Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Simplest Lemon Cake ya might ever bake...

This is mostly  a Darina Allen recipe with a bit of tweaking from me ... this is a simple simple cake .. it's one of those wonderful recipes, that I love so much, that involves putting everything in the mixing bowl and blending it into one big mess.

3/4 Cup /170g soft butter
3/4 cup/190g superfine/castor sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups/250g self-raising flour

Put everything in the mixer and give it a right lash til tis smooth.
Get her into a shallow roasting/baking dish  .. sometimes called a jelly-roll tray here  in North America I believe.

Bake at 350F/180C for 25 to 30 mins until it's nice and brown.

Take it out of the oven and leave to rest a bit.

That's your basic cake. As you'll see it doesn't contain any lemon in it. For a really juicy moist cake the simplest way iks often to add the moisture after the cake has been cooked. That's the way me Aunty Nellie made them and she makes the best lemon cakes in the world!

Lemon Addition
Get a wee saucepan (this can be started as soon as you have taken the cake from the oven), you want the juice of two lemons and the rind of one in the saucepan. To that you add 3/4 cup/190g ordinary sugar. While that's heating up and the sugar is dissolving in the lemon juice get a stick of cinnamon (or a half teaspoon if ya don't have sticks) and about 6 cloves and add to the lemon and sugar in the pot. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 mins then take off the heat.

Cut your cake into nice portion-sized squares, take the pan of lemon mix and pour it all over the cake, cover it as evenly as possible. Eat as soon as the cake has cooled a bit.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Blaas again...

Ok .. so I'm a bit obsessed with Blaas .. and why wouldn't I be .. one of the most beautiful breads in the world. Making them might become a career for me yet .. only a couple of places left in Waterford making blaas!

So this is going to be my definitive blaa recipe. The last time I posted about them I had only made them once. I have probably made nearly ten batches of them since and they've been getting better every time til I feel confident in putting this out on the blogosphere as a final recipe.

This makes a dozen blaas and is measured so that you can fit the 12 on a normal large baking tray and they will join together as they rise same as they came from Harney's back in the day.

900g flour
40g fresh yeast or 20g of instant yeast (Fleischman's type)
600ml water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Add the salt to the flour.

Mix the yeast with lukewarm water and add the teaspoon of sugar in there as well. Let that rest for a minute or two and give it a stir to make sure tis mixed all the way through. 

Add this yeast/water mixture to the flour and salt.

Mix in a machine with a dough hook
put your flour out on a bench and make a hollow in the centre. Pour the liquid in the hollow and almost exactly like mixing cement bring the two together slowly and carefully. If you have a large bowl it can of course be also done in that. Keep mixing till the whole lot comes together and knead until you have a dough that's thoroughly mixed and elastic
Get a large bowl (plastic, steel .. doesn't matter) and rub the inside surfaces with a little bit of olive oil to stop the dough sticking to it. Put the dough in there and then cover with a clean tea towel or some plastic. I use a fairly thick plastic bag that I brush with some more olive oil and it works really well and I can use it over and over again. 

Leave to rise for one hour. 
Important to note that if you have a really cold kitchen or you accidentally used cold instead of hot water for the dough then it may not rise as nice as you'd like. If this is the case then just leave it for longer .. it should be about twice the size you started with in the bowl.

After one hour press down with your fingers  to force the air out and give it a wee massage to get the yeast activated again. Don't really heavy on it. Just push down on it and massage it for about 3 seconds and that's it.

Leave to rise for another hour.
After this time it should come up to about the same size it was after the first rise. Tis now time to divide the dough into a dozen.
Using a weighing scales or your eye if you don't have a weighing scales, weigh out 125g to 130g lumps of dough. 
(if you are thinking of investing in an electronic scales I've found the Myweigh 8000 to be the shot)
Roll them into flattened balls. The traditional blaa isn't like most rolls and doesn't have a big dome top but more of a flattened shape.
Flour the baking tray and lay them out like in the picture with the spaces in between.

Allow to rise for between 2 and 3 hours. 

This is an awful long time to be waiting so do please hack into these on a day when you're home early from work or not working at all. The total time from start to finish is probably about 5 to 6 hours.
Before you stick them in the oven you can dust the whole lot down with flour (my favourite) or if ya want a crusty blaa then either put a bowl of boiling water in the bottom of the oven or oven the door after 5 mins and ten mins and spray the blaas with a mist of water.

