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Category: the Bread Journey

Raisin Bread in the Thermomix

I know you were all dying to hear about how the Verdi went. I’m feeling a bit conflicted about it. On one hand the orchestra and choir were superb, apart from that bit where my friend and I came in two beats early. Hopefully only the tenors in front of us noticed, but they’ve assured us they’ll never let us forget it. On the other hand the tenor soloist may need surgery. So I’m going to tell you about raisin bread instead.

I’ve just got the third loaf of raisin bread this week out of the oven. My kids have only started eating my bread since I’ve been making it in the Thermomix. I think it does a much better job of kneading, as I get bored very quickly, which means that it rises properly. I’ve also invested fourteen bucks in a high sided loaf pan as it sometimes droops over the sides of the smaller one, giving a slice that doesn’t quite fit in the toaster.

I’m weighing the yeast on a conventional scale because I don’t really trust the Thermomix scale for twenty grams. It’s a bit blasé down that end. So weigh out twenty grams of fresh yeast and bung it in the jug. Add a quarter of a cup of sugar, half a cup (or 130 grams) of buttermilk (my new favourite bread making ingredient) and a cup (or 250 grams) of water. I like to give it a five second zap at this point to mix all that together. Add two teaspoons of mixed spice and six hundred grams of flour. Zap it for about thirty seconds on speed four or until it looks like it’s trying to escape through the lid. Then you put it on closed lid position and press the interval setting and have it go for three minutes.

Pull it out of the jug and place it in an oiled bowl. Cover it with a tea towel and stick it in the oven with the light on. When it’s doubled in size, knead in half a cup of currants and half a cup of sultanas. Place the dough in a lined loaf tin.

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I’m actually using golden raisins until I can get back to Honest to Goodness and get some of their delicious sultanas. Poke those suckers in, they try to escape. Put it back in the oven with the light on until you can see the loaf rising over the top of the tin.

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Brush the top with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for ten minutes at 220 degrees, then turn the oven down to 180 degrees for another thirty minutes or until it’s all brown and delicious looking.

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That’s breakfast sorted.

Buttermilk Bread in the Thermomix

I have finally made a bread that the children will eat. I’m pretty good at making a worthy bread, all dense and full of seeds and activated currants and what have you. But my white bread also has traditionally come out a bit worthy, dense with a very crunchy crust. The kids just refuse to eat it. Even if it’s the only bread on offer they’ll eat almost anything else, corn crackers, cucumbers, expiring grapes, seaweed. But this bread came out light and fluffy and everything they’ve ever wanted in a bread. I’m not sure where they acquired this bourgeois taste in bread, but I may have to cull their friend lists.

It’s a recipe straight out of the Thermomix cookbook and I didn’t even tweak it much. Place in the Thermomix 180 grams of buttermilk, 200 grams of water, 20 grams of fresh yeast, a couple of turns of the sea salt grinder, 500 grams of flour and 10 grams of oil. I think the reason they put buttermilk in a few of their recipes is because you can actually make your own butter in the Thermomix, and you have buttermilk left over. You’d better believe it’s on my to do list.

Put the lid on and mix for five seconds on speed 7. Yes, it does sound a little arbitrary, doesn’t it. Set the dial to the closed lid position and knead for three minutes on Interval speed. And that’s one of the many annoying things about this recipe book, the basic white bread recipe calls for half that kneading time. A focaccia recipe (seriously, is anyone making focaccia? Where’s the Turkish bread recipe?) gives a two minute knead time. Inconsistent.

The dough is very sticky, I floured my hands before scraping it out. Place it in an oiled bowl and leave it in the oven covered with a damp tea towel with the light on for about half an hour, until it has doubled in size. Sling it into a lined loaf tin and back in the oven with the light on. I don’t cover it at this point, because I like to hop past and see how it’s going. This loaf rose a lot more than my white bread usually does. I baked it at 180 degrees for about forty minutes, you tap on it when it looks brown and it should sound hollow when done. Just look at that crumb.

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I baked it yesterday afternoon and it is still soft and delightful today, another win over my usual recipe which goes stale almost immediately. It makes an excellent piece of toast.

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One of the many things the kids have against home made bread is that they have to cut it themselves. It’s almost like living in the salt mines of Siberia, such a heartbreaking amount of manual labour. It’s got to be a good sign that even the Horror from Outer Space is chopping off chunks of it and eating it unadorned. “How is it?” I ask him. “I guess it’s OK”, he said, spraying me with crumbs. Praise indeed.

