Tuesday, 27 March 2012

White thyme bread

After my first sourdough starter died a few weeks ago, I decided not to be defeated and started nurturing a new one, following the instructions in Dan Lepard’s The Handmade Loaf. Roughly a week later, it was ready for use. I’d had my eye on a recipe that I wanted to use it for; a trip to the shops for green olives and a trip into the back garden for thyme left me with all the ingredients to start making white thyme bread.
But it also led to an uncharacteristically uneventful bake. I shouldn’t really complain... it being uneventful actually meant that everything went right. But... well, it really felt like I should have put more effort in. As with the 2 previous breads mentioned in the blog, this one didn’t require a lengthy kneading process but instead had several short kneads followed by 10 minute rests. Instead of simply being left to double in size, this bread then went through a series of folds and was left to rest and puff up for an hour after each fold (and I think this step was aided by the beautiful weather we’re having at the moment, which meant I didn’t need to generate artificially warm conditions for it to rest in). A bit of shuffling round from one baking tray to another, a little sprinkling with polenta and some finger dimpling, another rest (for more growth, although it also meant that me and mum could eat dinner) and it was ready to go in the oven. 40 minutes later...
I actually had bread, mostly leavened from a homemade starter (the recipe included the addition of ½ teaspoon of yeast for an added boost), that had a soft, fluffy texture with the characteristic chewy extra born of the leaven. The flavour was quite subtle; I think any sourness was pretty much masked by the olives, especially as the leaven was only a week old and hadn’t had much time to develop flavour. Still, I was very pleased with the results.
This success has encouraged me to try a few more recipes using my new leaven, although it has had to go in the fridge for the moment because my next week and a half isn’t going to allow for making more slow-proving bread.
I deviate from Richard Bertinet recipes and what happens? 3 Dan Lepard ones in a row.
A new, completely unrelated, baking book is in the post.
Simplified recipe
350g strong white flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
150g water at 20°C
150g white leaven (aka white sourdough starter)
½ teaspoon fresh yeast
25g extra virgin olive oil
100g pitted green olives
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Oil, for greasing, and polenta or cornmeal, for dusting
1.       In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour and the salt
2.       In another fairly large mixing bowl, mix together the water, leaven, yeast, olive oil, olives and thyme
3.       Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and bring it together into a “soft, sticky dough”. Cover the dough and leave for 10 minutes
4.       Oil your worktop, turn the dough out onto it and knead for about 10 seconds (or something like 15 kneading motions). Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave for 10 minutes. Repeat this process 2 more times (including the last resting)
5.       Grease a lipped tray and turn your dough onto this. Pat the dough out into a rectangle. Imagine it in 3 columns, then fold in the 2 outer columns. Flip the dough over, cover and leave in a warm place (Dan Lepard says at around 21-25°C) for an hour
6.       Repeat the folding process and the resting twice more
7.       Oil a 20x30cm baking tray and lightly sprinkle with polenta or cornmeal. Turn the dough out onto this tray and dimple the top with your fingers. Sprinkle the top with polenta or cornmeal, cover and leave in a slightly warmer place (25-28°C) for 30-45 minutes
8.       Bake the dough in an oven preheated to 220°C (425°F or gas mark 7) for 40 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool completely before slicing
The Handmade Loaf, Dan Lepard, Mitchell Beazley, 2004

Monday, 26 March 2012

Garlic dumplings

While flicking through Dan Lepard’s The Handmade Loaf for a loaf recipe, I came across this recipe for garlic dumplings. Bolognese was on the menu that night and these seemed like a perfect accompaniment.

The dumplings start with a pretty basic bread dough; flour, salt, water and yeast. And the flavour simply comes from a garlic clove that’s been beaten to a pulp, which is roughly incorporated into the dough. With this one, the only real difference from a normal bread dough was the cooking process. Once the dough had risen and been shaped, it got plopped on top of the Bolognese that had been bubbling away in the oven. I wasn’t very organised with how I put them in the casserole dish, which I regretted later. The theory was that they’d take 5 minute to cook. Mine were just done after about 30 minutes; the ones closer to the edge of the dish were cooked much faster but the ones nestled in the middle stayed doughy for ages. The lessons on patience that I’ve got from my baking were again tested... and my mum and brother were pretty patient in waiting for their dinner too.

When we finally cracked into them, the dumplings were light and fluffy inside, great for mopping up the Bolognese. A simple recipe but a fitting replacement in this case for spaghetti.

