November 30, 2013 § Leave a comment
It’s just over a week ago that my friend Gwyneth and I joined forces with our lovely cleaning lady Fe Silva and her formidable team drawn from our local Filipino community to put on a very special fundraising event to raise money for the UK Disaster Emergency Committees Philippines Typhoon Appeal.
Last Friday, 22 November, St Luke’s Church, Bowdon Vale in Cheshire was transformed from an austere place of worship into a lively restaurant packed with well-wishers and supporters:
It was Gwyneth’s young son Bill who came up with the idea. Moved by the plight of the Filipino people filling our television screens after the onslaught of Typhoon Haiyan and wanting to help Fe with whom he has a special bond, he came up with the idea of a cake stall outside his house to raise money. Within 48 hours, this seed of an idea quickly germinated and grew into a plan for a full-scale Pop-Up restaurant catering for up to 50 people, offering authentic Filipino food prepared and served by a team comprising Gwyneth and myself and members of the local Filipino community – Fe, Kai, her husband Russell, their daughter Maru, Vicky, Jane, her daughter Jasmine, Helen, Mira and Meridel.
Another 24 hours later, our local church – St Mary’s and St Luke’s had offered a venue free of charge, an initial donation to the appeal of £1,000 and just as importantly, encouragement and help with publicity.
Next step was to decide on the menu. This is what we came up with:
Empanadas – miniature pasties
(contain chicken and pork)
Asian salad (V)
Pan de Sal – Filipino bread rolls with crunchy breadcrumb topping
Picadillo (minced beef and vegetables in spicy but not hot tomato sauce)
Vegetable chop suey (V)
Filipino Cream Puffs
Tropical fruit platter
Filipino coconut macaroons
Coffee, tea, mint tea
Gwyneth took on the empanadas, salad and chop suey; I opted for the Pan de Sal, Picadillo, ice cream, and shopping for the tropical fruit platetrs. Kai volunteered to make an authentic Chicken Adobo and Fe co-ordinated a battery of rice cookers and sack of imported Filipino rice. Further help came from the locally-based MD of Bakkavor Laurens Patisseries who offered several stacks of profiteroles aka Filipino cream puffs, an offer we gratefully accepted.
The next few days were focused on shopping for and preparing the various dishes and of course publicising the event and co-ordinating all the guests.
Here are Gwyneth’s beautiful-looking empanadas and chop suey vegetables (thanks to Jenny Peachey too for helping with the veg prep). It’s a shame we don’t have more pictures but to be honest we were focused on getting the event up and running:
Here are some of the mango ice-cream and tropical fruit platters. I discovered that canned mango makes an absolutely superb ice-cream with no need to search out the ripest mangoes and laboriously purée and sieve them. My knowledge of tropical fruit has been expanded too after a trip to the specialist Asian groceries of Chinatown, Levenshulme and Chorlton to track down papaya, custard apple, persimmons and the unusually flavoured guava as well as the more familiar mango, pineapple and grapes.
The Picadillo was quick and easy to make, incorporates loads of veggies so no need for a separate side dish. Served with rice, it’s going to become part of our family mealtime repertoire:
Greatest fun for me was making the Pan de Sal rolls – delicious soft and puffy brioche-like rolls made with the secret Filipino ingredient, evaporated milk, and with an intriguing breadcrumb topping:
Sorry there are no pictures of the coconut macaroons – they disappeared in a flash!
All bar two of the evening’s recipes are given below in case you’d like to try them yourselves at home. Kai has yet to divulge the secret of an authentic Adobo, and similarly Gwyneth’s husband Graeme is keeping his crunchy and vibrant Asian salad recipe close to his chest.
We’re so grateful for all the help and support we received and absolutely delighted to have raised the sum of £7,467.50 for such a worthwhile cause.
Pan de Sal – Filipino bread rolls
Adapted from a recipe on Allrecipes.com. Makes 20.
6g fast action instant dried yeast (the kind that can be mixed directly with the flour)
500g strong plain flour
50g golden caster sugar
240g canned evaporated milk
1-2 tablespoons milk sufficient to form a soft pliable dough
50g fine dried breadcrumbs
additional evaporated milk for dipping
Mix the yeast, flour, sugar and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Rub in the butter then pour in the eggs and evaporated milk and mix well together adding a little additional milk to the mixture to form into a soft dough. Knead for 12 minutes. A mixer with a dough hook makes this job easy but you will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times during the process. Form the dough into a ball, oil lightly, cover and leave to prove for 2 hours until the dough has increased in bulk noticeably. It probably won’t have doubled in size.
Divide the dough into quarters using scales, then divide each quarter into 5 small balls. Each ball will weigh 48-49g.
Form the mixture into small balls (weigh each one) and shape into rolls with a smooth top. Dip each ball in more evaporated milk then in dry crumbs. Place the rolls on a baking sheet crumb side up. Cover and prove for up to a further hour until noticeably enlarged (again they won’t quite double in size).
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. Slip the rolls into the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 180 degrees C. Bake for 8 minutes then reduce the heat again to 170 degrees C and bake for 5 more minutes until the rolls are golden-brown top and bottom and are completely baked. Cool on a wire rack.
A hybrid recipe: the filling comes from Charmaine Solomon’s “The Complete Asian Cookbook” paired with an empanada pastry recipe suitable for baking rather than deep frying. Makes about 20.
300g unsalted butter
600g plain flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6-8 tablespoons water
more beaten egg to glaze
3 rashers bacon
1 tbsp lard or oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium onion
250g pork and veal mince or Spanish sausage, finely chopped
125g finely chopped raw chicken
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp tomato sauce
3 hardboiled eggs, chopped
2 tbsp chopped pickled gherkins
Begin by making the pastry. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside to cool a little. Sift flour and salt into a bowl and mix well. Add the melted butter and beaten egg to the flour and salt and mix to incorporate, adding a little water as you do so to make a soft, pliable dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and need for about 2 minutes until smooth. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and set aside while you prepare the filling.
Remove any rind then chop the bacon into small pieces and fry until the fat runs. Remove the bacon from pan, add lard or oil and fry garlic and onion over a low heat until soft and golden. Increase the heat, add the meats and fry, stirring, until they change colour. Add salt, pepper and tomato sauce, stir well. Lower the heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in hardboiled eggs and pickled gherkins and allow to cool before using the filling. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and line 2 large baking trays with parchment.
Divide the dough in half and roll out the first piece to 3mm thickness. Stamp out as many discs as you can using a 12cm cutter. You can of course make smaller empanadas by using a smaller diameter cutter and less filling. Put a dessertspoon of filling onto the centre of each disc, brush the edges with water and fold in half to make a semicircle. Press the edges together firmly and either mark with the tines of a fork or crimp to seal decoratively. Place on a baking tray. Repeat with the second piece of dough then reroll the trimmings and repeat once more. You can of course make smaller empanadas by using a smaller diameter cutter and less filling
Brush the empanadas on the tray with beaten egg and bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Best served warm.
