Monday, December 20, 2010

Blurry bread

I'm getting my mojo back for making bread, just in time for Christmas. Unfortunately, I'm losing it photographically.
This looks better than it looks, and is generally OK - a light crumb and a crisp crust. Here are the ingredients:

230 g strong wholemeal flour
170 g very strong white flour
40 g wholemeal rye flour
4 g salt

260 g water
1 tsp muscovado sugar
4 g dried yeast
1 glug of rapeseed oil added while kneading

I baked it on the stone at 240 for 20 minutes, then 220 for another 20 or so. No steam, and I left the fan on.

Actually, given that it's >50% wholemeal, it's surprisingly light. I had used mostly a folding method letting the dough rise through the afternoon.

What speculation can I make? I think the most important thing is the temperature. I really have to accept that I need the full force of the oven. I think the small amount of sugar helps to give a good crust. I also think I'm better off using a lower percentage of water than is orthodox - here it's 60%.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Different ... better?

The real point of this loaf was to use up various odds of flour, so the dry ingredients were:

80 g strong white flour
220 g strong wholemeal flour
50 g plain white flour
50 g smoked wholemeal flour
5 g salt

With 25 g olive oil and liquid consisting of:

260 g potato water
4 g dried yeast

Pretty average, but during kneading, I glimpsed the remains of half a lemon I'd squeezed into a marinade yesterday and thought ... what if? So I grated a little of the peel and a few drops of juice into the mix.

Kneading and cooking were normal, and I'm not showing a photo - it looks the same as any other whole-ish meal loaf prepared in the banneton.

But the taste is nice. The lemon's noticeable but subtle. It somehow feels a bit christmassy, which can't be bad. I don't think it would work with white flour, though.

I think one thing I've never done is cook a white loaf using the banneton, so maybe that's next up.

Friday, December 3, 2010


I'm getting to terms with my new oven, and this is about the best loaf I've yet made in it. However ...

The first thing i decided was to use less rye flour than I've tended to use recently. I love the taste, but it has relatively low gluten so you're never going to get a very light bread. I noticed that flours like Dove's Farm Malthouse have around 3.6% rye flour so I aimed for 5%. I slightly overdid it, giving the following quantities:

400g strong white flour
30g wholemeal rye flour
4g salt

250g water
5g active dried yeast
half a teaspoon honey

I tried the folding method, which some people recommend over traditional kneading. After mixing the ingredients, and autolysing for 20 minutes or so, you flatten the dough out, fold it in three, like folding an A4 letter, rotate 90 degrees and repeat five or six times. You do this (or rather, I did this) five times during the initial rising, and once more before proofing. The feel of the dough was at least as good as if I had kneaded it in the usual way, so it was encouraging.

Before proofing, I rolled the dough in poppy seeds.

Then to face the oven. I've accepted the fact that I need to use the full force of the oven - 240C (reducing to 215 ish after 15 mins), but I've also decided that it's a good idea to turn off the air circulation. The only way to do this is to turn off the oven's electricity supply after it's lit, and the unfortunate thing is that this means the oven light goes out too. I also used steam by pouring a cup of water into a baking tray beneath the bread.

Here's the result. The loaf is rather unevenly cooked, probably because of the lack of air circulation, so I should have turned it I suppose. But at its best, this has a proper crust, better than any I've had recently.

Here's the however, however. I haven't shown the inside of the bread because there was a clear split between two layers, a vestige of the folding process. It wasn't fatal, but did mean the slices were in danger of falling apart. Maybe the surface of the dough dried a bit during the rising, and it would be helpful to spray water on it?

Never mind, it's lovely bread. The rye flavour is very faint, but the poppy seeds punched well above their weight.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Smoked bread again

Another semi-successful loaf, this time using the last of my smoked malted flour.

520g smoked malted flour
5g salt
10g rapeseed oil

300g water
10g honey
5g dried yeast

I used a fairly basic quick method. 10 minutes autolysing before kneading, then about 2 hours rising, and 90 mins proofing in a banneton.

Then eggwashed and some salt sprinkled.

Into 240C oven on the stone, with some steam for 15 mins, then reduced to 220 for another 25 minutes.

As you can maybe see, the crumb is a bit flaky. I suspect this is a function of the low water content in the mix (<60%) although the dough felt perfectly fine when mixing. The smoky taste is more pronounced than previously, but is a lovely accompaniment to a bit of stilton.

The crust is still soft, but I think I have to accept that's all I'm ever going to get

until I build a wood-fired oven in the backyard

and I'm never going to do that.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Another mackerel

The second mackerel of the weekend and I wanted to do something else. Yesterday I'd gutted it and taken the head off (apparently this, particularly the gutting, slows down any decay). At first I thought of taking off the fillets and simply frying or grilling them, but decided to go for something more cheffy. So I boned the fish, something I'd never done before. Stop sniggering. It means cutting around the backbone, so that the two flanks remain joined. What you then have is a flat, whole fish. It makes it easier to do what I then did, which is to spread the following over the inside of the fish, and then roll it and tie it fairly tightly with string.

salt & pepper
1 diced shallot
a few capers
a few herbs (sage, tarragon, some frozen coriander)
a sprinkle of lime juice (I'm sure lemon would be ok, but I had half a lime to hand)

Season the outside with S&P, sprinkle some evoo and put the package in a 180C oven for 20 minutes.

It's faff, but it's worth it. The tightness of the package merges the stuffing with the fish, making for very tasty and quite substantial eating.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Leek and rabbit

I have a friend who is currently concerned about slaughterhouse practices, which has almost made her a vegetarian.

But consider the life of the wild rabbit. A short life, filled with sex and hopping, ended quickly by a shot. Most rabbits, I like to believe, are actually on the job when shot: it's the only time they're still enough. Wild rabbits are the closest we have to an endlessly renewable source of meat. We should eat more of them.

I suppose it's not as amazing as pairing strawberries with black olives, but I'm willing to bet there's a similar kind of match-made-in-heaven-ness about rabbit flesh and leeks. I've just had a bowl, and then another, of rabbit and leek stew, and it was extraordinarily good. I'll probably never quite achieve it again, but while I remember, here's what I did.

Flour 350g diced wild rabbit and brown it in olive oil. Turn down the heat and add:

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium leek, trimmed and sliced into 1cm slices
2 cloves of garlic, chopped

Let these soften, then add:

1 medium carrot, sliced
1 unassuming parsnip, sliced
about this much celeriac (a little less than the carrot)
a few small potatoes
a thumbsize lump of ginger, half sliced, half grated (I got bored with slicing)

Add enough chicken stock to nearly cover everything. Toss in a bayleaf or two, a splash each of fish sauce (nam pla) and white wine vinegar. Stir and simmer, covered, on the lowest gas for 90 minutes.

