Wednesday, 25 July 2012

No fun without a bun - burgers and hot dogs

Oh dear, so much for all the things I had hoped keeping this blog might do for me...six months without an update?
OK, so perhaps I need to work on my punctuality if I want to actually keep any readers of this happy, and perhaps getting into some sort of rhythm would help with that...but we'll see.

Readers coming over from TSR will no doubt have heard me complain endlessly about how I've tried to make burger buns again and again, and every time they had some sort of problem with them. The very first time I attempted a burger bun recipe was when I was in uni. Around seven years and many, many attempts later (a lot of which were more like bricks than buns), I have finally managed to get something that tastes sublime and that I can (reliably) make successfully. Hurray for persistence! Not only that, but they make damn good hot dog rolls as well...and the recipe is so simple, as well.

Right, well, I suppose I'll stop waffling and get on with providing you with the recipe, shall I?

  • 170g strong white flour
  • 110ml milk (at room temperature)
  • 1 tsp yeast (fast-action)
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 25g butter (softened)

Recipe (makes four buns)
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk and butter. Mix the ingredients until they form a ball of dough and knead for 5-10 minutes.
Place in a bowl, cover and leave in a warm, dry place for the yeast to do its work for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size.
Knock back the dough and divide into four equal pieces. You may have noticed that 170:110 is a little on the wet side (a dough with a nice workable consistency that can keep its shape when moulded freeform will be around 100:60 for the ratio of flour to liquid, and this one has slightly more liquid in it, at around 100:65). The dough shouldn't be too wet that this is an issue, but partly to be on the safe side and avoid the dough expanding outwards too much and the resulting baked item being as flat as a pancake, and partly because it gives consistently-sized results, I grease a square 20cm sandwich tin with a liberal coating of olive oil and use it as a container from here on. For burger buns I take each chunk of dough, roll it in my hands to form a ball and flatten the ball before placing it in one corner of the sandwich tin. For hot dog buns instead of flattening the ball it'll be rolled out into a long sausage shape - you may find it easier to do this in two steps by rolling them all out into rough sausage shapes first and leaving them to rest (and allowing the gluten to relax) for a minute while you do the same with the rest before rolling them further so they're about 18-19cm long and just fit lengthways into the sandwich tin (they may shrink back a little bit if the gluten won't cooperate, but it's not a big deal). Place the flattened balls or long sausages into the sandwich tin, evenly spaced out. Don't worry if they are or aren't touching each other or the sides of the tin, because they will expand outwards as well as rising upwards.
Very loosely cover the sandwich tin with clingfilm and leave in a warm place to rise again. The total rising time should be around 60-90 minutes, and I just check on it every 15-30 minutes to see how it's going; when the dough has risen enough that it's starting to touch the clingfilm, I take the clingfilm off and lightly drape it over again. The clingfilm is there to stop the dough from drying out, but if it's too tight around the edges of the sandwich tin then it'll prevent the dough from rising up and you'll end up with a single big blob of dough rather than four individual pieces that can be torn apart once baked.
With 15 minutes of the rising left, pre-heat the oven to around 180-190°C / 350-375°F / gas mark 4-5. Once the rising time has elapsed, put the sandwich tin in the oven (I place it on a baking tray just to make it easier to take in/out) and bake the buns for around 25 minutes. Once baked, they should be really nicely golden brown on top and with the coating of oil in the tin they should pop out of there without any difficulty. Place on a wire rack to cool. Optionally at this point, you can melt some butter and use a pastry brush to glaze the buns, which will give them a glossier finish, but I don't believe it to be essential. In the above pictures you can judge for yourself by comparing the burger buns with the glaze to the hot dog buns without.

