Autumn has arrived in Bristol and I for one am quite please. I do like the long hot summer days but there is something so cosy about a fresh, bright autumn day that I cannot help but enjoy them. It is currently at that blissful stage where you need a jumper on the way to and from work but it is daylight when you wake up and warm enough to eat outdoors in a T-shirt comfortably at lunchtime. Adding to my current happiness is my new job situation which came about quite suddenly a few weeks ago. I have now substituted 3 hrs of daily commute with a 15 minute walk each way.
To celebrate my new lifestyle I am doing a lot more baking and this week I was inspired by the Great British Bake Off technical challenge. This European bread with an unpronounceable name is made with enriched dough and a walnut and cocoa filling looked spectacular when the contestants made it last week and I was desperate to give it a go. It is a Paul Hollywood recipe which means time consuming but delicious. Paul’s recipes always seem to involve more ingredients, more processes and lengthier resting periods. There have been numerous times where I have chose a short-cut version of a recipe rather than following his faff-tacular instructions only to be disappointed. If you follow his method to the letter, the results are almost guaranteed in my experience. This Povitica was another example of just that. Having learnt my lesson from previous failures, I did exactly as ordered by the recipe on the BBC website with the exception that I halved everything (after all, there was only Mr Elbi and myself to eat it).
After making a heavily enriched dough (which took much longer than the recipe suggested to rise), and a nutty, buttery, cocoa-y filling, the dough is stretched as large as possible and the filling spread evenly on top. Then a giant swiss roll is made and snaked into a loaf tin. After another rise and LOOOOOOOOOONG bake, the loaf is read and comes out looking ordinary and golden. The magic of this bake come when you slice into it revealing the pattern created by the swiss roll.
This is an absolutely delicious piece of baking (if I do say so myself). The savoury flavour of the nuts balances out all the sugar in the dough and the filling to give a fantastically moreish product. This did take me about 4.5 hours to make though. Perfect for my new lifestyle / a quiet Sunday at home.
In bread week I was also inspired by the technical challenge – English Muffins. I have tried to make these before a number of times with limited success. Normally, I cook them on the griddle and although burnt on the outside, when I cut them open, they are very dense and doughy and have to be toasted. I was a bit apprehensive about this bake but I was determined to give Paul’s recipe a go.
The dough is incredibly wet. Having watched the episode and seen the contestants struggle with this, I was not unprepared for this. Even still, it felt very wrong and after 10 minutes I did add a little bit of extra flour to bring it together. It really did feel like it had gone wrong and I hand kneaded for 20-25 minutes before the dough came together. At this stage I was worried that this might mean it had been overworked but I had to keep going. The dough proved slowly but effectively and I shaped it by hand instead of using a cutter (I didn’t want to waste any dough and I quite like the rustic uneven look of the batch.
The second rise was the most eventful part of the bake. During this episode of the bake off one of the contestants (Howard) is talking to Sue and she leans on his muffins leaving a mould of her elbow on his lovingly crafted muffins. As I covered mine with a tea towel, I was reminded of this moment and smirked to myself. Then I left the kitchen. When I returned, my lovely boyfriend had cleared the kitchen and stacked the washing up ready to get on with it. Unfortunately the bottom of the stack was my muffins. That’s what you get for being amused by another’s misfortune. Luckily there was nothing to heavy in the washing up and some gentle prodding revitalised my muffins.
Part of me is loath to say it but that Paul Hollywood know what he’s doing. Look at those beauties. Brown tops and bottoms with white round the side. Those muffins were fluffy and rich and so much better than shop-bought. We ate them with cream cheese and smoked salmon and I can now confidently say that I CAN make muffins. I think I added too much extra flour when I made muffins previously.
The second episode of the Great British Bake Off was all about bread. The bakers faced three challenges that all relied on well-behaved yeast and ovens to prevent them falling foul of Paul Hollywood’s thumb. All of the contestants seemingly handled the prospect of Paul compressing their carefully baked loaves back into dough with ease and the creativity on show was truly impressive.
In the signature challenge, the bakers had to make 48 consistent breadsticks. I absolutely loved the giant matchbox that Frances had made to house hers. In fact, after this and the sandwich shaped sandwich cake she made in week 1, I am eagerly looking forward to what she will come up in future episodes. I tried my hand at this first challenge this weekend and made a batch of 20 cheddar cheese and black pepper breadsticks. I am very proud of these even though they are uneven and wonky. I never really considered making breadsticks but there was something very satisfying about this bake.
I wasn’t sure of the best way to shape the breadsticks and ended up rolling the dough between my hands a la play dough spaghetti. This gave an uneven breadstick with lumps and bumps that would have made Paul Hollywood feel faint. However, they had a very satisfying snap and were quite morish. I would make these again but would use more cheese to give a stronger cheese flavour. I also have an idea for a sweet breadstick……..Watch this space!
1 teaspoon of fast action dried yeast was combined with 2 teaspoons of sugar in 3 tablespoons of lukewarm water and left until frothy. This was then combine with 225 g strong white bread flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 150 ml of warm water. This was mixed together and then 20 g of finely grated mature cheddar and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated black pepper were added prior to kneading for 5 minutes. The dough was left to rise for 30 min and then shaped. The shaped breadsticks were left to prove for 30 min and then baked at 150 degC for 45 min.