The best thing you can bake in this warm weather is bread. The heat and relatively high humidity levels are ideal for growing yeast and you should not find it too difficult to keep them alive and kicking until your bread has more than doubled in volume. The Russian Black Bread was the result of my experiment with my new bag of organic rye flour. Healthier than the usual processed “white” all purpose flour, rye retains more nutrients since the germ and bran are not separated duing the milling process.

The baked bread has a rich mahogany colour with a distintive, slightly sour, taste which might not appeal to everyone at first bite. It is better suited for making open sandwiches and its dense, chewy texture pairs well with cold cuts of meat or smoked fish and fresh salad or make it as russian as you like.

RUSSIAN BLACK BREAD

Ingredients:

1 cup water

2 tbs sunflower oil

1 1/2 tbs molasses

1 cup rye flour

1/2 cup wholemeal bread flour

1 1/2 cups unbleached white bread flour

2 tbs oat bran

1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs

1 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 tbs instant coffee granules

1 1/2 tsp caraway seeds

1 tsp table salt

1 tsp rapid rise dried yeast

Method:

  • Pour the water, sunflower oil and molasses into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a dough hook.

  • Sprinkle over rye flour, wholemeal and white flours, then the oat bran and breadcrumbs.

  • Add the cocoa powder, coffee granules, caraway seeds and salt. Make a small indent and add the yeast.

  • Process into a smooth, non tacky dough for about 8-10 minutes. Leave to prove for an hour or so.

  • Knock down carefully over a lightly floured surface and press lightly into a 7×3-inch loaf pan.

  • Leave to prove for another hour and bake at 350 oF in a preheated oven for 30 minutes.

  • The loaf should sound hollow when tapped. Turn out on a wire rack and cool completely.

  • Cut into thick slices and slather with butter. Makes one 500 g loaf of russian black bread.

For years I’ve looked upon Martha Stewart as one of my gurus in craft and home decor and yet, strangely, I had never ventured into her online kitchen nor had I heard of blondies before. While they looked and sounded very much like the familiar brownies, I was not very happy to note that they were chocolate-free. Blondies get their share of flavour from the strong dose of brown sugar but the immenselt talented Martha goes a step ahead and combines toasted hazelnuts in the already decadent batter to create these gorgeous bars.

HAZELNUT BLONDIES

Ingredients:

4 tbs unsalted butter, plus more for pan

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp table salt

1 cup packed light-brown sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

1 heaping tbs Nutella, plus more for serving

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-by-11-inch baking pan. Line with parchment paper.

  • Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt. Melt butter. Beat butter and sugar until combined.

  • Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour mixture, and stir until combined. Stir in hazelnuts and Nutella.

  • Press dough into pan. Bake until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs, about 25 minutes.

  • Let cool 15 minutes. Cut into squares. Serve with additional Nutella. Makes 2 dozen pieces.

Hazelnut Blondies

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