grows and becomes more billowy, stretching and folding the dough needs to be done increasingly gently so as to avoid losing as much of the precious gas as possible.

Divide the dough into 3 and shape into long oval loaves, place the dough into well floured baskets to prove. I flour my proving baskets with rice flour rather than wheat flour, it seems to be more effective at preventing the dough sticking to the basket. Tip each loaf out onto a hot baking stone, slash the top before baking in a hot (220C) oven for 30-35 minutes. I sprayed the top of each loaf with water and scattered it with poppy seeds just prior to slashing.

You can add more seeds than I chose to, the lightness of bread however, depends of gluten forming large stretchy bubbles and the addition of anything that compromises the elasticity of the gluten, even the addition of bran, will affect this, creating a less lofty loaf.
This bread is particularly good with cheese, I found a Peyrigoux, a soft cheese made in the Aquitaine which was brilliant.