18 November 2012
Prior to my recent silence I was in the midst of baking all the technical bakes from last years Great British Bake Off. I had made three of these before radio silence, lemon tart, iced buns and the pork pies. I do intend to do the others but in the meantime there has been another GBBO! And this time it was even better, if that is possible. I just loved it and was happy with the result, although my favourite was Jamie. So that means another lot of technical challenges to add to last years unfinished list. Looking at the list from this series there are is one that I don't think I will even try and that is the hand raised pies, might leave that one!
However, I find that I have done two of them already! The eight plait loaf, I've not only made it once, I've made it twice! I posted a picture in my comeback blog roundup. You do have to have the instructions in front of you when you are doing it or else it will be a disaster, even with them it's pretty brain achey. But I managed and it looked amazing.
The second one is the treacle tart. I had friends over for lunch a couple of weeks ago and Mary Berry happened to be doing her Bake Off Masterclass on the treacle tart so I thought I would have a go. I never realised that treacle tart doesn't contain any treacle and it's pretty much made out of breadcrumbs!
The tricky thing about this one is the pastry, well that's just one of the tricky things. Unlike many other tarts, the pastry isn't baked blind. This means that avoiding the first deadly sin of pastry making, the soggy bottom, is very difficult. Mary's tip for this is to preheat a baking sheet in the oven and place the tart on it,this way the pastry bottom has a good chance of cooking through.
Of course, the most tricky thing is the lattice. Mary's tip for this was to place the five vertical pastry strips on the tart and then weave the other five under and over. This seems easy, right? Well, not if the filling is still warm when you do it. My middle strip melted a bit and broke when I tried to move it, but I managed to mend it and then the other stips were easier to do as you can lift them up at the side to help with the weaving.
The result wouldn't have passed muster in the Bake Off tent, I think I would have been mid-table. But it didn't have a soggy bottom (YAY), the lattice was pretty much ok and it tasted lovely. Served with a pomegranite ice cream, dreamy.
29 October 2012
In the new world regime of Cakes and Cardies, the world of actual blogging, the world of writing about, well, cakes and cardies I give you the Halloween Barmbrack.
Have you noticed that Halloween has become a "thing" in the last few years? Every shop has a Halloween display, selling Halloween merchandise and generally making it a "thing". Add to that the Americanisation of Halloween with trick or treating and we have a whole holiday around this one day.
When I was growing up in Dublin Halloween was just on the day. There was dressing up, Halloween games (apple bobbing, taking bites out of an apple suspended from something with your hands behind your back etc) and all on 31st October, one day. In our house there was also Barmbrack. This is a fruit bread/cake that has certain items concealed in the bake that are supposed to tell your fortune. The pea (you will not marry within the year), the stick (you will have bad luck), the coin (you will get rich) and the ring (you will get married within the year. These are all wrapped in greasproof paper and added in to the dough before the last rise. My mother made one every Halloween and we loved searching for the items, no-one wanted to get the pea or the stick everyone wanted the money or the ring, of course. My mother's Barmbrack was more of a Tea Brack rather than the yeasted Barmbrack of tradition but in a way it wasn't about the cake, it was about what you found!
Given all this nostalgia I decided to tackle the Barmbrack for the first time and I chose a recipe from a Darina Allen cookbook that I have (a veritable bible of all things Irish cookery). The recipe is very similar to the Pannetone and Colomba (the Italian Christmas and Easter cakes). It is a yeasted sweet dough with a small amount of butter, an egg and milk is used as the liquid instead of water. There are sultanas, currants and candied peel added at the end of the kneading.
When I was making it yesterday I thought I had buggered it up as it didn't rise hugely on the first prove but when I baked it it rose beautifully. When it comes out of the oven you brush it with a bun wash (a sugar syrup) which gives a a lovely shiny glaze.
I brought it into work today but I couldn't resist trying a slice (or two) last night and we managed to find most of the money in the quarter that we had! Oh well all the bad luck left the house!! This morning one of my friends at work described it as a giant hot cross bun, which isn't far off.
