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Monthly Archives: February 2022

Sourdough Wholemeal Loaf

Sourdough in all its forms is the best bread and I continue to add to my store of great stand by bread recipes. I don’t make as much wholemeal as I should – something I should do something about!

This is a lovely wholemeal sourdough loaf that is great for just about anything – fresh with butter or dipped in olive oil or toasted.

But it really makes great sandwiches. I’m particularly fond of an egg and mayo sandwich, as pictured here. But choose whatever filling you fancy.

It can be shaped as a batard in a proving basket and then baked in a pot, or equally baked in a loaf tin to make it easier to slice for the aforementioned sandwiches.

The recipe is based on my go-to sourdough method, with some tweaks for wholemeal. I have given instructions for both the batard in a cast iron pot and the loaf tin versions.

Ingredients

150g strong wholemeal flour

300g strong white flour

150g wholemeal sourdough starter 

325g tepid water

2 teaspoons honey 

10g salt

Method

Weighing, mixing, autolyse
Weigh both flours into a large bowl. Weigh the sourdough starter and add, followed by the water. Add the honey. Mix everything together very roughly, in order to incorporate the ingredients.

Cover the bowl and leave for 30 minutes to autolyse.  I use a clear plastic shower cap as a cover, as it fits nicely over most sized bowls. A plastic bag is fine too. The autolyse is an important step to activate fermentation. 

After the autolyse add the salt to the mixture. Now you can choose to knead the mixture using a dough hook in an electric stand mixer, knead by hand or use the stretch and fold method, essentially a no knead way of developing gluten in the dough. I strongly advise using a dough hook in a stand mixer – I have a KitchenAid which I swear by. You can really develop the gluten in the dough, which makes the dough much easier to pre-shape and then shape. *

Kneading and proving 
Using a mixer, mix the dough for 6 minutes on the lowest speed, then 4 minutes on the next speed up. The dough should be lovely and stretchy, and pass the windowpane test. If you pull and stretch a small section, it should be translucent. Cover the bowl again and leave the dough in a warm place to prove for about 4 hours. I usually do a couple stretch and folds too – one straight after mixing, and one half way through the prove. 

After the first prove of 4 hours the dough should have increased in size by about 50%.

Pre-shaping
Carefully remove the dough from the bowl with the help of a dough scraper onto an unfloured work surface. Definitely no flour needed! I use an oversized wooden board, but a bench top will work too. The dough will be stretchy, and shouldn’t be too delicate, but don’t be too rough! Slide the scraper underneath the dough, lifting it from underneath. You will feel the scraper catch the dough as it lifts it up. I try not to remove the scraper, just move it round all of the dough in a circle. Sometimes the scraper sticks, and you need to pull it out, remove the sticky dough, and then go under again, but the more you move around the dough, the tighter the dough becomes and the less likely to stick. Do this circular movement with the scraper a few times until the dough forms a round, wobbly ball that roughly holds its shape. Leave for 20-30 minutes to let the gluten relax.

Shaping
This is where you can shape for a batard in a proving basket to be baked in a pot or for a loaf tin. It’s important that you are super careful with the shaping as you don’t want to damage the dough you have worked so hard to develop.

Fo the batard shape, put the pre-shaped dough onto the work surface, lightly floured. Imagine the dough is sort of square shape. Take the two sides of the square shape that are opposite each other and gently stretch away from each other. Fold these stretched bits over each other in the centre of the dough. Turn the dough round 90 degrees and do the same with the other two sides of the square. Now that you have folded the 4 sides of the square, fold 2 of the opposing corners in the same way, and then fold the other opposing corners. Now roll up the dough like a Swiss roll, it doesn’t matter which side you roll up. Press the seam to seal.

If using a proving basket, carefully move the dough into a batard shaped proving basket, with the smooth side of the dough on the bottom and the seam side on top.

If using a loaf tin, butter a large loaf tin generously. Move the dough and place seam side down, into the tin. 

Second proving
While you can prove your dough for 2-3 hours at room temperature, I advocate the retarded or fridge prove, and this method serves me well. Leave the dough at room temperature for an hour then place in the fridge for 8-12 hours. Doing this at night works well as it allows you to bake your bread first thing the next morning.

Baking
For the pot method, pre-heat your oven to really hot – 250 degrees C fan-forced. Put the pot in when you begin to pre-heat, and leave for 20-30 minutes.

Turn your dough out of the proving basket onto a thin flat baking tray or peel, well dusted with semolina. The pretty side of the dough is now on top. Open the oven and carefully take the lid of the pre-heated pot off. You can then slide the shaped dough into the hot pot.

At this point you can score the dough using a lame or a very sharp serrated edge knife. For a batard, score with 1 or 2 long cuts down the length of the dough. Put the lid back on the pot. Turn the oven to 220 degrees C fan-forced. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 20-30 minutes with the lid off. I have experimented endlessly with this latter baking time, and have come to the conclusion that the longer baking time gives a richer, browner loaf, which is what I prefer.

