Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Lazy bread

Oh we do get through a lot of bread in this flat don't we?!

As I somehow managed to cobble N's lunch together with the last scraps of the seeded loaf (salvaging one measly slice to make sure he had at least something for breakfast) I knew I was in trouble. In about three and a half hours I was going to be wanting lunch, and lunch would mean b
read, and oh look, there wasn't any.

Okay, I know that actually bread doesn't take that long to make, especially if I only made a plain loaf that required the least resting and proving. Thing is, I was feeling dopey and lazy this morning and, after the mutant loaf episode, thought that messing around with any dough might be a mistake - especially as I had been planning on making rosemary and sea salt focaccia rolls as my next bread experiment.

Fortunately the combinations of my trusty recipe scrap book and miraculously working memory prevailed. I would make nut and fruit soda bread! *insert 9am sigh of relief here*

Back in the days when we were actually venturing out of the flat on a weekend morning for the papers I had been a regular cutter-outer of the Guardian or Observer recipes if they took my fancy.

One week Dan Lepard had included a recipe for walnut and honey soda bread in his "learn how to bake" column. Knowing that Lepard is very highly regarded in the bread world (yes, his book is on my wish list!) and knowing our joint appreciation of both bread and honey I dutifully cut it out. Although it was a few weeks before I tried it, once I had it became a weekend breakfast regular. Deliciously moist, not too sweet (once I cut down the honey slightly), easily adaptable (hehe, you know me, I just can't resist!) and quick, so quick - it takes less than ten minutes to mix then you can just bung it in the oven immediately for 40 mins, and poof! bread!

I have since tried the recipe with all sorts of things in place of the walnuts, either wholly or in part. Our favourites have been walnut and apricot, and walnut and cranberry with a hint of spice.

Today, lacking walnuts completely I turned to our stockpile of winter unshelled nuts and dutifully shelled the hazelnuts. I still didn't have quite enough so I added dried cranberries to make up the weight. I also dramatically reduced the honey as I wanted a more lunchy loaf. The result was:

Very tasty indeed. It's more like a traditional soda bread when made without the walnut meal and with less honey as the baking powder really comes through, however it is also less dense and sticky, which was exactly what I'd hoped. I was really pleased, not only with the result, but with the fact that I remembered the ole favourite to dig out in times of need. Oh, how I shall never neglect you this long again.

I will still aim to make the focaccia rolls at some point, but for now the soda bread shall reign in the North London Kitchen.

I guess since I've raved about it so much you'll want the recipe. I am posting here the one I actually used, and will post the original (or something more like it - it's bound to have some additions and adaptations!) next time I make it.

Hazelnut and cranberry soda bread (adapted from Dan Lepard's walnut and honey soda bread recipe)

600g wholemeal flour
4tsp baking powder
50g hazelnuts (bashed a bit in the pestle and morter)
50g dried cranberries
50g honey (the clear runny sort)
300g water (plus I needed a bit more when I actually mixed the dough as it was rather dry)

Preheat oven to 200 C

In a large mixing bowl combine together all the dry ingredients. In another microwavable bowl (or in a pan on the stove) mix together the water and honey and warm slightly so they combine together. Then add the water/honey liquid to the dry ingredients and mix together well until it forms a slightly sticky dough. Turn out onto a floured work surface and shape into a slightly domed ball. Place on a baking tray and whack in the oven for 40 mins. It should be crusty and risen once this time is up (I've never needed more or less time remarkably). Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. I ate mine for lunch while it was still every so slightly warm. Delicious!

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