Monthly Archives: January 2010

Hidden Gems

Ever so often I stumble across a product or place that I love. Those little places that are sometimes hidden away and always a pleasure to visit. I’ve been a visitor to the Ferrers Centre for years but this weekend was the first time I’ve managed to visit there in a while. A stone’s throw over the border in Leicestershire The Ferrers Gallery always suckers me in. The constantly changing exhibitions means there is always refreshing new artists to discover. On this visit to the top floor of the gallery was some work by Darren Dearen. There was a particular piece by him that had lots of butterflies literally fluttering out of the canvas. If I had a few 100 pounds to spare I would certainly buy some of his work.

The newest shop at the Ferrers Centre is Breadfirst, one of the first artisan bakeries in the area. I had been recommened it by a few people on Twitter and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The atmosphere when we walked in was lovely; keen to help, but not pushy in the slightest. They were more than happy for us to browse before we bought anything. All the bread is baked on premises and visitors to the shop can see the ovens and the baker at work through a glass window. I love the fact they will make and bake fresh scones for you while you wait. We were also given the opportunity to sample some of their delights. All were so good we ended up buying them. The fougasse had the perfect texture with the caraway seeds & juicy sultanas bringing a delicious taste to the bread. We then tried some stunning cheeses. A white Stilton with ginger & apricots and a new favourite for me – Gorwydd Caerphilly. The Gorwydd Caerphilly is a mature unpasturised cheese was unlike any cheese I had tasted before. It has a soft texture in the middle leading to a harder more mature texture on the outside. For me the taste was similar to a Somerset Brie. To finish our shopping spree we purchased 2 individual pies to have with dinner, both of which were full to the brim with chunky meat and succulent vegetables all encased in the perfect pastry. Breadfirst is becoming popular with local foodies in the know and I will certainly soon be returning especially since I know Vintage & Cake will soon be selling her cakes there.

To round off my day of touring local independent traders I popped into The Blossom Tree in Melbourne (this is the little market town that the big Aussie Melbourne is named after). I’ve had flowers from The Blossom Tree before and have always been impressed, but this was the first time I had visited Kerry’s shop. My eye’s lit up when I saw she had some fringed tulips left and I have to say I bought the last 2 bunches. Ever since she showed photos of fringed tulips being used in a wedding bouquet on her blog I’ve wanted to get my hands on some. They are almost a little sign that spring is on its way.

There are thousands of great little businesses out there waiting to be found. Take a few hours away from the hubbub of the High Street and you may be surprised as to what you might find.

Something for the Weekend – French Toast

Weekends are something that can easily be taken for granted. Two full luxurious days to ourselves to do what ever we want; for me usually involving a trip into Derby to browse the shops then baking and for Hubs working on his classic Mark I Austin Healey Sprite. Of course not every weekend is so hedonistic so when we have weekends free we take full advantage of them. Weekday breakfasts are a fleeting affair, often eaten standing up in the kitchen, where the main aim of the morning is to get showered, fed and out of the house in record time so at weekends the one thing we always make time for is a decent breakfast.

We lay the table properly, switch the radio on and have some time for ourselves as a couple over something sweet be it French Toast topped with berries, croissants, pancakes or waffles. Here, bacon sarnies here are reserved for when we have guests. I tasted French Toast for first time last year and have been hooked ever since. If we’re ever out for breakfast the first thing I’ll do is scan the menu for my favourite item.

French toast can be made with a few bready items including your everyday sliced white, croissant and my personal favourite sweet, fluffy brioche. Last weekends French Toast was made with the last few slices of Fruit Beer Bread. Although it didn’t soak up the eggy custard as well as the wonderful brioche it still made a perfectly delicious breakfast. To try and introduce a healthy balance to the breakfast we always simmer down some berries. The freezer is full of various berries that we have picked from the PYO or I have bought off the reduced counter. Last week’s fruit offering was blueberries (yes, you can buy British blueberries) and they cut through the sweetness of the bread perfectly. Of course this is all served with a glass of cold orange juice and a big mug of tea.

The perfect start to a weekend.

French Toast
Enough for 2 people

100g berries
1 tbsp sugar
small amount of lemon juice
4 slices of bread/brioche
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla caster sugar (or use normal caster with a few drops of vanilla extract)
60ml (4 tbsp) milk

1) In a small saucepan slowly heat the berries, sugar and lemon juice until the berries break down and you have a thick, delicious coulis.

2) Melt a small amount of butter in a saucepan. In a shallow dish whisk together the eggs, milk and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Once slice at a time dip the bread into the custard giving the bread a few seconds to soak up the eggy mix then place into the sizzling frying pan. Fry both sides of the bread until browned. Continue with the rest of the dipped bread. Serve with the coulis.

