Tag Archives: loaf

The Year of Bread Part Six: Tiny Rosemary and Olive Bread

Since coming round to olives, I’ve started keeping a jar of them in the fridge. Not fancy ones, just pitted black olives in brine – ‘ingredient’ olives, if you will. One of the supermarkets near me has a section labelled ‘ingredient cheese’. I think they mean ‘not cheddar’ – or possibly ‘neither cheddar nor cheese spread’. It’s an odd way to put it; ‘specialty cheese’ might have made more sense. Perhaps they didn’t want the other cheeses to be offended, or for the ‘specialty’ cheeses to become ego-laden diva cheeses. Whatever the reason for this, it seems to have got into my head, given that I just used the phrase ‘ingredient olives’… I just mean the kind of olive that you would put in a stew, or indeed in a loaf of bread, but wouldn’t put out in a nice dish when you had guests round. Are you with me? Great.

I had a quick search for olive bread, and the results are vast. I found that Letites Culinaria had something that fit the bill with their Rosemary Mini Breads. Now, initially you may think that this recipes doesn’t fit the bill at all, given that there is no mention of olives. However, that is just an example of somebody not feeling an irrational need to list all the ingredients in a recipe in the recipe title itself. I try to do this, but feel quite guilty if I don’t name at least the main ingredients in a recipe up front in the title.

I have four mini loaf pans which I just love, and have used to make some quick bread – eg banana loaf – and also as a mould for little terrines, but never to make real bread, the kind you put yeast in and let rise for hours before you bake it. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to try it out.

In the beginning, I wasn’t too sure about the bread recipe. You mix the ingredients until just combined – there is no kneading. Initially, it looked like this:


It starts to make a bit more sense once you mix the olives and rosemary through, becoming a more familiar looking ball of dough.



It’s still a little lumpy, but I trusted in the recipe and didn’t over mix it. I let it rise in a warm place for two hours, then turned out and gently shaped into a round. I didn’t think it looked like it had doubled in size and, even though it felt warm to the touch (always a good sign), it still looked very uptight. If I’d kneaded it at the start, I thought, it would be much more relaxed by now – the gluten would be all stretchy and the surface would be puffier and softer. Hm.


You can see a lot of joining lines in the dough where it’s been rolled together – usually after bread rises these will be gone and the surface will be a lot smoother. I was concerned.

Now was the time to break the dough into pieces and put in the tiny loaf tins to rise for a second time. I put in enough dough to fill the tins about two thirds of the way up, each section rolled into an oblong to fit the tin. The remainder of the dough I just shaped into rounds that would become bread rolls. They looked as though they would never rise – I’d made even more wrinkles in them as I shaped them, and the overall sense was of a tough dough with no intention of moving so much as half an inch, whether I wanted it to or not. With a pronounced sense of bread-related disquiet, I put the four tins and the two rolls in a high-sided baking tray, put the baking tray on top of a large pot full of hot water and covered it with two towels, tucking them in round the sides to keep in the heat.

The idea was that the steam from the hot water would be conducted by the metal baking tray and radiate into the bread dough, making the yeast wake up and push the bread dough up into tall loaves and rolls. It’s one of my better ideas.

I let the dough rest for another hour before removing the towels to see what had happened. Covering bread dough with a towel adds a huge element of suspense to the bread making process. When you use clingfilm, or a glass bowl, you can see exactly what’s going on, even chart the progress of your dough if you like, making little marks on the side of the bowl as it gets taller, taking pride in its quick growth. Or if your dough isn’t rising, you can tell, and move it to a more comfortable temperature, or cancel your dinner plans while you wait and watch it. Not that I’ve ever done that. Yet. With a towel, the behaviour of your bread dough is a mystery to you, until the ordained moment where you carefully untuck the cover and lift it aside to reveal your success or failure.

The moment before you uncover the bread can be a little nerve-wracking, filled with anticipation as it is. You picture what you’d like to see – a soft dough that has risen to the top of the bread tin, and perhaps even further. A subtle smell of yeast might be carried to you on the warm air that rises from under the wrappings. The dough might be so light that it wobbles a little, you might see little bubbles rising on its surface, ready to burst and fold back in on themselves. On the other hand, you might see just what you tucked so tenderly in under the towel in the first place, changed not a jot. It’s a tense moment.