Cooking time on these is about 15 to 17 mins at 425 degrees F/220 degrees C.

I had these with a stew I made last night and then had them with Jalapeno crisps today  .. both are recommended.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pizza pizza pizza

Pizza dough recipe courtesy of Marco Ropke.

There are lots of pizza dough recipes in the world .. this is just the one I have. It is meant (I believe) to be only for thin-crust pizzas. I haven't tried to make a thicker one from this dough so ya never know it might work for that too?

400g Strong flour
6g Salt
20/25ml Olive oil
8g instant yeast
240ml water
Normal craic with this one .. mix the yeast and water separate give them a minute and a bit of a stir to dissolve and then if you're using a machine just throw everything into the bowl and set to mix for about 8 mins on medium speed. If you're mixing by hand then put your flour and salt out on the bench and make a wee well in the middle and get all your wet ingredients in there. Mix it up slowly at first and then lash into it and knead knead knead. 

This will result in a firm but elastic dough. You can roll this out straight away and make pizza out of it, no need to wait for rises or anything! The few that I have made out of this have turned out pretty tasty. I put them in the oven before putting the toppings on them to give them a bit of a cook. The picture on the left is the pizza after that initial blast of heat. I am going to try putting my pie weights on the dough the next time to stop it blowing up like that, not that it make a whole lot of difference really.

Anyway I didn't have any toppings lying around really so I went minimalist Italian on it and I just put tomatoes and cheese with a drizzle of olive oil and some black pepper and cayenne for seasoning.

Things to note about making this pizza. The recipe I have given makes TWO large pizzas. As you can see by the picture this pizza covers and entire large (half-sheet) baking tray. However because it is so thin and there was a very light arrangement of toppings on there I did manage to eat the whole thing myself. I'm a hungry bastid though and I was full as an egg after it.

Another tip for this is that when you're rolling it out it won't want to stretch to a really large size and, like an elastic band, will want to return to a small round. The way to get around this is roll it out as far as you can then walk away. Leave it for 4 or 5 mins and then come back to it and you'll find it will roll out to twice the size no problem,

Last thing is that this dough will keep for about 2 days in the fridge (all wrapped up nicely with nothing left open to the air) .. after that you're not seeing the best results methinks.

Amendment Nov 2010: I have since realised that you can leave the dough in the fridge for a lot longer and still get tasty results. As long as it's in a fairly airtight bag you could get away with 4 or 5 days no bother. Also you can freeze it for ages and then just take it out the day before you want to use it.

Amendment April 2011: It has just been pointed out that I had no temp or cooking info in this 'recipe'  .. I throw it in at about 450F for 3/4 mins with no toppings on it then take it back out pop a couple of holes in the blister that will inevitably appear and load the toppings on and put it back in for 10 mins on the dot ... job done. Sorry Jodie!

That's it .. enjoy your Italian pizza...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Oscar's Original Bread Recipe

I have realised that I haven't actually given out any recipes thus far. So what I am going to do is make my own up and give that out as the first recipe!!

I have no idea what kind of bread it's going to be, this is how I'm starting it.

2 cups of flour and 2 cups of water (one from the hot tap and one from the cold)
Add to that 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast.
Place it in  a large bowl mix it thoroughly with your hand and cover it with cling-film or a lid if you can make it airtight..

This is going to be the pre-ferment for whatever I decide to do tomorrow. This should be put in a large bowl and allowed to go mad. It will probably look like a witch's cauldron by tomorrow and I will take further pictures of it then. You can just see the bubbles of C02 rising already from it. This is a good thing. This is the fermentation process which will impart an extra shot of flavour into the bread we make tomorrow. This should really not be done till late tonight but I'm going to give it about 20 hours instead of the usual 15 to do its thing.

Ah I love the process of experimentation....


Ok there was quite the hiatus there but that doesn't mean I didn't make bread .. I did and lots of it.

The pre-ferment (or Poolish as it is know) looked like this the next day.

As you can see, lots and lots of activity there and you can imagine the stink that was off it. Yeasty/alcohol of some substance. This was left in a lot longer than is normally recommended but I don't see anywhere for the flavour to go so I don't think it is a major problem, AND I'm making up a recipe so I don't have to do very much that's recommended if I don't want to.

