Hopefully the Easter weekend was fun for all. Most of it was spent reading (World War One, naturally), but also lots of Great British Bake-Off re-runs, The Village (I’m sure I’ll have more to say on that soon – after all, the first episode was set in 1914!), and a visit to the theatre – my first in years – to see Mies Julie, an adapted version (i.e. borrowing the concept of, but with an original script) of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie set in South Africa, which has received universal rave reviews. Sadly I found myself disagreeing with the reviewers wholeheartedly by about 20 minutes in, and my patience had evaporated completely by the end. All I can conclude is that journalists equate the combination of copious swearing, nudity, simulated sex, jumping around on stage, race relation allusions and South Africa as cutting-edge and electric. The much-promised sexual tension and climactic scene (er, in more ways than one) actually drove me to hysterical (though silent, I hasten to add) laughter – it was just so awkward. And I personally don’t equate two people shouting at each other with irresistible sexual tension, so this ‘tension’ was lost on me, rendering much of the action pointless. The script, also, should have been tightened up – it was genuinely all over the place, extremely repetitive and didn’t actually take us anywhere. The disappointing thing was that some potentially intriguing moments touched on (Julie’s threat to cry rape, the Christine’s comments on identity) weren’t explored fully or even at all, at the expense of a continuous “I hate you”/”I love you” exchange between Julie and John (Jean in the original play). Some bits also just came out of nowehere (Christine’s reference to her effaced fingerprints) and just hung there, without context or development, and the symbolism was exceptionally heavy-handed. All in all, disappointing for me, though obviously I am in the minority on this one.
Anyway, back to the baking challenge. The showstopper challenge for bread week (series one) was to make 24 sweet and savoury rolls, which I assumed meant 12 of each. Now that I’m re-watching the episodes on the BBC, I can see that some people actually made about six different breads. Exciting – but maybe overkill? This challenge was actually one I meant to replicate faithfully (i.e., doing both rolls at the same time), but then we bought (shocker) some bread and doing both at the same time would have greatly exceeded our bread needs and been a waste.
For the sweet, I made some very British Pembrokeshire buns, adapted from a National Trust cookbook. I must admit that while they were loved by some in the house, they were too similar to hot cross buns for my taste, even omitting the candied peel which I cannot stomach. The buns were slightly unusual in using lard, which seemed to make them softer for longer than breads made with other fats. Very easy and quick, too; they also made good French toast. The only disadvantage is really the block of lard sitting in my freezer.
For the savoury, chorizo-stuffed rolls from Casa Moro, for which I had to double the recipe, and didn’t stuff enough, with the delicious result that I could snack on loads of fried chorizo while waiting for them to bake. The oil which the chorizo gives off in the original frying is incorporated into the dough, which is great as it’s not wasteful, and making them rich, slightly oily and quite salty. Delicious, but not the kind of roll you eat dozens of in one sitting. The directions from Casa Moro on timings weren’t always very helpful so I’ve tried to clarify them based on my experience.
Adapted from The National Trust Teatime Baking Book
- 15g lard
- 15g butter, softened
- 450g plain flour, sifted
- 50 caster sugar
- 75g currants
- 25g fresh yeast
- 125ml warm water
- 125ml milk (preferably not ice-cold, but just adjust the warmth of the water to compensate)
- Rub the lard and butter into the flour. Add the sugar and currants and stir through until evenly mixed.
- Mix the milk and water and crumble the yeast into the mixture. Add the liquid to the mixture and add it to the dry ingredients. Mix to a soft dough and knead for five minutes until smooth. Let rise in a warm place for 15 minutes – or, in my case, in a fairly cold place for 30-45 minutes.
- Knead the dough again for a few minutes, then weigh the dough. Divide into 12 equal portions, weighing each of if you are pedantic (I did but usually wouldn’t – I just wanted to see what it would be like to be pedantic). Roll into round buns (I formed a round by tucking the four ‘corners’ of the dough from each ball into the centre and then smoothing over). Leave in a warm place for about 10 minutes until well risen – double or more time if it’s not warm.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C and grease a baking tray or two (however many you need) with butter. Once the buns are well-risen, bake for 15-20 mins until golden. Let cool on a wire rack.
Adapted from Casa Moro. The original recipe made 8 rolls; the recipe has been doubled and is divided into 12 larger buns.
- 400g cooking chorizo, cut into 1cm-thick rounds
- 2 TBS olive oil
- 2 tsps fennel seeds
- 1 tsp dried yeast
- 460ml warm water
- 700g strong white bread flour, plus a little extra for dusting
- 1.5 tsps fine salt
- Fry the chorizo in the oil over a high heat until browned and crisp. Add the fennel seeds and fry for half a minute more. Drain off the oil and reserve. Let the chorizo and seeds cool.
- Dissolve the yeast in the water. Mix together the flour and salt and add the water and yeast, working it into the flour mixture. Knead for 4-5 minutes, then add the cooled chorizo cooking oil. Knead for a further five minutes.
- Weigh the dough and divide into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball on a floured surface. Take a ball into your hand and stuff 2-3 pieces of chorizo and some fennel seeds (a pinch or so) into the centre. Close the dough up around the savoury filling and roll on the surface once more until the hole has closed up. Place on an oiled baking tray, lightly oil the surface of the rolls (with a finger or pastry brush) and cover with clingfilm. Leave the dough to rise until at least doubled in size and soft to the touch. Casa Moro gives no indications as to time, so I left them an hour. The exact timing will depend on the temperature of your room.
- About 20 minutes before you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 220C. Uncover the rolls and bake for 20 minutes.