Semlor

Lent is fast approaching, and with it Shrove Tuesday.  Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, pancake day, whatever you call it, it is for using up your fatty and decadent food before the start of fasting.

Here in the UK, we make pancakes, which I will of course be making! Over in Sweden however, they make cream buns called semlor (singular: semla). I tried making them last year and here are the results!

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I haven’t ever had a ‘real’ semla so I’m not sure how authentic they were, but they were delicious! Cardamom-scented buns, filled with soft almond paste and loads of cream. I followed this recipe, but there are plenty in English to be found around the internet.

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Brilliant Bread!

I’m still determined to improve my baking skills, so I have been tackling one of the techniques I have historically found very difficult – working with yeast! I have had some memorable disasters in the past, not least a completely inedible focaccia (I blame the recipe of course)!

As I had been avoiding making bread, I didn’t have many recipes to work from, so I decided to treat myself to a new book – Brilliant Bread by James Morton (and it was half price!). You may know James from the 2012 series of the Great British Bake Off. I went for this book because, besides my little crush on him, I read about his motives and aims when writing the book and I thought it was a good choice for a beginner like me. Morton writes about how he was dissatisfied by the books on the market which are written by professionals and simply include scaled-down industrial recipes, and don’t explain how the processes in bread-making work.

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I’m really glad I bought this book. It’s not only good-looking, Morton also has a succinct and approachable style, and he gives some really clear and in-depth explanations of the science and theories behind baking with yeast. I particularly liked the trouble-shooting advice and step-by-step pictures of techniques such as kneading and shaping.

The book is set out in chapters with recipes of increasing difficulty, so I have started to work my way through. My first attempt was of the first loaf in the book – basic white bread.

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It looked pretty good, but it was quite tough. It improved a lot with toasting though! I consulted the book and figured out that it was underproved.

So for my second loaf I tried the same recipe again. This time for some reason it refused to stay shaped, so I ended up shaping and re-shaping about ten times. I got very frustrated with it and in the end I just put it in the oven. It turned out really nicely! The bread was nice and soft, with a fairly even texture, but it did have a weird flat bottom.

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Next I tried making some rolls, though I never managed to get a photo of those. I also figured out that it is quite hard for 3 people to get through a dozen rolls before they go stale so I probably won’t be making those again until there are more people around to eat them. We are very much a toast-eating household, so a loaf is a better bet.

My most recent bread was a wholemeal loaf, baked in a tin. This was my best yet! A nice even crumb, easy to cut, with lots of texture and flavour. I will definitely be making this again.

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If you want to start making bread, I can heartily recommend Brilliant Breads by James Morton as a beginner’s tool, or as inspiration for the experienced baker.

Pizza!

Confidence buoyed by the success of my sweet rolls this year I have decided to work on baking with yeast. Hopefully with practice I can improve and understand how yeast works!

A little while ago we decided to clear out the cupboards, and what better way to use up half-empty jars of olives and aging saucisson than pizza?!

I used a recipe from Jamie Oliver, which can be found here. It turned out really well! We had a small pizza each, I made mine half pepperoni, half mushroom. The crust was thin and crispy, and tasty!

If you want some topping inspiration, here are some of the toppings we used

mozzerella
olives
chilli
pepperoni
sardines
garlic mushrooms
pesto
marinated artichokes
sundried tomatoes

Glad Kanelbullens Dag!

I started a new Swedish class this week, which was perfect timing as today, 4th October, is the official Cinnamon Bun Day in Sweden. This gave me the perfect excuse to make them and gorge myself on them, of course!

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I have made them before, and they always go down very well with friends and family. I use this recipe, which has never failed me. The traditional addition of cardamom in the dough gives them an extra kick of flavour. They aren’t as sickly sweet as the American variety either, so they are perfect for a naughty breakfast or a mid-morning snack (or as the Swedes say, fika).

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I am gradually improving at working with yeast. For a long time I was too scared to bake with yeast as whenever I had tried the results just weren’t that great. I have a better understanding of it now though, and I’m going to keep at it and keep you posted! This just goes to show how easy this recipe is though, even a dunce like me can get great results!