Panettone

Tempted though I am, I’m not going to subject you to my whining about being disabled. I’m saving that for later in the week. Instead, I bring to you my children’s complaint for the weekend. “How come you’ve been baking all weekend and there’s nothing for us?”.

As I mentioned last week, I made five lots of morning tea for my husband to take to his week of meetings. Two items were requested from the last set of meetings, hazelnut biscotti and raspberry slice, both of which can be found in my collected works. No, I’m not putting in a link, go find it yourself. I also sent along brownies, which I mixed in the Thermomix, ginger nuts and hazelnut meringue biscuits, which I may share with your at a later date. I did make panettone too, but we kind of went to a friend’s place for an impromptu barbeque, so I sacrificed the panettone to the gods of hospitality, who ate it all up.

The kids have been asking me to make panettone for a while now. They weren’t easily fobbed off by my initial reaction, which was “you don’t make panettone. You wait until Easter or Christmas, then you go into any shop in our suburb and pull one out of the walls of panettone that magically appear at that time. You then exchange it for one belonging to your neighbour, stick it in the back of the pantry, wait five years then throw it out.” It turns out that flattery works remarkably well on me, so I made one this weekend. And, because of its rapid disappearance into our kind hosts of last night, again today.

You can really make it with a wooden spoon, but if you have a KitchenAid it is dead easy. First you gather your materials. I’ll bet you don’t have orange essence in your pantry. Or glycerine. Apparently you can leave out the glycerine and use lemon zest instead of the essence, but the way I did tastes just like a bought one, only not redolent of dust and moths.

Place in your KitchenAid bowl 200 grams of water, fifteen grams of fresh yeast (or a seven gram sachet of dried yeast), 25 grams of caster sugar and 25 grams of for flour. Whisk them all together. Add six egg yolks and beat them in. Save the whites for fun stuff like hazelnut meringue biscuits, Thermomix macarons (can’t wait to try that recipe), or today it was lime and poppyseed friands. Beat in three teaspoons of glycerine, three teaspoons of vanilla essence and two teaspoons of orange essence. Melt together, carefully, 50 grams of butter and 50 grams of white chocolate. I’m still working on this in the Thermomix, when I have it fail safe I’ll let you know. We got there in the end. Beat that into the mix. Mix in 400 grams of flour and a teaspoon of salt if your butter was unsalted. The recipe says just mix it in with the wooden spoon, but because I had the KitchenAid running, and it was a yeast thing I thought I’d let it mix for a few minutes. It did start getting all stretchy and satisfactory looking, so I’m keeping that step.

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Let it rest for five minutes, then fold in 150 grams of bits of your choice. Or not. I’m going with golden raisins this time, I’ve got a bit of a thing for them lately. They’re nicer than bog standard sultanas.

Then you choose your pan or pans. The mix is very wet, not like bread dough at all, and really sticky. So if it rises out of the pan it will droop sadly down the sides and be a bit of a bugger to get off. I’m using a small loaf pan and a little square tin. Line them with baking paper, make sure the paper goes all the way up to the top. Only fill the tins a third of the way up. Leave them somewhere warm until they’ve almost tripled in height. You can gently brush a sugar syrup on them, or sugar beaten with egg white. Or not. Bake them at 180 degrees for about half an hour. More if you actually have a panettone tin and a baking the lot as one loaf.

This produces a very light sweet loaf that looks like it will toast well if we manage to keep it for more than a day. It has that hint of orange without having peel in it (hardly anyone likes peel, it’s very sad). Have a go at it. I could do it standing on one leg.

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Spelt bread

Soon I’ll be having soy in my coffee. Yes, I made spelt bread. But I have a good excuse. I have a tetchy tummy and it has been suggested to me that I may benefit from the low FODMAPS diet put out by Monash University specifically for those of uncertain digestion. I had a look, and it certainly had quite a few foods on its naughty side that I have a lot of problems with. Specifically stone fruit, dairy products and lentils and pulses. You hear a lot of people carrying on about dairy being the root of all evil, but when a dietitian tells you to lay off the lentils I pay attention. Those things are lethal.

It didn’t fit my sensitivities exactly, there’s no way I could eat grapes, beef, mandarins, porridge or bananas without suffering the consequences, but it did suggest substituting spelt bread for wheat bread. I’ve always had a niggly feeling that gluten might be a bit of an issue for me, but it’s such a bandwagon! I’d feel so silly giving up gluten. As it turns out, spelt isn’t gluten free but it’s a different type of gluten that may be tolerated better by guts such as mine. Worth a shot, I thought.

