Tag Archives: Bake

Sport Snack Pretzels

While I do like to be adventurous when it comes to live sport snacks (ever tried a pickle egg?) there is some real snack fatigue going on. Unless some idiot decides to bring along some fresh fruit, you’re usually in for a safe ride of crisps, peanuts or the recently popular wasabi peas.

England were hardly good football material this year, so perhaps my enthusiasm for live sport snacks waned simultaneously with their goal scoring abilities. My predicament is that this is the year of sport in England, so I’ve got mountains of junk food to consume. Unless of course I can somehow find a better alternative.

Look I won’t lie to you, this wasn’t as simple as I thought it would be. First there’s the dough, then the incredibly complicated fold, followed by poaching and finally they get baked. So a long process, but one that makes you look super flash on the snack front.

What you’ll need make roughly 28 – 30 small pretzels
440ml warm water
3 tablespoons of castor sugar
1 packet of active dry yeast
750g all-purpose flour and some for dusting
1 tablespoon of salt
2 teaspoons of olive oil
37g baking soda
1 large egg
Sea salt

Dough
Pour 1 tablespoon of the sugar, the warm water and stir to combine. Sprinkle the yeast on top and leave for ten minutes until it starts to foam.  Then add 150g of the flour (a handful will do) and combine with a wooden spoon. Gradually add the rest of the flour, a handful at a time until the dough feels a little stretchy. If wet and sticky, just add a little bit more flour. Then knead for about a minute. Pour the oil into a large bowl, coat and pop in the dough mix. Lay a tea towel over the top and leave in a warm spot for an hour or so.

Take the dough out, give it a little punch in the middle to remove the air and knead a couple of times. Flatten it out and cut into 28 pieces. As even as you can, but don’t worry if they’re not perfect.

Folding
This was complicated. I mean really complicated. Plus if you’re not careful, they end up looking like a little salty poop and that’s never a good feature for a snack. Roll each piece into a 30cm strip before you fold. I laid out a ruler in advance and kept rolling to that length. For some reason it seemed impossible to roll on a floured surface. Try it on a clean worktop if you’re struggling.

To fold you need to adopt the lasso approach which just seemed impossible. An over eager employee from Auntie Annie shows you how, but I couldn’t muster it. So I ended up with the flip, twist and hope for the best approach. If you can do it better, please share and gloat because you’ll deserve the credit. Once you’ve mastered the technique, leave them for 15 minutes on a grease proof papered tray to rise a little.

Poach
Fill a large pan with water and bring to the boil. Add the baking powder and stand back till it settles, then add the remaining sugar. Gently drop three at a time into the water and poach for around 30 seconds on each side. Drain, then transfer back onto the grease proof papered tray. I managed to only do eight at a time on a tray

Bake
Beat the egg and brush each of the pretzels with the glaze. Sprinkle the salt on top and pop into a hot 230 degree over (gas mark 8) until golden brown. It’s amazing how good they look and I was proud as punch when they came out.


The Dip
Now any good sporting snack needs a good dip to dunk it in. I tried to get flash with a red pepper chilli dip, but it was a little too fresh. Mustard is the most traditional, but what’s mustard without a bit of salt beef. The best I found was cream cheese with heaps of ground black pepper.

Krantz Cake with Salted Almonds

It has been way too long since I baked a loaf of anything. Making the ever-so-popular mini pretzels was fun. The double egg glazed burger buns? Yep they were a laugh, but I think making the sourdough starter sort of ruined the joy of baking for me. It was too much hard work, with little reward and I needed something to lure me back to my giant jar of flour.

Enter Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest recipe book, jam packed full of inspirational ideas, that found its way into my birthday wishlist. Now here was something to kick-start me into baking again, especially the take on a classic krantz cake. Granted it’s a lot of work, but the reward…well my key recipe tasters (Anna and some mate’s down the road) said it was well worth it. A couple of small tweaks to his classic recipe and I was bitten again by the baking bug.