Simplified recipe

150g strong white bread flour
½ teaspoon salt
100g water at 20°C
¾ teaspoon fresh yeast
1 clove garlic, crushed into a paste

1.       In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour and the salt
2.       In another bowl, crumble the yeast into the water
3.       Add the water to the flour and bring the mix together into a “soft, sticky dough”, and then smear the garlic on top of the dough and work it in roughly, then cover the dough and rest for 10 minutes
4.       Lightly oil your worktop and turn the dough out onto it. Knead the dough for about 10 seconds (or something like 15 kneading motions). Clean and oil your mixing bowl and return the dough to the bowl. Cover and rest for 10 minutes
5.       Knead the dough again for about 10 seconds, shape into a ball and put back in the bowl. Cover and leave in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size
6.       Turn the dough out and divide into 12 relatively even pieces (you don’t have to be exact but they’ll cook more evening if they’re fairly even)
7.       Form each piece into a tight ball, place on a greased tray and cover
8.       To cook your dumplings, either steam them or place them on top of a casserole or braise. The recipe book says they take 5 minutes, but mine took 30 minutes

The Handmade Loaf, Dan Lepard, Mitchell Beazley, 2004

Sweet saffron bread

I do love unexpected free time, especially when I fill it with productiveness. This happened a few days ago when I got the entire day off (a rare occurrence) and so decided to... yep, you’ve guessed it, bake! In my quest to deviate further from just doing Richard Bertinet recipes, I flicked through my copy of Dan Lepard’s The Handmade Loaf for some that appealed. Sweet saffron bread caught my eye.

Lots of the recipes in Dan Lepard’s book are made with leavens (i.e. sourdough starters) but my new one wasn’t quite ready for use. This recipe, however, starts with a sponge... a method that’s sort of somewhere between sourdough and just throwing in fresh yeast. So the first lot of flour (100g of plain, just to make a change), a first serving of milk (100ml at a yeast-friendly 20°C) and 5g fresh yeast got mixed together and left to get bubbly and yeasty in a warm place. Or at least, they did in theory, except my yeast seemed to decide to stay in little bits rather than dissolve away into the flour/milk mix. So, after an hour, there was virtually no bubbling. I added a touch more milk to loosen up the mix, gave it a good stir and attempted to beat some of the remaining lumps of yeast into submission, then left it for another hour. Success! Bubbles and yeastiness achieved, it was time for the next step.

Well, I’d actually started the next step a little earlier. The expensive step, in fact, because it involved saffron, the spice that happens to be worth more than its weight in gold. Luckily, this bread only needed 12 strands, which got immersed in ¾ teaspoon boiling water to infuse and release its golden colour. The recipe said 10 minutes but it doesn’t hurt to infuse the saffron for longer and... well, I was waiting for the sponge to do it’s thing for a tad longer than I’d expected. The next bit involved weighing out more ingredients. The dry (strong flour, salt and sugar) went into a bowl and I then rubbed in the softened, cubed butter (sugar and butter... just in case your bread wasn’t rich enough with the saffron). A second serving of milk, again at 20°C, then got mixed into the sponge, along with the saffron-infused water (in theory, you whisk it in. I just got my hands stuck in and started squeezing it all through to combine in thoroughly). 100g currants (ones that I walked all round my village looking for) also went in with the wet mix. 2 bowls of mix then went down to one as the wet got poured into the dry and the whole lot was mixed until I had a “soft, sticky dough”. Any dough remaining on my fingers was scraped off (although some unlucky bits did end up getting washed down the sink) and the dough was covered and left for 10 minutes.

This is where Dan Lepard’s recipes tend to differ from conventional ones. Instead of a 10 minute intensive kneading process, Dan takes you through several shorter phases of kneading and resting before the dough is finally left to double in size. This particular occasion required the dough to be kneaded for 10 seconds on an oiled surface, covered and left for 10 minutes, and for the process to be repeated twice. This of course meant that I missed out on my arm work out, but it is impressive how much structure and elasticity the bread develops without any help. The dough then went to double in size. Again, everything seemed to be working in slow motion so, instead of the suggested 1 hour, it actually took 2. Patience, Emma, patience.

The final bit of dough handling involved shaping the dough, but even this required a bit of time because, after shaping the dough into a baton, I then had to leave it to rest (covered, of course) for another 10 minutes before finally rolling it a little more to get it to 50cm long (and yes, I cracked out the ruler for that one). Each end then got rolled in to create a curly “S” shape. This time the dough went on a baking tray and got covered before being left to swell up and double in size again.

