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Huddled in bed, putting off more job searching, listening to the wind howling down the chimney, with doorstep slices of homemade bread having managed to pull on some warm socks and drag myself downstairs to put the kettle on briefly so far this morning. Seemed like a good time to share my recent Wintry comfort bakes with you.

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Most of us don’t have time to create gourmet cakes and bakes on a daily, or even weekly basis. I’m lucky that the band I play with on Thursday afternoons are more than happy to be cake-testers… but the rest of the time, I don’t get around to eating enough cake to justify making it for myself too often. Thank goodness for bread-making! Having dabbled with it in the past, I have recently taken up a routine of making bread during the week and (thanks to the advice AND amazing sourdough starter from my friend Dario) have been rising/proving the bread in the fridge so that I can fit it around work/overnight. Which is so convenient – why have I never thought to do that before? Plus, apparently it gives it a better taste and a slower rate of going stale.

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Bread making is also extremely therapeutic – once you’ve got the hang of it anyway; I won’t deny it can be frustrating when it doesn’t come out well. So far my best attempts (which I have FINALLY managed to photograph… as usually the best attempts simply get eaten straight away!) seem to have resulted from a nice wet dough, leaving it to prove/rise for a bit outside the fridge (and plenty of proving time), and quite frankly… paying attention. I’m so terrible for forgetting my bread is rising/cooking/not leaving enough time to knead it and rushing it. Bread may be simple and convenient to make, but it requires time. Attention. And a good firm kneading session. You need to keep an eye on it. Make sure it knows who’s boss.

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After all this bread-making, going back to pastry is a relief. I feel more comfortable with pastry. Perhaps I more naturally have the lighter touch needed for this type of baking… which admittedly might be contested by the friends who see me crashing around hamfistedly and clumsily injuring myself all the time (my thumb is currently bandaged from trying to grate it). So anyway, I made a giant batch of over a kilo of sweet pastry and took some tips from Paul Hollywood for my mince pies – namely the addition of chopped apples and grated orange zest in the mincemeat – in preparation for this weekend’s big musical evening at home.

And now to get back to the more stressful necessities of life, try not to eat the rest of this loaf right now, and wait for that beautiful winter sun to return.
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