Bert’s first loaf of bread (with a bit of help measuring) – he’s very proud.
Two hours after this photo was taken he was naked in the kitchen, slice of warm bread in hand, singing ‘go mummy! Go mummy!’ as I chased a fly around the kitchen with a fly swat muttering I will beat you. Making memories.
Makes one loaf
350g strong white bread flour
250ml hand hot water
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
7g (1 sachet) dried yeast
75g Greek yoghurt
Mix all the ingredients together and knead for about 5 minutes or till stretchy. Cover and leave for an hour then tip onto a lined tray to form a mound and bake at 140/ gas mark four for an hour. Have a slice, still warm, in your pyjamas (or, indeed, nudie).
This is a Jack Monroe recipe.
‘I not too gorgeous,’ he said strictly. ‘I right amount gorgeous.’
Makes 2 small loaves
175g self raising flour
50g grated strong Cheddar
175g grated parsnip (about 3 parsnips)
1 lightly beaten egg
4-5 tablespoons whole milk
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/ 180. Combine all the ingredients gently until they’re just formed into a dough, then split into 2 rough, round loafs. Bake on a lined baking sheet for abou 35-40 minutes, until they’re golden and hollow-sounding when the bottom’s tapped.
I met Bert’s stepbrother, Ben, nine years ago when he was seven. I’ve cooked him birthday cakes, created special, birthday evening versions of his favourite dinner (sausage and mash), come up with our regular Christmas Eve tradition of baked ham and Dauphinois potatoes followed by sticky toffee pudding, handed him warm pancakes while he was playing FIFA or killing zombies, made pizza, self-saucing pudding and roast pork with crackling… I’ve been cooking for Bert since he was born, if you count producing breastmilk as cooking, coming up with all kinds of combinations of pureed veg, introducing him to curry, showing him how to make biscuits, threading meat onto tiny skewers, cooking veg perfectly and also hiding it in sauces to hit it from both angles. I’ve made him warm banana pancakes, fruit bread and peach and honey cake.
They’ve refused things politely (‘Too nice’ – Bert, ‘No thank you, thank you’ – Ben), eaten them happily, offered them to Ray and thrown them across the room (Bert, at least). But they’ve largely just accepted warm, home made food as something that happens. (I wouldn’t really want it any other way.)
But I hand them both a plate of doughballs (zero imagination, 5 mins active prep, 10 mins cooking time) and they practically stand up in unison and start singing Hallelujah while saluting me.
There’s a lesson in here somewhere, I just don’t know what it is.
Makes about 25
150ml warm water
7g dried yeast
225g strong bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
Mix everything together and kneed for about eight minutes. I do the lot in a mixer. Cover and leave to rise for an hour. Then form the dough into small balls, about 2cm diameter, place on a baking tray, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for about another hour. Your hands need to be dry and not sticky when you roll them, so it’s worth keeping a bowl of water and a tea towel next to you.
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180/ gas mark 4 (gas mark 5 in our oven, which is a bit cool). Cook for 8-10 minutes, till just starting to turn pale golden brown. Accept that praise isn’t always proportionate to effort. Serve with little pots of garlic butter or plain butter to dip into.
Bert ate maybe eight or nine. Then a bowl of pasta bake. Then a chocolate and secret-beetroot brownie.
Home made bread was a big part of my childhood. It was a real treat to have a slice that was buttered while it was still warm from the oven.
After much nerding out and research, this recipe has been updated. I love home made bread, but it often has that sitting in the bottom of your stomach like a lead weight quality. This solves the problem and gives you a really light loaf. The trick is to replace one cup of flour with self raising flour and to do a really quick first rise and a long second one when it’s shaped to go in the oven (it’s normally the other way round).
Makes one large loaf or two small ones
350g strong white flour
150g self raising flour
500g seeded bread flour
10g quick acting yeast
300ml beer and 300ml water – together they need to be hand hot, so I add water from the hot tap at its hottest. Or use 600ml of hand hot water.
