White Chocolate and Raspberry Blondies

Despite the plethora of brownie recipes on this site, there is no recipe for blondies. This is obviously an oversight on my part. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want a little sugar, white chocolate and syrup in a sticky square? Add in a tart raspberry and it’s like Christmas come months early. Or summer perhaps? (Given how I lost the fine-motor coordination in my fingers after my run this evening, I think that is a pipe dream. The run was necessitated by the consumption of three (yes, three) of these sweet, sticky more-ish squares this afternoon. And the need to do something that didn’t entail me sitting down at a desk. Getting out and about stretches muscles my body mostly choses to forget it has these days and reminds me I am not quite a vampire, yet. There is a blog post coming soon about the madness and embodiment of final-stage PhD writing up – and the endless consumption of Haribo starmix – but this is not it. It is Friday, after all.)

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These are super duper easy to put together. A melt-and-mix method that means you can have blondies in an hour. (Mostly because they take ages to bake.) I’ve made these wheat-free, for not other reason than I felt like it. Feel free to substitute all the flour and ground almonds for regular cake flour. But try this version too! I imagine these would work perfectly with an ice-cream, possibly raspberry ripple perhaps? As it starts to get warmer I begin to long for an ice-cream machine… Anyways.

White Chocolate and Raspberry Blondies

150g unsalted butter
100g creamed honey
50g golden caster sugar
150g golden syrup
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g white spelt flour
50g rice flour
50g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
100g white chocolate
1 cup raspberries (either fresh or frozen)

Line a square baking tin with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 170C.
Melt together the butter, honey, sugar, golden syrup and vanilla.

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Set it aside to cool for 10 minutes. While you’re waiting, mix together the spelt flour, rice flour, almonds and baking powder. Roughly chop the chocolate.

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Whisk the eggs into the syrup then fold in half the flour mixture. Put the white chocolate and raspberries into the remaining flour and mix lightly with your hands to coat.

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Fold this into the syrup mixture.

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Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake for approximately 45 minutes – until the cake is set and a skewer comes out clean. It may start to get quite dark on top halfway through so cover with foil if necessary (and you’re worried about it burning). Allow to cool in the tin for half an hour before turning onto a cutting board and slicing. Makes 16 pieces.

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Blood Orange Black Pepper Meringue Pie

I started listening to podcasts recently. I’ll be honest, up until now, I’ve never really understood talk radio. When I listen to the radio, it’s because I want to hear music, not people chatting about some topic. I’ve always been a listening-to-music-commuter. But then my friend Jess introduced me to the Harry Potter audio books and I became hooked – both to hearing Stephen Fry read Harry and to audio books in general. I find it works best to listen to favourite books – like His Dark Materials or The Lord of the Rings – mostly because I’m easily distracted and sometimes switch off concentrating and then discover I’ve missed several minutes. This is not a problem when you know the story but it is easy to get lost in a new one when this happens. I even managed The Luminaries on audio although I had to restart it several times because I wasn’t concentrating enough at certain points to actually follow the story. But audio books are reasonably expensive and so now I am limited to one new book a month (which makes for about a week’s worth of commuting). So I’ve had to root around and think of other things I could possibly listen to and that’s how I discovered podcasts.

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I started off with the BBC Food Programme and Monocle’s The Menu. But I exhausted those pretty quickly (listening to loads of older programmes at first and now waiting each week for new episodes) and I started to hear about this podcast called Serial. Finally, last week, I downloaded it and, in the space of 48 hours, listened to the entire season. I couldn’t stop listening. It was so good. Clever storytelling, gripping story, terrifying in places. And I couldn’t get it out of my head. I keep asking everyone I know if they’ve listened to it yet so I can have a conversation about it with someone.

Anyway, post-Serial, I started to expand my podcast repertoire.  I remembered one of the girls I met last year at the LongHouse Food Scholars programme, Fiona, had started one – it’s called Shut Yr Pie Hole. And it is fabulous – random eating/interviews/facts about food, based in Detroit. And then, in one of those kismet-y universe type-things, Lottie and Doof’s latest blog post was for this Grapefruit Black Pepper Meringue Pie from Sister Pie in Detroit. Sister Pie (aka Lisa) is the other half of the Shut Yr Pie Hole podcast. It was like the universe telling me to make pie. PIE PIE PIE.

