There are several reasons I love this loaf. Firstly, it uses up all those random parsnips that we all have rolling around at the bottom of our fridges. Secondly. it tastes of cosy Autumn food. Thirdly, the nutmeg inside tricks you into thinking you are indulging in something sweeter and more cake-like than a humble loaf of bread. The recipe was originally for a bread machine but I have adapted it to suit my lack of expensive kitchen gadgets and love of kneading dough.
– 240ml warm (not hot -you will kill your yeast) water
– 200g mashed (cold, see above: the yeast will die) parsnips
– 600g strong white bread flour (don’t even think of using plain or self-raising, it will only end badly for you)
– 40ml milk
– 1 tsp ground nutmeg
– 50g butter
– 2 tsps salt
– 2 tsps sugar
– 1 ½ tsps yeast (one of those convenient little sachets of easy bake, dry active yeast)
1. Peel and chop your parsnips, then and boil them until they are soft and mashable.
2. Meanwhile weigh out your flour and add the butter to the flour in small chunks.
3. Next rub the butter into the flour using your fingers and thumbs until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs (this will take forever but hang in there).
4. By this point your parsnips should be lovely and mashable (like potatoes), so take your masher to them and go crazy. Then leave the mush to cool completely. If you add the mash when still hot it will kill the yeast and your bread won’t rise.
5. Back to the flour mixture: add the nutmeg, salt, sugar and yeast to the bowl with each ingredient in a separate corner of the bowl. Make sure that the salt and yeast are on opposite sides of the bowl because if salt touches yeast it will kill it instantly.
6. Get your hands into the flour and mix it all up. Then create a well in the middle of the mixture.
7. Measure out the warm water and milk in the same container (good old Pyrex).
8. Now comes the fun! Slowly start to pour the water and milk mixture into the well in the middle of the flour and get your hands right in there. Try to gather the flour from the centre of the well as you slowly incorporate all the liquid and, handful by handful, the parsnip mash as well.
9. The kneading technique is as follows: scoop the mixture round with your fingers inwards towards yourself, and then punch the dough down with your knuckles away from you.
Persevere until you are left kneading something that looks a bit like this:
10. Simply plop your dough on your surface or counter top and start really getting into the kneading process, you should be at it hard for about 8-10 minutes.
11. Keep kneading until you get this lovely smooth squidgy dough.
12. Now you want to pop it into a lightly oiled (olive, sunflower, whatever you have will do) bowl (the one you used to mix the dough in the first place will do), cover it over with a tea towel, wish it good night and happy rising, and leave it in a warm area to prove (a baking term for rising/letting the yeast begin to ferment) for an hour. I have discovered the warmest area in our house is on top of the tumble dryer; our boiler is in the loft (so no cosy airing cupboard) and our heating isn’t on yet (so no radiator to pop it on top of).
13. After the hour has passed and the dough has doubled in size, tip it out onto a lightly floured surface and knock the dough back. This means you bring it towards you, punch it down away from you, and fold it over. Repeat this process until all the air has been beaten out of the dough.
14. Shape the dough into a short thick sausage and pop it into a greased and floured tin.
15. Now get your in-case-a-murderer-invades-my-house knife and carefully rub flour on the blade, score your loaf straight down the middle with a deep cut. This is so that when it rises the dough parts and creates a split tin loaf.
16. The dough needs to prove for a second time, so back to the warm spot it goes! Leave the dough there for another hour so it can rise. It will have doubled in size when you return to it. After it’s proved, pop the loaf into the oven at 200c for 35 minutes.
17. If the loaf is done, it will sound completely hollow when tapped beneath. If it even sounds slightly dull put it back into the oven immediately for another 5 or 10 minutes. Most people undercook bread when making it for the first time. Don’t worry about over cooking it; you are in more danger if it’s undercooked and the dough is still raw!
18. Leave the loaf (out of the tin) to cool on a wire rack. Once cool, slice and enjoy!
Photo credits: Victoria Allcoat
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