Learning to Make Bread

Bread Making Course Cookery School

I’ve always pictured myself as one of those people who spends Sunday afternoons making fantastic loaves of bread for the family to enjoy. Or who produces a wonderful sharing loaf for a dinner party. However, I have yet to actually make a loaf of bread and I know I wouldn’t make it through Bread Week if I did Bake Off. Cake and biscuits I can do. Bread I have no experience of baking at all. Until now…

A good friend bought me a voucher to spend at the Lemon and Soul Cookery School and I chose the bread making masterclass (and splashed out the extra so Tom could come along too).

Bowl of flour with work bench in background
A messy bench is a happy bread?!

We made a great selection of breads: Cinnamon Wasps Nests, Carrot and Poppy Seed Wholemeal Buns, Kaiser Rolls and Pitta Bread. There was lots of kneading and proving and kneading and proving but we had a great time!

Cinnamon Wasps Nests

These are sweet cinnamon buns and were the first dough we made. They were delicious little buns, though cinnamon isn’t my favourite so Tom will probably be forced to eat them all (what a shame!)

Bowl of flour ad trays of cinnamon butter
Trays of filling waiting for the cinnamon rolls

Somehow in all the fun I forgot to get a picture of the cinnamon buns!

Carrot and Poppy Seed Wholemeal Buns

These were my favourite of the lot. Little perfect vegetable rolls. We had ours with some butternut squash soup for tea and they were perfect. I will definitely be making these again in the future!

A carrot and poppy seed roll being held in two hands
Tom shows off his perfectly round little roll
A selection of different shaped rolls
We learned lots of different shapes

Kaiser Rolls

These are white bread rolls with a small amount of honey or malt for flavour. The dough was really good for shaping the rolls and the taste was lovely. I would make these again for a lunch or rolls to have with a meal.

A knotted plait dough roll and some round rolls ready for second prove
Shaped dough in plaits and round roll shapes
A Selection of Kaiser rolls in different shapes
A selection of the shapes we made. Tom was very proud of his small plaits.

Pitta Breads

This was a very simple dough and easy to make and shape. We would like to make this as mini pizzas next time as Katarina suggested that was popular in her family!

Pitta breads in a green bag
Our pitta breads nestling in our bag to take them home!

We really enjoyed our bread making course, and we will definitely use the recipes again. As we go into the winter we’re planning to make soups for lunches to take to work and the carrot and wholemeal rolls will be perfect to go with them. A happy Sunday afternoon can be spent making soup and rolls for the week ahead!

If you’re in or near Southampton then I really recommend the Lemon and Soul cookery school. Do look them up and learn something new!

Kaiser rolls and man wearing branded apron
Tom proudly shows off our final bakes and his stylish apron we got to wear during the class!

Ratatouille Flavour Fail!

A baking tray full of chopped courgettes, red onions, peppers and aubergines

I like trying new recipes, especially from food magazines, and even more if it uses ingredients we already have in the freezer. Having come across a bumper lot of reduced fish the other week when we were in Sainsbury’s we’ve been looking for recipes to try to use it up. I found a recipe I tore out of a Sainsbury’s Magazine for Parma Ham-Wrapped Cod with Mediterranean Vegetables.

A baking tray full of chopped courgettes, red onions, peppers and aubergines
Mediterranean Veg ready to roast

We made this for dinner and it was delicious. We also had quite a few veggies left in the fridge so decided to roast more of them and then have the leftovers another day. So far, so sensible.

Cod wrapped in parma ham with pesto and roasted vegetables
Parma Ham Cod – Delicious

The next night we planned to have some sausages with rataouille and spiced bulgur wheat from our freezer (another make ahead meal) and we thought we could supplement the already made ratatouille with the leftover veggies from the night before. Have you spotted our mistake yet?