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I’m not sure about you, dear reader, but I did not grow up eating pie. In fact, I can think of only two pie-esque desserts in the South African repertoire that are related to the thing that is pie – melktert and lemon meringue pie. Now, whilst I am a big fan of melktert (I really should make some for this blog), I am not a fan of lemon meringue pie. At least, not the one I grew up being offered. (See here for a revelatory lemon meringue courtesy of Bouchon Bakery in New York). The problem, at least for me, is that, in my head, lemon meringue should be a very tart curd and a sweet meringue, the combination of which then works and is not overwhelmingly sugary. But South African lemon meringue is made with condensed milk which means that it is unnaturally sweet and sickly. Not my vibe at all. So I’ve never really understood citrus-meringue pies. (A plain, tart lemon tart, on the other hand (see what I did there?), is totally my vibe.)

Last year, at LongHouse, I learnt to make American pies – blueberry ones and cherry ones. I learnt about making pie dough (and lard), lining pie dishes (and how to crimp the edges just so), how to make the fillings (the importance of tasting them before you bake), and the various crust options for the top (lattice, crumble, whole). I haven’t made pie since then and so today felt like a good day to practice these skills. (And make dessert for later.) Plus there was the whole universe going ‘you should make pie’ and really, who I am to mess with the universe?

I made my own pie crust for this pie and, instead of grapefruit, used blood oranges, which, yes, I have been hoarding carefully, not wanting the season to end. I also halved the original recipe, not wanting to make an excessive amount of pie and, decreased the sugar and increased the lemon juice, slightly, to compensate for the sweeter oranges. I made an Italian meringue, so that you don’t have to worry about uncooked eggs, and browned it under the grill in my oven.

Blood Orange Black Pepper Meringue Pie
From Sister Pie, via Lottie and Doof

For the crust:
250g plain flour
60g lard
65g butter, unsalted
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp caster sugar
cold water

To make the pie crust, place the flour, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl. Cut the butter and lard into smallish cubes and rub into the dry ingredients until the mixture starts to resemble breadcrumbs. Add in the cold water, a little at a time – just enough to get the dough to come together.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough until smooth – around five minutes. Shape into a ball, flatten and wrap in clingfilm. Refrigerate for an hour. While you wait, make the filling.

For the filling:

1tbsp caster sugar
zest of one blood orange
2tbsp cornflour
2tbsp honey
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 yolk
2/3 cup double cream
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp black pepper

In a bowl, grate the orange zest into the sugar. Rub the zest into the sugar until, as Sister Pie says, it resembles wet beach sand. Whisk in the cornflour, honey and salt. Then whisk in the egg and yolk, followed by the rest of the ingredients. Taste the mixture – if it is too sweet, add in more lemon juice. If it is too sour, add in an extra tablespoon of caster sugar. Set the mixture aside.

Cut the pastry in half and roll out half into a thin disc. (Wrap the rest of the pastry in clingfilm and freeze for another day.) Make sure the surface you’re doing the rolling on is lightly floured. Turn the pastry between each roll so you maintain the semblance of a circle. Place the pastry over an 18cm tart tin or pie dish (the pie dish is preferable but I don’t have a small one). (I use a loose-bottomed one.) Gently press the pastry into the tart tin, pressing it into the inner edge of the tin. Trim the overhang so there is about 1/2cm above the edge of the tin. Crimp this using the thumb of your one hand and the thumb and forefinger of the other. Refrigerate the tart case for half an hour. Preheat the oven to 180C.

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Place the tart tin onto a flat baking tray. Line the pastry with baking paper and fill with rice or beans. Bake the pastry case for 20 minutes, until the edges start to brown. Remove the rice/beans and baking paper and return to the oven for a further five minutes. Remove the tart tin from the oven and reduce the oven heat to 160C.

