Lemon and Poppyseed Bread

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Ben’s out of town in Scotland this week, so I’ve been left to my own devices. Normally I would just veg out on the sofa and enjoy being the sole controller of the remote. But this week I felt like being productive! Doing things! Checking things off my list! Which then all boiled down to baking again this week. I mean, it’s still a bit predictable, but certainly better than TV watching.

Since I was baking in the evening after work, I needed something relatively quick and simple. When perusing through some of the Pins I’d saved on Pinterest, I was immediately drawn to this recipe from Jaclyn at Cooking Classy: Lemon Poppy Seed Bread. My mouth literally began to water. And although my wedding diet certainly doesn’t allow for cake (especially after a few days of cheating over the weekend – grrrr!) I do know that I love lemon and poppyseed together, combined with poppies being on the brain from our volunteering at the Tower of London over the weekend, and the fact that it’s bread week on GBBO: I was sold.

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I will say, bread is a bit of a misnomer for this bake, as it’s not really a bread at all. It’s actually a loaf-shaped cake, but it’s denser like bread, so it slices beautifully. So it’s a sweet, cake-like loaf of bread. It’s all semantics anyways.

Ingredients

For the bread/cake:

  • 1 2/3 cup flour
  • 2 Tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
For the glaze:
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (approx 175°C). Grease a loaf pan and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine your flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, and salt. Mix them together well so that everything’s evenly distributed, then set aside.

3. In the bowl of your mixer, rub together the sugar and lemon zest until your sugar starts to turn a nice, pale yellow. (By the way, don’t try and work with fresh lemon juice and lemon zest with cuts on your fingers. It stings. A lot.) Add in your softened butter and vanilla, then turn your mixer on and blend together until everything turns nice and fluffy. Once fluffy, add in your eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl in between each egg.

4. In a pyrex jug, mix together the milk and sour cream. Then gently heat it in the microwave for a few seconds until they are just slightly warm. Make sure it’s all blended together well!

5. Now, using the “muffin method” – add in your flour mixture and your milk mixture. Alternate adding each mix by adding 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by half of the milk mixture, followed by 1 Tablespoon of your fresh lemon juice, mixing until they are just barely combined, then repeating until you’ve used everything up.  Make sure you finish with adding the final 1/3 of the flour mixture. (So – flour, milk, lemon, flour, milk, lemon, flour – got it?)

6. Pour your batter into your prepared loaf tin and pop it in the oven for 40 minutes. After that time, cover the top with foil (not letting it touch the loaf) and let it bake for another 5-10 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

7. Once it’s finished, take your loaf out to cool in the pan for 5 minutes (ONLY 5 MINUTES!), then turn it out onto a wire rack. Then prepare your lemon glaze by microwaving the sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl for short bursts at a time. Whisk frequently to make sure you don’t burn the sugar. Once everything’s dissolved, you’re ready!

8. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the glaze over the top of your loaf. It makes it incredibly moist, as it soaks into the loaf. Plus, it’s all pretty and shiny just after you glaze it. Take your time with this step, as you want to use ALL of the glaze. Let it soak in, then reapply gradually through several coats.

lemonpoppyseed02Once it’s ready, you can slice up your loafcake and serve it up. Just make sure to store it in an airtight container. I took mine into work the next day, so once it was completely cooled and the glaze was set, I popped it back into the tin to make for a nice presentation (and to make sure it didn’t get crushed during rush hour on the Tube!).

Well, I’m off to Edinburgh for the weekend to meet up with Ben after his week away. I will see you next week to share our adventures, bakers!

 

 

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Mary Berry’s Florentines

 

florentines04 florentines07This week was biscuit week on Great British Bake Off and the technical challenge that the bakers had to complete were Mary Berry’s florentines.  Now, to help clarify, in the UK, biscuits aren’t simply synonymous with cookies. Biscuits tend to be a bit crispy or crunchy, whereas a cookie tends to be softer and chewier, especially in the center. It gets extra confusing when they make savory biscuits (with cheese and stuff in them), because in my head, those are crackers. Cookies are sweet and they certainly don’t have cheese in them!  Oh well, another one of those epicurean curiosities of living in another country.

I decided to continue in my theme this season and follow along with all of the technical challenges, so I looked up Mary’s recipe that was used for the show to give these nutty, fruity, crunchy biscuits a go.  They were a bit trickier than last week’s cherry cake, but that’s because you have to be very precise when measuring them out so that they’re all equal. And even then, a couple of mine spread unevenly.

