Pretzels!

Re-posting this from my brother blog
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I absolutely love pretzels, giv’em to me hard or soft, hot or cold! Since I’ve been expanding my culinary horizons and trying to make bread I thought I’d give pretzels a go.

Over the last 10 days I’ve been dog and house sitting for a friend which has meant I have a kitchen to play around in! I found a recipe with very limited direction (much like the technical bake on Great British Bake Off) and got to work.
It seemed like it would be a really arduous task and I promise you it’s not, it’s really easy and really fun to make!

Before your begin make sure you have either a large pan or cook pot that you can put on the hob. I got ahead of myself and made my pretzel dough before realising you need to boil water and bicarb together and pre-bake the pretzel in before baking in the oven! You’re also going to need baking trays.

The yield of this recipe is pretty much up to how big you want your pretzels to be, I got 7 of varying sizes, if you want big pretzels assume you’ll make about 5/6 from this recipe and possibly 10 small.

ingredients
185ml warm water (1 part hot to 2 parts cold)
1/2 tbsp caster sugar
3g yeast (about half a sachet)
310g strong white bread flour
1tsp salt
25g unsalted butter (melted)
Also:
3 or 4 tbsp bicarb
1 egg (beaten)
Coarse sea salt

Firstly stir your sugar into your warm water and add the yeast. Leave this solution to stand for 15 minutes, the yeast should start to activate and froth on top of the water.
In a large mixing bowl weigh out your flour and salt.
Once the yeast has been allowed to stand for 15 minutes and you can see the froth sitting on top of the water pour into the mixing bowl with the flour and add the melted butter. There’s no need to mix with a fork or spoon just get your hands stuck in, you can use a dough hook attachment on a mixer but the ingredients come together very quickly I don’t really see the need.
Dust your work surface with a sprinkle of flour and turn out your dough ready to kneed. Don’t discard your mixing bowl, lightly grease it with some olive oil and pop to one side.
Knead your dough for 5 minutes until it becomes smooth and easy to shape. Roll around into a ball and put the dough back into your lightly greased mixing bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for an hour to prove. (I’m going with an hour because at this point I took the dog for a walk and it was roughly an hour)
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Before shaping your pretzels get yourself a large pan, I used a wok, fill about 2/3’rds of the way up with water, place on the hob and bring to the boil.
Once the dough has doubled in size turn out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into how many pretzels you wish to make.
To make the pretzel shape roll each piece of dough (either on the counter or between your hands) into long tubes. Put the dough in a U shape on the counter and take each end, cross them over and bring them down to the curve of the U.

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I wasn’t sure at this point wether to let the pretzels prove again so I left them in their shapes for 10/15 minutes to allow them to rest.
Add 3 or 4 tablespoons of bicarb to your pan of boiling water and one at a time slowly boil each of the pretzels. I did this for about 20/30 seconds on each pretzel. They seem to swell with the water so you’ll have an idea when they’ve had enough, I fingered at this point there was a way of boiling each for too long, as I said earlier though the directions I had to work with we’re limited to say the least!

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Put your pretzels on a baking tray, brush gently with the beaten egg and sprinkle the salt over before baking in a preheated oven at 200 degrees C for about 15 minutes. You’ll know they’re read when they turn a golden brown colour and aren’t soft or sticky to touch.

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The following day I had a do at making some sundried tomato and mozzarella pretzels and wholemeal, Lemon & Poppy seed!

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I awarded myself star baker.

