A weekend bake off.
This weekend I spent some time in the kitchen experimenting with some bread & jam recipes. I find it pretty relaxing to be in the kitchen and baking bread has been something i've been doing for a while now. Anything from Pizza doughs, Ciabatta's, to Rye's, Brioche, Focaccia's and Sourdoughs... There are always recipes and experiments that stick with me as firm favourites and of course more than a few failures and lessons learnt about how not to do things but that's all the fun of learning new skills. That and the taste testing of course...
I've been baking breads using hand kneading methods and just a regular kitchen oven for a while, but last Christmas I received a bread maker - a Panasonic SD-ZB2502 for those that are interested. Part of me didn't like the idea of using something to mix, knead, prove and even cook the bread so automatically without much involvement from me. Part of the mixing and kneading process is learning how the bread should feel and how it's texture develops through the whole process, but as I experimented and ran through the recipes over the months and played with the features the bread machine had, I became more and more impressed.
"Don't get me wrong, a bread machine with all its bells & whistles is no substitute for mixing and hand shaping bread in a more traditional manner..."
The basic recipes that come with the bread machine were just that, pretty basic. I found my myself unable to resist the urge to tinker and adjust them until I had results that were tastier, with better texture and were all in all improved over their 'off the shelf' recipes. No matter how much I adjusted some recipes however the results from the machine just simply didn't match up to the versions I had mixed, kneaded and shaped myself. But I think this is just one of those times when you need to spend more time with certain recipes than I have done so far. When I have persevered the results have been really good, so I must stick with a couple of troublesome recipes and see how I can get them to improve. I found that the machine prepares, mixes and proves the dough amazing well, the Ciabatta I made was pretty impressive and so easy to use the dough straight from the machine with very little effort. If you want a different shape, bread rolls, pizza or Focaccia for example then of course you need to intervene and shape the dough following the kneading process. Now, don't get me wrong, a bread machine with all its bells & whistles is no substitute for mixing and hand shaping bread in a more traditional manner, with a sourdough starter and a natural leaven for example, but what it does give you however is flexibility.
For example the ability to set a timer up to 13 hours in advance is something that I absolutely love when I don't have the time to bake fresh bread by hand. Being able to wake up to the smell of freshly baked bread in the morning without needing to raise a finger is pretty amazing. But that's not all this little machine can do... It actually has a Jam making feature too. So this weekend I gave that a test run, again adjusting the recipe a little beyond what the Panasonic recipe guide had suggested. This time my adjustments worked perfectly (not to say the original recipe wouldn't have worked) but as this one with my tweaks worked so well I won't bother with theirs!
Multi-Grain Honey Oat Bread
I keep coming back to this recipe, using different flours, different multi-grains, mixtures of Rye flour, Wholemeal malted grains etc and each time it seems to deliver a great tasting loaf. I'll put the basic recipe below if anyone out there has a Panasonic Bread machine and wants to give it a try... You can obviously do this all by hand too, you'll just have to actually mix, knead, prove and bake the dough yourself with various times for proving etc.
500g Allison's Country Bread Grain Flour
4 Tablespoons Rolled Oats
1 1/4 Teaspoons Salt
2 Tablespoons Honey
25g Salted Butter
1 Teaspoon Yeast
Add all to the bread pan (apart from the Oats and yeast - they'll need to go into the yeast dispenser and seed/fruit tray). You'll need to use menu no. 6 and let it work it's wonders.
I've found this loaf may be a little sweet at times, so I adjust the honey from 2 to 1 Tablespoons depending on personal taste & what you intend to eat with it. It works very well with some smoked ham, swiss cheese and a little caramelised onion and Balsamic chutney.
So as this was the very first Jam recipe I've made in the bread machine I had no idea how this would turn out. I've previously made a Pear & Cinnamon jam just on the cooker top and that worked well but the idea of leaving this gadget to work its jam making wonders without any supervision sounded too good to not give it a go. I think i'll try the next batch of the Pear & Cinnamon jam with this next time too.
The recipe was almost too easy looking for my liking, but I (almost) stuck to it 100%. The only addition I made to the ingredients was a little lemon juice to try and balance the sweetness out a little and also to help bind it all together as there is no Pectin involved with this recipe. Whether this addition made any difference over the usual recipe I don't know but I was really pleased with the balanced end result.
440g Granulated Sugar
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
This will make around 3 - 4 jam jars worth... which seemed like plenty but not to worry my mum & sister soon stepped in to take a couple off my hands...
This used menu no. 26 on the Bread machine and took just under 2 hrs.
This was a little bit of a departure from the usual posts of travel & photography that I have posted and planned to but I'll be adding more from the 'Eastwood kitchen' again soon... Maybe another bread or pulled pork recipe next... If I can resist eating it long enough to take some photos that is...