Pumpkin Parmesan Buns

I’ve fallen off the breadmaking wagon with a resounding thud in the last fortnight, thanks to a combination of factors including too much work, the snow, a warp-speed trip to Sydney and coming to the end of my 20kg sack of flour. But before I fell into the clutches of a bag of Vogels and a stray baguette, I joined the Fresh From The Oven crew, who “meet” once a month to extend their breadmaking skills.

Sally at My Custard Pie set the challenge for August, suggesting participants deal to their zucchini/courgette glut with a recipe for Courgette Cluster Bread. Zucchinis are currently about NZ$13 a kilo here and they look battered, bruised and extremely weary after a long journey from somewhere warmer. But pumpkins are in massive supply at our weekly vegetable market and I had the bright idea to use them instead.

Pumpkin And Parmesan Cheese Bread

Pumpkin Parmesan Buns
These are easy to make, deliciously light and fluffy and they keep really well (if you can resist eating them). Next time I’m thinking pink – beetroot, feta and fennel seeds, perhaps?

450g peeled, seeded and grated pumpkin
675g strong white bread flour
1/2tsp salt
2tsp dried yeast
4Tbsp parmesan, grated
Freshly ground black pepper
2Tbsp olive oil
Tepid water – about 250ml
Milk, to glaze
Sesame seeds, to sprinkle

Mix the flour, yeast, parmesan, salt and some black pepper together in a bowl, then stir in the olive oil and grated pumpkin. Add water until the mixture comes together as a firm, soft dough. (As per Sally’s instructions, I did this and the kneading in my KitchenAid with the dough hook. If doing it by hand, turn the dough onto a lightly floured board or work surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a bowl and put the dough into rise, covered with cling film or a cloth, for about one hour or until doubled in size.
Knock back the dough in the bowl and then turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead again briefly until smooth.
Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll to shape into even balls. Lightly grease and line the base of a 30cm cake tin (or a roasting dish of similar size) with baking papert. Place one ball of dough in the middle and all the others around it.
Brush the tops of rolls with milk and sprinkle over some sesame seeds. Cover again with oiled cling film or a cloth and leave to prove until doubled in size and the balls touch each other – about 30 minutes.
Put into a preheated oven at 200 C for about 25 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Sweet sweet Friday: Orange Polenta Muffins

I found this recipe while doing some detective work for my job. (What can I say, I’m easily distracted.) I’m also watching The Wire at the moment and “po-lice” work is all I can think about. Anyway, this is a tampered-with version of the recipe I found while trawling the internet for something else entirely. I don’t know if it would stand up in court as a decent defence, but it’s pretty good all the same. Plus, you can eat the evidence!

Orange Polenta Muffins
If you like my fruity vegan muffins, you’ll love these. The orange peel adds intense flavour, the dates are little nuggets of caramel and the muffins themselves have a light, tender crumb.

1/2 cup brown sugar (increase this to 2/3 cup if you like things very sweet)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1½ cups milk
2 navel oranges, finely chopped (including peel)
1 cup dates, finely chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1 cup polenta
1 cup white flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1½ tsp baking powder
1½ tsp cinnamon

Handful of longthread coconut for decoration (optional)

Preheat oven to 200C. Grease a 12-hole muffin tray.
Mix the sugar, oil and milk together in a large bowl and let sit while you prepare the other ingredients.
Sift all the dry ingredients into another bowl.
Add the oranges and dried fruit to the wet mixture, then add this to the dry ingredients. Fold together gently until mixed. Divide between the 12 muffin holes and sprinkle the tops with long-thread coconut if desired. Bake for 25 minutes until risen and springy to touch. Let cool for five minutes before turning out of the tray.

Have a sweet, sweet Friday everyone. I’m hoping to watch as many episodes of The Wire as possible…

Rye and molasses bread

I’ve finally assuaged my white bread guilt and made a successfully dark and flavoursome loaf after weeks of turning out lead bricks. There are various recipes floating around for no-knead brown breads that you mix up and stick in a cold oven, but I can’t seem to make any of them work. This one, however, adapted from something I copied down from A Pod And Three Peas ages ago, does the trick. It’s a bit like homemade Vogels rye bread, only nicer.

Rye Molasses Bread

Rye and Molasses Bread
This bread came out of the oven looking so dark and brooding I wanted to call it Heathcliff, but thought that might be a Wuthering Heights pun too far. The molasses gives it a distinctive flavour, but you could always substitute treacle or golden syrup. Either way, this bread is really, really good with slabs of cold unsalted butter.

