This post is a few days later than intended. It’s been a very busy week, full of rugby watching, reading about climate change, making this cake, and remembering why it’s probably a good idea to boycott companies who have idiots like this running them. Also reading “Expo ’58” by Jonathan Coe, which is very good thus far.
And of course, I made a loaf of vanilla bread from Signe Johansen’s Scandilicious Baking. I love making bread – it’s been said many a time before – but there’s something quite therapeutic and satisfying about making bread. I don’t make bread as much as I’d like to, partly because it’s quite time-consuming, and partly because I haven’t really found a good warm place in this house for dough to be left to rise (wedged on top of a radiator doesn’t seem to give the best results). But I thought I’d give this one a crack because I’ve never made sweet bread before, and out of all the breads in Scandilicious Baking, this was the most appealing. Maybe when I have a good warm place, I’ll make all the breads.
The aforementioned top of the radiator technique meant that my dough didn’t rise quite as much as I’d hoped, and it was a little doughy in the middle. But, also, really tasty. Bread with a hint of vanilla is the best kind of bread – the kind of bread you can eat slice after slice covered in bramble jelly.
1/2 vanilla pod, split
250ml whole milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
500g refined spelt flour (or plain flour – or I used strong white bread flour, all work fine)
50g caster sugar (plus 1tsp if using fresh yeast)
1 tsp salt
25g fresh yeast, or 12g fast action dried yeast
1 medium egg, beaten
1. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod and place in a small saucepan with the milk, butter and vanilla extract. Heat the milk mixture until almost boiling and then allow to cool while you assemble the other ingredients. Scalding the milk like this makes the finished bread softer.
2. Sift the flour, salt and sugar together into a large bowl, sprinkle in the dried yeast (if using) and stir through. If using fresh yeast, cream it with a teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl and once it’s liquid, add to the dry ingredients. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg, then the milk mixture, which should be warm rather than hot to the touch, otherwise you risk killing the yeast. Stir everything together until the mixture comes off the sides of the bowl.
3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled plastic bag or cover the bowl with lightly oiled cling film. Leave to rise in a warm place for 45-60 mins or so until it has doubled in size. Lightly oil a 900g loaf tin. Knock back the dough, then shape into a oblong and place into the tin. Cover and leave to prove in a warm place for an hour or so until the dough no longer springs back when pressed with a finger.
4. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Brush the dough with water or milk for a softer crust. Splash a little water in the bottom of the oven to create steam to help the loaf rise, then bake on the upper middle shelf, turning the heat down after the first 10 mins to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Bake for a further 35-40 mins or so until the bread looks golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap it on the base. Remove the tin and allow to cool before eating.
Next week might be apple and courgette cake. We shall see.