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First time savers

I’ve been saving money for a few months now and I’ve learnt a few useful things.
Saving big? Live with your parents. I know, everyone knows it’s easier to save if you’re living with your parents. It’s not just easier, it’s a freaking gold mine! Don’t be an idiot about it, you’re not loosing your freedom, you’re investing in your future. Your parents aren’t going to charge as much as your landlord (if you pay board at all) and you’ll probably get a lot of things done for you, washing, ironing, cleaning. Be respectful and do as your parents ask. They understand it’s not easy saving money, especially for a house. They know things are different now and that’s why they’ve opened their doors, they want to help. If your mum asks you to clean the cooker (the first time ever the cookers being cleaned and she wants you to do it!?) just do it! If your go out drinking and don’t roll in till 3am don’t bring your mates round, don’t make yourself a sandwich (because we all know you’ll make a mess and won’t clean up. I bet you’ll even leave the mayonnaise out of the fridge you baboon!) just quietly tip toe to bed. You’ll save so much by moving home!
Direct debits. Setting up direct debits does the hard work for you, the hard work being transferring all that money from your current account into a savings account when you could just spend it on shoes. Set yourself up a direct debit for each time you get paid, that way when the money comes in you’re savings are going out straight away and you don’t even see them to miss them.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I have three bank accounts, my current account which I get paid into and I have a bank card for (all my direct debits come from this account), a savings account and an ISA. I put 75% of the money I’m saving into my ISA, so I won’t be tempted to change my mind and withdraw it back, and 25% into my savings account. The theory is that I have money set aside for emergencies, just last week I had a flat tyre, it’s also there for when my car insurance, tax and MOT are all due. Having that account means I don’t worry that I won’t have enough money. It’s my safety net. You might think ‘why not just get an over draft’ well I spent 3 years stuck in my over draft (which was thankfully a student account so I didn’t pay any interest) and I learnt the dangers of ‘free money’ through experience, an overdraft is more like a trap than a safety net.
Work out exactly how much money you spend in two time frames, weekly and monthly. So weekly I pay board into my dads account and every other week I pay off my credit card. Monthly I have a gym membership and phone bill. If your have a gym membership etc decide if it’s worth it. Do you use it enough? Would you miss it or would you relish that extra bit of money? Once you know what your bills are and what you spend you can figure out how much to save. I did this by calculating my average income for 4 weeks and subtracting the cost of my spends per month.
Don’t just save what you’ve set aside. If you have a lot of money in your savings account, transfer some of it to your ISA and same with your current account. You’ll only spend it on rubbish anyway.
A few don’ts… Don’t eat out every day. If you buy your lunch at work, start taking your own. You’ll soon notice the change in your pocket getting heavier, then one day you might want to treat yourself. Don’t struggle, be realistic not over ambitious about what you can afford to put away. Just because you have X amount remaining when you deduct your weekly/monthly expenses doesn’t mean you have to put it all away. Now would be the best time to quit smoking. You know you should and it’s not going to get cheaper or healthier. Don’t be going out drinking every night/week. Give yourself a last hurrah! Go out on a bang, and then only go out when you can really afford to. This included friends birthdays and bank holidays. Your friends should understand that you’re saving money, you cant possibly afford to go out for every birthday especially with the amount of friends you have! You’d be bankrupt!
If you’re saving for a house here’s another good tip… Forget what your parents told you about how credit cards are the devils work ‘you don’t need one’…’ You’ll never pay it back’ … When you’re buying a house the banks will do what is called a ‘credit check’ on your financial history. Credit cards accrue a good credit rating if you use it responsibly. When you start saving it might be worth getting yourself the most standard credit card your bank will offer and building your own credit rating. Use it little and often but only for things you would normally buy and can afford, for example your weekly food shop or petrol, and pay it back in full every month. I’ve been using a credit card for the last year to pay for my petrol, I keep my eye on the online banking and have a direct debit set up incase I forget (hasn’t happened yet) to pay it back.

Once you get past the first few weeks it will all get easier. If you’re still finding it hard remind yourself why you’re doing it. What you’re saving for, your own house? Starting a business? A holiday? A wedding? You’ll get there!

Is this clean, Hot chocolate.