1 tablespoon melted butter
If you’re lucky enough to have a Kenwood mixer (thanks Tony’s mum) then weigh all the ingredients into it, mix with the dough hook and then knead for ten minutes. Otherwise mix into a dough, tip out onto a very lightly floured surface and knead for ten minutes or so.
When all the flour’s incorporated and before you start your ten minute knead, have a look at the dough. It will be very wet. Do not panic.
Leave it in the bowl in a warm place for just half an hour. Then knock it back to push out the air and pop it in a loaf tin. I like my rolls kind of craggy so I just tear off small pieces. In theory, for loaves, round or tin, it’s best to fold the ends underneath so you create a kind of platform for the bread. That works with a dryer dough, but for this I just sort of pour it in.
Get the bread in its shape and in its tin and then leave it to rise again. This is the long rise – maybe an hour, maybe an hour and a half, till it’s doubled in size and is springy. By my warm Aga it just takes half an hour, so keep checking it. Push your finger in and – counter intuitively to me – the dent will remain if it’s ready to bake. You can adjust your rise time by leaving somewhere cooler for a slower rise or warmer for a quicker rise, depending on how much time you’ve got. I think a slow rise is generally better – tastier and supposedly gentler on the stomach. Keep looking and keep pushing a finger in.
Anyway, after its second rise you need to prepare it for the oven. Slash the top, sprinkle with seeds, wash with egg or milk or dust with flour. I brush mine with milk and sprinkle seeds on top.
Then it goes into a hot oven. Put a dish of boiling water from the kettle on the bottom of the oven first – that gives your bread a good crust. If you’ve got a conventional oven, give the loaf a blast in a hot oven first (the hottest you can get it for 10 minutes – gas mark 9 or 240) then turn it down to 170 degrees (gas mark 3) for another 30 minutes.
In an Aga, which seems better suited to bread making, just pop it in two rungs up from the bottom of the roasting oven (that’s about 200 degrees, I think). Total time: 10-20 minutes for rolls, 30-40 minutes for a small loaf, 40-50 for a large loaf. In my Aga this quantity of dough takes 30-35 minutes, but Agas are not neccessarily representative I don’t think. In the gas oven it’s the 10 minute blast then 30 minutes at the lower temperature.
Pre-Bert I used to make this bread all the time. This is maybe the second time I’ve made it since he was born. I suppose the length of the recipe tells you why, but remembering my fresh bread filled childhood has inspired me to start again.
Makes one large loaf
I looked up the recipe for panettone and quite quickly decided I was too lazy and unskilled to attempt it. This is a fruited, enriched raisin bread that’s sweetened with caster sugar and vanilla. But it’s not panettone.
500g 00 flour
100g golden caster sugar
7g quick acting yeast
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
300ml warm milk
Combine all the ingredients and knead, by hand or with the dough hook on a food processor, for around 10 minutes. It will be a soft, sticky dough that’s very stretchy and elastic. Flour a tin and push the mixture into it, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise till it’s doubled in size, before cooking in a hot oven (180 degrees or on the grid shelf on the bottom of the Aga roasting oven) for 30-40 minutes.
Serve warm from the oven with butter or toasted the next morning.
Okay, I admit I didn’t eat this myself, but Bert loved it. I’ve been struggling with lunches since he stopped eating eggs and refuses most sandwiches, but this worked. Now, how can I sneak a carrot in?
Serves a greedy 0.5
1 English muffin
Generous slathering of Philadelphia cheese
Scattering of raspberries
Split the muffin, spread with cheese, squish in the raspberries and stuff in face.
We walked Ray, hunted Gruffolos and Bert ate a picnic in his baby carrier, which he found a totally hilarious concept. At one point, Ray ran into the woods and a couple of seconds later three black spaniels, including Ray, ran out – also hilarious if you’re one and a half.