Tag: baking

Planet Earth… Closed!

So, how are we all doing out there? I hope that you are all well, and keeping safe in this Stephen King novel we all seem to be part of. Or are we part of a Black Mirror episode?

On Monday night, we were told that we could not go out unless, for essential shopping, medicine and exercise once a day. The company I work for was part of the companies that are able to stay open (construction), but, the owner decided that we would finish on that Tuesday. We came in and finished off what we needed to do and got out products that were needed, I did the month-end accounts and then did out lockdown procedures. However, the next day there was talk about opening up again as construction was still continuing and the government had no intention to stop it. I was chatting to the owner who’s son wanted to open and carry on, but after me telling her of a girl who had just died due to the virus at the age of 21, she decided that it was not going to happen and we would remain closed until the government lifts restrictions. We have all kept in touch via WhatsApp and are checking up on each other. One of the lads who is a driver for us told me yesterday that he thinks his wife has the virus, but from what he said she does not have the symptoms. She is a hypochondriac which does not help, and he seems to believe everything he reads on Facebook. On the last day of work, he told me that over 500 people had died in the UK the night before and argued that it was right. I did point him to the official website tracking the infection and deaths and the conversation was quickly changed. Therefore I am not concerned for them just yet.

I have noticed that the streets are a lot quieter, but from what another workmate tells me when he had to go out that the local town was busting with people going about as though it is a national holiday. Some really do not get it.

I had to go to the shop to get some supplies and although the place had very few people in it, some were not observing the social distancing that is in place, which they are reminded of when entering as there are signs quite literally everywhere. I was rude to a woman who had as much etiquette as a truffle pig, as she was sidling up to people as she was shopping, touching everything including people. She gave me a look that said fuck off, to which I responded with “wanker”. It was all I could do rather than punch her in the face, which I could have done as I was wearing latex gloves. I also noted that the main culprits were old men, I say old, ones in their 60’s. I think if you do not follow the rules and become infected then you do not deserve to be treated in hospital in a live by the sword die by the sword attitude.

We have been out to walk the dogs and get our once a day exercise, but we have been doing this at dawn, no one about and social distancing achieved, but the dogs are not too happy as they are walked a few times a day when I am at home, but I am sure they will get used to it soon enough.

As well as finishing M’s scarf I have frogged 2 projects and am well on my way with another Stephen West blanket “Bit of Iceland”. I have made this before for us and one for M’s mum, but I decided to do another on in colours that would compliment the bedroom. I am enjoying it as it is a large project, and those who know me, know I love big projects.

Yesterday I decided to bake cinnamon swirls as I have 1kg of fresh yeast, although I have frozen most of it.

One final thing I got was the Vogue Knitting book. I kept seeing it, but thought the £35 price tag was a little excessive, however, I found it in my rewards catalogue, therefore cost me nothing. Not expecting it for a few weeks and it arrived on Friday so bonus lockdown reading.

Let me know how you are all doing…

Mince Pies

With a twist…

I do love a good mince pie, and since Christmas is on its way, I decided to start eating them this month, and today I made my own version.

Now, I know that my American readers, and, thinking on, most readers that are not it the UK may not know what the hell a mince pie is. They go by other names of Christmas Pie, Shrid Pie and Mutton Pie, and date back to Tudor times. Although we now use sweet mince and not savory fillings. Sweet mince was also a favourite of the Tudors.

Mincemeat is a sweet filling made from fruit, spices and sugars and has many veriations, but all have the same base with currents and sultanas. My version has a lemon & rose twist to it.

Ingredients

  • 150g Currants
  • 100g Sultanas
  • 100g Chopped nuts (I used salted caramalised pican, almonds, cashew, hazelnuts, macadamia)
  • 150g Golden Caster Sugar
  • 100g Unsalted butter
  • ½ tsp Ground clove
  • 1 tsp Ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp Ground cinnamon
  • Zest of 1 Lemon
  • Zest of 1 Orange
  • 60ml Lemon Juice
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Rosewater
  • 500g Short Crust Pastry
  • Lemon Curd
  • 1 egg, beaten

Method

  1. Combine the currants, sultanas, chopped nuts, citrus zests, lemon juice, spices and salt.
  2. Heat butter butter together with sugar in a large saucepan. When butter starts to bubble stir in fruit mixture.
  3. Remove pan from heat. When cool add rosewater.
  4. Roll pastry out to about 2mm thick, cut discs and fit into muffin or small tart tins. Cut discs for the tops too, or have fun and cut stars for the tops.
  5. Place a few spoons of the filling into the pie cases and add a blob of lemon curd on top of the mixture, then add the pastry lid/star. You can use the whisked egg to bond the lid if you are not crimping the edges.
  6. Brush with a bit of egg/eggwash.
  7. I sprinkled the tops with some lavendar sugar that I had mad with culinary lavendar that I keep in a sealed jar.
  8. If using disc lids cut a few little holes to allow the steam to escape.
  9. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes at 200°C / fan 190°C / Gas mark 5 (adjust times for your oven) or until the pastry has turned golden brown.
  10. Allow to cool slightly and dust with icing sugar before serving.
  11. I like to serve with a dollop of extra thick double cream.