Fresh from the Oven – Chocolate Buns

This month’s Fresh from the Oven challenge was hosted by Chele. Although the recipe appeared challenging at first, it was certainly enjoyable…and delicious. As there is only 2 of us a batch of 24 wasn’t exactly practical so I halved the recipe then froze half of the buns to be baked at a later date.

This is the first time I’ve made crème patisserie (I also know it as Confectioner’s Custard). It is essentially like a thick custard and is often used for filling pastries and tarts. Although I didn’t make it perfectly due to the tiny lumps it still was the right consistency and tasted perfect though at one point looked and smelt scarily like old school chocolate custard. Though this custard you won’t be pouring over steamed suet pudding.

The dough did take a bit to rise, but once it was ready to work with it was a perfect texture. Yes, I also went a bit OTT with the chocolate chips, but if you can’t go mad with chocolate in these buns when can you? They were absolutely delicious the texture between the custard, bread and chocolate chips was perfect. I would certainly make them again and I look forward to defrosting & baking the rest of the buns.

Chocolate Buns
makes 24

250g full fat milk (Richard likes to weigh it but its 250ml)
15g fresh yeast
500g strong bread flour
60g unsalted butter at room temp
40g caster sugar
10g salt
2 large eggs
25g good quality coca powder
200g chocolate chips, milk or plain, or a mixture
2 eggs beaten with a pinch of salt for an egg wash
Creme Patissiere (recipe follows)
15g cocoa powder

Pour the milk into a pan and warm gently until it is about body temp – it should feel neither warm nor cold when you dip your finger into it.

To mix by hand, rub the yeast into the flour using your fingertips as if making a crumble. Rub in the butter, then add the sugar and salt, then the eggs, milk and cocoa powder. With the help of a plastic scraper, lift the dough onto your work surface. Even though the dough will feel quite soft and moist (and look like thick, sticky porridge) do not add any flour to the work surface.

Begin to work the dough, slide your fingers underneath it like a pair of forks, with your thumbs on top, swing it upwards and then slap it back down, away from you, onto your work surface (it will almost be too sticky to lift at this point). Stretch the front of the dough towards you, then lift it back over itself in an arc (to trap the air), still stretching it forwards and sideways and tucking it in around the edges. Keep repeating this sequence.

As you work the dough it will start to come together and feel alive and elastic in your hands. Keep on working until it comes cleanly away from the work surface, begins to look silky and feels smooth, firm but wobbly and responsive.

Now you can flour your work surface lightly, place the dough on top and form it into a ball by folding each edge in turn into the centre of the dough and pressing down well with your thumb, rotating the ball as you go. Turn the whole ball over and stretch and tuck the edges under. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rest for 45 mins in a draught free place.

Make the creme pattissiere.

Once the 45 mins are up, use the rounded end of a scraper, transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and, with a rolling pin, gently flatten it into a rough rectangle. Spread the chocolate creme patissiere evenly over the dough and sprinkle on the chocolate chips. Starting with one of the longer edges, roll the dough up until it resembles a Swiss roll. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll into 2cm slices and place them on their sides on a baking tray. Glaze with a little egg wash and leave to prove for 1 1/4 – 1 3/4 hours until the buns have roughly doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 250C.

Glaze again and put into the preheated oven, turning the heat down to 180C. Bake for 10-15 mins. As the chocolate dough is quite dark it can be difficult to tell when the buns are properly baked, and you need to take care not to under bake them – the best way to tell when they are ready is to lift one gently with a spatula and check that it is firm underneath.

If you don’t want to bake the buns all in one go, you can freeze some. When they are cut, just before proving, put them on a small tray in the freezer and when they are hard put them into a freezer bag. To use them, take them out, leave to prove overnight and bake in the same way.

Makes 24 buns
‘Dough’ Richard Bertinet

Creme Patissiere
In a bowl whisk together 6 egg yolks, 70 g caster sugar and 50g sifted flour. Put another 70g sugar into a saucepan with 500g (500ml) full fat milk, a vanilla pod split lengthwise and seeds scrapped in and the remaining cocoa powder. Place over a low heat. Leave until the first bubble appears, then remove from the heat. Whisk 1/3 of the milk into the egg mixture, then add the remaining 2/3 of the milk and stir again. Pour back into the pan and put back on the heat. Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of mins, stirring constantly to ensure that the cream does not burn on the bottom. Pour into a dish to cool. Sprinkle a little icing sugar or flakes of butter on top to prevent a skin forming.

