Sunday, 16 November 2014

Cherry and Chocolate Loaf - harder than I thought

I am not a good cook, in fact; I would say that I am a good cooker for too long and rescue food just before I burn it to a crisp person.  However, I can make cupcakes and some of them have been a hit.  I'm thinking coconut and lime cupcakes for Dad and chocolate orange muffins for Rachel.  If I am honest, the latter could have been almost awful as long as they were a chocolate orange flavour as Rachel is obsessed....

Like a lot of the UK, Hubby and I became hooked on this years 'The Great British Bake Off' where the formidable Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood set, what I consider to be, a sequence of horrible baking tasks.  While I wondered at the imagination of the contestants and was very tempted by many of their recipes I have saved the last 3 episodes which consist of baking lessons by Mary and Paul.

We will ignore the Baked Alaska recipe (yes, I am an 80's chick) because this post isn't about that and move swiftly to a bread that Paul showed us how to make which includes dark and white chocolate pieces and cherries.  Now we all know that I will try anything sweet but as a lover of bread I couldn't resist trying this.

I watched the show where Paul showed us what ingredients to use and how to make the recipe.  I watched the part where he shows us how to plait the free form loaf about 20 times before asking myself how hard it could be.  FAIL.

Firstly, I have never made bread before; I am a maker of cupcakes remember so I had no idea how long to mix the dough for starters.  Using the mixer mum gave me what I really needed was a large bread hook; instead the dough wound around the next best alternative until it was spinning around the top of the hooks.  At that point I thought it best to do the mixing by hand.  Except the cherries wouldn't break up.  Next step was to use my food mixer to break up the cherries in the mixture.  After this you can only imagine the amount of washing up I had accumulated.....

The problem with watching how to do a recipe on TV is that they forget to tell you how long you need to mix and knead the dough for.   Having already added 50g of strong bread flour to soak up the excess moisture of the cherries and it failing I added more and more flour.  The frustration was climbing.

Eventually I figured adding more flour wasn't really helping and left the somewhat sticky mixture to rise for 90 minutes.  During this time Hubby got a 15 minute session on the way home from work of me moaning about how useless I am and how I felt like I should cook some cupcakes just to prove I can cook something when I collected him from work.  He wisely took himself up to our room and the spare television when we arrived home.

I watched the episode 2 or 3 times again before noticing that when the cling film was removed from the mixture of 90 minutes the dough was in fact sticky and Paul was just much more experienced at using flour to get it out of the bowl.  Doh!

A more than generous coating of flour on the worktop and over the bread while I kneaded and shaped it was likely too much because Paul's long rolls to use for the plaiting were not split like mine but I did manage to get it into a misformed plait, the top of the plait much larger than the bottom.  Back into a bag to rise for another 90 minutes.

After 90 minutes we had a plait that was taking on Godzilla proportions a sure sign that I definitely used far too much flour trying to dry out the mixture.  

As well as the many lessons you are no doubt saying I should have learned by this point one of the biggest ones is that using an almost new and powerful oven after it has cooked dinner for an hour will result in the cooking time being halved and me just rescuing the bread before it burnt - hence, no photograph.

Once it had cooled Hubby and I assembled in the kitchen for a taste test.  I cheered inside when I noticed it was still sligtly warm in the middle of the slice.  Despite not being able to eat the top crust of the bread and the bottom crust having too much flour as a consequence to me coating the non-stick tray with too much flour the inside was scrumptious.

I do not believe for one minute that the gorgeousness of the bread had anything to do with my non-cooking skills and everything to do with what a gorgeous recipe it is.  A hug from Hubby and a congratulations on my first attempt made me feel much better and cheered me up enough to stop beating myself up and tell myself that we learn more from mistakes than successes.

A slice or three will go to my mum and dad today for their taste test and I am guessing that I will come home with an order for a loaf of their own. 

I will avoid the temptation of buying a more up to date and larger mixer primarily because I cannot afford one and persist with the smaller one having more patience and breaks to centre the dough correctly when I attempt a better version.  

I will post a recipe and instructions over the coming week because I really do urge you all to try this recipe - it is the best sweet loaf I have come across so far!

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