Ladies and gentlemen, that's all. Not even salt. (The fish sauce and stock take care of that.) The prevailing taste in the sauce is that of the braised leeks, and I guess that, by happy serendipity, the other ingredients rounded it out.

Incidentally, in researching this, I find that there's a well-known and -regarded rabbit rescue centre in Leek, Staffs. That can't be mere coincidence.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bream lover

Probably nothing revolutionary about this, but here we go.

1 bream, bought at Lewisham market
half a head of fennel, bought at Blackheath farmers market
two small shallots, finely chopped
juice of half a lemon
olive oil
salt & pepper
a small glass of Dolin vermouth (other vermouths are available)

Gut the fish and trim off the spiky bits
Rub with salt and pepper inside and out

Slice the fennel and place in the bottom of a baking dish, or a foil package
Put the fish on top and  put the shallot in the cavity. (I also put in a sprig of rosemary and tarragon, but frankly I don't think it had any effect on the result)
Sprinkle, or if you like, drizzle, olive oil, lemon juice and vermouth over everything
Cover the dish, or close up the foil envelope
Into a preheated 180C oven for 30 mins

Served with boiled potatoes and spinach, this will serve one hungry person, or if you took the flesh off the bone, I suppose two skinny girls might be satisfied by it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Maybe this time

I think, although I haven't tasted it yet, I've made the best loaf yet in the new oven.

310g (my hand slipped!) strong white flour
60g rye flour
50g strong wholemeal flour
4g salt

150g apple juice
150g water
4g dried yeast

A simple procedure: mixed, left for 20 mins, kneaded, 3 hrs rising, knockback, put in banneton, 1 hr proving. Then eggwashed and sprinkled with salt.

I'd been baking apple pies so the oven was hot. I racked it up to 240C for the first ten minutes, reducing to 220 for remaining 40, and put water in a baking tray to create steam.

It looks OK, I think, and the taste ought to be OK too. In case I don't update this post, let's just assume it is. One of the things that perversely might have helped is that it's cold today, so the heating's on, so it was easier to put the dough in a warm place.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Slightly different mackerel

Bread making might return tomorrow, or sometime next week. With cold weather forecast, any excuse to have the oven on is a good one. This entry is just to note something new I did with mackerel tonight.

I medium mackerel (small would be better) gutted
1 quarter of a big red onion
salt & pepper

juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon grain mustard
half a teaspoon cumin seeds
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
about 1 red chili, chopped (I used my frozen harvest)

Grind the marinade ingredients together in pestle and mortar till the cumin seeds are cracked. Coat inside and outside of the mackerel. Stuff the fish with the onion, season on both sides, then pour the remaining marinade over. Wrap in foil and bake at 190C for 20 minutes.

It's all pretty basic, but was the first time I'd used chili, and this was only because I'd no ginger. Using red onion was also a bit new.

The two benefits of this were the prettiness of the red onion. As it was barely cooked, it still had a pretty pink colour (which went well with the accompanying broad beans). And the heat of the chillies was strong but warming rather than violent.

I also stuck a sprig of rosemary in the gut of the fish, but I'm not sure it made any difference. My rosemary's a bit mild at this time of year.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A heavenly marriage á trois

Just noting this - again, not bread-related - because some things are so good together we shouldn't forget.

So today, to use up the left-over puff pastry, I've made a salmon parcel. Actually, this recipe is also proof of the value of the freezer.

enough puff pastry to wrap ...
1 salmon fillet (frozen, as it happened, but fresh would be good. Better probably as I'll explain)
1 piece of prosciutto
a few sage leaves
salt & pepper
a beaten egg

Lay the salmon on the pastry, season with s&p, put the sage on top, wrap the prosicutto around it, season again, then wrap the pastry around it in a parcel, sealing and glazing with the egg.
Bake at 220C for about 20 minutes. Fresh or thawed salmon will probably be quicker. The frozenness meant that the pastry immediately above the fish took longer to cook than the edges, which isn't perfect.

However, the point of this is that the three main flavours are magic together, even if the prosciutto basically melts away in the cooking.

I served this with peas and broad beans, also frozen, and quickly steamed in the microwave. It's true that frozen peas are sweeter than fresh ones!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rabbit and leek pie

I'm still not happy with the bread the new oven's producing (had an absolute disaster yesterday), so here's something different: autumn on a plate.

300g diced wild rabbit
1 big leek, sliced into 1cm rounds
four slices of chorizo, roughly chopped
1 chili pepper, chopped (optional, unless it's a cold day)
1 clove garlic, crushed
herbs of your choice (I used a few sage leaves, finely chopped)
1 tablespoon plain flour
150 ml chicken stock
1 tablespoon cooking oil
a pack of puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 220C.
Warm up the oil in a saucepan, and add the chorizo. When the oil has coloured, increase the heat and brown the rabbit. (As it happens, I seemed to have got hold of a lazy rabbit, with more fat than usual. You may need to add more oil.)
Reduce the heat and add the leek, with the pepper, herbs and garlic. When it has softened, add the flour and stir till it's absorbed (about 5 minutes). Add the stock, and let everything simmer for about ten minutes. The stock should be thickened - if not, reduce it for a while. Season if necessary.
 Put the meat mixture into a pie dish, cover with (ready made, obviously) puff pastry. Pierce and decorate, and brush with beaten egg.
Into the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the pastry is brown.
Serve with steamed red cabbage.

Sorry, no photo of this. I just couldn't stop myself eating it!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bake off

BBC is currently showing a great series called the Great British Bake Off. It's not a particularly brilliant or original idea - a mix of Masterchef and the Apprentice - but it's ever so well done, with a thoroughly engaging presentation by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins (who is, by the way, one of the few famous Charlton supporters).

This week's programme was about bread, and the technical round required the contestants to make Paul Hollywood's crusty cob. The contestants were given the list of ingredients but not the method, and how to work out how to put them together for themselves. With varying results: one loaf was astonishingly flat.

I'm making the bread using the instructions almost word for word, although it's not exactly how I'd do it. (There's no autolysing stage, for example.) There are also various differences from the loaves I normally bake. I've never used butter, for example, and there's much more salt and yeast than I would usually use. Also it uses instant yeast, which I have used before, but not for a long time. I think the second-stage kneading is inadequate, and his estimate of 5 minutes for the first stage probably isn't enough (but I stuck to it).  I didn't stick to his baking time of 30 minutes. That was clearly not enough.

