Tag Archives: baking

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 5

It is week 5 already!

I’ll be honest, I sort of thought that by this stage in the game I’d have nailed a good-looking, good-tasting bread with a method that worked every time. Well well well. That has not been the case.

52 weeks of sourdough wk5

Every week is an adventure in learning it seems. And I haven’t yet cracked the code of consistency. C’est la vie. This is the whole reason why I chose this challenge. And A- did kindly remind me that each of the loaves has tasted distinct, different and thus interesting. We have eaten every one, and saved the ends for croutons/bread crumbs. (I’ve got a bag stashed in the freezer now.)

We are at the beach this week, in Andalucia. It is glorious and warm and sunny. To fit a loaf into this week, I baked before we left, making a dough late last Wednesday, before shaping and baking on Thursday. I was book editing both days and getting up to turn and shape the dough was a welcome relief from being so heavily tied to my desk.

So I haven’t cracked the loaf code yet but what have I enjoyed so far?

I love watching the transformations of the dough as it goes from flour and water to shaggy mess to shape-able dough. When I use different flour, the dough feels different, and reacts differently against my hand as I pull, stretch, lengthen and then fold. I love watching the changing colours too – cream, grey, beige, ochre, eventually tinges of black on the edges of the baked loaf.

Most of all, I love making time for this process in my schedule. I know I am lucky because I have a flexible enough research job that allows me to work from home some of the time, but even making time on the weekend is satisfying. I am sure I will feel differently in a few weeks, when I am traveling again for work and weekends become a sacred and necessary time to do very little, but until then I am enjoying the routine of bread making.

This project is also making me think about bread, a lot. While I’ve been in Andalucia this week, I’ve been pondering the relationship between the people I’ve been with and bread. Bread is a key feature of each meal. If there is no bread on the table when we sit down, someone will cry pan! and leap up to retrieve the stash from the kitchen. But the bread all seems to be industrially produced – even if it comes from a small shop, it is that frozen and baked-on-site variety. It makes such a contrast to all the other carefully produced foods that we eat when we are here. I’ll have to ask more questions about this, and read some more to find out…

Life Lists and Recovery

So a few weeks back my sister asked me where the life list for 2017 was. I realised that I hadn’t written one. I did write an ‘I did that’ list for 2016 but somehow I’d never written any goals for 2017. I suspect it is because I wasn’t feeling very goal-setting-y at new year. But now, as we begin the slide into the new academic year coupled with my now being 4 weeks post-surgery, I thought I might do some goal setting. (God, that sounds so pretentious and ambitious and just weird!) Of course, this awkwardly puts my 12-month list in line with the Northern hemisphere academic year, rather than the calendar one (something I’ve always found troublesome, having grown up in the south where the calendar year matches the academic one), but never mind. Change hey? Sometimes you just have to embrace it.

SFBakeryRoses August17I’ve thought a lot over the past four weeks about what I want to do over the next year. (Being incredibly slow and being forced to time spend resting allows for such contemplation). Full recovery from ACL reconstruction, including a return to twisty sports like netball, takes between 9 and 12 months. So my surgery recovery neatly maps onto my goals to find success outside of work. This is part of my post-PhD life goal, to define myself as something other than my work. I came dangerously close to losing myself in my PhD, and it has taken a lot of hard mental work to learn that I am not my PhD, I am not my work. My work does not define my worth. (That sounds like a mantra. Sometimes I have to treat it as such).

Nottm streetWall detail

So I have devised a number of things that I would like to accomplish in the next 12 months. Okay, I have 13, not 12 but 13 is one of my lucky numbers. (And really, let’s not be pedantic about the parameters of a wellbeing effort). These vary in both ambition and scale, and are connected to my work, health, wellbeing, and creativity. I am sharing them with you here as a way to keep myself reminded of my goals (so that they don’t squander, lost in a journal somewhere) and also because I have one that I am going to try and write about weekly, on this site!

