Thursday, 31 January 2013

Japanese pancake

The other day while walking around Brick Lane market, amongst the many street food stalls offering dishes from countless cultures, we came across some Japanese women cooking what looked very much like Swiss Rösti but made with cabbage. This is my effort at recreating it. The original did not contain potato but was topped with a sticky sweet brown sauce, called "special sauce".

Being Welsh I have a radell, a very heavy cast iron flat griddle used for cooking Welsh cakes amongst other things. I heat it up on the stove top before placing loaves of bread on to bake in the oven. It has also been used in the making of very many pizzas, it's the ideal tool for cooking this dish, but a heavy based frying pan will also work, just be careful to have it on a gentle heat and take the time it needs to cook the "pancake". I see from my searches on the internet, the dish is called Okonomiyaki, recipes usually contain flour but I have made this version using only grated potato as a starch, making it more accessible to people who shun gluten. 

For this you will need
1 cup of finely shredded sprouting broccoli
1 large potato grated on the largest hole of a box grater
1 tablespoon of tahini
50g of grated cheese
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper 
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Begin by grating the potato and squeezing out as much extra moisture as you can. In a large bowl add the potato to the remaining ingredients leaving the cheese to sprinkle on top when the disc has been turned, mix thoroughly. Meanwhile have a heavy based pan heating up gently. place the whole of the mixture (if the pan is large enough) in a disc on the pan. Add a little oil to the pan, you can divide the mixture into two and cook two smaller discs. Cover with a saucepan lid so that the heat is retained. Cook for 5 minutes or so until the base is nicely browned. Turn the disc over carefully to cook on the other side. I have a large pizza slice which makes this action very easy, but making smaller discs may be a way of getting around having nothing larger than a fish slice. Sprinkle the cheese on top and replace the cover to cook for a further five minutes.

I added some soy sauce to some ginger plum chutney I made last year, it seemed to make the perfect brown sauce to spread thinly on top. A final squirt of aioli on top and it looked very much like the delicious okonomiyaki we enjoyed on Sunday.

You can substitute any brassica you fancy in this dish, just make sure it's finely shredded.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Black Bean Hummus

Following the success of the black bean soup, click here for recipe I soaked and cooked another batch of black beans, but then when it came to using them I decided to try them in hummus, using them in place of chickpeas. I mentioned this to my daughter Hedd, who suggested that I should try cooking the garlic gently in olive oil as they do in Brazil so that's exactly what I did. Another gluten free recipe dedicated to my friend Julia.

You will need:
600g of soaked and cooked black beans
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of tahini
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of salt.
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

Begin by cooking the garlic in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Cook over a very gentle heat in order to avoid burning them and causing the garlic to become bitter. When the garlic is a pale golden brown, lift out of the oil and place in a food processor with a tablespoon or so of the cooked beans and blend until the garlic is pureed. I made the mistake of not draining the beans sufficiently and the end result was a softer hummus than I would normally make. Add the remaining beans, tahini and seasoning and blend until smooth. Finally add most of the oil that the garlic has been cooked in, reserving a little to trickle on top when serving. Serve with crusty bread or the crackers I make for cheese click here for recipe .

Hedd knitted this little picture of Poppy and the white yarn is actually Poppy fur which I spun.

Notes; I believe a hummus type dip or spread can be made from pretty much any pulse, It's good however to find a way of bringing different flavours to each without masking the flavour of the original bean. Having allowed this hummus to end up wetter and softer than I would like, I avoided using any extra liquid but I think I would try adding orange the next time I make this. Green hummus using broad beans and peas works particularly well and benefits from adding fresh mint leaves.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Black Bean Soup

Yes another soup, but then it's that time of year when something warming and straightforward is what I am looking for.

Last night the electricity went off and I was plunged into darkness, fortunately I have a torch and I was able to get to the fuse box. After a great deal of tracking down the culprit, it turned out to be the boiler. This could not have happened at a worse time of year with temperatures out there at minus 5. Having spoken to the nice people at Keston, I have arranged for someone to come and look at it on Friday of next week and the part that they will need, will come in to them a week to ten days after that, so it's going to a be a chilly fortnight.

