Good morning bakers! It feels like Autumn is officially here, I have the heating on in measured doses, though I’m trying to introduce scarf and hat wearing “inside the house” as a thing. It’s the season when I’m all for comfortable baking: having all the tools at hand to make my baking stress-free.
Maybe that’s what I liked when I discovered BakeryBits years ago - that they sold home bakers things like dough scrapers, a blade to slash the dough neatly (called a “lame” - it’s French, pronounced “larm”), bench brushes, really accurate scales. As weird as this may sound today, as we surf the BakeryBits website for ideas, these small items were “bakery bits” that were hard to find, if you weren’t a trade baker. Fun fact: many years ago I was sent an angry email from a trade baking supplier because I’d mentioned somewhere that anyone could buy from them, and ignored the “TRADE ONLY” warning on their website.
So as we get into the baking season proper, do treat yourself to all the small bits of kit that BakeryBits stocks, as they’ve selected the very best and often have a choice: for example you can go for the simple dough scoring knife at £2 (I use and reuse them often), or the beautiful handmade black walnut lame (with replaceable blades) at £32.
My recipe this week is a celebration of England’s West Country in autumn, a crusty but soft-crumb sandwich loaf, studded with chunks of roasted apple and onion, grated cheddar, and sunflower seeds, in dough flavoured with good ale, honey, butter and a little einkorn flour. I’ve kept yeast quite high, so it rollicks along swiftly in about 3-4 hours from first dough to baked loaf – don’t leave the house, stay with it – yet it still stays soft and delicious the following day, and slices even easier then. A great recipe for using your new tools from BakeryBits.
1. Heat the oven to 180°C fan and line the baking tray and tin with non-stick paper: even with a non-stick coating, the juice released from the apple pieces can caramelize onto the metal and make removing the loaf tricky, so using non-stick paper is a good idea.
2. Peel and coarsely dice the apple and onion, discarding the apple core. Tip onto the baking tray, sprinkle with 1 tsp sugar and a pinch of salt, toss together evenly then bake for about 25 minutes, stirring once after 15 minutes, until the pieces have dried and slightly charred. Then tip onto a cold plate and leave to cool.
2. Meanwhile pour the ale and water into a mixing bowl: if your ale is very cold, make your water quite warm so that you end up with lukewarm (26°C-30°C) liquid. Whisk in the yeast and honey until dissolved. Add the strong white flour and Einkorn flour, mix well to a soft, sticky dough, then cover and leave for 10 minutes.
3. Melt the butter then tip this and the salt over the dough. Mix well until the butter and salt are mostly worked in, then cover and leave for another 10 minutes. Then, stretch and fold the dough lightly in the bowl for 10-15 seconds to smooth it out, then cover and leave for 30 minutes.
5. Wet the worktop – a spray bottle is good here – and stretch the dough out into a thin rectangle about 20cm by 30cm. Use your scraper here to help move the dough out of the bowl and to help when you’re lifting the dough edges to stretch it out. Distribute the cooked apple and onion evenly, then sprinkle with the grated cheddar and sunflower seeds. Roll the dough up in about 3-4 turns, then squish this roll of dough down flattish with wet fingers. Finally, roll the dough up on itself lengthways so you finish with a neat parcel with all the filling trapped inside. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave for 30 minutes.
6. Have your tin lined with non-stick paper ready, and some flour for shaping. Dust the worktop with flour, turn the dough out onto it, pat it down flattish and roll up again tightly. Place this seam-side downward in the tin, cover and leave about an hour to double in volume.
7. Heat the oven to 180°C fan. Brush the top of the loaf with extra ale, sprinkle with extra sunflower seeds, and make two diagonal slashes across the top with your lame. Bake for 30 minutes then reduce the temperature to 160°C fan and bake for a further 30 minutes until golden. Leave for 5 minutes before turning the loaf out of the tin, then allow it to cool completely.