21 January 2012 § 16 Comments
I owe anyone who has seen me or spoken to me over the past two weeks an apology.
I’m sorry, I really am— I just can’t help it: I’ve become a bread bore.
As if taken by the spirit of the Republican primaries, I have been born again and now find myself evangelizing my fundamentalist position from the pulpit. Albeit about bread.
My mantra has become: “So easy The Ladies™ could make it” and ” You can’t go wrong”. Perhaps I should run for office…
It all started innocently enough at my Book Club, when I tried some of Christina’s bread. (If you’re interested the book was Jeffrey « Read the rest of this entry »
12 November 2011 § 6 Comments
Earlier this week I shared a simple, delicious recipe for pumpkin purée .
If you made it, there’s a good chance your kitchen smells so good you can’t wait until Thanksgiving, so here’s a way to use a cup of the purée to make these tasty savory muffins in the mean time. These bad boys are perfect for Sunday brunch or as an accompaniment to some hearty Fall soup.
27 September 2011 § 5 Comments
This was breakfast today, washed down with a perfect latte. But it was bittersweet and tinged with sadness.
You are probably wondering how can wonderful bread make you sad? It is because we are down to our last loaf. The freezer that was full of my dad’s frozen baked goods has been emptied faster than if it had been attacked by a plague of locusts.
That is the problem with good bread, it gets eaten too quickly.
I am still trying to get this ciabatta recipe out of my dad, Baz the Baker. So far, he has not been forthcoming – I was thinking this post might prompt him to send it to me. It is an adaption of recipe from the über lord of bread – Dan Leader of the upstate bakery, Bread Alone.
2 August 2011 § 12 Comments
Here is my first guest post on This Little Piggy Went To The Farmers’ Market. Ladies and gentlemen…. from Wales… please meet Baz the Baker!
OK, I’ll admit it – Baz is my father. Nepotism may be rife at This Little Piggy Towers, but according to The Ladies™ he does make the best bread ever!
I’ve not had the time to make bread, let alone master it so I’m trying to learn from him. He has been on several courses and learned a lot from studying the books of two of the best bakers in the business – British baker- Dan Lepard and Dan Leader of Bread Alone fame. He even did a day’s internship at Montclair’s best Italian restaurant, Osteria Giotto to learn how they make their bread.
Over to Baz….
It was a number of years ago that I heard about sourdough bread so I wanted to taste it and learn how to make it. Fortunately, I stumbled across Wild Yeast Bakery, owned by Simon Michaels. He not only makes sourdough bread to sell at Cardiff Farmer’s Market, but runs one-day bread making courses in the beautiful Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. That course proved most enjoyable and instructive. We made about five varieties of bread using a sourdough starter culture and I was taught the rudiments of bread making and provided with a number of bread recipes.
For no real reason other than being too lazy to keep the sourdough starter culture going, I stopped making sourdough bread and reverted to using dried yeast for bread making. So I had not made any sourdough, or even tasted it, for a long time until our last visit to the USA for grandparenting duties with The Ladies™.
Before our visit, my dutiful daughter ordered a few things from King Arthur Flour, including a sachet of sourdough starter. This sachet contained 5gms of a fine white colored powder. I followed the easy to follow instructions and produced a number of loaves of sourdough bread. We all loved it. Particularly The Ladies™.
Now we are back home in Wales I had to start making sourdough bread again. But this time using my own starter made with wild yeast. It really is simple to do by following Simon Michaels’ method.
Please note that bread making is a pretty exact science, so in order to be as precise as possible, I use metric measurements. You’ll thank me for it!
Wild yeast starter
Day 1. 120 gms bread flower mixed with 120 gms of water. Leave in a jar with the opening covered with a cloth or paper towel.
Day 2. Do nothing to it.
Day 3 Discard half of the mixture. Add 60 gms flour and 60gms water. Mix well.
You may see signs of bubbles on Day 3
Day 4 Discard half of the mixture. Add 60 gms flour and 60gms water. Mix well.
Day 5 Discard half of the mixture. Add 60 gms flour and 60gms water. Mix well.
Day 6 Discard half of the mixture. Add 60 gms flour and 60gms water. Mix well.
Now it really should be bubbling and is probably ready to us. It will probably have a slightly sour smell too. Good.
Then, the night before you want to make bread, add 120gms flour and 120 gms water to the mixture and stir well.
In the morning you should see the mixture full of bubbles and the mix will be stringy if you stir it. It will have a slightly sour smell.
This recipe is my variation of Simon Michaels’ Pain de Campagne Sourdough and produces a loaf of about 1Kgm in weight.
Take 300 gms of your starter mix. (Keep the rest to keep your culture going)
Add that mix to about 300gms whole meal flour and 300gms white flour.