Twisted Almond Loaf

Krantz Cake with Salted Almonds (makes two loaves)
530g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
100g caster sugar
2tsp dried fast-action yeast
grated zest of one lime
3 large free-range eggs
120ml water
1/3 tsp salt
150g unsalted butter, cut into 2cm cubes, at room temperature
sunflower oil, for greasing

To  make the dough combine the flour, sugar, yeast, lime zest and salt into a large mixing bowl. I don’t have a fancy food mixer, so I attempted it by hand. Add the eggs and water, then mix until the dough comes together. Then start adding the butter, just a little bit at a time, until it melts into the dough. Keep kneading until it becomes elastic, smooth and a little bit shiny. You’ll need the extra flour to keep dusting it so it doesn’t stick. Once done, place in a large pre-greased bowl, cover and leave in the fridge overnight to proof.

Chopped Almonds

Chocolate Almond Filling
50g icing sugar
30g cocoa powder
130g dark chocolate
120g unsalted butter
100g almonds, with their skins on
2 tbsp caster sugar

Chocolate Spread

Lightly toast the almonds in a pan, then roughly chop and set aside. Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over bowling water until combined. Then mix the chocolate together with the icing sugar and cocoa powder to make a spreadable paste.

Dough

Grease two baking tins with sunflower oil and line the bottom with grease proof paper. Remove the dough from the fridge and divide in half. Keep the remaining half in the fridge. Roll the dough on a floured surface into a large rectangle. Then with a palate knife spread half the chocolate mixture over the dough rectangle, leaving roughly a 2cm border. Sprinkle half the toasted almonds and half the caster sugar on top of the chocolate mixture.

Spread with crushed almonds

Roulade

Then brush a little water around the 2cm border so it sticks. Using both your hands roll it like a roulade and gently stick the wet edge so it looks like a giant burrito.

Trimmed Edges Lengthways Trim Chocolate Twist

Trim 2cm off each end with a large serrated knife. Now take the same knife and cut lengthways down the middle, dividing the log into two pieces.  You should have layers of dough and chocolate mix showing. Gently press together and then plait the two pieces together. Once you get to the end, press the two pieces together and place the whole thing into your pre-greased loaf tin to proof. Repeat the process with the remaining ingredients. Leave both loaves to proof under a wet tea towel for around 90 minutes.

Chocolate Almond Plate Proofing Loaf

The Sticky Syrup Finish
260g caster sugar
160ml water

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 or 190ºC. Remove the wet tea towel and place the loaves on the middle shelf of your oven for 30 minutes. While the loaves are cooking, boil the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves. Set the syrup aside and leave to cool.  As soon as your loaves are done, brush all the syrup across both of them. The recipe calls to use all of the syrup, so it might seem like a lot, but don’t worry the breads soaks it all up. Leave until warm, then remove from the tins and leave to cool before eating…I’ve certainly got the baking bug back.

Aubergine & Feta Flatbread

I have a long history of spectacular bread making failures. There was the one where I was inspired to make my own sourdough starter, by the cool kids at E5 Bakehouse, only to have it explode all over my kitchen. Then the was the time I first used spelt, which looked amazing, but required hacksaw to cut a slice. But this hasn’t stopped me from trying again, and I’m happy about that, because it lead me to being a bit more comfortable in baking. Well sort of.

The one thing I lack in abundance in the kitchen is patience. If I have to rest something for 60 minutes, I’m more likely to poke it with a fork at 40 minutes. A ‘do not stir’ instruction certainly means I’ll be giving it a stir. You get the idea. It’s also April and that means it’s spring. So I fancied making something that tasted a little bit fresher than the stodgy winter food I’ve been consuming of late. Plus a recipe that allows me to poke, prod and not have to worry about doing too much, or too little.

Flatbread Dough

Burnt Aubergine & Feta Flatbread (makes 6)
For the dough;
250g strong, white flour
5g instant yeast
5g flaked salt
15g butter
150ml tepid water

For the filling;
1 medium sized aubergine
olive oil
75g Greek Feta
Sprigs of thyme (optional)

Burnt Aubergine

Take a mixing bowl and add the salt, flour and the dried yeast. Then add the butter and the water.  Mix with your hands to bring the mixture together. Gradually add the remaining water until all the flour is mixed in. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes. When the dough feels smooth and silky, place it back in the mixing bowl, cover it with a warm tea towel and leave it in a warm place to double in size while you get on with the filling.

