It’s cold (bloody cold to be exact) & there’s snow in the air here in the UK. Whilst for most countries around the world this is just weather, precipitation, nothing out of the ordinary during the winter months. Here in the UK, it’s quite a different story.
Roads & walkways become either impassable or complete pandemonium as desperate drivers race, taking any means or surface necessary to get to their destinations. Queues run for miles, full of people prepared to fight to the death for the last loaf of bread or pint of milk. Children are adorned with wellies & layers upon layers of clothing, leaving nothing exposed but tiny pairs of confused looking eyes. Life literally comes to a standstill. Us Brits are not prepared for this (a similar event occurs in the summer when a big shining orb appears in the sky, beers & burgers suddenly become as extinct as the dodo, grey & gloomy is where we thrive).
It’s in these most destitute of times that we need to become thrifty as the shelves of our supermarkets & corner shops are depleted, we rely heavily our secret stores of tinned food & a pantry full of questionably out of date goods (do beans ever really go off?).
As a baker, the rarity of bread & milk fails to have an impact on my carb-loving ways as I consistently have a ready supply of flour in the pantry & several UHT milks tucked away in the shed waiting for just such tea emergencies (Brexit, I am ready for you).
This means that I never need to deprive myself of bread as I can simply make my own. During winter we reach to the store cupboard for our baking needs, but what happens when even that is running dry? This is just what happened to me in 2018.
It was a cold February & the snow was falling thick & fast, I’d been sent home from work as the office was closed so I headed over to my partner in crime’s flat. Now he’s not great at stocking his cupboards at the best of times & I’d already migrated a few baking bits & bobs of mine over there. Due to the inclement weather (that’s the very British way of saying, no one leave your homes, you might die), standstill occurred & the supermarket cancelled his online food shop, leaving us with nothing but rice, butter, tinned tomatoes & my baking supplies.
After a somewhat unsuccessful attempt to source a few more ingredients in order to make a decent meal or two, I was not going to let a few flakes defeat my need for something hot & toasted in the morning. If we couldn’t buy the bread, I was going to make the bread!
We had the flour, the yeast, a few basic spices & a small handful of dried fruits. So after a couple of hours frolicking around in the snow (yes, I am nearly 30), we spent a cosy afternoon warming up in the kitchen making bread. That’s why I call this my ‘snow day bread’. The result is a small, spiced, lightly fruited loaf which is delicious toasted & topped with a good slather of salted butter. Born out of necessity but eaten with pleasure, this little loaf certainly makes for a very comforting (if rather smug) breakfast on a cold, wintry morning.
SNOW DAY BREAD
(makes one 1lb loaf)
- 250g strong white flour
- 5g fast acting dried yeast
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- 100ml milk
- 90ml water
- 65g sultanas
- 40g sunflower seeds
- 1 tbsp porridge oats
- 1 tbsp sunflower seeds
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt, sugar & spices
- Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture & pour in the milk & enough of the water to form a dough (you may not need all of the water or may need a little more, start with two-thirds & keep adding more until the dough comes together, adding more if your dough seems a bit dry)
- Empty the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface & knead for 10 minutes (or 5 minutes if using a stand mixer with a dough hook) until it is smooth & elastic when stretched
- Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with clingfilm & leave to rise for about an hour, until it has doubled in size
- When your dough has risen, tip it out onto a floured work surface & knock back the dough(knead out the air pockets)
- Add the sultanas & sunflower seeds to the dough & knead until evenly distributed
- Use your hands to shape the dough into a round & place on a baking sheet
- Cover with a tea towel, or (my preference) place inside a large plastic bag & leave to prove for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled in size & the dough springs back when gently pressed with a finger
- Gently wet the top of the dough with a spray of water & scatter over the oats & remaining sunflower seeds
Bake the bread at 200C for 20 minutes until golden brown