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Monthly Archives: April 2016

Ciabatta James Morton Style

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Ciabatta is that lovely bread distinguished by all those holes! It’s light and flavoursome, keeps well and is also amazing toasted or made into bruschetta. In need of  a reliable recipe, I consulted James Morton in his great book Brilliant Bread for how to make this bread.

I was making ciabatta for the first time this week. I had friends over for dinner to celebrate the arrival of a shearers’ table which has been sojourning in the Southern Highlands for too long. I had hot-smoked a side of salmon and wanted some nice bread to serve it with. I ended up serving it with dill pickles, creme fraiche, focaccia and the ciabatta loaves. Here’s a photo of the hot-smoked salmon. For the recipe on how to hot smoke, check the recipe from my post on hot-smoking.

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Ciabatta can be tricky to make as the dough is very wet and hard to handle, so be prepared for this. James suggests using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, which makes the kneading easier.

I discovered that James has a simpler recipe online. It looks good, and I am keen try his “pared down” version.  See James’ simple ciabatta here.

But here is the recipe from James’ book Brilliant Bread that I have made successfully.

Ingredients

300g strong white flour
100g plain flour
7g instant yeast
10g salt
200g sourdough starter
350g tepid water
Semolina, for dusting

Method

Into the bowl of your electric mixer (I used my KitchenAid), rub the flours, yeast and salt, keeping the yeast and salt on separate sides of the bowl.  Add the starter and water and form into a extremely wet dough.

I followed James’ instructions for the electric mixer, here, although you could knead by hand for 10-15 minutes. Beat the dough with the paddle attachment of the mixer until it comes away from the sides and easily passes the windowpane test.

Cover your bowl with cling film (I use a shower cap) and leave to prove. This can be 2 hour room temperature prove or leave for 10-12 hours in the fridge. The dough should have at least doubled in size.

Turn the dough out on to a heavily floured surface. Using floured hands, fold the dough in half so both the top and bottom are both floured. Move it around a little to make sure the bottom is totally coated, and add more flour to the top. Flatten very gently into a  rough rectangle, then cut into 4 strips, being very careful not to deflate the dough and lose those bubbles which will be your holes!

Gently transfer each strip onto a heavily floured tea towel. As you move them, stretch them out until they are long and “slipper-like”. The loaves don’t need to be exact they are after all rustic loaves. Leave to prove on the tea towel for about 1 hour, or until wobbly and noticeably increased in size.

About 40 minutes before you bake, preheat your baking surface in the oven set at  240 degrees C or 220 degrees C fan forced.

Turn the ciabattas (be very gentle) on to a board dusted with semolina, so what was the bottom is now the top – this helps to redistribute the bubbles for a better crumb. Slide the loaves on to the hot baking surface and throw 1/4 cup of water on to the sides of the oven.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. (I think I could have baked my loaves a little longer – they were not brown enough).

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Preserved Lemons

 

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Preserved lemons are the easiest and one of the nicest ways to make use of a lemon bounty.

In late summer, earlier this year, I was the lucky recipient of lot of beautiful lemons from an old tree in Burradoo, in the beautiful Southern Highlands of NSW. The lemons were mostly quite big and thick skinned, with a mild tang. They were well used in my kitchen, for several weeks. Lemon cake and lemon curd were obvious candidates for the produce.

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I also made a jar of preserved lemons for a visit to my Palm Beach haven. I’ve made preserved lemons a few times, using various recipes. I turned this time to see what Jamie said on the subject. The following is adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe.

Ingredients

Fennel seeds
Coriander seeds
Cinnamon stick
Peppercorns
Bay Leaf
Sea salt
Large fat Lemons

Method

You will need a good preserving style of  jar for this recipe. Make sure the jar is clean, there’s no need to sterilise.  The jar should also have a strong clasp or well fitting lid. The jar should be airtight.

In a bowl, mix the spices and the sea salt. Cut a cross into the lemons, almost to the base, but making sure that the quarters stay together. Push the seasoned salt into the lemon segments. This can be tricky as the the lemons are slippery, but persevere.

Pack the lemons as tightly as possible into the jar. The less space there is between the lemons the more attractive it will look and you won’t need to use so much salt. As you layer the lemons, juice will be squeezed from the lemons. Make sure the lemons are covered with juice – you can top up with additional lemon juice if needed.

Close the lid and put the jar into a cupboard away from the light. The lemons will be ready after one month of preserving. Jamie says that the lemons will last for about 2 years – I have usually used them all before then!

To use, discard the flesh and pith and use the rind with grilled chicken, lamb or fish, and in Moroccan tagines and casseroles.

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Plum and Cranberry Soda Bread Muffins

 

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I wasn’t quite sure what to call these muffins! They are inspired by the recipe for Irish soda bread but, like all good muffins, are fruit filled and quite moist.