I suspect there are compromises. Hollywood would presumably prefer to use fresh yeast but the recipe has to be achievable without it.

So - how was it?

The dough was easy to work, as it should be, with 100% strong white flour, but I didn't feel I'd sufficiently kneaded it after 5 minutes. The first rise was terrific, climbing out of the mixing bowl well within an hour. As I've mentioned, I'd have felt happier giving a longer second kneading, but followed the instructions.

Proofing did result in some spreading, and so I put the loaf into the oven sooner than I might have, to put a stop to this. The spring wasn't as active as I hoped and so the bread is flatter than I'd like. (In the programme Hollywood put some emphasis on "tightening" up the dough before the second rise, but I couldn't see exactly what he was doing.) I wonder if all that salt had killed some yeast too early. The other point is that the dough was probably a bit too wet for a cob shape.

And I'm still unsure if my new oven's thermostat is correct. Actually, I'm pretty sure it isn't but I feel reluctant to turn it up to max every time. I probably need to overcome that reluctance.

And now I've cooled it etc, it's actually the worst bread I've made in ages! Slightly doughy, and it has a fairly unpleasant odour. The crust is ok but uninteresting.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cumin something something rye

My cupboard is beginning to be a bit cluttered with half-used bags of flour, so I'll probably be doing a few mixed-grain breads. I don't think I'd decided on that when I started this weekend's bread-making yesterday. In the morning I mixed up a sponge or biga as you please of 300g strong white flour and 300g liquid, including sugar and dried yeast. Partly because of other commitments, I decided to go for a long cold rise, so simply mixed the flour and liquid with a wooden spoon and put it in the fridge for 24 hours.

This morning I split the dough into two portions.

1. I added 100g of wholemeal spelt, salt and kneaded well. At this point I decided to give the dough two rises, so put it back into the fridge.

2. I added 50g rye flour and 50g strong wholemeal, and two teaspoons of cumin seeds. And salt. And similarly kneaded, and put into the fridge.

At 1500 I took the doughs out of the fridge and made a bloomer shape of the spelt mix, and four rolls of the cumin dough.

At 1615 into the oven at a bit under 200C (as I discovered when I used the oven thermometer after about 20 minutes) for 45 minutes.

I haven't tasted the spelt loaf yet, but the cumin rolls are really nice. The mix of flours alone gives an interesting taste, but what really makes the cumin come alive is eating it with cheddar cheese. I think the taste might be too much on its own, though, even though the amount I used is quite subtle.

I suppose one of the things you learn as you go on is that you need to tailor your bread to the way it's going to be eaten, even when you're only thinking about basic whitish sandwich bread.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Potato water bread

I've seen this advice several times: use water in which you've boiled potatoes as the liquid in your dough. I guess it's the vitamin C that leaches out of the spuds that is the trick, so after I made some mash yesterday, I drained off the cooking water, and kept it overnight in my super new fridge.

And this morning I'm trying it out in a fairly basic bread.

450g strong white flour
50 wholemeal rye flour
330g liquid inc 1.5 tps dried yeast and a tsp of honey
I pinch of salt

All mixed together at 1010, left to autolyse for 20 minutes, then kneaded. I don't know if this is recommended, but I've recently found that keeping your hands wet helps keep them clean while kneading. It probably adds a little water to the dough too, which is no bad thing. It's now rising in a fairly cool kitchen. (I'm using larger quantities these days, you may notice, as I'm now generally freezing half the bread I make - it's simply more efficient to do that. Oh, did I mention I now have a freezer?)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Smoked bread

Trying something new: Bacheldre's Oak-Smoked Organic Malted Flour. No idea what this will be like, so I'm starting with a basic procedure.

400g flour
5g rapeseed oil
300g liquid, inc tsp honey & tsp dried yeast

Mixed together at 1015. Autolyse of 20 mins, then hand-kneaded. Nice feel to the dough, and then left at kitchen temperature to rise.

Knocked back at 1200, and formed into two small boules. Oven at 1250, 210C, for 35 minutes. (I used a baking tray for this, which has cooked the bottom of the loaves quite strongly. )

The bread's a nice granary style taste, and the smoked flavour is, thankfully, quite subtle. I think I probably should have added more salt. But served with salted butter, it's very nice.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Rye bread

I've terminated Joe the Dough. There was no sign of yeast taking hold of it, and I didn't really want to keep a bacteria factory running.

In contrition, I'm trying my hand at rye bread. The main reason being that I bought rye flour to line the banneton, and it might be worth trying.

150g strong white flour
150g wholemeal rye flour
200g liquid (inc a full tsp of dried yeast)

All mixed up at 1530. The dough is heavy, and this will be a chewy bread, I feel fairly sure.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New things

1. Joe the dough: has quietened down, but still some bubbling. Smell is pleasanter but still not right, but I shouldn't be expecting it to be yet.

2. New oven: I haven't adjusted yet. Both recent loaves have come out too soft in the crust, which I think means I should up the temperature setting. I've been using 220c, so will try full blast 240 next time. Here's the result of my banneton baking:

3. Bakery bits: here they are. The banetton did its job in keeping the loaf from spreading, but I've clearly not got the knack of the grignette yet: the loaf above is supposed to slashed in a grid patter. Also slightly disappointed that the spiral pattern doesn't show on the loaf.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Such trivial things make me happy

This morning's post brought exciting things. Not just my new Charlton season ticket, but my banetton, grignette, and dough scraper.

The banetton is a proving basket made of coiled cane. The idea is to let the dough have its second rise in it, with the sides of the basket preventing stotting. (I'm sure stotting is the word, but I've not been able to find it online. It describes the way wet dough can spread after you've formed it into a loaf, leaving you with unpleasantly flat bread.)

The grignette (or lame) is a small sharp blade, used to cut a pattern on the surface on the bread before baking. It is extraordinary how much this can affect a loaf, and not just decoratively. The cut edges cook more, so provide a nice crunchy caramelised feature.

And the dough scraper does what it says. It helps keep the worktop and your hands clean, and is nearly essential when kneading very liquid doughs.

To test out this equipment I'm doing a fairly basic loaf:

200g strong white flour
100g wholemeal spelt
200g liquid, inc half a tsp sugar and a level tsp dried yeast
1 glug rape seed oil

I've mixed and kneaded it, and (at 1315) I'm going to let it rise overnight in the fridge.

Actually, I should point out that the banetton, etc, came from Bakerybits. I ordered them yesterday, and they were here by 10 this morning! Brilliant service, you must agree.

