Saturday 30 July 2011

Black olive sesame loaf

A couple of sweet things followed by a savoury. I do try and mix it up a bit so that those of you who aren't so interested in the cakes don't lose interest entirely, and those who don't want to see just bread aren't bombarded by yeasted entities. Me, I love them both.... hence why they all feature here! Do you prefer posts about bread, or do cakes rock your world more?

I found sumac in the supermarket a few months ago, and bought it. I'm pretty sure I'd seen a couple of recipes calling for it, and even though I couldn't remember where they were I knew I'd find them again at some point. I still haven't. And after I'd bought my rather expensive sumac, it started appearing everywhere in my sights, most notably at a much more reasonable price in the local vegetarian co-op. Sigh!!! Anyway, I was intruiged by my purchase and immediately opened it up to have a sniff, it smells utterly lovely, sort of citrussy but not. That's not a great desciption I grant you, but then I'm not great at describing things! So I couldn't wait to use it. Luckily for me, Dan Lepard published a recipe for black olive sesame loaf, requiring sumac!

The first time I made it I followed the recipe (which can be found here on the Guardian website) very closely (aside from halving it, ongoing storage problems), with kalamata olives and sesame seeds. You can see the result in the top picture. Very successful. However, I'm not entirely sure about sesame seeds and so the loaf languished and I thought I'd better make it again without the sesame.... I only had green olives available this time round, and again intended to make a half recipe. I carefully measured out half of the olives, yeast, sugar and proceeded to add the warm water. I added half the flour and looked at the resulting slop and wondered whether it had been this wet last time. I guess you're a step ahead of me and I realised the full amount of water would obviously require the full amount of flour.... I added more olives once I'd realised my watery error. Aside from that, the baking went to plan and produced a lovely light loaf.

It's defnitely one for the olive lovers (that'd be me then) you can see just how many olives are in each mouthful. It's a great partner for my cheese sandwiches (sometimes it's good to be satisfied with the same filling - I can't quite see this bread working so well with say, egg mayonnaise or salmon, but thinking about it, I bet it'd be great if you like ham (I don't) or cured meats (ditto) or maybe even tuna.... I need to branch out a bit) and I love the salty olives. Mmmm, salty (in the style of Homer Simpson). Having said this, I was disappointed with the topping. Because the loaf is baked at a high temperature (although I didn't bake mine as hot as specified, choosing to give it longer at a lower temperature instead) the topping seems to catch a little, and although I'm now used to the flavour of the topping on the loaf I actually think it would probably be better without. Sorry Dan! I also can't really distinguish any flavour added by the sumac or lemon, it just tastes of thyme and oregano to me. Anyway you live and learn and to end on a positive note, this is a great loaf for olive lovers and a little out of the ordinary.

Sunday 24 July 2011

Redcurrant jelly

I originally wrote this post last October but then never got round to inserting the pictures, recipe, finishing it off and posting it. However, I hope you'll forgive me, because now seems a pretty good time to post it, since redcurrants are actually in season and you'll be able to use fresh ones, preferably from the pick-your-own rather than the frozen ones I used to create some freezer space. I would have pretended that it was jelly from this year, but most of the pictures feature jars labelled 'October 2010' so I think you would have guessed....... so here is the post I wrote last October, modified only slightly!

Regular readers of this blog will know that I seem to have a perpetual freezer problem - there's never any space in there at all. In fact I would go so far to say that my freezer is like a reverse tardis - the freezer looks big enough on the outside but actually seems to hold very little. So, fed up of trying to shoehorn more stuff into it, I decided to have a go at actually using some of the things in there. When redcurrants were in season during the summer I stashed quite a few of them in the freezer with no particular plans in mind - summer fruit pudding perhaps. But months pass and summer fruit pudding no longer seems desirable. So I hunted through and found I had quite a few.

Now for my birthday (some months ago) my darling brother T was kind enough to give me two of the River Cottage Handbooks (he probably won't remember this as I actually bought them ;-)), one of which was No. 2 Preserves by Pam Corbin. I only looked in it recently and am sorry I didn't do so sooner as it's stuffed full of delicious things that I really, really want to make. I've made my own jam for a number of years and enjoy it, and J used to make redcurrant jelly when I still lived at home, so I wasn't too daunted by the prospect of a jelly bag and all the associated sterilising jars palaver that goes with preserving. Hmmm, perhaps I should have thought harder about it before I started.