Baker's Percentage: For this bread I decided to use something called baker's percentage. Basically you call your flour 100% and everything else is stated as a percentage in weight. 
For example; if you had 1000g of flour and you wanted to make a bread that was around 60% water then you would add 600g of water. Brilliantly simple isn't it! 
Why would ya want to do this? 
Well it makes recipes really really easy to scale. You wanna make a smaller amount of some bread then you add only 2 cups of flour instead of the 8 that the recipe calls for .. you wanna make 20 loaves of bread? Then you just scale up the flour and everything else will fall neatly into place.
My new scales that I bought has a button which gives you baker's percentage without even having to think about it. I wanted a bread that was about 70% water. That would make really big airpockets and give a ciabatta type bread. This is one of the wettest doughs that is commonly made. You also have to remember that the poolish I made was 100% water and that raised the overall percentage by even more. I didn't calculate exactly how much.
I put about 4 cups of flour in.
70% water
2% yeast
1% Salt
This is what resulted. An extremely wet dough which I basically poured out of the KitchenAid onto the counter. FUN!

I forgot to take a picture after I had allowed to rest but it was very similar to the baguette picture earlier in this blog. Dough like this doesn't really go up .. it just spreads out.

This is what resulted from my efforts. I made a few baguettes and a loaf in the loaf tin also.
As you can see .. massive air pockets which is exactly what I was after; a really airy Italian bread perfect for dipping! It's a pretty tasty bread in fairness, I have invented a recipe and it was that easy. It's not anything particularly unique but it just goes to show that you can really pick figures out of your head with very little guidance and make a bread.  Happy Days...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Baking with Marco Ropke - Italian Breads

So the first 2 evening course was a present and I decided to gift myself another one. This was Italian breads, including foccacia, panne francesca, pita, pannettone, bread sticks, Lebanese style lavash, pizza dough and others.

This is what resulted .. well actually this is only part of what resulted but I don't seem to have a pictures of the other half of the haul.

I can heartily recommend this course if you're in the Vancouver area. Class sizes are small (no more than 8) and you bake all the time. You also gets lots of snacks. On the first night we had some of Marco's handmade chocolates and on subsequent nights he always had a selection of breads and cheeses there for us.

Twas kinda like going to a bread restaurant where ya get fed loads of different courses and you get shown how to cook them yourself as well. All of the recipes are repeatable at home although some simple gadgets would make the job easier (weighing scales does spring to mind)
At some other time I'm going to take a couple of his pastry courses as well but at the moment I'm a bit too busy with work.


Blaas are one fo the most amazing breads to ever be baked. For those of you not from Waterford, they're a soft white bread roll only available in the Déise.
Martin Dwyer kindly game me a recipe for blaas last week and sure enough I gave them the auld college try t'other day.
THey almost worked, the look like blaas, the taste like blaas, the smell like blaas.
Unfortunately I made them too big and they were kinda doughy in the centre even though they looked done.
Next time, however, they will be better.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Today I tried to make bread....

Ah God if I could ever just follow a recipe it'd surely be better baking all round....

An important thing to know about me and how my foibles and traits apply to baking... they do not go too well together.

Firstly, I tend to change things. I see a recipe and it calls for certain amount of something ... sometimes I approximate. If there's anything I learned from the baking course last week it's that it's difficult to get away with that when you're making small batches of bread.

Secondly, I have a very bad memory. Already I cannot remember parts* of what we did last week and I see no reason why that should stop me making bread ... I'll make it up as I go along. Forget hundreds of years of French bakers perfecting their art ... I'll feel my way along with my instinct developed over weeks (nearly) of baking French baguettes!

Ok so onto the actual bread-making. I decided I would make some soda bread while I was farting around in the kitchen. I hurt my back over the last couple of days and it got particularly bad today so only a couple of hours work in the basement suite I'm renovating and then back home for a lie down. So I got a recipe from my recently acquired Darina Allen book  which was recommended by my friend Ann. It's a nice book ... nice indeed.

Anyway I threw it all in the mixer and decided I could just as easily double the amount in there, which I duly did. That was grand .. nothing wrong there but when I took it out of the mixer I decided that it was pretty small and I didn't need to divide it into two loaves again. This is where the memory thing evaded me. My original plan had been to make scones out of the other half and add sultanas which I had pre-soaked overnight in rum and Grand Marnier. This got completely forgotten.

I ended up with a massively thick loaf of bread which our oven cooked at too high a temp.** really crusty with a doughy centre ... exactly they way you don't want your bread to be! In an attempt to save it I cut it into pieces and cut it some more and now I have lots of smaller loaves of bread that have thick crusts and doughy centres .. .and they're funny shapes!
Terrible start to a days cooking.

