Saturday, 22 April 2017

Bread Bible - Levy's Real Jewish Rye Bread

My memory of baking this bread is hazy in the extreme, but judging by the number of photos I have of the finished product, I was pretty happy with it. I do remember Rose saying that this type of rye bread was a favourite when she was young. I was surprised by that because it's very strongly tasting of caraway, which is not a taste that children of my acquaintance are fond of (and one I wasn't keen on when young). Luckily I'm keen on it now and I made short work of eating my loaf. It's not at all heavy with rye, with just enough to leave you with a smug aura of healthiness (as you slather on the butter).

I'm pretty proud of my slashes and the oven spring I got with this loaf. If only I knew how I did it...

Still to come in my catch-up posts - Olive Bread.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Bread Bible - Ginger Scones

Late last year, with the maelstrom that is Christmas, the end of the work year* and the beginning of summer holidays, I missed a few of the monthly Bread Bible projects. I've caught up with some of them - including my current favourite, the Basic Hearth Bread. Next on my list is the November 2016 project of Creamy Ginger Scones. 

I made these a while ago now but with the demise of the weekly discipline of the Baking Bible bake-through, my blogging mojo (always pretty tardy) has almost completely faded away. I have two other Bread Bible posts lined up to finish, hopefully I can whip up a bit of enthusiasm and get them out before I forget all the details.

These scones are really delicious. I mean really delicious. I urge you to make them. Unless you don't like ginger, in which case, don't. I'm going to make them next time I visit my parents because my mother would absolutely love them. She's always been a devotee of those old fashioned Chinese vase-like containers of glace ginger. Something I wasn't keen on as a child but now appreciate.

As I remember these were easy to make. I used glace ginger in the scones instead of the recommended crystallised ginger. This is only because I read the back of the two packets (i.e. glace and crystallised), while standing at the supermarket shelf, and the glace one had a 'perfect for baking' label on it, and a recipe for scones on the back (not as good as this recipe). So glace it was.

I was waaaay too lazy to whip the cream before I mixed it into the dough. This is meant to make the scones airy-er. And it might do. I'll never know.

I'm thinking that next time I might try then with milk rather than cream because for me they were overly rich. However, providing yet another reminder that it's all in the beholding, my colleagues thought otherwise. One of them asked for the recipe and another told me he 'really liked the stodginess' (thanks Che).

I also loved these scones because it gave me an excuse to show off my new Christmas-present-teapot (thanks J & M).

*Or that's how I like to think of it even though, disappointingly and in actual fact, work keeps rolling on.

Next up I'll be posting about Jewish rye bread and olive bread.

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.