2tsp dried yeast
650ml warm water
1Tbsp molasses
500g wholemeal flour
100g rye flour
100g rolled oats
1tsp salt

Put the water and yeast into a large bowl (or the bowl of your freestanding mixer) and whisk together. Add the molasses and whisk again. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Leave for five minutes, then either plug into your mixer and let the dough hook work its magic for about five minutes or turn it out and knead it for five minutes. It is a really, really wet and sticky dough – the mixer is far easier.
Scrape the dough into a well-greased and lined large loaf tin (mine has an internal measurement of about 25cm x 8cm), slash the top and put the whole thing into a plastic bag. Leave until doubled – around 60-90 minutes – then bake at 200C for about 45 minutes. I turn it out of the tin at this point and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes to get a nice, crusty bottom. Let cool completely on a rack before slicing.


I can’t believe it’s nearly August. Where have the last seven months gone? Occasionally I think 2011 is shaping up to be quite the annus horriblis, but then I try to remind myself of the good things that have happened so far.

My breadmaking resolution has stayed the course, bar a few loaves bought in extenuating circumstances. I even made some the morning after my dad died, finding comfort in the familiar rhythm of kneading. I haven’t been particularly adventurous and I still haven’t got a sourdough starter on the go, but for the most part, breadmaking is a much a part of my routine as brushing my teeth. Perhaps I need to upgrade the resolution to posting a new loaf every week…

Daily Bread 3.0
This is our new daily loaf. Occasionally I feel guilty about eating white bread, but then I remember there are so many other things to feel guilty about that this is surely well down the list.
The recipe below is for one loaf, but I usually double it and freeze one. It’s great for sandwiches and makes wonderful toast (or toasted sandwiches). Or you can blitz the crusts and any stale ends into posh breadcrumbs. Don’t be put off by the long list of instructions, it’s really very easy.

300ml tepid water
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
3 Tbsp olive oil
500g strong white flour
1 1/2 tsp salt

Pour the water into a large mixing bowl (or the mixing bowl of your freestanding mixer, if you have one). Add the yeast and stir briefly. Leave for a few minutes while you’re getting the other ingredients ready. Add the olive oil, half the flour and the salt. Mix roughly with a wooden spoon, then add the remaining flour. Use your hands, the wooden spoon or the dough hook on your mixer and mix/knead until you have a smooth, satiny dough that springs back when you punch it (5-10 minutes by hand, 3-5 minutes by machine). Grease the bowl with a little olive oil and return the dough to it, turning to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic and leave in a warm place for around an hour, until doubled. You can also put the dough in the fridge at this point and leave to rise slowly.
When the dough has doubled, take out and knock it back – that is, give it a punch or two and knead until it deflates (don’t be too harsh). Form it into a ball, stretching the dough around itself so it’s taut. Dust a piece of baking paper with flour and put this ball on top. Leave to rise until doubled – about another hour.
About 20 minutes before that hour is up, preheat the oven to 220. When the oven has reached the right temperature, slide a baking sheet in and let heat for five minutes. Then take it out of the oven and slide the baking paper and bread on top. Slash the loaf decisively in four or five places – I use a serrated bread knife – then dust it with flour. Return to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool on a rack.

Ann’s Magic Muesli

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. In my case it’s also scattered with muesli. I blame my dear friend Ann. When the Small Girl was born Ann used to leave food parcels and flowers on our doorstep on her way to work. Their contents would vary, but there were three absolute favourites – a zucchini and ham pie, a spicy apple cake and a huge Tupperware container of homemade muesli. We inhaled the pie and cake, but I swear there was a hole in the muesli container because we’d barely get it up the stairs before its contents vanished.

When some friends had a baby last weekend I thought I’d pass on the favour and make some muesli for them. But somehow we started eating it before the jar could be delivered and I fear the next batch will meet the same fate. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts…

Ann’s Muesli
This muesli is the closest thing I’ve found to the amazing granola they use in the granola parfaits at Le Pain Quotidien. Ann says the secret ingredients are dried pineapple and Brazil nuts – and the generous amount of oil and honey obviously doesn’t hurt either.

6 cups whole oats 

1 cup coconut

1 cup wheatgerm (Ann says she often leaves this out)

1 cup powdered milk

1 cup (at least) of chopped mixed nuts (Brazils included)

1 cup honey

1 cup oil (canola or sunflower, not olive)


2 cups dried fruit – sultanas, apricots, pineapple, cranberries, dates etc

Preheat the oven to 150C. Put all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Melt the honey and oil together in a small pot, then pour over the dry ingredients. Mix well, using your hands if necessary. Tip into a large roasting dish and bake for one hour, stirring every 10 minutes.

When golden brown, remove from oven and cool. (Ann says: “I stir every 10 mins for the next 1/2 hour, otherwise it sticks together”.) Stir through the dried fruit. Store in an airtight (and padlocked) container when completely cold.