Sourdough day 4

The fierce bacterial activity has calmed down now. I guess this is the point when many people think their dough has died, but as I understand it, the bacteria have now reduced the pH to a level where yeast will be happy and randy. So I've fed and watered it, and wait to see what will happen.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sourdough day 3

My baby is surprisingly lifelike. It farts and stinks, so I've wrapped it in clingfilm. That's what you do with real babies, right?

In truth, it's being very active, and is full of gas and holes. The smell is pretty horrible - not yeasty at all, and apparently this is because the early activity is all caused by bacteria, which prepare the way for the yeast by making the dough more acid, reducing its pH. It seems I can expect this to go on for 2 or 3 more days. Then it's likely it will look as if it's died, but I must be patient and on the 7th day it will be a properly yeasty beasty.

Meanwhile, after my spelt failure, today I'm baking a 33% wholemeal tin. Nothing too exceptional: except that I left the biga overnight in a mild kitchen. By this morning it had sunk back, although was still lively. I then added the wholemeal flour, salt and oil, and gave it 2 hours.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sourdough (1)

I've decided to try to raise a sourdough tamagotchi. I was reading up on it, and it's less trouble than I thought, and this is probably the best time of year to start it.

The basic idea of a sourdough is that you mix flour and water and wait for wild yeast to develop and start fermenting. While you're establishing the dough, you regularly throw away half of what you have and feed it with more flour. I think the idea is that this selects for yeasts that like flour so that they prosper at the expense of more promiscuous yeasts.

One of the versions I've read suggests that the wild yeast is more likely to come from the flour itself, rather than from the Catford air. That seems to make sense, and it's why I'm using organic wholewheat flour, where there's more chance that yeast from the outside of the grains will be present.

Unsurprisingly, accounts differ on the amounts to use, but I've gone for equal weights of flour and water. I started with 50g of each, but that looked pathetically small, so I've doubled that. The dough is now sitting in a bowl on top of the fridge, covered with clingfilm. I'll check it again tomorrow, and meanwhile hope that the plums I bought today will be sharing their bloom with the kitchen air.

Friday, July 23, 2010


I'm back! With a new kitchen, finally, and an oven that has big numbers on it, rather than gas marks. I'm getting used to it and have made a couple of fairly basic loaves, but today I'm using wholegrain spelt flour for the first time, from Sharpham Park.  (Incidentally, how amusing that the blogger spellcheck doesn't recognise "spelt", or "blogger", or "spellcheck".)

The other thing I've acquired is a solid Kenwood hand-held mixer, with dough hooks!

So, for today's bread, here are the basic ingredients:

300g wholegrain spelt flour
pinch of salt
1 glug of rapeseed oil
200g liquid, inc a tsp sugar and a tsp dried yeast

All mixed together at 1245. I used the mixer at first, then hand-kneaded for about 5 minutes. The dough is quite nice to work, somewhat lighter than wholemeal wheat. It's currently proving, and taking its time, presumably because of the weight of the grain.

At 1435 the dough had risen nicely (since my last post, summer has happened) and I've formed it into a kind of bloomer shape for the second rising. I'm intending to bake it on the stone, but without added steam.

Which is what I did, but oh bugger the bread had stotted quite badly, and was disappointing. Also, the taste ain't all that; it's not as interesting as wholemeal wheat or as sweet/nutty as kamut. But I've got most of a kg left of it, so will try again.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

City Kitchen paella

Wow - something different and it's from Tesco. Here's the artfully artless label. The dish itself comes in a tupperware-like transparent plastic container, which may be reusable.

Obviously, it's not the best paella you'll ever have, but it's really pretty good. Decent amounts of chicken and prawn, and plenty of peas and red pepper in with the rice. The chorizo's not great, mind, and the rice isn't quite there.

But still, certainly one of the best readymeals you'll find. I think the price was around £3.

And here's how it looks on the plate (the veg on the right are my addition).

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sainsbury meatballs and mash

I think this is the worst so far. And the real culprits are the meatballs. Overprocessed pink mush with an aftertaste of pepper, they haven't even been browned, so they're like boiled cheap sausage (they have a meat content of 66% - and I wouldn't want to know exactly what parts of the animal go into that). The mash is overprocessed, too, and the gravy is predominantly salty. Nasty. What's worse is this meal is high in saturated fat and salt. In eating it, I've had 57.3% of my daily salt allowance. Something this bad for you ought to taste better than this. And the picture's a liar - there's nothing red and comforting in the gravy.  

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Waitrose spinach dal

Back on Waitrose's Indian range, this probably would work better as a side dish, but I've just had it for lunch. It is different from the others, though, with a more astringent spicing, using mustard seeds (today's telltale ingredient) and fenugreek, which is why it probably would complement well the sweeter, tomato-based dishes. More than the others, though, this has a misleading pack photo. Here's how mine looked.
It seems almost axiomatic that these things turn out wetter than photographed. Also, I don't know what the pink things were in the pack photo, but I haven't got any. And, inevitably, the spinach isn't as bright green. But it's ok, you know. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sainsbury's spaghetti meatballs

This really shouldn't work and it doesn't quite. Everything's a little bit worse than you'd like - the pasta's slightly too soft, the meatballs are too finely textured, and the sauce, as always, is gloopy and generic. But it wasn't bad, just not exciting in any way.

On the whole, with these meals, I'm eating them as they come. Which means, in this case, no parmesan sprinkled on top, no basil allowed to wilt for a minute or two.

I wouldn't buy this if I had a proper kitchen. Spaghetti with meatballs is so easy to make, it really wouldn't be worth it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Waitrose chicken jalfrezi

I ought to move on from Waitrose's Indian range. Although it's very good, there's a certain similarity about the sauce you get with each one. Today's meal continues the trend of being roughly as good as a take away, but with that pre-cooked homogeneity. It becomes apparent that the whole cardamom and clove are quite deliberate and semiotically precise: they're a sign of authenticity. The flavour they give could be simulated, and probably for some markets would be. Some people would find it irritating to have to spit out a cardomom. Waitrose makes a virtue of it. They say on the pack that "as a result some whole spices such as cardomom, cloves and cinnamon may still be present". Clever Waitrose.

The only other thing that I don't like about this is that the chicken is no doubt not free-range. I would never buy chicken to cook that was intensively reared. This is at least British, so it's not part of the awful international market in pumped up chicken-like meat product.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Waitrose channa masala

Not quite up to the standard of the previous meal, but still perfectly acceptable - as good as you'd get in a takeaway, for sure. The main problem is that the sauce is a bit one-dimensional in flavour - all the flavouring is homogenised into a pleasant enough background. That's really the difference between this kind of meal and freshly cooked food, of course. I ate this unaccompanied, for lunch, with a little brinjal pickle. Actually a poppadum would have been a good accompaniment.

