Tina’s Brown Soda Bread
It’s very difficult for me to write down my recipe for brown bread. As regular visitors will know, it can vary in coarseness, sweetness, dryness, crumbliness, taste . . . and so on. Some of this is to do with the ingredients and the differences between one manufacturer and another. But mostly it’s because I have never measured out the quantities so one batch is never quite the same as another. Hence the handful of this and pinch of that. Even where I give measures in grammes and litres, you should take these as very rough guidelines.
2 heaped handfuls coarse wholemeal
Put the dry ingredients, except for the sesame seeds, in a large bowl. Add the margarine and crumble it into the dry mix. Add the egg and most of the buttermilk. Mix with your hand until you have a sticky paste. This shouldn’t take long. The secret here is not to have the dough too dry – or too wet. The paste should stick to your fingers but be dense enough so it holds together. Add the rest of the milk if necessary.
Sprinkle flour liberally on the dough. Knead lightly – just enough to create a cake. If wanted, roll the cake in sesame seeds. Sprinkle flour on the base of a 1lb loaf tin or flat tray and press the cake in. Cut a cross on top.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 230ºC, 450ºF or gas mark 8 for about 45 minutes. To test whether it’s done, tap it on the base – it should sound hollow. When done, turn out on a wire tray to cool.
Basically, it’s all a matter of personal taste. It’s hard to go wrong, so play around with the proportions until you find what you like. If you like your brown bread coarse, go heavy on the coarse wholemeal and light on the white flour. Wheatbran adds further coarseness and makes the bread a bit crumblier. Bread soda is needed as a raising agent and adds sharpness to the flavour. Sugar makes the bread sweeter, and I have found that brown sugar adds a nice colour and texture to the bread. Purists would not add margarine or the egg, but again, I like them for the extra flavour and ‘binding’ properties.
This all sounds like it’s more complicated than it’s worth, but it’s very easy to make and well worth playing with to get what you like.
The scones are not quite as haphazard as the brown bread, but some lee-way on ingredients is possible. I have never weighed the ingredients, but here – I think! – is what I usually do.
450g / 1lb plain white flour
Put the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the margarine and crumble it into the dry mix. Add the eggs and the milk. Mix with your hand until you have a sticky paste. This shouldn’t take long. The secret here is not to have the dough too dry – or too wet. The paste should stick to your fingers but be dense enough so it holds together. Add the rest of the milk if necessary.
Sprinkle flour liberally on the dough. Knead lightly – just enough to create a cake. Roll out lightly to about 3cm / 1½ inch thick. Cut out scones. Place on a flat tray sprinkled with flour.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 230ºC, 450ºF or gas mark 8 for about 15 minutes.
When done, let cool on a wire tray.
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Tina’s apple and rhubarb tarts
I’m never quite sure why the one thing that people most often remember about their visit is the apple tart – or in summer, rhubarb tart – with a cup of tea, in the kitchen.
As always, the quality of the ingredients – especially the fruit – will make a difference. Unknown to us, we have been using organic fruit, fresh from the garden for years – apples from Booth’s next door, and our own rhubarb.
The measures for the pastry are pretty accurate, but the amount of fruit and sweetness is very much to taste.
450g / 1lb white flour
3-4 large cooking apples or 5 – 6 sticks rhubarb
Put the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. The experts talk about it and I have found that cold ingredients and equipment really does make the difference with pastry – so if you have a choice, use a cold metal bowl. Add the margarine and crumble it into the dry mix until you have something that looks like breadcrumbs. Separate the eggs and add the yolks to the mixture. Mix with your fingers or a fork until you have a dough. Sprinkle a little cold water if you need it to wet the mixture. You shouldn’t need more than a tablespoon of water – and will probably use less. Sprinkle flour liberally on work-top. Knead and cut in two (for the base and top of the tart). Roll-out the base so that it generously covers your baking plate (slightly larger than a dinner plate). Grease the plate with margarine and fold the pastry base on to it. Cut the edges.
Slice the apples fairly thinly and spread evenly on the base, leaving 1 cm / ½ inch at the edge. (Cut rhubarb in 1-2cm / ½-1inch lengths.) Cover with sugar. Roll out the second ball of pastry, making sure it will cover the fruit and the base adequately. Lightly coat the base edge with water. Press the top down at the edges with a fork to seal the edge. Cut a cross in the middle.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180ºC, 350ºF or gas mark 4 for about 45 minutes.
When baked, leave to cool and sprinkle lightly with caster sugar.
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