I went to buy my jelly bag and stand, but discovered that the stands were really expensive, so I thought I'd save myself some money by just getting the replacement jelly bag that was sold separately. Having followed the recipe through to the stage of soft fruit hot in the pan ready to be dripped through the jelly bag I realised the error of my ways. How was I going to hold the jelly bag (complete with clever elasticated neck for holding it securely onto the jelly drip frame) open to add my (very hot) fruit and then stand and hold it while it dripped. Hmmm. So don't follow my example - if you want to make jelly, fork out for the stand too! In the end I had a bit of an elaborate palaver involving various contortionist positions to reach hot fruit on the stovetop whilst holding a bag of dripping hot fruit and pouring aforementioned hot fruit with only one hand from a large pan..... I'm sure you get the picture. Luckily I'm not all that bothered about a crystal clear jelly (which is why you let it drip through under its own weight rather than squeezing) so I cut short the dripping stage by squeezing the bag (did I already mention how hot that fruit was - I really don't recommend this stage!) - I think this also increased the yield. There are no photos of the in-process stages, for reasons outlined above - I could already have done with spare hands; there was no way a camera was being involved too.

July 2011 insertion: As you can imagine I can no longer remember exactly how closely I followed the recipe, but think I was pretty close so I'll give the recipe here:

Redcurrant Jelly
Makes 4-5 x 225g jars
1kg redcurrants
granulated sugar

You will also need sterilised jars.

-The redcurrants do not need to be top and tailed or even taken off their stalks. Simply wash them, put into a preserving pan with 400ml water then simmer until they are very soft and have released all their juice, approximately 45 minutes.
-Strain through a jelly bag - see discussion above!!! Overnight will give a clear jelly, forcing the fruit through the bag will result in a cloudy jelly.
-Measure the juice, put into a cleaned preserving pan and bring to the boil. For every 600ml juice, add 450g sugar, adding it only when the juice is boiling. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, ensuring the sides of the pan are free of undissolved sugar crystals. Boil rapidly for about 8 minutes or until setting point is reached. I can't remember how long my setting point took, but I used the wrinkle test to tell when I had a set - small plate in the freezer, jelly onto plate, push with finger and see if it forms wrinkles, if it does, it will set
-Remove from the heat, stir to disperse any scum, then pour into warm, sterilised jars and seal. Tap the jars to disperse any air bubbles caught in the jelly.

Use within 12 months.

In spite of all the problems I had with straining the jelly, I really enjoyed making the jelly and if you reuse jam jars with tamper proof seals hearing the little pop as they pop down must be one of the most satisfying noises I can think of in the kitchen!

Note to self - when reusing jam jars (or honey jars in my case) it's worth trying to get the label off before you sterilise them. The smell of baking label/glue is really unpleasant. However you can use magic sticky stuff remover to get rid of the label. (Available from Lakeland) I wish I'd invented this because it truly is amazing. Remove as much of the paper part of the label as you can and then use the magic sticky stuff remover to .... well, remove the sticky stuff. Bingo, clean tidy jar ready for labelling up!

Sunday 17 July 2011

Nectarine and redcurrant muffins - Random Recipes

For Dom's random recipe challenge I pulled down a few of the baking books I consider my favourites, and then tried really, really hard to decide which was my favourite. I eventually decided on 'On Baking' by Sue Lawrence which regular readers will know that I've mentioned quite a few times on the blog. It's just such a lovely book - there's always something in there that I want to make, and she gives a little background to each recipe, be it a brief historical reference or a family anecdote. This makes it a really good book to read for pleasure, as well as having delicious recipes. The random number generator indicated page 66 was the one to go for:
And on page 66 can be found the recipe for crunchy-topped raspberry and cinnamon muffins. Yum. I adapted them slightly to use the ingredients I had around, which didn't include dairy milk (I've probably mentioned before that I don't have cereal with milk and don't drink tea or coffee, which pretty much renders milk unneeded in my house) so I substituted some rice milk that is in a handy little carton, and keeps for ages rather than constantly having a pint of milk going off in my fridge. And obviously, I substituted the fruit. But I still think I'm keeping to the random recipe nature of the challenge - after all, fruit is fruit!

Rather proudly, my muffins contain homegrown redcurrants!!! They're pretty much the only thing I've managed to grow this year, so I'm particularly pleased with them! And yes, I know you can't tell they're homegrown, but I promise they are!

I also made 6 muffins, which I think you'll agree is the correct amount. The recipe specifies that these ingredients make 12. Yes, 12 for the citizens of Lilliput....

Anyway, this is what I did:

Redcurrant and nectarine muffins (dairy free)
140g self raising flour
55g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
3tbsp sunflower oil
3tbsp rice milk
1 nectarine, chopped fairly small
45g redcurrants
demerara sugar for sprinkling

- Preheat the oven to gas 5/190C. Line a 6 hole muffin tin (or, obviously, 6 of you usual 12 hole muffin tin!)
- Mix together the flour and sugar in a large bowl.
- Mix together the rice milk, oil and egg in a jug.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until no flour remains, adding the fruit near the end of mixing.
- Divide between the six cases, sprinkle with demerara sugar and bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden.

