Gluten-Free Bread

Bread is all about gluten. It’s the gluten in wheat, spelt and rye flours that give the dough its stretchy, elastic consistency and bread it’s distinct chewiness. There is nothing better than biting into the crisp crust and fluffy inside of a homemade loaf, fresh out of the oven.

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A really good loaf, one that’s crunchy on the outside and perfectly light and soft in the middle is very difficult to find in a gluten free world. I have often found myself lingering by a freshly baked loaf, trying to get a whiff of the familiar and unmistakable bread smell.

I dread ever going to France again- I think the sheer temptation of baguettes that I can’t eat would get too much.

This loaf is no baguette. But it is bread (in some sense of the word!) I was absolutely thrilled when I pulled this out of the oven. After having some frankly disastrous attempts at constructing a loaf that is both gluten free and won’t break a tooth, this one seemed like a miracle.

The texture is slightly different, I have to admit- it’s not soft and fluffy like the best baguette, but it’s close enough that you could be fooled, especially when it’s smeared with a good dollop of houmous. It’s also dairy and sugar free, and won’t make you feel bloated and too full, like so many of the best breads out there!

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Gluten Free Bread

325ml almond milk

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

45og gf flour (use your favourite here- I used a mixture of rice flour, corn flour and buckwheat flour)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons honey

1og fast action dried yeast

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon

handful of pumpkin seeds

Begin by heating the almond milk in a small saucepan, then leave to cool slightly. Crack the eggs into a bowl, add the vinegar, and then gradually stir in the milk until it is well mixed.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet until they form a smooth dough. Add the olive oil and bring it together into a ball. Add more flour if it is too sticky.

Oil a baking tray, place your ball of dough in the middle and cover. Leave to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 2oo degrees Celsius. Once the dough has risen, use a sharp knife to score a cross into the top. Brush the top with olive oil, and sprinkle a handful of pumpkin seeds over the loaf, then bake for around 35-40 minutes, or until the top is golden.

Eat fresh out of the oven!

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xxR

Olive Breadsticks

I live by myself in a tiny one bedroom flat. I absolutely adore it. I loved living with my friends, of course, and we had so so much fun together. But it is also nice to come home and know that I can do whatever I want, I can make as much mess in the kitchen as I please and no one can complain about it.

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Yes, I love living alone.

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But the one time of the week when I start to feel loneliness creeping in is Sunday evening. When I’ve been hanging around the flat all day by myself, the hours of solitude can start to take their toll.

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The best cure for the Sunday evening by yourself blues, I’ve found, is baking bread. Bread is sort of like a very needy friend. You have to tend to it, love it, massage it occasionally, leave it alone for an hour or two, go back and check up on it… It’s time consuming and the perfect distraction from an empty, albeit tiny, flat.

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These breadsticks are a perfect Sunday evening project. And they are delish. They are sort of like soft, mini baguettes crammed full of olives. What’s not to love?

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Olive Breadsticks

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500g strong white bread flour

10g salt

10g fast action yeast

400ml warm water

2 tablespoons olive oil

500g olives of your choice

Put the flour in a large bowl or a mixer. Put the yeast on one side of the bowl and the salt on the other. Add about three quarters of the water and mix until the dough starts to come together. As it comes together, add the rest of the water.

Knead for at least 10 minutes. It should be wet and stretchy. Mix in the olive oil, and then add the olives. Keep mixing until they are evenly distributed.

Put the dough into an oiled bowl and leave to rise for at least an hour or until tripled in size. It should be full of air holes.

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Once it has risen, tip the dough out onto a floured surface. Dust the top of the dough with more flour, and gently stretch into a rectangle.  Handle it gently, you don’t want to knock all the air out. Starting at one side, cut the dough into long strips and place on a lined baking tray. Once all the sticks are cut, bake at 220 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and crisp.

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They are best eaten warm and dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar! Enjoy!