I found a relatively simple recipe on taste.com. You dissolve fifteen grams of fresh yeast (or a seven gram sachet) in a cup and a half of water. Add a cup and a half of white spelt flour and a cup and a half of whole meal spelt flour. Also a tablespoon of olive oil, a couple of grinds of salt and a tablespoon of sugar. Knead, but not nearly as much as you would a wheat loaf. I found this combination to be way too wet, so added perhaps a quarter of a cup more of the white flour. It was still quite wet, but I thought it would do. I washed and oiled the bowl and shovelled the mix back in. I covered it with a damp tea towel and took it out for a lie in the sunshine on the trampoline. I wonder why our trampoline has a burn hole in it? After about forty five minutes it had almost doubled in size, so I punched it about and massaged it into a lined loaf tin and left it in the kitchen while I went to Drummoyne.

Drummoyne took a bit longer than I thought it would. I’m planning a new bathroom and got into quite a technical chat with the proprietor of the bathroom shop. Did you know you can get floor tiles that look exactly like wood? And it’s very difficult to get a toilet that is any colour other than white these days, not that I’m terribly attached to our current peach coloured model. So by the time I got back with a sheaf of brochures the loaf had over risen a bit, so I got it straight into the oven. The rising times seem to be less than for wheat. I baked it on 220 degrees for fifteen minutes, then 180 degrees for another twenty and left it in the turned off oven while I went to pick up the Horror from Outer Space from his institution. The crust looks very good, and the thin slice that I’ve tried with a bit of butter was more than acceptable. I thought that because it hasn’t risen as much as a wheat loaf it may be a little dense, but it isn’t.

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I think I can comfortably fool myself that this is bread and not some kind of hippie rabbit food. I plan on not telling the man of the house, he’s fairly unused to whole meal bread so will probably not notice. The recipe actually suggests messing about with adding linseed and decorating with flakes of oatmeal, but I didn’t bother with that. I don’t mind a linseed in whole meal bread, but I don’t have any. Maybe next time.

White Bread

I do appreciate that everyone is entitled to holidays, even the hard working Vietnamese couples that slave away at all hours of the day and night at our local hot bread shop. I hope they’re having a lovely time. What I should have done is to buy a whole lot of bread before Christmas and stuck it in the freezer, not that there would have been any room with all the ice blocks I was making. But I didn’t, so here we are with no bread. Oh, yes, I could go up to the nearest mall because Baker’s Delight doesn’t go on holidays, but then the Horror will want to come too and he’ll want a milkshake and a surprising amount of sushi and then I’ll have to have a coffee to cope with him and then a loaf of bread will have ended up costing me thirty dollars. I’m going to have to make it myself.

I have alluded to this method of making bread when I was chatting about cheese and bacon rolls a while back. It isn’t a method that requires a whole lot of kneading, but you do have to stay a little focused, otherwise you get the risings all wrong and you end up with a loaf that looks like a depressed Frenchman. This method comes from that monumental tome, The Cook’s Book.

Place in a bowl twenty grams of fresh yeast with three hundred and fifty grams of water. Squash up the yeast with a fork until it’s dissolved. Add five hundred grams of flour and about ten twists of the salt shaker. Mx it all up with your hands until the flour is incorporated, then cover it with a damp tea towel and go fold sheets for about ten minutes. Pour a slug of nice olive oil over the dough and knead it in. Go pay a phone bill or two. Repeat with the olive oil and the ten minute pause until you’ve done it three times. Leave the dough covered in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size. This is very dependent on how warm the spot you’ve left it in is. Often I put it in the oven with just the light on, but today my oven is occupied with ginger nuts, so I’ve placed it in the square of sunlight that comes through the kitchen skylight and moves like a laser beam through the room during the afternoon, melting everything in its deadly path.

Once it has doubled, punch it about a bit and manhandle it into a loaf tin that has been lined with baking paper. Leave it again, covered with a damp tea towel, until it has doubled in size. For my sized tin, this is when it’s doughy shoulders have just risen above the sides of the tin.

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You put it in a hot oven, about two hundred and twenty degrees for fifteen minutes. You can mess about with brushing the top with water and slashing it with a sharp knife, but nobody really cares about that kind of stuff among my consumer base. Drop the temperature to one hundred and eighty degrees Celsius and bake it for a further thirty to forty minutes, but keep an eye on it. It should be all brown and crusty looking on top and sound hollow when you, feeling slightly foolish, knock on its top.

