So many years ago, when Julian and I first set up home in a tiny flat in Paddington, we used to frequent a small strip of old shops in Auchenflower. There was a magnificent European style delicatessen that was literally packed to the roof with preserved meats, unheard of cheeses and exotic chocolates, an excellent wine cellar, a newsagent that always had my favourite English Country Living, and a bakery that on Saturday baked Honey and Sunflower Bread.
My idea of the perfect Saturday was for me to stay in bed with a cup of tea and some cross stitch whilst Julian rode over to the shops for the newspapers, magazines, special treats for lunch and of course the Honey and Sunflower Bread. He’d return with an overflowing backpack, hop back into bed with me and we’d spend the next few hours reading the papers and eating thick slabs of bread with almost as thick slabs of cold butter. It was perfect.
I’ve never visited a bakery since that bakes this bread. But it has always stayed so fresh and good in my memories. Especially since that Saturday morning when I went to the bakery and asked for Sunny and Hunflower bread and everybody laughed and laughed :-)
So, since I’ve been so enjoying making bread again – and having it turn out just lovely with very little effort – thanks to the ever so helpful and encouraging Rhonda of Down to Earth Living – I decided to try baking my own Honey and Sunflower bread. And it turned out beautifully. And we ate it with thick slabs of cold butter. And reminisced about the little shops in Auchenflower. And laughed again about Sunny and Hunflower.
And because several people on Instagram asked, I thought I’d share a wee photo tutorial on how to make your own Hunny and Sunflower bread. Here we go …
The night before you want your bread, mix the dough before going to bed. In a large bowl, add 3 cups of bakers flour, 1 cup of sunflower kernels and 2 teaspoons of dried yeast granules. Whisk about until they are well blended. Then add 1 teaspoon of salt. Whisk about again. Next, add 2 cups of water (just tap water is fine), 60g of runny honey, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. With a wooden spoon, stir this into the flour mix until well combined – you might need to add a little more water – but do so just a couple of tablespoons at a time otherwise it will be too sticky in the morning. When you have a shaggy and sticky but well mixed dough, cover the bowl. I use a beeswax wrap – you could easily use a tea towel with the edges tucked under, or a clean shower cap. Leave sitting on the kitchen bench – you don’t need any heat – my kitchen is currently around 8 degrees overnight and it works fine – and go to bed knowing that in the morning, you are going to have the loveliest fresh, homebaked bread!
Look at that risen dough! Full of air and smelling of yeasty goodness! Sprinkle some extra bakers flour on your kneading surface (I use a wooden bread board), some on your hands, and some on the surface of the dough. Remember its pretty sticky.
Pull the dough away from the sides of the bowl. This is my favourite step. I love seeing how the yeast worked its magic overnight. So stretchy! So bubbly!
Place dough on well floured surface and knead lightly for no more than 5 minutes.
I use a poor imitation of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s method (poor but effective!) – leaving the dough on the board, I pull the end closest to me towards me – stretching the dough out …
… then, I lift the pulled out end up and fold it back over the top end …
… turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat. Every second pull, fold and turn, I flip the dough over. I do this no more than 10 times.
Now, leaving your dough on the bread board, spin the dough round and round whilst keeping one hand on top and firmly tucking the bottom edge under with the other hand. I do this about 1o times. The top becomes your presentable surface and the bottom gets a bit of a fold in it.
Place your beautiful, barely kneaded dough into a generously floured proving basket. Proving baskets are little rattan baskets lined with calico. We recently bought some because that’s what they use in Julian’s sourdough book. You could easily use a bowl lined with a well floured teatowel.
Cover your dough in its proving basket – again, I use a beeswax wrap, but you could use a floured teatowel – and place in a warm spot to rise. If it’s a sunny day I stick mine on the north facing (where all the sun comes from in the morning) porch railing. I’ve also put it on the wood burning stove – on the turned on coffee machine – and even on top of the turned on Xbox. Any warm spot will do. Leave for 45 minutes. At the 30 minute mark, turn your oven on to 260 celsius (that’s as hot as mine goes) and put the well floured container you will be baking your bread into the oven to heat up.
Look at that! So blossoming! So sunflowery! So ready for the oven.
I bake my bread in an old Romertopf I bought in those early days of feathering our nest. It seemed exotic, old fashioned and useful at the same time – all my favourite things – and has given us over 20 years of excellent service. Julian uses an inexpensive cast iron Dutch Oven that was bought at the camping store for his bread baking. Both provide a lovely heaviness, excellent heat distribution, and having a lid that seals creates the highly desirable steamy atmosphere needed to create a delicious crisp crust on your loaf. Now your baking container has been heating up for 15 minutes. Take it out of the oven (don’t leave the door open) and carefully lift your glorious dough out of the proving basket and into the hot container. Put on the lid. Pop it back in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
When that timer dings, take your container out of the oven. Take off the lid and inhale that delicious steamy breadiness! So good.
Give it five minutes rest, then carefully lift the bread out and set to cool on a wire cooling rack. I cover the bread with a tea towel at this point. Cooling it on a wire rack allows the bottom of the bread to dry out. If you leave it in the container, the bottom will become damp and soggy.
Huzzah! You have now baked a beautiful loaf of Sunny and Hunflower Bread! And the whole thing only took up to 10 minutes effort last night. Then only 10 minutes effort this morning. Then a bit of proving and baking, during which time you had a coffee, did some other chores, or sat and knitted. Or you might have done the school run – extra brownie points for you! And what a treat you receive in return!
When it’s cooled a little, slice with a sharp serrated knife, smother with butter and savour every mouthful.
Hopefully I’ve written this out in a coherent manner. If you find something that doesn’t make sense or doesn’t work for you, let me know and I’ll see what I can fix.
Now it’s Friday night. We’ve planted fruit trees all day. I’m stiff and tired but Julian’s cooked a lovely supper. And later, before I stagger off to bed, I shall mix up some Sunny and Hunflower dough.
Because tomorrow is Saturday morning …