Bread workshop: It’s all about the buns

I love bread.

The infinite textures and flavours you can create with a base of yeast, flour and water means you will never ever get bored. Add some seeds, maybe some dried fruit, perhaps some pesto. Can’t have wheat? Try the steadily growing range of alternatives and mix with whatever your heart desires. I’m a lover of sourdough and have tried my hand at getting it right (it’s harder than it looks and sounds) and I love experimenting with flavours and shapes – my instagram account reflects this.

Pre-bake brief
Danielle and the team during the pre-baking brief!

Last weekend I was very lucky to attend a bread making workshop with Danielle of Severn Bites. She loves bread too. So much so, she went to France in 2014 for five months to learn the art of the perfect loaf and came back a professional. Originally from a marketing background (so she’s good at communicating to her audience), Danielle has developed classes to appeal to a wide range of people, including people with some bread baking experience like me!

Everything you need for delicious viennoise goodies + Natacha adding the butter to the mix

Late Saturday morning, I picked up the lovely ladies from Yes Starling!, Natacha the Franglaise and My Nothing Book and we took a mini roadtrip to Danielle’s home near Slimbridge. We were greeted with warm smiles and hot soup, along with some homemade foccacia, of course!

Danielle’s fruit mix for the hot cross buns (the peel is homemade and delicious!) + Danielle adding the fruit to the dough

Once we donned aprons, it was down to business. Danielle told us about her experiences in France and gave us a tutorial on baker’s percentages (which I have never used myself) and this was then implemented with our first batch of viennoise dough. I won’t spoil anything here, because you should definitely book in with Danielle to learn a thing or two.

Chocolate viennoise bread
Preparing chocolate viennoise

Despite there being sugar, butter and egg in the dough, it was perfect for a range of breads and we ended up making a total of five different savoury and sweet goodies: burger buns, spiced buns (i.e hot cross buns in this instance), savoury scrolls, small batards and a chocolate loaf. Needless to say, our four hour session was packed to the brim with tips and techniques for replicating the recipes at home.

Preparing the savoury bread scrolls
Preparing the savoury scrolls

And here are the results…

Bread: Viennoise batard + viennoise chocolate loaf + viennoise burger buns
Bread: Viennoise batard + viennoise chocolate loaf + viennoise burger buns
Bread: Hot cross buns + savoury scrolls
Hot cross buns + savoury scrolls

Danielle’s course was a lot of fun and perfect for beginners (and those with a few loaves under their belts will learn plenty too). Danielle is so passionate about bread and it’s contagious. She offers one-on-one sessions and group sessions for up to four people. For information on Danielle’s classes and when the next on is right here.

Thanks for having me Danielle, I had a blast!

 

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Chewy chocolate cookies

Now, I’m not saying I make the best cookies in the world, but I am saying that these are pretty damn close.

These chewy chocolate cookies are super simple to make and are sure to be a crowd pleaser (based on my experience every time I make them), which is why I always do a double batch.

The beauty of these cookies is that you can make them whatever you want them to be – a simple chocolate chip or something more fancy like my last batch which included chunks of Terry’s Chocolate Orange, Crispy M&Ms and white chocolate chips. Three of my most favourite things. They are also great with nuts and various lollies/candies.

Ingredients

  • 125 grams butter, chopped and left to come up to room temp
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (I’ve forgotten it and it’s been fine, but you can also exchange for other flavourings)
  • 275 grams firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 150 grams plain flour
  • 35 grams self-raising flour
  • .5 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 35 grams cocoa
  • 150 grams ‘mixins’ of your choice – three types is a good number

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to about 180 degrees
  2. Line two trays with baking paper
  3. Beat the butter
  4. Add the sugar, beat until mixed
  5. Add extract and egg and beat until smooth
  6. Add sifted flours, cocoa and bicarb soda
  7. Add ‘mixins’
  8. Mix until combined by hand
  9. You can use a level tablespoon to measure the dough, but I tend to do this by hand and roll them all into balls
  10. Put the balls of dough on the trays, but make sure you leave plenty of space as they will spread during the cooking process
  11. Bake for approximately 10 minutes – they will come out soft, but will set. If you like a crispy cookie, you can leave for longer.
  12. Leave on the tray until they have set and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

By the way, you can make this dough in advance, roll into balls and then freeze them. You can either cook them all up when you need them or just a couple at a time when you’re in desperate need of chocolate and there isn’t anything in the cupboard.

You can easily use whatever mixins you like, here are some ideas:

  • M&Ms – crispy, peanut, plain
  • Chocolate chips – dark, white, milk
  • Caramel/toffee/fudge chunks – you can pick these up in the baking section at the supermarket
  • Nuts – peanuts, roasted almonds, macadamias
  • Reese’s pieces – chopped up
  • Terry’s Chocolate Orange – chopped up
  • Pretzels – broken up
  • After dinner mints – chopped up
  • Crysalised ginger – not for me, but whatever floats your boat

I can definitely recommend scouring the lolly aisle to come up with some fun combinations. I’ve done it many a time and not too many people question why a strange lady is talking to herself while picking up and putting back various packets of chocolate or lollies.

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