Cardamom & Maple Brioche Buns

IMG_6839My very wonderful grandparents gave me some individual fluted brioche moulds for Christmas last year (niche baking equipment is the way to my heart, FYI Ryan Gosling) – and it took me this long to get round to using them. I christened them with a twist on my usual brioche recipe: cardamom and maple. Cardamom is one of those  flavours, along with rosewater, that make Paul Hollywood do that “do you really think that’s a good idea?” face on Bake Off (clue, it’s not), but luckily my housemates aren’t such fussy judges.

I used whole pods, lightly toasted to release the oils, to infuse the milk and brushed the finished buns in maple syrup. The result is a fragrant, sweet but still breakfast-appropriate flavour that has something wonderfully gin-like about it (but then I think Diet Coke has aftertaste of carrots, so don’t take my word for it), and the contrast between the crisp, sweet crust and the soft, fluffy dough is quite something. Plus the fluted shape is a brilliantly simple way to make something Parisian-patisserie-window-worthy with minimal effort, which, let’s face it, is what we’re all after really.

Ingredients

500g strong white bread flour
7g salt
50g caster sugar
10g easy bake yeast
140ml milk (full fat gives the roundest flavour)
4 cardamom pods
5 medium eggs
250g unsalted butter, softened
130ml maple syrup
Demerara or pearl sugar, for coating

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Method

We’re going to follow the same process as my Chocolate Brioche Tear & Share loaf for the first few steps. So, put the flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook and add the salt and sugar to one side and the yeast to the other.

Toast the cardamom pods in a small saucepan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes to release the oils, then reduce the heat and add the milk. Heat it gently, stirring occasionally, for a couple of minutes, never letting it boil, so that the cardamom has a chance to infuse. Remove from the heat.

Add the infused milk and eggs to the mixer and beat on a low speed (about 4 on a KitchenAid) for 2 minutes, then on medium (about 6 on a KitchenAid) for a further 8, until your dough is soft and glossy.

Add the butter and mix for another 5 minutes until the butter is incorporated, then tip the dough into a large mixing bowl (no need to grease due to the butter content), cover with cling film and chill overnight, or for about 7 hours.

When the dough is cooled and firm enough to shape, take the dough from the fridge and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Fold it over a few times to knock back, then divide into 12 equally-sized pieces (if you don’t have any, it will also work in the tear-and-share style – divide into 9) . For matching buns, weigh each piece to make sure that they’re within 10g of each other.

Shape each piece into a ball by cupping your hands around it on the work surface and turning quickly, folding any join into the bottom. Lightly grease your brioche flutes and place a ball in each.

Cover with a plastic bag and leave to prove at room temperature for 2-3 hours, until the dough has risen to the top of the tin.

Twenty minutes before you’re ready, preheat the oven to 170°C fan. Bake for 15-20 minutes, turning after the first 10 minutes for a more even bake if necessary, until the buns are golden brown and crisp. Leave for 10 minutes before removing from the tin.

Spread a thin layer of demerara sugar on a plate. When the buns are cool enough to handle comfortably, use a silicone pastry brush (worth investing in to avoid getting stray bristles on your bakes) to coat the tops and sides of the buns. The coating will be easier when the buns are still a little warm, or, if they are completely cool, heat the maple syrup for a couple of seconds in the microwave to ease it. Finish each bun by lightly rolling the top in the sugar, topping up the plate as necessary.

These are best served fresh with butter and jam or compote, but can be salvaged when they’re a few days old with a quick burst in the microwave.

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Hot cross buns

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This one really doesn’t need too much introducing; hot cross buns for Easter Sunday. Or any time of year really. They’re made from an enriched dough, meaning that butter, sugar and milk are added to your basic bread dough so they need a longer time to prove as the yeast has more weight to fight against in order to rise. Throw in all that fruit, and the total proving time is about four hours.

But they really are worth making yourself (the shop-bought ones aren’t a patch on homemade) and, although they take a long time to make them from start to finish, the process is very simple. This recipe comes from my go-to bread book, Paul Hollywood’s How To Bake, and are packed with sultanas and apple, though I’ve left out the citrus peel from the original recipe because I hate the stuff.

Ingredients

500g strong white bread flour
10g salt
75g caster sugar
10g instant yeast
40g unsalted butter
2 medium eggs
120ml warm milk
120ml cold water
150g sultanas
80g mixed peel (optional)
Grated zest of 2 oranges
1 bramley apple, cored and diced into half cm pieces
2 tsp ground cinnamon

For the crosses:
75g plain flour
75ml water

Apricot jam, to glaze

Makes 12

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Method

Put the flour in the base of your standalone mixer (or in a large bowl, you can knead this one by hand). Add the sugar and salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other.

Lightly beat the eggs and milk together and add to the bowl, followed by the butter and about half the water. Begin to mix so the mixture comes together to form a rough dough, adding more water where needed to bring the mixture away from the sides of the bowl. You may need all the water, or you may only need a splash – what you’re looking for is a dough that is sticky and soft but not wet.

Next, knead your dough for 5-10 minutes, whether with a dough hook or by hand, until it’s soft and stretchy and has developed a slightly matte skin. Then tip into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 2-3 hours or until doubled in size.

