I used to bake for pleasure, every other weekend or so for gifts and special occasions. Then I was whisked away into the transformative world of Television. Writing lots of books, cooking and baking multiple times a day and coming up with new recipes with every breath. Even though it was my passion, I began to lose a little love for it and baked less and less for pleasure. They say that it is an occupational hazard when you make your passion your work. Happy to say I am getting back to re-addressing the balance. I work (mainly stateside) judging and hosting TV shows which I love very much and now the nights are drawing in, I feel compelled again to get back in to the kitchen and crank up the oven and get a gentle soothing bake on. I have gone back to basics, bread. I fell in love with baking because of making bread and cookies. The cakes and the fancy stuff all came later. So here is a recipe gift for you and I hope you give it a go and bake it.
I did not participate in any Halloween activities so was feeling a little out of the festive sorts. Pumpkin puree seemed the right approach and so I grabbed a couple of cans off the shelf in Wholefoods. I adore the simplicity of bread. The few ingredients a basic loaf needs, there is no pomp no circumstance no social media viral video worthy processes. Just soothing simplicity. I had a quick search and found something called ‘baking buddy’ on Tesco’s and Sainbury’s websites. At a glance the nutritional information looks pretty much the same. I took the basic recipe from the Soda bread I made in Baking Made Easy and then adapted it to work with the extra liquid from the pumpkin puree.
I will put the full recipe in one place below, but I mixed together the flours, salt, pumpkin puree, milk, lemon juice, maple syrup and bicarbonate of soda. The dough was really sticky so I had to add a little more flour. The recipe is supposed to be made with purely plain flour but I had none left and didn’t not fancy another trip to the shop so I topped it up with some self-raising instead. Then I flattened out the dough as above and sprinkled over some seeds and cranberries.
The above pic is my favourite bit about making bread. Once the dough has its seeds etc in, you flip the dough over and then tuck in the sides as if you were making a bed. So all of the edges of the dough are now underneath and this gives you a beautifully smooth top. Magic. Talking here again about passion, there are lots of quotes out there which talk of finding your purpose. That which gives your life meaning above and beyond family and friends. They say if you find your passion it will lead you to your purpose. I have been thinking about this for much of this year and I think that it is true to a degree. I think using your passion to somehow help people will lead you to your purpose. Have a look over at this inspiring young lady who has started a “social enterprise dedicated to fighting gender-based violence throughout the world by empowering vulnerable and abused girls and women to speak out” The founder Yana Spencer says of this initiative called Tamu Bakery “The concept behind our organisation is a simple one – our supporters order one of our delicious cakes, and the funds are used to run baking therapy sessions with vulnerable and abused girls and women around the world, in partnership with host organisations”. A clear cut case of marrying her passion for baking with helping others= Purpose.
The next step in the recipe is to give the bread its trade mark cross. Flour a wooden spoon well and then holding it horizontallyv over the bread push it down all the way to the baking tray and then hold the spoon at right angles to the other line and do the same. Do make sure you press all the way down. I tried sprinkling the seeds et al on top of the bread but they just fell off. I considered brushing the top with something but I do love the rustic matte appearance of a soda bread and did not want to change that. So I spent 10 minutes pushing the cranberry and pumpkin seeds on top of the loaf. And then went to put it in the oven and of course, I had forgot to turn the oven on. Anyone else have a bit of a sieve brain memory?
So here is the loaf going in to the oven. Doesn’t it look beautiful? I Popped it in the oven and then took the dog for a walk. A perfect morning I’d say.
Tidying up is my least favourite pastime post baking. I don’t like it at all. The one piece of equipment that has made my life much easier however, is this bench scraper. Good to just get the majority of flour or icing sugar up in a few easy scrapes. They cost next to nothing, I bought mine from Russums The bendy ones are best. Some of the cake companies do a white one which is too rigid. Also the metal ones are okay but I always worry that it may damage my worksurface so I highly recommend a bendy plastic one.
With hindsight I would have pushed the cranberries down a little more so they did not catch quite so much colour. But other than that this has turned out well. Something very satisfying about doing a new recipe and it working first time around. I reckon I could fall in love with this baking lark all over again.
My problem with baking is that I want to eat the whole thing once it comes out of the oven. Cookies, biscuits, bread and cakes. How good are they when warm! But I have a process now to stop my little fingers cutting off one slice too many. I give my self a couple of slices and then let the bread cool down and then pop the loaf in to a freezer bag. Soda bread does not keep well anyway and should be eaten on the day that it is cooked. Too make it last longer it’s a good idea to slice the bread up and then freeze it so you can pull out a slice and whack it in the toaster when the carbohydrate mood takes you again.
Let me know how you get on with this recipe. Please feel free to play around with the ingredients a little. Not so much the milk and flour etc element of it, but perhaps you want to add some courgettes and some cheese in place of pumpkin? Or some beetroot? It’s all about getting the balance of the liquid right so that when you come to form it in to a ball it is not sticking badly to the surface and it is not breadcrumb texture. I do encourage you to experiment and have fun with it. Recipe below.
500g plain flour
60g of self raising flour
1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp of salt
1 tbsp of maple syrup (optional you can use honey if you like or treacle to darken the crumb
300g of tinned pumpkin puree
200ml of semi-skimmed milk
1 tbsp of lemon juice
4 tbsp of chia seed ( this is optional)
4 tbsp of pumpkin seeds
4 tbsp of dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 200c/400f
Put the flours in a bowl with the bicarbonate of soda and the salt and mix them together. Then add the maple syrup and the pumpkin puree along with the skimmed milk, lemon juice and the chia seeds. Mix it all for a couple of minutes until it starts to come together. Then put down the spoon and get your hands in, bring it together in a ball and then pop it down on a lightly floured surface.
Press it down a little to flatten the ball and then sprinkle in half of the pumpkin seeds and half of the cranberries. Fold in the edges of the dough in to the centre a few times, not kneading it but just trying to get the seeds and cranberries mixed in as well as possible. Then fold in the edges to the middle again and then flip the dough the other around so that the messy edges are underneath and the top of the dough is smooth.
Place the bread on a baking sheet and take a lightly sprinkle some flour over a wooden spoon. Hold the wooden spoon horizontally over the bread and then press down all the way to the bottom of the tin. This is the first half of the cross. Then turn the spoon so it is at right angles to the line you have just made and make another line thus forming a cross.
Push the remaining cranberries in to the top of the loaf. Pushing them so they are flush with the bread will mean that they do not burn when they bake. Then put the pumpkin seeds on also. You do not have to push them down quite so much as they will not burn so easily but will go toasty which is a good thing.
Place in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the bread has risen slightly (it will not rise much) and is firm and not wet in the bits where the cross is. These bits cook the slowest and when they are dry, it is a good indicator that the bread is cooked.
Once cooked remove from the oven and leave to cool a little before slicing and serving with some good butter.
Enjoy baking and eating it and tell me how do you think is the best way to find your purpose in life? I look forward to hearing from you.
Ps: If you see any typos let me know in the comments and I will correct them 💋