Pour the filling into the pastry case and bake for 30 minutes until the filling is set at the edges but still wobbles slightly in the centre (“wobble set”). Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Make the meringue.

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For the meringue:
2 egg whites
60g sugar
60g water
pinch of salt
1 tsp black pepper

Place the sugar into a saucepan and add in the water. Cook over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and cook until the sugar reaches soft ball stage – 116C. (You can use a sugar thermometer or you can check by filling a glass with cold water and taking a teaspoon of the sugar syrup and placing it in the cold water. When it forms a soft ball, it is ready. This takes about 10-15 minutes.) Whilst the sugar is cooking, whisk the egg whites and salt to stiff, using a hand beater or in a standing mixer. Once the sugar is at temperature, carefully pour the sugar into the egg whites, whisking whilst you do so. The sugar will cook the egg whites and create a soft meringue. Fold in the black pepper. Spoon this onto the tart. Heat your grill. Place the tart under the grill until the meringue starts to brown – this takes only around 3-5 minutes so watch it carefully.

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Slice and eat.

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Blueberry Almond Brownies

I wrote (or re-wrote I guess) the introductory chapter to my thesis this week. Given that I haven’t written the conclusion yet, this is probably pre-emptory and it is likely to change once the whole thesis is written and re-read but it felt like the right time to write it, in the scheme of things. I only have two chapters left to revise – the methods chapter and the conclusion – and somehow, this week, I had to write the introduction.

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Part of what happens in an introductory chapter of a PhD thesis is an autobiographical account of the researcher – how you came to the research, your history, how you ended up writing this particular thesis. I’ve had to think long and hard about how I ended up here – three and a half years in, writing a thesis on food experiences. As it happened, I re-read Food and the Self (de Solier, 2013) last week because part of the introductory chapter also includes a discussion on foodies. I realised that quite a lot of my identity and self-formation is tied to this blog and the production of food (both on this blog and in real life). Perhaps this is unsurprising to y’ll – as A- said to me recently, ‘you really do like to feed people, don’t you?’

De Solier found, amongst the foodies she interviewed, that production – that is, cooking and blogging – was just as important to their self-formation as consuming – that is, shopping and eating (both at home and in restaurants/cafes). I find that is the case with myself too. This space is important to me, to my sense of who I am and also of who I might be. I hadn’t realised quite how much importance the blog played in my identity until I started to read de Solier and think about my own personal narrative. It is also why writing my PhD has been so hard, because I have had to be critical about many of the things I believed to be good about food (things like food education, cooking, food gardening, eating well) – things I still believe to be valuable but which I now approach with a wider, more skeptical stance. This stance acknowledges differences in class, culture, race and gender much more than my previous (pre-PhD) self and is now incredibly wary of anyone who makes sweeping statements regarding the benefits of something (whether it be food-related or not).

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Quite how much I enjoy producing food (and cake in particular) became evident this week when I rejoined a professional kitchen. A- told me on Thursday that I looked very happy and I realised I was. I had just spent several hours making cake and cheesecake and brownies that people were going to buy and I felt an immense sense of personal satisfaction about the whole experience. It was odd because some small part of me has often tried to deny this about myself (possibly because it means I will never really have any money) – I really like feeding people – and this realisation is also reassuring in a way. After so many years of wondering who I am, I finally know – I am someone who makes cake. (Or, in the case of this post, brownies.)

These brownies have been all over the interwebs in the last few weeks. They’re from Claire Ptak’s new book, The Violet Bakery Cookbook, which is amazing. I read many cookbooks (and I own a possibly ridiculous number of them) but this is definitley one I am going to add to my collection. These brownies are fudgy and dense, fragrant with roasted almonds and every now and then (like a treasure) a sweet hit of blueberry. Claire describes them as being reminiscent of Cadbury’s fruit and nut and they are, but they are better.