Using A Mixer With A Dough Hook
Put the flour into your mixer bowl and rub in the yeast. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips. Switch the mixer onto the slowest speed, add the sugar, cocoa and salt, then the eggs and milk and mix for 2 mins, then turn up to the next slowest speed and mix for a further 6-7 mins until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Remove the dough from the bowl, transfer to a lightly floured surface to mould into a ball before placing in a tea towel to prove for 45 mins. Then follow the rest of the instructions as listed above. Easy peasy – honest!

‘Dough’ Richard Bertinet

Fruit Beer Bread

This bread has been in the pipeline for a while ever since discovering that beer makes a rather marvelous ingredient in bread. Not only does it give it taste, it also gives it a lovely soft texture. Now I feeling more confident with the whole science of bread I’m feeling better about experimenting with it and more or less most of time the experiementation works!

I was expecting the beer to give the bread a slight pinky hue, but this didn’t appear to happen, it did however brown quicker than conventional loaves due to the sugar content in the beer.For the fellow food geeks out there I think this is an example of the Maillard reaction that can also be seen in the caramalisation of the outer surface in pretzels.Ok, geekyness over.

Because of the sugar in the beer there is no need for additional sugar in the dough as the dough turns out sweet enough without it. You can certainly taste the fruit beer in the bread. It is lovely simply toasted with a small amount of butter, plus it would also make a fabulous twist on bread & butter pudding. Tomorrow for breakfast we are using the last few slices to make French Toast.

The recipe is based on White Tin Loaf recipe with a few tweeks. Oh an ignore the photo, I’m not happy with it. It’s a fine photo until I upload it then it goes all blurry?!? Like  quite a bit of my bread baking I have submitted it to Yeastspotting.

Fruit Beer Loaf
Makes 1 tin loaf

350g fruit beer (I like Sam Smith’s Raspberry Beer)
1 tsp fast action yeast (or 2 tsp fresh yeast crumbled)
500g strong white bread flour
1 tbsp sweet almond oil (or a flavourless oil)
handful of mixed dried fruit
generous pinch of salt

1) Mix all the ingredients together until well combined then knead for 10 until dough is soft and springy. Form into a tight round place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover bowl in clingfilm and leave to rise until nearly doubled in size.

2) Oil then lightly dust a 2lb loaf tin with flour. Knock back the dough then form the dough into a tight fat sausage shape and place in the tin. To help the bread to rise well try to tuck the ends of the dough under when you put it into the tin. This encourages the dough to go up rather than out. Leave to prove for around 30 min or until dough has begun to risen near the top of the tin.

3) Preaheat oven as hot as it will go. Place a baking tray of boiling water at the bottom of the oven (this helps a good crust to form on the bread). Slash the top of the dough then bake for 10 min. See how the crust is browning then turn down to 200C if the crust is pale/180C if crust is noticeably browning/170C if crust is browning quickly and cook for a 40-50 minutes. The bread is ready when the bottom sounds hollow when it is tapped. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Easy Peasy Pizza

Blogging has been a bit quiet for me recently for many reasons. I’m working on a project at the moment that is taking up quite a bit of my free time and cooking in the house has been positively boring after a food-filled Christmas break.

This pizza recipe is partly due to the project I’m working on. I’ve been looking for a pizza recipe suitable for a class of children to make, bake & do the washing up all within a 90 min lesson. No mean feat I ask you.  Not a refined authentic pizza recipe in the slightest but a recipe that is perfect to be taught to classes of children with limited lesson time or even to be made at home.  Of course traditional pizza uses a yeasted dough, but with limited lesson this doesn’t give an adequate time period for the dough to rise so I needed to find an alternative. The base for this is essentially a basic scone recipe. It could have herbs, spices and even cheese added to the dough to make it different, however this time I just kept it simple.Topping wise anything can be used, I dare say you could even play with sweet toppings.

Although there is no yeast in the dough due to the self-raising flour the base will rise. The key, like scones, is not to make the base too thin. The thicker the base the more it will rise. This recipe makes 2 individual pizza that are about in diameter and are perfect for lunch boxes. If your interested in other lunchbox ideas, especially for kids, head to The Life of Wendy (who puts my lunches to shame) and Funky Lunch.

Easy Peasy Pizza
Makes 2 individual (5 inch) pizzas

150g Self-raising flour (plain flour could be used but the base won’t rise as much)
20g butter or marg
60ml milk
6 tbsp pizza sauce or tomato ketchup
handful of grated cheese
toppings (eg. sliced cherry tomatoes, ham, pepper)
mixed herbs

1) Rub together the flour and butter until you have the consistency of breadcrumbs. Stir in the milk until you have a soft dough. Knead for 30 seconds.

2) Split the dough into 2 equal balls and roll out into 2 rounds. Place both on a floured baking tray. Cover base with pizza sauce then sprinkle on the cheese, toppings and herbs.

3) Bake at 200°c for 10-15 min until golden.

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