(I'm probably making my life too easy by going for Waitrose products all the time. There has to be some real rubbish out there, like Tesco value range, which I ought to try. But I've got one more Waitrose product in the fridge, with an expiry date of tomorrow, so I'll do that first.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Waitrose cauliflower and broccoli masala

This, on the other hand, was really very nice. The sauce had genuine flavours, and there were real curry leaves, cardamoms and a clove, proof that it's not made from some generic curry powder. It was rated as medium hot but was spicier than that normally means. The picture's actually quite realistic, perhaps a bit drier than the real thing. Only slight niggle was that the broccoli hadn't stood up well to the cooking process and it probably would be better if they replaced it with more cauliflower, which would also seem more authentic as an aloo gobi.

At a price of £1.89, it's obviously intended as a side dish, but there's easily enough here for a lunch.

I'd certainly buy this again, even when I have a proper kitchen.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Instead of bread

There'll be no bread for a few weeks. My kitchen is being refitted, and while that's in progress, all I have is a microwave oven. So this means I'll be eating more cook-chill food than I'd like. But it gives an opportunity to review the products I taste, so you don't have to.

So here's the first: Waitrose "deliciously different pearl barley and seafood risotto with yellow cherry tomatoes, salmon, king prawns & crab". This is the kind of thing I really ought to like. It's a worrying sign that the pack has to explain what pearl barley is. The meal is low in salt, fat and sugars, which of course means that you have to add salt to make it tasty. It's much too liquid to be called a risotto. There was a decent amount of salmon, and three or four prawns. I have to accept there was crab in there somewhere. Generally it was pretty tasteless, although the liquid has a bit of an aftertaste of bisque, which was quite nice. I forgot to take a picture of the cooked meal, but there was a bunch of rocket included, which was a bit mushy after the 4 minutes microwaving, and the tomatoes were of course pulped by it.

So, not impressed. If I were to buy this again, I'd remove the rocket and tomatoes before cooking, and add them back on serving. I'd add salt before cooking, and if possible get some sort of bread to mop up the liquid, and I'm sure some basil on top would help too.

This cost £2.75, reduced from £3.99 as today's the expiry date. It'd be really poor value at the higher price.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Another Italian bread

As we've seen, the variety of Italian bread means that I can bake anything and say it's Italian, especially if it's made with 00 flour. So I've now baked a very standard bloomer, but I shall call it bluma.

300g 00 Flour
200g Badoit, inc 1g sugar, 2g dried yeast
pinch salt
wholewheat flour for coating

Really basic procedure. Mixed and then raised for 6 hours, then shaped into a bluma, proved for 30 mins, slashed and baked on the stone with steam. And omg it's gorn mad!
There's going to be huge caverns in there. Slicing later.

Monday, April 12, 2010


As far as I can see from wikipedia, Ciabatta's about as traditional as the ploughman's lunch. And the great Marcella Hazan doesn't even mention it as a pseudonym in The Essentials of Italian Cooking. Instead, she has a recipe for "Olive oil bread - Mantovana", which uses a wet dough and a fairly small amount of oil. I'm sure it's heading towards the same end product.

To recap from yesterday, I mixed 200g of 00 flour with 200g of water, containing a little sugar and a teaspoon of yeast. I let that sit in the fridge overnight.

Today, I've taken it out, let it come to room temperature, then added 110g more flour, 4g salt and 20g olive oil, and kneaded that quite sloppily. What I should have realised before now is that when you've finished kneading a wet dough a tiny amount of dry flour on the surface will make it much more shapeable, without seriously affecting the mixture. So this dough is now (1130) very shallowly coated with wholemeal flour, formed into a ciabatta kind of shape, and proving.

Update and verdict
It's Italian, right?
I put the bread into a G8 oven at 12:00 for 20 mins, then G5 for 5 mins on its back. Here's the outcome. It's less holey than I would have liked. I might have been able to prove it for longer, but it felt ready to go in. Probably a little less oil would be a good idea. Or would it? because this tastes very nice indeed. The crust is quite soft, as is the crumb, and of course the oil adds to the taste.

Meanwhile, on the question of authenticity, I've looked at Italian wikipedia's bread article. You don't need to be able to read Italian to realise the huge variety of breads listed there. Ciabatta's not among them! The other point about this list is that it enables anyone to claim that virtually any bread they make has a propa Italian model (except maybe Chorleywood white sliced).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

00 Flour

As previewed, I've now got a back of 00 flour. It's McDougall's flour, and I'd like to put a link to the appropriate website, but there isn't one. All they have is a holding page, which could well have been there for months.  What there is suggests that McDougall is the Cinderella of the Rank Hovis household, and I suppose the brand is intended to suggest cake and pastry, rather than bread. The packaging reflects that, too. It's a background of burgundy with a thin white stripe, suggesting an apron, dotted with pictures of little cakes and some pasta. You'd think by now someone would be selling something labelled as pasta flour, even if it was exactly the same on the inside.

Anyway, I think I'm going to try a ciabatta, so I've mixed a biga of 200g flour with 200g liquid, inc a little sugar and yeast, and I've put it in the fridge. My note to myself is to remember to add salt and oil in the morning.

In the meantime, I've also used the flour to make pastry. I've got a very bad record at making pastry. I think I used to over-work it at the rubbing-in stage. The instructions always say it should look like breadcrumbs. That never happens. So I stopped myself and put the fairly lumpy dough in the fridge. It's the rolling that does most of the work, maybe.

So 100g flour, 50g butter, about a tablespoon of sugar turns out to be really good. I've made three apple tarts, and a turnover, which was terrific. I'd rolled the dough out quite thin. Not filo thin, obv, but close, and it came out crisp and tasty.

I'll update on the bread tomorrow.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Banana cake (2)

So I've had another go at this, with new packs of Sodium Bicarbonate and Cream of Tartar.

200g apf
80g caster sugar
100g butter
2 large eggs
2 mashed up bananas
1 tsp sodium bicarbonate
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp allspice
flaked almonds, to top

Usual cake method: cream butter and sugar (I did this very badly) then mix everything apart from the almonds. Sprinkle almonds on top, and some extra caster sugar. Into oven G4 for 40 minutes, after which it passed the skewer test with total ease.