They came about when I was researching soda bread and found this great recipe from Jack Monroe for Rhubarb and Ginger Soda Bread from her blog Cooking on a Bootstrap. I was very impressed with her helpful suggestion about how to make a buttermilk substitute, by adding lemon juice to ordinary milk. I also liked that she added rhubarb to the traditional soda bread recipe.

So I decided to make muffins, using the main ingredients for soda bread – flour, bi-carb and lemon juice soured milk as the buttermilk substitute. I added an egg, as muffin recipes really need that enrichment.

My recipe has both fresh fruit and dried fruit. I think both are good – I suggest you go with whatever is seasonal for the fresh fruit, and any fried fruit would work well.

These muffins have no butter or oil, so are quite healthy. You could cut right down on the sugar if you really wanted a super-good-for-you muffin.

The result was moist, full of gorgeous spices and delicious on its own. A little yoghurt with the muffin would be nice, or even butter…!

Ingredients

200mls semi-skimmed milk
Juice of half a lemon
250g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 free-range egg lightly beaten
3 plums (chopped) or any other stone fruit or other fruit such as apples or pears
2 tbls dried cranberries or other dried fruit
100gms brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Demerara sugar for sprinkling.

Method

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan forced. Line 6 silicon muffin moulds with muffin papers. If you don’t have these moulds, use an ordinary 6 hole muffin tin. Or you can use a smaller 12 cup muffin tin for daintier muffins.
Pour the milk into a jug or a cup and squeeze in the lemon juice. Leave to stand for a minute or two to allow the milk to curdle. Add the beaten egg.
In a large bowl, combine the flour and bicarb and briefly mix through. Add the chopped plums, with the dried cranberries. Stir in the sugar and spices.
Make a well in the centre of the flour/fruit ingredients and pour in the curdled milk, lemon and egg mixture.
Stir together, remembering not to overmix as muffins definitely need only rough mixing.
Spoon the mixture into muffin cases in your moulds or tin. Just before putting into the oven, sprinkle the tops of the muffins with demerara sugar for added crunch.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the muffin comes out clean.
Serve warm on their own or with yogurt or butter.

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Double Chocolate Tart

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I call this Double Chocolate Tart as it has a rich dark biscuit pastry chocolate shell, filled with  – wait for it – dark and milk chocolate! So maybe it’s a triple chocolate tart?

This was our dessert for Easter Sunday lunch, on March 27. It’s rich, dense, bitter sweet and a little goes a long way.

I served the tart with strawberries, some of them chocolate dipped, and fresh figs, which in Sydney in our warm and sunny Autumn, are ripe and plentiful. And whipped cream, just to cut through the “chocolateyness”.

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Ingredients

For the pastry:

175g unsalted butter
75g icing sugar
2  free-range egg yolks
200g plain flour
50g dutch cocoa

For the filling:

150g milk chocolate
150g dark chocolate
400ml cream
2 free range eggs +1 egg yolk lightly beaten

To decorate:

Strawberries, dark chocolate, fresh figs, or any other fresh fruit of your choosing. Orange segments would be lovely!

Method

I make this pastry recipe in the food processor, but you could do it in an electric mixer or by hand. I use the food processor because it’s easy.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Cream the butter and icing sugar together in a food processor. Add the eggs and yolk and mix thoroughly. Sift the flour and cocoa. Have 25ml of cold water ready. Add a little of the water and all of the flour/cocoa mix and pulse using the processor, stopping every now and then to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add as much of the water as you need so that the pastry comes together into a ball. Remove from the processor, wrap in cling wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry on a surface dusted with flour  until about 5mm thick. This pastry is quite soft and delicate, be gentle, and you may need a little extra flour for rolling out. Line a 18cm or 20cm loose-bottomed tin with a circle of baking paper. The smaller tin gives you a slightly higher filling, the bigger a flatter tart.

Carefully line the tin with the pastry. Have a bit of overhang of pastry at the top – you can trim this after baking. Chill for 30 minutes. Line the pastry case with more baking paper and baking beans or rice and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and the beans and return the pastry case to the oven for 5 minutes until golden. Leave to cool in the tin, then trim any pastry edges.

To make the filling, place both kinds of chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Put the cream in a saucepan on the stovetop and gently bring to a simmer. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes while the chocolate melts, then stir to make sure the chocolate and cream is combined.  Stir through the lightly beaten eggs, then pour the mixture into the tart shell.

Put into the oven, turn the temperature down to 140 degrees C. Bake for 1 hour or until the filling is just set and wobbles in the middle if you gently move the tin. The shallower the filling, the less time the tart will take. As with so much cooking, your cook’s judgment is needed here to know when the filling is just right!

Remove from the oven and let cool in the tin. Place in the fridge and chill for at least an hour. I made the chocolate tart the day before and chilled overnight. Bring the tart to room temperature before serving.

Serve with any fresh fruit you fancy. I dipped some strawberries in melted chocolate, and scattered these with fresh strawberries and fig quarters on the the top of the cake. A dollop of whipped cream looked good too.

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