Filipino Style Picadillo
A recipe collated from various sources. Kai says that to be authentic, this should be runny, almost a soup. To make serving easier, we cooked the mixture down until it was thick and reduced, more like a chili.
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
500g lean minced beef
1 beef stock cube
1 can chopped tomatoes (14oz)
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp fish sauce
150g (approx) waxy potatoes (eg Charlotte variety) unpeeled, scrubbed and diced
gnerous handful of frozen peas
1-2 peeled diced carrots
1 small diced red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Fry the onions and garlic in the vegetable oil until soft and golden(about 10 minutes). Add the minced beef and cook until brown. Add the tomato sauce, fish sauce, ketchup, stock cube and water Add potatoes and bring to the boil. Cook, uncovered over a medium heat for about 20 minutes. Add the vegetables and a little salt and pepper and bring back to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes to cook the vegetables. Taste and add more salt, pepper, ketchup and/or fish sauce if required.
Filipino Vegetable Chop Suey
A recipe compiled from various sources. We made our version suitable for vegetarians but non-vegetarians can use chicken rather than vegetable stock and fish sauce rather than soy sauce to boost the flavour.
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 onion, sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into batons
1 small head cauliflower, separated into small florets
7-8oz baby corn, trimmed and halved lengthwise
1 small head broccoli, head cut into small florets, stalk peeled and cut into batons
1 stalk celery, cut into batons
1 green or red pepper, halved, deseeded and cut into strips
8-9 oz green beans, trimmed
1 small chayote, cut into batons (courgette suggested as substitute or make up with more of the other vegetables)
4 oz mangetout, trimmed
half head cabbage, outer leaved removed, quartered and thick stalks removed then shredded
2 teaspoons vegetable stock powder
1 tablespoon cornflour
235 ml milk
235 ml water
salt, pepper, soy sauce to season
In a wok or large pan heat the oil then fry the garlic and onion until golden brown.
Add the vegetables except the cabbage in the order listed above (firmest first) to the pan stir fry each for a few minutes before adding the next. This process should take 15-20 minutes in total.
Meanwhile slake the cornflour with some of the water.
Sprinkle the stock powder over the vegetables then add the water, milk and slaked cornflour to the pan and bring to the boil, stirring as the cornflour thickens the mixture.
Season with salt, pepper and soy sauce, stir, then throw in the shredded cabbage, cover with a lid and allow the cabbage to steam until just done, about 3 minutes. Stir and it’s ready to serve.
Charmaine Solomon recipe from Philippines chapter of Asian Cookbook modified by me. She says it serves 6 – I think this quantity will serve 12 or more.
2 large egg yolks (70g)
1 teaspoon cornflour
50g golden caster sugar
470g milk, whole or semi-skimmed
further 33g golden caster sugar
2.5 sheets leaf gelatine soaked in a little cold water for 5 minutes
450-500g mango pulp (I used approx. 3 cans Sainsbury’s canned mango in light syrup drained, pureed and sieved to remove fibrous bits)
2.5 sheets leaf gelatine
200g whipping or double cream
Whisk the egg yolks with 50g sugar and the teaspoon of cornflour in a bowl until thick and light. Heat the milk with the remaining 33g sugar in a small saucepan until nearly boiling. Be sure to stir to dissolve the sugar while the milk heats. Pour the hot milk onto the yolks whisking constantly then return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over a very low heat until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, allow to cool for a minute or two then add the softened gelatine and stir to dissolve.
Now stir in the mango pulp followed by the cream. Chill then pour the mixture into an ice-cream machine. Churn until frozen then pack into a freezer box and freeze until firm. Transfer the ice-cream from the freezer to the refrigerator approx. 40 minutes before serving to soften.
Filipino Coconut Macaroons
Adapted from various internet recipes hence the US cup measures. Unlike a traditional coconut macaroon that can be a touch dry, these macaroons are soft, chewy and tooth-achingly sweet and we think they’re best enjoyed petit-four sized to serve with coffee. Makes 40-50 petit four sized macaroons.
1/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup golden caster sugar
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup flour
2 cups desiccated coconut
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at time, then add condensed milk and vanilla extract and continue to beat until blended. A hand blender makes short work of this task.
In a medium bowl, combine flour and desiccated coconut. Add to egg mixture and beat until combined.
Spoon or pipe the mixture into petit four cases and bake in a 170 degrees C oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.
September 28, 2012 § Leave a comment
The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.
Brunei is a tiny country with a population of some 400,000 shoehorned into a territory of just 2,228 square miles on the island of Borneo. Part of Borneo belongs to Malaysia and the rest (apart from Brunei of course) belongs to Indonesia. The Sultanate of Brunei was powerful regional presence whose influence was at its height between the 15th and 17th centuries. As its influence subsequently declined its territory became gradually smaller. The economic decline was reversed following the discovery of oil in Brunei in 1929. As a result, tiny Brunei became a highly developed and wealthy country whose citizens have an appetite for Western luxury goods.
Today’s breakfast idea was taken from the cosmopolitan menu of the Fleur de Lys Bakeshop in Brunei’s capital city, Bandar Seri Bagawan. The Fleur de Lys Bakeshop is a French style pâtisserie whose macarons and croissants could rival anything you’d find in Paris. My selections was “French toast kaya – brioche French toast served with our very own ‘home-made’ coconut-egg kaya”. This looked rather more appealing than the various chicken sausage and beef bacon rasher combos on offer, pork being ruled out by local Islamic dietary rules.
OK so I know how to make brioche French toast but what on earth is coconut-egg kaya? Kaya, it turns out, is a sweet, creamy coconut preserve flavoured with pandan leaves, made in a similar way to our own lemon curd (but obviously without the lemons!). Ex pat South East Asians yearn for the stuff and either get it shipped out to them or make their own.
I searched around for an approachable, logical kaya recipe and fell for the lovely pictures in Malaysian-born cook and food writer Billy Law’s blog “A Table for Two”. It turns out that Billy was a finalist in the Australian extra-tough version of Masterchef winning the hearts of viewers if not ultimately the judges.
Billy’s instructions were sufficient and easy to follow. First stop is your local Asian grocer for pandan leaves and good quality 100% coconut milk. I’m lucky enough to have Kim’s Thai foodstore in Manchester’s Chinatown (see contact details below) almost on my doorstep. Walking down the steps into the tardis-like basement, you’re transported to the scents and sights of Bangkok’s Khao San Road. It was straightforward enough to pick up the specialist ingredients I needed here – a good quality 100% coconut milk and pandan leaves:
Having gone to the trouble of sourcing authentic ingredients for my kaya, I now needed a decent brioche loaf to turn into indulgent French toast. Having looked at the dry and sad little excuses for brioche offerings available at local supermarkets I decided I’d better bake my own.