Just to throw a challenge into my baking, I had to negotiate a few problems with the oven. We’ve got a fairly new one... sort of an Aga imitation... but my brother had a bit of a tiff with it when cooking a roast at the weekend and now the door on one of the ovens pops open when it gets hot. Not that helpful if you actually want to use it. And I’d forgotten about this so started to preheat it, only to hear a little “ping” about 5 minutes later when the door popped open. Luckily, this Aga imitation has 2 ovens, but the other one is rather narrow. Crossing my fingers didn’t make the baking tray fit so I had to very carefully move the dough to a slightly narrower baking tray. I managed not to knock too much air out when doing this and, after apply egg wash to the loaf (aka fake tan for bread), it went in to bake for 30 minutes at 210°C (410°F or gas mark 6 ½) before the oven went down to 190°C (375°F or gas mark 5) for another 15 minutes.

I’d resisted the temptation to check on the bread before the 45 minutes was up but maybe I should’ve done because the glazed and enriched dough came out a little more tanned than I’d intended. It didn’t look too bad in the middle though; a nice fluffy texture with a slight golden tinge, jewelled with the currants. And taste wise, the delicate saffron flavour came through while the currants added accents of sweetness, with the bread itself being only mildly sweet.

I clearly have expensive tastes; this bread got eaten very fast.

Simplified recipe

Ingredients for the sponge
100g milk at a yeast-friendly 20°C
¾ teaspoon fresh yeast (about 5g), crumbled up
100g plain flour

1.       Beat the ingredients together in a mixing bowl (you may want to dissolve the yeast in the milk before you add the flour, because I had some troublesome lumps of yeast in my sponge)
2.       Cover the bowl and leave in a warm place (apparently at about 25°C) for about an hour until bubbly and with a yeasty smell (mine took 2 hours; be patient and it will get there)

Ingredients for the dough
12 saffron threads
¾ tablespoon boiling water
250g strong white bread flour
25g caster sugar
½ scant teaspoon salt
30g unsalted butter, softened
150g milk at 20°C
Your sponge mixture
100g currants
Olive oil and cornmeal, for greasing and dusting
Egg wash for brushing (I used a beaten egg with about a tablespoon of milk)

1.       Put the saffron in a small jug or cup and cover in the boiling water. Leave for at least 10 minutes to infuse
2.       Grab a large mixing bowl and put in your flour, sugar and salt
3.       Cut the butter into cubes and add it to the dry ingredients, then rub in using your fingertips until there are no lumps of butter left
4.       In a jug (or a bowl, if you’re that way inclined) mix together the saffron/water and the milk. Pour this into the bowl with the sponge and combine the two until smooth. Add the currants, then add the whole lot to the dry mix and bring together into a “soft, sticky dough”. Cover the dough and leave it to rest for 10 minutes
5.       Oil your worktop and turn the dough out. Knead for 10-15 seconds (aim for about 15 kneading motions). Clean and lightly oil your mixing bowl then return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave for another 10 minutes
6.       Turn the dough out onto the oiled work surface and repeat the 10 second kneading, then return to the bowl, cover and leave to double in size (in theory, 1 hour but, as with my sponge, mine took 2 hours)
7.       Making sure you’ve cleaned it, it’s now time to lightly dust the worktop. Gently turn out the dough and form it into a ball. Squash the ball into a flat-ish oval. Imagine it’s rectangular than it actually is and fold the top 2 corners into the middle, then fold the newly-generated straight edge into the centre. Turn 180° and repeat the process, then fold completely in half and press the edge down to seal. Starting from the middle, roll the dough to stretch it out into a baton. Cover and leave to rest for 10 minutes (if you try to work it too much in one go the dough will resist and simply stretch back), then continue to roll out the baton until it’s roughly 50cm long. Pull each end round to generate a swirly “S” shape (if you’re confused, see the picture). Either dust a baking tray with cornmeal or grease it with oil, place the dough on the tray, cover and leave to prove until roughly doubled in size (about 1 hour)
8.       Preheat your oven to 210°C (410°F or gas mark 6... and a half). Gently brush the dough with egg wash and then bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 190°C (375°F or gas mark 5) and bake for a further 15-20 minutes until browned (not necessarily quite as much as mine) and the loaf feels light and sounds hollow
9.       Allow to cool completely before slicing

The Handmade Loaf, Dan Lepard, Mitchell Beazley, 2004

Thursday, 22 March 2012


I said I’d deviate from Richard Bertinet some time soon and, finding myself with a spare afternoon and wanting to make it a productive one, I mined my “Random recipes” folder and turned up this one. I used to eat crumpets a bit obsessively 2nd year of university so making them myself is something that I’ve been meaning to try for a while.

