Baking


Photo of a small piece of the soda bread, on a floral paper napkin

I didn’t expect to be writing a post about soda bread so I didn’t take a picture of the loaf. Only today, when I found that it was delicious when a day old I decided to post, by which time this was all that remained.

It is well-known that ‘Irish’ soda bread is good only on the day it is made, or so I have always understood (and that has been my experience). Consequently, I only made it when we had an ‘out of bread’ emergency, as yesterday, with no time to make a more conventional loaf (shop bought bread in the UK is not good, even in my opinion expensive ‘artisan’ loaves. I’ve been spoiled by German breads).

Because there are only two of us I always struggled to make a small enough quantity to eat on the same day (I hate discarding food but the birds were happy).

As Wednesday is one of our ‘veggie days’ we decided yesterday to eat an avocado each followed by ‘iahnie’ (pronounced, roughly, yak-nee-ay), a puree of butter beans for us but of the much larger ‘boabe’ (bwar-bay) beans in Romania, with bread. It’s usually flavoured with garlic, maybe other things like herbs.

No bread so I made a soda bread (but not the ‘real’ one as it calls for buttermilk, which I did not have). We ate it straight out the oven – the iahnie is cold. As usual we had some over so it was put in a bag, hot, still steaming when broken, with the idea of giving the birds a feast today. But, guess what, it was soft and absolutely delicious today when we ate it for our lunches. Poor birds!

Here’s the recipe I made:

250g wholemeal bread flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
200 ml full-fat milk
Juice of a lemon
1 tsp honey

Mix the dry ingredients well in a bowl. Pour the lemon juice into the milk (it’s magic!). Stir in the honey till dissolved. Make a well in the flour etc, pour in the ‘artificial buttermilk’ and mix with a spatula till the ‘dough’ is ‘together’. Shape into a round loaf, put on a floured baking tray (I use coarse semolina), cut a deep cross in the top and put in the oven preheated to 180degC (that’s my fan oven; I guess 200degC for ‘conventional’ oven). Bake for 30 minutes or till it sounds hollow when rapped on the bottom.

Note. This made a very ‘sloppy’ dough, difficult to handle and shape, so next time I’d add a bit more flour.

 

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Photo of the Rex Cabernet Sauvignon bottleI can hardly believe that it’s taken me until now to discover Slovenian wine. Several decades ago, when I was a bit ‘wealthier’ than now, I used to buy ‘Grand cru’ wines by the case at auction. Despite this level of interest in wine I’d never heard of Slovenian wine. Shame!

I’d probably have passed by this odd-shaped bottle (red wine) had it not been for following a Slovenian writer/blogger for the past couple of years. That being so, I bought a bottle for interest (Vinakoper Rex Cabernet Sauvignon), quite prepared to find that it was rubbish. What a revelation: intense red, for me (and Petronela and our Saturday evening supper guest) just the right level a tannin coming through all the fruit. Just wonderful. I’ve since researched Slovenian wine and found that this tiny country is among the world’s earliest wine producers (also home to the world’s oldest fruit bearing vine, 400+ years old) turning out top class wines , particularly white wines but not exclusively, obviously. My ignorance is not entirely my fault; evidently until recently little was exported – they drank it all themselves.

From what I’ve read, the vintage I bought (2013) is probably not the best; it seems that 2012 is better so that must be astounding. Sadly, returning to buy another couple of bottles it was no more.

Better than Mary Berry? Did I dare to say that?

Photo of Six of the dozen soft hamburger rolls I made

Six of the dozen soft hamburger rolls I made

Having begun a ‘foodie’ blog, which I haven’t done for some time, I’ll continue but no recipes (though links to a couple), just a run down of our Saturday supper. As the ‘foodies’ among you will know, I rarely follow recipes to the letter but this time I did: Stefane’s grandmother’s Vichyssoise, which cannot be bettered; soft hamburger rolls from Veena Azmanov (they tasted great, beautifully soft, though too soft and sticky a dough to form well – I think I’d add more flour next time). My hamburgers are always based on ‘Biftek haché à la Lyonnaise‘ from Julia Childs, but never quite the same.