I turned to Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking – from my home to yours” for inspiration, as, based on my experience with her Kugelhopf recipe, Ms Greenspan knows how to handle enriched yeasted doughs. The only quibble I have about this bible-type baking compendium is that having meticulously sourced and researched her recipes from professional European bakers in many cases, she doesn’t give accurate gram weights but turns everything into American cup sizes. I have to reverse engineer her recipes and convert everything back to grams!
Following the recipe and with the aid of my Kenwood mixer, after a day and a half (!) I produced a stretchy, silken ball of golden dough:
The golden colour is attributable not only to the eggs in the dough but also to the full 340g butter required to make the recipe. Let me repeat that – 340g butter, a pack and a half, which looks like this:
I shaped the loaves two different ways, the first like a triple bun loaf as the recipe specifies, and the second as a standard loaf shape (after the time-consuming effort of making the dough you are rewarded by one brioche loaf for now and one to stash in the freezer as a treat for later). These are loaves before proving:
They are quite slow to achieve a rise in the tin as the dough has spent the night chilling in the refrigerator before being shaped the next morning. This is what mine looked like after nearly 2 hours – not really doubled in size but I couldn’t wait for my breakfast any longer:
I always use steam in my oven when baking any kind of yeasted dough as I think it prevents a dry skin forming on the dough too soon which would impede its rise. Thus I added steam to my oven when baking the brioche and was very happy with the rise and end result. I have read elsewhere (specifically Tom Herbert’s comment in a baking article in October 2012’s Delicious magazine) that baking a brioche with steam will produce a thick hard crust but I have not found this to be the case so suggest steaming ahead!
Here are the loaves straight out of the oven:
That first slice, still warm, was definitely worth waiting for:
Interestingly, the loaf shaped as three buns had a more satisfactory structure and better rise than the standard loaf shape so I’d recommend this shaping method in future.
It goes without saying that the brioche made wonderful French toast, sprinkled with a little grated nutmeg and golden caster sugar before being topped with a generous dollop of the home-made kaya. Brunei is now up there in our “top ten” of world breakfasts.
Recipe for coconut egg kaya
Adapted from Australian chef and food writer Billy Law’s blog “A Table for Two”.
Makes enough to fill one small preserving jar with a bit left over.
2 egg yolks
150g golden caster sugar
250ml canned or packet coconut milk – check the small print to make sure it’s 100% coconut
3–4 pandan leaves, knotted (optional)
Set up a double boiler by placing a suitably sized mixing bowl over a large pan containing simmering water.
Having made sure the bowl will sit comfortably over the pan, take it off the heat and add the whole eggs, yolks and sugar to it and, using a balloon whisk, mix until the sugar has dissolved. Slowly pour the coconut milk into mixture while whisking until well combined. If using, drop the knotted pandan leaves into the mixture.
Swap the balloon whisk for a rubber spatula. Place the mixing bowl on top of the pan containing simmering hot water and start stirring the mixture constantly, scraping down the sides and base of the bowl. Baste the pandan leaves by using the spatula to pour the hot coconut custard over them.
The mixture will start to get thicker. This is likely to take between 20 minutes and half an hour. At this stage, remove the knotted pandan leaves, scraping and squeezing the kaya off them before discarding. Test for doneness by drawing a line right through the mixture in the bowl one swift move using the spatula. If a channel remains for a second or two before the mixture flows back, then it is ready. Remember that it will thicken further as it cools.
Spoon the mixture into a a sterilised jar, allow to cool then refrigerate. It will keep for up to a month in the fridge.
Recipe for Brioche
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking – from my home to yours”
Makes 2 loaves
7g fast action dried yeast
300g strong plain flour
225g ordinary plain flour
80g water mixed with 80g whole milk, either at room temperature or slightly warmed
3 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
45g golden caster sugar
340g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 small egg, beaten
1 tablespoon water
In the bowl of a Kenwood or similar mixer fitted with a dough hook, stir together the flours, fast action dried yeast and salt. Pour in the milk and water mixture then turn the mixer on to a low speed and mix for one to two minutes until the flour is moistened and you have a fairly dry shaggy mixture.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl using a plastic dough scraper or rubber spatula. Turn the mixer back on to a low speed and add the egg mixture little by little, then the sugar. Increase the speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes by which time the dough should have formed into a ball.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the butter in big chunks, beating until almost incorporated before adding the next. You will end up with a very soft cake-batter-like dough. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the mixture comes away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a plastic dough scraper then cover the bowl with cling film and leave to prove at room temperature until the dough has nearly doubled in size, around 40 to 60 minutes depending on the ambient temperature.
Deflate the dough by picking it up and slapping it back into the bowl. Cover the bowl again with cling film and put it in the fridge. Check the dough every 30 minutes and slap it back until it stops rising. You may need to do this 4 or 5 times. Once it’s stopped rising, make sure the bowl is sealed with cling film and leave it overnight in the refrigerator.
The next morning, grease and flour two loaf tins. Loaf tins are notoriously difficult to size so I’ll tell you the measurements of the ones I used here which were both 22cm (Length) by 11cm (Width) by 6cm (Depth). Divide the brioche dough in half, and divide each half into four equal pieces (best done using an accurate set of scales). Roll each of these small pieces into a log shape (the length of which is equal to the width of your tin)and press four of the logs side by side in the base of each loaf tin. Cover the tins with an upturned plastic storage box or big mixing bowl and leave the loaves to prove until nearly doubled in size and filling the tins. This may take up to three hours as the dough is fridge cold and takes a while to get going again.
When the dough is reaching the end of its proving time, make sure your oven shelf is in a central position and preheat the oven to 190 degrees C (fan).
Make the glaze by beating the egg with the water. Brush the surface of the loaves carefully with the glaze trying not to let it run down the sides of the tin where it will prevent the loaves from rising.
Bake the loaves until well risen and a deep golden brown. I like to add steam at the beginning of the baking time (by quickly throwing a mug of cold water into a shallow preheated roasting tin placed at the bottom of the hot oven) to stop a crust from forming and allow the loaves to rise to their maximum potential.
Remove the loaves from the oven when done and allow to cool in their tins for about 15 minutes before turning them out to complete cooling on a rack. The crumb structure is quite fragile at this stage so be careful when you do this. Don’t attempt to slice until the loaves have cooled thoroughly, for at least an hour.
Kim’s Thai Food Store
46 George Street
Manchester M1 4HF
0161 228 6263
August 30, 2012 § 1 Comment
The latest in our Breakfasts of the World Project series.
Breakfasts in Brazil are many and various depending on where you are in this vast country. I chose to prepare Açaí na Tigela, a breakfast dish popular on Brazil’s beaches, from Caraivo in the north to Florianópolis in the south as the Brazilian breakfast date coincided with our family beach holiday to Southwold in Suffolk.