28 October 2012
I realise that all my (12) followers will pretty much have given up on me as I have been a bad blogger over the last year, well my last blog was inb April so only six months silence. No excuses to be given, lets just start again.
I have been baking and knitting, lots of new things like bagels and and eight plait loaf on the baking side. On the knitting front I have completed a duffle coat for a baby and started a shawl, a baby dress and continuing my cap sleeve top from a fifties pattern. So what precedes is a gallery of some of my projects over the last months.
7 April 2012
Last week, with guests coming for lunch and Easter fast approaching, I was thinking of a desert that would be appropriate for the season. Also having remembered that I still had some of the Colomba moulds in the cupboard from last year I figured that all stars were aligned and that a Colomba was the way to go.
This year I was better prepared for this Easter treat. Having made it a few times last year I knew the time I needed to put aside. I started it on Friday evening (the guests coming for Saturday lunch) and put it in the fridge for it's final rise overnight. I used the same recipe as last year (Bakery Bits) but used active dried yeast rather than fresh. I have to say that in the last few months I have been using dried yeast instead of fresh and, truth be told, I am preferring it. It works just as well, maybe even better, it's easily available and I get a perfect loaf every time. I have been using Doves Quick Yeast which comes in a 125g pack and lasts me about three months. As long as you know that a sachet is 7g then your ok.
I was making a sourdough loaf at the same time so I had my doughs rising at intervals on the Friday and then both went in the fridge. I took them out first thing in the morning and left them to warm up before cooking. One of the wings of the Colomba hadn'r really risen and I was worried that it would look like a dove with a broken wing. But once it was cooked it was fine.
I served it with a marscapone cream. This is a recipe from my sister-in-law, she is Swedish but lives in Milan so had the inside track on the authentic accompaniment. This is the same cream used in a Tiramusu. Mix two egg yolks with 200g of sugar until fluffy. Add 200g mascapone and 1-2 tbs of your alcohol of choice (Amaretto, Cognac or Rum, I chose Rum) and mix carefully. Whisk 2 eggs whites to stiff peaks and then gently fold into the marscapone mix. This is divine and it goes brilliantly with a slice of Colomba and great conversation.
P.S. just in case you were wondering, the sourdough turned out lovely too.
17 March 2012
I'm not one for celebrating the day that's in it, well not since I was a child at home in Dublin. Then it meant a day off school, the St Patrick's Day parade, some green food (usually jelly!) and all you could eat of the thing you had given up for Lent. It's a St Patrick's Day rule, if you have given up something for Lent you can eat it on St Patrick's Day. I think this is becuase it always falls during Lent and as it is a celebration your Lenten fast can be forgotten for a day.
Having said that the opportunity to make a Chocolate Guinness Cake can't be passed up, can it? I was getting some stick from a couple of friends at work because I hadn't brought in cake for a while so celebrate we will. I have made this cake before, the last time a few weeks ago for a friends 40th. It is in Nigellla Lawson's Feast, in amongst a great chapter on celebration cakes. Not only does it have Guinness in it, it looks like a pint of Guinness with it's deep dark chocolate cake and it's cream cheese icing slathered on top.
It is also an easy cake to make, the Guinness and butter are melted together and everything is added to this brwon beery batter. The batter is very liquid so I always put the tin on a tray in case of seepage. It takes about an hour to bake and then is left in the tin until it has cooled completely. I made the icing and then iced it at work. So yesteday afternoon at 3.30pm we had a small St Patrick's Day celebration in Holland Park. It is a moist cake that has an earthy chocolatey flavour, you can almost taste the Guinness.
And now that it is the day that's in it I will be having a pint of the black (while watching Ireland beating England in the rugby, hopefully) and some chocolate, well it is a St Patrick's Day rule and I have given it up for Lent!
