Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Bread Bible - Hearth Bread

I realise that this is a bit over-the-top but I'm in love with this bread. I can't tell you how happy I am to know that I can produce this chewy, dense type of bread with a great flavour. This is the bread I have been waiting for all my life, or at least since I started baking bread about two years ago. And I didn't have to fiddle-faddle around with a sourdough starter (I've never had/used one but it sounds tricky).

Making this bread is a pretty straightforward process, using a starter which ferments, in my case, overnight in the fridge. It makes a reasonably wet dough but not one that's difficult to deal with at all. I read Rose's tips for success with this artisan-style bread and tried to make sure the bread didn't proof too fast. This can be a problem in Darwin's hot climate. There can't be too many people reading this who have to put their bread dough closer to the air conditioner to keep it cool.

It's obviously not perfect - I know that artisan style means a big holey texture which I haven't quite achieved - but it's mine and I love it anyway. The only issue was that I couldn't stop 'trying' piece after piece. 

My dough developed a pimple or two on the last rise. I'm not sure if this means it's over-proofed?

You can see the wildly uneven slashes on the top of the bread. I'm always so nervous about cutting into the top of my lovely risen bread dough - in my mind's eye I see it deflating like a balloon - so I panic and end up slashing it like a newbie serial killer.

I was so happy with the crust when I took it out of the oven. My new baking stone had worked like a charm and the crust was thick and hard. It didn't stay crisp in the humidity but it was still lovely and chewy. 

Next up are the Ginger Scones.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The Bread Bible - Irish Soda Bread

My only experience of Irish Soda Bread was many years ago during my mother's 'ye olde English baking' phase (inspired by Jane Grigson's English Cookery as I remember). During this time my brothers and I enjoyed homemade muffins, crumpets, suet pudding, lardy cake and other olde gems, including the Irish soda bread. I remember the soda bread being pretty stodgy and possibly a bit dry (sorry Mum). 

This recipe for Irish Soda Bread from the Bread Bible bears little resemblance to the bread I remember. Rose has added sultanas and a small amount of sugar that make this bread more like a large dense scone. I love a dense carbohydrate, and if it's threaded with sultans and slathered with some butter, even more so. This was very easy to make and nice to eat. 

I didn't soak the sultanas in whisky since I didn't have any, plus I quite like my 'dead flies' a bit chewy rather than soft. I also undercooked it a smidgen and forgot to slash the top of the loaf before I put it in the oven but I was pretty happy with the result anyway.

I still have a few breads to make to catch up with the Bread Bible Bakers' schedule. Next up is the Basic Hearth Bread.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Bread Bible - Herb Spiral Bread

I have a few breads to make (four to be exact) to catch up with the Bread Bible Bakers' monthly schedule. I got a bit behind at the end of last year. I did make this herb version of the Cinnamon Spiral Bread last year just before I went interstate for Christmas. And when I say just before, I mean a few hours before I caught the plane. Which is why I forgot to take a photo of the finished bread.

I made the cinnamon version for the Baking Bible bake-through so I decided to try the herb alternative. It's a very easy bread to make and I didn't have any problems either time. I used a mixture of spring onion, chives and parsley in the spiral but it turned out to be too oniony (my own fault for using both chives and spring onion). I think it would have been better with cream cheese or something else to smooth out the herby taste.

This is a nice bread but, as a savoury bread, it's not really sturdy enough for my taste. I really like the rustic rip-it-apart-with-your-bare-teeth kind of bread. I'm looking forward to making the hearth bread the beginning of which is currently fermenting in my fridge. But up next on the blog will be the Irish Soda Bread.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Alpha Baker belated catch-up - Luscious Apple Pie

Apple pie is still my favourite type of fruit pie, even after testing all the Baking Bible new and wonderful varieties of pie filling. The Luscious Apple Pie was part of the Baking Bible bake-through but I missed out on making it. I eventually baked it before we finished the bake-through but I ran out of time to blog about it. Here it is now anyway in pictures. 

