The huffer is a triangular shaped soft roll, peculiar to Essex, which may have got its name from a corruption of “half a” loaf. Certainly, some local pubs serve huffers that are as large as half a loaf.
Despite searching through recipe books and the internet, I haven’t been able to find an original recipe, so this is one of my own devising.
To make your Essex Huffers you will need:
- 200 ml milk
- 60 g butter, cubed
- 750 g strong white flour (I use Marriage’s because they’re Essex millers)
- 1½ teasp Doves quick yeast
- 1½ teasp salt
- 280 ml cold water
Bring the milk to the boil, stir in the butter and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, put the flour, yeast, salt and sugar into a large bowl.
Add the cold water to your buttery milk, check that it’s no hotter than blood temperature and stir the warm liquid into the flour. When all the flour’s incorporated, cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave it for five minutes to rest, which will make it easier to knead.
Don’t flour your work surface, but simply tip your dough out and knead for five to ten minutes until you have an elastic dough, which should be put back into the covered bowl and left to rise for 1 – 2 hours.
Alternatively, you can use the fold and rest method, which is a lot easier on the muscles than conventional kneading. Rub a little vegetable oil onto your work surface – not a pool of oil, just a spoonful to stop the dough sticking – and tip your floury mixture out. Pull it out gently to the right and then fold it back over to the far left. Turn your dough a quarter turn and do it again and keep going until you’ve pulled and folded eight times. No need to be violent or bash your dough around; this is relaxed breadmaking. Put your dough back into the bowl and cover it.Repeat the gentle pulling and folding after 10 – 15 minutes and then again after another 10 – 15 minutes (or longer if you’re doing something more interesting) and then leave the dough to rise in the bowl for 45 minutes.
Once your dough has risen, carefully turn it out of the bowl and divide in half. Form each half into a ball and then flatten each ball into a circle about 24cms across. I like to use one round to make four huffers by dividing the circle into quarters and putting them into a greased cake tin (as above) and put the other round onto a greased baking sheet and use a knife to mark into six sections, without separating the triangles out.
Cover with a tea towel and leve to rise for about 45 minutes.
Sift a little flour over both tins and then bake for 25 minutes at 220oC or on the floor of the AGA roasting oven.
Cool your bread on a wire rack and then slice horizontally and fill. This week my favourite filling is home cured bacon with freshly laid duck egg.