The batter (... please ignore the fact that the blog is called dough diaries. I think I can get away with batter on this one occasion) was started with 50ml boiling water and 275ml whole milk being mixed together, which ended up with a tepid temperature. I mixed my precious fresh yeast into this... very inexactly... I think it might have been 15g... maybe... Anyway, I mixed it in, along with a teaspoon of sugar, and then the liquid went to sit in a warm place for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, I actually had cake decorating to get on with (maybe my afternoon wasn’t quite so free as I thought), so I covered the kitchen in food colouring before going back to the crumpet mix. When I did eventually get back to it, I sieved 240g strong white bread flour, 1 “scant” teaspoon of baking powder and a teaspoon of salt into a large mixing bowl. I then gradually stirred in the water/yeast mix and beat vigorously to make a smooth but fairly thick batter. No need to vigorously knead for 10 minutes with this one though because this batter got covered and went straight back to the warm spot in the house (with a little encouragement, hugged by a warm wheat bag) to grow and bubble for about an hour.

This was followed by more royal icing and food colouring splattered over the kitchen, and me constantly looking at the time thinking “pants, mum’ll be home soon, I really need to tidy up”. I think I managed to get the kitchen half tidy before my batter looked ready, so I pretty much had to go for it and hope that I could rectify the bomb site while waiting for my crumpets to cook.

Time to get the pan and the pastry rings ready. For anyone unfamiliar with crumpets, they’re characteristically round and with lots of holes in the top. They’re cooked in some form of pan or skillet rather than in an oven and, for that perfect circle shape, need to be done in rings. I, however, don’t have rings of the same size... I’ve got 3 of similar sizes, so these had to do, and had to work in shifts. I greased them like mad with butter, completely paranoid that the batter was going to stick to the sides. I also greased the pan but was a little less worried on that front because it’s my fairly reliable non-stick one.

So, pan ready and heating, metal rings (good for conducting heat... and not melting) all greased, I brought out the batter, which had bubbled up nicely. I grabbed a large spoon and attempted to delicately scoop the batter out of the bowl and place it in the rings... then got a bit overenthusiastic with filling them, so did some far too full (learning from this experience, I’d say 2cm is plenty). They took a fair amount of time to cook (not surprising as these crumpets would have made pretty good door stops) and a few decided to blob out and loose their shape when I took the rings off and flipped them over (so I cheated and trimmed them with the rings again once they were cooked). They also seemed to be lacking the holes in the top that I was hoping for.

The test was in the tasting and, while they actually tasted great and far nicer than the shop bought ones, they were really doughy and dense. The batter itself had seemed fine so, after some reasoning, I’ve put this down to the pan not being quite hot enough and therefore the dough cooking without being enough oomph from the heat to rise and generate air bubbles. Filling the rings too full probably didn’t help either. For future reference, I think I need to treat cooking these like cooking pancakes. Do a test one first; it’ll probably be rubbish but will allow for temperature tinkering to get the rest of the batch spot on. Yet another lesson learned (... although it’d be nice if the next bread actually goes right...)

Simplified recipe

Makes 8 crumpets (or it’s meant to)
50ml boiling water
275ml whole milk
1 tablespoon dried yeast or 1-2 tablespoons fresh yeast
1 teaspoon caster sugar
240g strong white bread flour
1 “scant” teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Butter, for greasing and for smothering your finished crumpets in

1.       Mix the boiling water and the milk; you should end up with tepid liquid. Mix the yeast into this liquid and put in a warm place for 15 minutes
2.       Grab yourself a big mixing bowl and sift in the flour, salt and baking powder
3.       Gradually mix the liquid into the dry mix and whisk to form a smooth but fairly thick batter. Cover the bowl and leave in a warm place for about an hour to rise and get bubbly
4.       Heat a large frying pan over and medium heat and grease with butter. Get yourself several metal rings, grease thoroughly and place in the pan. Using a large spoon, gently spoon some of the mix into each ring (try not to knock too many of the bubbles out). Cook on that side for about 5 minutes or until set, then remove the rings, flip over and cook for another minute or so. Serve spread with plenty of melted butter


Sunday, 18 March 2012

Sourdough started... again

Rest in peace (well, down the drain actually) my first sourdough starter. I pulled it out of the fridge to wake it up again a few days ago but, after a couple of feedings, something went a little wrong and it decided to separate, for good. It clearly wasn't active any more so it was time to throw it away and start anew. A little sad but never mind.