It was a long time ago that I made it now but this is what I can remember:
  • I combined some of the steps for preparing the apple and the caramel sauce because it seemed overly complex and if you've read a few of my posts you may have noticed that my patience for folderols is minimal and I do love a short cut. 
  • I seem to remember having not once but twice drunk the apple juice that was meant to be part of the sauce before I got around to baking it, so my pie was juice free.
  • I used my favourite mechanised apple peeler and corer/cutter - this makes preparing the apples fun rather than tiresome. In fact I gave my father the same apple peeler for Christmas after he admired mine. It's not like he needed an apple peeler but some things are irresistible. My nephew saw it and now he wants one but I think the blades are a bit sharp for a five year old.
  • The apple was a bit on the firm side so next time I might pre-cook it or slice it a bit thinner, although it may have been that I didn't adjust the sauce enough for the lack of juice.
  • I got to use my lovely new urban landscape plate, a present from my brother and sister-in-law (thanks J & M :) ).
  • And predictably... my colleagues LOVED it!

Friday, 16 December 2016

The Last Post - Kouign Amann

The Things I've Learnt From Being An Alpha Baker:

Things I've Learnt Number One:

ALWAYS double the recipe if something looks good. And maybe triple the recipe if it's Kouign Amann which are my number one favourite out of The Baking Bible. Even better the second time around. This is a genius recipe.

And proof of the pudding that I may have learnt something during the Alpha Baker experience is that I found these a doddle! A breeze! Lucky they turned out well because if they'd failed I would have had to say all I got out of two years of baking was a bad case of hubris.

Things I've Learnt Number Two:

You ALWAYS NEED that new kitchen tool. Another cake tin, an angel food cake hair comb cutter, a rotary apple peeler: you name it, you need it. And Alpha Bakers are always ready with advice on new stuff.

Things I've Learnt Number Three:

Similar to Number Two you can never have too many different types of sugar, flour, liquor or butter in stock at any one time. And if you live in the tropics than you may need to invest in a much bigger fridge/freezer to keep them all in. I thought about doing a calculation of all the butter I've bought over the two years but I'm not sure I want to know. It's true, ignorance is bliss in some things.

Things I've Learnt Number Four:

Your colleagues will be disappointed and angry if you suddenly stop bringing them baked goods on a weekly basis. Especially after the Kouign Amann. Boy, did they like them.

Things I've Learnt Number Five:

Don't be fooled by descriptions of a cake with molasses in it as delicious. It's not.

And I still have 7/8ths of a bottle of molasses languishing in my fridge. I think I might return it to Rose. She seems to like it.

Things I've Learnt Number Six:

Life is much richer from having been part of the Alpha Bakers and from the generous, funny and downright lovely people that make up the ABs. A special mention to our tireless leader, Marie, who baked each week without fail AND wrote two posts each week AND kept us all in line - which is no mean feat for the lively (and often contrary) bunch of bakers that make up the Alpha Bakers. Thanks to Marie, Rose Levy Beranbaum and all the rest for an entertaining and fulfilling two years.

But the molasses is still in the mail.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Alpha Baker catch-up no. 2 - Raisin cinnamon awirl* bread

This is another catch-up post which I'm squeezing in before the Alpha Bakers hang up their alphas and become ordinary bakers again. I made this Raisin Cinnamon Swirl Bread quite a long time ago and I don't remember much about it except that it was a very straightforward process.

I also remember that the bread was delicious and that my loaf came out looking quite handsome with a nice rounded top. As you can see in the top photo, there's a gaping hole between the top of the bread and the first swirly bit, which means I did something wrong. Possibly not a tight enough roll. And now I come to think about it I remember that I found the instructions for rolling the dough up a bit mystifying.

