“Ciabatta” from “Crumb”

It was Mother’s Day in the U.K. yesterday, so I thought what better way to celebrate My Special Day than to have one of my favourite meals (fondue*) that would showcase one of Tim’s best skills (making bread).

So I didn’t actually make this recipe, though I admired Tim’s handiwork when it was all done. I asked him how it went. He said ciabatta can be tricky, because the dough is incredibly wet and difficult to form. Once he mentioned it, I remembered a “Great British Bake Off” episode– it might have even been Ruby’s year– where they all struggled with the ciabatta task from “Scary Bread Guy” (what we called Paul Hollywood in Season 1).

Tim didn’t need to worry. It was delicious. We HOOVERED this bread up. The boys couldn’t Cget enough of it. We now have a second loaf, which we will enjoy just as much tonight.

This is another winner from Ruby Tandoh.

Spoiler Alert: The fondue uses a recipe from next month’s cookbook. Watch this space!

If you’d like to try this yourself, Google Books has indexed “Crumb.” Click through this paragraph to see for yourself. 

“Ciabatta” from “Crumb”

“Rye Bread” from “Crumb”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, loyal readers! (Top Tip: Remember to brush your teeth if you’re drinking any green beer today.)

Last Sunday, with St Patrick’s Day just around the corner, we thought what better way to celebrate than with some corned beef. Of course, what’s better alongside corned beef than rye bread? Now we like a seeded rye or dark pumpernickel more than most but find the options on offer lacking in our part of London (this is true for most of London). That means making one at home.

For the inexperienced these breads can be scary: The dough is dense and hard to work, so success never seems guaranteed. Ruby’s couldn’t have been easier but had its own uh-oh moment. While working the water/orange juice/treacle into the dry ingredients it seemed there wasn’t enough moisture. Avoid the temptation to add more. Just keep going, keep working the dough, and everything will come out fine.
Although it’s not quite the rye bread that we grew up with on the East Coast of the U.S., it’s still delicious. It’s even better toasted the next day if any lasts that long.
“Rye Bread” from “Crumb”

“Garlic Dough Balls” from “Crumb”

I’m sure the first time I was introduced to garlic dough balls properly was at Pizza Express. They’re known for them. They’re known for them because they are delicious. So when I saw this recipe, I thought I ought to give it a go. If nothing else, I knew the rest of my family would be willing to try them, since they’re fans of dough balls too.

But as much as I like to bake, baking bread always frightens me a bit. Unlike cooking or regular baking, you really have to trust in the science and be exact in your measurings. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

So I approached this recipe with a bit of trepidation, but I shouldn’t have worried. The recipe was easy to follow, no disasters occurred and the dough balls were delicious.

It was a win all around, I’d say. So the next time I want some dough balls, I won’t have to go to Pizza Express to have them.

Google Books have indexed “Crumb”, so if you’d like to give Ruby’s Garlic Dough Balls a try, click through this sentence to see the recipe.

“Garlic Dough Balls” from “Crumb”

“Stuffed Peppers with Sausage, Herbs and Torn Bread” from “Bill’s Italian Food”

Peter: This vegetarian dish greatly benefits from the addition of sausage meat.

Anna: Not a grain of rice in sight! It’s all sausage with a couple of tomatoes and some yummy herbs mixed in. I liked the torn bread that you stick in at the end to soak up all the juices.

Peter: It was surprisingly filling. What’s not to like?

Anna: I appreciated the fact that they were really quick to prepare. I could do them ahead of time and leave you to stick them in the oven while I went for a run. For that reason we’ll be having them again, for sure.

“Stuffed Peppers with Sausage, Herbs and Torn Bread” from “Bill’s Italian Food”

“Black Bread” from “A Change of Appetite”

Sorry. We’re just excited. We love pumpernickel bread and it’s hard to find. Diana Henry calls it, “Black Bread” but it will forever be pumpernickel in our hearts.
We first attempted pumpernickel more than 15 years ago, when we were newlyweds in Chicago. We used a method that the author Bernard Clayton described as `not for the beginner baker.’ It had no white flour, just rye and whole wheat (if memory serves), and the result was a predictable inedible brown brick. So it was with some trepidation that we decided to try again.
This one has plenty of white flour, maybe 75 percent of the total volume, so we had a little more confidence in what we were doing. Nonetheless, this dough is hard to work when kneading by hand. (It will be easier to use the dough hook if you’ve got one for your mixer. In this house, one of us doesn’t mind using the dough hook, the other of us is old school and does it by hand. I’ll leave it you to decide who is who.)  We still weren’t sure it was going to work until it came out of the oven. We were in a rush so it probably needed more time in the second rising, but it still worked.
This method calls for shredded carrots, but we didn’t have any to hand so we made it without. It still worked fine. They might have added a little sweetness to the final product. We also used the E5 Bakehouse trick of baking the bread in our casserole pan, with the lid on. Doing this creates a micro-climate for your bread so the crust gets crusty while the inside bakes evenly. It’s a good trick.
We will definitely be making this again. Pumpernickel for the win.


“Black Bread” from “A Change of Appetite”

“Slow-Roast Pork Belly with Rosemary” and “Caramelised Onion and Rosemary Bread” from “Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALove pork belly? Want to have it for Sunday lunch? Then click through on this sentence to find the recipe reprinted in Red magazine.

Nicholas (10): Pork belly for the win!

Maureen: That’s right. You asked for this specially. Who doesn’t love pork belly, especially when you’re talking about Sunday lunch?

Andrew (14): We all love it, that’s for sure.