And so on to something that's WAY more complicated and way less tolerant to errors... French baguettes.

Straight away I have a problem you see. I don't have a weighing scales. I do everything in cups normally cos it's North America and that's the way they do things .. and I have to say it's trés convenient and I like it.
However, the course last week and the resultant recipes all dealt in grams... this makes things a little tricky.
So the recipe I've got calls for

2520g of Strong bread flour
42g yeast
1500ml water
72g salt

I wanted to half the recipe cos this makes about 10 or 12 baguettes so I was going to put in 1260g of flour. Now my latent memory told me that 1kg of flour was 4 cups.
This is patently wrong.
I trusted my memory for some reason... probably cos I forgot it couldn't be trusted.
4 cups of flour is about 500g.
So first mistake over with and I'm already heading towards disaster.

In the cookery school Marco uses fresh yeast. This is not readily available stuff and I certainly don't have any in my cupboard. Fortunately you can use other yeasts instead, of which two stand out.
One is active dry yeast and the other is instant yeast.
The supermarket that I go to re-packages stuff under their own brand. One of these packets is what I had in my cupboard. I have no idea which kind of yeast it is and yet it is so important for this recipe to know because for active dry yeast you halve the amount you put in and for instant yeast you halve that amount again (25% amount of fresh yeast to clarify).
I decided that I probably had active dry yeast and I also decided that seeing as I still didn't have a weighing scales that a teaspoon was probably 8 grams.
This was quite the leap of maths and imagination.
I ended up putting in 3 teaspoons of some kind of yeast into half the amount of flour I was meant to.

The water was the only thing I got right.

So I ended up with this slurry of a mix of dough. It fairly fell over the counter edge it was so sloppy. I persevered though and even though I still didn't have any facts to back up my instinct, I decided that the dough was just too wet even for a baguette.

I added a minimal amount of flour to get it back into shape, and somehow, without going into too many details and making this ,already long story, longer, I managed to get something resembling a baguette dough.

Another trick of the trade that Marco showed us was how to get the baguettes to keep their round shape on the bottom.

When you have a soft dough and you let it rest, it's natural tendency is to sag and have a flat bottom. Baguettes however, have a round bottom. They do this, traditionally, by taking French linen and making ridges in it so you end up with a series of troughs that your baguettes are gently swaddled by. This supports the bread while it is proofing (the final stage before entering the oven) and should give it a more torpedo-like cross-section.
I have no linen.
I decided to make my own version.
I went to the Creative Marketplace (an artist supply shop in Vancouver) and got some painting canvas. It's really cheap and I got more than I'm ever likely to need for 6 bucks. I doubled it over and took our sowing machine; ran a couple of lines of stitches down it to make it thicker and voila... a baguette bra. No wire to be seen!

Ok so first two baguettes have come out of the oven ... they didn't maintain their round bottom but they taste so feckin good it's sinful. Will have to bind my hands not to eat the lot!!
Loads of air pockets, fantastic crust and lots of flavour .. not sure how I arrived at this result and I'm glad to put this experiment in writing so I can repeat it.
I think I may have come up with a new recipe...
....note to self this was cooked at 400F in our oven even though the recipe says 350, I don't know how many minutes but twas around 35 to 40 I'd say.
Also I put a pan of hot water underneath the bread while it was cooking to keep some moisture in there on the second lot and flicked lots of water on it with my pastry brush .. about every ten mins.

This is my end result this morning.

*Parts does in fact mean almost everything...
**See the way I try to avoid blame on that one..

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Baking Course with Marco Ropke

Compliments of my beautiful "wife" I received a wee bread-making course for my birthday. It was quite a bit to take in, 4 hours on two consecutive nights, so 8 hours of full-on bread-making. Fortunately a lot of the techniques with yeast breads are similar so they kind of reinforce each other. And there's always the recipes he printed out to refer to although I wish I had a video camera to record the lot!

Anyway first night we made a brown toasting bread and some dinner rolls.The wholewheat bread is pretty tasty, the rolls were really crunchy when i brought them home and then next day they were WAY softer. I preferred them softer. The one that looks like a hand was called a mano, it may be tricky for me to actually remember how to do that one.
I was the only one in the class not taking notes! Feck it.

