Raisins.

Another Bake Off inspired creation, and this time not a hint of apricot…

Here’s a recipe for some delicious little Swedish buns. Strictly speaking I’m a couple of months early, as Lussekatter, also known as St. Lucia Buns, are traditionally baked on December 13th, St. Lucy’s Day.

They were baked by Ruby (who I’ve got to admit to being a little bit in love with) on the latest episode of The Great British Bake Off as one of her two ‘Showstopper’ European buns. She also made kanelbullar (also Swedish) which I might have a go at next.

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Lussekatter

(Makes 32 buns)

Ingredients:

200g unsalted butter

450ml milk

2 teaspoons dried fast-action yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg, beaten + and extra one for the tops of the buns

165g caster sugar

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, chopped

900g plain flour

64 raisins

Method:

1. Melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the milk and heat until lukewarm.

2. Add to a large mixing bowl, then add the egg, sugar, saffron and salt. Then add the flour and yeast, and bring the mixture together into a dough, which should be fairly sticky.

3. Knead briefly – it doesn’t knead needing (geddit?) for a long time like a regular bread dough would. Cover the bowl and leave until the dough has doubled in size.

4. Knock back the dough, and divide into 32 pieces. Because I’m fussy I weighed mine all out, and they came out at just over 50g each. Using your hands, roll each piece out to a length of around 20cm, and bend it into an s shape, tucking the two ends in. Lay the 32 lussekatter out on baking sheets lined with baking paper. I managed to get them onto two regular sized sheets.

5. Cover (a bin liner works well) and allow to rise for around 40 minutes, while the oven preheats to 200C (180C if a fan oven).

6. Add two raisins to each lussekatter, pressing them gently into the two holes created by the s shape of the dough. Brush the tops of the buns with egg. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden.

Apricot.

I hate dried apricots, the horrible little wrinkly bags of evil. Or at least I thought I did. So it has come as a bit of a surprise to find myself adding apricots to all sorts of things recently, from cakes to flapjacks. And even more surprisingly, I’ve loved the results.

So here’s my apology to apricots, for the hard time I’ve given them. I’ve made Paul Hollywood’s apricot couronne, as featured on this week’s episode of The Great British Bake Off.

A couronne is a yeasted bread, which after an initial prove is rolled out flat, given a layer of filling, and then rolled up tightly like a swiss roll. This is then sliced lengthways, producing two long strands of dough, each with an exposed side of filling. The two strands are twisted together before baking.

I’ve included the recipe below – it isn’t mine, and belongs to Paul Hollywood. It can also be found here.

I still think apricots are evil, but concede that in certain circumstances they do taste delicious…

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Makes 1 large crown loaf

You will need: 1 large baking sheet, lined with baking paper

For the dough:

250g strong white bread flour

5g salt

1 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast

50g unsalted butter, softened

105ml full-fat milk, at room temperature

1 medium egg, at room temperature

For the filling:

90g unsalted butter, softened

70g light brown muscovado sugar

120g ready-to-eat dried apricots, chopped and soaked in 100ml orange juice

35g plain flour

60g raisins

65g walnut pieces

Finely grated zest of 1 orange

To finish:

50g apricot jam

100g icing sugar, sifted

25g flaked almonds

1. To make the dough, tip the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt to the bowl on one side and the yeast to the other. Add the soft butter, milk and egg and turn the mixture round with your fingers, using them like a paddle. Keep doing this, mixing until you’ve picked up all of the flour from the sides of the bowl. Use the mixture to clean the inside of the bowl, picking up all the scraps, and keep going until you have a ball of soft dough.

2. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured worktop and knead for 10-12 minutes: work through the initial ‘wet’ stage until the dough starts to develop a soft, smooth skin. When the dough feels smooth and silky put it into a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover the bowl with a dry tea towel and leave to rise for about 1 hour until doubled in size.

3. While the dough is rising, make the filing. Put the soft butter, sugar, drained apricots, flour, raisins, walnuts and zest into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside until needed.

4. Turn the risen dough on to the lightly floured worktop. Without punching it down to deflate, roll it out to a rectangle about 25 x 33cm. If necessary turn the dough around so you have a long edge closest to you. Spread the apricot filling mixture evenly over the dough, then roll up like a swiss roll – tack down the edge nearest to you, so it won’t move, then roll up the dough from the other long edge towards you so get a really tight roll. Roll it back and forth lightly to seal the ‘seam’, then cut it lengthways in half. (You can keep one end attached, which will make it easier to shape).