The three on the left of the photo with the slashes in are puff pastry ones I made at the same time. For this I cut out a disc of puff pastry, added the filling to the centre, brushed the edges with egg and added a puff pastry top and pressed it down, washed with egg, slashed the top and baked at the same time, but I did not add the lemon curd to these.

I hope you enjoy this recipe if you make it. But be warned, you may put on weight if consuming too many of these delicious mince pies.

Bread…

I have spent the weekend baking bread. Yesterday I baked a country malt loaf and binned it as it had the density of a black hole. Today I decided to do another malted loaf, the result is the ball-shaped one above, and I also made a sourdough loaf, on the right.

If I am truthful, neither rose the way they should have. I thought that maybe the yeast was dead, but after activating the yeast on its own rather than adding it directly to the flour I thought it would rise better, but no, it is a football size loaf weighing about 3 tonnes. The sourdough, however, is a bit of an odd one as it rose one side but not the other. But the good news is that my sourdough starter smell fantastic, and exactly the way it should do, sharp, sour and it’s bubbly, that’s one in the bag that I am counting. I have not tasted them as yet, but am hoping beyond all hope that they are good. Something inside says not though.

The thing which is odd, I used to bake bread all the time and never ever had a problem, everything worked, everything looked good, and tasted fantastic. This last attempt is making me wonder what I am doing wrong. Hell, I can make some of the finest French pastries, and I have made every type of bread successfully. I am at a loss. But, not to be defeated, I will keep going but will get some fresh yeast rather than dried.

Okay, since starting this post and now, I have just tasted the sourdough bread, and it was okay in taste, not the full sourdough taste, but not bad, the crust was crisp, there were air holes in the bread itself, but not enough, and unfortunately it was too dense, which means back to the drawing board.

Starter success…

So far, so good. This is 12 hours after the first feeding, near trebled in size, lots of bubbles. This morning, day three I gave it its second feeding and left it in the warmth of the kitchen, it is rising which is great. Hopefully, by the weekend, I will be able to bake some bread.

However, as it is barbeque weather I may bake a loaf on it today, we will see how I feel after sitting in the sun for an hour LOL

Oh, did I mention, day three without rain, and temperatures 24c, not exactly the heatwave promised, but I am definitely not complaining as it is just right.

Sourdough Adventure…

Last year I decided to try my hand at making sourdough bread. Although the bread looked okay it was, in layman’s terms, it was crap. Although there was a rise in my bread basket, I had used normal flour to line it, so it stuck, and alas it lost its aeration and rise when I had to drag it out of the banneton. The other problem was the high heat I had to get the oven, as my sourdough book gave a temperature beyond the reaches of it.

The other day I was reading the tweets from Dan who makes bread all the time, but he was baking it on his BBQ, yep, turns out the best place for it. After a chat with him over it, I thought I would try his method of baking. My bbq has a temp gauge that goes to 1000 f, so I can get to whatever temperature I need. He is a fountain of knowledge and uses his bbq for all kinds of baking, which I will be trying out.

I have used rye flour as the base of the starter as this usually yields a good start for natural yeast, mixed with warm water. Tomorrow when I feed it I will be using organic stone milled flour rather than blade cut/ground flour.

Fingers crossed this time it will be a success.

The Starter has started!

Baking with Chairman Mao

I love to bake. I mean bake anything. There is just something so satisfying about the whole process.  I did make sourdough bread last weekend, but to be honest, it was a bit crap, however, that will not put me off, and I will keep going until I get it right.  The instructions for the proving overnight in the fridge was good, but the dough collapsed when I was putting it onto the baking sheet.  The other loaf stuck to the banneton as I had used flour rather than rice flour, so that was crap too.  The other thing I had problems with was the heat in the oven. The instructions said for 500f which is mega hot, and as I was cooking it on a stone dish it just seemed to sear and the crust was tough, so tough it could be in the marines.  It was supposed to bake for 20 minutes at 500f then 30 minutes at 450f, again, mega hot.  I have never cooked any bread at this temperature so it would happen that it was cooked on the outside and slightly doughy on the inside.  Not a bad crumb though.  It also didn’t taste like sourdough does, so I think that was the fault of the leaven as it had not bubbled and matured enough.  So now I know or think I know what went wrong I will try again.  I may do a variation too so that I know I can control rather than using the heat of the sun.

First go at Sourdough Bread

As mentioned, I love to bake, so here are some photos of my other bakes, successful bakes too LOL

Strawberry Shortcake with Strawberry Coulis
Strawberry Tarts (Pate Sablee) with Chantilly Cream and Passion Fruit
Brioche
Irish Wheaten Bread (Soda)

Autumn in New York can be relentless…

 Or, maybe not.

