Thursday, 21 July 2011

Super-Lemon Cake

A whole week of not baking, I am itching to get back to the kitchen now.

Went to Moscow for a quick holiday, believe it or not, it was super hot, 30C every day and so humid!! Cold ice-cream for me and cold beer for Mr Ranty every day – the only way to deal with it.

I put my starter to sleep in the fridge while I was away, took it out on Monday and started feeding it 30g water and 30g rye flour every morning and evening. It was looking reasonably active this morning, so might try baking tonight, that is if this cold London weather doesn’t kill it.

While I am waiting for my starter to come alive, I’ve decided to make a cake out of the "Hummingbird Bakery" book again. A recipe I’ve tried out and tweaked a number of times, a favourite in my household. Mr Ranty is a big fan on lemon, and this particular lemon cake always doesn’t down really well.

Super-Lemon Cake
Adapted from “Hummingbird Bakery” cookbook

3 eggs
260 g sugar
zest of 2 lemons
400 g flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
240 g milk
½ tsp vanilla essence
170 g unsalted butter, melted

Lemon syrup
100 g water
50 g sugar
juice of 2 lemons

If you can find Spanish lemons, I highly recommend using them. The flavour does make a difference, it is super fresh and super zesty. Wholefoods in London are currently selling them, last time I went there, they had four for £1 offer, which is brilliant!

Whisk eggs, sugar and lemon zest in a free-standing or hand-held mixer on high speed. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in one bowl and milk and vanilla essence in another bowl. Turn the mixer down to a medium speed and add third of flour and third of milk mixtures – mix until well combined, repeat twice more, uning up all the flour and milk.
Melt butter and cool it slightly, add the butter to cake mixture, with the mixer running on high speed. Mix well, until all the butter is incorporated and the mixture is looking smooth and glossy. The mixture is going to be quite runny, but that means that you are gonna get nice and moist cake at the end of it.
Pre-heat oven to 170C, grease a loaf tin (I use a large loaf tin instead of a pound tin, as the cake is quite big) and line it with baking paper. Butter to make the paper stick, paper to make sure that the cake doesn’t crumble and doesn’t stick to the tin – speaking from experience here, I have had that happening to me with this cake before.
Pour cake mixture into the tin and place it in the oven to bake for 40 minutes, rotate the cake around and bake it for further 35 minutes.

While the cake is baking, make up the syrup – place all the ingredients in a small put and bring it to boil over a medium heat. Boil for 10 to 15 minutes on a low heat, remove from the heat and cool slightly.

Once the cake comes out of the oven, leave it to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, take it out of the tin, remove baking paper and place it on a cooling rack with a large plate underneath the rack. Use a wooden kebab skewer or a long toothpick to make wholes all over the cake and pour still hot syrup all over it. Make sure that you pour the syrup very slowly, concentrating on covering the edges of the cake and the whole length of it. You will end up with a soggy looking cake and a puddle of syrup on a place underneath the rack – leave it sitting like that for about half an hour or so. Remove the cake from the rack and place it directly on the plate with the left-over syrup, the bottom of the cake will soak it up now.
I normally make this cake late at night, and leave it sitting overnight, to make sure that it has enough time to absorb all the syrup and also to dry out a bit.

This cake is such a treat for breakfast, I normally pack two slices of it (I know, such a little piggy) and take it to work to have it with a cup of tea – yumm.

By the way, I am posting the recipe here, because I have made a few changes to the recipe – mine uses more flour, less sugar, less butter and is more lemon-y then the original one in the book. I find that most of American recipes are too sweet / rich for my taste, and I am happy with this as my final version of this recipe.

By the time I got around to taking a photo, most of the cake was gone - only two days after I baked it - must be good :)

Monday, 11 July 2011

Sticking to it - Brioche

After experimenting with a few recipes and making things up, I’ve decided to stick to a recipe and see how I get on. This time I went for Nancy Silverton’s Brioche bread, from her La Brea Bakery book.
I’ve tried this recipe about six months ago, and got one of the best praises ever – “its just like what I buy in Paris”, from a guy who only just got back from France – you can’t get better than that, can you?