Blueberry Almond Brownies
From The Violet Bakery Cookbook (although I originally saw this in The Guardian)

200g whole almonds
225g unsalted butter
375g dark chocolate (70%)
3 eggs
375g golden caster sugar
75g rice flour
1/4 tsp salt
75g dried blueberries

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a rectangular baking tray that is about 2cm deep.

Place the almonds on a baking tray and roast until fragrant – around 15 minutes.

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Melt the butter in a saucepan, remove from the heat, and add in the chocolate. Over a very low heat, and watching like a hawk, allow the chocolate to melt. When it is almost all melted, turn off the heat and leave for 5 minutes – there should be enough heat to melt the remaining chocolate. (Claire recommends melting the butter/chocolate over a double boiler but I don’t have any bowls/saucepans that fit together well and so this is my method. You can also melt it in the microwave in 30 second bursts.)

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Whisk the eggs, sugar, flour and salt together. Pour in the butter/chocolate mixture and fold together.

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Roughly chop the almonds and then add those and the blueberries into the chocolate mixture.

Pour into the baking tray and spread the mixture right to the edges.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes. The original recipe said 25 – until the brownie is set around the edges and wobbles at the centre. My oven is hotter than most and so this only took 22 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for an hour. Then place in the freezer to firm up for another hour. Slice into pieces and serve. These make really good Friday breakfasts.

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References:
De Solier, I., 2013. Food and the Self, London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

Ricotta Raspberry Cake

Greetings dear readers. You may have been wondering where I have been. I like to think you have, even if this is not at all the case. The truth is I have been utterly and completely swamped with my thesis re-write and some project work. The last post was 6 weeks ago! 6 weeks! Where did they go? I’m three chapters out from a new draft (yay!) and have a first working draft of my project report (double yay!) and despite my lack of activity on here, I have actually been cooking and baking. (I also had a birthday (!), which was super fun, and not at all terrifying in that oh wow, I’m a whole year older and now a big, grown-up 32, what the hell am I doing with my life kind of way.) I am starting to work part-time in a pastry kitchen again. I start next week. It is a hard thing to explain, given all those terrible articles about the horrors of working in professional kitchens but I am looking forward to being back in a professional kitchen again – the physical aspects of the work, the fact that I can bake and call it work, the team work, the time-off from thinking (although I suspect it may help the thinking, which will continue anyway). So things have been busy and will continue to be so but, as I emerge from thesisdom, hopefully, more writing, more regularly, here!

I had planned to tell you about sticky toffee pudding and banana bread during the course of February but when I made the recipes I was dissatisfied. Both still needed work. I couldn’t put my finger exactly on what was wrong with either recipe, but something was. And so I trashed those posts and then I sort of lost momentum. (I still need to figure out what to do with the frozen sticky toffee pudding that is in the freezer – the recipe made loads more than I anticipated.)

One of the things I like to show here is the step-by-step process of making a recipe – mainly because I often wonder what batters/ingredients/foods/doughs are supposed to look like at certain points in the process. Does it matter if the batter has split at a particular point? Will it come back? What does bright, white creamed butter and sugar look like? Is this bright enough? Should the batter be so liquid I have to pour it out? I find the photographs help the process of creativity. Yes, the batter may split. Yes, the batter may be gloopy or stiff or practically liquid. No, that is not quite bright enough. Etcetera and so on and so forth. But taking those photographs takes time, which I haven’t had much of of late. But today I decided to blog despite not having a whole heap of photographs. Instead I just have two…

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You can blame (or thank I guess) Molly over at Orangette, and Jen, who told me about the post and insisted I go over and read it. I duly did and realised that I also quite like everyday cake and that there was time this week to make cake. So last night I finally got round to baking again. I like this cake (which is obviously why I am telling you about it). It has a texture reminiscent of a mousse, but slightly more sturdy. Molly described it as moist and it is moist, or damp, depending on your word preference. It is also soft and smooth, with the occasional burst of tart raspberry. (I doubled the original amount of raspberries called for because there just didn’t look like enough for the batter. And let’s face it, you want a lot of raspberries in your cake really.) I browned the butter too, because you know, if you’re going to melt the butter you might as well brown it. The result is a nutty undertone to the flavour. You’re supposed to break up the raspberries a little but I quite like them whole. This cake is a doddle to put together and then you just have to wait for it to bake (it takes around an hour). I quite like it still warm from the oven (wait the allotted 20 minutes for it to cool before you attempt to undo it as it is fragile) but it works well as elevenses too. (Or breakfast, if you’re into that kind of breakfast-non-breakfast-food-thing.)