To all my readers, I hope you enjoy summer just that little bit more by eating burgers and hot dogs with your own homemade buns, and hopefully I won't abandon this blog for another six months again. Byebye for now.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Plaited Poppy Seed Loaf

For Christmas, my parents bought me a copy of The Big Book of Baking, and needless to say it didn't take long for me to get my teeth stuck into it. The plaited poppy seed loaf recipe which I used here was what I decided would be the first thing I baked in 2012, and I was very happy with the results. Apparently my mum liked it as well. She had a slice one night, and then had some more the following day for her lunch. My plaiting could have been neater, as well. I normally don't care tremendously about the looks as long as the final thing tastes really nice, but this one I know could have looked much nicer if I'd just taken about ten more seconds when I did the plait. A little more info on what the recipe said (which I did) and what I probably should have done are provided in the recipe below.

  • 225g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp skimmed milk powder
  • 11/2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp easy-blend dried yeast
  • 175ml lukewarm water
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing
  • 5 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds
The exact reason for the milk powder and water remains something of a mystery to me. Alternatively, just use 175ml of milk (or water on its own, which I think I may have done because I forgot about milk until after I'd already started mixing the ingredients together), and I also didn't use anything for topping the loaf but the ingredients have been included should you wish to follow the recipe as intended.

Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Add milk powder (if using), sugar and yeast and mix. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the water (or milk) and oil. Stir until the mix starts to come together then add the poppy seeds. Knead the dough until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the dough comes away from the bowl.
Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough on that for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Brush a bowl with oil. Shape the dough into a ball, place it in the oiled bowl and cover. Leave to prove for around 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Brush a baking tray with oil. Flour a work surface again and turn out the dough onto that. Knock back the dough and knead briefly for 1-2 minutes. Divide the dough into three equal pieces and roll each piece into a long sausage or rope that's about 30cm long.
The book recommends that you take the three lengths of dough, pinch them together at one end and then plait it, and tuck the ends underneath the loaf to tidy it up. However, when I did this I ended up with the end where the dough was pinched together didn't look as good as the rest of the dough (see how the right end in the top image is just a single big mass rather than being plaited? This is the reason why). I would instead suggest putting the three lengths together, starting at the centre of the dough and plaiting from the centre to one end, then turning the loaf around and going from the centre to the other end, and tucking the ends underneath, which I think should make the loaf's plait more aesthetically pleasing.
Place the loaf on the oiled baking tray and cover. Leave to prove for a second time, this time for around 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / gas mark 6. To make the topping, beat together everything except the poppy seeds. Brush the resulting egg mixture over the bread, then sprinkle the poppy seeds over the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. Leave on a wire rack to cool.

A New Year and New Beginnings

I was tempted to title this first post "Food Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" (or Blog Wars), but I reckoned that film references in the titles of both the blog and its first post would be a bit too cheesy. Not that I'm under any illusions - I imagine that quite a few blog posts will reference films, TV shows and computer games - but it's probably best to ease those in slowly, rather than getting them in at every opportunity.

Anyway, hello. My name's Holly and I'm 25 years old. I'm a supermoderator over on student website The Student Room (TSR) and I have a slight obsession with baking. As such, this blog will have a lot of bready recipes in it and my clothes will have a lot of flour over them, but it's not entirely dedicated to loaves, rolls and the odd cake here and there. I've tended to be rather quiet about my eating habits, but I have a very limited diet and what little I do eat is both a bit 'kiddy' and very unhealthy. The latter obviously impacts my health, and the former makes social interaction rather difficult - people have to cook different things for me or they have to avoid restaurants because there's literally nothing on the menu that I'd eat. So uncharacteristically, after years of not making any because I knew I wouldn't see them through, I've decided that my new years resolution for 2012 would be to try and expand my stupidly limited palate because it is something that I find rather embarrassing and desperately want to change. I thought that perhaps keeping a foodie blog might help encourage me to keep trying new things because if I'm just making rolls for burgers/hot dogs, white bread and flatbreads, plus the usual junk I eat, there really wouldn't be a lot of variety in this blog and it'd be insanely dull. More is better unless it's more of the same old rubbish, and I know you don't want that.