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MILK, HONEY AND LAVENDER BREAD

12 August 2014

Jerusalem the golden, with milk and honey blessed

Today I felt the first rustle and gust of autumn. After a scorching few weekends of barbeques and festivals, I'd almost forgotten that our Indian summer won't last forever.

I can't help but love the nostalgia that a truly British autumn brings. 22 I may be, but I still get that back-to-school feeling in my tummy, and secretly look forward to unearthing forgotten coats and thick, friendly knitwear from the back of the cupboards. Perhaps i'm getting a little ahead of myself - it's only the 12th of August after all. Perhaps i'm still feeling the effects of a long weekend at Wilderness Festival. But either way, indulge me just the once.

This recipe reminds me of a hymn which will forever pull on my heartstrings and have me donning my rosy-tinted glasses for the autumn term at school. While i've certainly carried my passion for new stationary into my adult life, the hymn-singing that seemed so tedious in those day is now firmly embedding in my past. I look back on it with such fondness, and can't help wishing i'd appreciated those days more.

Just as the milk and honey remind me of chanting Jerusalem at school, the lavender in this recipe comes straight (figuratively, at least) from my Mum's garden. This recipe yields two mini loaves, or one big bundle of nostalgic, sticky-sweet love.

THE INGREDIENTS
500g strong white bread flour
10g fast action yeast
10g fine salt
50g honey
40g butter
2 eggs
230ml milk
small bunch of lavender
for the glaze
1-2 heads of fresh lavender
1 tbsp runny honey
1/2 tbsp hot water

THE RECIPE
Begin by measuring your milk into a small saucepan. Add the lavender heads, then heat over a low heat until the milk is just bubbling. Immediately turn the heat down, then leave it to infuse and cool to lukewarm temperature. Strain through a fine sieve, and set aside. 

Weigh the flour straight into a large mixing bowl, then add the salt and honey to one side, and the yeast to the other. Pop the butter in the middle and crack in the eggs, then pour in 3/4 of the lavender infused milk. Using a scrunching motion, bring the mixture together with your hand. If needed, add the remaining milk - the dough should be sticky at first, then become smooth as you continue to work it. Once the dough has picked up all the mixture from the bowl, tip it out onto an oiled work surface, and knead for a further 10 minutes. The dough is ready when it's stretchy and supple, and you can see the strands of gluten when you pull it thin (this is called 'window-paning').

Pop the dough into a large oiled bowl, cover with cling film, and leave to rise for around an hour. Once the dough has doubled in size, tip it back onto the work surface, and knock all of the air out by folding it in on itself repeatedly. Split the dough into two, and shape each into a sausage shape. Pop into two small loaf tins, then enclose each tin in a clean plastic bag, and leave it to rise for a further hour. Once the loaves have doubled again, preheat your oven to 220C. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-25 minutes - you will be able to tell that they are baked when you knock the bottom and hear a hollow sound.

To make the glaze, pull the buds from the lavender spring, and mix with the honey and hot water. Brush over the loaves while they're still hot from the oven. 

Laced with rich milk and honey, these golden beauties certainly taste like they've come from somewhere special. Delicious with creamy British butter.

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