Once it’s risen, add the cinnamon, orange zest, sultanas, apple and citrus peel (if using) to the dough and knead it through. Then return to the bowl, cover and leave to rise again for an hour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and flatten it with your knuckles to knock the air out; this is called ‘knocking back’. Then divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and shape each into a rough ball; don’t worry about doing this too exactly, it’s all part of the charm.

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and then place the balls of dough on the sheet so they are just touching. Once they’re baked you pull them apart like a tear-and-share, giving them that characteristic exposed dough bits on the side.

Cover with a plastic bag and leave to rise for an hour until the dough springs back quickly when gently prodded. You’ll be glad to hear that that’s the final prove.

Once the time is up, preheat your oven to 220°C. Mix the flour and water together to make a smooth paste and spoon into a piping bag. Snip the end off to give you about a 5mm opening and then pipe in lines across the buns to create the crosses. And that solves the mystery of those.

Bake for 20 minutes on the top shelf of the oven until they’re beautifully golden brown, turning if necessary to get an even bake. Once they’re done, melt a little apricot jam in the microwave or over the hob and use a pastry brush to brush it over the top.

Leave to cool for just along enough that they won’t completely burn your mouth, and then tuck in.

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There in the ground His body lay, light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day, up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory, sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine – bought with the precious blood of Christ.

Cinnamon Buns

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Something about the weather at the moment just makes me crave sweet, doughy goodness (particularly, it seems, if I’ve been to the gym that day, too). Well yesterday I went to the gym in the morning, so I just had to balance it out by making some cinnamon buns in the afternoon.

This recipe comes straight from Signe Johansen’s wonderful Scandilicious BakingIt’s a really simple, no-knead enriched dough and easy to alter for different occasions: replace the cinnamon with cardamom for a more grown-up flavour, or even ditch the filling altogether and instead swirl with nutella, pureed fruits or toffee and pecans. I made 24 individual buns from this recipe, but you could cut it into seven pieces instead and make a tear-and-share loaf, like I did with my brioche recipe.

Ingredients
225ml milk
150g butter
300g plain flour
125g wholemeal flour
120g caster sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
A pinch of salt
10g fast action yeast
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
A little demerara sugar

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Method
Start by heating your milk and 75g of the butter in a pan on the hob. Stir until melted and then heat until nearly boiling, without letting it burn. Set aside to cool.

You can make this dough in a standalone mixer with a dough hook or with a bowl and wooden spoon. Whichever you prefer, tip the two flours, yeast, salt, 70g of sugar and one teaspoon of cinnamon into the bowl. Lightly beat one of the eggs and add it to the bowl. Lastly, add the now-warm milk and butter mixture on top and stir/mix until combined. It should give you a soft, smooth dough.

Now, the best bit – there’s no need to knead. So pop it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

While that’s going, cream together the remaining butter, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla extract until smooth. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Once your dough has risen, tip it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut it roughly in half and set one half aside. Roll out the other half to form a rectangle that’s about 25x15cm, then spread half the filling over the top with a palette knife. If it’s too stiff to spread, try warming it in the microwave for 10-20 seconds to loosen it up again.

Then, long side towards you, roll it up to make a long, thin roll. Divide into 12 equal pieces (start with in half, then in quarters to make it easier to judge), and place, spiral up on the baking tray.

Repeat with the second half of the dough, then cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for another half an hour – or until doubled in size. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180°C fan.

When they’ve risen nicely, lightly beat the second egg and brush it over the exposed sides of the buns, then sprinkle with demerara sugar.

Bake them, one tray at a time, for about 14 minutes until golden brown. Then, all that remains to do is to eat as many as possible while they’re still warm.

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Focaccia

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Unfortunately for him, my eldest brother doesn’t like cake. He does, however, inhale bread and olive oil. Focaccia is his weakness. The first time I tried to make this for his birthday I couldn’t get the dough to rise and I gave it up as a lost cause – until I realised that the yeast I’d been using from my Mum’s cupboard was a couple of years out of date.

In fact, much to my brother’s delight, focaccia is a simple bread to make. Drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and oregano, this loaf rarely lasts more than a few hours in our house.

Ingredients
500g strong white bread flour
10g table salt
10g easy bake yeast
350ml cool water
100ml virgin olive oil
Sea salt and oregano

Makes two loaves.

 

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Method
Grease a large bowl with olive oil and set aside.

Put the flour into the bowl of your standalone mixer. Add the yeast and table salt to opposite sides of the bowl (direct exposure to salt retards yeast).

Pour 50ml of olive oil into the bowl along with two-thirds of the water. Mix on a low speed until, adding the rest of the water a bit at a time until all the flour has come away from the sides of he bowl and a rough dough has formed.

Continue to mix for 5-10 minutes until you have a soft, elastic dough. It will be wetter than traditional bread doughs.

Tip into the pre-greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise at room temperature (if your house is below 22 degrees, pop the heating on).

When recipes say “leave to rise for xx, or until doubled in size”, doubled in size is what you’re aiming for. If it takes longer than the recipe says, wait. If it takes longer than four hours to rise a dough like this, it’s time to give up and start again. In this case, it should take about an hour.