5. Twist the two strands of dough together, then twist the 2 ends together to finish the ‘crown’. Carefully transfer the crown to the prepared baking sheet. Put the sheet inside a large plastic bag and leave to prove for 30-45 minutes until the dough springs back quickly when you prod it lightly with a fingertip.

6. While the dough is rising heat your oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. When the couronne is ready for baking, uncover the baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 25-35 minutes until risen and golden. Transfer to a wire rack.

7.   Gently heat the apricot jam with a splash of water, then push it through a sieve into a bowl. Quickly brush over the warm loaf to glaze. Mix the icing sugar with enough water to make a thin icing. Drizzle over the loaf and sprinkle with the flaked almonds. Leave to cool.

Success!

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I’m very pleased to be able to report my latest attempt at a sourdough loaf has been a definite success. After getting the production sourdough going last night, I got up too early this morning considering I’m on a night shift tonight, and have spent the whole day making vast amounts of bread. 

I’ve made two white French baguette type loaves using a sponge I also made last night with fresh yeast, and four sourdough loaves, which have turned out far better than I expected they would. They’re nice and light, with a crisp, crunchy crust, and more importantly they’ve got a beautiful complex, tangy, sour flavour to them. This was something my previous efforts were completely lacking, so I’m starting to get somewhere.

When I’ve got time I’ll write up some instructions, from creating a sourdough starter to making the loaves themselves, so anyone reading this can have a go too.

Sour.

I’ve learned a lot on my bread making odyssey over the past couple of years, and am now able to produce a loaf of a fairly good standard. There’s still the odd brick (I don’t quite get the point of rye flour yet), but generally the feedback from my victims is positive.

My tentative forays into the world of sourdoughs, however, have been a little disappointing. My loaves made using naturally occurring yeasts have ended up barely distinguishable from those made with instant yeast, and have lacked an essential element; sourness. 

So I’m going to start again, and stick with it this time. Andrew Whitley’s essential book Bread Matters has been a great help, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to learn how to make bread properly, and understand the reasons why mass-produced ‘Chorleywood’ loaves are such a bad thing. 

Having read, re-read, and re-re-read the section on sourdoughs, I’ve spent the last few days turning a simple mixture of flour and water into a bubbling mass of yeasty goodness, and have used some of this to make a ‘production sourdough’ tonight, ready for an attempt at a loaf in the morning. 

Whether it works perfectly or goes horribly wrong, I’ll document my efforts here tomorrow…

Trafalgar.

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Tomorrow is Canada Day, and I’m catching a train down to London to spend the day as an honorary Canadian in Trafalgar Square, in the absence of my good friend Susie. She’s stuck in Ontario, celebrating Canada Day in Canada, of all places! I’ve got her permission to be Canadian, and spend the whole day saying all of the following;

Eh? (What did you say?)

Eh? (What do you think?)

Eh? (To end any sentence)

Hoser (Loser, or good friend. Not confusing at all…)

Take off! (You’re kidding, no way!)

Skates (What all Canadians wear as their first shoes)

Lumberjack (See Monty Python)

To mark tomorrow’s festivities, I’ve baked a loaf of bread. But not just any loaf of bread. This is a Canada Day loaf, made with Canadian maple syrup. The following recipe belongs to Dan Lepard, a fantastic baker who writes regularly for the Guardian.

Simple milk loaf (or ‘Canada Day loaf Eh?’)

1 tsp fast action yeast

350g whole milk at 20C

20g Canadian maple syrup

250g plain white flour

250g strong white flour

1 tsp fine sea salt

25g warm melted unsalted butter

In a jug, mix the milk and syrup. In a large bowl, mix the flours and the yeast, then the salt. Add the liquid to the flour, combine, then add the melted butter. Knead the dough energetically for about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Put the dough back into the bowl, and cover with cling film, leaving the dough to rise for around an hour, until doubled in size.

Knock the air out of the dough, then divide into two equal pieces. Shape these into balls. Oil and flour a 2lb loaf tin, then place both balls of dough into the tin. Cover the tin loosely with cling film.  Preheat the oven to 210C.

When the dough has risen above the top of the loaf tin, and the oven has reached temperature, brush the top of the dough with milk, and place the tin in the oven. Cook at 210C for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 180C and cook for a further 25 minutes.

This bread is particularly good for your morning toast, due to the fact that it contains syrup, so it will produce lovely golden, crispy slices of toast. It also makes great sandwiches and is quite strong and sturdy, so will tolerate a battering in a lunchbox.