Once it’s out of the oven, lift it out of the tin by the baking paper, otherwise it’s sides will get damp as it cools. My grandma says you shouldn’t eat bread the day it’s baked, it’ll give you a tummy ache. I defy you to try abstaining from chopping off the end of your loaf and slathering it with butter and possibly Vegemite while it’s still warm. I’m willing to risk a tummy ache.

Fruit Bread

Full house today. School holidays (private school) and a sunny day mean a pool full of kids. Nothing I bake is ever going to fill them up, but they can have fruit toast for afternoon tea.

Place in a bowl eight grams of fresh yeast and a cup and a half of warm water. Squish that yeast around with your fingers until it has all dissolved. Add a quarter of a cup of white sugar, three teaspoons of mixed spice, a pinch of salt and three cups of flour. Mix it until it’s a sticky dough. Turn it out onto a floured kitchen bench and work that extra flour in until it’s still a fairly soft dough and knead it until it’s smooth. Bung it back in the bowl with a damp tea towel over it and leave it somewhere warm for an hour or two. My current favourite place is in the oven with the light on.

You can leave it in the bowl as you work in a half a cup of currants and half a cup of sultanas. They’ll keep trying to escape, but force those little rascals back in. Line a loaf pan with baking paper and squash the fruit dough in. Put it back in the oven with the light on and leave it until the loaf has risen to at least the edges of the pan. Or until you’re so hungry you can’t leave it alone any more. Brush the top with a little milk and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon sugar. Turn the oven up to 220 degrees C and bake it for fifteen minutes. Turn the oven down to 180 degrees and bake for a further half an hour, or until it’s nice and brown and crispy on top and sounds a bit hollow when you knock on it to find out who’s home.

Even the Moose likes it. Fortunately the others haven’t found it yet, so I was able to photograph the remains.

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Pizza

If you’re going to be watching Rush Hour 7 with the family on a Sunday night, what you need for dinner is pizza. One problem with making the bases yourself is that once you’ve done it once, your family won’t accept shop bought again and they’ll even get a bit fussy about which pizza restaurants they’ll eat in. Fortunately our suburb abounds in excellent pizza joints, but I’m certainly not dragging myself out to pick some up, not wearing this ankle brace, even if it is now adorned with a fur cuff. Easier to make your own.

This is a forgiving recipe and will turn into pizza bases even if you start the whole thing with an hour to go. It’s better to start it earlier in the day for the yeast to do its thing, so whenever you get a moment. In a bowl place eight grams of fresh yeast, three hundred grams of water, ten grams of sugar and five hundred grams of flour, half of which should be farina per pizza if you’ve been to the deli recently, which I haven’t, so it isn’t. Mix it all up. My yeast looks like it’s on it’s last legs, I’m going to have to get up to the IGA this afternoon and fork out another sixty cents for some fresh stuff, but it doesn’t matter for this recipe.

Grind some salt over it and slosh a bit of olive oil on it, then knead it in. Every ten minutes or so, repeat with the oil maybe three times. Then leave it alone with its thoughts for a few hours. If you’re looking for international pizza certification you use less yeast and hard flour and it should rise over at least twenty four hours. That’s nice to know, isn’t it? Moving on, once it has risen a bit start pinching off bits and rolling them into circles. I go with a chunk that’s a little smaller than a tennis ball, that works for a thin crust on the pizza trays I have. You can use baking trays if you haven’t got pizza trays. Let these rise for a bit, and if you haven’t got the bench space, stack them separated by baking paper. I rarely manage this step, but it’s nicer if you get it in.

Spray your pizza trays or what have you with olive oil spray and sprinkle with cornmeal. Heat your oven to about two hundred degrees Celsius, and if you’ll be using a pizza stone, you should have done this half an hour ago, come on, the natives are getting restless. I do have a pizza stone, they’re only about fifteen bucks and they make a nicer pizza, but you can only do one at a time and I like to circumvent that who’s pizza is coming out first argument by putting three in at a time.

Then there’s toppings. Salami or bacon and cheese for the Horror, tomato paste and cheese for the Muffet and for the Moose, salt. I do seem like the type to grate my own cheese, but have you ever tried to grate mozzarella? It’s very squishy indeed, so I buy a pregrated pizza cheese mix. These bases also make a very nice flatbread, which is how the Moose eats it, so I often roll out a baking tray full and he’ll take it for lunch the next day. The grown ups get tomato paste, pepperoni, mushroom, celery and capsicum, anything that’s not wet. Fresh tomato on pizza is a bad idea, it makes it soggy and burns your mouth, leave it off. My favourite pizza is goats cheese, baby spinach, mushrooms, cauliflower, pepper and celery topped with cheese, but that’s a bit girly for my husband, so sometimes we get a different one each if we’re very hungry.

