I’ll always remember my first lardy cake; picked up from a surprisingly baked-goods-laden petrol station on the way home from a trip to Kent, and I subsequently slept all the way home in the passenger seat off the back of a few mouthfuls of unfashionably fat-laden, soft sweet carbohydrates. I set about researching how to make my own; half a block of lard still loafing in the fridge door from a previous Live Below The Line challenge could finally be put to use. Definitely not one for every lunch of the week, but a good shoulders-down, satisfying, occasional winter comfort. To make a whole loaf, simply pat into a round and cook for an hour instead.
Makes 6 generously weighty ones at 15p each, that could double as a weapon should an intruder strike. This post is not sponsored; I provide links to the ingredients that I use so you can see how I calculate my recipe costs, and I may earn a small commission if you click the links or purchase any ingredients. All prices correct at the time of printing and are subject to change.
1/2 tsp table salt, <1p
150ml warm water
First kickstart your yeast – spoon it into a mug and add 50ml of comfortably warm water – remember yeast is a living organism, so if it’s too hot for you it’s too hot for your yeast! Early on in my breadmaking days I made the mistake of using near-boiling water, foolishly thinking that the hotter it was the better rise I would get on my bread. My bread still rose, and was yummy, but these days it’s lighter and yummier with happier yeast. We live and learn. Set it to one side for a moment to start to bubble and grow, trust me, your bread will be better for it.
Next tip your flour into a large mixing bowl (some people like to sieve it to get more air into it, I’m not fussy) and add the salt, cinnamon and mixed dried fruit. Mix well to evenly distribute the ingredients.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and pour in the yeast mixture. Mix well, adding the butter, lard, and the rest of the warm water gradually to form a soft dough. You might not need all of the water – it should be soft and pliable but not tacky. If it’s too dry and crumbly, add a splash more water. If it sticks to your fingers, add a tablespoon or two more flour. It’s rarely an exact science – all flours are not created equal – and I’m hardly in favour of prescriptive recipes anyway.
Lightly flour your work surface and hands, and tip the dough onto it. Knead it, using your knuckles and heel of your palm to stretch it out, folding it over, turning it, and repeating, until it is soft and springy. I came under fire last week for not giving an exact time for this procedure – there isn’t one. It depends on your patience levels, experience, strength, speed and technique, but basically your dough should be easy to work with and springy to touch. If it stiffens up, it usually means the gluten has overworked itself, just cover it and rest it for half an hour in a warm place to let it loosen up before giving it a quick knead again.
Pop the dough back into the bowl, cover with a clean tea towel or cling film, and pop in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size.
Pre heat your oven to 180C and lightly grease a baking tray. Add a bit more flour to your work surface, tip the dough out, and roll it out to around 1cm thick. Using a sharp knife, cut into strips around 3cm wide. Roll each up into a spiral, tucking the end under the bottom to tidy it up, and brushing the top and sides with a little beaten egg.
Pop them onto the baking tray and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake for 30 mins, or until risen and golden. Serve warm or cold, plain or with – heaven forfend – a little more butter…
First published in the Guardian, and subsequently published in Cooking on a Bootstrap, available here.
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All text copyright Jack Monroe.