I don’t think I can publish the actual recipe, cause I think that might be breaching book’s copyright, but I can tell you about the experience and get a chance to show off all the lovely photos :)

The recipe uses starter as well as yeast, and I am thinking about testing out again soon, but without the yeast, then I will post the actual recipe, as it won’t be Nancy’s exact recipe any more, but my version of it – I think that would work.

So, it’s classified as a three day bread, but don’t let it scare you, the actual hands on effort is very minimal, and you can easily fit it into your work day schedule.
I wanted to have the brioche ready for Saturday morning, so I’ve started on the recipe Wednesday night. First you make a sponge out of water, starter, milk, yeast and flour and leave it overnight at room temperature. Check it Thursday morning – looking quite bubbly, and put it in the fridge for the whole day to do its thing while you go to work. Thursday night is the actual mixing up dough night – adding eggs, sugar, flour, salt and butter to the sponge and doing A LOT of mixing. I would suggest you don’t attempt this recipe unless you have a mixer of some sort. My dough needed something like 20 minutes of mixing on quite high setting, and I cannot imagine doing it all by hand, it would take a long long long long time. And I would imagine it’d be hard to achieve the right type of consistency, I had proper window-pane texture but the time I finished with it, looked very soft and very sticky.
The recipe actually makes two loaves of raisin brioche, but I prefer my brioche plain, so I omitted the raising and didn’t use anything else instead, I was going for a super-soft crumb.
Anyway, with dough all mixed, put it back in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours, meaning you don’t have to worry about it until Friday afternoon / evening.
I was working from home on Friday, so started on the loaves around 4 – 5 afternoon, leaving enough time for the loaves to be shaped and to proof.
Divide the dough into two, shape each half into a loaf and place into a greased tin (like you need any more butter :) and cover with plastic. The recipe tells me to leave it to proof for four hours at room temperature, but I was getting a bit impatient at this stage and placed the loaves in a hot-water cabinet to speed things up a bit. After three hours, the loaves were looking nice and puffy and nearly ready to go into the over. I turned the oven on to pre-heat, brushed the tops of the loaves with egg wash and left them sitting at room temperature for another 40 minutes or so, until the over was hot enough.
You need to bake your brioche on the lowest over rack you’ve got, to make sure that tops don’t get burnt. The recipe tells me to bake it for 40 minutes, but I had to take mine after 20 minutes, as they were getting really dark brown on top and felt like they were done already. The loaves sprung to much!!! They nearly doubled in size during the baking, looking nice and round on top.
Leave the loaves to cool slightly in the tins, take the loaves out and leave to cool overnight.

They looked so good on the outside, I couldn’t wait to cut into them and see what they look like inside. And I must say, it was worth the wait – the crumb is so light and lovely, amazing taste too, not too sweet, just how I wanted it.
It makes a perfect Sunday breakfast, toasted with a but of butter and apricot jam – divine!!!!!!

PS: Mr Ranty is responsible for the pictures, thats why the quality and composition is so much better. All the ones above are his, and the one below is mine - spot the difference :) I

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Cherry Berry Pie

Got a BBQ to go to today, and thought that the best way to contribute is to bring something home-make, something like a pie, a cherry pie. Oh, who am I kidding, I’ve been thinking about making a cherry pie for over a week now and been looking for an excuse to make it.
Tesco got big boxes of cherries on sale, so it seems like a perfect time to try my hamd at pie making.

I’ve googled “cherry pie recipe” and got a number of recipes, from really complicated ones to some really odd ones : “buy one pack of pastry and two cans of cherry pie filling, make a pie”. Lots of American recipes mention tapioca, I don’t actually know what it is and was too ashamed to ask my local Tesco whether they have it – if I don’t know what it is, how can I describe it?

