Paul Hollywood’s Barm Cakes

Foodie challenge number 4 is all about not buying anything I can make myself, so many years ago I invested in a bread maker.  It was used extensively when the girls still lived at home, although none of our waistlines benefitted as it is really really hard to cut a thin slice off a freshly baked loaf!  Well that was our excuse and we stuck to it!  Although we all enjoyed the bread from the breadmaker, I started running into problems with it not mixing properly and the loaf welding itself to the tin, compounded by the loss of half of the recipe book after Maisie chewed it up when she was a puppy!  (This is not a photo of the actual demise of the recipe book, but is evidence of young Maisies rather destructive tendencies!)

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Anyhow, I decided not to replace the aged breadmaker like for like and instead the hubby bought me a Kenwood Major Titanium mixer (now named Major Ken) so I could make bread myself from scratch, opening up a world of flavour and shape options I had never tried with the machine.  I should point out that due to ridiculously weak wrists I can not knead for more than about a minute at a time, so a mechanical aid for the kneading is a necessity, not me being totally idle 🙂  Inconveniently, at this point the girls left home, Steve’s frequency of travel increased and I found myself throwing away a lot of my lovely bread as without all the artificial additives to extend its lifespan I wasn’t able to eat it all before it went stale. I considered making the loaf, slicing it and freezing the slices then had a brain wave and realised making rolls would be easier.  My hunt for the perfect roll began and after trying out a number of different recipes I settled on Paul Hollywood’s Barm Cakes.  Lovely soft white rolls which freeze well, defrost in 30 seconds and taste great.  I make up a batch or two, stuff them in freezer bags, take out what I need when I need it and have not had to throw away a single crumb of bread again!  Total win!

You can find the full recipe for the Barm Cakes in Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake Book

Paul Hollywood’s Barm Cakes

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Gather your ingredients together, you will need strong white bread flour, salt, yeast, caster sugar, butter and water.  I use lighter anchor spreadable butter and it seems to work fine whilst slightly reducing the fat and calorie values for a roll!

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Pour the water in the mixer, then add the other ingredients, ensuring you keep the salt and yeast apart, then I set Major Ken off to do the hard work for me.

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I have spent many hours trawling books and the internet for a single clear way to known when I have a)kneaded enough b)risen enough.  You would think it would be easy to find out wouldn’t you, but every where I look I get slightly different advice.  I have settled on the answer to a) being when the dough is nicely elastic when I give it a tug, i.e it doesn’t rip. If I am being really good I try the gluten window test, where you stretch a small bit of dough between your fingers to see if you can see light through it without it ripping. After all, this stage is all about developing the gluten, which is what will give the bread a hopefully light and airy texture.

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I do find using Major Ken the dough doesn’t look perfectly smooth when I remove it from the bowl, but a couple of seconds kneading on the work top sorts that out and I end up with a nice looking ball of dough that is smooth, elastic, holds its shape and is ready to rise.

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Cover the bowl and sit back to drink tea and chat to the visiting daughter, who has taken it upon herself to buy Maisie every squeaky toy she can find!IMG_2254IMG_2255IMG_2223

After a couple of hours of chatting and squeaking, the dough has doubled in size and I think is ready for the next stage.  So what is the answer to b) have I risen enough?

Here is a great opportunity to introduce my Encyclopaedia of Kitchen Science McGee on Food & Cooking. This is a super reference book that explains the science behind nearly everything cooking related.  I requested it one birthday in the hope that understanding what is happening when I cook or bake, would make me a better cook and baker!  Not sure its helped that much, but at least now I understand whats gone wrong, even if I don’t have the intuition and skills to prevent or correct it 🙂  McGee describes the rising phase as fermentation, where the yeast cells produce carbon dioxide which causes the dough to rise, stretching the gluten strands.  Rising is finished when you can poke your finger into the dough and it does not spring back, showing that the gluten has been stretched to its limit.

Tip it out and fold it in on itself a number of times to knock out the air, then divide into equal sized portions. (I’m doing a double batch here which is why there is 24!)

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Roll each portion into a smooth ball and leave to rest for about 30 minutes, then roll them out until they are about twice their original diameter.  Place each roll on a lined baking tray and shake a little flour over the tops.  Cover and leave to prove until doubled in size or they spring back quickly when you prod them lightly with a finger.  This confused me initially, why do you not wait until the gluten has fully stretched again?  DOH!  Quite obvious when you think about it, the bread will rise in the oven, so there still needs to be some elasticity in the gluten when it goes in!

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10 minutes later (having confiscated the squeaky yellow toy), we have a lovely batch of Barm Cakes, ready to cool and freeze or eat whilst still warm with a nice dollop of butter.  YUM!

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Nutritional info per roll (based on My Fitness Pal) – Kcals: 166, Protein:6g, Carbs: 32g, Fat:2g

Bread making may have the image of being difficult, but these really are very easy to make.  Once you have the answers to a) and b) you can produce batches of very tasty soft bread rolls time and time again without any issues, and with the added bonus of no more wasted bread.  My apologies to the birds who are missing out on stale crumbs!

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