Really wicked chocolate mousse

For dessert I started with Mary Berry‘s ‘Wicked chocolate mousse‘ but made it a little more ‘wicked’. For my taste, Petronela’s and our guest’s I think even better than the celebrity cook’s version, less sweet, more intense chocolate taste and with a kick. How? Substituting 85% cocoa chocolate for 40% of the ‘plain chocolate’ specified by MB and dosing it with a little chilli. I served it with fresh strawberries. I’d recommend it.

The Slovenian wine would go well with anything like a steak or game, or such an intense chocolate dish.

One egg chocolate cake

Haven’t had a ‘grump’ for a while but yesterday gave me cause to live up to my name. Up and down the UK yesterday there were ‘celebrations’ for the centenary of women being given the vote in Britain. Celebration? Surely it’s a day of shame that 100 years after passing of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, allowing women (but only those aged 30 and above who owned property) to vote, women are still treated unequally in so many areas, not least in equal pay for the same job. Then of course there’s the ‘glass ceiling’ preventing women taking so many top jobs. And abuse of women is still rife in the workplace and other places. Young women are still being forced to marry men they have never met and millions still suffer female circumcision.

I’ve batted on about this so much in the past that, having made the point, I will not continue here but to say that yes, things are getting better but we’re still a long way from a reason to celebrate. Let’s make 6 February a British ‘Day of Shame’, starting in 2019, until such practices are cleared completely, at least from the UK.

My celebration

I did, however, have something to celebrate. On the 6 February 1999 I went to a birthday party, so did the young woman who was to become my wife a year and a half later. Both of us identify this occasion as that at which things ‘became serious’. So, we don’t celebrate St Valentine’s Day, which sadly has become yet another commercial nonsense, but we do remember this day.

I wanted to make a chocolate cake but I had a busy day so needed something simple, something taking less than an hour to make and, as we had only one egg in the fridge, requiring only one egg. I found this:

http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/one-egg-chocolate-cake-212511

The cake itself is good but the simple chocolate icing makes it too sweet for our taste (and American icing sugar must be different to ours as 2tbsp of water does not make that amount of icing sugar ‘spreadable’). It would be better for me with a ganache made with high cocoa chilli chocolate.

'Slices' of parkin on a plate

Cut but to be wrapped in foil for about three weeks before eating

Last year I was a bit late making parkin. It improves with age and though most recipes say leave it a couple, or a few, days before eating, I think it’s much better left for two or three weeks, tightly wrapped or in an airtight tin. I don’t have a suitable tin so I wrap in it non-stick baking paper then foil.

This year I’ve managed to fit in making it before going to ‘do my thing’ at the Ilkley Literature Festival. I’ve decided not to read my fairy story as I was not happy reading a cut up version. Read all about it, with the fairy story, tomorrow morning.

It’s not difficult to make, in fact very easy; the biggest problem is resisting the temptation to eat it before 5th November, for which date it is traditionally made. The other traditional foods are potatoes baked in the fire, and ‘plot toffee’, made by boiling dark sugar, and perhaps molasses,  with butter until it will set hard when cooled, and ‘toffee apples’ – apples on sticks dipped in the toffee when liquid.

Guy Fawkes

For non-British readers who may not know the significance of 5th November, we ‘commemorate’ the failure of Guy Fawkes, a Yorkshireman (what else?), to  blow up parliament with the king in 1605 (if you want to know more just Google ‘Guy Fawkes’ and Wikipedia has it).

Traditionally we have a bonfire, the children make an effigy of Guy Fawkes, go with it from house to house calling “Penny for the guy”, the money collected being spent on fireworks. Now it’s more usually adults who spend ridiculous amounts of money competing to see who can make the largest ‘bang’. Nevertheless, many communities still have a bonfire and fireworks.