My bread, today certainly confirms you can produce bread at low temperatures, this crusty loaf is my beer and malt sourdough, Click here for the recipe

As a child I was not over fond of meat, I have now been a vegetarian who occasionally eats fish, for over 40 years but I do have memories of enjoying of all things ox tail soup. I have to say this was not made at home from actual tails of oxen, but heated up out a tin, it was at least Baxters and in those days this felt like a legitimate excuse. For all its dodgy provenance, it delivered a hot, full flavoured soup, rich brown in colour and very satisfying. I was amazed to find this black bean soup that I made up today delivered a similar deep rich flavour and colour, so I shall call this my vegetarian ox tail soup. If you can have mock turtle soup, then I think I can have vegetarian ox tail.

You will need:
200g of black beans, soaked overnight and cooked until tender.
2 medium onions, chopped
2 red peppers, seeded and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
chopped parsley, around 30g
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon of course black papper
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 small tin of tomatoes
2 litres of vegetable stock
2 tablespoons of olive oil

Begin by gently frying the cumin seeds in the olive oil for a minute or two. Then cook the onion and the chopped peppers for around 5 minutes, making sure they become translucent but don't take on too much colour. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another couple of minutes before adding the remaining spices and the tinned tomatoes. Gently cook these together for 10 minutes on a low heat. Add the cooked black beans with the water they have been cooked in along with 2 litres of vegetable stock. If you are not interested in keeping this vegetarian you could substitute chicken stock at this point. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook covered for a further 10 minutes on a low heat. Blend in batches until you achieve a rich brown smooth soup. I usually add 25g of unsalted butter when I blend this sort of soup, you add to the richness but avoid the milky flavour that you would get from adding cream.

This soup, like many others is made even nicer with the addition of cheese croutons, simply cube up some day old bread, fry in a little oil over a gentle heat until all surfaces look toasted, before transferring to a baking sheet and sprinkling on 20g of grated cheese, place in a medium (180C) oven for 10 minutes. It's hard not to munch on these while you're waiting for friends to join you for lunch, so make lots.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Sourdough with 20% Barley Flour

I'm always on the lookout for new flour to bake bread with, newly milled flour of course is always a winner, but the other day I came across some barley flour and I thought I would give it a go. As a rule I don't add more than 20% of any flour to my strong white bread flour unless I already know how well it is going to perform. From the feel of the dough I would say that 20% was about right in this instance, any more and the texture would be compromised by this low gluten flour. Add more if you wish more of the nutty flavour but expect a denser loaf.

You will need:
For the ferment,
100g of starter from the fridge
200g of strong white flour
200g of water

For the main dough'
All of the ferment
1,000g of Strong White flour
300g of Barley flour
700g of water
100g of malt extract
20g of salt.

 Begin by making up the ferment, mix all the ingredients and set aside covered in a 1 litre bowl. It's winter here in Norfolk and the first snow has fallen, the house is cold and so this ferment took 26 hours before it was showing really good signs of vigorous growth, bubbles bursting regularly and the surface caving in on itself in creases.
Add the main dough ingredients, omitting the salt and malt. Mix to thoroughly combine and leave covered overnight. In the morning add the salt and the malt and continue mixing for a couple of minutes to ensure even distribution.
Transfer the dough to a Tupperware type container, large enough to allow it to nearly double in volume. The dough needs to rise for at least 4 hours with a stretch and fold every hour. You should notice the dough becoming stronger with the gluten development at each stretch and fold. Finally divide the dough into 3 and on a well floured surface, form each piece into an oval loaf shape before placing with the seam side up in a well floured banneton proving basket to rise. Leave the dough to rise, in my case for 3 hours at around 12C before baking in a hot oven 220C for 30 to 35 minutes.
The addition of barley flour in this bread, produces not only a delicious flavoured crumb but an extra chewy crust, which for me is always welcome. The more you chew the crust on a good loaf of bread the deeper the flavour