Well, this week alone (8.5 days) will be coming to an end at 4pm BST when M finally gets passed back to me.  I am excited, I do not deny, but I will miss the silence.  I am odd like that, I enjoy silence, well as much as it can be silent, after all there is the high pitch whistle in my ears that gets quite loud, and maybe the quiet hum of the washing machine or dishwasher, and then there is the pattering about of the dogs, but it is silence to me.  No TV or radio, not even me playing music in the background.  How I lament silence.  But, all things, good and bad must come to an end.

I rose from my pit quite early for a Sunday 06:20 as the girls wanted out, so in the end, I was up with the partridge.  Dinner is cooked and now in the slow cooker ready for M and me when we get back from the Airport.  Everywhere is clean and tidy, but hey, this is a gay man’s house, so you should not be surprised.  Apart from currently doing laundry, all I have to do now is pop to the shops for butter and make a Victoria Sponge cake for M when he gets home.  He wanted fresh cream rather than buttercream, but then the cake has to be in the fridge and it goes hard, so he is having buttercream, but SHH!  Don’t tell him LOL.

I never go round to fixing the floor behind the dishwasher, but with good reason, or good excuse, you decide.  I need to pull out both the dishwasher and the washing machine, which means moving the dining table to the other end of the kitchen so I have room to work.  But then I need to assess what I need and then go to the hardware store to get the timber etc.  So far, no problem, but, the girls like to get in the way, and I know they are trying to help in their own way, with licks and moral support, but they are a bloody nuisance when all is said and done.  But, the real problem is I need an assistant that is two-legged, rather than four.  Not just for passing things, but holding things too in order to get it done right.  So, with this in mind, I told him that he would be my helper and I would do it next week.  With that job done all I have to do is re-line the cupboard I built at the end of the units and we are done. YAY!

I am reminded by a friend’s writing that what is important today will still be important tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year, because if it isn’t, then it isn’t important.  Mix that with M’s description of me doing jobs in the house, it will get done eventually, when he is ready to do it.  Both are so right, and if you put them together, they really do describe my workings in the house, if it is important, then it will get done, today, tomorrow, next week, month or year, but it will get done.

Back to Baking…

I have been dying to bake for quite some time, but the so-called diet has kept the urge at bay, but this weekend, I thought stuff this, I am making something. It was a toss-up between this cake or my beetroot and dark chocolate, however, since it was my first bake of the year, and due to the abundance of Easter cakes about I decided to make Cherry and Marzipan Cake.  It has a layer of marzipan running through it.  I make the cake batter, put half in the cake tin, covered it with a layer of marzipan then the rest of the batter, and covered it with flaked almonds.

Lately, we have been really bad, and this week I have gone overboard.  I went to Patisserie Valerie and bought luxury cakes which does not sound too bad, but when you take into account that I had a massive Chinese meal consisting of beef green pepper black bean sauce, salt and pepper chicken, fried rice, chips before the cakes then the fat boy pants really needed to come out.

I was going to bake a cheese and onion pie too, but M pointed out that I would be one meal away from a heart attack, so I will make that next week.  In the meantime, I made cheese macaroni with tomatoes, onions and curry.  M does not like that dish, and I had made enough for four people and ate quite a lot of it, so heart attack city here I come.

 

Baking – Soda Farls

My Hubby is Irish, so many many years ago I learned how to make proper Irish Soda Bread, Wheaten Bread & Soda Farls.  Since winter is well and truly on its way, and it is lashing with rain outside I thought I would make us some.  I thought I would share my recipe and do a show and tell.

Ingredients

  • 250g Plain Flour
  • 1 teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • ½ teaspoon of salt (I use sea salt)
  • 250ml Buttermilk

 

Place all dry ingredients into a bowl and mix.

Make a well and add the buttermilk, although do not add it all as you can keep adding whilst mixing rather than make it too wet.

Mix and knead the dough on a floured surface, but be gentle, you really only want to knead it into shape.  Slice a cross into the top with a sharp knife that has been floured.

Pop the farl onto a hot griddle pan, or if you only have a frying pan, that will work nicely, but again, be gentle, don’t go in at too high a temperature or you will end up with a crispy dough ball.  I use a tepanyaki grill plate to make mine and have the temperature about 150c.

Partway through cooking flip it over and cook the other side.

Again flip it over, and tap the base to see if it is cooking, it should make a hollow sound, and if not carry on cooking.

As you can see the farl has split where the score marks were and have browned nicely.  Finally, when you are happy with it, wrap it in a tea cloth and set aside, this will ensure that it finishes off cooking and traps moisture, and makes it chewy, and brings out the subtle soda taste.  I used to use a proper Irish Linnen tea cloth, but alas it bit the dust some time ago.

It should take about 20 minutes to cook through.

Once it has cooled split it into four, then slice through the side horizontally, so you end up with 8 quarters if you cut it all at once.  Toast and enjoy with lashings of butter and a slice of mature cheese like cheddar.  Also delicious with bacon and egg.

 

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