Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Burger Birthday Cake

Obviously, this isn't a bread recipe. Which means it probably shouldn't be here. But it came about in exactly the same way as a Bread Factory invention, so I thought I'd include it.

Nothing to do with my feeling a bit pleased with myself. No, no.

It was Dan's 11th birthday party at the week-end. Two weeks ago, while making preparations, I asked him what seemed like a perfectly inocuous question:

'What sort of cake would you like for your birthday party?'

Of course I should know by now that this is the wrong sort of question to ask Dan if you want a particular type of answer. Too open-ended. Too much room for interpretation. Too much space for 'what if?' So while I was blithely anticipating a request for 'chocolate' or 'marble', what I got was...

'I think I'd like it to look like a burger.'

Now, if Dan had been unaccompanied at this moment I might have convinced him that what he really wanted was a good old chocolate sponge. But he wasn't alone, was he? He had a confederate. Seated next to him was best mate Natty who agreed that Burger Cake was a stroke of genius, Burger Cake would be just the thing - and between them they talked it into certain existence.

Not that I minded, really. I like a challenge.

And so Burger Birthday Cake was born. Not a work of art, perhaps, but not a bad approximation. And very simple in the end. Two Victoria sponges for the 'bun', one thinner chocolate Victoria sponge for the 'burger' plus a load of icing, food colouring and sugar balls. Here's the cake recipe I used along with directions for my additional twiddles.

Ingredients 
2 classic Victoria sponges 
225g caster sugar
225g butter, softened
4 eggs
225g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
a little milk, if needed

1 chocolate Victoria sponge + a three cupcakes
115g caster sugar
115g butter, softened
2 eggs
75g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
1tsp baking powder
a little milk, if needed

Butter icing 
250g butter, softened
loads of icing sugar - make sure you have a whole packet

Water icing
icing sugar + cold water (frankly, I have no idea how much I used of either, but you need about 1 tbsp of water and then add icing sugar until it is thick enough to spread without running off the cake)
gold sugar balls

Method
First, make the Victorias.

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.

Grease two 20cm/8in sandwich tins, and line the bottoms with greaseproof paper. Cream the sugar and butter using an electric beater until very light in colour. Beat the eggs in one at a time, adding a little flour with each if the mixture appears to curdle. Now fold in the baking powder and remaining flour. The final mixture should have a soft dropping consistency (it should fall easily off the spoon). If it is too thick, add a little milk until it is right. Divide the mixture equally between the two tins and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the sponges are lightly springy.

When putting the sponges out onto wire racks to cool, turn one upside-down, so the risen side will flatten (this will be the bottom 'bun') and keep the other risen side up (this will be the top 'bun').

Now make the single chocolate Victoria using exactly the same method, but folding the cocoa powder in at the same time as the flour and baking powder. Don't put all the final mixture into the prepared tin - you want the 'burger' to be thinner than the 'buns'. Instead, leave enough to make three cupcakes, which you can bake at the same time as the cake. When this sponge is ready, turn it out upside-down on the rack, so the risen side flattens.

When the cakes are completely cool, make the butter icing that will mimic lettuce and ketchup. Beat icing sugar into the butter until it has the sweetness that you like. Now split the icing into two equal portions. Add green food colouring to one and red food colouring to the other. You'll need lots to get a deep enough shade. Spread the red icing liberally onto the bottom 'bun', allowing some to splurge over the edges. Now place the chocolate sponge on top and gently squidge it down a little. Spread the green icing liberally, leaving a little of the chocolate cake exposed along one edge so that it looks like undressed burger, and again let some bits splurge over the edges. Now put the second Victoria sponge on top, but set it just a little way back from the edge at the point where you have left the exposed 'burger'.

Make the water icing and brush a very thin layer over the top of the cake. Dot it with gold sugar balls, to mimic sesame seeds on the top of a burger bun. Et voila!