After reading a few recipes, I’ve decided that I have enough of a general idea, and this is what I came up with :

Cherry Berry Pie

Pastry :
300 g white flour
150 g unsalted butter (cold, cubed)
75 g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
A pinch of salt
Zest of half an orange
Juice of half an orange

Filling :
600 g sweet cherries (with stones removed, probably 700 g total weight)
50 g sugar
Juice of half a lime
1 Tbsp kirsch
2 Tbsp corn flour

Place flour, butter, sugar, zest and salt in a food processor and mix until you have an even crumbly mixture, about a minute. Add the egg yolk and mix for another 20-30 seconds, add orange juice and mix for a few more seconds.
Due to orange and the egg yolk the pasty came out lovely colour, really golden. Wrap it into gladwrap and place it into fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.
Meanwhile start on the filling – pit cherries – get an olive or a cherry pitter, its so worth it, I paid something like £5.00 for mine, but it makes things so much easier. Of course, it will become one of those gadgets that you’ll never use again and it will sit there collecting dust, but hey ho :)
Add the rest of pie filling ingredients to the cherries and mix it all together. Allow to sit for a bit, while you are waiting for your pastry to chill, to give the cherries time to let some of that lovely juice out and mix with the rest of the flavours.
I am wondering what lime and sugar will do to the cherries – ideally I would have liked to make a sour cherry pie, but I can’t find any sour cherries in the UK at this time of the year. Maybe lemon would have been more appropriate, but I only had limes at home, so will see.
Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll it out of a non-sticky surface, big enough to cover the bottom and sides of your pie tin. I’ve started covering my kitchen top with gladwrap before working with crumbly types of pastries – wet the surface with a bit of water and cover it with gladwarp. Water to make the gladwrap stick and gladwrap to stop the pastry from sticking it to kitchen surfaces.
Grease the pie dish with butter and transfer the pastry into the pie dish to cover the entire dish and leave some pastry to hand over the edges.
Pour out the filling into the pie dish, scraping all of the juices out of a bowl – that’s where all the flavour is.
Roll out the rest of the pastry and cut out long strips of pastry, about 2 cm wide – I used a curly pastry cutter to test it out. Lift the strips of pastry (it might be quite tricky, as the dough was getting quite warm by that stage) and cover the top of the pie with them, leaving quite wide gaps between the strips.
Press ends of the strips to the edges of the pie base and trim the excess pastry.
Bake at 200C for 20 minutes and leave to cool completely before taking it out of the pie dish.

Well, what can I say, the pastry was really tasty, and really orangy. Couldn’t really taste the lime in the filling, so might go for lemon next time and add some more lemon juice. The pastry was also really crumbly, so might have to use less butter next time, see whether that’s gonna make any difference.
Overall the pie was a success – really lovely, served cold with some cream.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Perry “Teary” Bread

I saw this video on dmsnyder's blog and been obsessing about this new shaping technique. My usual shaping is very simple – shaping dough into a ball and then adjusting shape to fit my banneton, I will get around to video-ing it at some stage.
But I really like the shape this video creates, and Mr Ranty has been asking me to try it out.
Instead of sticking to a tried and true recipe and changing the shape, I’ve decided to try out a new recipe too – what the hell :)

I bought a bottle of perry – pear cider – and thought it would add a nice flavour to my bread, not gonna add any extra fancy ingredients, want to see what that does to the texture and flavour.

Perry “Teary” Bread

220 g white starter (100% hydration)
220 g pear cider, “perry”
70 g water
350 g white flour
100 g wholemeal flour
50 g light rye flour
1 ½ tsp salt