This was a great random challenge, because I probably wouldn't have made these otherwise and they were quick, easy and tasty, which is a winning combination in my book! The muffin was light and moist and the crunchy sugar on the top was a lovely contrast to the springy, soft muffin. The bursts of fruit were very welcome, as was the knowledge that these are low in saturated fat and relatively low in fat in general, with just under a tbsp of sunflower oil each. Very successful, and I might make them again with different fruit if I want a light textured muffin. But I really don't think I could have got 12 out of the recipe.

Thursday 14 July 2011

Rye and barley bread

I'm still trying to get to the bottom of my everlasting bag of rye flour (don't know how 1kg can last so long though to be honest I'm not sure why I'm trying to use it up because it's not as though I dislike it and the chances are that as soon as it's finished I'll buy another bag, thus perpetuating the problem...) and decided to combine it with some of the barley flour that I used recently for the soda bread.

I used my usual wholemeal bread recipe, which is actually only half wholemeal. So this time I decided to use 75g rye flour, 75g barley flour and 150g very strong white flour. I poured 210ml boiling water over the rye flour and mixed well until no pockets of dry flour remained and there were no huge lumps. I then left it to cool for a while. Although I usually add my yeast directly to the flour, this time I liquefied it in a tbsp or so of water before adding to the dough. It didn't seem to have a detrimental effect on the loaf, and avoided all the little strands of yeast remaining visible.

When the boiled mixture was cooler I added the barley flour, white flour, and a scant tsp each of salt and the yeast in water mixture mentioned above. Mix well to combine and leave for a while. There aren't really any times for this recipe - I just kept looking at it and thinking either... hmmm, needs a bit longer, or... oh, that'll do. I kneaded it once, briefly and then left it to do its thing. I then shaped it into a stubby loaf and left to proove. This stage was quite long, and the dough rose and expanded quite a lot. Probably too much because there wasn't any oven spring really, but it didn't seem to matter for the final texture.

It was then baked for about 40 minutes with steam (10 min at gas 7, 20 min at gas 6 and then a further 10 min at gas 6 upside down).

I had thought that the rye flavour would be very strong, but it wasn't really. I guess the barley and white flour damped it down, with the barley lending its own subtle flavour. It was a nice enough bread, and I'd make it again given that combination of flour in the house, but I wouldn't go out of my way to make it again. I think there are better uses for rye flour, I just haven't explored them..... yet! The crumb was denser than the usual wholemeal loaf I make using this method, but not unpleasantly dense. The crumb was also much greyer than usual - that'll be the rye flour then!

Saturday 9 July 2011

Banana, chocolate and chocolate raisin cake

Yes, you did read that correctly... chocolate raisins. I was looking round for inspiration for something to do with a very over-ripe banana. Just the one. Not the three or four called for by most recipes for banana bread. So I decided to make something up of my own. Hence the looking round for inspiration. And then my eyes landed on a lonely, unloved looking packet of white chocolate raisins. Don't ask why I bought them... being on special offer probably definitely had something to do with it, because I have to be in the right mood to want raisins, and white chocolate isn't my favourite either... I really don't understand myself sometimes! Anyway, the raisins seemed to be good for baking with. And once I'd decided that chocolate was the way to go I had to add some dark chocolate too, just because that's my true chocolate love.

So here we go...

Banana, chocolate and chocolate raisin cake
140g very soft butter
100g golden caster sugar
75g light muscovado sugar
1 very overripe banana, mashed
3 eggs
100g wholemeal self raising flour
125g self raising flour
65g dark chocolate, chopped small (or you could use more white chocolate)
100g white chocolate coated raisins

- Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C. Grease and line a small baking/roasting tin 20x23 cm.
- Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the mashed banana and mix.
- Add the eggs and flour and beat until well combined.
- Stir in the white chocolate raisins and chocolate.
- Spread into the prepared tin and bake for 40 minutes until risen, golden and an inserted cake tester comes out clean.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Excellent, moist, light texture and the chunks of chocolate and juicy raisins in the cake were delicious, but then I think you can never really go wrong with chocolate and cake, especially in combination! Most of the white chocolate surrounding the raisins disappeared during baking - you can just see a raisin with a little of its white chocolate in the middle of the picture above. So in that respect, the experiment didn't work - the white chocolate vanished. Overall the cake was delicious, but without a pronounced banana flavour. Win.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Spelt and corn batch rolls

There hasn't been very much bread on the blog recently. That isn't because I'm not eating much, on the contrary I'm eating as much as ever, but have been revisiting old and new favourites, particularly this loaf, made with spelt flour and white, and the more recent soda bread, which has displaced every other bread in my affections at the moment. I just love the way that all the different flours combine to create the complex taste. Anyway, this isn't about soda bread...