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xxR

Vegan Feast: Baguettes

A lot of my nearest and dearest have recently become vegan- my littlest sister made the change from straightforward veggie to dairy free a few weeks ago, and one of my good friends is also making the transition.

Personally, I’m thinking about creeping that way too. Almost a year ago I stopped drinking cow’s milk in favour of the almond variety, and I’m eating less and less dairy in other guises too. The meals I eat tend to be vegan- it’s just the baking that lets me down!

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Last night my newly vegan friend and another friend came to dinner, so I cooked up a feast of all my favourite vegan dishes. My diet tends to be very based around salads- so these are also some of my personal favourite things to eat anyway!

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I think vegan food can be as exciting and delicious as non-vegan, however there is still such a stigma around it that it’s boring or hard to cook or whatever. Well that, my friend, is completely wrong. Vegan food, when done well, is totally delicious- and really good for you!

This feast consisted of:

butterbean and pesto salad

sweet potato, lentil and mint salad

kale salad

quinoa with roasted tomatoes and aubergine

homemade houmous

and freshly baked baguettes…

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As you may know, my new thing is bread, so I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to fire up my oven and bake a few loaves! Okay, so I admit- baguettes are not really good for you. But you’re of course allowed to have a little bit of slippage…

Baguettes 

makes two good sized loaves

200g strong white flour

50g wholemeal flour

5g salt

5g fast action yeast

30ml olive oil

180ml water

Begin by weighing your flour and placing it into a large bowl. Add the salt, yeas, olive oil and most of the water and mix together to form a dough. You can do this in a machine or by hand.

Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, then cover and leave to rise for an hour to an hour and a half.

Once it has risen, tip the dough out only a lightly floured surface. Knock the air out of it, divide into two and roll each into a baguette shape. Put them onto a greased baking tray and leave to rise again until doubled in size- about 40 minutes to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Put a roasting tray full of water in the bottom of the oven- this will create steam which will give the baguette a nice crunchy crust. Right before you put them in, slash the top of each baguette three times at a slight diagonal to help it rise.

Bake the baguettes for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 200 degrees and cook for 10 more minutes. Enjoy straight from the oven with lashings of homemade houmous (coming tomorrow…)

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xxR

Pesto Twist Bread

I’m turning over a new loaf.

(Sorry…)

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This year, I want to bake more bread- starting now. This is the first step in my 2015 exploration into bread.

Actually- that’s a lie- I baked this exact same bread last weekend. But there were all kinds of issues: overproved (I think?!), not enough salt… I baked it not in a tin, so it was kind of just like some weird flat thing. Not good.

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This is attempt number two. I’ve made some pretty serious changes, and now it’s amazing (if I do say so myself!) It’s the perfect lunchtime bread, to eat with cheese. Think savoury cinnamon roll (that kinda texture- sort bread which almost flakes apart in pesto-y layers). You’re left with a beautiful greyish swirl inside the bread, as well as the most impressive looking top anyone’s every seen. Pesto, bread and cheese, what could be better?

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Please join me in ushering in the new year (albeit about two weeks late)!

Pesto Twist Bread

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For the pesto:

1 small clove of garlic

pinch of sea salt

pinch of pepper

about 3 handfuls of basil

1 handful of pine nuts

1 tablespoon olive oil

Pulse together all the ingredients in a food processor until finely chopped and mixed together, and pesto consistency!

For the bread:

200g wholegrain bread flour

50g white flour

1 teaspoon quick dried yeast

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons caster sugar

2 teaspoons butter

Put both flours, the yeast, salt, sugar and butter into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in about 150ml warm water- not too hot, just hand warm. Begin mixing until it starts to come together into a dough. Add more water if necessary. It should be soft but not too wet.

Once it has formed a ball, knead on a lightly floured surface for at least 10 minutes. The longer the better, I always think! Leave the dough to rise in an oiled bowl for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the it has doubled in size.

Once it has risen, turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Roll it out to a rectangle- it should be about 1 cm thick. Spread a thick layer of pesto over the dough, then roll it up like a sausage.