I've started a new starter now and this time followed instructions from Dan Lepard's The Handmade Loaf. Whereas my previous starter was purely made from flour and water, this includes ingredients to encourage the right sort of bacteria to develop. So along with 2 rounded teaspoons of rye, 2 rounded teaspoons of strong white flour and 50g water at 20°C (the perfect temperature for the bacteria that we want in our starter), this mix included 2 rounded teaspoons of raisins and 2 rounded teaspoons of natural yoghurt. This was mixed in a steralised bowl, with a steralised spoon, and then covered and left at room temperature.

Let's see how this one goes.

The Handmade Loaf, Dan Lepard, Mitchell Beazley, 2004

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Smoked bacon and red onion rye bread

Well, I may not be gluten intolerant but clearly cake is my enemy, because I feel awful today and I think I know what to blame. I paid a visit to a Clandestine Cake Club on Tuesday; so fun, met some great people and tried some amazing cakes, but my body isn’t going to forgive me for the fat and sugar consumption on the night.

I’m feeling a little rough now and pretty tired. But there’s one thing guaranteed wake any non-veggie up; the smell of bacon. Combine it with bread and what do you get? Smoked bacon and red onion rye bread. And yes, it’s a Richard Bertinet recipe... I’ll start to deviate again soon.

So, on a chilly and blustery day, I headed down to the village and bought one whopper of a red onion and some streaky bacon, the produce of a local smokehouse. Once back home (wondering why the 2 cups of coffee hadn’t kicked in yet), I finely sliced the onion and cut the bacon into thin strips using a pair of scissors (it’s one of those cheats that works so well). I started the bacon off in a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil... then decided that the pan wasn’t big enough, so moved it to a bigger one and carried on frying until the bacon began to brown, then added the onion and it until softened. I added a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and used this liquid to help get the flavoursome scrapings off the bottom of the pan. The whole lot went into a bowl to cool (which I covered with my copy of Dough) and I weighed out most of the rest of the ingredients, which included 10g fresh yeast, 400g strong white bread flour, 100g rye flour (it was meant to be “dark” rye flour, but I had what I had, and it wasn’t “dark”. That proportion of rye flour also made it seem a bit like a cheat rye bread but would guarantee a fairly light, soft bread) and 10g salt. All this prepared and... I headed off to work experience.

I got back a few hours later (still not completely awake, and a little cold from being in our rather peculiar bakery) and got on to actually bringing the ingredients together. The yeast got mixed with 350g water; normally I’d rub the yeast into the dry ingredients, but it’d come out of the freezer and defrosted into slop, so that wasn’t really going to work... not that it really matters... The water/yeast got mixed into the flours/salt and the usual process of bringing the dough together, turning it out onto a work surface and kneading until smooth and elastic commenced. Close to the end of kneading, I did my best to incorporate the bacon and onion mixture by kneading it through... always fun with something coated in fat, which tends to want to slide off the dough and catapult across the work surface rather than actually get moulded into the dough. It went in... sort of... and went back into a mixing bowl, covered with a tea towel, to double in size.

Where I left it was possibly a little too warm because it looked a tad on the shiny/greasy side when I lifted the tea towel off, but it had still risen and was still pretty firm. I gently teased it out onto a floured worktop and divided it into 4, then shaped each piece into a ball. They went onto my trusty baking tray (which, despite being non-stick, I greased quite liberally with oil) and got covered with a tea towel to rest for 10 minutes, which I assume was done to let the dough relax slightly before they were rolled into yet tighter balls. These balls went back on the baking tray, were covered again and this time went to prove for about 1 ¼ hours, again until doubled in size.