From the first bite of our ratatouille I knew something was wrong. It tasted very strange. Tom was able to work out why. Having roasted the vegetables with the cod, they had taken on a fishy flavour. When added to the ratatouille with sausages and spices the fishy flavour was also incorporated. It didn’t work at all. That’s a mistake not to be repeated in future! Cod flavour does not enhance ratatouille with sausages. Lesson learned. #KitchenFails

The Best Sausage Rolls

The Best Sausage Rolls

There are certain family favourite recipes that I have been trying to master since I got married. Not long after I met Tom I heard about his Mum’s sausage rolls which used to just be for Christmas Eve but have become a requested favourite for birthdays, high days and holidays. It was clear that if I was to be a long-term prospect I would need to perfect the sausage rolls.

This is a ‘lazy person’s sausage rolls’ recipe in that it involves bought pastry and basic sausage meat. You could make your own puff pastry (but who has the time?!) and you could use expensive sausage meat or take the meat from gourmet sausages to make it. However, as this is a childhood favourite it has to be made as Mum made it and can’t be too messed about with!

Extensive testing has been done (last Christmas) which proved that the cheaper puff pastry is actually the best one for this recipe – the more expensive all butter one didn’t yield such good results. Happy days for the budget!

Recipe

Makes 24 small or 16 larger sausage rolls

Time needed: 1 hour (max)

Ingredients

  • 1 pack of ready to roll puff pastry
  • 1 pack of pork sausage meat
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Plain flour (for rolling)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a large tray with baking parchment.
  2. Flour a large clean surface and roll out the puff pastry to form a long, thin rectangle which is a bit thinner than a £1 coin.
  3. Divide up the sausage meat and place it on the pastry forming one long sausage along the centre of the pastry. Try to make it an even thickness all the way along. Season the sausage meat with some extra black pepper.
  4. Brush the beaten egg along the pastry on one side of the sausage meat and the fold the pastry over and press down the edges, making sure the pastry hugs the sausage without leaving an air gap. Crimp the edges with a fork.
  5. Cut the sausage into portions. I made 24 sausage rolls but if you prefer bigger ones you could make 16. Transfer the sausage rolls to the baking tray.
  6. Brush the top of all the rolls with egg wash and then add a small sprinkling of sea salt to the top of each one. Place the tray in the fridge for 20 minutes to chill before baking.
  7. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is a golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and then eat warm or cold.
Rolled out pastry with sausage meat down the centre
Step Three
24 sausage rolls on a baking tray ready to chill in the fridge and then bake
Step Six
24 sausage rolls on a baking tray just out of the oven
Smells good!
Puff pastry home made sausage rolls on a baking tray straight from the oven
Ready for the eating!
Optional Twists

Sometimes I add a sprinkle of chilli flakes to the sausage meat before sealing it with the pastry which adds a little bit of heat (but not too much). You could also add herbs to taste.

 

These sausage rolls were baked for my work team meeting tomorrow (but I have put two in Tom’s packed lunch for work as a treat). As a team we are all based in different locations across the south so we only meet 5 or 6 times a year and we always have a bring and share lunch. Sausage rolls were requested after I made them about 6 months ago, so obviously this family favourite works in lots of contexts. Sausage rolls are for life, not just for Christmas!

 

Sloe Gin (to Pimp my Prosecco)

Four bottles to add to Prosecco: Creme de Framboise, Elderflower Cordial, Pomegranate & Elderflower Cordial, Charlotte's Homemade Sloe Gin,

It really started to feel like Autumn in the last few days (August has been a washout here in the UK to be honest) but Autumn is probably my favourite season. Something about the leaves and the weather turning makes me feel at home, and I love the move towards cosy winter nights in and crisp walks in the Autumn sunshine.

One of the best things about Autumn is that it’s sloe gin season! I hope to be able to get out there in the next few weeks and get some sloes to make some more sloe gin. We haven’t managed it the last couple of years what with weddings, and then being away last year.

Four bottles to add to Prosecco: Creme de Framboise, Elderflower Cordial, Pomegranate & Elderflower Cordial, Charlotte's Homemade Sloe Gin,
Pimp my Prosecco!