Ricotta Raspberry Cake

Adapted (ever so slightly) from Orangette

3 eggs

325g ricotta

1 tsp vanilla

200g granulated sugar

210g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

two pinches of salt

125g unsalted butter

200g raspberries

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 23cm cake tin (I use a springform one as I find cakes are easier to undo from them).

In a small saucepan, over a medium heat, melt the butter. Continue cooking the butter over the heat until it turns brown and starts to smell nutty. You want it a deep golden colour but watch it carefully as the speed at which it can turn black and then burn, is alarming. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Whisk the eggs, ricotta and vanilla together until smooth. (I used an electric beater but I’m sure a regular hand-held whisk works fine too. I just didn’t have one, and you know, needs must.)

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder and salt) together. Fold the dry ingredients into the ricotta in two parts and until just combined – refrain from over-mixing. Add in the butter and mix until combined. Finally, stir through 3/4 of the raspberries. (Feel free to break them up a little.) Scoop the batter into the cake tin and smooth it out. Scatter the remaining berries over the top.

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Bake for around an hour, until a skewer inserted comes out clean and the cake springs back at a touch. Leave to cool for 20 minutes before removing from the tin and placing on a plate.

Caramelised Onion and Blue Cheese Biscuits

I often begin to write in my head. My thesis, these blog posts, all begin in iterations in my head. Sometimes while I am walking to catch a bus. On a run up the hill. Often just when I am trying to go to sleep. As a rule, I never write these iterations down. I let them fumble about in my head, seep into my unconscious and then, much later, and usually in normal waking hours, I put pen to paper (or hands to keyboard, depending on my mood and energy level) and I write things out. I don’t fight the head-writing process. Even though it keeps me awake for an extra hour, or makes me look like I am talking to myself, I simply work through what is in my head until I am distracted by something on my route or I fall asleep or my mind loses the train of thought and I drift to thinking about other things. Rarely is the written version in anyway related to what was in my head, but the writing in my head helps – it clears my thoughts and focuses the idea. And eventually, it calms the thoughts in my head to a whisper and I can sleep.

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Such is my writing process. Of course sometimes, like today, I write an entire blog post about something and then I put it on the back burner, save it into drafts and let things lie for a while. The same is true of thesis writing. I write things, often with a pen on paper, and then I cross them out, begin again. Write more. Get up, walk around. Go for a run. Make a casserole, or cake. Watch many (many) episodes of Foyle’s War. Start up my computer, because, perhaps, today, I will begin by typing something straight into Word, rather than writing it out by hand. Then I write another paragraph. And then perhaps another. (My worst is when the head writing process has turned out some rather fabulous lines that I know are in my subconscious somewhere, but I just can’t access them. That’s when I think that actually I should be writing everything down.)

I am busy working on finalising a research project and I am fixing the policy chapter of my thesis. Both of these require an endless amount of sitting at a desk, writing and thinking. If my PhD has taught me one thing, it is that I am not good at sitting at a desk. You want me to run around for hours, taking plates of food to people? Sure. You want me to make a wedding cake, a process that takes three days (and a lot of wine)? No problem. You want me to go out and talk to people, ask them questions about their lives? I am totally game. But then you want me to sit down, be still, and coordinate those thoughts into something readable? I am useless. I am also a fantastic procrastinator. So some days I have to simply tell myself, over and over, just another 25 minutes, just another 25 minutes. And slowly, slowly, those minutes build into hours and the process of being still and sitting at the desk turns out to be productive. But my oh my, sometimes it is hard work.