Quick post.
My mum has a really sensitive stomach as I’ve mentioned before, she’s gluten and dairy free but also avoids most animal milks, creams and cheeses. At the same time she’s an avid baker and for many years now she’s baked gluten and dairy free cakes that are divine.
Over the weekend she entered a country show for the first time since my nana died with her gluten free chocolate cake. It was the first time this small village show had opened the gluten free category and the drive for my mum to go back and participate without her mum or dad as competition.
Although she wasn’t at all happy with her finished product (a family trait of ‘perfectionism’ I think) she won first in the gluten free category… but that’s not all. The judged not only thought her gluten free chocolate cake was the best in the category, they also thought it was the best bake in the whole show! She was presented a silver bowl (trophy) and remarked at the fact it was 10 years since her dad won the very same accolade.
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Here she is, as photogenic as ever.
Since I was younger I’ve always had a reasonably sensitive stomach as we’ll but not enough to make me give up bread or chocolate unfortunately. I try to make a conscious decision about what I eat and I do well if I prepare but my willpower is terrible. My hand act before I have time to think and I end up eating cakes and sweets like they’re being made illegal, especially lemon tart…. mmmmmmmmm my absolute Achilles heel!
Today is one of those days I’ve made a big effort, I made soup last night for work, took cereal and an apple, didn’t really eat any cake (the brownie didn’t count) but I did have 2 bread batons which made me bloated. I decided post gym to go to the supermarket and get prepared for a good healthy week. I bought salad and houmous, olives and sundries tomatoes and some hemp milk.
I was feeling quite creative so I decided to make a ‘clean hot chocolate’. I don’t know for definite that this is a ‘clean treat’ but it contains no dairy so it must be a relatively good treat to have in comparison to the ‘cr*p’ you can buy.

250ml soya single cream
100g dairy free chocolate
500ml hemp milk

In a small pan heat your cream on a low setting, do not boil, once the cream is hot pour over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted. Using the same pan warm your milk up, it’s your preference how hot you make it, and stir into the chocolate cream mix! Serve up and enjoy.

My hot-choc hasn’t cooled yet but I’m presuming it’ll taste delicious as chocolate milk shake too, provided it doesn’t split when it’s cool… We’ll see, IMG_0044.JPG

Update:

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It hasn’t curdled and it tastes even more delicious cold!!!!
Success!

Brandy Snap!

I know I said I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of baking posts because we’re having an extension and then I posted half a dozen kitchen-related topics but I promise we are having an exciting extension! I spent what seemed like an entire week in the kitchen baking things I’d never tried before so I would have things to continue posting about!… Clever I know!

I imagined that making brandy snaps would be difficult, and maybe it’s because I’m technically a ‘professional’ baker (I bake cakes… just cakes. All my experimentations are strictly armature in the comfort of my own kitchen) but I really didn’t find them difficult at all!

What you will need:

A large flat baking tray

Grease proof paper

4 glasses (or something to shape your brandy snaps to)

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100g plain flour

2 tsp ginger powder

100g butter

100g brown sugar

2 tbsp golden syrup

½ tbsp choice brandy

Begin by weighing your butter, brown sugar and golden syrup into a pan and place on a low heat.

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Whilst the butter syrup mixture begins to melt sieve the flour and ginger powder into a mixing bowl.

Once the butter has melted bring the heat up a touch to a medium intensity and stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved turn the heat up again.

As soon as the mixture begins to boil remove from the heat and stir in the brandy

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Pour the mixture into your mixing bowl and fold in the flour until well combined. Leave to cool for 20 minutes or so.

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Pre-heat your oven to 180oc.

Cut a piece of grease-proof paper the size of your baking tray then cut that sheet into quarters. You need to allow the mixture to spread quite wide in the oven so if you only have a small tray do one or two at a time. I did four.

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Take a small spoonful of the mixture (in between a tea and table-spoon size) and place it into the middle of a piece of the grease proof paper, pressing down gently to spread the mixture out a little.

Bake the brandy snaps in the oven for 6-8 minutes (keep your eye on them as they burn very easily) onces they’re a dark golden colour remove them from the oven and leave for a couple of minutes.

Gently pick up one of the brandy snap weaves and shape over an upside down glass, or rolling pin. I made cones and ‘cigars’ with mine.

