They don’t look like much just yet, but I have two new blueberry plants – bought on impulse because there was a special offer at the diy store when I went to buy some bags of compost.
I’ve been wanting to grow blueberries for a while now, but never got around to reading up on them. All I knew was that they like acid soil, and that the fruit needs protection from hungry birds. These two are a variety called ‘Bluecrop’, but I’ve just read on a gardening website that to get a good crop of blueberries, you should grow at least three different varieties – if I have to buy more plants these may not be such a bargain after all… The plants are very small at the moment, anyone out there know how long I’ll need to wait before I can harvest punnetfuls of berries?
And while we’re on blueberries – the theme for this month’s #TwelveLoaves is berries. Cake Duchess has made some amazing looking strawberry monkey bread – I’d never even heard of monkey bread before, but seeing the photos, it’s definitely something I will be making soon. Anyhow, my offering for #TwelveLoaves isn’t quite so photogenic, but it’s easy to make and tasty.
The basic bread recipe is from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s column in the paper last weekend. The method I’ve adapted slightly after hearing Dan Lepard talk about bread making at the Cake & Bake show in Manchester earlier this month – there were lots of good tips for getting a perfect loaf. The main difference to the way I’ve been making bread is that he recommends only allowing the dough to rise until it is half as big again, instead of double its original size. And then I’ve made my own addition to the loaf – red onions roasted with olive oil and thyme, and some dried cranberries. Both the roasted onions and the berries add a little sweetness to the bread, but it’s still a savoury loaf – good with soup or a hearty salad.
Cranberry & Red Onion Bread
(makes 1 large loaf)
500g strong white bread flour
2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp fast action dried yeast
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
350ml just warm water
1 red onion, roughly chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
40g dried cranberries
Put the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl and stir to mix. Add 3 tbsp of the olive oil to the water, stir and add to the flour mixture. Stir the water into the flour mixture, ensuring that the liquid is evenly mixed through – you might need to abandon the spoon and use your hands to make sure everything is thoroughly mixed. Leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead for 5-10 minutes, until you have a nice smooth and elastic dough. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave to rise until it is half as big again (not doubled in size).
While the dough is rising, roast the onion with the thyme and remaining 3 tbsp of olive oil in a medium oven for 20-30 minutes, until the onion is tender. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Place the risen dough onto a lightly floured board and gently stretch it out into a rectangle about 30cm x 20cm (12″ x 8″). Spread the roasted onion and cranberries evenly over the surface of the dough. Keep any oil left in the roasting dish for later. Take one of the short ends of the dough and fold it over the rest of the dough, leaving about 1/3 uncovered. Take the uncovered 1/3 and fold that across the dough. Tuck the ends under, and place the dough on a greased baking sheet. Leave to rise until the loaf is half as big again. Brush the top of the dough with the oil left from roasting the onions.
Preheat the oven to 190oC, 375F, gas 5. Bake the bread for 25-30 minutes – until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it. Cool on a wire rack.