Monday, January 7, 2013

Bread making experiments

I have started to experiment with my new hobby of bread making. since I have several bags of bread mixes, which I mistakenly thought was bread flour, and a large bag of Spelt flour that isn't bread flour, I decided to mix them together and tone down the salt in the bread mix, and make the spelt flour more bread friendly (less crumbly when used in bread). the pack of bread mix states add 300ml of water, which I did, but I also decided to add 50ml of olive oil, to compensate for the dryness of non bread flour. I used 300g bread mix and 200g spelt flour, leaving in the bread machine on setting one (general) for 3 hours and  30 minutes. the result was a decent bread, much to my surprise.
So tonight I have used the remaining 200g of bread flour mix, 200g or spelt flour and 100 g of string wholemeal flour, thus finishing of the contents of 3 packets of flour in my cupboard! No olive oil left, so I used 50ml of sunflower oil, and the 300ml water, setting the bread machine on setting 1, as usual. Let's see what the resulting loaf tastes like!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Bread making: Mistakes that I've learned from so far!

Being new to bread making, I'm learning as I go along. So I decided to pass along the things I've learned by making mistakes, to save anyone else doing the same :)

Firstly, not all flour is suitable for bread making. I tried using wholemeal flour, and spelt flour, but the bread turned out very dry, despite using the same recipe as I had previously. It must have something to do with the flour. So I have learned that bread flour works much better. secondly, Bread Mixes, are not the same as Bread Flour. A Bread Mix already has all the ingredients in it, and you just add water. Whereas Bread Flour (even with seeds added), has to have the other ingredients such as margarine, salt, sugar, yeast, water, added, to make the bread. The end result from a Bread Mix can be fine, but it doesn't allow you to adjust any of the ingredients, such as less salt and sugar, as I have discovered that most recipes add too much for our taste, so it can be adjusted.
So there we have the two biggest mistakes I've made in bread making so far, I'll post more as I make them.............

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Easy, quick, vegan mini cupcakes

It's been a while since  I made cupcakes, and had volunteered to make them for a kiddies Christmas party. As most of the children very toddlers, I decided mini cupcakes would be the best option, as they are sweet little bites, that won't get too messy, and the 'grown-ups' can just pop them in their mouth (if they want to!).
I used a recipe from a leaflet that I had picked up from a Viva Roadshow Fair, modifying the ingredients slightly.
Recipe for the cakes:
180g plain flour
half tsp bicarbonate soda
half tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
60ml sunflower oil
200ml sweetened soya milk
150g unrefined granulated sugar
1tsp vanilla essence
Juice of one whole lemon
Zest finely grated from one whole lemon.

I used a handheld whisk for the mixing.
Preheat the oven on a low heat (gas mark 3-4/ around 180C).
Set out a mini cupcake tray, and place your mini cupcake liners in the tray. The above recipe makes about 48 mini cupcakes, so if you only want a small amount, half the recipe, or make larger cakes, as each cupcake paper only takes about a teaspoon of the mixture (these are mini after all!).
Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl.
In a seperate bowl whisk together the oil, milk, lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar for about a minute, until the liquid mix becomes frothy.
Add the liquid mix to the dry ingredients, bit by bit until it's all in the one bowl, and mixed together to make a loose mix, that will plop into the cupcake liners easily.
Fill each cupcake liner about 3/4 full, allowing space for them to rise. I used a dessert spoon and a teaspoon for this.
Put in the middle shelf of the over, and allow to bake for about 10-15 mins, using a wooden skewer to test if the mixture is baked, by sticking the skewer into the centre of a cupcake, and checking if it comes out clean - if it does, they're baked, if it comes out sticky, they need a bit more time. They will look quite pale, but they are baked if the skewer comes out clean.
Let them cool on a wire rack, while you prepare the topping.

Recipe for the topping:
62g vegan margarine
62g vegetable shortening, such as Trex
500g icing sugar (sifted)
2 tsp vanilla essence
30ml sweetened soya milk

As with the cake ingredients, half the mixture to make a smaller amount.
Sift the sugar into a mixing bowl, add the other ingredients, and use a handheld mixer, to mix the ingredients into a fluffy cake topping. Make sure the cakes are cool. Use an icing syringe to decorate the cakes with the topping.

Here is a photo of the cupcakes, which were enjoyed by the children and adults alike!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Making bread with a bread machine

 Firstly I apologise for the quality of photos. I'm not a very good photographer, my camera is a bit dated, and I don't have much patience when taking photos, let alone think about light, centering or whatever one is supposed to do to create decent photos.
I have a bread making machine, which is a few years old, and rarely used. Maybe it's the new year bringing enthusiasm for better quality foods (therefore life!)? but I decided to start making bread. I have never hand made bread, and I have lost the instructions that came with the machine, which is a Delta Bread Maker  from Aldi (good price). I have a bread making book, which is fabulous to look at as it has wonderful photos of delicious looking bread, but alas, a lot of the ingredients are not in my cupboard. The book is 'The complete book of Bread and Bread Machines'  
by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter.
So looking through some of the basic recipes and seeing what I had in stock, I gathered the ingredients to make my bread.
I had a packet of Wholegrain Seeded Bread Flour (lucky!), that was just out of date and needed to be used, so that was handy!

Recipe based on my bread:
500g of wholegrain seeded bread flour.
2tsp salt
2tsp unrefined cane sugar
1.5 tsp dried yeast - I have no idea how to use fresh yeast, and have always used dried yeast.
25g vegan margarine - I used Sainsbury's own brand, again , for convenience - it was in the fridge!
350ml water.
Keep the ingredients separate, as yeast does some weird things once activated.

The following instructions are for my bread machine, I believe different machines can react in different ways, so as most recipes say- check you machine.

First add the water to the machine.
Then the flour, making sure the water is covered. I based my bread on a medium size loaf.
The in separate corners put the sugar, the salt and the margarine. make a small dent in the  centre of the flour, not very deep, as the water is not to come through, and add the yeast.
Set the machine for a medium loaf, a medium crust. My machine takes 3.5 hours. Press the start switch a leave it to magically make bread :)

3.5 hours later, and a lot of whirling noises, the machine will bleep and the bread is done.
Getting the machine out of the pan is a trick and a half! The bread does not come out easily. The tin/pan is HOT! It needed a bit a tapping and banging the tin upside down, before the bread came out. Then the job of removing the blades that kneaded the mixture, which had now set in the bread. The bread machine comes with a handy little tool that hooks the blades and can be gently pulled out, leaving a hole and a tear in the bottom half of the bread, but I suppose that's normal.
I couldn't wait for it to cool down completely, so cut a slice of fresh bread. It was delicious. the break flour was tasty, the seeds could be tasted through the bread, and the consistency was quite dense, which I like, and the bread moist enough to be able to cut slices (it did not crumble- is what I'm trying to say). For our taste, it was too salty, but I understand that the salt restricted the dough from rising too much as it acts on the yeast. We tend to have a low salt diet, through choice, so it may not be too salty for anyone else.
The next day I decided to make another loaf, but this time use half the amount of salt and sugar (i.e. 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar). the result was a fluffier bread, which was less salty, but still tasty. Maybe I'll try 1.5 tsp of salt and sugar next to get something in-between. It's certainly nice to have freshly baked, homemade bread, and I definitely want to make bread regularly, and give up buying mass produced pappy bread. I find this bread to be much more satisfying and filling, and much tastier. Here's a photo of the two loaves next to each other which kinda shows the difference in texture/size (sort of!).
I have since found out that I can download an instruction leaflet from Aldi, the link being here.