Increasingly I find people putting bread recipes on the internet which sound more and more complicated and inaccessible. It's almost as though an elite of modern bread bakers is being created. My main goal is to have more people baking their own daily bread, whether it's a simple white loaf made with commercial yeast to something more substantial made with wild yeast that has taken a couple of days to produce. Baking bread should not be difficult, the number of ingredients is very low. The experience of baking bread brings with it, its own tutorials so long as you keep trying and asking why things turn out the way they do.The biggest thing I need to manage in order to bake bread is my time. Bread, especially good bread  cannot be rushed, so organising when I can be around to move dough on from one stage to the next sometimes takes planning. Ive been baking bread now for 50 years and I am still finding clues to perfect the art. The results bring me pleasure on so many levels, but what they don't do is place me in some elite group. I'm the first to admit I don't write recipes in a manner that spells out the finest detail, but if you fancy having a go at one of my recipes, do try and if you run into difficulties, get in touch and I will try to help, happy baking.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Jerusalem Artichoke and Potato Gratin

The first snow of the year fell overnight, a half hearted affair before the main event happens in a day or two. I fancied something warming and by the look of the chickens who always look bemused when snow falls, they needed something warming too.

The last of the Jerusalem artichokes, a particularly knobbly lot were crying out for the gratin treatment. I decided adding some potatoes would extend the dish so that I would have food for tomorrow and possibly the day after. I peeled the artichokes and potatoes with the chickens in mind, not being too fastidious about taking off a thin amount of peel and while preparing the dish, I boiled up the peelings for a couple of minutes before straining them and taking them up, hot and steamy for the chickens, were they grateful? well if they were they didn't express it.

You will need:
500g or thereabouts of Jerusalem artichokes
500g of potatoes
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic
300ml of double cream
300ml of milk
1 tablespoon of rapeseed or olive oil
100g of grated cheese, I used Comté
2 teaspoons of potato flour.
Salt and Pepper

Peel the Jerusalem artichokes and cut into medium chunks, toss in the oil and place in a shallow oven proof dish in a hot oven, 200C for 10 minutes. Roasting the Jerusalem artichokes in this way gives them an extra edge of flavour. Meanwhile peel the potatoes and cut them also into medium chunks, cut up the onion in a similar way. Take the Jerusalem artichokes out of the oven and add the potatoes and onion, toss them about a bit to distribute evenly. Take the cream, milk, seasoning, potato flour and finely grated garlic and mix well, pour the mixture onto the vegetables. Finally sprinkle on the grated cheese, cover with aluminium foil and bake in the oven, now reduced to 180C, for an hour or until the potatoes are nearly tender. Remove the foil and place back in the oven for a further 12 to 15 minutes to form a golden brown crust.

This dish is of course very rich, the use of half cream and half milk does cut down the fat a little and the addition of the potato flour ensures the liquid doesn't split which is more likely when you use cream and milk and not the customary cream alone. When cold, this cooked gratin can be placed in large spoonfuls inside sheets of filo pastry (no need to brush the filo with melted butter in this case) and rolled up into parcels before baking in a hot oven, 200C for 10 to 12 minutes. These parcels make an easy picnic food, though today of all days, picnics feel a very long way off and I shall enjoy my gratin as it is with a crisp salad and some crusty bread.

Another way of using up left over gratin is to incorporate it in a calzone, using the richness of the filling to create something new without adding the extra fat that pastry would include. Simply make up a basic white bread recipe that you might use for making pizza bases (click here for recipe) then having rolled out a portion of the dough after its final period of proving, fill one side of the flat disc of dough with some of the gratin before folding over the other half of the dough and pinching the edge shut. Bake in a hot oven 220C for 15 minutes until well risen and golden brown.

I do occasionally set to and clean this enamel dish to it's original pristine state, but only when my conscience gets the better of me, I am rather fond of the signatures of delicious dishes left behind and always reluctant to clean them off completely.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Golden Beetroot and Fennel soup

You will notice if you have visited this blog before, that I make a lot of soups. I always think that if you have 3 tired looking vegetables staring at you, soup is the ideal thing to make. Nothing else springs to mind for creating maximum yield from humble beginnings, a bit like the sermon on the mount.I find it hard to believe people ever buy soup but the supermarkets seem to be doing a brisk trade in them.
Occasionally I fancy a thickish soup, creamy without necessarily containing cream, in those instances I blend either some or all of the soup, occasionally adding a little unsalted butter to produce a richer finish. At other times a broth containing tender vegetables feels more appropriate. Adding just a little potato flour slaked in a small amount of liquid will create a silky end result.