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Cut the dough sausage in half lengthways to expose the pesto inside, then twist the two strands together. Have the exposed pesto facing the top. Lightly oil a loaf tin, then lay the twist in the tin. You’ll probably need to wrap it around a bit, but just sort of shove it in- rustic is good!

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Preheat the oven to 210 degrees, then, right before putting the bread in, fill a roasting tray with water and put it in the bottom of the oven to create steam. This will give the bread a crunchy crust. Turn the oven down to 200 degrees, put the loaf in and bake for about 30 minutes. When it’s cooked, it should be slightly brown on top, and make a hollow sound when the bottom is tapped.

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Enjoy straight from the oven!

xxR

Christmas Cranberry Couronne

There’s only a week until Christmas, and I couldn’t be more excited! I’m back home with my family, which gives me the chance to relax, recuperate after a crazy term and, of course, bake! I can’t resist my mum’s huge oven and sprawling kitchen, after living in my tiny flat in London.

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And of course, Christmas is basically the perfect opportunity to eat far too many baked goods without having to feel at all guilty. As you can tell, I’m not holding back at all on the Christmas baking- it was Christmas cookies last week, and countless batches of mince pies in between! But hey, if you can’t indulge at Christmas, then what is the point?

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We are all feeling very festive- the tree is up, the house is decorated, mince pies are in the oven, Christmas songs are blaring.

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This couronne is the perfect teatime treat for days before Christmas. Bursting with cinnamon, ginger and cranberries, it is basically Christmas in bread form. And it’s Christmas colours too! Serve warm, lathered with butter, and a big cup of tea.

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Cranberry Couronne

For the dough:

250g plain flour

5g salt

7g yeast

50g brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

50g butter, softened

150ml milk

1 egg, beaten

Put the flour into  large bowl, then add the salt on one side and the yeast on the other. Tip in the sugar and cinnamon, then add the butter, milk and egg and mix to combine. Keep mixing until all the flour around the side has been incorporated and forms a ball.

Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the dough feels silky and smooth.

Put back into the bowl, cover and leave to rise for an hour to an hour and a half. The dough should be doubled in size.

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While the dough is rising, make your filling.

For the filling:

90g butter, softened

70g brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

3 tablespoons cranberry sauce

Beat together the butter and sugar until smooth. Then add the flour and spices, and mix to form a paste.

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out to a rectangle.

Spread the butter and sugar mixture over the rolled out dough, then add dollops of cranberry sauce. Then, roll the dough tightly along  a long edge, so you have a long sausage of dough. Cut the sausage in half lengthways to reveal the filling, but leave the ends attached to help you form the shape.

Twist the two lengths together, then form into a circular crown shape. (This is a little confusing, I know! I’ve baked another couronne before, so see this post for illustrated instructions!) Place on the baking tray and leave to rise for about 30 minutes.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, then decorate with water icing and a few dried cranberries on top.

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xxR

Cinnamon Spiced Couronne

My family has this holiday house in Maine that we inherited from my great grandmother, right on the rocky coast of America, looking out across the Atlantic. Well, I say house, but it is more like a large, well-endowed shed. In fact, it is a chicken coop, that was brought over on a boat from one of the surrounding islands, balanced on some big rocks, and had a couple of bedrooms and a bathroom added. It’s very simple and very small, and we just love it there.

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But I am getting sidetracked. There is a point to this seemingly pointless story.

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When we lived in Connecticut, when I was a child, we used to wake up at 5am to start the eight hour drive to my great grandmother’s house, in Maine. About nine o’clock we would finally cross the Piscataqua Bridge, which connects New Hampshire and Maine. Halfway there!

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And every time, without fail, we would stop for cinnamon rolls. I think the promise of such sugary, sticky breakfast was the only way my parents managed to coerce us into the car, still in our pyjamas and half asleep. After great granny died, we cchicken coop-cum-house was our only connection to Maine left, we still stopped for cinnamon rolls.

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Even now, we live 3000 miles away, but the drive from southwest Connecticut to Northeast Maine has not changed.