Still can't quite believe it worked as I'm not usually a show cake type of gal. No thumbometer necessary on this one. I think you can see what Dan thought from the main picture. It tasted pretty good too - and interesting how the coloured icings tasted different. The red had a clear citrus flavour while the green didn't add anything to the butter and sugar.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Toast From Scratch

While buttering a piece of toast the other morning, Dan said, 'I know what should be next on our blog. Let's make Toast From Scratch!'

So here we are, with a series of instructive, if unconventional, films from Dan about how to do just that. As you'll see, there are rather a lot of these films. All very short. That's because I'm a techno-noob and can't work out how to upload anything of a proper length without it taking DAYS. Or maybe it's Blogger, not me. Of course, uploading so many films took days anyway. Ho hum. And don't tell me there's a ton of YouTube guides. Life's too short. Anyhow, done now. Please enjoy the company of the marvellous D.

1 Hello

video


2 Ingredients

video


3 Butter...


video


4 ...darned butter!

video


5 Add rest of ingredients to 500g strong white bread flour

video


6 Get stuck in

video


7 'It feels gooey'


video


8 Kneading styles

video


9 Kneading at its most restrained


video


10 Tamed dough goes sunbathing

video


11 Dough needs less air. Doof! 

video


12 Shape it, dump it in the tin

video


13 Slasher!!

video


14 Bake it

video


15 Admire your handiwork

video


16 Toast that baby

video


17 A lesson in the meaning of Marmite, almost 
(we didn't get around to saying that it's a cooking pot)

video


18 And, finally, eating the TFS - gets a DOUBLE YUM
(2nd part of previous video, which got waayyy too long as Dan spread more and more and more and more Marmite)

video

Monday, 9 June 2014

In your face! bread

Is the bread shouting? Or laughing? Either way, it's all Dan's work.

Dan made it at school last week. Just an ordinary white bread dough, which all the children in the school's cookery club made - but instead of making rolls or a loaf, Dan decided to turn it into a face. Genius. He told me that, once the dough had risen, he knocked it back then stretched it quite flat and made huge holes for the eyes and mouth because he knew they would spread together while proving. Love the added nose, too. We're going to try and make a cheesy one at home soon and see if we can get it to make an appropriate grin.
Dan's Thumbometer - Double yum


A little while later...
For Father's Day, we made this one, complete with beard and moustache - a replica of Dan's Dad.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Bacon and egg breakfast rolls

Mmmmmm, oooozing
After many months with the tumbleweed blowing unhindered across the Factory's ideas room (i.e. Dan's baking brain), Dan sat up straight on the bus to school one day last week and said, 'What about bacon? We should do bacon rolls. In the Bread Factory.' I suspected The Idea was inspired by Eddie's near-daily comment at the dinner table right now, that 'everything is better with bacon', and Dan has just said that I'm right. Certainly sounded like a good idea. Then I said, 'Ooo! How about bacon and egg rolls?' Dan was up for it, and so we were off.

To begin with, we thought about including the egg as part of an enriched bread dough, but that was far too boring for an Invention. So instead we decided to make bacon rolls, following Dan's original suggestion, and then to add cooked eggs to them. Here's how we did it. A catalogue of wrong decisions, as you will see, that somehow turned out quite well.

Special ingredients
12 rashers streaky bacon (I should have used 8 to 10 rashers of back)
1 egg per roll

video


Method
Roll with carved dip
We made a white bread dough using 500g of flour and left it to prove for an hour - at which point we should have prepared the bacon. But I got distracted. So, one hour later, with only a fixed window of time in which to get the rolls made (because they were our lunch and it was already well past midday), I did some helpful shrieking about how I should have cooked the bacon earlier, then Dan and I cut it up small and fried it.

It was when the meat was cooked well enough that I realised we should have used lean back bacon - because when the meat was tender, the fat was still a bit floppy which would have been soooo nasty in a cold roll. So we ended up making the bacon proper crisp. Next time, we'll use back bacon and leave it more tender.

