Our saviour. Basis of infinite breakfasts, absorber of alcohol, vessel for transporting numerous dips and spreads into our mouths, blank canvas for a world of toppings and fillings suitable at every hour of the day. I wholly follow the religion of bread.
The religion of bread has a number of denominations. Some choose the path of the standard sliced white – one I had previously conformed to in my childhood years (we called it cloud bread because it was squidgy and tasted like air). Then there’s the brown loaf, seeded, spelt, soda bread, sourdough, rye, pumpernickel (I could go on but I’m beginning to realise how sad my dedication to bread is so I’ll stop) – but basically, there’s an amazing variety of bread in the world. It genuinely baffles me how every culture in the world has their own variation of the same basic ingredients.
It genuinely saddens me when people say that they’re ‘cutting bread/carbs out’ of their diets because it’s been demonised as an unhealthy food. It’s like saying you’re cutting out all cereal because Frosties are bad for you – all bread is made of different stuff; some made out of refined white flours, some made from wholemeal grains, some made from rye grains etc – all of which have different nutritional values. The process also has a massive impact on the overall nutritional content. The fermentation process of sourdough, for example, means that the lactic acid produced slows down the absorption of glucose into the body, making it low GI, as well as making the vitamins and minerals in the bread much easier for the body to absorb. And it actually tastes of something, and actually fills you up. It’s a win win win.
In the original post I gave recipes for a number of ‘grain free breads’ taken from health gurus such as The Hemsley Sisters and Green Kitchen Stories. However, my relatively recent awakening to the huge money-making, pseudoscience based industry that is the clean eating campaign has left my relationship with The Hemsley somewhat cold. I’ve been brainwashed to think that chicken stock is ‘bone broth’ embued with magical ‘gut healing’ powers, that flax seeds should be added to anything and everything for some reason or other, and – worst of all – I had convinced myself that a ‘grain free bread’ consisting of found nuts and seeds and eggs and god knows what else actually constitute ‘bread’. So instead of proclaiming my love of a flaxseed bun which in actual fact tastes like a dried sponge or a ‘cauliflower bread’ that would be a cold omelette by any other name, I’m simply going to request that you go invest in a good loaf of bread from your local bakery – be that an earthy, tangy loaf of sourdough or a simply sliced white. I can’t claim to have mastered the art of bread making yet, so for now the only recipe I can give is this seeded spelt soda bread I posted a couple of weeks ago – a great recipe if you’re pressed for time but want that warm, wheaty smell wafting around your kitchen.
As a compromise to posting a bread recipe, I’m putting up this satisfyingly easy recipe for blood orange shortbread. This was an experiment when I had a few blood oranges about to go off and I wanted to use their amazing colour for something sweet, but apparently it’s one of my most popular creations yet. I actually had someone request that I put the recipe up, which is a first.
Candied Blood Orange and Dark Chocolate Shortbread
225g plain flour
175g butter, cold and cubed
75g caster sugar
1/2 blood oranges, sliced thinly
About 6 tbsp sugar mixed with 100ml water
100g 80% dark chocolate
- Place the sugar/water mixture into a saucepan and onto the hob. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the blood orange slices and simmer gently for about 40 minutes, topping up with a little water to stop them sticking if you need to.
- Remove the orange slices and leave on a piece of baking parchment to dry. Tip – I added a bit of extra sliced orange peel to the pan so that I could keep taking little pieces out and tasting them to see if they had crystallised yet. It should taste like candied fruit.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 150 degrees c. Line a 23cm square cake tin with baking parchment.
- Place the flour and butter into a bowl and rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Pause for inevitable hand cramp.
- Add the sugar and mix around with your hands, before bringing the mixture together into a dough.
- Turn the dough out into the baking tin and press down with your hands until the dough flattens and reaches all sides and corners of the tin.
- Bake for 30 minutes until light golden brown. Lift out of the tray using the parchment and slice into 8-10 squares, depending on how large your orange slices are. Leave to cool whilst melting the chocolate.
- Break up and place the chocolate into a bowl, before placing the bowl over a pan of simmering water to gently melt the chocolate.
- Once melted, take half a candied orange slice and dip into the chocolate, and place carefully onto one square. Repeat with all the other slices.
- If you have leftover chocolate and orange slices, dip the rest of the oranges into the chocolate and leave to set. They make good grazing food.