Michelle Darmody: Christmas breads

If you have time for baking this weekend it could be handy to bake some bread. A nice loaf is a great way to use up leftovers.

Either of the breads here can be used for turkey and stuffing sandwiches, or the scones can provide a tasty base for a wafer-thin slice of smoked salmon.

All of these recipes include at least a small proportion of coarse wholemeal flour. I use a stone-ground flour from Macroom. It has been ground in the mill since 1832 and has a lovely nutty
texture and taste. The same mill also provides delicious oats for porridge. The oats are toasted
on cast-iron plates for two days before being dehulled and then stone-ground, an age old process which has been used for many generations.

For the cranberry loaf you may notice that the other flour called for is strong white flour, rather than plain flour. This has a higher gluten content and gives better results when working with yeast. 20g of fresh yeast can be substituted for the dried yeast. Bear in mind on this weekend, so close to the end of the year, it may be difficult to purchase fresh yeast, businesses and bakers have started putting their bread tins away and turning off their ovens looking forward to a well- earned break.

Caraway seeds have quite a distinctive taste and may not appeal to everyone. It may be worth tasting a few before adding them to the dough, if you are unsure. The bread will work just as well without.

Raisin and Cinnamon Soda Bread

Ingredients:

  • 250g of plain white flour
  • 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of bread soda
  • 200g of coarse wholemeal flour
  • a generous pinch of sea salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 340 mls of buttermilk
  • 1 tsp of honey
  • a handful of raisins

Method:

Line a baking tray with parchment and heat your oven to 220C.

Mix the white flour with the bread soda and cinnamon. Sieve them all into a large bowl to ensure the soda is evenly distributed. Add
the coarse flour and salt and stir everything together.

Add the egg to the buttermilk and stir in the honey. Stir the liquid into the flour until it is completely combined. It will be sticky. Stir in the raisins. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and shape into a circle and cut a cross in the top of it. Lay it onto the prepared baking tray.

Bake for 15 minutes then turn down the oven to 200C and continue baking for a further 30 minutes. When you tap the underside of the loaf it should sound hollow. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Cranberry and Caraway Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 400g of strong white flour
  • 50g of coarse wholemeal flour
  • a generous pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tsp of muscovado sugar
  • 7g of sachet of fast-action yeast
  • 300ml of warm water
  • (blood temperature)
  • a handful of dried
  • cranberries, chopped
  • 1 tsp of caraway seeds —
  • optional

Method:

Put the flours, salt, sugar and yeast into a the bowl of a mixer. Add the warm water and mix at a medium speed with a dough hook for about 12 minutes, until the dough is completely coming away from the sides of the bowl and has formed a smooth ball.

Oil a large dish and place the ball of dough in it, cover with a layer of cling film and place in a warm place. It will puff up and become more than twice the original size.

After an hour, knock back the dough, this means taking all of the larger bubbles out
of it by kneading it lightly. Knead in the cranberries
and seeds, if you are using them.

Heat the oven to 210C.

Shape the dough into a circular loaf and place it onto an oiled baking tray. Allow it to rest and increase in size for a further half an hour.

Bake for 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 190D and continue baking for a further 30 minutes, until the top is golden and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap the base.

Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Sage and Blue Cheese Scones

Ingredients: 

  • 140g of plain flour
  • 280g of coarse wholemeal flour
  • 1 level tsp of bread soda
  • a generous pinch of baking powder
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tsp of black pepper
  • 60g of cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • enough milk to increase the eggs to
  • 280ml in volume
  • 2 tsp of honey
  • a small handful of sage, finely chopped
  • 60g of blue cheese, crumbled

Method:

Heat your oven to 200C and line a baking tray with parchment.

Mix the flours, bread soda, baking powder, salt and pepper well, making sure the bread soda is evenly distributed.

If it is lumpy it is safest to sieve it.

Rub in the cold butter until the mixture resembles rough breadcrumbs.

Add the milk to the two eggs, ensuring that it comes to 280ml. Add the honey and then add this to the flour and butter mixture, until combined.

Gently add the sage and blue cheese so that they both ripple through the dough.

Turn it out onto a floured surface, pat it down and cut about 10 scones from the dough.

Lay apart on the baking tray and bake for 15 minutes or until golden on top.



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