The things I do for you

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I have been wanting to make the chocolate loaf from Apples for Jam:Tessa Kiros for some time now but had put bread making on the back burner for a while (Husband buys bread when it’s on sale and fills the freezer and I haven’t needed bread therapy for months).

But, as previously mentioned on these pages I am trying to improve the variety in Spider’s packed lunch so following a tip from The Book fo Sandwiches:Gwen Robyns I gave him a banana sandwiches on chocolate bread.  It was, an unqualified failure ! This despite me telling him what I was doing the night before (“sorry Mummy cannot come and play the Bee game with you now, she’s making chocolate bread for your sandwiches”)…he loved the idea.

The next day however, wouldn’t touch them.  Part of me wishes I had found this post before. The post not only gives the recipe but cautions the cook that it is not as sweet as you might hope, and if I’m being honest it does need to be  a bit sweeter.  However since I could tell from the sandwich remains that he hadn’t even touched them so I  suspect in Spider’s case he just decided he didn’t want a brown lunch.

I do thank the recipe though for making Husband do a double take “What on earth is that !!!!” he said pointing at the top of the cooker where the loaf was cooling, looking for all the world like one of our cats had serious bowel problems and had managed a record breaking poo on top of the hob…

Anyway, not being one to waste food I’m currently noshing a toasted version with damson jam which seems to work as the jam is very sweet and the loaf slightly bitter.

Bananas

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Bananas present an interesting problem to those in the UK who try to eat both seasonally and locally. Unless you have a super heated and large greenhouse it is highly improbable that you will be able to grow your own bananas, even if you do manage it they are unlikely to fruit. Furthermore, as far as I can establish there appears to be no one trying to do so in this country on a commercial basis.

As for seasonal, well once you’ve accepted the fact that bananas have to be imported then they are pretty much available all the year round… So what are you to do ? Well you either ban the carbon traitor from your diet or you accept that fact that you are unlikely ever to achieve carbon neutral nirvana and salve your conscience a bit by buying fair trade. The other thing you can do, having accepted that you’d rather not live without bananas in your life (which my friend Wingnut is more than happy to do, considering them as “the evil yellow devil herb”) is to make sure that you don’t compound the carbon sin by letting them go to waste.

If I haven’t got the time to incorporate banana into muffins, cake or breakfast pancakes prior to freezing then I have been happily skinning them, quartering them and sticking in a plastic bag for several years now. What I had not tried until recently was to follow the Economy Gastronomy trick of freezing them whole, skin and all. For those that try it please note, if you are in a hurry the skin is difficult to get off, and if you leave them to defrost you end up with a nasty black slime all over your work surface….they also take up more room then their quartered brothers.

We are ODing on bananas at the moment as in addition to buying a large bag of bananas at the weekend I decided to start clearing out the freezer prior to Christmas and the first thing I was confronted with was a number of EG style frozen bananas. So I have been working my way through recipe books. I didn’t try on this occasion, but I have in the past tried Nigella’s healthy banana muffins. (the original recipe doesn’t have the chocolate)  My recommendation is “don’t”; they sacrifice taste in the pursuit of healthiness, would rather eat less and enjoy some flavour (interestingly her Banana and Butterscotch muffins are nice).

Alternatively a healthy muffin that is surprisingly nice are the Banana Bran Muffins from “Economy Gastronomy” – yes there is a reasonable amount of sugar in them, but they do make over 24 reasonably sized muffins and the mixture keeps in the fridge so you can make them in advance and cook them when ready and freeze your leftovers. Disadvantages are they are more complicated than usual muffins and take longer to cook. Recommendation from Spider is that they are nicer warm.

Nigella’s Banana Bread is nice, thought Tessa Kiros’ banana bread from “Apples for Jam” would be nicer due to use of brown sugar but there was no marginal difference. Susan Austin’s Banana Pancakes are what breakfasts were invented for, and they freeze. I’ve also tried the Banana and Oats Smoothie from Leon:Allegra Mcevedy which…I am hoping to tempt Spider with at the weekend.

Finally this is more a serving suggestion than an actual recipe and has been known in my family for at least 35 years as “Banana’s Valentine”. Take a skinned banana. Sprinkle with dark brown sugar. Pour over a reasonable amount of evaporated milk, leave to stand for a few minutes. Eat with enthusiasm.

The only green eyed baseball playing snowman in warwickshire

Well we finally got a substantial fall of snow that stayed for more than half a day. I woke up this morning to a properly white world AND the primary school was shut, which meant the pre-school was too. I phoned in to take a day off and got in touch with my inner child…

As an adult, I hate snow. Snow is stuff for looking at through a double pane of glass with a glass of mulled wine in your hand. Fortunately, having had a brief career as the outdoor type before Spider was born I have kit designed to cope with all weathers – so Spider and I got water and windproofed to the hilt and then set out to join the rest of the village (yes the rest of the village) enjoying the winter wonderland in the farmers field over the road from our house.  It really was a lovely little communal scene, you can almost imagine what it used to be round here when the village was the centre of life and not just where you sleep.