Fresh bay is one of the few herbs I have at this time of year

I began this soup by chopping up a bulb of fennel I had bought and promptly forgotten for what purpose. Fennel for me is a vegetable which marries very well with the flavour of orange and if I am serving it as a vegetable I braise it slowly in orange juice with butter. While the diced fennel was sweating gently in some olive oil with some fennel seeds to enhance the fennel flavour, I chopped up a leek. this is what followed:

You will need:
1 bulb of fennel
3 golden beetroot
1 leek
3 sticks of celery
4 cloves of garlic
3 bay leaves
2 litres of vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon of sweet paprika
small pinch of saffron.
black pepper
the juice of 1 navel orange plus the finely grated rind
1 tablespoon of potato flour
1 medjool date (optional)

Chop up a bulb of fennel, sweat in a tablespoon of olive oil with a teaspoon of  fennel seeds, chop up the leek, celery and finely dice the beetroot. Add the vegetables to the pan and sweat gently for 5 minutes, add the garlic chopped and while stirring continue to cook for only a minute or two. Add the bay leaves, the paprika, saffron and the stock and simmer for at least an hour. When a medjool date is lying forlornly on a plate on the table, it seems sensible to chop it up and add it to the pot. The sweetness will only add to that of the beetroot.

finally add the juice and rind of the orange stirred into a thin paste with the potato flour.

In conclusion, was the soup a success? yes, a delicious warming bowl of vegetables, each retaining its unique flavour and yet all happily combined. Would I make this soup again? if I have fennel and golden beetroot, yes, but whether or not I would feel inclined to tweak it I don't know. I am already thinking ground coriander would have added something and not been out of place. Oddly the single medjool date added just the element of sweetness needed, I have no idea whether or not 2 would have been too much.
The thing is, cooking is something we all learn to do, we rely on recipes to get us started but if we are to have any future in cooking we all need to learn by understanding how and why ingredients work. The chemistry that happens between eggs, flour, butter and sugar for instance is hugely dependent on quantities, but for something like soup, you can tinker with quantities, the addition of a little tomato pureé would have taken this soup in a different direction. Soup, stews, pasta sauces are all dishes which can be built, you can look at what you have as building blocks and think about what you will need to make it hotter, brighter, richer, smoother, more rounded. Sweetness can come from far more than sugar, the obvious addition of a date in this recipe provided a subtle sweetness, but then caramelizing onions slowly will also serve the same purpose to some extent. Ingredients will deliver the goods if you begin by understanding how and why they affect the flavour and texture of a dish, knowing this, you can experiment with a degree of confidence and as long as you have an understanding of why something didn't work quite as you wanted it to, it's a useful lesson. I would encourage anyone to experiment by making soup, after all, popular as they may well be, commercial soups, even the ones claiming to be artisan and sold in cardboard packs don't compare in quality or cost with soup made at home.

This soup really developed overnight, the flavour is complex and delicious and the use of potato flour to transform the broth like texture to something more silky gives the illusion of the soup having a higher fat content than it actually does. 

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Gooseberry Slump

I spotted the last of the gooseberries in the freezer yesterday and with Bruce coming over to pick up the dogs who have been staying with me for a fortnight, I decided they would be perfect for some sort of dessert. I still had some medjool dates left over from Christmas so a plan was coming together in my mind, this is the result.

You will need
for the base
600g of gooseberries, other fruit would do equally well, apples, rhubarb, plums.
1 tablespoon of sugar

for the sponge
1 egg,
50 ml of milk
90g of self raising flour
60g of unsalted butter at room temperature
50g of sugar
100g of stoned dates
1 teaspoon of baking powder
pinch of salt

for the crumble (enough for two dishes but easier to make in this quantity and it freezes really well)
150g of plain flour
100g of unsalted butter
70g of sugar

Place the gooseberries with the sugar in an ovenproof dish.

Make the crumble topping by combining all ingredients in a food processor and pulsing until a fine crumb consistency is achieved. Set to one side.
make the sponge by placing the dates, flour, baking powder and sugar in a food processor and processing until the dates are finely ground. Add the butter, egg, milk and salt and process only until the mixture is soft and thoroughly combined.