For our Autumn wedding we made our own sloe gin the year before and used it, with other shop-bought treats, to make a ‘Pimp my Prosecco’ bar. This went down incredibly well with certain guests. My sister claims to have tried all of the flavours and I think managed five proseccos during the drinks and photos!!

If I manage to get out and pick some sloes this Autumn I will take some photos and post the recipe!

Waitrose Summer Festival

Two signed Martha Collison cookbooks and a Waitrose Summer Festival tote bag

Being in Southampton has its perks, one of which is being so close to the wonderful Hampshire countryside. This came into its own this year as the in-laws alerted us to the Waitrose Summer Festival at Leckford and suggested we get tickets. Tom was dispatched to organise this and he duly did. What a wonderful day!

There were lots of stalls with delicious things to try. We especially liked some lemon shortbread biscuits dipped in white chocolate and several of the tasty cheeses on offer. The best food of the day went to the chicken katsu burger we had for lunch. The queue was massive but my goodness it was worth it. Not least because I left Tom in the queue to collect the food while I went off to see Martha Collison’s Q&A!

I got to meet Martha afterwards in the book tent and she kindly signed my copy of Twist (well-used already as I’ve made several of the recipes and may well blog them later). Tom also bought me a copy of her new book, Crave, which I also got signed, but I can’t have that until Christmas – I’m told it was dispatched to Santa already!

Two signed Martha Collison cookbooks and a Waitrose Summer Festival tote bag
Signed Cookbooks!

I told Martha I was really pleased to meet her as I had tweeted her a couple of times when I made the Mont Blanc and the Peach and Pomegranate Pavlova from Twist and she had retweeted them. Hopefully my fangirl enthusiasm didn’t scare her too much!

Later we went to her baking demonstration where she made some fabulous looking cupcakes in ice-cream cones with a marshmallowy topping. A recipe to try out next time I have a willing crowd of people to eat them I think!

Martha Collison doing a cooking demonstration piping icing onto cupcakes that look like ice creams
Martha demonstrates her ice cream cupcakes

 

Getting Ahead with Meal Prep

Eight bags are lined up on a counter full of spiced chicken and vegetables

Since coming back from holiday in June life has changed around Lemon Cake HQ as we try to lose some weight by cooking more from scratch and cutting out snacking. All has been going well for the last 3 months and we’re both about 2 stone lighter, so that’s great.

The key for us has been meal planning which we’ve always known was the right thing to do but somehow we could never get into the groove. Now we seem to have found our rhythm with it and have been stocking our freezer with healthy home-cooked food which is ready to go and cuts out those spur of the moment ‘deliveroo dilemmas’ as I like to call them. (As a side note, deliveroo being available at Lemon Cake HQ seriously increased our ordering of food which, while convenient, wasn’t good for our waistlines or wallet!)

We’ve managed about two months of solid meal planning now, and we also make as much as we can ahead of time and really use the freezer well. We batch cook one big meal a week (curry, chilli, bolognese, ratatouille, stew) and freeze several portions so that in any given week we could have two or three different home-made dinners from the freezer.

This week one of our favourites was given the meal prep treatment. We love Mexican food and Burrito Bowl is a go-to staple of our weekday dinner repertoire. Home made pico de gallo, guacamole or sliced avocado,  chipotle chicken, spiced peppers and onions, lime and coriander rice and then a blob of sour cream and a sprinkling of cheese. As a cheat we often use microwavable brown rice packets as it’s quick and easy. The final result is a bowl of yummy.

A bowl of food including rice, chicken, peppers & onions, avocado and salsa with sour cream in the centre
Burrito Bowl!

The one problem is that Burrito Bowl takes quite a bit of prep as I usually marinate the chicken, and there’s lots of chopping as I make the salsa, flavour the rice, make a guacamole etc. On a weekday evening after work it can be a lot of effort. That’s why this week we did one mammoth chopping session and made enough for five dinners worth, eating one, and freezing four. We diced and marinated all the chicken, and have frozen bags of the chicken ready to defrost and cook when we need it. We did the same for the peppers and onions and added the spices to the bags.