And despite my lack of technique, it's light and lovely. Actually, possibly too fragile in structure, but that's a good problem

Kamut (2)

I haven't been bread-free for the last two weeks: I've just repeated various breads, so there's been nothing worth writing about. Even today, I'm basically repeating the earlier kamut mix, but I might go for a different shape. The big excitement will come later, since I've now bought some 00 flour. This is, I believe, very finely ground and most commonly used for pasta. In fact the packaging doesn't mention bread at all. But it has a protein content of 11%, which should be ok.

I've also been thinking about the "perfect loaf" programme. One of the striking things the baker said about his loaf was that it would be at its best after three days. That's counter-intuitive; our first thought these days is that the fresher the better. But it depends on the kind of loaf you're making, and the kind of purpose you have in mind. French bread notoriously only lasts for half a day, but a wholemeal loaf may well benefit from being baked too moist, with the intention that it dries out a bit before eating. The last loaf I baked was a bit of a disaster. It was a basic strong white flour mix, but wet, so at baking time I decided to use a tin. I then didn't bake it for long enough, so it came out (with difficulty) a bit damp and floppy. A day later, though, it was much better.

Another thing mentioned in the programme was that during the war bakers weren't allowed to sell fresh bread; it had to be at least a day old. This was a kind of rationing; people would eat it less greedily if it was a little less fresh. This may undermine the point I've made so far; or perhaps this led British bakers to produce bread that fitted this method. And maybe the London bloomer story isn't as far-fetched as I thought. All bakers seem to agree that a long rising period produces a longer-lasting bread. There are probably good chemical reasons for this, maybe to do with more of the starch turning into sugar.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Kamut bread

A strange story behind kamut (which should be followed by an R in a circle, which I've no idea how to achieve in the blogger editting page - hey, blogger in draft, this is something you could add. Wikipedia has an easy way to insert symbols etc, why don't you?).

But, as I was saying, a strange story. First the one I don't believe: Kamut was a seed found in the pyramids, showing that it was the grain of the pharaohs themselves. But it does seems likely that it came from Egypt in the middle of the 20th century, and was a survivor of an older wheat-like grain. It was successfully cultivated in USA, where the name was registered. As far as I can see, that's still the only place it's grown in any volume. It's particularly resistant to pests and diseases, and so is frequently grown organically. The flour I'm using, from Doves Farm, has a protein content of 15%. Given all those advantages, why hasn't Kamut taken over the world? Must taste really bad.

Well, I'll find out sometime later today. I've now mixed 300g of the flour with 200g of liquid (usual amounts of sugar, yeast and salt). Kneaded and set to rise at 12:25.

Knocked back about 1600 and formed into a shape I can only describe as a cudgel. That may not be a good idea, this flour may need more height to produce a pleasant slice of bread. Never mind, though, because here is how it looks after baking (in oven at 2025 for 30 mins).
That's the best slashing outcome I've ever seen! Clearly the oven spring was exuberant. Just waiting for it to cool ... 

And now - it's very much like wholemeal, but a bit lighter and sweeter. The crust is fairly soft, and a bit longer in the oven wouldn't have hurt, and the crumb is fairly dense, but soft and easy to eat without butter. Overall verdict is that this is a really good alternative to wholemeal wheat. I think there's definitely a bonus where the slash ridges have caramelised, so it would be worth trying a more irregular shape. 

Friday, March 26, 2010

In search of the perfect loaf

A fairly odd programme on BBC4 last night purported to be the quest of Tom Herbert, an organic baker, to find the perfect (or at least prizewinning) loaf of bread. It wasn't that at all, but it fitted in a history of bread, which advanced the intriguing suggestion that industry wanted people to eat white bread because it mildly constipated them, so that they would spend less time away from their workpost. That sounds like utter nonsense to me.

Herbert's first attempt was to use 100% wholemeal bread, leavened with his own sourdough, which has been in the family for 40 years. His son commented that the end product would make a good frisbee. So he looked for more suitable ingredients, and ended up using spelt flour, spring water from a source in the Cotswolds, and Cornish seasalt. The result was apparently very tasty, but only got second prize in some vague unnamed competition in Islington.

It's more nonsense of course. How could he not have come across spelt before? Where was the experimentation to determine if the ingredients really did make a difference? All a bit of a pity, but it has encouraged me to try spelt flour sometime. It also encouraged me to start a sourdough, but it seems like a lot of trouble. He said he feeds it with flour and water every day, like some kind of tamagotchi.

And today I'm ignoring all his lessons, and having another go at French bread. I've decided to weaken the flour further, by using a bit of rice flour. So ingredients are:

250g apf
50g rice flour
200g liquid (inc half a tsp caster sugar, 1 level tsp dried yeast)
pinch of salt

I've mixed it in the processor, and it's stayed wetter than the previous dough, because of the rice flour, I suppose. So I'm now (1200) letting it rise in a kitchen that's probably around 14c.


Key point is that rice flour was a bad idea. It gives the bread a slightly dish-clothy odour - a variant of the smell that puts some people off basmatti rice. And also, it seems to have prevented or delayed browning of the bread.

Again, there's a huge improvement in leaving the dough in the fridge overnight, so in the next french bread attempt that's what I'll do.

But the next experiment will be with Kamut flour. No, me neither, but - maybe because of the tv programme - the shelves were bare of spelt flour today, so I bought a kilo of kamut. Sad excitement once again.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

French bread (2)

Today, I'm having another go at bread using weaker flower. As before, I'm using

300g apf
200g water, inc half a tsp moscovado, level tsp dried yeast
pinch of salt

This time, I've mixed the dough in the food processor. It was interesting the way the dough changed during processing. At first it clumped together fairly easily into a dry dough but during the 1 minute processing, it became wetter again.

I've left it like that but pulled it out of the processor bowl to prove in a cool kitchen.

The other different thing I think I'll do is keep half of the dough in the fridge. The last lot of bread went dry very quickly so I'll just bake half at a time. That should work, huh?

Friday update

Yesterday, the wet fresh dough was fantastically stretchy and almost became a long grissino, which I twisted twice into a 4-ply cable. Much better, with this kind of dough, to work it very little, so that it has fairly sharp edges and wrinkles, which attract caramelisation.

The dough that I fridged overnight turned out much better for its chilly doze (you could call it a dozy dough).  When I took it out of the fridge it had significantly risen and was drier, so I formed it into a short baguette, a baton, if you will, and baked it on the stone with steam for 12 @ 7 then 5 @ 5, which wasn't enough really. But I'm nearly there with this kind of bread.

