Soda Bread anyone?

Generally I’m more comfortable baking cakes and biscuits and have been learning the joys of freezing cut biscuit dough. As much as I like baking it can sometimes the preparation can be time consuming and when I’ve been at work and then have the craving to have a few biscuits, take a few out of the freezer and in about 15 minutes maybe 20 at a push I have fresh biscuits ready to go with my tea!

Enough about the cakes and frozen biscuits, the one area I dabble in and generally fail miserably is baking bread from scratch. I’ve used shop bough ready mixed bread where I just add water in the past, I’ve even tried focaccia bread from scratch with varying degrees of success and failure. So I thought I would try something a bit simple and opted for soda bread, no yeast involved, thought what could go wrong? My first attempt went wrong!

The dough was a wet, sticky mess …

Soda Bread_AllrecipesI found a recipe on Allrecipes that looked straightforward, I didn’t have any buttermilk but the recipe used the homemade version of buttermilk; milk with vinegar. I halved the recipe just in case it all went horrible wrong, which it did. The dough was a wet, sticky mess to which I kept adding flour that should have made the situation better, it didn’t. The dough became a bit tough and even though I was trying to find the silver lining in the moment and though the dough still had the chance to develop into a great looking and tasting soda bread, the oven would be the cocoon to make this all happen. Alas no this did not happen, the bread shouldn’t have taken long to bake yet the outcome was a lovely looking bread on the outside and a doughy substance on the inside. I couldn’t subject the daring foxes in the area that like to roam the streets, the only place for this lump that would offend bread bakers everywhere was the bin.

Was I beaten by this failed bake?

Soda Bread_James MartinI was for a short period of time, until I bought a pot of buttermilk then with the aid of BBC Good Food website and a recipe by James Martin (also see below) my bread baking fighting spirit was back in action. The ratios worked, the dough looked how I think it was meant to, onto the actual baking. Though there are many steps in bread making that I fall down on the actual baking and listening for the hollow sound does confuse me a bit but I went with it. The bread itself did catch a bit more colour than I would have liked, if I was comparing it to a colour chart I think it would have been the colour swatch that is just before burnt! The response from critics; brother and sister was the bread was a bit chewy, could have done with a few minutes in the oven which could explain why it tasted ok toasted and with butter, extra cooking under the grill. The main thing to take away from this attempt was it was edible.

Ignoring my limited bread making skills this bread is actually very simple and take no time to make. Give it a try and come and share your bread conquests on here or head on over to my Twitter share your thoughts.

Ingredients

170g/6oz self-raising wholemeal flour
170g/6oz plain flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
290ml/½ pint buttermilk

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/Gas 6.

2. Tip the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir.

3. Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk, mixing quickly with a large fork to form a soft dough. (Depending upon the absorbency of the flour, you may need to add a little milk if the dough seems too stiff but it should not be too wet or sticky.)

4. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly.

5. Form into a round and flatten the dough slightly before placing on a lightly floured baking sheet.

6. Cut a cross on the top and bake for about 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Bread making challenge

I’m trying to expand my baking repertoire my also making bread, sweet and savoury.  I’m not yet an expert, I do have my mum’s bread machine but I trying to learn to make bread from scratch as well. I’ve mentioned before my youngest sister is not really a fan of cake, even though she is the one who has requested I make her a 3D cake version of Pride Rock from The Lion King for her next birthday!

IMG_20141103_185359[1]Last year she had a brownie cake with cream filling. This year she opted for an ice bun ‘cake’. I had practiced this recipe and design before and made a few changes the second time I made it. I reduced the sugar slightly and made the icing a bit thicker so it didn’t slide down the sides of the buns. I was pleased with the taste of the buns and design but the icing needs some work. I may try baking the buns into different shapes to see how they turn out and tweaking the recipe a little bit more next time. I also may have left some of the buns to prove a bit too long, another thing to remember next time I make this dough.

I’m going to keep at the bread baking learning, although it does take some time I do like the end results especially when it turns right!

The baking cinnamon challenge is on!

Want to take part in a cinnamon challenge?

No, I don’t mean the stupid one where the challenger is filmed ‘swallowing a spoonful of ground cinnamon in under 60 seconds without drinking anything, then upload the video to the Internet. I’m talking about the baking kind.

I’ve previously mentioned the jar of cinnamon a friend bought me whilst on a recent trip to Costco. I don’t want to waste any of this spice so have decided to try and make at least one baked treat a week that contains cinnamon. I’ve kicked started off this self imposed challenge with a walnut and cinnamon muffin, and a sultana and cinnamon bread. The muffins were a 20140811_Walnut_CinnamonMuffins[1]first for me and turned out well. There bread, though pretty looking is a bit on the dense side. Every time I try to make this bread something goes a bit wrong 20140811_CinnamonBread[1]hence the brick effect this time round.

Even though my ‘bread’ did turn out stodgy and could be used as a weapon according to my taste testers the flavours were there and weren’t adverse from taking another bit. I have not given up hope of making a decent cinnamon bread, it just didn’t happen this time.

Another plus side of baking with cinnamon is  my house smelt nice and dare I say it, even a bit homely and cosy whilst the weather outside had turned nasty with wind and rain!

I really need to work on choosing ‘nice’ backgrounds for my baking pictures, in my defence it was about 9.30 and I my adrenaline levels were nearly depleted. Ok, that sounds more like an excuse but…hmm it’s the best reason I’ve got for now!

I will post the recipe I used for the walnut and cinnamon muffins at some point.

