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Way back in August I posted a recipe for a delicious fruit cake made using dried fruit soaked in cider.  The cider came from the orchard at Ampleforth Abbey, and a couple of months later I was really pleased to be able to visit both the orchard and the cider mill for a tour.  It was fascinating – everything from the history of the orchard to the traditional cider making techniques, I learned loads that morning.  After the tour we were given a lovely lunch and the chance to sample some of the products from the mill – not just the cider, but a cider brandy and a liqueur made by blending brandy and apple juice too.  There was also a tasting of Ampleforth Abbey beer.  The beer is brewed using a traditional recipe, and is dark and full flavoured.  It’s similar to one brewed by the Benedictine monks who fled to France at the time of the Reformation – back then it was called ‘biere Anglaise’, and the sale of the beer provided an income for the monks.

Ampleforth Abbey Beer

The beer really is good – I’d recommend you try it if you get a chance.  And, as it turns out, this beer is not just great to drink – it also adds a lovely malty flavour to bread.

I’ve been making a light rye loaf a lot recently, it’s a popular one for the school packed lunches, so I decided to try the recipe using beer in place of some of the water.  It worked out well, the flavour is definitely improved with some beer added to the dough and the texture is still good.

Rye beer bread

The bread is good for sandwiches and makes pretty good toast too – we’ve been cutting thick slices to make mushrooms on toast for breakfast.  The mushrooms are sautéed in a little butter with some fresh herbs from the garden, for a simple and tasty weekend brunch – not that we ever plan to have brunch, it’s just that Sunday breakfast always seems to end up being too late in the morning to be called breakfast.

Mushrooms on toast

This month’s Breakfast Club is being hosted by Vanesther at Bangers and Mash and the theme is brunch, so I’m adding this recipe to the list.  The holidays are just about here, and I’m hoping there’ll be plenty of time for long, relaxed family breakfasts.

Light rye bread with Ampleforth Abbey beer

500g strong white bread flour

150g rye flour

2 tsp fine sea salt

2 tsp fast action dried yeast

250ml beer

about 150ml hot water

Mix the white and rye flour, with the salt and dried yeast in a large bowl.  In a jug, mix the beer with most of the hot water (you might not need it all), then add this to the flour mixture.  Stir everything together to form a soft dough – use your hands if needs be and add more of the water if required.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 5-10 minutes – until you have a smooth, elastic dough.  Return the dough to the bowl, cover with clingwrap or a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for about an hour or so.  When the dough is roughly doubled in size, tip it out onto the board again and knock it back.  This quantity of dough makes two medium sized loaves – so divide it in two and shape each half into a loaf (I use a 2lb loaf tin for one loaf and shape the other into a round),  Place each loaf onto a greased baking tin and leave to rise again for 30 minutes to one hour.

To bake the loaves, preheat the oven to 200oC, 400F, gas 6.  When the oven is heated, bake the loaves for 25-30 minutes, until a tap on the underside of the loaf sounds hollow.  Cool on a wire rack.

Mushrooms on rye toast

for each person use –

a good knob of butter for cooking the mushrooms, plus more to spread on the toast (optional)

about 6 chestnut mushrooms, cleaned and chopped

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

freshly ground black pepper

fine sea salt to season (optional)

2 slices of rye beer bread

Melt the butter over a medium to high heat.  Add the mushrooms, thyme leaves and black pepper and sauté the whole lot until the mushrooms are hot and tender.  Meanwhile toast the bread and butter it if you like.  Season the mushrooms with salt to taste and tip them onto the toast.  Best served with a cup of fresh coffee and the weekend papers!