Raw eggs in the rolls
While Dan knocked back the risen dough and kneaded it a little, I put the cooked bacon in the freezer to cool it down FAST. (This step will obviously be unnecessary when you make the rolls, as you will cook the bacon while the dough is rising rather than waiting until almost too late. Shrieking will also be unnecessary.) We then kneaded it fully into the dough, divided it into seven equal portions - we wanted the rolls to be big enough to take on an egg - rolled them into balls, laid them out on an oiled baking sheet and put the sheet into a plastic bag to rise for 30 minutes.

The rolls spread more than usual during proving (I guess due to the extra oil that was added along with the bacon), but we went ahead anyway, dusting them with a little flour before putting them in the oven and baking for 25 minutes at 200C.

When the rolls were done, I gave them a few minutes to cool off (remember, it's heading towards 2pm by this time and still nobody has eaten), then carved a dip in four of them. I cracked an egg into two of the dips and put those two rolls back in the oven to bake for 6 minutes. Meanwhile, we scrambled another two eggs (I am not providing the recipe for that) and piled them into the other two prepared rolls. Et voila. Very late lunch!
Dan's Thumbometer - double yum

Result
Yes, I know it all sounds a bit fiddly but, to be honest, that's down to me doing things in the wrong order; it was actually pretty straightforward. And the rolls were great. Rose just fine in the oven, and had a soft, fluffy crumb. Crispy bacon was tasty. Adding the eggs made a lovely brunchy thing, and if the rolls were made the day before it'd be quick to do. We can't claim the idea for baking eggs in bread rolls - it's all over the online recipe sites. But we can claim baking eggs in bacon rolls - which were really tasty all by themselves, by the way, going some way to proving Eddie's maxim that 'everything is better with bacon'.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Garden Pea loaves

Garden Pea loaves
'Dalmatian' (left); mashed (right)
After a break for the summer, Dan and I have been inspired to new invention by this week's school science project - a diary of all the bread he eats across 7 days. Well, we couldn't have that and not include a Bread Factory original, could we?

And so ... Garden Pea loaves were born.

I wouldn't say that peas are Dan's favourite green vegetable. That accolade probably goes to cabbage (which made a pretty successful foccaccia), or to green beans with garlic (which I suspect would make a nasty bread) or maybe even to broccoli (which we are emphatically not going to introduce to dough any time soon). But he does like peas very much. As do I. Sweet-succulent little kernels of loveliness that they are.

I wanted to use frozen peas, but wasn't sure whether to mash them or put them still-frozen into the dough - so I did both, of course. I'd planned to make a malted bread but left Dan to measure out the flour while I fannied about with something else and, when I came back, found he had put a perfect 500g of strong white flour into the bowl. So a basic white bread dough it was, to which we added ...

Special ingredient
300g frozen peas, 150g defrosted and mashed; 150g kept frozen
(Or at least these were the intended amounts. It's not what actually happened, as you will soon see.)

video


Method
Normally, when you read a recipe, you expect the method described to be the best way of making the dish and assume that the writer intended it from the start.

Well, neither of those things are true in this case. The summer break made me stupid in the presence of dough, so that I made a different rookie mistake with each loaf and didn't anticipate either one until the moment when I had to make up for the difficulty I'd created.

Loaf 1 - mashed peas
Things seemed fine at first because I thought we were on safe ground - making a white bread dough to which we would add extra ingredients after the first proving. Of course, I'd forgotten that mashed peas would bring lots of additional water and that, in fact, they should have been added to the original mix, with a reduced amount of water. As it was, I added the mash to the risen and knocked-back dough and had to add a load more flour to counteract the wetness as I shaped the loaf. In the end, I could only get about 80g of the mash to bind into the dough. During the second proving, I kept adding a little flour between the base of the loaf and the baking tray, to stop the bread from sticking, and also gave the top a few additional dustings. When proved, the loaf went into a preheated oven and baked, as usual, for around 30 minutes. Phew!