Also on the first night we made starters for making bread the second night, one for the baguette we're going to make and one for a cuban sandwich bread we're trying.These starters are known by several different names depending on what country you come from. Sponge, biga and poolish are some of them. You make them up about 16 hours before you're going to make the bread, probably takes about a minute and half to make them. They're really wet mixtures of flour and water and a bit of yeast, they ferment like bastards and then they get added to the bread dough ingredients.
I think one of the things that surprised me the most is how wet doughs seem to me. Maybe it's because I only ever made soda bread before but my tendency to add flour to dough until it looks right is now going to be eradicated cos I know what looked 'right' to me was in fact completely wrong!

Second night we made shedloads of bread... really. The course ran on a half hour later than it should have and the last loaf of bread didn't even get baked fully! This is the first time this course has ran so Marco is still feeling out how many breads he can fit in in a night and obviously was a bit ambitious, one of the breads will be cut for the next beginners course.

This is the motherload that resulted! Bagels, which were made the night before and left the fridge to develop flavour overnight, a variation on a baguette in the front and another one hiding in the middle, a brown bread on the right front which has carrots and carmelised onions added to it, a flat bread with parmesan, pumpkin seeds and rosemary baked on to it and an oatmeal loaf hanging out at rear left there which is undercooked and has been frozen.
I'll be able to take the oatmeal one out of the freezer and throw it in the oven for 10 mins to finish it off and it'll be like fresh!

I must get to work now, I have a fair idea what I'm eating for lunch.

Oh I nearly forgot, NO KitchenAids were used in the making of these breads, Marco is not a fan, likes to get hands on which I can understand, his website is http://www.vancouverpastryschool.com/

Monday, June 7, 2010

Before there was KitchenAid...

....there was Hilti...

This was my mixer before I got notions, possibly one of my best ideas ever (you can imagine the ingenious ideas I normally come out with). I combined power tools and kitchen gadgets together. Of course this would be one of the most expensive whisks in the world I would imagine but as I'm a carpenter I just happened to have it lying around!
I have to say.... it works really well for whipping. It's got two speeds ... fast and too fast. It's probably got enough torque on it to drive a dough hook as well but fortunately I don't think I could fit one in the chuck and it would have been way too fast.

It's been superceded now ... go back to work Hilti!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

And in the beginning there was KitchenAid...

Right so, the theory, and hopefully the practice, of this blog is to endeavour to bake wonderful bread. Other stuff may come out of it but the prime reason for buying the KitchenAid is to make bread. Yeasty, crusty, wonderful bread.I don't know very much about yeast bread apart from what I have learned in the last couple of weeks since getting the Red Divil. My mother never baked yeast bread, my father didn't get up at 3 am every morning to start the ovens in a bakery, I have vague memories of my sister Gráinne rising bread at home but that's about the limit.

 In terms of equipment (other than the KitchenAid) I have;
one broken oven,
nothing for proofing,
one loaf tin,
one thermometer
some plastic bowls,
a counter-top (vital!)

Already I have made many mistakes, I didn't take pictures of those cos I didn't think I was going to document any of this but as of today I will be trying to make amends.

So far I have made a yeast bread/baguette that could easily double for a police baton it was so heavy. I made another loaf that was considerably lighter but could still be used as ballast in a hot-air balloon and of course I have used the Red Divil for making scones. No yeast at all in those and so they turned out beautifully.

Today I am trying this recipe.
So far I'd like to say it has gone well but in fact I almost burned out the Red Divil. This recipe is to make 3 loaves of bread. I can report that I found the limit of the Red Divil to be half that. So there must be some sort of thermal fuse (which I guessed cos the fuses in the house didn't go) that resets itself. Or else (like my Hilti impact gun) there is a torque setting which, if exceeded, doesn't allow you to use the machine for an unspecified length of time (Hilti... about 30 seconds, KitchenAid... who the hell knows)

So what I did was divide the dough into 3 and mix them all separately and then throw them back together (literally). Seems to have worked so far.

I have only one loaf tin so I have put a third of the dough into that and put the rest into a pyrex dish that's about twice the size. There's a good chance that this is not going to work very well, we'll see.
Currently it looks like this on the left.This is good dough ... it rose quite well I think!

In the oven for the required baking time plus a few minutes cos as mentioned above our oven is slightly broken and God knows what temperature it actually is inside.

The finished bread turned out like this.

This is really really good bread .. that blog is a godsend! It's soft and tastes like those breads they give you in restaurants (good restaurants!) before you  have your tasty meal.
What I mostly wanted from this escapade was a bread I can use for sandwiches every day and I've got that already after only a week.

Things are looking good....