So here is the 2017/18 list:

Take a yoga class. Survive it. Then go back to doing yoga regularly.

Run 5km

Swim in open water. If possible, swim outside all year round. If not, just lane swim a few times a week. Book to swim the Swoosh.

Learn to make a loaf of sourdough. Do this every week. Write about it, even when unsuccessful. Call this 52 weeks of sourdough. Create a hashtag on Instagram for this part of the project. #52weeksofsourdough

Knit a cardigan. (Possibly this one).

Finish the current book and submit the manuscript. Contemplate writing another book proposal. Think about writing a cookbook.

Submit another journal article. Possibly two. Push out the boat and write a third.

Establish the allotment! Put in raised beds. Grow things.

Keep an allotment diary. Take photos of the progress and print them. Or use the instant camera.

Investigate beekeeping!

Have people over for dinner. Try and do this once a month.

Get really good at ice-cream making. Try unusual flavour combinations. Use the herbs you’re growing on the allotment to experiment.

Finally, take some courses for fun. Spend time doing things you enjoy.

So that is my list. Watch out for my first post for 52 weeks of sourdough project, coming this weekend!

Chocolate Cake

_DSC3476

This is Trude’s chocolate cake. I have written about this cake before but thought it needed an update, as the original post was quite rushed. This is the chocolate cake of my childhood – if there was a flavour profile for childhood celebrations, this would be it. It is also my Dad’s favourite and he visited for a whole 24 hours this week. So I made it to celebrate his unexpected trip. We ate it with Yotam Ottolenghi’s raspberry ice cream that was in this past Saturday’s Guardian. I am wholly in favour of the chocolate raspberry combination. I gave him slices in a tupperware to eat whilst in transit. The rest I took to the office.

This is a lighter chocolate cake than the one I made for A’s birthday. This is an oil/cocoa powder cake, easily made with store cupboard ingredients. It is simple to put together, although I seemed to use more bowls than I would like (washing up elves!), but I suspect this was just because I was being thorough. Or some such.

Trude’s Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup cocoa powder

3/4 cup boiling water

1/2 cup cold water

4 eggs, separated

pinch of salt

1 3/4 cups plain flour

1 1/2 cups ordinary (granulated, white) sugar

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup oil

1 tsp vanilla

Line two 22cm tins with butter and baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180C.

Whisk the cocoa powder with the boiling water and set aside. Whisk the egg whites with the salt until stiff. (Hold-it-over-your-head-and-the-mixture-doesn’t-move-kind-of-stiff.) Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder together. Whisk the egg yolks, oil and vanilla together lightly, just to emulsify. Add the cold water to the cocoa powder.

DSC_3453 (1)DSC_3454

Pour the cocoa powder mixture into the yolk/oil mixture. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add this liquid mixture in. Mix well. (Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl so you don’t end up with any dregs of flour making an unexpected appearance as you pour the batter into the tins.) I like to whisk this part and then switch to a spatula to fold in the whites.

Fold the egg whites into the mixture in two batches. Be gentle with the second batch – you don’t want to knock too much air out. Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake for about 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before icing.

_DSC3458 (1)

For the icing, combine 170g softened, unsalted butter with 390g icing sugar and 2 tbsp cocoa powder. Mix on a low speed until it all comes together. Add in a few splashes of milk and once combined, beat on a high speed until smooth and gloopy.  This will make enough to fill and ice the cake.

DSC_3463DSC_3467DSC_3465

Eating with the Princess: Ottolenghi

I was in London for research on a Saturday a few weeks back. Afterwards, I met up with the Princess at the Estorik Collection in Islington. From there we wandered to Ottolenghi, for cake. We found seats at the bar and ordered a chocolate tart with praline (her), and a lemon tart (me). The lemon tart was a truly fabulous dessert: sour lemon curd – the kind that makes your mouth pucker – with just enough sugar to take the edge off, encased in a crisp pastry shell. It was a precisely perfect 4pm-cake-uplift.