Place the sponge in spoonfuls on top of the fruit, spreading out evenly, finally sprinkle on the crumble. Bake in a moderate 160 C oven for 50 to 60 minutes until cooked. A wooden skewer when pushed into the sponge should come out clean when fully cooked. 

If you make this with rhubarb pulsing up 4 or 5 cubes of glacé ginger in wiht the dates makes an excellent addition.

Hot Cheese Dip

Occasionally a favourite piece of kitchen equipment will inspire a dish, my little cast iron three footed pan is one such piece of equipment. It has a 400ml capacity. I can't recall when or where I bought it, I know I haven't ever seen another. I use it for two specific things, frying mustard and cumin seeds along with fresh ginger, chili and lots of thin slices of garlic along with turmeric powder to add to my dahl at the last minute. The other use is to make and serve my Hot Cheese Dip. This is a great dish to start off a meal, with lots of crusty fresh bread to dunk in and it delivers.

You will need:

100g of a good melting cheese, I like to use Emmental.
6 small cherry tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic
100ml of single cream
Salt and pepper and a large pinch of cayenne.

Begin by grating the cheese, chop up the tomatoes and thinly slice the garlic, mix all the ingredients apart from the cream, place the mixture in an oven proof dish, a Spanish terracotta tapas dish is ideal. pour on the cream and bake in a hot oven 200 C for 12 to 15 minutes, a little colour on the top is welcome but keep an eye on it, all ovens are different. It needs to cook long enough to take off the rawness of the garlic so you may need to cook it at a lower temperature for a little longer.

Serve with chunks of bread to dunk.

This is the most basic of recipes, more of an idea which if you take it on you will find ways of inventing many different variations. There are so many ways you can alter the finished dish, adding spring onions, sauteed mushrooms and if you eat meat, chopped up pieces of crisp bacon, then there's always the possibility of using other cheeses. 

Friday, 11 January 2013

Candied Orange Peel

It's that time of year between buying boxes of clementines at Christmas, small orange fruit still attached to their glossy leaves putting up no resistance when peeling and the long awaited week to ten days when Seville oranges are available to those of us who take marmalade making very seriously. During this time another of my favourite orange fruit is beckoning, the navel orange. These large oranges, even at the fruit and veg stall on the A1101, run by two of East Anglia's most dour Yorkshiremen, are expensive, but there is of course so muich more to them than the delicious flesh, the sweetest of all oranges in my opinion. I speak of course of the fact that the peel is ideal for creating candied peel.

Back in the 1600s orange trees were planted here at Hagbeach Hall, in a large orangerie. It's entirely likely the orangerie was built specifically to house them. In 1806, when the big house was burned down leaving only the stable block and coach house (currently my home) standing, it appears the orangerie, a construction some way away from the house which would have been made of brick, glass and stone was also undamaged. And so it must have remained for a couple of decades with the then nearly 200 year old orange trees surviving. These trees were bought by Lord Peckover and moved to Peckover House in Wisbech a mile or two away where they continued to be cared for to this day. Last year I went to see them and learned of the receipt that is now held at Peckover for the purchase of the trees.They are now over 300 years old gnarled and twisted into the most beautiful shapes.So I imagine oranges of some variety or other have been enjoyed here for a very long time. The orange trees at Peckover

Making candied peel is incredible simple, you just have to have the right peel, this means peel that is thick from the start, so those fruit which feel unnervingly light for their size are probably going to deliver. When I was a child, our mother would give my brother and me a navel orange each after supper at this time of year. We would sit by the fire, she would hand us both an orange with its top sliced off and a teaspoon. I don't know if it was so that the whole process of eating our treat would take a lot longer than if the orange was simply peeled, but it felt very special. These days I take the smallest slice off the peel at both ends then score it down a bit like the staves of a wooden barrel. This way the peel can be taken off easily and in a good shape to turn into candied peel.