Today has been a day like that. To compensate, I made a late lunch of these caramelised onion and blue cheese biscuits. Deb over at Smitten Kitchen wrote about caramelised onion and gruyere biscuits earlier this week. And the new Delicious magazine has a recipe for a caramelised onion tart with a walnut and parmesan crust (I am still going to make that) so I guess I had caramelised onions on the brain. The recipe is based on my Ngonu’s scone recipe – a savoury version. I made big biscuits which I then ate with crispy bacon and balsamic roasted cherry tomatoes. They’re very good with butter too. I only cooked three (although the recipe made eight) so I’ve frozen the rest, already glazed for later in the month, when I cannot possibly be bothered to cook.

Caramelised Onion and Blue Cheese Biscuits

2 cups plain flour

2 heaped tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

2 tbsp caster sugar

80g cold butter, diced

1 egg broken into a 250ml cup and filled with buttermilk

1/2 cup gorgonzola pieces (you can add up to 3/4 cup of gorgonzola pieces if you want)

3/4 large white onion, finely sliced

Make the caramelised onions first as these need to cool. Heat a heavy bottomed saucepan and add a glug of olive oil. Add in the sliced onions and cook on a low heat until they are a pretty golden brown. This takes about 20 minutes and you need to pay attention so they don’t burn. Once they’re golden, remove them from the pan – put them onto a plate or into a bowl – and set aside to cool.

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Put the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a large bowl.

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Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles rough breadcrumbs. Then add in the blue cheese, making sure the pieces are fairly well coated in flour. Add in the cooled onions, coating in the flour too. Mix in the egg/buttermilk. Don’t add it all in at once. You need to reserve some for brushing the tops of the biscuits and the flour may not need all the liquid anyway. So add enough to form a soft, shaggy dough. Don’t overwork the dough. You want to stir it enough that it comes together but then stop. You don’t need to knead it or anything. Just bring everything lightly together. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and refrigerate for half an hour.

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Preheat the oven to 220C and line a flat tray with baking paper.

Flour your work surface. Turn out the biscuit dough and pat it down, until it is about 1.5cm thick. The dough is super soft and so won’t take well to be rolled out. Just shape it as best you can with your hands. Use a cutter to cut biscuits to your desired size – you can have small or big ones. I made big ones and the mixture makes about 8 large biscuits. Place the biscuits on the baking tray and brush with the leftover egg/buttermilk mixture.

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Bake for 10-15 minutes until risen and golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before eating.

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Milk Loaf

If I tell you I was going to write about pull-apart cinnamon bread this week, will you turn away from a relatively boring (in comparison) post about milk loaf? At the beginning of the month, when I was organising the recipes I would make, I wanted to make cinnamon bread. I really did. But this week, the last thing I wanted to eat was cinnamon bread. I know right? Who does not want to eat cinnamon bread all the time? Well that was me this week. And, because this space is really about my life and the food I eat, I didn’t want to make something just because I said I would. Who would eat it? So there’s no cinnamon bread here today. Instead there is milk loaf.

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I actually didn’t think there would be a recipe here this week at all. When it got to Wednesday I was still busy rewriting Chapter Two of my thesis. I had set a deadline for Wednesday to get it done and I was determined, no matter the hour, to finish it then. I did, finally, at around 11.30pm. So there was no opportunity to make anything or to blog on Wednesday. The rest of the week was spent recipe testing for Florentine, a new book by Emiko Davies, a food writer. Ages ago, via Instagram, I offered to test some of the recipes and this week I finally got round to doing so. But as a result, I wasn’t really in the mood to do any of my own recipe development for here. I figured I’d write about how fun recipe testing had turned out to be. How challenging it was to have to focus on actually following the recipe, rather than automatically looking at what could be adapted or changed. Actually measuring one teaspoon of vanilla, rather than pouring it in by sight; paying attention to baking times, rather than waiting to smell when something is done; the sequence of steps and the equipment needed (you mean I can’t simply put this cake batter into a round tin? It has to be rectangular? Really?). It was great. But I can’t share the recipes I made on here so I figured it’d be a non-recipe post. But then today I made a batch of marmalade (Seville’s are back in season! Yay!) and I figured it might be good to have fresh bread for toast in the morning. So I made this milk loaf.