OK so both Southwold and Florianópolis are both on the coast but that’s where the similarities end. Southwold is famous for its pastel-coloured beach huts and sedate way-of-life whereas Florianópolis is known as one of Brazil’s hippest cities with “dental floss” bikinis rather than Cath Kidston florals being the beachwear of choice.
Let’s compare and contrast some other features of these two towns/cities :
1) Population: Southwold – 1,458 (compared to a national population of 62,641,000); Florianópolis – 427,298 (compared to a national population of 196,655,014)
2) Administration: Southwold – within Waveney district council in Suffolk in the east of England; Florianópolis – capital and second largest city of Santa Catarina province in the south of Brazil
3) Distance from capital city: Southwold 154km from London (but looks a long way on the map of our crowded little island); Florianópolis – 1,673 km from Brasilia (but looks quite close on the map because of the vastness of the country)
4) Climate: Southwold – temperate (really?!); Florianópolis – sub-tropical
5) Number of beaches: Southwold – 1; Florianópolis – 42
6) Main educational establishment: Southwold – Sailors’ reading room; Florianópolis – Santa Catarina University
I needed more for this breakfast than just the Açaí na Tigela. Brazilians love their coffee so this was a must, made from Brazilian beans, naturally. Finally, rather than ordinary white rolls I made a batch of cheese rolls, Pão de queijo, which are made from tapioca starch so perfect for anyone on a gluten-free diet.
Here’s the whole spread:
Back to the Açaí na Tigela, literally “bowl of açai berries”. This turns out to be a smoothie the main ingredients of which are super-trendy (and, over here, superexpensive) açai berries and banana, topped with granola and, optionally, more banana slices. I read about it here and instantly wanted to try one.
The smoothie was quickly whizzed up with a stick blender and I added a spoonful each of ginseng, guarana and maca powders to the whole fruit and juices to give it an extra Brazilian lift. It certainly gave my 90 year old father-in-law Lawrie an extra gear in his wheelchair travels that day.
I poured the smoothie into individual serving bowls:
and topped it with a spoonful of homemade granola:
Yes of course you can buy granola readily these days but it’s quite satisfying to make your own now and again. I discovered this particular granola at a friend’s house a couple of years ago, asked for the recipe and was told I already had it as it’s in Nigella Lawson’s “Feast”. She in turn attributes the recipe to Andy Rolleri of The Pantry deli in Fairfield, Connecticut. It’s a cinch to make – the only remotely tricky bits are making sure you’ve bought all the items on the lengthy ingredients list and getting the correct bake – not underdone and not burnt. A long and slow toasting is what you’re aiming for, not a quick char. Be warned, it’s addictive stuff and you’ll find yourself eating it by the handful rather than rationing it just for breakfast.
I found my pão de queijo recipe on this website in 2008 but can’t remember now why I was trying to find a Brazilian cheese bread recipe back then. The list of ingredients sounds surprising – what, tapioca, the stuff that school dinner nightmares are made of? Yes , that’s right, but look for tapioca flour rather than the tapioca processed to make school dinner puddings. You can find it at specialist health food stores – mine came from Chorlton’s fantastic Unicorn deli. It’s a starch made from the cassava root and you might find it sold as manioc flour – all rather confusing. I have once made a batch using pudding tapioca which I tried to grind down to a flour in my liquidiser. It didn’t work as the stuff is rock hard. I made the recipe with it anyway and it was OK but there were occasional lumps, so do make every effort to find the right flour.
The recipe requires you to make a choux-type paste by throwing the tapioca starch into boiling water and then beating like crazy to make a smooth paste. Beaten eggs are then added before the soft dough is blobbed onto lined trays for baking.
Miraculously, these blobby balls transform when baked into light and fluffy rolls:
Recipe for granola
Adapted from a recipe in Nigella Lawson’s “Feast”.
450g rolled oats
120g sunflower seeds
120g white sesame seeds
175g apple compote (a little bought jar is fine)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
120g brown rice syrup (from health food shops or the healthy eating aisle of your supermarket)
4 tablespoons runny honey
100g light brown sugar
250g whole unskinned almonds
1 teaspoon Maldon salt
2 tbsp sunflower oil
Mix everything except the raisins together very well in a large mixing bowl using 2 curved spatulas.
Spread the mixture out on 2 baking tins and bake at 170 degrees C for about 40 minutes. Keep an eye on the mixture and turn it over with a big spoon after about 20 minutes. It may need longer than 40 minutes in total. You need to achieve an even golden colour without overbaking or burning. Once cool, mix with the raisins and store in an airtight tin.
Recipe for Brazilian cheese bread (Pao de queijo)
From the website “sonia-portuguese.com”. Makes about 70 individual rolls.
1 cup water
1 cup milk
½ cup oil
1 teaspoon salt
450g tapioca starch
2 to 3 eggs
200g grated parmesan cheese
Bring to a boil in a big pan the water, milk, oil and salt. Remove the pan from the heat and add the tapioca starch. Mix well with a wooden spoon and allow to cool down. Put the mixture in a bowl, add the eggs and knead well. Add the grated cheese and keep kneading until the dough is smooth.
Roll into small balls (each ball requiring 1 tbsp mixture). Oil rather than flour your hands.
Place the balls on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake at 180 degrees C for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
April 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
The little box of Pierre Hermé macarons I wrote about in my last post set me back 25 Euros. For a third of the price, you can buy yourself beautiful, round, whole loaf of arguably the finest bread in the world weighing in at a shade under two kilos.
Here are the loaves on display at Poilâne’s newest store (opened in July 2011) on the rue Debelleyme in the Marais. The staff are charming and friendly and, unlike the Pierre Hermé shop, were happy for me to take photos. You’ll see that the word for what we might call a cob is not a mere “boule” but a “miche” literally a generously rounded buttock! I love that idea.
It was such a treat to carry out the whole loaf, still faintly warm from the legendary wood-fired oven, lovingly wrapped, and less lovingly stuffed into my rucksack for the journey back to Manchester. It survived the journey intact:
and was soon sliced up ready for sampling:
What makes the bread so special? It has the dark, crackly crust typical of a wood-fired oven bake. The crumb is not white but a deep cream colour attributable both to its wholegrain content and its long fermentation. The texture of the crumb is dense but not heavy. It’s chewy, just a touch sour, flavoursome and slices well. Fresh, it tastes excellent but thanks to its sourdough fermentation it keeps for a week and a few days old it toasts brilliantly.