I’ve still not got the hang of transferring my proved bread to a baking tray that’s been preheating in the oven and I wasn’t feeling very daring... I still have visions of flipping the dough onto the flour rather than into the oven, so I chickened out and went into the blisteringly hot even on the tray that they’d proved on. I need to invest in a baking peel and stone... when I actually have some money. I did, however, use the trick of putting some water in a preheated baking tray at the bottom of the oven; this helps to prevent a crust forming on the bread too early and so allows it to rise further. Next came a little bit of oven temperature juggling (for the finer points of this, see recipe below), which probably wasn’t anywhere near as accurate as the oven claimed. And, 20-30 minutes of cooking later, lots of loaf tapping and several occasions where I questioned my ability to judge a hollow sound, my loaves were cooked... and looking a little rude because I’d slashed them the wrong way.

I’d been worried when I’d tapped my loaves because they were pretty heavy and I was expecting to cut them open and discover something dense and brackish, but I was pleasantly surprised. Ok, none of the bubbles were huge, but there was still a fluffy if tightly-baked bit of crumbage going on. So they were still soft to chew on, and the flavour... yum! The balsamic vinegar added at the end of frying seemed to have heightened both the onion and bacon flavours and so, combined with the flavour form the rye flour, the whole thing came together as a thoroughly substantial and satisfying bread.

So much so, in fact, that I almost over-faced myself when chowing down on a whole one for lunch.

Almost... Oh, the cake is so quickly forgotten.

Simplified recipe

8 rashers smoked bacon, cut into thin strips
1 large red onion, finely sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
400g strong white bread flour
100g rye flour
10g fresh yeast
10g salt
350g water

1.       Heat the olive in oil a large frying pan and, once hot, fry the bacon until it begins to colour
2.       Add the onion to the pan and fry until softened
3.       Add the balsamic vinegar to the pan and fry for another minute, scraping any pieces from the bottom of the pan as you do so. Transfer the mix to a clean bowl and allow to cool
4.       Put the flours, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl and rub the yeast in using your finger tips (but don’t let it get too close to the salt when you first put it in)
5.       Pour in the water and bring everything together as a dough, then turn out onto a work surface and work the dough until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Near the end of the kneading process, spread the dough out and sprinkle the onion and bacon mix on top. Cover with the dough and then continue to knead to incorporate the mix. Return to the mixing bowl, cover and leave in a warm place to double in size (about 1 hour)
6.       Carefully turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and divide into 4 even pieces. Pull the edges of each dough piece into the centre, then turn the piece over and roll it with your hands (or hand, if you’re feeling flash) to form it into a tight bowl (this sort of involves an action that tucks the dough towards the seam and pulls the whole thing tight). Cover and leave the pieces to rest for 10 minutes, then repeat the rolling process. Cover and leave to double in size again (about 1 ¼ hours)
7.       Preheat the oven to 250°C (or as hot as your oven will go) and place a baking tray in to take the dough, and one at the bottom of the oven
8.       When the dough is ready, use a sharp knife to slash a circular line around the top of the dough (and no, they won’t look like mine, because I can’t follow instructions...), transfer to the preheated baking tray and place a mug full of water on the lower preheated baking tray. Turn the oven down to 220°C (425°F or gas mark 7) and bake for 5 minutes, then turn the oven down to 190°C (375°F or gas mark 5) and bake for a further 15 minutes until a tap on the bottom of the loaf results in a hollow sound. Allow to cool before slicing, but prepare for some massive and very satisfying flavours

Dough, Richard Bertinet, Kyle Books, 2005

Monday, 5 March 2012

Gluten-free bread

I had a scary moment a few weeks ago. For reasons that I won’t go into as I’d be at risk of overshare, I came to the conclusion that I might be gluten intolerant. Not something that I wanted to be true, what with being a bit of a bread addict, a pastry chef in training and someone who’s rather fond of pasta. But I was up for cutting it out for a little time to see if it would help at all.

Still, a little problem like no gluten wasn’t going to stop me making bread so I fished this gluten-free bread recipe of the internet, trusting to it being a good one because it’s the creation of Dan Lepard. Wheat flour is here replaced by cornflour and toasted golden linseeds are included for flavour and for a gum that helps with the crumb texture.