The tradition is gradually being replaced by a massive money-making event five days before, where supermarkets and other shops sell trashy ‘scary’ costumes and kids come asking ‘trick or treat?” Halloween – a corruption imported from the USA of another tradition. It’s horrible.

Parkin recipe.

I won’t give the recipe for ‘proper parkin’ here as I did that last year. You’ll find it in the post of 27 October last year. This year I changed it slightly, putting 50/50 medium oatmeal and pinhead oatmeal as I like the latter.

The freshly baked bread sliced

It’s time (tomorrow) to visit my consultant (doctor) at the hospital so I needed to have a blood test today. The hospital is about 12 miles away, my family doctor 2-3 minutes on foot. In theory I could get the blood test done at the family doctor but they’ve always ‘lost’ it so I go to the hospital. I usually go very early, before everyone sent by the doctors on their rounds arrive, but this morning I couldn’t do that so I went at lunchtime when it is again quiet. How to fill the time? Clear up the kitchen, read blogs, comment on some and make some bread!

I decided to make my usual bread, lazy bread as the hard work is done by a breadmaker (£10 in a charity shop many years ago). So, I made two tin loaves; I usually do this now as being only two of us the majority is sliced and put in the freezer.

Now, I got told off recently for not putting a recipe, and not making pictures clickable to be viewed at full size, so I’ve put them in a gallery which is one way of doing this (hello 👋 Ilze 😂😇) and am giving my recipe (though I think I’ve done it before). ‘Real’ bakers, tv celebrity bakers will probably have a fit but it works and is great for people who have other things to do as it requires no more than 5-7 minutes ‘doing something’ to the bread, so you can get on with something else. Here’s the recipe (the spelt flour gives an unusual texture, which I like):

500g wholemeal strong bread flour; 168g wholemeal spelt flour; 10g butter; 2.1/2tsp sugar; 2.1/2tspn salt; 7g dried fast acting yeast; 432ml water.

My method is not at all like that given by the breadmaker manufacturer but I never was good at doing what I’m told:

Put the water and butter in the bread maker. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Spoon them on top of the water in the breadmaker. Set the breadmaker on the ‘dough’ programme and switch it on. All that takes a couple of minutes. Leave till the programme is finished (1.1/2 hours on my machine), meanwhile you can read some blogs, comment on a few, and write your own post (or you can sleep till the beep sounds).

Tip the dough out onto a floured surface. Fold over and push with the heel of the hand 12 times. Shape into a round, cut in half, shape each half into a sausage the length of the bread tins, put them in the tins, make three deep slashes in each. Optional: paint with milk and sprinkle on poppy seeds.

Put into a warm place (I put in the top oven set to 50degC). Cover with a cloth and leave till well risen (for me 1/2hr) during which you can have another catnap. Have the oven at 180degC. Bake for 20 minutes. Tip out of the tins and put back directly on the oven shelf till tapped on the bottom it sounds hollow (5-10 minutes. You get to know from the sound of the first tap when you’ve made a few). Leave to cool on a wire tray.

Bloodletting

The phlebotomists at the hospital (Airedale) are great, as are all the staff. Until I began to have these regular pricks I was a bit nervous. I cured it by taking a photo of the needle going in and enjoy the short chat with the lady taking my blood.

The needle for taking blood pictured just about to go into my left arm

Just about two years ago; that’s my arm. The hands are of a trainee phlebotomist

I was even more nervous of the ‘big needle’ which gets stuck in my belly every 3 months. I usually manage to have the same nurse, Hafsa, who makes me laugh and I hardly feel a thing. “It’s a screwdriver, not a needle,” she tells me. I’ve never dared to look. The nurse in Romania this summer, Paula, was equally expert.

The weather

Raining, again.