In the meantime, line two baking trays with greaseproof paper and drizzle with oil.

Once your dough has doubled in size, gently tip it out onto an oiled surface – we’re using oil here to avoid adding extra flour to the dough. Often at this stage you’d knock back, but we want to keep as much air in the focaccia as possible so handle it gently.

Divide the dough in two and stretch each piece out to form a rough loaf shape, tucking the ends under neatly. Transfer the two loaves to your baking trays, cover with clean plastic bags (the supermarket kind do just fine) and leave to prove for an hour, or until the dough is soft and springs back immediately when pressed with your fingertip. 20 minutes before time, preheat your oven to 200°C fan.

Use your fingers to make holes into the loaves at regular intervals, pushing right through until you feel the baking tray. Drizzle with more oil and sprinkle with flakes of sea salt and oregano.

Bake for 15 minutes, until the loaves are evenly golden-brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Drizzle more oil over the top for good measure and tuck straight in.

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Chocolate Brioche Tear & Share

IMG_0088Brioche is one of those things that it’s really worth making from scratch. The shop-bought stuff is just never quite the same – and this bake makes your kitchen smell like a little Parisian bakery. This loaf is baked in a round tin in a flower shape so, when it comes to serving, no knives necessary – just tear off a chunk. Brioche is an enriched dough, meaning it contains butter, eggs and sugar, and must be left to rise in the fridge so that the dough is cool enough to handle without leaking butter everywhere. I recommend preparing the dough the evening before, leaving it to rise in the fridge overnight, then proving and baking in the morning just in time for brunch.

A note on equipment: unfortunately, you will need a mixer for this one; the butter content just makes it too sticky to knead by hand.

Ingredients

500g strong white bread flour
7g salt
50g caster sugar
10g easy bake yeast
140ml warm milk (full fat gives the roundest flavour)
5 medium eggs
250g unsalted butter, softened
100g plain chocolate chips

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Method

Put the flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook and add the salt and sugar to one side and the yeast to the other.

Add the milk and eggs and mix on a low speed (about 4 on a KitchenAid) for 2 minutes, then on medium (about 6 on a KitchenAid) for a further 8, until your dough is soft and glossy.

Add the butter and mix for another 5 minutes until the butter is incorporated. Lastly, stir in the chocolate chips.

Tip the dough into a large mixing bowl (no need to grease due to the butter content), cover with cling film and chill overnight, or for about 7 hours.

When the dough is cooled and firm enough to shape, grease a deep 25cm cake tin. Take the dough from the fridge and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Fold it over a few times to knock back, then divide into nine equally-sized pieces. I weigh mine to make sure they’re within 10g of each other, but I’m just a bit like that.

Shape each piece into a ball by cupping your hands around it on the work surface and turning it rapidly. Place one ball in the centre of the tin, then arrange the other eight around it. Cover with a plastic bag and leave to prove at room temperature for 2-3 hours, until the dough has risen to the top of the tin.

When you’re 20 minutes off, preheat the oven to 170°C fan. Bake for 30 minutes until a skewer in the middle comes out clean, then leave for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and cooling on a rack. If you want to add a little extra shine, brush with heated apricot jam.

 

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Ciabatta

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One of my favourite dinners to share with friends is a good spread of fresh salads and antipasti, and a good loaf of homemade ciabatta is great addition to the table to satisfy that carb-craving. This is a great loaf for dinner because you can make it ahead of time because you can reheat it in the oven to crisp it up right before serving.

A note on equipment: this is a very wet dough to get that light, aerated crumb, so you will need a mixer with a dough hook to make this one. I wouldn’t like to attempt to knead it by hand – though, if you do give it a go, please let me know how it goes!

Ingredients

500g strong white bread flour
10g salt
10g easy bake yeast
40ml olive oil
400ml room temperature water
A little semolina for dusting (optional)

Makes four loaves.

Method

Grease a large bowl with olive oil and set aside.

Put the flour into the bowl of a standalone mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast and table salt to opposite sides of the bowl (direct exposure to salt retards yeast).

Pour 40ml of olive oil into the bowl along with two-thirds of the water and mix on a low speed until. As the dough comes together, add the rest of the water a bit at a time until a rough dough has formed.

Continue to mix for 8 minutes until your dough is smooth and stretchy.

Tip into the pre-greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise at room temperature until your dough has at least doubled in size – about 2 hours.

In the meantime, line two baking trays with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 200°C fan.

Once it’s ready, dust the work top with flour and a little semolina, then gently tip the dough onto the surface. It will still be very wet, but try to handle it as little as possible to keep the air in.

Dust the top of the dough with more flour and semolina, then cut into four. Stretch each piece out to form a rough loaf shape, tucking the ends under neatly and place two on each baking tray.

Ciabatta, unlike many breads, doesn’t need a long second prove; simply set the loaves aside for 10 minutes to rest, then bake for 25 minutes, until the loaves are evenly golden-brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Leave to cool on a rack and eat fresh or reheat for 5 minutes on 180-200°C fan before serving.

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