I usually find the peel of two oranges is a good amount to work with. IN a small pan, simmer the pieces of peel in water for 10 minutes, discard the water and repeat the process. This removes the excess bitterness that is present. Drain the peel and replace the peel in the pan along with 200ml of water and 200g of granulated sugar. Bring this to a simmer and simmer for an hour. Take the candied peel out of the syrup and place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, place in the oven at 100 C for an hour to dry out. You now have candied orange peel which can be used to flavour cakes and biscuits etc, you also have orange flavoured syrup witch will keep in the fridge for a week. The pieces of rind can be dipped in dark chocolate to produce a delicious sweet to have after dinner with coffee. I decided on this occasion I would use 100g to make another batch of worthies Emneth Worthies recipe
As well as soaking the golden raisins in Di Saronno see update  I added 50ml of the orange syrup to the soaking liquer and doubled the quantity of dried fruit.

Notes: Grapefruit, especially pink grapefruit and of course lemons are excellent for candied peel, choose fruit which feels worryingly light for the size, a sure sign the peel is thick.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Cauliflower Soup

All forms of brassica are best cooked for the shortest time possible. Boiling these delicious vegetables for a moment too long will result in the development of unpleasant and unwelcome flavours. There is no reason however, why we should avoid using them in soups, we simply need to plan a recipe so that the brassica, whether it be tender green broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower in this case, is exposed to the cooking process for a short a time as possible.

For this recipe you will need.
1 small head of cauliflower
2 small potatoes (roughly 150g in total)
1 medium sized onion
1 small leek
3 or 4 sticks of celery
3 cloves of garlic
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
30g of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil.
2 litres of vegetable stock
Salt and White Pepper

Begin by chopping up the onion leek and celery. Put the olive oil in a large saucepan and on a low heat fry the cumin seeds for a couple of minutes, add the chopped vegetables with the garlic cloves cut in half, the bay leaves and the nutmeg. Continue to sweat the vegetables on a low heat for 10 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and the potato, peeled and cut up into cubes. Cover with a lid and cook gently for half an hour until the vegetables are very tender.
Meanwhile cut the cauliflower up into small florets, this allows them to cook quickly. Bring the temperature up to high and add the cauliflower to the cooked vegetables. Cook until the cauliflower is just tender, no more than 4 minutes. Allow the soup to cool for 15 minutes before removing the bay leaves and transferring the soup to a blender. Blend in small batches until smooth. Add the butter to the blended soup in the last few moments of blending. Blending any hot liquid can be hazardous, the liquid expands dramatically and can blow off the lid and spray hot liquid everywhere; blending in small batches and not filling the blender more than half full will help avoid this.
Reheat the soup briefly and adjust the seasoning with any salt required and some freshly ground white pepper.

For me there is a particular flavour from my youth which I only rediscovered after the tyranny of using only black pepper began to fade away in the 90s, and that is white pepper!
It's customary to enrich a soup by adding cream, I find with this soup as with many others, blending some butter into the soup at the end, produces a silkier finish without adding any more fat than if you used cream.

This soup lends itself to being served garnished with parmesan crouton, simply cut up some decent bread into small dice, and fry gently in a little olive oil until golden. Add a tablespoon of finely grated parmesan while still in the pan, continue to cook for a further minute so that the molten cheese cooks onto each crouton. These crouton are seriously delicious, far too easy to make and a very good addition to some crisp lettuce in a salad.

Bara Brith

Bara Brith, a Welsh confection, literally translates as speckled bread. These days bara brith can be found all over Wales, often made with self raising flour, the result being more akin to a fruit cake; however, the bara brith that I grew up with was certainly made with yeast and as the name suggests, was a bread sweetened and speckled with dried fruit.

One of my earliest memories is of my maternal grandmother slicing bread and butter. Bread and butter appeared on a plate at every meal time, indeed it was required that we all ate a reasonable amount of bread and butter before tucking into anything else. This was especially true at tea time when cake and perhaps pastry were beckoning, we would keep a beady eye on these delights while munching our way through the obligatory but delicious bread and butter.
In those days, before the invention of sliced bread and the quality of bread in general was to go downhill for decades, bread would require slicing. My grandmother would have a technique of holding the tin loaf against her ample cross over apron-ed frame she would begin by spreading the thinnest layer of butter onto the exposed bread surface, then starting with her knife at the center and always slicing towards her, she would proceed to take off first a slice with square corners, turn the loaf then slice the other side with a round edge, thus producing two wafer thin slices of bread to add to the ones neatly laid out on the plate. The knife which was used for both buttering and cutting the bread was regularly sharpened on the back door step. As children my brother and I would fight for the square edged slices, though now I can't imagine why, other than it simply being an opportunity to continue our rivalry at the dining table.