Cut the aubergine length ways in half. Slash a criss-cross of cuts into the flesh, reaching almost down to the skin. Place skin side down in a baking tray. Brush over a little olive oil then bake at 200°C for 25 minutes or until completely soft. Remove from the oven and scrape the flesh out into a mixing bowl. Crumble in the feta and stir in the chopped thyme leaves. Season to taste.

Stuffed Flatbread Feta

Pinched Flatbread

Tip the dough on to a floured surface, fold repeatedly until all the air is knocked out of it, then tear it into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Make an small hollow in the middle of each ball of dough and put a heaped teaspoon of the aubergine mixture into the hollow. Pinch the dough over to seal. Do the same process again with the remaining 6 dough balls

Lightly flour your work surface and flatten a dough ball with a rolling pin into a disc about 16cm in diameter. Place the flatbreads onto a baking sheet in a warm place for 10 – 15 minutes. Now I know what you’re thinking “Hey, you said no waiting!”. Well it’s technically not waiting. You’ll need to look for your heavy-based frying pan, rub it very lightly with a little olive oil and bring up to a medium heat. That takes 15 minutes right!?

Flatbreads Many

Place two or three flatbreads into the pan or straight onto a BBQ at a time and cook them for 3-4 minutes. Once they have started to brown, turn them over and cook the other side. Eat immediately.

Breakfast Muffins

On Monday I went foraging. Well, when I say foraging, what I really mean is I went poking around the health food shop. If you been here before you’ll know this isn’t my normal hunting ground. I’m more at home around the glazed treats in our local patisserie or the aged meat section of the butcher. Not that my butcher (Hi Pete!) has a special section for old bits of meat, but you get the idea….anyway, back to the story.

So the reason I was in a health shop is because I’ve been running a bucket load lately. Which is great right? Well yes, but I’ve never been more hungry in all my life. I mean really hungry. Sadly this hunger monster isn’t brilliant at waiting around until lunch time, which means I’m eating rubbish just to keep the monster at bay. Don’t get me wrong, I have a hearty breakfast, but it’s the period between breakfast and lunch that I’m more likely to tuck into a bag of whatever’s in the vending machine. It’s got so bad I keep all my change so I can go to the vending machine. Skips are currently my top choice. Something needed to change. I needed some slow burning grains that would keep this hunger monster at bay.

Mashed Banana

Goji Berry & Pecan Mix

So here I am, walking around the health store, trying not to make eye contact with the lady who clearly has dry skin issues. Why don’t people in health stores look like supermodels, I think before stumbling onto bran and some Nu3 goji berries. Bran is good right? Sure it’s boring, but it’s a good slow burner to keep me from binge eating. Then there’s goji berries. They’re supposed to be a superfood, but they look dry and chewy. I thought to bake them into a something so they plump up again and it worked out pretty well. So here it is, my hunger monster ‘Power Muffin’ recipe

Dry Mix

Breakfast Muffins (makes 10)
2 eggs
90ml sunflower oil
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 ripe banana, mashed
3 tablespoons golden syrup
3 tablespoons apple sauce
4 tablespoons bran/ oat mix
200g wholemeal flour
6 tablespoons demerara sugar
1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
handful of chopped pecans and Nu3 goji berries

Muffin Batter

Preheat your oven to 180° and line your baking tray with folded baking paper. Whisk your eggs in a large bowl, then slowly beat in the apple sauce, mashed banana, vanilla paste and golden syrup.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, sugar, bicarbonate soda, baking powder, bran mix and cinnamon. Then tip that into your wet mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the pecans and goji berries. Sprinkle some extra bran on top, but avoid sprinkling goji berries as they’ll just burn. Better to have them in the mix where they can soak and become more raisin like. Then spoon out your mixture into the paper muffin cases and bake for 30 minutes.

Muffin Mix