I was going to a friend's house for lunch a couple of weeks ago and decided to bring a sourdough loaf to help things along. As you know my started has now been alive for almost a year but as I don't make a loaf every day I have to reactivate it a few days before I want to bake the loaf. It sits in a cupboard in the kitchen quite happily. When it has been left for a while it separates, on top there is a brown liquid and underneath a creamy sludge (sounds good doesn't it?). This sludge is the stuff I need, you take a couple of tablespoons of this (discard the rest) and add 100mls of lukewarm water and 125g of strong white flour (from The Handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard), mix and leave for 24 hours. Next day you discard about three quarters of this and add the same quantities of water and flour and repeat this the next day. As the natural yeasts come alive again it starts bubbling and once that happens it's ready to use, if I want to bake a loaf at the weekend I usually start this process on Tuesday evening.
I guess it is a bit time consuming but it's worth it in the end. I decided to do the main mixing, kneading, proving on the night before (it still takes about 5 hours, it's a slow riser the sourdough) and then put in the fridge overnight for it's final rise. First thing on Sunday morning I put on the oven to warm the kitchen and took the dough out of the fridge to come up to room temperature, about an hour. It then bakes for 50 minutes to 1 hour, not forgetting the steam to help with the crust.
It was a hit at lunch and what was left was frozen and was nice and fresh after defrosting. I do like making sourdough but I do wonder about those who make it to sell. It must be like painting the Forth Bridge, they just have it proving constantly, as one is rising another is being mixed. Hard work if you are producing hundreds of loaves a day. Worth it of course.
28 February 2012
I realise that it has been a while and if my faithful followers are not so faithful anymore then I understand completely. I will only say that it has been a tough six months and although I have been baking and knitting I haven't felt inspired to write about it, until today. Not sure what has changed today but this morning I found myself thinking about writing and I didn't immediatley think "naw, can't be bothered", a step forward I think you will agree. So enough of that and onwards with the news.
The post title implies that I have a new friend, I do indeed. But it's not a flesh and bone friend (don't worry it's not a six foot rabbit called Harvey!), it is a brand spanking new glorious....KitchenAid. Now people who even have a vague, passing acquaintance with me know that I have coveted one of these babies for, well a long time. My friends are positively sick of hearing about it and as for the boyfriend well he had reached the end of his tether. Perseverance pays off and having been a good girl last year Santa came up trumps leaving a Candy Apple Red KitchenAid under the tree for me! I have to say that in person (well, it is my new friend) it is a thing of beauty, such a wonderful design and you can see why so many people want one. But does it work? You bet ya it does. The only thing I haven't done yet is knead bread in it but that's more to do with me having learned how to do it by hand and preferring it that way. But I will try it. I've used it to make cakes, icing, pastry, meringues and, I think, everything tastes so much better! Not really, but it does make creaming the butter and sugar very easy, just turn it on and let it do its thing. But I think I have waxed lyrical enough about the shiny red thing and will move on to my other activities.
In my efforts to make cakes from around the world, I made a couple of Pannetone's for Christmas and am planning to make some Colomba's again in the run up to Easter, I still have some of the moulds left. I am still baking bread but now almost exclusively using the Dan Lepard kneading method (see The Handmade Loaf) with great success. My sourdough starter is still alive, almost a year old now, and although I don't make a loaf every day it is very easy to reactivate it as long as I plan ahead. In fact, I have just taken it out of the cupboard today to remind me to do just that so I can make a loaf at the weekend. I have also worked on getting the loaves as crusty as I can and have managed this but still can't work out how to maintain that crust, any hints gladly accepted.
In the knitting stakes I was stymied in my "lace cap sleeved top" project by running out of wool that you can only buy in Italy but I have an insider on the case. So while that is on hold I have started a runner for one of our beds. I've made up the pattern myself, altenating suares of stocking stitche and moss stitch in a red aran wool. Not groundbreaking but I think it will look good in the room.
I think that is enough for now, I will post about my weekend sourdough and hopefully kepp you glued to cakes and cardies for the rest of the year.