What’s in it? The Poilâne website tells you that the bread is made from just four ingredients (stoneground flour, sourdough starter, water and Guérande sea salt) but doesn’t go into detail as to what type of flour is used. Lots of people have written lots of things about the flour in a Poilâne loaf. US baker Peter Reinhart in his book “The Breadbaker’s Apprentice” describes the flour as a stoneground 85% extraction wholewheat ie with some of the bran removed. This is not a type of flour readily accessible to homebakers but can be approximated by mixing three parts white flour to one part wholemeal/wholewheat. Other commentators refer to the inclusion of 30% spelt (épeautre in French) flour in the Poilâne mix but I haven’t yet found an unimpeachable source for this claim.
According to the Poilâne website, legend began in the 1932 when Pierre Poilâne from Normandy set up shop in the rue du Cherche Midi in St Germain on Paris’ Left Bank. He made a traditional loaf in the traditional way (best quality ingredients, long fermentation, natural yeasts, baking in a woodfired oven) rather than producing the more popular white flour baguettes. His sons Lionel (and also Max) continued the family baking business. Lionel was the marketing genius – very convenient if you’re going to supply countrywide if you can first convince the world that your bread tastes best not when absolutely fresh but 3 days’ old! – and it is his bread which has gone onto achieve iconic status worldwide. Lionel died in a freak helicopter accident in 2002 leaving his 19 year old daughter Apollonia in charge.
I’ve occasionally wondered how Poilâne bread can appear on English and French supermarket shelves when there are just three tiny traditional outlets in Paris. I’ve visited two of them, sadly not the original rue du Cherche Midi shop yet which I’ll have to save until next time.
Here’s the Boulevard de la Grenelle shop:
and here’s the newest rue Debelleyme shop in the Marais:
The answer to the supply conundrum is that in the 1980s, Lionel built a 24 wood-fired oven “facility” as the website delicately puts it, to supply growing demand. The discreet little cream-coloured tree-screened factory is located in Bièvres in the southwest outskirts of Paris not far from Versailles.
Harvard Business School graduate Apollonia Poilâne seems to have inherited her father’s business sense as well as his passion for good bread and has made a number of discreet innovations. I’m not convinced about the matcha flavoured green teaspoon shaped biscuits but the “Cuisine de Bar” outlets that have appeared adjacent to the bread shops in the rues du Cherche Midi and Debelleyme (also in London now) are an excellent idea. They are essentially cafés based on toast (tartines in French). So next time you’re in Paris looking for a fashionable, wholesome and inexpensive breakfast or light lunch, you know where to go.
After a bit of research
Contact details (Paris)
38 rue Debelleyme (Marais- “Cuisine de bar” adjacent to shop)
Tel +33 (0) 1 44 61 83 39
Opening hours :
Tuesday to Sunday 7:15 am to 8:15 pm
49 bld de Grenelle (Eiffel Tower)
Tel +33 (0) 1 45 79 11 49
Opening hours :
Tuesday to Sunday 7:15 am to 8:15 pm
8 rue du Cherche-Midi (St Germain – “Cuisine de bar” adjacent to shop)
Tel +33 (0) 1 45 48 42 59
Opening hours :
Monday to Saturday 7:15 am to 8:15 pm
March 21, 2012 § Leave a comment
The newly formed Altrincham Film Club chose the classic 1980’s Danish film “Babette’s Feast” for its March screening. The film is a loving adaptation, in almost BBC costume drama style, of the Karen Blixen novella which describes the effect of the arrival of refugee French chef Babette on the lives of the inhabitants of a remote and puritanical and village on the coast of Jutland. The story culminates in the preparation and serving of a stupendous French dinner which changes the lives of those lucky enough to share it.
The description of the meal and accompanying wines in the book is in fact a little sketchy with only these dishes and wines named specifically:
Turtle soup (Amontillado sherry)
Blinis Demidoff (Champagne Veuve Clicquot 1860)
Cailles en Sarcophage – Quails in coffins (Clos Vougeot 1846)
Grapes, peaches, fresh figs
The film necessarily fleshes out the meal with a salad course of chicory, frisée and walnuts, a plate of delicious cheeses, and its crowning glory, an immense glazed savarin liberally dosed with rum and finished in the Fanny Craddock manner with whole glacé fruits and whipped cream.
The Altrincham Film Club Committee decided they couldn’t let the opportunity of a food film go by without serving some film-themed snacks before and during the screening. Volunteers to bring cheese, pineapple, bruschette and blinis and so on soon came forward. Then my friend Gwyneth, baker extraordinaire (have a look at http://www.vintageafternoonteas.co.uk/ to see what I mean), approached me with the idea of collaborating on producing some sweet nothings to complement the savoury nibbles already on offer.
Thus the idea for the Babette’ Feast “bento box” was born, to contain an individual savarin modelled on the one in the film, a pot of Chantilly cream to accompany it and a final tiny pot containing a macedoine of black and white grapes, a passing reference to the immense platter of fruit served in the film. All this would be presented in a crisp white cardboard box with wooden cutlery, a nod to Scandinavian style and all fully disposable and biodegradable.
Here’s one of the completed mini-savarins sitting in its foil case which is happily durable enough to stand up to all that lovely rum-infused syrup:
The box I photographed below doesn’t look quite as pristine as the ones we actually served as I forgot to take a picture until I brought my own box back home again after the film, so it’s had quite a journey dislodging one or two of the carefully placed fruits!
And of course, we didn’t just have a handful of boxes to prepare but in order to cater for the AFC audience we needed a whole fifty of them which just about filled my dining room table:
The whole bento box production exercise took the best part of three days.
On day 1, a savarin recipe was developed and all the necessary ingredients ordered online. Hardest to track down was proper glacé fruit (not just common or garden glacé cherries but plums, figs, apricots, peaches and so on in the French manner) but a lovely deli in Wellington, Somerset http://www.thecheeseandwineshop.co.uk/came up trumps and was able to despatch a shipment in time. The flour, butter and eggs were all organic, the sugar all unrefined and fairtrade, the rum not Bacardi but finest Angostura from Trinidad and the vanilla the best available from Madagascar. This was going to be a baking project truly in the spirit of “Babette’s Feast”.
The next step was developing the right recipe. I began with Julia Child’s baba/savarin recipe (the two doughs are interchangeable, just the shape being different) from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. This produced quite a stiff dough, easy to shape:
but the resulting buns were dense with a tight crumb that become a tad slimy when soaked in the syrup. We needed a wetter, stretchier dough that would bake to open-textured puffy perfection and would soak up and retain the syrup.
Over to baking guru Dan Lepard who gives a rum baba recipe in his recently published “Short and Sweet” book. I haven’t bought the book yet so had to rely on a republished version of the recipe given on the website of the Melbourne newspaper “The Age”. This was much better, a very wet dough that was hard to handle but produced a brilliantly light stretchy dough. I wasn’t happy with certain aspects of the recipe though – there was too much salt and too much yeast in it for my taste.