The swirl is pretty to look at (even a half-hearted one like mine) but my favourite type of raisin bread is one with the spices mixed through it. I think this dough would shine more as buns, rather than a loaf. Then you could add icing...

*somehow I mis-typed swirl as 'awirl' but I quite liked it, so I left it.

My last catch-up will be the Luscious Apple Pie which I missed making with the Alpha Bakers last year, I think. Stay tuned.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

White chocolate cupcakes with raspberry cream cheese icing

The more astute of you will have noticed* that raspberry cream cheese icing is not part of this week's Alpha Baker recipe for White Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Mousseline. This week's baking adventure is a tale of shortcuts, go-arounds and straight out laziness. I had a lot of trouble finding the energy to make these, this week. Although I was spurred on by the thought of white chocolate and raspberry - one of my favourite flavour combinations. In the end I decided I could do the little cakes or the mousseline but not both. And since the mousseline is not a lot of use without cake to put it on, cake it was. [Actually, who I am kidding, I just didn't want to bother with all that sugar syrup palaver.]

My favourite icing is cream cheese icing which is incredibly quick and easy to make. I wondered (to google) whether I could make it in raspberry flavour and, lo and behold, other people had thought of it before me. With that stumbling block removed, I suddenly had the energy to whip up the little cakes. 

In theory, with a simplified icing, these little cakes should have been quick and easy. I botched a few things which made it a little less than Q & E but they did turn out to be delicious. As long as they were eaten quickly, before the icing melted.

*That'll sort the sheep from the goats.

The cakes were simple to mix up in the standmixer, with Rose's usual method of mixing most of the wet ingredients first and adding to the dry. After 2 years cooking with Rose, I now usually measure the weight of the eggs rather than just going with the  number specified. I often find that my eggs are bigger than the recipe's estimation.  I forgot to do that this time with the egg whites and I think my mixture might have been a bit more liquid than it should have been. 

I was too miserly to buy more than one block of white chocolate so I added a little bit of dark chocolate I had in the fridge. This made the cakes a funny tan colour but they still tasted white chocolatey.

The cakes came out all right (I don't seem to have any photographic evidence of this) although they took a long time to bake. This is possibly due to the thicker cardboard cases I used. I didn't even consider that when I bought them*. Ho hum. 

*I was looking at their racey red stripes.

I made the raspberry sauce early in the week. I started off on the right track but after 10 minutes I found that I just couldn't be mucking around with raspberries and sieves, and separate cooking of syrup, and blending of raspberries etc. So I put all the ingredients in the pan and simmered it for a while, then sieved it all. Probably not the perfect product that Rose's would be, but raspberry puree all the same. And it left me with a modicum of sanity.

Which I then completely lost on the cream cheese icing that was meant to be easy. I ran out of icing sugar (late last night) so had to make some in the processor. Still, I didn't do a very good job and the icing tasted a bit sugary to me, so I added some more raspberry puree, and then it seemed too liquid, so I added some more badly made icing sugar, then some more cream cheese get the picture. In the end it tasted nice but was still a bit runny. It just held together enough for me to pipe it, after a night in the fridge. 

To me, piping is just an invitation to slather icing or cake mixture up your right arm, this being the common result for me of any attempt at piping. However this time I secured the icing bag with one of those Ikea bag clip things which kept it more under control. I wasn't unhappy with my efforts, given the heat of the room and the runniness of the icing. Most of the attraction of these little cakes was in the beautiful pink icing so it was good to be able to replicate this is in some small way.

I'm planning to take these to Misia's 3rd birthday on the weekend. Misia is a cocker spaniel and will not be eating the cakes (if I have anything to say about it). And to solve the heat (it's VERY hot and humid here at the moment) and the already runny icing problems, I'm planning to serve them frozen. We Alpha Bakers are very resourceful and resilient.

Next (and the penultimate) week for the Alpha Baker's bake-through of The Baking Bible is Luxury Chocolate Buttercrunch Toffee.