Sunday, July 27, 2008

Pathetic Anger Bread (1)

For all the Shakers out there, here is my take on what pathetic anger bread should be...

It is flat (except where it puffs up into hollow bubbles). It is dry and brittle (you don't have to push it far before it snaps). The flavours are strong and biting. It contains seeds, the better to get stuck in your teeth and cause irritation later. The dough is ripped up into irregular scraps rather than cut out into neat rounds, because we're all about promoting diversity of shapes, and pathetic anger bread is by definition liberal and sharp-edged. And it would go wonderfully with a topping of jellied eel I am sure (though we're all out of it right now, so I have not tested it myself).

(A more conventional description would be "black pepper and caraway biscuits". Use to dip in houmous or a mild dip, or top with creamy butter or a mild cheese such as Wensleydale. Or both.)

For two small baking sheets-worth (number depends on how big your final ripped up pieces are, obviously):
  • 100g plain flour
  • 50g cornmeal (makes them drier and grittier, but just use more plain flour if you have none)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 25g cold butter
  • 60ml hot milk
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C. Mix flours and salt together. Crush the black peppercorns in a pestle and mortar until coarsely ground (go on, bash them like you mean it - this is anger bread, after all!), then measure out 1 teaspoon into the flour mix. Give the caraway seeds a quick bash and then add them too to the dry mixture. Add the butter and rub in. Heat the milk until steaming then stir into the rest. Roll out on a floured surface, almost as thin as a coin. Rip into rough but reasonably even pieces, thinking 2-3 bites for each, taking pleasure in throwing off the shackles of conformity and uniformity. Place on lined baking trays and bake in the oven for about 5 minutes until turning brown (some of them will have puffed up a bit in places). Obviously, the timing depends on how big the biscuits you have created are. Transfer to a wire rack to cool as soon as they come out of the oven.

    Then, go ahead - feed the trolls!

    Tuesday, July 8, 2008

    Date and Walnut Loaf

    As I was making the scones on Sunday, I remembered that I had been intending for some time to make a date and walnut loaf. I dug up the recipe obtained from my mother many, many moons ago and, forgetting the fact that I didn't have any eggs, which was why I was making scones rather than something else in the first place, decided to give it a whirl.

    The lack of eggs however, was not the first problem I encountered - that was one of method. The "recipe" I had jotted down on the telephone several years ago consisted of the first 5 ingredients followed by the word "cool", then 3 more ingredients (including a beaten egg) followed by "mix up" and then "Put in greased loaf tin, gas mark 3, 1 1/4 to 1/1/2 hours". This is a little sparser than your average list of instructions, you have to agree. Extrapolating from this point, I assumed that some heating together must precede the cooling, that the method should be that below and choose which size loaf tin based on the volume of the final mixture.

    The egg problem I didn't spot until I got to the stage where I was supposed to add it, at which point I wasn't prepared to go out and buy some. So, reasoning that the egg was probably a joint raising agent and moisture provider, I added another half teaspoon of bicarb and enough milk to get a near-dropping consistency. And since the loaf came out just fine, I give my version below. To make the original, use only one teaspoon of bicarb, no milk and one beaten egg.

    I think this is relatively healthy for baked goods: it contains quite a small quantity of butter, and most of the sweetness is provided by the dates, which are also high in fibre.

    For a 2lb loaf tin:
  • 2oz butter
  • 8oz dates, roughly chopped
  • 2oz sugar (caster or soft brown for a darker crumb)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 pint boiling water
  • 2oz walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 8oz self-raising flour
  • 3 tablespoons-ish milk

  • Preheat the oven to 160°C. Grease a 2lb loaf tin. PLace the butter, chopped dates, sugar and water in a saucepan with 1 teaspoon of the bicarb. Heat until the butter has melted - the mixture will begin to foam due to the bicarb. Leave to cool until lukewarm then stir in the flour, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of bicarb and chopped walnuts. Stir in the milk to obtain a thick dropping consistency. Scrape into the loaf tin, smooth the surface and bake for about 50 minutes. Test with a skewer or sharp knife to make sure the centre is not still gooey. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack, then slice thinly and spread with butter to eat (thereby ruining the healthfulness advertised above, admittedly).

    Monday, July 7, 2008


    Scones are what I make when I want to bake but don't have any eggs. They have the further appealing attributes of being very quick to make, and best eaten warm from the oven. It occurs to me that scones would be a good thing to make with children: easy, always reliable, fun to stamp out and out of the oven so quickly that their interest won't wane first.

    The recipe below is for plain scones - just add a handful of your dried fruit of choice and reduce the sugar by half or leave out completely for fruit scones. Whichever you make, they are best eaten still warm with a layer of jam and a layer of whipped (or clotted) cream. Bliss!

    Makes about 8 smallish scones:
  • 8oz self raising flour
  • good pinch of salt
  • 2oz butter (straight from the fridge)
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1/4 pint of milk

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C and grease and flour a baking sheet. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl, sieving first if you have a strong perfectionist streak. Cube the butter and then rub in with your fingers until you have a fine sand. Stir in the sugar and fruit if desired. Add 2/3 or so of the milk and mix in with a knife or metal spoon. You are aiming for a soft, springy, but not sticky, dough, so add more of the milk if necessary. Conversely, if you are a bit heavy handed with the milk, just throw in a spoonful or two of extra self-raising flour to compensate. Roll out on a flat surface to about 2cm thick and cut into rounds with a straight or fluted cookie cutter (though I did have a housemate at university who just cut squares with a knife). Place on the baking sheet and brush the tops with a little milk. Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 mins, until risen and golden on top. Split, smear thickly with jam and cream and eat, with a cup of tea alongside, as soon as they are cool enough to handle.