Arford Cooks

Easy recipes from Apple Tree

Category: Baking

French-style crusty loaf

French bread is often very crusty with a soft fluffy inside. I have always assumed that this type of bread needs special flour and expertise, but not so. A chance find on the internet showed up this recipe. This is a bit weird – you will need a cast iron casserole, but trust me. Have a go!

  • 360g plain flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5tsp instant yeast
  • 300ml warm water

Throw all of this in a food processor and process for 45 seconds. Alternatively do it the hard way and knead by hand for 10 minutes! This will produce a very sticky dough so good luck with the hand method.

Let your dough rise for an hour in a covered bowl left in a warm place. Use flour on your hands and in the bowl to try and keep it from sticking, but you probably won’t. No matter, at this stage anyway.

Do you have a proving basket? Thought not, neither did I. After the hour is up the dough will have doubled in size, the yeast inside is going crazy. Try and get it out of the bowl, then gently knock it back by taking the floppy sides and folding them over into the middle to make a sort of cushion. Lots of flour will be needed to keep it from sticking. This is OK.

Now flour your proving basket/bowl. Carefully place your dough into the bowl, with the folded sides down. Allow to rise again for half an hour.

Meanwhile heat your oven to 230C with is very hot. Put your cast iron casserole dish into the oven to heat up. If you keep the lid out, you can use it as a cutting guide to make a baking parchment sling for your dough. The sling is simply a piece of paper the size of the base of the casserole, with two strips extending from opposite sides to make the handles.

When all is ready, upturn your proving basket/bowl onto the paper and if you floured it enough it will flop out. If not you may have to do running repairs (as I did). The only difference is that the top won’t look as pro, but you will be forgiven when they eat it.

Take your casserole dish out of the oven, use the paper sling to put the delicate dough into the casserole, put the lid on and put it back into the oven for 30 minutes. The casserole will get all steamy inside which is what makes the crusty surface of the loaf.

After 30 minutes, take the lid off. The bread will have risen but it won’t look too brown. Put it back in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Now you can take it out and impress your family and friends with an amazing crusty artisan loaf!

If all that makes no sense at all, watch the videos on the original recipe site

Thyme Crackers

These are delicate crackers that are great with cheese or salmon pate.  They are a bit fiddly to make but very easy if you follow these instructions exactly! This makes about 50.

  • 350g plain flour
  • 90g unsalted butter, cold
  • 1tsp salt
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • leaves from 5 sprigs of thyme
  • 140ml cold water

Bang the lot in a food processor and whizz until it forms a dough. Divide into six balls, cover in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Put the oven on at 180C (160C fan). Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Roll out the dough a ball at a time to a thickness of about 2mm. That’s thin! Cut into long triangles like in the phot above and transfer to your baking tray. You do need it this thin, trust me. And it is possible to transfer the cut dough balanced on a thin knife to the tray – trust me on that too! Bake for 12 minutes. Have a peek after 10, you want the crackers to look pale but the corners just tinging golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. It is best to do this in batches otherwise the dough will dry out, and you probably haven’t enough trays anyway. The original recipe used a pasta machine to roll the dough but I found I had made the dough too sticky for that. Whatever works for you – if you use the machine roll out to setting No. 2.

Easy Banana Loaf Cake

First line a greased 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment.

  • 140g butter, softened
  • 140g caster sugar

Beat in a bowl until white and fluffy

  • 2 large eggs, beaten

Stir in until well mixed

  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed

Fold in to make a runny mix. Fill the tin and cook at 180C/160C fan for 30-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean (it might still be gooey from the banana but you want the cake mix cooked. Cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes then take out.

Make your own pitta breads

You might think – for 90p a pack of six in Tesco what’s the point? But these are awesome.

  • 500gm plain flour
  • 4gm dried yeast (half a sachet)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1tsp sugar
  • Glass of warm water 40 deg C

Ideally, use a food processor. If not you may reconsider going to Tesco.

Pour the dry ingredients into the processor. Give it a whizz to aerate the flour. While the motor is running gently and slowly pour in the water. The mix will start to look like crumbs. Very gently add more water a splash at a time until the dough forms a ball. Whizz for another 40 seconds. Now take the dough out and let it rise in a warm place covered in oiled cling film or plastic bag. After about an hour when it has grown by at least 50% it is ready. Pull off a fistful of dough and roll thinly, about 4mm thick. Heat a heavy griddle or frying pan (no oil) , and cook the pittas on the dry pan turning once when the under surface has brown spots. When cooked through from both sides, keep warm in a kitchen towel while you make the rest. This mix makes about 6 large pittas.