I’m slightly obsessed with this loaf at the moment. I think I go through stages of loving different breads. For ages it was sourdough. Now it’s this milk loaf. It’s easy to make. Dense and chewy in texture. Toasts well. Lasts the week. The recipe comes from Delicious magazine. I subscribe to their newsletter (as well as the print magazine) and this loaf was featured in one newsletter recently. I love making my own bread so I decided to give it a whirl last Sunday. I’ve been eating slices for breakfast all week and now that there is marmalade again, I suspect I’ll be eating this combination for a while. I changed the method slightly (as well as using more milk), only because I am a lazy baker and prefer for things to be as easy as possible. Thus, instead of rubbing the butter into the flour, I simply melt it whilst heating the milk. It cuts out a step and opens, I think, the possibility of turning this into a brown butter loaf…. Mmm. Now there’s an idea. I also added in a second proof. The original recipe only proofs the dough once but I’m always skeptical of such things, having been taught that breads should be proofed twice. So I proof it twice. Just in case. (And because you get the satisfaction of punching down the dough.)

Milk Loaf
Adapted from Delicious Magazine
750g strong white flour
7g instant yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp caster sugar
75g unsalted butter
350ml milk

Place the flour in a large bowl. Add in the yeast on one side and the sugar and salt on another side. You don’t want the yeast to come into contact with the salt and sugar until you’re ready to add in your liquids as you risk the sugar/salt killing the yeast. (Which, let’s face it, would be a tragedy*!)

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Place the milk and butter in a saucepan and heat over a medium heat until the milk is warm. Switch off the heat and leave it for a few minutes so that the butter melts. Give it a stir. Test the temperature with your finger. You don’t want it to be hot – body temperature is good. Stir the flour, salt, sugar and yeast together. Add in the milk. Using either a wooden spoon or your hands, bring everything together to form a dough. If there isn’t enough liquid to do so, add in some warm water.

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Form the dough into a ball. Knead lightly for five to ten minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place into the bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave in a warm place to proof until double in size – about an hour. (I put the bowl into my oven, with the oven light on and a tray of hot water on the floor of the oven. This creates a warm, moist atmosphere that makes the dough extraordinarily happy.)

When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and shape it into a log. Grease a loaf tin with some oil and place the log into it. Cover loosely with a tea towel and proof again for half an hour – the dough should rise up beyond the tin level.

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Preheat the oven to 200C. Cook the loaf for half an hour – until dark golden brown on top and hollow-sounding when tapped.

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Turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely before eating.

*If you are of the same era as me, perhaps the word tragedy! (with the exclamation mark after it) reminds you of that song by Steps. I remember once doing the coordinated dance moves on a stage at some formal dance I went to in my final year of school. In case you have forgotten, here’s a link to the music video… (Also, this video be cray-cray.)

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

I know, I know. It’s Saturday. Apparently my ability to keep accurately to resolutions like ‘I will blog on Wednesdays’ is flawed. But there you go. In fact, I had the food in this post made up ages ago but then I was in London on Wednesday for an interview so I couldn’t get it written in amongst all the travelling. So I’m doing it today instead. I’m being indulgent and blogging from my bed too. (Is there anything quite as indulgent as working from bed? I think not – in terms of the places to work I mean. There are many other indulgent things I would rather be doing in bed.)

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I love lazy Saturday mornings when I can get up, make a coffee and return to my bed while I wait for my flat to warm up and to be lightning-bolted with a flash of energy so that I can continue rewriting my thesis draft. I’m still busy with the Foucault chapter. It’s a long one and it frames the thesis so I am stretching my brain to understanding this week. So far I’ve written about discourse – how discourse produces knowledge and how some discourses are taken up, incorporated into everyday life, and accepted as truths. For Foucault, discourse didn’t just mean language though – it wasn’t just about what we say. He talked about discursive practices rather than discourse. This is because he wasn’t simply interested in the things said, he was interested in the social, material and symbolic conditions that allow certain things to be said at any one time, and for those things to be taken up and become true. This knowledge about life and living, about how we should be, becomes incorporated into everyday life through technologies of power and techniques of the self (more on that next week).