260 gms water, 15gms salt.
Knead away if you wish or, as I do, use a dough hook on my food processor for about 12 minutes.
Lightly oil the inside of the dough rising bucket with olive oil and let if prove.
The bucket was placed in the fridge for about 18 hours or so until it was double in size. You can let it rise at room temperature if your wish.
When ready, it was knocked back, moulded into shape and allowed to rise at room temperature for a few more hours.
Preheat the oven to 210C (440F)
To produce a good crust you need steam. My oven, like most domestic ovens does not have a steam injector. So a pan was placed on the oven floor and just before placing the bread in the oven ice cubes were dropped onto the pan. Hiss, splutter steam.
Five minutes after the bread was placed in the oven a few more ice cubes were added.
The bread was baked for about thirty minutes.
At the risk of blowing my own trumpet, the crust was really chewey and the loaf was very tasty, “yummy!” as The Ladies™ would say.
It really is excellent when toasted and makes delicious egg or sausage butties. Good for bacon butties too, I should imagine.
My next sourdough loaf will be made using Spelt (which is also available from King Arthur Flour). Perhaps I may share that loaf with you, too, if given the chance…
28 March 2011 § 1 Comment
Food is very important to me which is why I started this blog. As well as being a necessity, food is a comfort. I love food. Things always seem better after cake. So, when I read about the Tomato Tart‘s online bake sale for Japan, I had to get involved. Sabrina Modelle, of the Tomato Tart, approached a few people online and her initiative to raise money has mushroomed in a few days to include over 90 food bloggers, writers, chefs and professional bakers in 9 countries. Money raised from the bake sale will be going to Second Harvest Japan, they are a food bank working hard to feed people after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor problems.
On 30th March, there will be an online auction on the Tomato Tart where you can bid on wonderful baked goods. If you have the highest bid, then you will be sent those delicious baked goods. The choice is astounding – anything and everything chocolate, blood orange cake, plus all the latest food fad stuff – vegan and gluten-free – over 90 wonderful things – cakes, cookies, sweets.
I will be offering my simple, but very, very tasty banana chocolate chip bread as it travels well and is delicious. It will be beautifully wrapped in a tea towel. So you can bid on it next week if you want something to go with your morning tea or coffee. If no one wants it…(sob!)…I will buy it myself and give it to the local Human Needs food pantry.
23 March 2011 § 1 Comment
We are still in Farmers’ Market limbo. It is too early for new crops, so there were the usual few vendors at the Montclair Farmer’s Market on Saturday: Vacchiano Farms selling their meat and delicious potpies, Pickle-icious (bet you can’t guess what they sell) and Tree-Licious Orchards with their apples, amazing apple doughnuts, carrots and a few other winter vegetables.
The lovely Tree-Licious people are taking a well-deserved break before all the spring produce starts coming in April. So I ended up taking home a huge box of apples as they were going cheap, and I love a bargain.
To use some of the apples we made delicious apple, pecan and date muffins, a healthy snack for both kids and grown ups. The Ladies™ and a school friend helped me make them, I use help in a very loose sense of the word, actually it just involved them licking the bowl, but at least they took an interest in my cooking, even if they did have an ulterior motive.
Apple, pecan and date muffins – makes 1 dozen
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softenened
- ½ cup superfine sugar (that’s caster sugar for you Brits)
- 1 cup self-rising flour
- 2 eggs
- ¾ cup unsweetened apple sauce (I chopped apples, added a bit of water and simmered for about 10 mins then mashed with a potato masher)
- ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ cup chopped pecan
- ½ cup chopped dates
- 1 small red apple, thinly sliced
- Sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put the cupcake wrappers in a 12-cup muffin pan.
Place the butter, sugar, flour and egg into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and pale, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the applesauce, cinnamon, pecans and dates.
Spoon the batter into the cups. Lay the apple slices on top and sprinkle with some sugar.
Bake for 25 minutes. Remove pan from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Then remove cupcakes and cool on a rack.
So please email me if you have any good apple recipes. Merci Tante MoMo for the apple and almond tart recipe, will try that soon! Even though I have given away a few dozen apples the box does not seem to be going down much.
4 March 2011 § 1 Comment
We miss my in-house baker. We have been very lucky and have had fresh bread baked most days for the past three weeks. We’ve had ciabatta, white rolls, whole-wheat loaves and sesame seed bread. My parents came to visit and my father made delicious fresh bread just about every other day. I love the way the smell fills the house, and love watching that magical transformation of a few modest ingredients. He always travels with a packet of yeast and a well-used photocopy of a recipe. It has taken him years to master his technique, and I will admit he is now a pretty good baker. I will learn to make bread one day, it just seems a bit too scientific for my slapdash, throw it all together style of cooking.