The recipe is detailed below but I’ll reserve this particular part of the blog for the more peculiar moments I encountered when trying to make it myself. The first step of toasting the linseeds was simple and the next bit of the recipe, combining the wet and the dry ingredients was familiar enough. But the first puzzling moment came with the texture the dough took with the ingredients combined. The recipe said it should come together as a “smooth batter”... mine was nothing like a batter and, despite the addition of extra water, stayed as a claggy mess. The ingredients seemed to absorbing the water as fast as I added it so I gave up and left it to sit for a while, as specified in the recipe. I then turned it out onto the worktop and attempted to knead it for 10 seconds to better combine the ingredients... again, claggy mess was mostly what I was left with. The recipe then specified to rest the dough for 30 minutes. My pet hate resurfacing in yet another recipe; a time limit rather than telling me what I’m looking for the dough to do. So, I simply followed the instructions and, after the 30 minutes, placed the dough on a baking tray and attempted to shape it into a sausage shape. Claggy dough meant a rather lumpy sausage. Another time limit was given but, worried that the yeast did actually need time and encouragement to do its thing, I put the dough above the oven while it preheated. After 30 minutes, the sausage looked more like a massive, oval burger but it still got brushed with olive oil and placed in the blisteringly hot oven.

The recipe said to remove the bread from the oven after 40 minutes when a “rich golden-brown in colour”. There weren’t any issues with it turning brown but the hissing noises coming from the loaf itself were a little worrying and tended to make me think it wasn’t done, so I poked it with a knife several times to check if it was still doughy in the middle, which it was, even after about 1 hour 20 minutes. And that was the stage at which I had to leave the house, so, still a little worried that the loaf wasn’t evening cooked, I turned it over and left it shut in the oven, which was turned off.

I returned a few hours later and retrieved the bread from the oven... finally. It was time to hack into it but I had to crack out the college bread knife because the crust was rather crisp. The bread itself was airy (apart from the pressure point from when I’d turned it over, which had got a bit squashed) but the stuff forming the bread... well, I’ve never seen opaque bread before. The taste wasn’t that bad and the linseeds had added quite a bit of flavour to something that was otherwise a bit bland, but the texture didn’t exactly win me over, not the fluffy, soft crumb of wheat bread but something a bit kind of... grisly.

Got to be honest; I ate a little of this but it then went out to the birds. They’re not sure about it either.

And luck has it that I don’t appear to have a gluten intolerance after all. Hurrah!

Simplified recipe

50g golden linseeds
475ml warm water
10g fresh yeast
100ml natural yoghurt
450g cornflour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caster sugar
50g psyllium husk powder
50ml olive oil
Olive oil and cornflour to finish

1.       Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F or gas mark 4). Place the linseeds on a baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden (for flavour and to get the linseeds to release a gum when wet that helps with the crumb of the bread)
2.       Mix together the water and yeast and stir to dissolve the yeast. Add the yoghurt and the linseeds and mix again
3.       In a large mixing bowl, mix together the cornflour, salt, sugar and psyllium husk powder
4.       Add the water/yeast/seed/yoghurt mix and the olive oil and stir into “a smooth thin batter”. The mix will begin to firm up as the ingredients absorb the liquid so allow it sit for a few minutes
5.       When the mix is firm, turn onto a worktop and knead for about 10 seconds to combine the ingredients. Return to the bowl, cover and rest for 30 minutes
6.       Prepare a baking tray (grease, line or rely on a non-stick tray), transfer the dough to the tray and form it into a sausage shape. Brush the top with “olive oil, cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes”
7.       Preheat the oven to 240°C (465°F or gas mark 9)
8.       Slash the top of the dough (the step I always forget) and dust with cornflour. Bake for 40 minutes until golden brown, then leave to cool


Friday, 2 March 2012

Chocolate pizza

I had one dough left to do to finish my breads and doughs module at college; pizza dough. I told my tutor when I got in and, after a quick check of the fridge, she concluded that we didn’t have any savoury ingredients to go on top. But a bit of quick thinking on her part and there was a solution; chocolate pizza bases for sweet toppings.

It’s amazing that this took me all evening because the dough itself is incredibly simple... in fact, it felt a little like cheating. No yeast, because this was made with 880g self-raising flour ad 200g cocoa powder. The dry ingredients also included salt (have to say I was a bit heavy handed with that particular ingredient, so just be careful there), while the wet ingredients were a very technical measure of 150ml vegetable oil and an unspecified amount of water (enough to make it into a soft dough).

I rolled it out to about 4mm thick, then it was time for shaping. My tutor got her creative hat on again and came up with some squares with the edges cut and folded over so as to form a double-thickness crust (see picture). I did this with a fair amount of the dough before giving up and making a large circle, which got bordered with some plaited dough. I docked the bases and they all went into the oven at about 180°C.

Now, how to tell when a dough that’s already dark brown is done? Not quite as easy as with a paler dough but my tutor went through the things to look out for, which include a not-too-appetising-sounding feature where the dough goes greyish. We also turned them over to check the bases, which had more obvious darker patches still visible when not properly cooked. And the tapping technique was useful too.