I have some cinnamon related recipes to keep me going for now I just hope I and whoever become my guinea pigs don’t get sick and tired of cinnamon or develop some kind of allergy to the spice!

I’ve already inspired a work colleague to take part in the cinnamon challenge, or I should say his wife who he texted asking for some cinnamon related baked goodies.

Do you have any go to cinnamon related recipes, don’t be shy, share! 😀

Week 6 Cake decorating and baking

Last week was not a great week; I spent a great deal of it sitting in traffic. Come Friday I had about written off the week as I willed the weekend to come as quickly as possible.

Needless to say the weekend was much better. My cake decorating class didn’t get off to the greatest of starts with me struggling with the simplest task of making an icing bag. Once that drama was out of the way I was ready to begin piping. This week we learnt to pipe roses.20131012_PipedRoses[1]Not a flowery person by nature I have to admit I really enjoyed piping these. I went into my own world and practiced away. Being a lefty the teacher demonstrated to all how to pipe them as a right handed person then came showed me how to pipe them around a cocktail stick. You can tell which ones were done by the teacher and which ones were my attempts! 🙂

Once we had made a few of these we were taught how to make fondant roses.20131012_FondantRoses[1] The technique taught in this class is different to the tutorials I had watched on YouTube. Both are simple enough to follow and achieve the same results.

My baking weekend didn’t stop there. Since ‘borrowing’ my mum’s bread maker it has remained at my house. So I attempted to make cinnamon and sultana bread. I put the sultana’s in at the wrong stage so the majority of them stayed at the bottom of the bread. 20131012_CinnamonSultanaBread[1]A few made it actually into the bread and tasted nice. Not wanting to stop there I attempted to make pitta bread.20131013_PittaBread[1] Not bad for my first attempt, they are a bit small but I have small hands so were the right size for me. 🙂

It is Eid tomorrow, my family hasn’t usually made a big thing about it in the past. Though this year especially with the nephews we’re all gathering at my sister’s house. Everyone is taking a dish of some sort, I’m on sweet duty so am thinking of making sweet rice (Zarda). If I’m feeling generous I may attempt to make some homemade samosa’s..only if I’m feeling generous

Me, Myself and I

I seem to have got a bit carried away with my social media blogs that I’ve neglected to write about the other things that have been going on in ‘Foz’s World’.

Clothing

A friend of mine is getting married this weekend so of I went to buy a new Asian outfit. With my height and shape it can be a bit f a pain to find something. It had been a while since I bought a new Asian outfit and in that time the fashion had changed. The trend at the moment is length of the tops are short at the front and long at the back. This trend would look ok on me if I wasn’t about 5ft! 2 hours later I finally found an anarkali style outfit (It is a long top with legging style trousers) for about £79, this is not a bad price considering the amount of sequins and stitching on the top. Other outfits I saw were coming close to the price of £200.

Luckily my mum didn’t have to adjust this Asian outfit, usually my mum will have to take them in or shorten them to get them to fit.

The leggings are a bit long but thank goodness for heels, no one will even notice.

I have the matching bangles and accessories, with the wave of the magic makeup brush I’ll be all set for the occasion.

Cooking

I’m no Jamie Oliver but a few weekends back I had a go at making fried chicken wings and homemade wedges with my mum. We were impressed by how well the chicken turned out and no one showed any signs food poisoning.

I’ve been experimenting with making my own bread but have been cheating a little bit using a bread machine to make the dough and then cooking it in the oven. It’s not that I don’t know how to make bread from scratch as I used to do in when I was younger, just these days I don’t have the time.

I’ve not ever made focaccia bread and wanted to have a go but found a cheat method…you maybe sensing a theme here-I can I’ll try to cut corners ;-).  The UK chef, James Martin has produced a line where everything to make said bread is all in a bag ready mixed, all you need to do is add the liquid. It was on sales at Asda (88p) so thought why not. I opted for the garlic and rosemary version.  All of it went into the bread machine and then cooked in the oven. The finished product looked and tasted nice however the flavours weren’t as strong as what I was expecting. Next time I think I will make try to make it from scratch at home.

I would have pictures of the chicken wings, wedges and bread only my family were helping themselves to the finished products faster than everything was getting cooked! So I point the finger of blame onto my family for not having photographic evidence that sometimes my attempts to cook are successful.

Me and brother fancied caked one Saturday and couldn’t be bothered to go to the shops, so we made a quick sponge cake that lasted all of 2 days. With a well deserved cup of tea it was good, even if I do say so myself. 🙂

Garden

I’m not sure if I have ‘green fingers’ but this year the plants in my back garden have survived! Woop woop!

There was a moment I thought that for another year in a row I had killed another tomato plant when finally it started producing some tomatoes. 😀

My friend, Natasha got me some plants to help revive my garden, and she is a better gardener than me. I didn’t know that one of the plants she brought was a chilli plant till it started growing them. I was just given strict instructions to water the plant and not let it die! As you can see, so far the plant is in good health.

The other plants Natasha brought and planted as far as I can tell are hanging in there, some even decided to flower.

The slugs and snails have been my adversary throughout the whole ‘keep plants alive’ campaign. If you are a slug / snail lover then I apologise but those unattractive looking creatures had to go. I found some slug and snail pellets at the local garden centre which were kryptonite to the little slimy darlings. My garden resembled a battlefield where the only casualties strewn across the garden were mostly slugs. Maybe the snails decided to evacuate before coming into contact with the pellets.

Though my garden is most definitely not to the same standard that my granddad kept it, I am one up from having a jungle garden and being known as a plant killer!

Now I managed to keep some plants alive I’m thinking I could be ready for some pet fish. 🙂