Mashed (left); 'Dalmatian' (right)

Loaf 2 - frozen peas ('Dalmatian' loaf)
'Dalmatian' (left); mashed (right)
The idea of using frozen peas - which came from our friend Rachel, along with the exciting new kneading technique - was to keep them whole and round during kneading, so that we'd get a loaf with green spots through it. (Hence Dan's announcement that we were making 'Dalmatian bread!')

BUT ... I forgot that adding frozen peas would chill the dough and retard the second proving. That was easily remedied, as I simply left this loaf to prove for about 3/4 of an hour longer than the other one. The real problem was trying to get the darned frozen peas to stay in the dough. They kept popping out and launching themselves across the kitchen or landing under foot. Yet again, I only managed to incorporate around 80g. Phew two!

Result
Dan's thumbometer - double yum
Despite all these problems, the loaves were ... not bad, which just goes to show how forgiving a bread dough can be. And as you can see, Dan has enjoyed them. Both loaves baked well to make a perfectly good white bread and the only disappointment was not enough pea flavour. I hope to remedy this next time by adding 100g of very drained mush to the original dough mix (accompanied by a reduced water content) and then adding another 50g after the first proving so that we get a bit of tasty marbling. Frozen peas will not feature. Will report back on the result - which I guess will turn out to be Green Bread mark 3.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Chocolate Milkshake Loaf

Dan came up with this idea some time ago, but as chocolate milkshake is one of his favourite drinks to have on a hot day, he said that it should be an invention for summer and wanted us to wait until the weather warmed up. So we waited, and we waited. Waited. And waited ... And then we just went and made the blooming thing on one of the many nasty dull days that came along during half term.

Now, my dear husband Jay has just written a column for The Observer about how the best food comes about through invention and how, to be inventive, you have to be prepared for the outcome to be disgusting. He wanted us to use that word, 'disgusting', on our blog, so that his newspaper could link to it as an illustration for his column. Which I object to, because Dan and I are in the business always of inventing the delightful (though I admit I had my suspicions over the Laughing Cow and pecan bread).

And the milkshake bread was never going to be a disaster. After all, nothing in life can go wrong when you have chocolate. Mind you, I never cease to be surprised at what happens when you add liquid to bread.

I used a milk loaf recipe to make the bread, of course, adding the right amount of a quite strong chocolate milkshake instead of just plain milk and leaving out the sugar that most recipes include (because there is already sugar in the milkshake mix). I used my usual method, as for the Basic white bread.

Ingredients
Dan's Thumbometer - Double yum
500g strong white bread flour
30g butter, softened
10g salt
10g fast-action yeast
300ml warm chocolate milkshake, made using supermarket powder

Result
OK, when I say that I never cease to be surprised by how a bread turns out, I don't on this occasion mean that I have been bowled over by a taste innovation. What surprises me is how specific added flavours so often just disappear. It happens with beer bread; you add a whole load of tasty frothy bitter and the only discernible difference from a bread made with water is a little more of a yeasty flavour. And it happened with the chocolate bit of the milkshake in this bread. Gone. Disappeared. But we did produce a lovely milk loaf with a good-looking dark crumb. Dan, of course, was very happy. The boy still hasn't met a bread he didn't like.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Laughing Cow and pecan bread


OK, I have to be honest. I did not want to make this bread. I have a passionate loathing for processed cheese, and Dan's fondness for 'Laughing Cow "Light" blue cheese spread' is a cause of great confusion to me. But, as I've said before, Dan is the ideas man on this blog; I merely execute his wishes. (Ah, the Executioner, come to finish herself off by inserting processed cheese into bread.)

I expressed my discomfort about Laughing Cow bread to Dan.

He told me that you're not allowed to say you don't like something unless you've tried it. Not in this house. (Oh, petard, hoist me now!)

I said could I please, at least, add something nice to the bread. Like pecan nuts.

He said, ok then.

And so ... Laughing Cow and pecan bread was born. And, you know, Dan's idea wasn't such a bad one. In fact, I pretty much liked it. You'll see from Dan's thumbometer that he is not yet finished making his point. I used the Basic white bread recipe with the following special ingredients.