This is what I saw:

Beautiful, relaxed dough, puffed up over the rim of the baking tins, with a curved top. Sure, there were still some wrinkles here and there, but even they were softer than before; where there were worry lines, there were now laugh lines. Perhaps we should all spend more time covered up with a towel in a warm place? Perhaps this is where spas came from?

I baked the bread as instructed in the recipe, and it came out looking gorgeous. A crisp, dark crust and lovely sharp lines around the edges where the dough had finally eased its way into the corners of the bread tins. The smell was predictably great, the fragrance of rosemary and the hint of savoury olives adding to the ever-enticing fresh bread aroma. I brushed each loaf and roll with olive oil, then sprinkled with smoked sea salt.

I sliced up two of the tiny loaves and served as a canape (for which read ‘easy starter’) with salami and slices of aged gouda. I put cocktail sticks in for ease of lifting, but I will say that you should be careful with these because you’re basically constructing rows of sharp wooden sticks, ready to pierce the unwary snacker.

The bread had a very tight crumb and such a crisp crust – this meant I could make really thin slices for my canapes, which was perfect. A doorstep sized sandwich has its place, but not in the world of cocktail nibbles, that’s all I’m saying. It was flavoured throughout with the rosemary and olives, and I loved the idea of using a little olive brine in the dough to add to that flavour, as well as a good dose of salt. I did have my doubts along the way, but if you follow the recipe it’ll turn out alright in the end.

I saved the best photo till the end. Are you ready?

I didn’t know bread could be adorable, but it can.

I’ve submitted this post to Yeastspotting – get yourself over there every Friday for a selection of the best bread-based recipes around the internet.


Year of the Cake Part Thirty Three: Nutmeg Cake and Gianduia Brownies

The year is fast drawing to a close – I’m starting to wonder what next year will be the year of. I’m hoping that I might get some new recipe books at Christmas time, so perhaps I will get some help there – suggestions are very welcome though.

These two recipes were both LC tests, which I made in one evening of baking frenzy, and as such I don’t have many pictures. By the time  I realised that I didn’t have much evidence, they were ready and packed into Tupperware to take to work, and I couldn’t really face taking them back out again, so the photos suffered in consequence…

The nutmeg loaf (click for the recipe) was particularly well received by my colleagues with less of a sweet tooth – it has a lovely warm flavour, and it’s unusual to find a recipe where nutmeg is given centre stage, to be metaphorical about it. I am now picturing a tapdancing nutmeg in a top hat. Heh…

The texture of the loaf is soft without being crumbly, and it tastes moderately sweet but more warming than anything else – a good elevenses snack for those sensible people who don’t like to eat chocolate all day long. Sometimes I wish I was one of those people.

Now, gianduia brownies, eh? What more is there to be said? Except that I had no idea what gianduia meant, but knew that I liked brownies a lot, so I was pretty much always going to try the recipe… It turns out the gianduia is a mix of finely ground hazelnuts and chocolate, and what’s not to love? It also fit in with my recent interest in trying out different kinds of nut in my baking, to get over the terrible, terrible nut prejudice I have cultivated over the years. I’ve always been alright with hazelnuts as long as chocolate is involved, but I’ve never really used them in my own baking, but this recipe was a definite step in the right direction on that front – as was this banana and pecan loaf recipe, of which I managed to take no pictures at all. The recipe also contains Nutella, which I kind of felt was cheating, but which tastes undeniably great so I can’t say that I had too many qualms about using it. Maybe a moment of hesitation. A nano-moment. A mo. A ‘m’. Alright, nothing really, I just bought it and looked forward to eating a spoonful of it by itself in a kind of ‘I should feel guilty but I’m too happy to’ kind of way.

These brownies weren’t the best I’ve ever had, if I’m honest – the tried and tested triple-chocolate brownie recipe retains its claim to that title so far, but they were extremely good. My main advice would be to under- rather than over-bake; as is the case with all brownies, you’d rather have them a bit sticky in the centre than dry. My first attempt at this recipe did come out a little dry, which was a shame, but not dry enough to spoil them by any means. They’re basically Nutella in brownie form, which is as good as it sounds.