I haven’t been there for nearly three years and I must admit that I’m feeling pretty homesick for it.

And when I’m homesick, I bake. Nothing makes me think of Maine more than cinnamon rolls (well, or lobster or blueberries!) This couronne is basically like a giant cinnamon roll. But with a twist (literally!) It is a wonderful thing to make on a lazy weekend morning- and even better to eat!

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Cinnamon Couronne (recipe adapted from the BBC, find it here)

For the dough:

250g strong white bread flour

5g salt

7g instant yeast

50g unsalted butter, softened

105ml milk

1 free range egg, lightly beaten

100g caster sugar

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Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other. Add the butter, milk, egg and sugar and mix to combine.

Continue to mix until you have picked up all the dry bits!

Tip it out onto a floured surface and knead it for 10-12 minutes. It might been a bit wet at first, but keep going until it starts to become smooth and elastic.

When it feels smooth and silky, put in back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for one hour, or until it has doubled in size.

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While the dough is rising, make the filling:

90g butter, softened

70g light muscavado sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

35g plain flour

zest of an orange

Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Mix in the spices. Then add the flour and orange zest and mix to combine.

When the dough has risen, tip it out onto a lightly floured surface. Trying not to knock too much air out of it, roll it out into a rectangle. Turn it so you have a long edge facing you.

Spread the mixture evenly over the dough. Roll it up tightly along the long edge, like a Swiss roll. You should have a long dough sausage.

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Cut it in half lengthways, exposing the layers of filling inside.

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Keeping the filling facing upright, twist the two lengths of dough together to make a long rope, then form them into a round ‘crown.’ Transfer it to a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.

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Leave to rise again for 30-40 minutes. When its risen, the dough should spring back when lightly touched.

While its rising, preheat your oven to 200 degrees.

Bake it for 25-30 minutes, or until risen and golden brown. Don’t worry if some of the filling seeps out a bit or starts to brown more quickly than the dough- that’s part of its charm!

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To make the icing:

200g icing sugar

splash of water

Mix the icing sugar with just enough water to bring it together into an icing consistency. You do not want it to be too thing and runny! It should be a nice, solid white colour.

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Drizzle over the bread, cut and enjoy!

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Yum.

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xxR

Sunday Lunch Focaccia

Being somewhat American and mostly vegetarian, traditional English Sunday Lunch is not really something I’ve ever done. We’re more of a crack open a tin of soup, some bread, cheese, salad sort of family. Which is sort of a shame. I think I could probably use a few more roast potatoes in my life. Maybe the odd yorkshire here and there.

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But it doesn’t mean we don’t value the whole ritual of Sunday Lunch. It’s still nice to sit down, as a family, and enjoy some good food, chicken or no chicken.

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This is perfect bread for Sunday soup. Warm, soft, really tasty, what’s not to love?!

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Olive Oil Focaccia 

recipe adapted from Paul Hollywood’s on the BBC (find it here)

250g strong white bread flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 sachet dried easy blend yeast

200ml cold water

olive oil for drizzling

a few cloves of garlic

sea salt

Put the flour, salt, yeast and 150 ml of the water in a bowl. Mix together using a wooden spoon or your hands to form a dough, then knead with your hands for five minutes. Gradually add the remaining water. It will be quite a wet dough, but don’t worry! That’s exactly what you want!

Keep kneading by stretching  the dough and folding into the centre for another five minutes, then tip the dough onto the counter and keep kneading for five more minutes.

Put it back in the bowl and let it rise until it has doubled in size.

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Once it has risen, tip it onto a greased baking sheet. Flatten it and push it into the corners, then let it rise again for an hour.

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Preheat the oven to 220 degrees and finely slice the cloves of garlic. Once it has risen, push your fingers into the dough to make little indents. Drizzle with olive oil, the slices of garlic and a good pinch of sea salt.

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Bake for 20 minutes. Enjoy straight from the oven.

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xxR

Cinnamon Swirl Loaf

This is the best thing ever.

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I say that a lot. But this time I’m being serious. This is actually the best thing I have ever put in my mouth. It’s the perfect combination of soft white bread and the sweetest sugary cinnamony goo in the middle. 

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I mean, its so good that I don’t really have anything else to say about it. I gave it to my house girls and they too just loved it. They want at least one loaf a week.

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So, I feel like I should warn you that it is a little dangerous. You may become addicted.

But, you have to try it.

End of story.

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Cinnamon Swirl Loaf

This loaf uses enriched dough, which means that it is made with milk and sugar, which gives it almost more a cake like texture than bread like. It’s a bit of a labour but trust me- its worth it! 

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2 teaspoons active dry yeast 

235 ml warm milk

80 ml warm water 

2 tablespoons sugar 

1 1/2 teaspoons salt 

60 grams melted butter 

445 grams bread flour 

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In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk and water. Leave it to sit for 5-10 minutes for it to activate (it should look sort of frothy!)

Mix in the sugar, salt and butter. Gradually add the flour until the dough comes together. If it is too dry and doesn’t want to come together, add a bit of water. This is naturally a very wet dough- so don’t panic if it seems way too wet! That’s part of the magic.

Knead the dough on a floured surface for 7-10 minutes or until it becomes elasticy. Again, this is a VERY wet dough, so don’t worry if you are struggling with this phase- persevere and it will be fine!

Cover with a tea towel or cling film and leave to rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

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For the filling:

50 grams caster sugar

20 grams soft brown sugar

1 tablespoon of cinnamon (or more, if you’re into that)

40 grams butter

Mix them all together into a sort of sugary paste.

Once the dough has doubled in size, punch all the air out of it and knead it again for 5-7 minutes.

Roll it out into a rectangle and spread the sugary goo over the top.

Then start rolling it up, the way you would do a Swiss roll or something like that, until it has formed a log. Fold the ends down and transfer the log to a loaf tin, with the seam facing down. Let it rise for another 40-60 minutes.

Bake in a 180 degree oven for 40-50 minutes or until it is golden brown. 

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Enjoy while it is warm!

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xxR

Cold Weather Olive Bread

7.30 am. I look out the window and its snowing. Again. Not cool (or, rather, very cool, TOO cool.) We already had our winter- the two days of snow that settled, turning this grey city white and making everything beautiful (well, even more beautiful than it already is.)

The thing about London Snow is that it sucks. Its so rarely anything more than annoying brown slush on the side of the road.  This morning’s snow didn’t even have a vague chance of settling. So its just cold rain, stinging your eyes and freezing your fingers.

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So, there I was, waiting for the number 59, cursing the fact that three 133s had already gone past and starting to wonder if it was the worth the wait or if I should just head back home and hop into bed. I was really wishing I’d worn an extra pair of socks, wondering how cold your toes can get before they actually do drop right off. And I was craving soup.DSCF5162

And I’ve been craving all day. Soup and crunchy bread. It’s bad isn’t it, winter? I’m just craving comfort food, carby, starchy, warm and filling, all the time. So when I got home I made myself the biggest bowl of hot, steaming lentil soup, and this delicious olive bread to accompany it.

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Olive Bread (recipe adapted from Delia’s basic bread recipe)

700g strong white bread flour

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon dried yeast

1 teaspoon golden caster sugar

about 425ml warmish water (hot to the touch)

Sift the flour, salt, yeast and sugar into a bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the water. Mix into a dough, start using a wooden spoon, then your hand. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until it is elasticy and smooth. Put it back into the bowl, cover with cling film, and leave it to rise for about 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

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Once it has risen, knock all the air out of it and knead it again. Mix the olives into the dough (its quite hard to get them right into the middle- so this may take a bit of working!) Shape it into a loaf: oblong or round, or use a loaf tin, and allow it to rise again for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 230 degrees C.

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Once it has risen, bake in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. You can check it is done by the tapping on the bottom- if it sounds hollow, it is ready to eat!

xxR