The third and final recipe is a conflation of the best bits of all the recipes I looked through and is the one we ultimately ran with. I give it in full below. Whilst I love the aroma of good rum, I don’t like too strong a taste of raw alcohol in a cake or dessert. In flavouring the savarins with vanilla, golden caster sugar and lemon zest and their syrup with unrefined sugar, citrus peel, more vanilla and cinnamon I’ve tried to incorporate the rum flavours without adding very much rum at all. Each savarin is anointed with just a teaspoon of rum to point up these flavours. Much less wasteful than pouring half a pint of rum into the syrup and then having to throw lots of it away.
Day 2 was devoted to baking the savarins in three double batches. Fermentation was long and slow so each batch took 5 hours start to finish so although the workload wasn’t huge, this was a lengthy task. The dough started with making a “sponge”. a wet dough used to get fermentation going and add flavour to the finished product:
Once the remaining flour, butter and eggs had been added, the completed dough looked like this as it began its first proving proper:
After proving and knocking-back, the very soft dough has to be poked and coaxed into the dinky mini savarin tins:
I picked up this mini savarin tin in Zurich earlier this year and am delighted to have been able to put it through its paces. Large individual kugelhopf/savarin/bundt moulds are beginning to appear in the UK but I haven’t been able to find a similar mini moulds over here yet.
This is what the risen buns looked like just before baking – they increase in size dramatically creating all those lovely air pockets:
And this is the end result after baking:
And of course, every batch requires quality control to make sure taste and texture are just right. Very pleased with the open texture of the dough here:
And finally, we’re on to day 3, the day of the screening itself and the major task of completing the savarins and assembling the bento boxes. The first job was the preparation of the black and white grape macedoine. Black and white grapes were halved and macerated in a light syrup of Sicilian blood orange juice, freshly grated lemon zest and just a little unrefined sugar. These were then left in the fridge for the flavours to mingle.
It was a great relief when Gywneth arrived mid-morning and immediately and calmly took charge of the rum application, glazing and decoration of the savarins while I syruped and dunked and drained. Six man hours later, we’d produced 50 bento boxes arranged in serried ranks across the dining room table and my generously proportioned fridge was filled with 50 mini cartons of grape macedoine and Chantilly cream.
Final thanks must go to my long-suffering husband Tim who barely raised an eyebrow at this 3 day baking marathon and who patiently transported the boxes to the cinema in the boot of our car, and wasn’t even able to stay and watch the film!
The boxes were handed out to the Altrincham Film Club audience right on cue with no spillages – job done – and we even managed to remember bin bags to clear up afterwards. Job done!
Anyone fancy La Grande Bouffe for April’s screening…?
Recipe for individual rum savarins
Makes 24 savarins. This is the smallest quantity of mixture which it is feasible to make in my Kenwood mixer, so if you just want 12 savarins, halve the quantities and mix by hand with a wooden spoon and dough scraper.
For the savarins
250 ml milk
12g fast action dried yeast
450g strong plain flour – use 150g for the initial sponge and add 300g to complete the dough
4g vanilla powder
25g golden caster sugar
150g softened unsalted butter
4 medium eggs
grated zest of a lemon (scant – the flavour of the lemon is quite strong so don’t be too thorough with the grating)
For the syrup
500g demerara sugar
500g granulated white sugar
1.1 litre water
2 vanilla pods
6 strips lemon peel and 6 strips orange peel pared without pith using a vegetable peeler
juice of a lemon
1 teaspoon dark rum per savarin (I like Angostura)
Selection of glacé fruit (optional)
Chantilly cream (I like a mixture of cream and fromage frais for lightness).
Begin by weighing your mixing bowl so that you can accurately divide the completed dough by weight later on in the recipe. Note the weight down. My Kenwood bowl weighs 1,029g for future reference.
The recipe proper begins by making an initial wet dough, the sponge. Put 150g of the flour, the milk and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together by hand using a balloon whisk until thoroughly combined and scrape down the sides of the bowl using a dough scraper. Leave the mixture at room temperature until it starts to bubble up. This might take 45 minutes or so, maybe longer.
While the sponge begins to ferment, break the eggs into a small bowl; mash the butter using a fork to make sure its very soft and malleable; sift together the flour, salt, sugar and vanilla powder and stir into it the grated lemon zest.
Now complete the dough. Add the flour mixture alternately with the eggs to the bowl in three or four batches. Mix the dough after each addition using the dough hook on a low to medium speed. Scrape the sides of the bowl using a plastic scraper frequently while you do this. Once all the flour and eggs are incorporated, turn the speed up to medium and let the dough hook do its work for 2 minutes.
Next, incorporate the softened butter into the mixture. Make sure the butter is really soft before attempting this. Add a spoonful or so of butter to the bowl and mix at a low speed until incorporated. Keep going until all the butter is added, scraping the butter plate clean with your dough scraper to make sure every last bit ends up in the dough and not on your dishes. Turn the speed up to medium and work the dough for 2 minutes. The resultant dough will not resemble bread dough but will be very soft and stretchy like an elastic cake mix. This is absolutely fine, do not under any circumstances be tempted to add more flour.
If, like me, you have only one tray of mini savarin tins, you will need to retard the proving of one half of the dough. Weigh your mixing bowl, subtract the weight of the bowl which you noted down previously and remove half the dough to a separate bowl. Scrape it into a neatish mound, cover with a plate or cling film and refrigerate.
Do the same with your original bowl, but leave this one out at room temperature to prove. Leave it until the dough has begun to swell visibly and if you poke it you can see lots of spongy bubbles in the mix. It won’t necessarily have doubled in size.
While the dough proves, make the syrup. Put all the syrup ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil the syrup vigorously for 3 minutes then switch off and leave all the flavours to infuse.
One the dough has proved, knock it back by beating it vigorously with a wooden spoon for 10 to 20 seconds. Now for the fiddly bit which is filling the savarin moulds. Make sure your moulds are well greased. I like to use Dr Oetker baking spray to do this quickly and conveniently.
Half fill each individual mould using about a tablespoon of mixture. Using a teaspoon and/or your fingers, gently tease the very soft dough into the mould and around the central metal spindle. Make sure the quantity of dough in each mould is approximately equal. This is very fiddly.
Cove the savarin tins with a big upturned roasting tin or similar and leave to prove a second time until the dough has risen to fill the moulds completely and puff up a bit more. This takes about an hour, maybe less. Make sure you catch the dough on the up rather than leaving it too long in which case it will collapse.
Put the tray of savarins into the centre of an oven preheated to 190 degrees C (fan). Chuck a small coffeecup of water onto the oven base to create steam and shut the door quickly. After exactly 10 minutes, turn the temperature down to 170 degrees C, rotate the tray of buns so they bake evenly, and bake for a further 10 minutes. They should have a good golden brown colour and be just shrinking away from the edges of the tin. Remove from the oven and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
Once the savarins have cooled to a warm temperature, they are ready for dunking in the syrup. Drop them into the pan of warm syrup and gently push them under. Leave them in the syrup for about 7 minutes to absorb all that lovely sugar, basting frequently. Remove from the syrup bath, invert them and leave them to drain for about 15 minutes on a rack set over a roasting tin to drain. Try and do the dunking with the savarins facing down and the draining with them facing up to ensure even syrup distribution.
This is a long recipe, but we’re nearly there now. All that’s left to do is to drizzle a teaspoon of rum carefully over each savarin, brush with apricot glaze and if you like, decorate with diamonds of glacé fruit. Serve with a dollop of softly whipped Chantilly cream.
January 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
Just remembered that I still haven’t documented everything I learned at my 4 day bread baking course held at the School of Artisan Food in Welbeck, Nottinghamshire last October. I’ve already posted about wild yeasts, rye sourdough and white sourdough.
Now it’s the turn of perhaps the simplest loaves to make – tin loaves made with ordinary yeast (rather than a wild yeast sourdough starter).
Day 1 of the course started with baking 3 types of tin loaf – a white, wholemeal and a malthouse. Course teacher Emmanuel Hadjiandreou introduced us to the basic techniques – the ten second knead, proving, shaping and baking at a good high temperature with the aid of steam to just the right degree of doneness. You can see these demonstrated on a short video clip here:
Emmanuel’s take on breadmaking is a delightfully lazy yet extremely effective one – it lets time and the yeast do the work for you. The flour, yeast and salt are combined then rested for 10 minutes. The dough is kneaded for 10 seconds then rested for 10 minutes. This step is repeated 4 times so that, if you are efficient, the dough has only 40 seconds’ kneading in total!
Emmanuel’s recipes for white, wholemeal and granary loaves are given below, as provided by on the course with the tiniest of wording changes – I haven’t meddled with the quantities at all -wouldn’t dare!
Scanning the list of ingredients you’ll see that there is just flour, salt, yeast and water in these recipes – no lard, oil, sugar etc – bread made just from the basic raw materials. What I immediately noticed was the small quantities of yeast used. The proportions in all 3 recipes are, for whatever quantity of flour is used, 1% of its weight in fresh yeast, 2% in salt. This is the so called Bakers’ Percent system so you can feel like a real pro doing it this way.
Emmanuel’s proportions really do work and the resulting loaves are well risen with a good flavour, especially if proved overnight, and avoid the overly yeasty taste which is a common fault of home breadmaking.
We worked with fresh yeast on the course – an enormous block of the stuff. You can buy it at any kind of bakery, even supermarket instore ones. In a loosely tied plastic bag in the fridge it will keep for 2 maybe even 3 weeks.
Unlike the hurly burly and controlled chaos of ordinary life at home, we worked in a quasi laboratory style environment on the course with all the ingredients for our 3 tin loaves (white, wholemeal and malthouse) weighed out to 1g accuracy before we started:
We made the dough for each of the loaves in succession, first wholemeal, then granary and finally white. Here’s the white dough after its 4 kneads about to undergo its 1 hour resting and proving period:
We stored our proving doughs, neatly covered with plastic bowls (a trick I’ve replicated at home using transparent plastic picnic plates atop my mixing bowls – saves on clingfilm) on handy shelves underneath the work surfaces:
One hour later, the white dough looked like this:
All that remains is to shape the dough (see video clip above). With first the palm then the fingertips it’s patted then rolled before being placed seam side down in the tin.
We were given the option of adding seeds to our crust – simply sprinkle lightly the top surface of the dough with water and, cradling the loaf your hand, gently press and roll the top surface onto your chosen seeds – sesame, poppy or whatever – which you have spread out on a flat plate or tray.
The loaf is then proved, again with the tin covered by a plastic bowl, until nearly doubled in size. If you’re not ready to bake, the proving can be retarded by refrigerating the loaves overnight. Then you can have freshly baked bread for breakfast. We tasted bread that had been proved overnight and compared it to bread with a normal 1-2 hour proving. The overnight proved bread had a slightly more intense flavour – hard to describe exactly what the difference is – a subtle yet perceptible difference, a fuller flavour.
Judging whether a loaf is fully proved and being able to accelerate or retard the process using a warm place or fridge respectively is one of the hardest bits of baking knowhow to acquire. It’s something you learn by experience. In the following picture, the wholemeal loaf is clearly ready to bake whereas the granary one needs another 20 minutes or so:
These are a couple of loaves that went a bit wrong. They door of the fridge in which they were supposedly proving slowly overnight was accidentally left open. The fermentation went over the top and after a spectacular rise, the dough collapsed and flattened. In the interests of research we baked and ate the errant loaves – they still tasted fine but didn’t quite look as they should and the crumb size was uneven.
What a lot I seem to have written about loaves that are a quick and easy to make. I’ve hardly been encouraging have I? Just one final point to get across.
I’ve already written in previous artisan baking posts about the importance of a really hot oven and creating steam – just do what the recipe below says. My final point is that before the loaves go into the hot oven, you can slash them with a sharp knife. This looks attractive and helps the loaf rise evenly when baked but it’s not essential for a tin loaf (unlike the freeform rustic breads which need slashing in order to avoid bursting). The white loaf shown in the picture at the top of this post is both seeded and slashed so you can see the combined effect.
Here’s how the end results should look, first the white and then the malthouse.
Recipe for white bread
300g strong white flour
3g fresh yeast (2g dried)
200g water at room temperature
1. In a small mixing bowl, mix the flour and salt. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water.
2. Add the flour and salt to the larger bowl containing the yeast and water. Mix using a wooden spoon and/or your hands until the mixture becomes a dough.
3. Cover the dough with either another bowl, a plate or cling film to prevent it drying out and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
4. Knead the dough in the bowl for 10 seconds (see video clip above), form into a ball, cover as before and leave for 10 minutes.
5. Repeat step 4. a further 3 times – the dough will have been kneaded 4 times. Cover and leave for 1 hour.
6. Punch the dough down, shape into a loaf (see video clip above) and place in an oiled 1lb loaf tin.
7. Cover the tin with an upturned mixing bowl to prevent a skin forming and and let the loaf rise until slightly less than double in volume. This is likely to take about 45 minutes.
8. When the dough is almost fully proved, preheat the oven to 250 degrees C placing a deep baking tray on the base of the oven.
9. Place the loaf in the oven at 250 degrees C, throw a cup of cold water into the hot tray to produce steam, close the oven door quickly and reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees C.
10. Bake for approx 35 minutes until golden brown and sounding hollow when the loaf is turned out and tapped (refer video clip above). Turn out of the tin and cool on a wire rack.
Recipe for wholemeal bread
300g strong wholemeal flour
3g fresh yeast (2g dried)
230g water at room temperature
Method as for white loaf above.