Special ingredients
3 triangles Laughing Cow 'Light' blue cheese spread
2 big handfuls pecan nuts, roughly chopped

Method
Experience with breads that have gooey stuff in them suggested that this bread was likely only to be good eaten fresh, so I made up a basic white bread dough using just half the usual quantities, then followed the recipe up to the point of punching the air out of it.


Now, roll out the dough into a rough oblong so that the dough is about an inch thick. Sprinkle the whole area with two-thirds of the nuts and pinched out bits from two of the cheese triangles. Fold in half and sprinkle the  rest of the nuts and the cheese over the top of that. Now roll up the dough starting at the narrow end, and shape into a fat torpedo, place on a lightly oiled baking tray, place in a bag to prove a second time, and follow the instructions from here for the basic white bread.

Result
Dan's (not at all biased) thumbometer
Sextuple yum
Well, I never would have guessed it, but I really did quite like the bread. I would have vastly preferred it if there had been bits of gooey Stilton instead of bits of gooey Laughing Cow, but it worked and was especially nice warm. Worked as toast the next day too. A very good bread for children who are attached to that processed stuff.


Monday, 22 April 2013

Chilli loaves


This request from Dan follows on from Red Nose Day, when Dan picked the chilli-flavoured Every Flavour Roll at school. He liked it, so asked if we could make a proper chilli bread. It's hardly original so I know there must be lots of recipes already out there, but I stuck to our principle - that we should make inventions without reference to any existing recipes.

video

The first question was how much chilli I should use. Dan can take quite a bit of heat in his food, so I decided to be quite generous. The second question was whether or not to cook the chilli before adding it to the dough. Couldn't decide, so made two loaves from the malted bread recipe, to test it out.

The chillis I used,
with bagel for scale
Special ingredient
1.5 large red chillis, finely chopped
knob of butter, for frying

Method
Ready for the oven - cooked  chilli on left
Very simple. Make the malted bread dough and allow it to rise for two hours, as usual. Meanwhile, divide the chopped chilli in two. Leave half of it raw and gently sweat the other half in a little butter for a couple of minutes. Allow the fried chilli to cool completely.

When ready, punch the dough to release the air, weigh it, and divide it into two equal parts. Knead the fried chilli into one half and the raw chilli into the other. Shape, place on an oiled baking tray and leave to rise for an hour. Dust the loaves with flour and slash the tops shortly before placing in a preheated oven (200C/400F/mark 6) for half an hour. I wanted these to be crunchy loaves, so poured boiling water into a pan in the bottom of the oven to add steam.
Result
Dan's thumbometer - double yum
The chilli flavour came through well in both loaves and tasted very good in the malted crumb. There was no real difference in flavour between the two loaves so I'll just stick to the raw chillis in future. Despite using quite a lot of chilli, there wasn't much heat in the loaves. It didn't matter because the bread was still tasty, but it would be nice to have some punch so I guess I might use smaller, scarier chillis in future.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Soupy Loaf (Green Bread Revisited)

Since Dan was very little, I've made him a soup from vegetables that would otherwise be good for nothing but composting. At the start, it was just the best way to get vegetables into him but, even as an accomplished and diverse eater of all things good, he still relishes it. The soup almost always has leeks, potatoes and lettuce (the last for its sweetness), but can include literally any vegetable. It always turns out some shade of green and so, due to the unpredictability of the ingredients, has come to be known by us as Indeterminate Green Soup. It is loved by Dan and me, loathed by Dan's big brother and his dad. Hah! What do they know?
Dry ingredients with the soup added

The soup recipe is at the end of this post.

I wasn't quite sure how to rise to this challenge from Dan. The potato bread for the Cottage Pie Buns uses cooked potatoes as a combined replacement for both some of the flour and some of the water in a standard bread recipe. But as my soup is purely liquid I decided simply to use it as a replacement for water. I thought it would be better for the bread to have a bit more 'bite' and so chose a wholemeal bread as the medium for this invention, adding 320ml (or thereabouts) of soup rather than water to make the dough.