IMG_7238IMG_7240

Ottolenghi Islington

287 Upper Street, London

N1 2TZ

 

 

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning at Small Food Bakery (Part I)

IMG_0008

For my birthday this year I requested a cooking class. When my family asked what they should purchase, this was the best thing I could think of for a gift – a chance to do something fun and learn some new skills. I had a look around (online) at the very many different options available, but in the end chose the Saturday Night, Sunday Morning class at my local bakery – Small Food. The class lasts over 2 days. You spend Saturday afternoon and evening in the bakery and then return on Sunday morning. During this time, you learn loads about sourdough, fermentation, lamination, flour, yeast and sourdough starters. It was a fantastic way to spend (most of) a weekend. Because we learnt so much (and I took so many photos, most of which I want to share), I’ve written two different posts: this one is all about making bread and Part II is all about laminated dough (croissants and pastries).

Saturday afternoon began with the participants (six of us) sitting down with Kim (the owner) over coffee to talk about the plan for the weekend, and sourdough starters – the starting point for any sourdough baking. Kim had sent instructions for preparing a starter and everyone had a version of one with them. My starter actually comes from Small Food, as I had no luck trying to start my own last year and I have been caring for it for a number of months. As such, the flavour and smell is very developed – it smells very fruity, mostly of apples and has a wonderful cider-y (ferment-y), apple-y taste. Did you know you can taste your starter? I had no idea until this weekend when we shared our starters around the table, tasting and comparing them. Some were young, creamy and yoghurty; others, like mine, were more sour, with fruit notes. There is no ‘right’ taste to a starter, it all depends on the flours you’ve used, the water and the yeasts in the local air.

_DSC3214

Ovens to covet at Small Food Bakery

DSC_3136

Then it was straight into work! We began by making a large sourdough mixture, enough to generate four different loaves (for taking home) and two small(ish) pizza bases that we were to eat on Saturday evening. One of the reasons I love making sourdough is getting my hands into the dough, incorporating the flour, water and starter, squidging the mixture between my fingers, feeling and hearing the dough change shape, watching as it absorbs the water and changes into something malleable and usable.

Once we had our bulk dough made – you basically work the mixture until it forms a shaggy dough and has absorbed all the water – we put them into clear tubs and placed them in a proofer (of sorts) to relax. This is called the autolyse stage and allows the dough to absorb water and also lets the gluten relax. Then we mixed up a 100% rye dough from which we made rye loaves and crisp breads. The rye loaf doesn’t require any kneading. You just mix the dough and scoop it into the tin (scooping being the operative word here as the dough is very wet). Then you proof it very slowly at room temperature before retarding the rise in the fridge overnight.

_DSC3149_DSC3151

All this physical work was broken by much coffee and cake. Sarah is the cake queen at the bakery and she had whipped up banana and macadamia loaf cake with cream cheese icing, orange and poppyseed cookies, and chocolate chip and lemon shortbreads. (She also screenprinted the fabulous aprons we got to use over the weekend and have now taken home.) After our tea break, it was time to prepare dinner and flavour our loaves.

_DSC3180DSC_3174

Once autolyse stage is finished, you add in more water and salt, squidging this into the dough until all the water is absorbed and you can no longer feel the salt. We then rested the dough again before starting to perform the ‘turns’ which add structure to sourdough and ensure it doesn’t just collapse and seep all over the counter when you’re trying to shape it. These turns are completed at half hour intervals, so in-between we had time to think about flavourings for our breads. We all made a Radford Wild and a beetroot sourdough. I then made an olive, chilli and seed bread, and a chocolate, fig and pistachio one. When all the doughs were flavoured and resting once more, we turned our attention to dinner.

_DSC3181

Bubbles forming in the sourdough

_DSC3182

DSC_3183

Turning the dough on top of itself

_DSC3189

Flavouring the dough

Dinner was sourdough pizza. Each pizza was formed of 250g of dough weight. Nathan provided instructions on how to thin out the dough into something that resembled pizza and then we were given free range to create pizza toppings. They were all baked in the large ovens before being sliced and shared amongst all of us.