A short blog post today, by my standards – just wanted to share these recipes for anyone looking for some baking inspiration! No playlist this week, all my musical energy is going into making a giant, kick-ass awesome Christmas playlist, and it’s too early sharing for that kind of thing. Festivities begin on Wednesday 15th – that’s when I’ll be putting up my tree, wrapping my presents and maybe doing a bit more baking…

Year of the Cake Part Thirty: Bake It! Club

At first I felt a little embarrassed to be using the word ‘club’, but then I realised that, not only should I not be embarrassed, I should be pleased to have a club to belong to. We might not have a treehouse or a secret handshake (not that I know of, anyway), but that doesn’t diminish the fact that it is great to be part of a group of people with a shared interest, and a shared warmth and sense of fun. Since joining Twitter, I’ve started chatting with so many new people about baking and cooking, and from there onto other, unrelated topics. You know, like you do when you make friends with people in real life – it’s the same process, but you can only use 140 characters at a time. Alright, so it’s a bit different. It’s only a matter of time before I start verbal Tweeting, though – if you start to see signs of this, feel free to insist that I repeat the sentence using more and longer unnecessary words. I’m new to the group – both Twitter and Bake It! – and am looking forward to getting to e-know people and share recipes, photos, opinions and nonsense as appropriate.

The Bake It initiative (club) is lovely Amy‘s (@amylane) creation, and when I saw her link about it I really wanted to join in – and was welcomed, too. You probably already know that I test recipes for Leite’s Culinaria (I’m not just a big fan of the site, though I’m that, too). That’s a fun process, and I’ve got chatting to some people through being a tester, but I find that I’m a bit of a misfit to that community, in some ways. I think I’m one of the youngest testers, and I’m one of very few from the UK; in fact, I think there might only be two of us. I also have a feeling that everyone else is more experienced than I am, and many of them work in the food industry, which I find intimidating, though that’s my own issue and certainly not one that’s been brought up by anyone else. I don’t mean to say that people haven’t been friendly and welcoming in that community, far from it, but I have struggled to place myself within it. I hope this makes sense; it’s hard to find the right words without the wrong nuance. With Twitter, I feel that I fit more readily. I’ve found that there is a range of ages, levels of experience and professions. I feel like more people I’ve e-met there bake and cook as a hobby, as I do, rather than do it for a living. I suppose it’s partly down to it being such an informal environment, and I could go on all day with my Tales of Over-Thinking, but for now suffice to say that I’m glad I finally signed up and am already enjoying the e-company of many friendly, funny people. I particularly like to Watch with Twitter – now and again someone comes up with a comment that absolutely floors me. It does distract from the programme itself, right enough, but depending what kind of mood you’re in that’s part of the fun.

Enough of the well-meaning but mark-missing Twambling. My first Bake It recipe was for a delicious ginger cake – the recipe is here, along with comments from participants. This cake went down ridiculously well at work. I thought one of my colleagues was having some kind of epiphany. Maybe he was. I made one gluten-free loaf, and one regular. Unfortunately, we had an oven disaster during the baking of the normal one. By ‘we’, I mean the cake and I, of course. As you’ll see from the pictures, the gluten-free loaf rose and rose and rose – I was worried it was going to fill the whole oven and come out in one big square, like a cartoon. While the gluten full loaf was baking, I moved it. Dreadful mistake. Grave error. Other such hyperbolic phrases. The move resulted in the top quarter or so of the loaf running off the sides of the tin and landing on the baking sheet below. It was still fine to eat, but it left the loaf looking definitely stunted, in comparison to its non-glutenous sibling. I mean, look at the gluten-free one’s proud profile. Intimidating, even. Ready to take on any other cake and win. It’s a bruiser.

I made a couple of changes to the recipe, as follows:

  • for one loaf, used gluten-free plain flour, and added 2 tsp of baking powder (too much!) and 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • used a total of four pieces of stem ginger between the two loaves, as I ran out. Would have been even more delicious with the proper amount, and the little bites of ginger through the cake really made it stand out, for me – I would definitely say it’s worth buying the ginger in syrup, it’s handy for lots of other recipes

That is all I have to say about the recipe, it was delicious and went down really well with our afternoon cuppas. It was suggested to me that I try it warm with ice cream, and I can only imagine that would be excellent advice – there was none left for me to try it, which I hold as a sign of the recipe’s success.

Thanks, Amy, for the recipe, and I’m looking forward to next month’s already! Here’s a photo of the cake on my desk at work, on a plate constructed of napkins.

%d bloggers like this: