Thursday, 23 May 2013

A right tart

Flexing my culinary muscles I've extended bread making to pastry and scones. Using this recipe from Be Kitchen Happy I was inspired by her Custard Tart Quest. The reason being that this is Mr Doris' favourite treat and whenever I am near certain supermarkets I know I must  pop in and get some. I'm not really a fan and don't bother eating any. However, for my long suffering partner I felt he needed a little treat as if (mainly) delicious fresh home made breads were not enough.

This was pretty amazing and he and I managed to eat two slices each when it was semi-warm - as shown in the picture. The pastry was superb though I wasn't so thrilled with the grated butter leaving what wastage it did on the grater. A tip I picked up from talking to someone who recently made scones was to chill the flour and this I did as well as trying out the grated butter idea. Next time I'll just chill the flour and use room temperature butter (ie soft!). The other thing I modified was to also chill the pastry flan for ten minutes after I had lined the flan dish. As I didn't have a flan tin with removable base I just lightly sprinkled some flour into the bottom of the buttered dish. Amazingly, after it had cooked and cooled a bit I was able to gently wiggle and then tip the custard tart out and then back upright onto a plate. The custard moved a bit in its pastry nest and then I just wiggled it back to the edges. 

The pastry crust was unbelievable delicious. Vaguely sweet with a flaky crackly crispness. I want to make something savoury with pastry now.

Before I bravely tackled the "Custard" as a custard tart seems to be known round these parts, I made scones the day before. One would have thought I'd be piling on the pounds but it is the opposite! I'm mainly keeping keeping to eating during the five hour (Warrior diet) window which is not too difficult. I'm generally avoiding dairy to clear my sinuses which are barely an issue these days and lapse with treats like this or cream with scones. I have recently discovered using solid coconut oil as a non-dairy and highly nutritious and good for you spread on bread. Oh my goodness it is heaven on a slice. It does change the flavour of the bread somewhat so I need to taste my home baked breads without it first.

I used to make scones as a kid and very rarely tried them again over the years. They tasted good (apart from the occasional splodge of baking sometimes) but never rose to anything of significance. And then in my readings recently read that scones were simply a sweet soda bread. Having not made soda bread but any number of other breads (I have two loaves of spelt currently cooling on the counter) I approached my scone making with a renewed vigour. If anything I was more vigorous with mixing and kneading but in a gentle way if that makes sense. I always knew to handle the dough gently but then I did it too gently. Big things were to chill the flour and also the mixed eggs and milk mixture. I used Mary Berry's  Devonshire scones recipe  and for once in my life weighed the chilled flour into the bowl and then stirred the baking powder in well before crumbing in the butter.

It is true that where the egg and milk glaze drips down the sides of the scones is where they tilt. Next time I might just try a little of the egg only as a glaze and then make extra sure it does not drip down.

I made these scones to take a few to a girlfriend along with a freshly made loaf of bread in my little red riding hood basket along with cream, jam, butter, ham and fresh cherry tomatoes. With her lovely home and china we had ourselves a gorgeous afternoon tea.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Feel the knead, the need for knead

Three a m beckons and I awake. Never mind I am wrecked from a night of over indulgence from a friend's birthday after a very busy day, and a previous night of over indulgence from an impromptu celebration of some good news regarding daughter's job, and with a mega busy day ahead. I awake and I think "bread". Like an addiction. My daughter was teasing me, "I bet you dream at night of making bread" laughing at the absurdity and when she looked me in the eye realised she had hit the nail on the head and was shocked. There is talk of me joining a Bakers Anonymous, or starting one up.

All that laughing about didn't stop five of us tucking into the assorted loaves I had made that day including .... ta-dah ....

.... my first delicious sourdough loaf. (I have made a few other sourdough loaves but this is the first I consider to be delicious.) I almost faithfully used the recipe from my new favourite bread guru Boomtown Rap except I left out the overnight retardation on account of wanting to excessively show off to a visitor; and tried to fast cool on a windowsill so it was still just a smidgen warm when cut into. I made everyone be quiet to hear the knife crunching through the crusty loaf, not just the once but again and again. Oh dear, I clearly need help! That loaf above contains just flour (white, rye and wholemeal), water and salt. That is it. Alchemy made the yeast and I made it all happen.

Just past 4.30am and I am waiting for the two wholemeal loaves to prove for the first time and am about to go shape and put them in their tins for the second rise. Then bake and then hopefully back to bed and sleep a bit as I have an intensive day ahead. Thankfully not starting until 11am then going through to 8pm.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Why bother with sourdough?

