Sunday, 25 November 2012

Paul I heart you!!!

I might have mentioned in passing my obses... I mean fascination with The Great British Bakeoff. Yes, I know the season ended ages ago (and I was sooo happy for John when he won, he seems like such an adorable and lovely guy). Anyhows, after watching the bakers produce the most beautiful yeasted doughs, I decided I really need to hone my bread making skills. Well, technically speaking, I shouldn't as I'm at least in theory still trying to shed some pounds before Xmas. However, I couldn't resist when I saw Paul Hollywood's book "How to bake" on Amazon's black friday sale. Damn you one click shopping! And damn you Paul for your foxxy good looks, making kneading dough look so sexxy.

The minute I had the book in my hands, I just had to flip through it from front to back. Yes, I was at work. But in my defence, it was my coffee break. The book is absolutely wonderful, with good instructions and beautiful pictures. Quite a lot of it covers yeast doughs, starting from basic breads, going on to flavoured breads and there is even a whole chapter on sourdoughs. When I get back from my Xmas holiday I will set up my own sourdough starter and try that method as well. In addition to breads, there are really good instructions for pastry, brioche, croissants, danishes, and lots of cakes and puddings. The book is just full or wonderful recipes which look absolutely delicious and I want to try them all. Particularly the breads.

I'm a bit bad with yeast doughs as I don't always have the patience for the long rising times. When I bake, I want to see the results immediately. And I have always been really lazy with kneading, I have always found it messy and extra work that I couldn't be bothered with. But at the same time, I absolutely love bread, and there are no decent bakeries at all in Cambridge, so if you want good bread you have to bake it yourself. So I'm looking forward to improving my bread making skills. 

To get me in the bread mood, before attacking the yeasted doughs, I decided to try one of the few non-yeast based recipes for a super quick soda bread. In my local store they sell buttermilk in 300 ml jars, so I slightly modified the amounts of ingredients in the recipe. I included the original amounts in parenthesis for a slightly larger loaf.

Paul Hollywood's Soda Bread:
375 (500) all purpose flour
3/4 (1) tsp salt
3/4 (1) tsp bicarbonate of soda
300 (400) ml buttermilk

The howto:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Mix dry ingredients, add buttermilk and mix with your hand or a wooden spoon until the dough sticks together. Shape the dough into a ball, and flatten it a bit with your palm. Put the bread on a parchment paper lined baking tray, and mark it into quarters by cutting deep, but not all the way through. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and making a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom. 

The verdict:
This is a super quick bread to whip together, I made it for evening tea with Best Friend. We ate it pretty much straight out of the oven with just butter on top with some hot tea and lots of gossip. Perfect Saturday evening.

Preparing the bread takes just a few minutes, so it would also be perfect for weekend brunch. It seems pretty much foolproof, as it turned out absolutely beautiful. It rose much more than I expected. It was soft and tasted really nice. It somehow reminded me of some oat cakes my mum used to make, whether or not they actually had soda in them I can't remember, but the scent of the bread was exactly as I remember the oatcakes. So I think next time I will try to replace some of the flour with oats. 

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