We made a snowman, and pelted each other with snowballs and made snow angels and snow castles and then ran home laughing and giggling like 2 4 year olds (instead of 1) for a nice warm bath, muffins and hot chocolate…and then pretended we were chameleons in the living room seeing who had the longest tongue.  Spider had fun. I joined in without complaint and made sure that he had, ok not the best snowman in the village but certainly the only one with dried lime slices as eyes (the end slice you never put in your gin).

Anyway whilst I was getting all sentimental about how great it was that a village can still bond and be communal, Husband had dragged himself off his sick bed to get some milk and other essentials – he was not experiencing communal village life at its best but more the “siege mentality” and everyman from himself.  Apparently the shelves in the co op had been emptied of milk and bread within the first hour of being open and rumour has it,  it was “all the people that don’t normally come in”. Hey no problem guys, at least you are using it – now make sure you use them more often otherwise they won’t be there next time we get snowed in.

Me, admittedly I am making bread this evening, not from fear of shortage but more I actually had the time and half an open packet of yeast to use up.  We keep the freezer stocked up with short dated bread anyway ( a full freezer is more efficient) and have 2 litres of semi skimmed UHT in the cupboard at all times.

The “bread” is actually “half moon rolls” from Apples for Jam:Tessa Kiros, I have a craving for some soft white rolls…but I think there may be something wrong with my yeast…so I am not too hopeful…half moon rolls are a basic white dough recipe rolled in a particular way.

Bread Therapy

Sometimes I like to make bread by hand, its not something I do often as I rarely have the time during the week, not unless I stay up til gone midnight to take the loaf out of the oven. Not a glorious prospect for someone whose wake up call is 6.30am

To which most people (well bread machine evangelists at any rate) say “what you need is a bread machine, it makes life sooooooo much easier !”. Now I would never under any circumstance knock the joy of a freshly made loaf from a bread machine – in fact I melt into the floor with delight every time Flapjack Queen sends her husband round with a plate of freshly made bread slathered in lemon curd – and yes, a homemade loaf, even in a bread machine, beats the hell out a chorleywood process plastic loaf but I want more than just the bread.

Bread is therapy. Making it can be calming – I love the sensuous feel of the dough beneath my fingers, to gently knead and fold – or it can be anger management, many cook books cite the joy of working out your frustrations on the dough with intense kneading, stretching, slamming the dough back down on the surface.

I even enjoy watching people making bread – there is a fantastic scene in channel 4’s Real Food series where Nigel Slater makes bread with Emily Green – he has a wonderful, infectious excitement over the feel of the dough, and a childish glee when finally consuming it as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich !

Earlier this year I decided as part of the economy drive to start making bread and bought in a new tin of dried yeast, white and brown strong bread flour. Since then I’ve made bread exactly twice…its because we haven’t bought a full price loaf of bread since march – honest ! OK so its honest we haven’t bought a full price of bread, but not “honest that’s the reason I haven’t made bread”. Basically I haven’t yet mastered the art of the loaf, I keep making mistakes…oh, and as mentioned I lack time in the evenings. [The secret to low price bread is that Husband has been buying end of date bread and filling the freezer with it,we take it out slice by slice as and when needed].

The loaves I have made have been fun though. The first was based on the idea of the Milk Roll which I remember from the ’70’s, roughly following the recipe in Apples for Jam: Tessa Kiros…it made me feel like a proper Mummy (the sort that is not at work from 7-7). Came out a bit yeasty, but slightly sweet. Toddler loved it (which is all that mattered really).

Second one was following recipe from Appetite: Nigel Slater for basic white loaf but following the instructions from Emily Green from the Real Food programme (see above) which involved rolling and folding to keep the air in the bread rather than slamming it periodically on the table and wow what a revelation ! This loaf really really rose. It was a very tall loaf, and sort of resembled a brain in shape. Lovely fresh taste, fantastic texture. No yeasty taste this time, but slightly doughy as I took it out of the oven to early – too desperate to taste it I guess.

Bread, no prescription necessary

Bread, no prescription necessary

Postscript: Found the time to make the first two recipes from The Bread & Bread Machine CookBook: Ingram & Shapter, one white, one brown, both were a little on the sweet side (too much honey or sugar ?) and the white still had too much of a yeasty taste.

The Brown loaf worked quite well except for the fact I got the tin measurements wrong and it ended up in too shallow a tin…very surprised it worked in view of the fact it required less than 1/3 of the usual kneading time.