Spiced Banana Loaf

A bid fiddly but worth it. First heat your oven to 170C. Grease a large loaf tin and line with baking parchment.

  • 3 weetabixes, crumbled
  • 100g sultanas
  • 150ml milk

Mix, then set aside.

  • 2 eggs
  • 250g light muscavado sugur

Whip to a froth (or as best you can in a mixer)

  • 120g butter, melted
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Mix into the egg and sugar froth. You can do this in a food mixer. Now stir into the weetabix mixture. Don’t use a food processor for this step or you will “loose” the sultanas.

Bake for 1-1.25 hours. Leave in the tin for at least 5 minutes after it is cooked.

Quick Irish Soda Bread

This makes a small loaf so it is quick, and very authentic in texture and flavour.

  • 170g self raising wholemeal flour
  • 170g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 290ml buttermilk

Mix all the dry ingredients. Add the buttermilk and knead briefly.

Heat the oven to 200C. On a flat greased oven tray, place the ball of dough. Slash a deep cross on top with a knife. Bake 30 minutes.

Simple Cornbread

Really good with chilli. Best eaten while still warm from the oven, it doesn’t keep well.

Heat the oven to 200C and grease and line an eight inch square cake tin.If your tin is too large, the cornbread will be thinner like in the photo above. I made a half quantity but the tin must have been bigger than half.

There are two parts to this recipe:

Mix the following dry ingredients:

  • 1 cup cornmeal (maize flour, fine polenta – same stuff)
  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 1 tbs caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt.

In another bowl mix:

  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (at a pinch use half plain yogurt half milk)
  • 2 large eggs beaten
  • 6 tbs melted butter

Combine the two bowls to make a batter. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Test by sticking a knife blade in the top, if no goo sticks to the knife it is ready. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes then turn it out and cut into squares. Great for sponging up chilli juices.

Best ever scone recipe from the National Trust

After much searching and much eating we have decided that the scones in the National Trust cafes are the best. Luckily for us they printed the recipe in there member’s magazine. Here it is, and foolproof. This makes 8-10 scones.

Switch your oven on, 200deg C.

  • 450g self-raising flour
  • 115g soft margarine

Whiz in a food processor or do it the hard way and rub into crumbs with your fingers. I have found a blender works well and is less faff too get out and put away (ours lives on the worktop). You may need to do this in two batches with a blender.

  • 85g caster sugar
  • 85g sultanas

Mix in, better to use a bowl because a food processor blade may shred the sultanas

  • 1 egg
  • 150ml milk

Beat your egg and add half the milk. Stir into your scone mix and make a stiff dough. If it is too crumbly add more milk.
Flour your hands and work surface and roll the mix into a large ball. Flatten with your hands to a disc 2cm thick.
Punch out scone shapes with a scone shaper-thing and place on a greased baking tray. Re-roll the off-cuts and you should get 8-10 scones out of it depending on thickness and size of your scone-thing.

  • 1 more egg, beaten

Brush the top of the scones with beaten egg if you like a nice yellow glaze. You could use milk instead but the result is not quite as crusty.
Now bake in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR before 15 minutes are up. They should be perfect but if you have boobed with the temperature setting they may need a couple of minutes more.
Best served warm and eaten right then, but they will keep a day or two in a sealed tin.

Vegan version: Use Stork instead of soft margarine (100% vegetable fat), lose the egg and use Alpro milk instead of the egg and milk. Brush with Alpro milk before baking. Turns out very similar but not quite as rich.

Alternative vegan version without the dried fruit:

Exactly the same process as above but use these ingredients –

  • 375g self-raising flour
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 1tsp baking powder

Mix well

  • 112g vegan margarine
  • 56g caster sugar

Rub in to look like breadcrumbs or whizz in a blender/food processor

  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2tbs lemon juice (= 1 lemon)
  • about 180ml soy milk

Start with less milk and add more if you need it. Roll out, punch out, brush with soy milk and cook as above.

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