When I saw Tanya’s picture of her ‘grandma’s bread’ I thought it looked delicious. When I read her post I was surprised, the recipe broke all the usual rules of baking bread (eg no proving, put in a cold oven, etc) so I just had to try it even though I’d said in a post shortly before that I’d settled on my recipe for bread.

I’ll not give Tanya’s recipe here, you will find it on her blog (link at the end). You’ll even learn the Norwegian for grandma. So just some comments.

Sorry, this is not my attempt at Tanya’s grandma’s bread; Petronela deleted it 😱. You’ll just have to believe me that mine look pretty much as the picture on Tanya’s post. This pic is my usual bread.

Sorry, this is not my attempt at Tanya’s grandma’s bread; Petronela deleted it 😱. You’ll just have to believe me that mine look pretty much as the picture on Tanya’s post. This pic is my usual bread.

The closest thing I know to it is Irish soda bread though that uses bicarb of soda not yeast. I make this, usually for Sunday breakfast when we’ve run out of bread and I’ve ‘forgotten’ to make any. It’s delicious and very quick and easy to make but the disadvantage is that you must eat it more or less immediately. Even the next day it’s not good.

Tasty – and tastier

Tanya’s grandma’s bread is just the opposite. It seems to improve with age (I made it three days ago and so far it gets better and better). First it had a very hard crust when it came out of the oven; now it’s soft, but not tough and chewy which I don’t like. Secondly, although it tasted good when fresh it has tasted better with each passing day.

I didn’t have fresh yeast so I used quick dried yeast (1/4 of the quantity of fresh). I didn’t have sesame seeds so I chucked in a load of poppy seeds.

Finally I read (I think misread) Tanya’s recipe as having a quantity of milk with water, but then another 300ml of warm milk to which the yeast is added. This seemed too much liquid to me so I reduced the amount of milk/water by 300ml. It turned out OK so I think that is what she meant.

Final conclusion: very tasty, worth making for the taste. It didn’t seem to me to be much quicker or easier to make as mixing it (by hand) is a messy job and it takes an hour in the oven but I guess it will get quicker with practice. My ‘cheat’ of letting a breadmaker do the work before baking in the oven in my recipe is less hassle.

You’ll find Tanya’s recipe at

https://bakewitht.com/2017/09/17/bestemor-bread-quick-easy-to-make-great-for-the-kids/

I recommend you try it. Great for grown-ups too.

I must be getting back to normal; it’s taken almost two weeks following our marathon trip of approaching 5,000 miles over 45 days. First, yesterday, I made the first ‘full English’ breakfast since our return; today I’m baking bread for the first time (couldn’t bear any more from the shop, even ‘good’ bakeries) and I’m making ‘leftovers’ soup – from the carcass of a roast chicken with some mushrooms. That’s what I call ‘back to normal’.

The two loaves baked today, one still in the tin, the other out

Just out of the oven

It was only laziness that delayed breadmaking till now and I’m sure I’d offend that tv celebrity baker, Holiday Inn or something. I’ve long settled on my own recipe and let a breadmaker do the hard work, do the second rising in the warming oven, so all I do is a very brief knead, divide into two tins and, after doubled in size, put the two loaves in the oven to bake. If I lived in Germany I’d probably be even lazier – I’d buy my bread from the bakery. I prefer the firmer consistency to the airy ‘foam’ we get here.

My recipe, two tin loaves from: 500g wholemeal strong flour; 170g of wholemeal spelt flour, 430ml water; 10g butter; 2.1/2 teaspoons salt; 2.1/2 teaspoons sugar; packet of dried yeast. Sometimes I add sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Today I just brushed the tops with milk and scattered poppy seeds on.

Dinner tonight will be as lazy: beef stew made some time ago, from the freezer, with dumplings. I know, it’s not yet winter but I love stew and dumplings and it’s quite chilly today.

Although I kept a daily journal of the trip on Facebook (Dusty2Romania) I do intend to do at least one post here, about in particular the campsites on which we stayed, from the horrors of Budapest to the excellence of some in Austria and Holland. Soon.

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