Tim: How did this compare to the usual Gennaro Contaldo one that you make?

Maureen: This one you marinate, and then roast for longer at a lower temperature. It also includes instructions for making gravy. I don’t think you need gravy with it.

Andrew: But the gravy is nice on the mashed potatoes.

Maureen: That’s true.

Tim: I think I like this better than our usual one.

Maureen: That’s funny, because I think I like our usual one.

Nicholas: A house divided against itself can not stand! Abraham Lincoln said that.

Maureen: Thanks, Mr. History. Now what about the bread?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Continue reading ““Slow-Roast Pork Belly with Rosemary” and “Caramelised Onion and Rosemary Bread” from “Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen””

“Slow-Roast Pork Belly with Rosemary” and “Caramelised Onion and Rosemary Bread” from “Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen”

“Focaccia” from “Brilliant Bread”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYes, I know this is a repeat post, but this bears repeating:


Kirstin had told me how wonderful it was, so I had to give it a go to see if she was right. She was.

Again, this one does require some planning ahead. One of the perks of working from home, though, is if I decide at 1 p.m. that we should have bread with dinner that night, I still have time to make it happen. However, it’s got to be said I’m not a great one for forward planning, but I’m trying to get better.

As I was already planning ahead, I also took the time to make our favourite forward planning meal: tomato sauce and meatballs from Polpo. Full of Yum.

This bread was very straightforward to make. Now that I abide by the top tip to rise all my breads on the radiator in the back reception room, we are in the bread making business. It wasn’t difficult, I just had a small task to do every hour or so. It was worth the effort.

All in all, we agreed: FULL OF YUM.

If you want to make this– and we both heartily recommend that you– click through this sentence to James Morton’s website, where he has the recipe and a very useful video.


“Focaccia” from “Brilliant Bread”

“Breadsticks” from “Brilliant Bread”

CBAMBreadsticksNicholas (10): Yum! Breadsticks!

Andrew (14): These are great.

Tim: I like these too.

Maureen: You don’t think they’re overdone?

Tim: Not at all. Why?

Maureen: Well, in his infinite wisdom, James did not say how long the breadsticks had to be in the oven. Epic fail, if you ask me. So I checked how long it took the rolls– 10 minutes– and went with that.

Tim: I think they’re perfect.

Maureen: Well that was lucky then.

Nicholas: These are really good with the tomato soup.

Maureen: I was looking for something I could make relatively quickly because I failed to plan ahead. These didn’t take all day, which is why I made them.

Andrew: Will you make them again?

Maureen: I don’t see why not, especially since I now know how long they take in the oven.

“Breadsticks” from “Brilliant Bread”

“Soft or Crusty Rolls” from “Brilliant Bread”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was the first recipe I tried for “Brilliant Bread” and I approached it with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Excitement because I know Kirstin loves this book and thinks it is the Bees Knees, and trepidation in that while I have made bread successfully in the past, it does seem to be one of those things that can go horribly, horribly wrong.

I mixed the ingredients together, put a piece of cling film over them, and then waited for the magic to happen. And waited. And waited. This was the dough that would not rise. By the time our Resident Bread Expert (aka Tim) arrived home, it still hadn’t risen at all. He took one look at the sad bowl on the kitchen counter and immediately diagnosed the problem: Our cold, drafty kitchen in January is no place for a bread dough to rise.

I moved the dough to his usual rising place– on top of the radiator in the back reception room– and then we were in business. There were some minor issues with the yeast not completely dissolving in the dough, so the next time I make this I will probably mix the yeast in with the milk first and then add that together, rather than doing it separately, as outlined in the recipe. But other than that, it worked. Hooray.

I think the potential for disaster comes down to the fact that you need to think about the science behind the process. You can’t just bang things together and hope for the best, which is a system I’ve been known to do for dinner. You have to be slow, methodical and patient. Anyone who knows me well also knows that those are three attributes that I don’t really possess. (Except when I’m running. Then I’m REALLY slow. But I digress.)

In the end, we had the rolls not with dinner, as I had planned, but as Bacon Butties the next day for breakfast. Everyone agreed: Soft Rolls = FTW*!

*For The Win for those of you not down with the lingo

“Soft or Crusty Rolls” from “Brilliant Bread”

“Staple White Sourdough” from “Brilliant Bread” – Part 1

From one extreme to the other, I go from a basic white straight to sourdough. James’s writing is so reassuring and clear that sourdough seems insurmountable. That’s the hope.

I have broken this post into two parts as the process is so lengthy. Call Part 1 The Starter, if you will.

Day 1: This seems quick and easy enough. Put some flour and water in a jar. Choose a ‘starter aid’. Peter has used raisins before so that’s what I go for. My first hurdle is: how many? James doesn’t tell you. One? The whole lot from one of Louis’s Sunmaid snack boxes? I go for 3. I don’t stir the mixture as it doesn’t say to, as opposed to the next stage where it does. Fingers crossed I leave the mixture for the allotted 24 hours.

Day 2: Except I don’t leave it for a full 24 hours. More like 20. I run out of patience. I add more water and flour and give is a ‘vigorous’ stir. There’s a bunch of flour stuck to the bottom of the jar from yesterday. Oops.

Day 3: I have a peek. There are a few tiny bubbles but not much is happening. Peter wafts the jar towards me and asks if it smells like beer. It doesn’t. This stage can take up to 72 hours so I’m not worrying.

Day 4: Oh hello. LOTS of bubbles. Smells a bit beery. I think we’re on.

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“Staple White Sourdough” from “Brilliant Bread” – Part 1