Homemade Bread: Fruit and Nuts

This post is all about brightening up a basic bread mix and creating presents for people who are difficult to buy for: 

In the last couple of months I’ve shown you how to make practical presents for practical people. These ideas have ranged from a delicious-smelling face scrub, to a cracking bit of festive chocolate bark, to even a tongue-tingling batch of fruity gin. This time round, its bread, but with a sweet, nutty twist.

But before we begin, let me set the scene… feel free to skip to the recipe if you’re bored. 

This year my house has got into bread making. It’s kind of got something to do with my housemate’s mum, who has recently set up a bakery out of her kitchen in Cambridge. It’s called White Cottage Bakery, and it’s the cutest thing you have ever seen.

Anyway, we’ve started making bread because K brought their family’s old bread maker to uni, Her mum, being a swanky professional, obviously doesn’t need it anymore; which is fab for everyone involved.

So now that this little anecdote is out the way, here’s an explanation for why I brought it up:

At the end of January, it was J’s birthday (I assure you, I’m not referring to myself in third person here), and I was stuck for present ideas. However, this move by K, as it turns out, was a god send.

After umming and ahhhing, I decided to do what I do best, which is cook (duh that’s why you’re here), and this is where K’s bread maker comes in: J’s present ending up being two exotic varieties of honey from Selfridges, and some exciting homemade bread to go along with it.

While, of course, I could just make it by hand – it’s quite an easy process after all – K’s bread maker is amazing at reducing the hassle and mess that goes hand-in-hand with bread kneading. This gadget is therefore ideal when you’re pressed for space and/or time.

Without having to worry about making bread around my 7 other housemates, and dominating the kitchen for a couple of hours, I had time to get creative, and this, ladies and gents, is what went on:

First up, I got three things from Sainsburys: 

500g of Wright’s oat and linseed bread mix (this isn’t cheating, this is student living)
150g of Sainsbury’s sultana and cinnamon apple mix
100g of Walnut halves

And the things I was already in possession of were: 

Salted butter
Brown sugar

To make the basic dough, I followed the instructions on the packet (i.e. added water) and bunged it in the bread maker to prove and knead.

Next, I set aside 6 nicely shaped walnut halves for decoration. After that, half way through the kneading process, I added half the packet of sultana and cinnamon apple mix, and a healthy amount of walnuts from the bag, which I’d crushed into smaller chunks.

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While the bread was kneading, I melted some butter and sugar together. Once it was sufficiently liquidy, I dipped the walnut halves in it, and placed them on some baking paper to dry.

Leaving the butterscotch to set, and once the bread had finished proving for the first time, I took it out of the bread maker to shape it.

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The bread maker produces a conventional loaf shape, like the ones you buy for your everyday bread in the supermarket, but I wanted to make a round one. So once I’d pushed and gathered it into a circle, I covered the mix in clingfilm and took it up to my room, which was warmer than the kitchen, to rise for another 20 minutes.

After it was ready, I stuck it in the oven, and let the heat do its thing. Two minutes before the bake was done I took it out, decorated the bread with the walnuts and some more of sultana mix, and then put it back in.

The aim was to let the butter to melt slightly, so that when the bread cooled, the walnuts would stay in place. Here’s what it ended up looking like:

DSC04390The last thing I did was knock its bottom to double-check that it was ready, before putting it in a box, with the honey, and delivering it to J for a cute b-day breakfast.

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Here’s a close up of all the yummy, sugary, melted butter:

DSC04403So basically I’ve done here is walk you through something slightly unconventional (at least for a 20 year old to do) that I made for someone.

I haven’t really sold it to you as the most innovative present idea in the world. Instead, what I have done is to implant the suggestion in your head so that if you’re ever faced with a person who you know likes food, but is otherwise a nightmare to buy for, then BAM, hopefully your subconscious will twig the connection between this post and that problem, and back here you’ll come looking for this recipe.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this one, even if it was from a shop-bought mix …

If you didn’t – simply because I took a short cut – then, at least, I’ll have (I’d imagine) Delia, queen of ‘how to cheat at cooking’, on my side with this one. Who has time for two different types of flours anyway!?

Banks, Warm Water (Snakeships remix)
–A hectic week calls for a blanket, a tub of ice-cream and some mellowed-out tunes

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