Result
Dan's Thumbometer - double yum
Well, as you can see, Dan was happy with it - though I'm not so sure. It certainly had something of the taste of vegetable soup, which was satisfying. I wonder if it might be another way of encouraging children who resist vegetables to eat them. However, rather like the vanilla bread, I found the loaf a bit puddingy, at its best when warm and not really good the next day (though Dan still enjoyed it). I'd like to see if I can work out how to make it soft and pillowy rather than stodgy, and will report on any progress.

Indeterminate Green Soup
Ingredients
(As I said, any veg will do but here is the list of those that I used in the soup for this loaf)

3 leeks
2 potatoes
several leaves Romaine lettuce
sad looking bunch of coriander
sad looking bunch of parsley
3 carrots
some broccoli
end of a cauliflower
vegetable stock

Method
Roughly chop the vegetables and put them in a saucepan of your choice, which should be 2/3 to 3/4 full once all the veg are in. Add enough vegetable stock to just cover the vegetables. Bring to the boil and simmer until all the veg are soft. Blitz in a blender, pass through a sieve - and that's it.




Thursday, 14 March 2013

Every Flavour Rolls for Red Nose Day

I had a really brilliant idea three weeks ago. It involved making 36 bread rolls for Dan's school on Red Nose Day. Each roll would have a different flavour - and, just like the Every Flavour Beans in Harry Potter, not all would be pleasant.


Well, that was three weeks ago. Now I've just spent the entire day making it happen I'm not quite sure how I allowed such an insane thought to become reality. Still they're finished! All that's left is to wrap each one, number it, and put its identity in a sealed envelope marked with a corresponding number. That way, no 9 year old will know whether they're about to sink their teeth into a yummy snack or a complete nightmare. What do you mean, cruel?

One roll is plain - to show the children the basis for all the rolls, and one is plain with red food colouring added: the Red Nose Roll.

Method
I made three lots of dough as given in the basic white bread recipe, so that the second lot was put to rise half an hour after the first, and the third half an hour after that. Yes, I know, very long-winded, but doing the fillings was quite tricky and if I'd just made one lot of dough using 1.5k of flour, the rising and proving times for the rolls would have been all over the place. This way I was able to control them.

After each dough had risen for two hours, I divided it into 12 rolls incorporating a different secret ingredient into each: just a small amount that would be easily kneaded in, but enough so the hapless child will get a good shot of flavour in one bite. You'll see that there are only 35 rolls - one screw-up across all of these is not so bad, I think.

Secret ingredients
(listed from top left to bottom right, in rows)
Tray 1

Tray 1
Red Nose
White chocolate, roughly chopped
Dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Dried cranberries
Dates
Dried apple
Fresh ginger, grated
Blue cheese
Cheddar cheese
Carrot, chopped, boiled, cooled & drained
Cabbage, as carrot
Cauliflower, as carrot

Tray 2

Tray 2
Black olives, chopped
Roast onion
Roast garlic
Chilli, finely chopped
Mint, finely chopped
Parsley, finely chopped
Coriander, finely chopped
Damson jam
Cinnamon
Curry powder
Pesto
Ground cloves

Tray 3

Tray 3
Plain
Sweetcorn
Tomato ketchup
Turmeric
Instant coffee
French mustard
Branston
Honey
Pepper
Vanilla pod
Strawberry mikshake powder

Result
Red Nose Day is tomorrow, so I'll have to wait and see how these go down. Perhaps the classful of 9 year olds will have more sense than to put any of this lot into their mouths!

Three days later...
By all accounts, the Every Flavour Rolls game was a BIG HIT. All the children ate the roll they ended up with - even the ones with instant coffee and curry powder. Dan says that not a single one went in the bin. Dan has a great class teacher, and she will have run it very well, but I'm so glad that it was such fun. I'm not sure I'd repeat it, because it was a big day of baking. But I can imagine that, with the passage of a bit of time, it might be something to do for the next Red Nose Day.