 

Ingredients

  • 50 grams butter
  • 50 grams demerara sugar (this is brown, unprocessed granulated sugar, sometimes called raw sugar in the States.)
  • 50 grams golden syrup (this is a sort of maple-syrup type thing, but lighter. You could substitute a really thick honey for a similar flavor.)
  • 50 grams flour
  • 25 grams dried cranberries or glacé cherries, finely chopped
  • 50 grams candied peel, finel chopped
  • 25 grams almonds, finely chopped
  • 25 grams walnut pieces, finely chopped
  • 200 grams plain chocolate, chopped into chunks

florentines01Directions

1. First, preheat your oven to 350° F (175°C). Line a few baking trays with baking paper, and set aside.

2. In a small pan over low heat, add the butter, sugar, and golden syrup. Heat gently until the butter melts. Once melted, remove the pan from the heat and add in the rest of your ingredients (except the chocolate!). It’ll form into a sticky, gooey mixture.

3. Now this is where it gets a bit tricky. You need to divide the dough into 18 biscuits. In theory, you could just add up all the weights and divide by 18 (so 18 grams each), but nope! Because the mixture is so sticky, you’re bound to lose a bit of weight to bits getting stuck to your hands or spoon or everything. So I measured mine out to be between 15 and 16 grams each to be sure I had that covered. Place each of your 18 dough balls evenly across your prepared baking sheets, making sure there’s plenty of room for them to spread.

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4. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until they turn a dark, golden brown around the edges. Remove them from the oven to cool, then carefully move them to a wire rack for the next stage. To quote Mary, the should have a “nice lacy texture” to them, with the edges uneven and you should be able to see through them a bit.

5. Temper your chocolate by heating half of it in a heatproof bowl over a pan of water on medium heat. Once it’s melted, remove the bowl from the heat and add in the rest of the chocolate. This should make your chocolate nice and shiny when it sets.

florentines02florentines066. Using a palette knife, or offset spatula, gently coat the underside of your biscuit with the chocolate, and then place it upside down on a wire rack to set. Once the chocolate begins to set up, drag a fork back and forth through the chocolate to create the “signature zig zag” look. Then allow the chocolate to cool and set completely.

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That’s it! Job done! I’m pretty sure my florentines would have landed me in the Top 5 for the technical challenge. 😉florentines05

Poppy Planting at the Tower of London

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This year marks the 100th anniversary of when Britain entered into WWI. As a part of the remembrance activities, the Tower of London is installing over 880,000 ceramic poppies around the moat. The poppies were designed by a British Artist named Paul Cummins.  Each day, about 8,000 poppies are “planted” by volunteers so that the sea of red grows up until Remembrance Sunday in November.

The project has gotten a ton of press, and the sight is truly something to behold. They come spilling out of some of the Tower’s windows in what is actually a quite emotional installation. In order to plant all of the poppies, the Tower is looking for volunteers, so Ben and I took the opportunity to give back some of our time while spending a (luckily) sunny afternoon in one of our favorite parts of the city.

During our four hour shift, the team delicately planted 4,000 poppies!

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We had to assemble the stems that the poppies rest on, which are at different heights to give the poppies their cascading effect en mass. The stems were then hammered into the ground, with the poppies nestled gently between two washers.

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poppies02We also got to spend some time wandering around the moat to see all of the poppies and take some up close shots….

poppies05…as well as meeting some of the Tower’s local residents! (Yes the Beefeaters really live there!)

poppies03All in all, a great afternoon spent for a great cause. To read more about the Tower of London poppies, or if you’d like to volunteer, check out the Historic Royal Palaces website!

Beer Bread

Beer Bread | pajamabaker.comSoooo, I went a bit overboard this weekend after baking the Cherry Cake. I had everything all baked, the cake was cooling, and before I went to put the bit of butter I had left over back in the fridge I said to myself “so what else can I make?!” And suddenly I found myself scouring my cookbooks until it hit me: bread. I’m going to make some bread.  It wasn’t like I had other things to be getting on with on a Sunday or anything, other than wedding plans, laundry, and cleaning the flat from the dinner party we had hosted the night before. Nope! No I had plenty of time!

Actually, this bread was super quick to make: toss all the ingredients together, knead for a bit, rise for a bit, shape, rise… bake. Done.

 

But I had to take it a step further. In the name of blogging. And experimenting. And photos of something besides a lump of bread.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you, the beer bread grilled cheese sandwich, made with some strong white cheddar cheese:

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Just look at that practically sexual melting going on! And those grill lines!

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And it was so creamy that the top started sliding off when we were photographing it… oops!

 

 

Ingredients

From Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 2/3 cups strong white flour (white bread flour), plus extra for dusting
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1/4 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups beer – no Bud Light or nasty lagers allowed! Although, I used an entire bottle in mine! Magic Hat #9 that I brought back with me from the States. Mmmm.BeerBread5

Directions

1. Put all of your ingredients into the bowl of your mixer, fitted with the dough hook. Mix until all of the flour gets picked up and it’s a sticky-ish ball.

2. Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes until the dough gets really smooth and elastic. Make sure you stretch it as you knead to get the gluten proteins going. Add a tiny bit of olive oil to your bowl, then put the dough ball back in. Place it in a warm spot covered with a tea towel to rise for 1 hour. It should at least double in size.