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This recipe makes between six and eight 25cm pizza bases. It turned out that the DVD was covered in someone’s sticky fingerprints, so we never did find out if Chris Rock managed to keep his eyeballs in for the entire movie.

Cheese and Bacon Rolls

Great excitement in the house of muttering, the Muffet’s school social is on tonight, and there’ll be boys. Not that the Muffet is too fussed, she gets way too much boys at home, that’s why she likes going to a girls’ school. She’s bringing home Lindy Lu so that they can spend the afternoon giggling and doing each other’s hair in preparation. They’ll be hungry. The boys both have sport today, they’ll be hungry too. I think cheese and bacon rolls are in order.

This is yet another idea I got from the Thermomix demonstration, it’s the party that keeps on giving. Why did I never think of it myself, I’ve made my own bread quite a lot. You need a loaf’s worth of bread dough, and you may have your own recipe for that. If you don’t, here’s what I do.

In a metal bowl, place ten grams of fresh yeast, which if you live where I do you can purchase at the local IGA for about sixty cents for fifty grams. Dissolve it in 350 mls of water. If you remember any high school science you’ll know that the density of water is one kilo per litre, so you can just weigh it out. Add five hundred grams of flour and about ten turns of the salt grinder and mix it up. Cover it and leave it for about ten minutes, then come back, pour a teaspoon of olive oil over it and knead it in. Repeat a couple of times. Leave it until it looks about doubled in size. If you want to speed that up because it’s a cold wet day, put it in the oven with the light on. I’m still excited to have an oven with a working light, it’s just had its first birthday.

Then dump it on to a floured bench top and knead it some more. You really don’t need to go overboard with the kneading, despite what you may hear. Just make sure it’s smooth and elastic. Roll it out into a big rectangle and start getting creative. I sliced off a couple of rectangles and pulled them out to be longer. Some of them I spread Vegemite on for the Moose who doesn’t like melted cheese. I know, I know. Some I sprinkled with chopped up bacon and grated cheese. some just cheese. If you’re a bit reckless with your shaping and actually start with a long triangle, when you roll it up it’s shaped like a croissant. I also did traditional cheese and cheese and bacon rolls with the stuff on top. Because I ran out of bacon, I also did some square plain rolls.

Pop these back in the oven with the light on for about half an hour, or not if you’ve run out of time. Bake for about half an hour at 180 degrees Celsius. This way you can use nice Australian bacon rather than that alarming pink rubbery stuff you get up at James’ bread shop. That’s going to be a really nice smell to come home to.

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In the beginning was the Breadmaker

At some point in every housewife’s life she gets the urge to make her own bread. This sets her off on a lifetime’s journey in quest of the perfect loaf which I shall occasionally chronicle here. My journey began with a bread maker.

We may have got it as a wedding present, I can’t remember, but at some point early in our married life we acquired a bread maker. It’s a pretty simple machine. There’s a rectangular bucket at the bottom of which is a paddle that does all the hard work. You fill this up with the ingredients, insert the bucket into the machine, set it going and in the morning you have hot fresh bread. The very first morning the hot fresh bread slides easily out of the bucket and off the paddle, but never again.

There are many problems with making bread this way. I never like the shape of the loaf, the cross section was too large, the crust was too chewy. The loaf in itself was OK, especially if you’d added all the ingredients. I used to put it on last thing at night, and because it only had very few ingredients I’d do it from memory which meant that we’d sometimes end up with a bucket of well mixed ingredients that hadn’t turned into bread. You had to make sure that the paddle was inserted correctly and the bucket was locked into the machine, otherwise sludge would ensue. The machine was quite noisy, so I had it on the back verandah, not a desirable location first thing in the morning in the winter months.

What finally made me give it up was the paddle. It was always firmly embedded in the end of the bread. So you’d eat your way to the end of the loaf, then push the paddle out and wash it for the next loaf. Or alternatively, get to the end of the loaf and throw it in the bin. If this happened on bin night, it meant a trip to the creepy appliance shop up the road which was always inexplicably stacked to the roof with toasters. How could anyone hope to sell that many toasters? But they were always happy to get me in a new bread maker paddle.

The last time this happened I gave up. It was time for me to start making my own bread by hand, the next step on the Bread Journey. Anyone who makes bread ends up turning it into a journey, try it yourself and see if you can stop with the first method you try. What prompted me to dig up this story from the vault is something that the dogs dug out of the compost bin today while searching for a rat.

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The last of the bread maker paddles. Another excellent reason to compost.