I made a potato pizza with creme fraiche and a butternut, onion, mozzarella and chilli pizza that was super thin and crispy. (Potato pizza looks beautiful once baked as the edges of the potatoes crisp up and brown, making the whole thing look a little like fish scales.) There was green salad and wine (and beer), and lots of conversation about food and drink. It was rather hard to muster the energy to stand up again to do more shaping but the loaves were in need of attention!

After dinner we focused on preparing our sourdough loaves. The flavoured doughs had been proofing whilst we ate and were ready to be turned out, bench rested and then folded to provide structure and strength in the baking process. These are then tipped into sourdough baskets (lined with cornmeal) and left overnight in the fridge.

The next morning, we returned to the bakery to bake off all the bread loaves. Kim illustrated how to score the loaf – this has to be done so the loaf can expand whilst it cooks. If you don’t score it, the loaf will simply expand where it wants. By scoring it, the baker is guiding the expansion in a particular way. Scoring a loaf takes confidence. If you are too hesitant you will damage the structure and affect the aesthetic appearance too.

Once the loaf is scored, it goes into the oven where it bakes until a dark golden brown. The bread bakes directly on the base of the oven which is stone and therefore incredibly hot.

Whilst our sourdough loaves were baking, we made stencils for our rye loaves. Stencils are a fun way to decorate loaf-style breads and everyone got to create their own ‘logo’ of sorts for their rye bread.

The last activity with the rest of the rye dough was to make crispbreads. Kim says she came up with these by accident, after over-fermenting a dough but they remind me a lot of lavash and I suspect are fantastic with hummus. The rye dough is formed into sausage-like logs, using water on your hands and on the work surface (so quite messy to recreate at home). The logs are sliced into 2cm long pieces and these are massaged out onto baking paper until incredibly thin and delicate. You can flavour them pretty much any way you see fit – salt, herbs, seeds and the like. They are baked directly onto the base of the oven until crisps – about 7 minutes.

I had an epic weekend. There is nothing I love more than spending time with other food people, talking about food, eating, making food. Superb birthday present (thanks to Mom and the Princess!)

Small Food Bakery

Primary, 33 Seely Road, Nottingham

Saturday Night, Sunday Morning workshop costs £190. There are places available on the July and September workshops. 

Cookbook Club: Ottolenghi’s Plenty More

 

DSC_3042

I made this ‘set’ (I think ‘deconstructed’ is a more accurate term but who am I to argue with Ottolenghi and Honey & Co?)  cheesecake for our inaugural Cookbook Club last month, which is an exciting new activity I’m participating in! I’ve been wanting to set one up for ages and finally organised a first meeting. Our first evening turned out to be a few friends with whom I regularly share dinner, but it was so much fun all cooking from the same book and sharing a meal. We all cooked from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More, which I chose because I love the book but hardly ever cook from it. We ate the cannelini bean puree with pickled mushrooms (and fried pitta pieces – dear god, what a moreish concept that is), potato cakes with mint that paired excellently with the aubergine pahi. I made the tomato tart and the ‘set’ cheesecake with plum compote which was a perfect balance of sweet, tart and crunch.

The cheesecake was so moreish that I made it again last week. Andrés accused me of not fully explaining that the cheesecake would not materialise as a cheesecake as such – he was apparently waiting for me to put it together while I was sneakily portioning it up and eating it when he was at work, totally oblivious to the fact that he hadn’t actually had any. (Which was obviously my secret plan).

DSC_3040

The key thing here is the cheesecake mixture – cream cheese, mascarpone, double cream, caster sugar and some citrus. The rest is infinitely adaptable, depending on your mood. You just have to be organised enough to make the cheesecake mixture the night before so it has time to ‘set’.