3. After it’s risen, turn the dough out onto your floured surface again and shape it into a ball. This works best when you stretch the top around to the bottom, tucking it under so the top is smooth and even. Then flatten it slightly and slash an X across the top with a sharp knife.  Slashing it helps control the way the bread will rise, to ensure that it rises evenly over the top.

4. Place your shaped loaf onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper and let it rise for another hour. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).

5. Bake your loaf for at least 30 minutes until it starts to turn golden brown and get a nice hard crust. (I could have actually done with another 5 minutes on mine, it’s a tiny bit too light!) Once it’s done, take your loaf out of the oven and leave it on a wire rack to cool. Make sure you use the wire rack so you don’t get a soggy bread bottom – as this bread is really moist!

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While I couldn’t enjoy this loaf (although I was tempted! Gotta stick to the diet!), Ben said the grilled cheese we made with it was great, and it went down a real treat at the office!  Some people used it for a mid-morning snack toasted with some butter, someone else made a sandwich, and someone else dipped it in his lunchtime soup. So it was pretty versatile! Definitely a good use of using up what we had in the pantry.

Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake

 

Cherry Cake | pajamabaker.com

You know how every Christmas there’s that song that plays touting December as the most wonderful time of the year? As much as I love Christmas, every summer about this time that song starts creeping into my head. Not because I’m anticipating the steadily approaching holidays, but because one of my favorite TV shows returns: The Great British Bake Off.  This year, for Series 5, they’ve actually moved the show to BBC One, which means a lot more exposure, and a lot more excitement!

In the first year I started this blog, I challenged myself to try one bake from each of the episodes in order to grow my skills and try my hand at some of the challenges in hopes of auditioning for GBBO.  It worked well then, (I got as far as the audition round) so I figured I’d give it another shot. Plus, it’s more motivation to keep baking each weekend (as if planning an international wedding wasn’t enough to keep me busy! Only 61 days to go!).

The first episode of the show focused on cakes, a relatively simple category, but it really allowed us to focus on meeting the new bakers this year. There are a few that I think have amazing talent, but one of them drives me absolutely up the wall! He is the most obnoxious person I could imagine meeting. I’m hoping he gets kicked off soon! Fingers crossed! The technical challenge for the episode was to make Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake, an almond-flavoured sponge with bits of cherries distributed throughout the cake.

The trick to putting the cherries in is to chop them into smaller pieces, then rinse, dry, and coat with flour. This helps the cherries “float” in the batter so that they don’t all sink to the bottom of the tin (eventually the top of your cake). This cake was super easy to make, although it didn’t rise as much as I would have expected, so I may double the recipe next time so that it makes more of a statement on the plate!

Cherry Cake | pajamabaker.com

Now before you start wondering about the crooked-looking cake, it’s actually my new cake stand, which was given to me as a bridal shower gift by one of my bridesmaids, Kelsie. It’s absolutely beautiful and I love that it has that quirky, not exactly perfect appearance. It just adds to the handmade nature of what’s being presented on it. After getting this stand, I found out they do it in two other sizes and heights, so I’m definitely adding those to my wishlist!

Cherry Cake | pajamabaker.com

 

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 200 grams glacé cherries (or maraschino cherries if you’re in the States)
  • 225 grams self-raising flour (minus 2 Tablespoons, which you’ll use for the cherries)
  • 175 grams butter, softened
  • 175 grams sugar
  • the finely grated zest from 1 lemon
  • 50 grams ground almonds
  • 3 large eggs
For the icing:
  • 175 grams icing sugar
  • the juice from one lemon
  • 15 grams flaked almonds, toasted
  • 5 glacé cherries, cut into quarters (you can take these from the 200 grams used for the cake)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (approx 175°C). Grease a bundt pan and set aside.

2. Cut all of your cherries into quarters, then rinse them under cold water so they aren’t sticky and turn them out onto some paper towels to dry. Make sure you set aside 5 of your cherries for the topping. Toss the rest of the cherries in your 2 Tablespoons of flour so that they’re evenly coated.

3. In your mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add in your eggs one at a time. Once mixed, add in your flour and ground almonds and mix in thoroughly. Remove your bowl from your mixer and fold in your flour-coated cherries and lemon zest by hand.

4. Pour your batter into you greased pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until your cake tester comes out clean and the top is a lovely golden color. Let your cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

5. To make your icing, gradually add the lemon juice to your icing sugar so that it makes a thick paste. Carefully drip the icing over the top of the cake using a spoon. You want the icing to run down the sides a bit, but not completely coat the cake, so you’ll need it to be pretty thick.

6. Finally, top your cake with the toasted flaked almonds and your cherry bits.

That’s it! Easy peasy! (And Ben says it’s delicious!)

Cherry Cake | pajamabaker.com