Recipe for malthouse bread
300g malthouse flour
3g fresh yeast (2g dried)
200g water at room temperature
Method as for white loaf above.
December 9, 2010 § Leave a comment
Pictured above are the beautiful baguettes à l’ancienne that I and my fellow novice bakers managed to conjure up after just a couple of hours tuition by master baker, bread enthusiast and all round great teacher Emmanuel Hadjiandreou. This post is the 3rd in a series describing the 4 day baking course I attended recently at the School of Artisan food on the Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire. Emmanuel is pictured in many of my photos and in my thrilling “white sourdough” video footage which you can find here:
Emmanuel’s white sourdough bread recipe is given at the end of this post. What the basic recipe can’t tell you is the wealth of knowhow needed to bake the perfect artisan loaf. This can only come from time spent handling dough and actually baking. All of the bread we amateurs produced on the course was outstanding. Back home, I have to say that my results with this most apparently simple of recipes have been a little more variable. I’ll try and point out the key things we learned on the course as I describe in more detail how we made this bread.
First of all, the raw ingredients. There are so few in the recipe that they have to be good. We worked exclusively with Shipton Mill organic flour in man-sized 25kg bags:
Then there’s the all-important sourdough, this time in a classroom-sized batch, bubbling away with its distinctive acetone scent:
Here’s my ingredients weighed out and ready to go. If only real life back home turned out to be clean, tidy, prepared, all weighed out…
You can see the dissolving of the sourdough in water and Emmanuel’s trademark “10 second knead” in the video clip referred to above. I like the idea that there’s very little work involved in preparing this dough – the wild yeasts quietly get to work and all you have to do is be patient and create the right conditions for this living organism to thrive. Time and a degree of patience are the things needed here.
Once the dough is prepared, it’s time for the fun bit, the shaping into loaves, baguettes or whatever. Artisan loaves obtain their distinctive appearance from the patterns left by natural cane or wicker proving baskets – also known as bannetons in French or Brotförme in German. Here’s a stack of them photographed at the commercially run Welbeck Bakehouse adjacent to the School:
The baskets need to be liberally dusted with flour before you pop the bread in – we used a mix of white flour and semolina for this purpose which gives a bit of crunch to the baked crust. The cane or wicker baskets can be used just as they are, no need for the washable liners you see advertised sometimes – this way you cut down on washing and get the beautiful cane spiral marks on your bread which mark it out as being the real deal.
There’s no need to invest in a stack of pricey proving baskets before you start making bread – I’ve been managing at home lately with a couple of ordinary small wicker baskets lined with (freshly laundered) waffle teatowels. I have a notion that the plastic basket from my salad spinner would also be fit for purpose. That said, I’m now hooked on breadmaking and have just ordered myself an early Christmas present online – 6 cane baskets from specialist artisan baking supplies website
You can see Emmanuel demonstrating how to shape a loaf before popping it in a proving basket in the video clip above. It may look nonchalant but the folding and tightening of the dough at this stage is key to a well risen and shapely baked final result. As Emmanuel says “don’t be shy to use a little bit of force”.
If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try shaping your own baguettes? It’s not as daunting as it looks and you don’t need any special equipment or tins as it’s only industrial bakers that shape their baguettes in tins. Real bakers look in scorn at the telltale spot marks on the base of an industrially baked baguette which come from the tins used to shape and bake them.
What you need to do is divide you dough into 4 equal pieces (scales are needed to do this accurately). As the video clip shows, each piece of dough is rolled into a tight sausage shape and is placed seam side down on pleated calico liberally dusted with the flour/semolina mix to prevent sticking. Back home, I’ve found that a pleated linen or waffle cotton teatowel works well here though I had to shorten the length of my baguettes to fit the size of my domestic linen. Here’s a photo of Emmanuel’s baguettes nestling in their floured calico:
Once the loaves have proved and are doubled in size and the oven is hot, there’s one more key procedure – slashing. This is not merely decorative but also vital to make the loaf rise evenly and to promote what those in the know call “oven spring”. You’re looking for a plump, pert loaf rather than something too flat and pancakey.
For slashing, a medium sized really sharp blade and a deft swift and not too light touch are needed. You don’t want to just scratch the surface as you need to make a proper incision I would say at least a centimetre deep. A really sharp blade will mean you cut the dough cleanly rather than drag and stretch it which in turn will cause your beautifully risen dough to deflate demoralisingly.
In the video clip you can see us delivering the 5 traditional diagonal slashes to a baguette. Here’s me attempting the alternative scissor and twist technique for shaping the show-off épi baguette pictured at the beginning of this post.
Getting the bread into the oven is a little tricky, especially for baguettes. At the School, we baked this first batch of sourdough loaves in the professional Tom Chandley deck oven which has several stacked ovens which delivers a really good all over crust because of the direct heat at the base.
The proved loaves were turned out onto peels – thin wooden trays – thence straight onto the base of the oven with a deft in and out sliding motion. Think of the trick of whisking away a tablecloth but leaving all the china and cutlery on it intact. Back home I’ve not gone to the trouble (yet…) of investing in a small domestic peel and baking stone but instead have preheated metal baking sheets and have tipped out my proved loaves directly into these and popped them straight back into the hot oven.
One further point on technique – the steam referred to in the recipe is absolutely essential as it delays the formation of a thick skin on the loaf which will turn into an unpleasantly thick crust.
You can see the baked baguettes at the beginning of this post. This is what the baked artisan loaves should like, each decorated with its own individual slash mark:
And finally, what do you see when you cut into your freshly baked loaf? This is the perfect uneven, open crumb and elastic texture.
All that’s needed now is a wedge of your favourite cheese and glass of red wine…
Recipe for white sourdough bread
500g strong white flour
150g white sourdough
+/- 300g water
Mix the flour and salt in a small mixing bowl. In a larger mixing bowl, dissolve the sourdough in the water. Add the flour mixture to the water and mix until it forms a dough. Cover the dough with the small mixing bowl and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
Knead the dough, still in the bowl, for 10 seconds. Shape into a ball, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Cover and leave for 10 minutes. Repeat these two steps until the dough has been kneaded four times. Cover and rest the dough for an hour.
Remove the dough from the bowl and portion into the required sizes. This quantity of dough will make a single rustic loaf or 4 baguettes. Shape the loaf/loaves into proving baskets or into pleated calico for baguettes or into a greased tin.
Allow to prove for 3-6 hours or until approximately doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees C with a deep tray in the base of the oven. Once the bread is ready for baking, slash with a very sharp knife. Place the loaf in the oven at 250 degrees C, put a cup of water in the hot tray to form steam then lower the oven temperature to 210 degrees C.
Bake for +/- 35 minutes until golden brown. Turn out of its tin (if you have used one) and cool on a wire rack.