My mood was raspberry/almond/lime this time but really, I suspect any citrus and fruit compote combo will work here. Cherry compote perhaps? (Also with lime?) Blueberry compote with lemon? I changed up the crumble/base a little as I am an oat girl when it comes to crumbly-things-randomly-scattered-amidst-decadent-sweet-cheesy-things and so I added oats (and used almonds rather than hazelnuts because store cupboard!). I procured black sesame from the Asian supermarket near my ballet class. (I also found birthday cake Oreo’s! Which, come on! Birthday cake Oreo’s!)

You can find one version of the recipe here. The recipe in the book uses regular plums in the compote  instead of greengages. I used the zest of one lime instead of a lemon and also made half the cheesecake amount – which was enough for four or five after a large meal. When I made the cheesecake the first time I followed most of the recipe to the letter (apart from scaling down the cheesecake side of things) and the leftover crumble kept fine (I found it went really well with yoghurt and the leftover compote as breakfast food). When I made the crumble this past week, I used the same flour/butter/sugar/black sesame measurements but then added in a handful of oats and a handful of almonds (toasted and slightly bashed up). For the compote I heated a handful of frozen raspberries with a tablespoon of caster sugar and a squeeze of lime juice.  I made half the cheesecake mixture again too.

The best thing about Cookbook Club was the way it forced me to actually use a cookbook I’d had on the shelf for ages. (Resolution anyone?) We’re meeting up again this month and are going to do Nigel Slater’s Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food. I am already excited at the prospect. (There’s a recipe for Marmalade Chicken which sounds a) fascinating and b) like an excellent way to use up some of the marmalade stores!)

 

 

 

 

Marmalade Poppyseed Loaf

It is that time of year for marmalade making! Which means it is essential to use up whatever is left of last years marmalade stores to make way for the new. I guess you can tell I’m slightly obsessed with citrus this year. Andrés found blood oranges in the market the other day and seemed surprised when, upon finding them in the kitchen I immediately peeled one and ate it, the juices running down my hand. Blood oranges are my absolute favourite – the colour wheel of reds, oranges and purples delights me – and it turns out they’re superbly good for you too, which is always an added bonus for favourite foods.

2016-01-24 10.58.47-1Anyway, on Sunday I made the new batch of marmalade (having recovered sufficiently from the earlier in the week mess) and, because it was overcast and dark in a way only a January afternoon can be dark, I decided to use up the almost-last jar of 2015 marmalade in a cake. A brief scour of the web combined with Annie Bell’s Baking Bible lead to this: a rather glorious, bitter, damp, orange loaf cake that I intend to eat around 4pm most of this week.

DSC_2868

In truth, it is an exceedingly simple riff on a pound cake and could probably be adapted to use up whatever jam you have skulking in the back of the fridge. I used ingredients I had to hand, hence the use of honey – feel free to substitute for more soft brown sugar. Personally, I love this because it is not very sweet and the marmalade glaze gives it a bitter edge. Serve it with vanilla ice-cream for a winter dessert.

Marmalade Poppyseed Loaf

Makes one loaf tin

175g unsalted butter, at room temperature

90g soft brown sugar

3 eggs

60g runny honey

75g marmalade

175g plain flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

zest and juice of one orange

2 tbsp poppyseeds

marmalade to glaze

Preheat the oven to 170C and line a loaf tin with butter and parchment.

_DSC2851

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, beating after each one. Mix the flour and baking powder in a bowl and add in two tablespoons to the egg mixture. Beat lightly.

_DSC2855

Fold in the honey, marmalade, orange zest and poppyseeds. Lastly fold in the rest of the flour mixture followed by the orange juice.

DSC_2857

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for half an hour, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Let the cake rest in the tin for ten minutes before turning out and cooling. I spread the marmalade directly from the jar onto the still warm cake so it has a chance to absorb some of the syrup. Slice when cool. (Slicing when warm will lead to the cake falling apart.) Eat.

DSC_2869