Lessons: trust the dough to take care of its own shape; prove overnight in fridge.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Banana cake

No photos of this. It was tasty but heavy, simply because I almost certainly didn't use enough baking powder, which is probably defunct anyway - it's been in the cupboard since time immemorial. But it's a start:

200g apf
100g butter
80g caster sugar

2 eggs
2 bananas, mashed up a bit
not enough baking powder
pinch of allspice

And I did it in the food processor, which probably doesn't help much either.

I creamed the butter & sugar, then added the other ingredients, and processed briefly.
Oven 4 for 40 mins then 2 for 25 mins.

Here's what I've later seen as guidance:

The general rule of thumb for amount of baking powder in recipes: 1 to 2 teaspoons (5-10 grams) of baking powder leavens 1 cup (140 grams) of flour. The amount will depend on the ingredients and how they are mixed. 
Which would suggest 3 tsp for this amount. I was nowhere near that.

Weak bread

Plain flour's such an unattractive name. For once, the Americans have got it right, if verbose, calling it all-purpose flour. I've got a whim to make some pastry and cakes and so have bought a pack of apf (Waitrose Leckford Estate; protein actually quite high @ 11.8%). But before I cakeify, let's see what happens when you break the first rule, and use it for bread. I'm going for a very basic process, so:

300g apf
pinch (1g) salt
200g water, inc 1 tsp dried yeast

Agh, too wet, but I've prodded it about a bit with a spatula, rather than kneaded it, and left it to rise at 1000. (I think wet doughs need less kneading. The rising process does a lot more of the development in stretching the dough. That's my excuse.) More to follow.

1300 Update
The dough had risen nicely and looked somewhat drier, but kneading it was a sticky business. It's hard to describe exactly the feel of it; it held together well but was hard to shape. So I formed two short baguettes, and at 1530 put them in a 7 oven, on the stone and with steam. And here's how it looks:
There's nothing wrong with this at all. It may be the best French-style bread I've ever made (though that's not saying much). It has a similar taste to Waitrose's stonebaked baguette, unsurprisingly, I suppose, with a very nicely caramelised crust. I'll certainly do this again, maybe using an even weaker flour.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tomato focaccia (2)

OK, I'm giving this another go, trying to use the lessons of last time to use more oil and yeast. I'm also using semolina, as suggested by Jamie Oliver in a programme recently.

200g VSWF
liquid: 200g water; tiny amount of sugar, scant level tsp yeast

I mixed this up at 1200, leaving it in a fairly cool kitchen.

1745 the biga was huge! I knocked it back and added:
50g vswf
50g semolina
15g olive oil
2g salt
2 sundried tomatoes, chopped

It made quite a wet dough, which I kind of slapped around, rather than kneaded. I've then put it into a baking tray. Should be ready to go in an hour or so.

More olive oil on top, plus oregano and seasalt.
Into the oven (7) at 1955 for 15 minutes, then removed from tray and finished on the rack for 5 minutes at 5.
Here it is:

And I have to say, it's the real thing! It's wonderful, and I'm not sure I'll be able to avoid eating it all tonight. The oil, although there's not that much, gives the bread a kind of pastry texture, or maybe it's the semolina. Anyway, it's an absolute winner, and this is therefore my definitive focaccia recipe.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Barleycorn bread

I'm so sad, I got a real thrill of anticipation opening the pack of Doves Farm Barleycorn flour. What will it be like? I'm going to do it the honour of proper hand-kneading, but otherwise it'll be straightforward, fairly quick proving etc.

300g flour
2g salt
Liquid: 200g water; 2g muscovado; 2g dried yeast

The dough seemed too wet at first but I resisted the temptation to add more flour, and kept on stickily kneading, and it turned into one of the nicest doughs I've ever made. For once, it was hard to stop myself kneading it. But at 1045 I did, and it's now proving by the radiator. (But it's a mild day today, so ironically, that may not be a particularly warm place. We'll see.)

1200 Risen, but not greatly. Anyway, knocked back and formed into a boule, slashed.
1245 Into oven. I feel I've rushed this a bit.
But here it is. Looks OK, doesn't it?

I probably should have given it longer for both risings; it's a bit heavier than it should be. Taste is good, but would be better with more salt or with salted butter. Mmm, salt.  

Friday, February 19, 2010

This can't be right

So far, I've done all my mixing and kneading by hand. I don't have a stand mixer with a dough hook, just a food processor. But the book that came with that, says it can do bread. Use the metal chopping blade, it says, and process for one minute. But won't that cut the gluten threads? Only one way to find out.

So I've used 400g mix of 50/50 very strong wholemeal and vswf, 300g water, 1 tsp yeast, and 1 tsp sugar. In the processor bowl I first mixed together the flour and a pinch of sea salt, then poured in some rape seed oil. Then added the liquid while processing at a low speed, and it run for a minute. The dough eventually started climbing up the walls of the bowl, but (for a half-wholemeal dough) seemed light and elastic enough.

Basic procedure from then on: about two hours proving, knock back, and formed a plait, which proved for a bit less than a hour. Into a 7 oven on a stone and it's fine.

It was certainly a lot easier than hand-kneading and the result doesn't seem signficantly worse. I may try this again with white flour, but will definitely use it again for heavy doughs like half or more wholemeal.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tomato bread

I'm attempting to refine the accidental focaccia of a few days ago, and having bought a jar of sun-dried tomatoes, that's the intended destiny for this. But I'm starting at 2120, so planning an overnight first proofing. For this reason, the biga is made up of:
200g VSWF
200g Badoit (still on special offer at Waitrose, by the way)
tiny amounts (about 1g each) of caster sugar and dried yeast.

I'll be leaving this overnight, probably in the bathroom (which is colder than any other room - especially tonight, which is frosty).

I'll be back tomorrow with the next steps, but note to myself: don't forget to add salt & oil.

Update 1
So, after 12 hours resting both the dough and I are looking good this morning. At 0915 I've added 100g of flour, a pinch of salt, and some oil (from the jar of tomatoes) and rekneaded, adding more flour as needed (probably about 20g), and then mixing in about sun-dried tomatoes, chopped. I've flattened it out into an irregular shape and will let it rise at kitchen temp for two or three hours, I guess.

Update 2
Probably could/should have used more yeast, but at 1250 I've put a still fairly flat bread in at gas 9. At 1305 brown but still a bit wet, so 10 more mins @ 7. At 1315 it still doesn't have the hollow tap sound, but I can't believe it isn't done. Here it is:
Looks nice, no? But no as shiny as I'd have hoped - I suppose I could have been more lavish with the oil wash. And doh I forgot to sprinkle sea salt on top.