Out of the oven and cooling, the next big question; what, out of all the pastry kitchen, was going to go on top of these pizzas? Actually, it was hampered slightly because my tutor had done these pizzas before and used marshmallows and toffee sauce... which we didn’t happen to have. I raided the mise-en-place fridge and pulled out some raspberry jam, strawberries and chocolate ganache, and then pilfered some white chocolate chips too. The smaller pizzas were topped with jam, a chocolate chip and a slice of strawberry, while I flooded the big pizza base with chocolate ganache (thinned slightly with cream) and finished it with a spiral of jam. My imagination cut out on me at that point, so that’s how they stayed.

The results of the evening may have been whacky but at least I got my breads and doughs module finished.

Simplified recipe

800g self-raising flour
200g cocoa powder
Pinch salt
150ml vegetable or olive oil

1.       Put the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl and add the oil, then add enough water to bring the mix together into a soft dough. Do make sure that the dough is soft, otherwise you’ll struggle with the next step
2.       Divide the dough up and roll out; the number of pieces depends on the size of the pizzas you want to make. Once rolled, shape as desired. You can use the pieces of trim to make borders, such as plaits
3.       Dock the bases (i.e. prick with a fork) and bake in the oven at about 180°C (350°F or gas mark 4). Time will depend on the size of the pizza base; to check (best done after 10 minutes), turn the bases over and check that the underside has no dark patches left. Also, tap to check for a hollow sound
4.       Allow to cool then decorate as desired. Make them as sickly as you like; the bases themselves aren’t sweet

Pita bread

Despite the fact that I did this bread at college, it took a little bit of experimentation. The first attempt certainly didn’t look like pita bread. Good job dough at college proves ridiculously fast.

Just written out the recipe below. It probably would’ve helped on the day had I actually followed the instructions.

The first attempt started as follows; 225g strong white bread flour and 1 teaspoon salt in one bowl, 15g fresh yeast, 140ml lukewarm water and 10ml of vegetable oil (the recipe specified extra virgin olive oil, but there wasn’t any to hand) in another bowl. The dry ingredients were gradually mixed into the wet and then the dough was turned out and worked until smooth and elastic. Back it went to a bowl and it was left to double in size (on top of the ovens at college. If you’ve seen my previous post, you’ll know that the tops of the ovens are rather warm and make the dough prove incredibly fast).

Dough doubled, I turned it out of the bowl, knocked it back and divided it into 2 pieces (yep, if you’ve already flicked to the recipe, you’ll know that that’s not quite right). Each bit was rolled out on top of a floured tea towel until about 3mm thick. I attempted the classic pita bread shape but I can’t say they were too neat. They went on a baking tray to prove until doubled in size, then got put (still on the same baking tray) into the oven... which I hadn’t properly preheated. Yeah, I’m not the only one who’s seeing the glaring reasons why this didn’t go right the first time.

So, the first attempts came out of the oven and they looked like flatbreads, or pizza bases, but not like pita breads. This was unduly worrying; there was still about 2 hours of the lesson left, plenty more time for a second attempt.

First change; my tutor suggested that I tried making a much wetter dough. This I did, but I was a bit more convinced that the thickness of the dough that went into the oven, the oven temperature and the lack of a preheated baking tray to create a bit of oven spring were the key problems. I rectified these by not leaving the dough to prove more quite as long after rolling it and actually getting myself in gear with a preheated oven and baking tray. And, hey presto! Pita breads were born.

Lessons learned; read the recipe, follow instructions and generally just think...

Simplified recipe

225g strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
15g fresh yeast
140ml lukewarm water
10ml extra virgin olive oil

1.       Sift together the flour and the salt
2.       Mix the yeast into the water in a large mixing bowl until dissolved, then add the olive oil
3.       Gradually add and incorporate the flour into the liquid until it comes together as a soft dough
4.       Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place in a clean bowl, cover and leave to double in size
5.       Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead gently to knock it back
6.       Divide the dough into 4 to 6 pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Cover and leave the rest for 5 minutes
7.       Roll out each piece of dough until 5mm thick. Cover and leave to rise for 20 to 30 minutes
8.       Place several baking trays in the oven and preheat the oven to 230°C (450°C or gas mark 8)
When they’re ready, slide your pita breads onto the preheated baking trays and bake for 4-6 minutes until puffed up but not coloured