Saturday, 8 March 2014

A Baking Saturday

It's been a weekend of baking!  It started with a first attempt at a Zendala which is a fusion of Zentangle patterns and mandalas.  What doesn't show up so well in the picture is the light glitter from the gell roll pens I used to give the whole thing some colour.  I like the usual black and white but wanted to jolly this one up a bit.  Because it's spring :) Nearly.
Then I tried this.  It's another recipe from one of the birthday gift baking books and it's made with WINE.  Quite a lot of wine :).  The basic cake was easy to make and the scent of ground cardamoms, lemons, oranges and wine wafting from the oven was very lovely.  The recipe then calls for a syrup to be made and drizzled over the cake to be absorbed but this didn't work.  In fact I think it spoiled what had been a real winner.
That didn't stop the cake being devoured.  While it was still warm this Bad Thing happened!  If you want to try, it's from the Hairy Bikers Big Book of Baking and (without the syrup) is bloomin' lovely.  I predict this will be taken to many girlfriends houses, nom nom.
The bread experiments continued too as I had another go at using the banneton.  I make this bread differently each time, mixing recipes, techniques and rise times.  This is what I took out of the fridge this morning.  This beastie had been in its basket in the fridge overnight, quietly rising.
And this splat is what it looked like after I'd turning it out of its basket.  I added the slashes to the top and put it into a hot oven immediately.  That's where I went wrong.  I should have given the splat an extra hour rise again and look like a proper loaf but I forgot. 
Then I waited.  Did you know bread "sings"?  When loaves are taken out of the oven, if they have a good crust as it cools down it makes little splitty, cracky, creaky sounds.  This is called singing.

And this one sang it's head off.  And despite being denied its full rising time, tasted gorgeous.  This is becoming my favourite part of the weekend, when I wake up early and sneak downstairs to bake the bread during the quiet, still time of the morning, snuggled up in big goonie working my way through a pot of coffee, listening to my bread singing and waiting for the rest of the house to wake up.
We decided we needed some muffins for after lunch.  Acting on the boys advice, I adapted the thermomix recipe I posted a couple of weeks ago and made a marshmallow and choc chip version.  I've made this basic recipe many times now and these can be knocked together and put in the oven within 15 mins so it's super quick.  There weren't many left to take a picture of so they all got pushed together to look like lots.
There are soooo many recipes to be tried and eaten.  All my recipe books have bits of paper hanging out of them where ideas have been marked, ready to be tested "when there's time"  but I'm realising that special time is never going to magically appear so I'd better just get on with it.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Fougasse Night!

There is something wrong with our TV.  It has football on it.  So I spent a lovely time having a go at one of the recipes in my new bread book. It's "Dough" by Richard Bertinet who has his bakery and runs classes in nearby Bath.

Here's the recipe.  In the opening pages he describes (with pics) how to slap and thump the basic dough.  There's also a very useful DVD with the book and you can see it thanks to you tube here.
I found slapping and thumping the basic dough a bit of a faff in comparison with my earlier breads made using James' Morton's Brilliant Bread book where you weigh out 4 things, mix them up and stick it all in the fridge overnight.  It took a good 20 mins of thwumping to get my dough looking like Richard's and the violence of the activity moved the kitchen table halfway across the kitchen.  Once it was made and rested for 1 hour and the table had been restored to its usual position, I shaped the dough like in the book.  Sort of.
 I made half the quantity of the recipe so had three lumps of dough to shape.
 You're supposed to slide the shape onto a pre-heated tray in the oven, and mist inside the oven with a water spray.  When I slid my dough onto the tray it lost it's shape and went wonky but I think it has a bready charm.  I didn't have a water spray so I threw a quarter cup of water onto the floor of the oven.  Seemed to work.  
My second and third attempts were more successful.  With these I didn't slide onto the heated tray, I placed the metal tray I'd shaped the dough on straight onto the heated tray in the oven.  One thing worth saying is that although I said the slapping of the dough took a while, it was absolutely worth it because this is the nicest bread I've made.  If I'd bought one of these from a bakery I'd be really happy with it!  However, as Himself pointed out, they're not going to make very good sandwiches.  

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Mutton Years

There was no blogging over the weekend due to birthday japes, curry and cake, coffee in bed and lazy times. With another year in the bag  I fear I have entered the Mutton Years.  That short skirt which seemed socially acceptable at 6.45 in the morning is not by 11.30. Now I am aware that I have reached a certain age, I shall make the most of my short skirts and wear them with defiant abandon - as long as my knees hold out.  Speaking of knees, the couch to 5K running programme is entering it's final fortnight with 3 runs per week of 25 mins and no walking or stopping.  None.  Just running. On the plus side, nothing hurts at the moment and I get to run past loads of snowdrops.

In addition to loads of lovely books, I received some wicker bannetons to help my bread making.  They support the dough as it rises and create the nice circles you see on artisan bread.

The finished loaf below with its circles and my clumsy cuts.  Next time I'll cut in a square shape round the top.  (You make cuts to allow the dough to open in a controlled way rather than just splitting.   There are other reasons too but I can't remember them.)
Another birthday gift was a jar of home made marmalade which is becoming a bit of an annual ritual and I don't know what I'll do if my friend gets bored with her Seville orange based activities each January!
On the creative front I've been planning what I'll get the girls to make when I'm hosting our crafting day in a few weeks.  I've been experimenting with some back to basics crafting, using minimal tools, paints, cards, papers, stamps etc.  Below are shabby chic flowers and leaves made without using scissors.  It's brown paper torn from one of my birthday delivery boxes, some pages from a 50p charity shop book, a white pencil and some buttons and string.
I like the effect and will use them to make a scrapbook cover.
Finally, THIS is a brilliant thing!  It's a puffy spritzer puff I got here.
It's great for using with felt pens or any marker pens you may have.  You push the pen in, lock it in place by turning the little screw, squeeze the bubble and....
Voila!  A nicely controlled spray of colour which isn't so wet it mushes up your paper.  Genius!