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Round, round spinning out on me

Well who doesn’t love a bit of classic Sugarbabes?! Ok, I admit, there may be a few several people who don’t, including Daddy Bear, but that doesn’t matter because he’s outside swearing at the car. Or rather as he calls it – servicing it. And this means I have had a whole day in which I can do whatever I like (except change the TV channel. God forbid the Bears house as anything except Bob the Builder on loop).

And what I wanted to do was to bake more spirals! Or, to be more precise, attempt cinnamon buns. I’ve wanted to try these since the Sweet Dough episode of the Great British Bake Off, but have put them off because of the time it takes to bake them. You would have thought that having thought about it for over a month, I would at least have all the ingredients in my cupboard. I didn’t, hence the half egg situation where, because I had too little flour. If you’re planning on following this recipe, I’d suggest doubling everything, and only using strong white flour. Also, you would have thought I’d know what I wanted to fill the buns with. But no, I was there with the knocked back dough waiting to be filled, still dithering between the fig and walnuts and the chai spice. In the end the figs and walnuts won out, but only because their cupboard was closer to where I was standing.

Ingredients

230g strong white flour

20 g plain flour plus extra for dusting

40 g unsalted butter, melted.

150 ml whole milk

Half an egg

3.5 g dried yeast

vegetable oil for greasing

2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp soft brown sugar

100g dried figs, chopped

30 g walnut halves, chopped

150 g icing sugar

3 tbsp maple syrup

In a small pan, melt half the butter and then pour in the milk and heat until luke warm. Whilst waiting for the milk to warm, weigh out the flour and stir in the yeast. Pour the milk and butter mixture into the bowl with the flour, and stir with a wooden spoon until combined into a dough.

Sprinkle flour onto a clean surface, and then kneed the dough for five minutes until smooth and elastic. You may need to add a little bit more flour to stop it being so sticky. Grease a clean mixing bowl with vegetable oil, put the dough in, cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for on hour.

Knock back the dough, remove from the bowl and roll out on a lightly floured surface. Try to achieve a rectangular shape, with the long side about 30 cm, and the short side about 20 cm. Melt the other half of the butter, and brush over the dough using a pastry brush. Sprinkle on the ground cinnamon, soft brown sugar and then the chopped figs.

Press the long edge of the dough closest to you against the board so that it sticks to it, and then begin rolling the dough up from the opposite side, towards your body, remembering to keep pulling it tight as you roll. Once all rolled up, slice the roll into 7 equal pieces. Then arrange in a round cake tin with one roll in the middle and the other six around the outside, and with the cut sides facing up. Cover with a warm damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for a second time, for approximately 30 minutes. The rolls will rise and will touch each other, to form one large wheel which can be torn apart when ready to eat. Pre heat the oven to 190C.

Remove the towel and put the buns in the oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, cover the top of the tin with foil to prevent the bun tops from burning, and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, leave in the tin and whilst still warm brush the tops with maple syrup. Sprinkle on the finely chopped walnuts, and then leave to cool.

Once cooled remove form the tin  and place on a backing rack. Mix the icing sugar with 1 tbsp of water (or more if required) and the fill a sandwich bag. Snip a small corner off the sandwich bag, and drizzle the icing over the cooled buns. Try not to squeeze the bag too hard – or you’ll end up with one bun drowning under a flood of glace icing (speaking from experience!)

Tear the buns apart when ready to eat, or don’t tell anyone and eat the whole lot. I wouldn’t blame you!

Mummy Bear x

Procrastination baking

Last weekend when I was supposed to be researching theories on Functional Socialism, I ended up becoming so absorbed in researching alternative plaiting techniques for bread, (which, in case Daddy Bear is reading, is not too dissimilar from Functional Socialism) I realised I had even missed X Factor. This says a LOT about my current obsession for bread braiding!