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So that’s Foucault for today, and the next few days. The chapter goes on to apply this analysis to the discourses of obesity and nutrition that currently produce (through the media, institutions, public awareness campaigns) people as healthy subjects and self-disciplining citizens. I knew y’ll wanted to know about it in vague detail. I mean, what is Saturday morning without a little Foucault?

But now I will tell you about this dinner instead, without analysing it, I promise. I haven’t made anything really savoury (and non-pastry related) in a very long time (for this blog I mean. I don’t eat only baked goods daily.) I always thought I would incorporate elements of what I was actually eating normally onto the blog but somehow, cake almost always wins on this site. When I was planning out the month of blogging Wednesdays, this Wednesday was supposed to be treacle tart. But then I had a craving for meatballs and I decided I could throw in a savoury/dinner post just to mix things up a little. And this is that.

There isn’t really a recipe as such for these meatballs. I mean there is a recipe, mostly for proportions, but it is infinitely adaptable and changeable. I like that kind of flexibility when I’m making dinner. My mom always used to make meatballs and when she was here at Christmas she taught me her chicken stuffing recipe. Somehow, I think due to the breadcrumbs, this made me think of the meatballs she made and then I started to crave them. So I made them for dinner a few weeks ago. They’re super easy, you can make them in advance and then reheat them to serve, and they freeze well.

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
For the meatballs:
500g beef mince
4 pork sausages
1/2 an onion
generous bunch of flat-leaf parsley
1 egg
2 slices of bread, blitzed into breadcrumbs

For the tomato sauce:
1/2 an onion
2 cloves garlic
1 large carrot
1/2 red pepper
1/2 yellow pepper
500g cherry tomatoes
1 tin tomatoes
flat-leaf parsley

Begin with the meatballs as these need some refrigeration time.
Place the beef mince in a large bowl. Squeeze the sausage meat out of their casings and into the bowl. Discard the casings.
Finely dice the onion and roughly chop the flat-leaf parsley, including the stalks. Add these to the bowl.
Add in the egg and the breadcrumbs.

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Using your hands, mix everything together. I’ve read that the more you mix, the smoother your meatballs will be and they’ll hold together better, so smush everything together until it is wonderfully incorporated.

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Divide the meat mixture into 15 portions. Roll these into balls and flatten them onto a baking tray that has been lined with baking paper. Cover the tray with clingfilm and refrigerate for an hour.

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While the meatballs are chilling, make the sauce.

Dice the onion, carrot and peppers into equally-sized pieces. Finely chop the garlic. Halve the cherry tomatoes and roughly chop the parsley, including the stalks.

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In a large heavy-bottomed pot, sweat the onions, carrots and peppers in a generous glug of olive oil. Once the onions are translucent, add in the garlic. Continue cooking but reduce the heat slightly.

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Once this veg is soft, add in the cherry tomatoes and the tin of tomatoes. Fill the tin up with water and add this in too. Bring the sauce to the boil and then reduce the heat so that it simmers lazily. I like to cook the sauce for at least two hours, stirring it occasionally.

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About 45 minutes before you want to eat, or after about an hour of the sauce reducing, cook the meatballs. There are more meatballs than you’ll need for the sauce so I usually cook 8 meatballs in the sauce and freeze the other 7, uncooked, for later.

Heat some oil in a frying pan and fry the meatballs in batches, so they aren’t too crowded in the pan. You want them nice and caramelised but not black, obviously. Turn them over when they’ve reached a good colour. Once they’re brown on both sides, place them into the sauce.

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Cook the meatballs in the sauce for about half an hour to 45 minutes. You want them cooked through and the sauce reduced but you don’t necessarily want them to fall completely apart. Serve with some salad or pasta or just as they are, with some good baguette.

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