Dan (no surprises round here!) recently published a recipe for spelt and corn batch rolls, and the accompanying picture looked so inviting that I simply had to try them. I decided to halve the recipe and made six rolls from the resulting dough, which were just the right size for my lunch, and will last the week, which is perfect!

I'm a big fan of spelt flour - I think it's got a slightly more rounded flavour than wholemeal, perhaps without a very slightly bitter edge I occasionally notice with wholemeal flour (but not often!). And in addition to the links Dan gives in his recipe to millers of traditional flour I'd like to add The Watermill at Little Salkeld in Cumbria. J, T and I have visited their premises a couple of times and been very impressed by the range of flours they produce, some of which are not only organic but biodynamic too. Give them a visit if you're in the area. They're also near the better known Village Bakery in Melmerby, which is also good for a visit!

The dough was simplicity itself to make - very little kneading needed at all to get a really lovely result. I was a little nervous of cooking them so hot, and did slightly chicken out - I baked my rolls at gas 8/230C instead of gas 9 and made sure to give them quite a thick protective coating of flour just in case they decided to try and burn. Even at gas 8 they were still done after 25 minutes. I also placed them closer together to get that delicious soft edge that comes from batch baking rolls and breads rather than separate as in the Guardian photograph.

The crumb shot.... nice texture!

I'm going to submit these rolls to YeastSpotting, run by Susan of Wild Yeast. They were delicious, hearty rolls, and I think that they'd go perfectly with soup in the colder months of the year (or now for my friends in colder climes!). There wasn't a distinctive taste of polenta/corn but the overall taste was delicious. And my heavy coating of flour had indeed protected the tops of them quite successfully! I'll return to this recipe later in the year to accompany hearty soups and stews I think.

Saturday 2 July 2011

Strawberry Chocolate Cake

I think I should really have submitted this cake for last month's We should cocoa challenge; it was a lot more successful and tasty than the strawberry and white chocolate muffins I ended up submitting. Ah well, never mind.

After the debacle of the not-peaking-muffins I still wanted to try out the strawberry and dark chocolate combo - being much more a fan of dark chocolate than either milk or white (though I'm seriously tempted to have a go at making caramelised white chocolate as Celia has done). Just think how delicious strawberries dipped in molten dark chocolate and allowed to set are - mmm. So I thought the combo would be good in a cake. Hence this cake. Well, I'm a simple soul at heart, if I want dark chocolate and strawberries in a cake, that's what I make.... no more complicated reasons required round here!

I sort of made this up as I went along, hence the slightly random amounts of some of the ingredients in relation to each other. I had 175g in my mind, but what follows is what happened....

Strawberry and dark chocolate cake
160g butter, softened
175g white caster sugar
180g self raising flour
3 eggs
60g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into small pieces
130g strawberries, washed, hulled, quartered and tossed in a couple of tbsp flour extra
(vanilla extract - see below)

- Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C. Grease and line a 20x23cm (8x9") small baking/roasting tin.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs and flour and beat until well combined.
- Fold through the chocolate and floured strawberries quarters until well distributed.
- Spoon into prepared tin, level and bake for 45 minutes.
- When cool enough, turn onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
- Dust over a little icing sugar to serve.

If I were making this again (which would be a good idea, it was yum!) I'd add about a tsp vanilla extract just for added oomph in the cake. It didn't really need it though!

Note that when turning the cake out, it's extremely fragile - partly because it's a lovely tender cake, and partly because the strawberries tend to sink to the bottom and make the base very soft.

Really, really pleased with the way this turned out. A lovely snacking cake for break time at work, and my colleagues made their appreciation known. I really enjoyed the strawberry and dark chocolate combo. I had expected the chocolate to be harder than it was, but it was a little soft and very lovely. The strawberries mostly sank, but some remained suspended and they were a lovely burst of juiciness in the cake. I loved the way that some bites had more strawberry and some more chocolate. Mmmmm....

Just as an aside, I used Normandy salted butter for this cake. I often use salted butter, but not normally with crystals in it, but this needed using up soon. I was worried that the cake would taste funny or too salty, or worst of all have big crystals of salt in it still.... eeek, but I needn't have worried, it was fine. I obviously don't have a sufficiently sophisticated palate to be able to pick up salted butter in cakes. More joy me!

Ah, tupperware - all packed up and ready to go.


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