Mix everything but the salt in a mixer for 6 minutes on speed one, cover with a tea towel and leave to autolise for 20 minutes. Add salt and mix for two more minutes on speed 2. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and do three stretch and folds over the next hour and a half. Leave (covered) to ferment at room temperature for further two to three hours. The dough has started showing some signs of life by this stage, not doubling or anything, but definitely looking a bit puffy. I would have liked to leave it to proof for a bit longer, but it was getting close to midnight, and I wanted to retard it in the fridge overnight, so I decided to shape it anyway.
Ah, the shaping… my first free-shaped loaf for quite a while, I am so used to using bannetons, that free shaping what somewhat challenging. Well, my pre-shaped loaf looked nothing like the one in the video – I did manage to get pointy ends, but it didn’t have that nice round-ish shape, it was looking more like a fat sausage with two pointy ends. I decided to be optimistic, and plonked my shaped loaf into a baking tray (lined with baking parchment, to stop it from sticking), covered it with a giant rubbish bag to prevent the dough from forming a hard crust, and placed it in the fridge overnight.
I’ve also set the oven to start pre-heating itself an hour before my alarm goes off, so I can bake the bread first thing in the morning. For some strange reason I woke up at 5 am, looked at the clock and decided to go back to sleep. Then I thought, hold on, if I take the dough out of the fridge now, it will warm up to room temperature by the time I actually have to get up. Up I go, quick trip to the kitchen, dough out, back to bed – I am pretty sure I was asleep the whole time I was doing it too :)
So, when alarm did go off, I checked my dough, and it did look all puffy – happy with the volume it gained overnight, very disappointed with the shape – the pointy bits have disappeared completely, and I was left with a somewhat ugly shaped loaf. Oh well, what can you do? Still half asleep I slashed it (not particularly well as you can see from the photo) and in it goes to be baked. Bake for 20 minutes with steam at 210C, rotate and bake for further 20 minutes at 200C.

An ugly looking loaf turned into even uglier looking bread – got a real nasty tear at the bottom of the loaf, and the slashing is looking awful!! At least I need to know the areas I need to improve on :)

Gonna try is later tonight to see what it actually tastes like, I have big hopes for the taste, seeing as the look let me down.
I think the dough might need to be a bit less hydrated – its around 66% now (see my previous posts about hydration calculation), and I think it should be closer to 55%, a typical hydration of French bread. I was hoping that extra wholemeal and rye flour would absorb the extra liquid, but it didn’t work that way. I probably try making a smaller loaf next time too, or make two separate loaves out of the amount of dough above, to make the shaping a bit easier.

The taste is actually quite nice, not much of a pear flaour (but I didn't really expect it), very good crust and nice and chewy texture.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Old Wheat Favourite - revisited

A few months back I’ve came across a wonderful e-book – “Discovering Sourdough” by Teresa L Hosier Greenway. A book in three parts, starting with basic recipes and progressing to more advanced ones. Part two has been my favourite so far, but I should venture out into the other parts too, plus the book has a lot of useful information on starter, mixing and shaping.
I printed out Part II and for about a month or so I baked exclusively from there – today is the day to go back to it again and look for an inspiration.
I’ve had great success with “Western Wheat Sourdough”, but al always I’ve decided to see if I can play around with the recipe a little bit, and here is the result of it.

Wheat Sourdough
Adapted from “Discovering Sourdough”

170 g white starter (100% hydration)
200 g water
2 Tbsp milk
16 g oil
½ - 1 Tbsp barley malt extract syrup
½ - 1 Tbsp molasses
30 g rye flour
120 g wholewheat flour
280 g white flour
2 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients bar salt in a mixer for 6 minutes on speed 1, cover with a tea towel and leave to autolise for 20 minutes. Add salt and mix on speed 2 for 2 minutes. Place the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic. Do three stretch and folds over the next hour and a half and then leave to ferment for four to five hours.

Oops, just realised I haven't finished the post - here is the rest of the recipe.
Shape the dough into a loaf, cover with plastic (dust the top of it with a bit of flour first) and leave in the fridge overnight.
Early in the morning, take it out of the fridge and leave to warm up at room temperature for 3 hours. Bake at 210C for 20 minutes, rotate and reduce temperature to 200C and bake for further 20 minutes.
The loaf came out nice and light, and a very pleasant flavour, nice with melted cheese for breakfast.