The technique I was most taken by was the 4 strand plaited round, which I have seen referred to as a ‘challah’ style. I was desperate to try it out, and had a pack of Parmesan and sundried tomato bread mix in my cupboard. It was fate. And this was the result:

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Compared to the 8 strand plaited loaf, I found this quite a simple, logical braid to do, and I love the fact that it is round. However I’m not entirely sure it was suited to the bread mix I used, and it might be worth exploring how it would turn out with a lighter sweeter more traditional Challah loaf. I was going to photograph each stage of the braid, but was so consumed by plaiting that I totally forgot. It’s a good job Baby Bear has a well stocked playdough drawer, because an hour or so later a friend asked how to do it, and I was able to show it step by step in dough. Told you playdough plaiting was the way to go!

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If there are any other bread braiding obsessives out there, please, come forward and let me know I’m not on my own! Meanwhile, I really need to get back to that Functional Socialism…..

Mummy Bear x

Bread baking and the Quiet Life

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I have to admit, I’m quite lazy. Hmm, I’m not sure lazy is the right word, Baby Bear could never let us be lazy. More that I’ve come to adopt Daddy Bear’s way of thinking when it comes to certain things, which is “anything for a quite life”. Which is why some days we get through 6 pints of milk just for Baby Bear.

This has, until very recently, been my approach to bread making. Why bother kneeding and proving and shaping when you can stick the ingredients in a machine and press a button? I love my Bread machine. It’s easy to use. It’s quiet. It doesn’t make the whole flat baking hot (like the oven does) and it does make the whole house smell delicious. But it’s BIG… and my kitchen is small. Which was never a problem until we wanted to sell our flat. So the bread maker went into storage and we stopped having freshly made (albeit by a machine) bread.

The other day I was feeling a bit stressed. Nothing like being confined in a small space (the flat) with a small whirlwind (Baby Bear) for several days to raise your cortisol levels. I remembered a friend describing how therapeutic baking bread by hand was, and thought I might as well give it a go. It was that or having to dye my hair again to cover the extra greys sprung from trying to stop Baby Bear repainting his bedroom walls in suncream. Sorry, I’m digressing. Anyway, I wasn’t feeling confident enough (or, some of Daddy Bear’s motto was lingering on in the bread making scene) to try it completely from scratch, so I bought a packet mix from Morrissons and for once, followed the instructions exactly.

It turns out said friend was right. There is something very therapeutic about making bread by hand. Probably the punching and squeezing of the dough after finding permanent marker on the carpet helping to reduce said cortisol levels, but anyway, it worked for me. After this first attempt, of which my carb hating Big Bear ate half the loaf, I was feeling a little more ambitious, and tried making some poppy seeded rolls. It seems I may have stumbled upon a new obsession.

Crunchy Poppy seeded rolls

650g strong white bread flour

2 tsp salt

1 tsp castor sugar

15g soft butter

1 sachet dried fast action yeast

350g luke warm water

30g poppy seeds

3tbsp milk

Mix all dry ingredients into the bowl. Rub in the butter. Add the water and mix with wooden spoon until combined. I had to use my hands to combine the last bits, just gave it a good squeeze in the bowl whilst thinking about my newly scribbled on carpets.

Leave it on a floured surface for 5 mins.

Kneed for 2 mins. (Punch, squeeze, stretch… if needs be think of times when people use the incorrect form of there their and they’re and how that makes you feel.)

Form into ball and leave for 5 mins.

Weigh dough and then split into 10 equal balls. Space equally on baking tray, cover in cling film and damp tea towel, and leave somewhere warm. For this I turned my oven on (it needs to be pre heated to 210C anyway) and balanced the rolls in front of the oven on Baby Bears high chair. I realise not everyone will have a perfectly sized high chair for all your bread rising needs, but I expect you can improvise. Tumble dryers also provide a good warm place. As do graphics cards/ routers which are about to overheat.

Leave to rise for 40 mins, uncover, snip a cross on the top with a pair of scissors (or if you are arty and don’t have 5 yr olds wanting to help design your own pattern on the top.) Put it in the centre of the pre heated oven for 15 mins.

Remove rolls from the oven and whilst hot brush with milk and then scatter poppy seeds over the top. Leave to cool on a rack. Or, if you’re impatient like me, eat a couple straight away and pretend to be confused as to why you’re not hungry at dinner time.

Turns out sometimes the quiet life might be a bit…. quiet!

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Mummy Bear

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