This is the question I ask myself as a new baker and having looked after and grown my own sourdough using just flour and water. My first sourdough loaf was questionable (though still eaten) and now my second loaf is better.

 Clearly I am becoming blase as the photo was not taken until we had eaten some. Son said it was very good in his chef-y way. I decided to prove it and bake it in the tin as last time it stuck to the floured tea towel in my homemade banneton. Son was not happy with the shape but it pleased me - he also wanted the texture to be less fluffy and more dense. It still felt quite moist though a huge improvement on the last one.

Then there is the taste. It had a sour taste to it, though I will admit not in a way that sticks in your throat, and I am still not sure if I can like that taste. As I ate it felt like drinking red wine for the first time: persevering until one actually liked the taste! Don't get me wrong, the bread still tasted on the whole okay, just different. After a bit of searching I came across this very interesting blog item with a link to a radio programme from 2010 or before, talking about sourdough and the interesting point that they do not have to taste sour! It was also encouraging to see the sourdough breads the blogger had baked. My mind is already set on making my first yeast pizza dough and lo and behold this blogger specialises in them.

Coming back to sourdough though, I have to say I am very proud to have made this loaf knowing I had not used any commercial yeast. That aspect of the sourdough appeals to me greatly.

My pot of sourdough starter is now a resident in the fridge until I decide what next for it.

UPDATE: I revise my ideas already. Next morning and I have just sliced and buttered a piece of the sourdough bread and it really is quite delicious and not really sour just a depth of flavour. I will admit that last night when I sliced the bread it was still just a tad warm. So maybe that is why everyone says wait for it to cool completely because it needs that time to mellow or whatever. Meanwhile, the extra starter created as a result of using some for the bread and then not reducing by much left me with just enough to make sourdough pancakes and sourdough crumpets this morning. And just enough starter to feed and keep. I can now see myself getting a second container to in future keep the starter discards (from the feeding) in order to make crumpets and other things. Photos in due course - I'm off to the allotment now as it is a glorious day. Must wear hat to keep sun off face. Eh by gum I'll be an eco warior princess before you know it!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

9am Satisfaction

What more can I say? The produce of my little labours this morning and it is only 9am. Second attempts at French baguettes and crumpets. Son has already had four for his breakfast, hot out of the pan with a slight smear of marmite. He said they tasted better than crumpets and he is not known for being polite to me to be political.

The French breads have yet to cool and be cut into. Only then will I see what the texture is like. However, the outside is far crispier than my last attempt and something amazing happened after I took them out of the oven and put on the cooling rack: there was a strange noise in the kitchen area. A sort of cracking crackling noise. Small and insistent. I leaned down and listened to the crumpets cooling in front of me - as you do! On the basis that maybe the bubbles were still bubbling and nothing. It wasn't coming from the direction of the cooking and the other crumpets in the pan. I went around the table to the French loaves and voila - they were crackling. What a wondrous sound. I imagine it could be the crust doing what it needs to do in order to become crispier though I do not know.

Last night I made two granary loaves and despatched one over to my niece who is on a diet that allows homemade bread. I gather like us with our loaf they had tucked into it last night. Yum yum.

Something I realised when I was doing my stuff this morning and that is, I can do something really well. Not just "I can do well but one day someone will find out I can't" well, but truly inside with a nice warmth, well.

I shall be modifying my warrior diet today and will toast crumpets and serve with mugs of tea for breakfast for Mr Doris and I. Then, I just know I will need to try the French bread by lunch. Maybe I will do all my eating this morning, now that is an idea and then not eat until tomorrow evening as per usual. I can do that. But depends how much French loaf is left by the time I get home from my main job this evening after 8pm. Am off out shortly to another little job. The sun is shining and our windows are wide open. Ideally, I'd like to use my sour dough starter in a loaf but as that can take a couple of days and I shall be mostly out working now over the next few days that is not going to happen. Must be patient. Maybe that is what Bank Holiday Mondays are for?

For the baguettes I used this recipe
and left out the Vitamin C (as I don't have it) and used half the amount of sugar as I wasn't sure why it was in the recipe. I don't have a baguette baking tray and used an upturned heavy baking tray as that gave me more usable space and placed the baguettes on a slight diagonal as my oven is on the small side.
For the crumpets I used this recipe  The first time I used one quarter of the measurements and this time I used one half of the measurements. I probably made them too shallow so therefore more than two dessertspoons of mixture are needed for each, especially if there are supposed to be 10-12 from the full quantity and I yielded 9 from half the recipe. Next time I would not use olive oil as that smokes at a higher temperature and perhaps I can get the pan safely at a higher temperature and that is all I need to fix to get them cooked better on the inside.