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Once the baskets have cooled they should be crunchy and crisp to eat!

 

A couple of little extras, I kept my mixture in the fridge and only used it as and when. There’s no need to bring it back to room temperature just roll a ball around in your palms and press down onto your baking tray.

Other methods involve only softening the butter and just combining the ingredients with an electric mixer but I’ve not had chance to test this recipe with that particular method so if you have any such luck do let me know!

 I’m also fairly certain you can use Gluten-free flour! But again, I’m yet to try it out!

And here are some pictures of the extension mid-destruction!

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My Birthday at Kendal Calling & A simple white bread recipe!

Over this weekend I celebrated my 23rd Birthday I’ll allow the birthday cheers to subside.

I celebrated the anniversary of my birth at Kendal Calling music festival, watching bands, eating, drinking, working (volunteered to get myself a free ticket) but mostly having a lot of fun!

Here’s a roundup of all things great about Kendal Calling, and then a recipe for a really simple loaf of bread.

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The friendly staff all over the festival! I worked for the merchandise team on the Thursday, volunteering to sell programs as the festival-goers arrived, I hardly knew anyone but I had so much fun.

The best burger ever: Burger Bear http://tom-reaney.squarespace.com/#about

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The best Vegetable samosa ever from Gandhi’s flip-flop:  http://www.gandhisflip-flop.co.uk/

Open-mic at Gandhi’s flip-flop

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Whilst selling programs in the campsite we happened upon two groups of people camped side by side who both had wheelbarrows. What did we do!? Well obviously we challenged them to wheelbarrow race each other! There was no prize other than sheer festival banter all weekend!

The drum band who played and danced around the campsite in the rain in crazy outfits!

Ferris wheel.

Space-hopper races.

Two kids (brothers) having a mud fight!

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The fact they actually sold Kendal Mint cake in the information tent for £1!

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Handing out pizza cookies I’d made (using the recipe I’ve posted on the blog earlier, raspberry jam and marshmallows) to friends I’d made on my birthday because I didn’t have birthday cake!

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Free Birthday Shisha!

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I didn’t watch a lot of music but here’s what I did watch and enjoy:

Alex Hulme, The Ramona FlowersThe Mouse Outfit feat Dr Syntax & Sparkz, The Bear Around Your Neck, Newton Faulkner, Lanterns on the Lake, Rae Morris, Augustines, Rag n Bone Man

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Here’s the simple bread recipe:

  1. 340ml milk

1 tbsp sugar

1tsp salt

1 tbsp butter

  1. 2 tsp yeast

1 tbsp boiling water

35ml milk

  1. 765g bread flour
  1. Heat your milk gently in a saucepan, as steam begins to raise add your butter salt and sugar. Allow the milk to continue to heat up gently and as soon as half of the butter has melted take off the heat and melt the rest in the warmth of the milk by stirring the mixture. Allow to stand for 30 minutes.

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  1. In a small glass of bowl measure your milk and hot water. Make sure the combination of the two is only lukewarm and stir in your yeast to activate. Leave for 10 minutes.

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  1. In a large bowl combine the mixtures from steps 1&2 and add ¼ of the flour continue to add the flour slowly in stages ¼ at a time until the dough comes together.

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  1. Dust a work surface with flour and knead the dough for at least 8 minutes to help bring it together. Grease your bowl with olive oil, place the dough back in to prove and cover with a damp tea towel for at least an hour.

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  1. Once the dough has risen knead again on a floured surface and either shape into little rolls or grease your bread tins (this recipe makes two 23×12 cm loafs) and allow to raise again for 20/30 minutes until double in size.

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I created a salt and pepper 5 plait loaf with one half of my dough and a plain egg washed loaf with the other.

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  1. Bake in a pre-heated oven on 190oc for 25 minutes, remove from their tins and bake for a further 5/10 minutes until golden brown.

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Hopefully you’ll all find the bread recipe very useful. It can be made with just water instead of milk and any type of bread flour you wish!