If baking in a loaf tin, pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees C fan-forced 30 minutes prior to baking. If you have one, use a baking or pizza stone. Place this in the oven at the time of pre-heating. Once the 30 minutes is up, to add steam to the oven, put a cast iron pan or a baking dish with water in it in the bottom of the oven. Put the loaf tin in the oven onto the heated stone.

Turn the oven to 220 degrees C fan-forced and bake for 45-50 minutes. The loaf should be dark brown on top.

For either the batard or the loaf, once cooked, remove from the oven, take out of the pot/tin and leave to cool for an hour.

Slice for sandwiches. Of course like any good sourdough, lovely with plenty of butter and home made jam!

*If you don’t have an electric mixer, I recommend the stretch and fold method – see previous post on Sourdough, Ultimate Bread here for how to do this. As for traditional kneading, there is plenty of information on the internet to guide you.

Sugar Plum Fairy Cakes

Everyone loves a cupcake, and a fairy cake with its little cake wings is so pretty.

I recently picked up some sugar plums, a late summer fruit. These are delicate little plums, perfect for adding a sugar coating.

So with a nod to Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker and The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, here’s a recipe for little cakes with a sugar plum topping. I made 6 large cupcakes for the recipe, but you could just as easily make 12 small cupcakes.


Ingredients 

Little cakes

125g self-raising flour
125g caster sugar
125g butter
2 large free-range eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

Creme Patissiere

240 mls milk
2 free range egg yolks
35g sugar
10g plain flour
15g cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

Sugar Plums

1 free range egg white
100g caster sugar
6 sugar plums or any small plums

Icing sugar for dusting

Method

For the cakes, preheat the oven to 180 degrees For this recipe you are making 6 large cupcakes – you should get 6 good size cakes from the mixture. Put 6 large paper cases in a Texas muffin tin.

Put all the ingredients except the milk in a food processor and blitz till smooth. Add the milk while pulsing to make a soft, dropping consistency.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases, filling the cases equally.

Place the pan into the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the cakes are cooked and golden on top.

Take the cakes in their cases out of the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

To make the creme patissiere, whisk the egg yolks with sugar until pale and slightly thickened. Whisk in the flour and cornflour.

Put the milk into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Pour about a third of the hot milk over the egg yolk mixture. Pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan with the milk.

Bring to a boil, whisking until the custard thickens. Cook for a couple more minutes to cook out the cornflour. Remove from heat, add the vanilla and whisk in the butter.

Pour the custard into a bowl and cover with cling wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin forming.

To make the sugar plums, preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Whisk the egg white to loosen. Sprinkle the caster sugar onto a plate.

Dip each plum in the egg white, then roll the caster sugar to coat. Place the plums in a baking dish lined with baking paper and place in the preheated oven.

Bake the plums for about 15 minutes or until the sugar has melted and the plums are crusty.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Once cool, cut each plum into two, removing the stone. The sugar will melt after a few hours, but the plums will still be baked and sweet.

To assemble the sugar plum cakes: take each cake and cut out the top of each cake. Cut each top in half. Put a couple of teaspoonfuls of creme patissiere on each cake.

Position the cut cake pieces on either side of each cake. Place one or two plum halves into the centre of each cake.

Dust the cakes liberally with icing sugar before serving.

Oven Baked Chicken Risotto

I posted this recipe from Australia’s wonderful Bill Granger during lockdown the year before last. It seems so strange to be talking about lockdown in 2020 when we are still dealing with the pandemic…

It’s quick and easy because it’s an oven baked risotto. It makes sense to let the oven do the cooking rather than spend all that time stirring on the stove top.

Recently, a friend told me that this dish is her go to recipe for risotto, as it’s so much easier than cooking risotto the traditional way.

So I thought it’s about time I posted it again, to encourage reluctant risotto cooks to give it a go!

Bill’s recipe has leeks and asparagus as the veggies. You could replace the leeks and/or asparagus with whatever you fancy – zucchini, peas, broad beans or even tomatoes for a red hued risotto.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
500g chicken breast or thighs, cut into thin strips
1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, sliced into rounds
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
250g Arborio rice
500ml chicken stock
250ml white wine + extra if needed
1 bunch of asparagus, sliced on the diagonal
A handful of grated parmesan or pecorino cheese, plus extra to serve
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large casserole dish on the stove top over a high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook, stirring frequently for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and set aside.

Add the remaining olive to the pan, then the onion and leek, and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until the onion and leek are soft. Add the lemon zest and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat the grains in the oil. Add the chicken stock and white wine, and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.

Cover the casserole and put in the oven for 20 minutes. At this point, if the risotto seems to have absorbed all the liquid, add a splash or two of white wine. Add asparagus, return the chicken to the casserole and bake for a few minutes or until the asparagus is just tender, the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked. Bill says to do this for 3-4 minutes, I found it took more like 10 minutes to fully cook the rice.

Stir in parmesan or pecorino and season with salt and pepper. Serve with extra cheese.

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