Eight bags are lined up on a counter full of spiced chicken and vegetables
Burrito Bowl Bags all ready to go!

Now when we go to make Burrito Bowl we just need to make the salsa and buy some rice, avocados and sour cream (we always have cheese in the fridge – can’t live without it!) The salsa we can also use in a salad for lunch the next day so the effort of the chopping can be used over more than one meal.

I know meal prep can be dull for many people, but I am someone who loves to chop. Chopping vegetables evenly and quickly is one of my small joys in life. I think it’s because it’s an easily completable task which can be done precisely in a relatively short time, and you can compete against your past self to be better than last time. I find it very therapeutic and love seeing the result which in this case, was all these bags for the freezer. Win win. Productive and tasty.

Vanilla and Strawberry Cake

Vanilla and Strawberry Cake

I have always loved the idea of making a wedding cake and even thought about making my own. In the end my husband-to-be talked sense into me (thank you!) and pointed out that I would have other things to do in the days before the wedding and it would be unnecessarily stressful to make my own wedding cake! A wonderful friend stepped in and made us a beautiful and delicious cake.

A 4 tier wedding cake with coloured lantern decorations surrounded by old photographs
Our beautiful lantern themed wedding cake (complete with light up lanterns) Photo Credit: Emma Moore/Emma Moore Photography – Emma did an amazing job with all of our wedding photos – thank you (if you’re in Hampshire and getting married look her up!)

When my sister got engaged this year and said nobody had volunteered to make the cake, my chance came! So I now have until May 2018 to perfect the flavours, recipes, style and techniques needed to make the perfect cake for my sister and her fiance. Project Wedding Cake was born and I will be taking every opportunity to make practice cakes to test recipes, flavour combinations and decoration every time I have an occasion with enough people to help me eat a large cake. After all, I have a bridesmaids dress to wear on the day so I can’t indulge too much in the practice bakes!!

The requested cake for the wedding will be three tiers, each with different flavours of sponge cake, and all decorated in a rustic style with buttercream. The first test cake is a vanilla and strawberry cake which was made for dessert for a family lunch with the in-laws.

Having done some research online I found the cake recipe I wanted to test which was by Eileen Gray at the Baking Sense blog. You can find the recipe I used in her Cake 101 – Vanilla Butter Cake post. I found the recipe easy to follow and thought the reverse creaming method with whipped egg whites worked really well and made a light sponge which was still sturdy enough to use in a layered cake.

I used a traditional buttercream (butter and icing sugar) on the cake and for the filling between the layers I added some home made strawberry puree which made the icing delicious! I also used some jam between the layers to give some tangy fruit flavour.

I decorated the cake with strawberries, strawberry chocolate buttons and freeze dried strawberry powder. This was a excuse to use the buttons and strawberry powder that my husband bought me as a birthday treat from the Sous Chef website – something we just discovered but will definitely use again!

A layer cake with vanilla buttercream with a horizontal stripe pattern and topped with strawberries and pink chocolate buttons
Strawberry Topped Vanilla Cake
A layer cake with vanilla buttercream with a horizontal stripe pattern and topped with strawberries and pink chocolate buttons
Close up of the side of the cake

All in all I was really pleased with how the cake turned out. I didn’t have a buttercream smoother when I made this cake (I do now!) so it was difficult to get the sides and top really smooth. I only used the strawberry buttercream between the layers as my sister doesn’t want a pink cake! However it was delicious and the jam added extra tang. The only downside was that the buttercream was incredibly sweet so next time I will try an Italian meringue buttercream and see whether that works better.

The first bake for Project Wedding Cake was considered a success, as evidenced by how quickly the family managed to demolish it!

A cut away picture of a vanilla layer cake with strawberry filling and fresh strawberries on top
After being served to about 10 people! You can see the strawberry buttercream layers and jam inside.