On Sundays at tea time, in addition to white bread and butter thinly sliced, there would occasionally be a plate of bara brith that had received the same treatment, buttered then thinly sliced, a treat, but of course we knew in what order these were to be eaten.

I have been staring at an upturned bowl which conceals the remains of one of the Christmas puddings ever since the 25th, last night as I was dropping off to sleep, it suddenly occurred to me I could try to turn it into bara brith. After all it already has everything I would wish to include in my recipe plus a little bit more.

For this recipe which produces two small loaves, I used:
400g of Strong White Flour
400g of left over Christmas Pudding
300g of cold milk
10g of fast action yeast
9g of salt

I began by heating the left over pudding just enough to break it up so that it would be well distributed in the dough without too much mixing. Mix the flour, milk, yeast and salt to form a rough dough, add the cooled down, broken up Christmas pudding and continue to mix until a soft dough is achieved. set the dough aside in a covered bowl in order to rise. The dough doubles in size in just over an hour in a warm place. The dough is understandably very difficult to handle because of the softness and the added butter from the Christmas pudding, another time I might well do what I do with brioche and allow for a period in the fridge to stiffen the dough up and make it easier to handle. Somehow I managed to divide the dough into two and transfer the pieces to two loaf tins lined with parchment paper. I baked them at 200 degrees C for 30 minutes.

My grandmother's bara brith was always glazed with a simple syrup when first taken out of the oven, before returning it for a couple of minutes to dry off. The result was a deeply varnished finish.

Basic mistake in causing the sugar syrup to crystallize results in a crunchy white sugar topping rather than the desired varnished look of this gorgeous Georgian leather bucket.

I shall make this again as a fine way of using up left over Christmas Pudding, I did see Nigel Slater (is anyone else out there worried about Nigel, he seems to have really fallen into a strange place these days) make a Christmas and pudding and brandy butter topping for bought ice cream with his. . . . . .

The quality of the end result depends a great deal on the quality of the pudding of course and I wouldn't consider making this with a commercial Christmas pudding.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

30% Wholewheat Sourdough

Well Christmas is over and I have transformed almost all left overs into other incarnations. It's the first day of a new year and I need to be baking bread to set the tone for the year. I decided after the rich diet of the last two weeks, something with a higher percentage of wholegrain would be good, so this is my 30% Wholewheat Sourdough recipe.

You  will need:
For the Ferment
1 Tablespoon of starter
130g of Strong White Flour
70g of Strong Wholewheat flour
200g of water

For the main dough
All of the ferment
700g of Strong White Flour
350g of Strong Wholewheat flour
600g of water
21g of salt

Begin by mixing the ferment ingredients. Set aside until the ferment is bubbling vigorously, at the moment in my chilly house this will take 24 hours. Add the ferment to all the main dough ingredients apart from the salt and after mixing to combine thoroughly, leave the dough to rise overnight. In the morning mix in the salt and keep mixing with a dough hook for 2 minutes to guarantee good distribution. Transfer the dough to a large bowl and leave covered to rise for a minimum of 4 hours. Stretch and fold the dough every hour, you will begin to notice the gluten development changes the tightness of the dough and it becomes less inclined to relax back into a mass. When you are happy good gluten development has been achieved, divide the dough into three and place each loaf after shaping carefully into well floured moulds to prove. I find the success of bread baking is a matter of judging when each stage has been achieved. The ferment needs to be added to the main ingredients only when it is at its peak of production, the dough needs to be left to rise with stretching and folding happening each hour until the gluten is well developed.

Bake the loaves in a hot, 220C oven for 30 to 35 minutes until a good crust has been formed.

I placed sunflower seeds in the top of my loaves but the choice is yours to adorn your bread any way you wish.
This bread has a nice open texture so although it contains more fibre the characteristics of a good white sourdough are not lost.