It was OK. Still too dry - not enough oil, because I basically tipped in the extra from the jar of tomatoes. I'm nearly there, I think, but I might buy some focaccia from the market on Sunday just to calibrate what I'm trying to do.

Monday, February 15, 2010


I've soaked 20g of raisins in tea (why not?), then mixed them into a dough made of 150g vswf, 20g caster sugar, 100g warm water with half a tsp of dried yeast, pinches of ground cinnamon and allspice. Oh, and then I added three dried apricots, chopped up.

I'm really in uncharted territory here. I've never attempted yeasted buns before. I've no idea if the amount of sugar's right, but the dough tastes like it will be sweet enough. I've a feeling weaker flour might work better.

Nevermind. The dough is now sitting by the radiator. Updates to follow.

Update 1
1320: this dough is slow, but I've knocked it back and formed five little balls. I'll let them sit for a while. 

Update 2
I suppose it's the fruit that makes it hard work for the yeast. Finally at 1550 I gave in and popped them into the oven at gas 7, after brushing with milk. Here's the result after 20 minutes:

They're nice. Obviously, what we have here are hot uncrossed buns. They're sweet enough (for me), but the spices are a bit weak (for me). Slightly overcooked, but they're not burnt. The colour is no doubt caused by the caramelisation of the sugar. Another time I'd use a lower temperature. And there will be another time.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I don't know what I'm finally going to make of this, but I've just mixed up a sponge, biga or poolish.

200g very strong white flour
200g Badoit
3g sugar
2g dried yeast

I'm using Badoit because it's the only bottled water I have. I don't imagine the gas in it will make any difference over the hours this is going to take, but the mineral flavour will surely make a difference.

So, that's mixed up, looking quite dry, at 1045.

Update 1
1700: added (initially) 100g flour, then about 20g, plus 2g salt. Kneaded, and then mixed in 25g sliced black olives. I've spread the dough out in an olive oil lined baking tray, and it doesn't look very nice. We'll see.

Update 2 
1900: bad feelings about this. It's such a cold day today, the bread's hardly risen in two hours. But heyho, I've dimpled it a bit, slapped on some more olive oil, oregano and salt, and in it goes, initially at g9, down to 7 after 10 mins.

And here it is:  
Better than I hoped, if unfocused. It's more or less a focaccia,  I suppose.

This was tasty enough. I think it would have been better if I'd added olive oil to the dough at some stage in the mixing. It was certainly drier than propa focaccia,  and unsurprisingly has dried out very quickly. But it had lovely internal structure, lots of large bubbles. I think oil would have reduced those.

So, I'll try this again soon, maybe using sundried tomatoes instead of olives. It would, obviously, also be a super pizza base.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Meanwhile ...

There's a blog over at the Guardian about breadmaking, with some useful ideas. Eg use bottled water if you're in a hard water area, like me; use left over potato-boiling water.
There are innumerable bread blogs around, of course, and I'll be linking to some from time to time.

Doves Farm Malthouse

I imagine this flour is a knock-off of Granary. It includes 3.6% rye flour, which doesn't seem like much, and of course malted wheat flakes. Protein is 12.3%. I'm probably going for a cottage loaf with this. And I'm going for a straightforward two-proving procedure.

450g flour with a pinch of seasalt
250g warm water
6g yeast
5g sugar

These are slightly scaled down from the flour pack recipe, which is for 500g, and worked very well - it's a nice dough to knead and looks ok. The pack recipe includes oil, which I'm leaving out. I'm now (1440) letting it prove near the radiator. An hour should do.

Update 1
1610 - dough nicely risen, knocked back and formed into boule. X slash on top. Oven on.  

Update 2
In oven (7) at 1700 for 35 mins on a stone, no steam. And the result is ... lovely! Quite light crumb, with a crackly crust. It tastes how I remember granary bread. I can only guess that Hovis granary flour is blended mainly for industrial process, so will happily not use it again.  

Update 3
Now I've had chance to taste the fully cooled loaf, I have to say this is one of the best I've ever made. It's terrifically light with a tasty chewy crust, beautiful cut thick and served with cheese or butter. Well done, me. 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hovis granary flour

It's my third attempt at using this flour. It's always disappointed me so far; the dough has been horrible to work, and the bread's been too heavy, and less tasty than you'd expect. So I'm trying with a long sponge time, to see if this will work better.

300g Hovis granary flour

Per 100g
Protein 14.7g
Carb 64.3g
Fibre 5.6g

300g water
3g sugar
2g dried yeast (that's about half a teaspoon)

The small amount of yeast is designed to lengthen the sponge period. I'm starting this at 10:30 in the morning, and I want to leave this for at least 8 hours. It's the last of the granary flour. At the second stage I'm going to add strong white flour.

Here's the sponge, looking porridgy. I'm leaving it at kitchen room temperature, which is about 15C today.

And here's my lovely new electronic scales, which enable me to give such precise quantities.

Update 1
Earlier than ideal, at 1700, I've added salt and 150g of very strong white flour. Didn't need to add any more liquid. The dough kneaded well, but a little wetly, and I've formed it into a bloomer, slashed lengthways by way of variety. I think it'll be ready for the oven by 1830.

I think one of the things I dislike about this flour is its colour. I've done a bit of research, and although the recipe is secret, it seems that the flour is basically white, coloured with malt. I prefer Allinson's Seed & Grain flour, which doesn't pretend to be anything but basically white. The colouring seems to make the dough heavier, while S&G is lighter, with seeds etc floating in it.

Update 2
So, I put in the oven at 1820, using a stone and no steam or eggwash. 10 mins at 7, then 30 at 6.  The loaf had spread worringly, but sprung well.
It now weighs 640g. It might be interesting to analyse percentage of water in finished bread: it must relate to the lightness, although I suppose you'd also need to measure the volume. Doing the sums (ignoring sugar, salt and yeast) this bread is about 30% water. I've no idea if that's normal.

So, how was it?
OK, but no better than OK. The bits of malt don't seem to act like nuggets of flavour as they should. Maybe that's because of the long proving - their flavour leaches out into the dough. The crumb was light, and the crust was soft. And it must be a symptom of something that the uppercrust was poorly attached to the crumb beneath, as if there's some late and anomalous rising at the top of the loaf. I won't use the flour again. I think a better approach would be to use normal flour and add the malted grains late, at second kneading.

Not another one!

Yes, sorry, another blog. Worse than that, another bread blog. Look, you don't have to read it! And it means I keep bread out of the main blog.

Here is where, mainly for my own benefit, I will keep a record of my breadmaking, and maybe other cooking adventures. You're welcome to look, of course, and even to comment, but I'll understand if you don't.