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Cooking – No Knead Bread

I love baking bread but my loaves never tend to be as light and fluffy because of my extremely poor kneading technique. I just don’t have the muscles! I must have come across this recipe for No Knead Bread about a year ago, I have no idea why it took me such a long time to make it. It came up on a few more blogs recently and so I set aside some time this weekend to make it.

This bread is not about instant gratification, due to the first prove being 20 hours long, but it is about very very little effort.

Because of the long proving process the dough is beautifully light and airy with very little effort. Also it has a higher water content than conventional bread recipes so you get a beautiful crisp crust.

No Knead Bread
makes approx 1 1lb loaf

This recipe comes from the New York times so my measurements are in cups, apologies to those in the UK! I believe you can buy cups in John Lewis, Lakeland and some supermarkets now. I got mine on ebay for about £5.

Ingredients:
3 cups strong white bread flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast (this will use very little of a 7g packet)
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water

Put your flour in a large bowl, add in the yeast and the salt.
Then add in your water and stir until you have a soft sloppy dough, like a very thick cake batter. Add a touch more water if your mix seems a little dry.

Then all you need to do is cover the bowl with cling film and leave in a warm non draughty place for a minimum of 12 but up to 20 hours, I left mine for 20 hours.

After your first prove the dough will be bubbly and light like this:
Drop your dough onto a very well floured surface and form into a rough round shape with wet hands. Your hands won’t stick to the dough if they are wet.
Drop this dough into a bowl lined with a floured cotton towel. Cover with the towel and leave to prove for 1-2 hours, I left mine for 1 1/2 and it was fine. It should double in size.

Half an hour before your dough is ready heat up your pot. Set your oven to gas mark 8 / 450f / 230c. You need to use a thick strong pot, such as a casserole dish, with a lid. I used a big stoneware dish. If I had a Le Creuset it would be perfect for this!

When your dough is ready add it to your pot. The recipe I used said to line with greaseproof paper if your pot isn’t non stick, unfortunately I did this (and floured the paper) and the dough stuck! So I would recommend oiling your paper or just flouring your pot very well.

Bake your loaf for 30 minutes covered, then for another 20 minutes uncovered to crisp the crust. It should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Leave to cool for 5-10minutes afterwards, then slice into big chunks and serve with proper butter!

macadamia, hazelnut and choc chip cookies

These cookies are a result of having lots of tiny packets of nuts from the Graze box we receive. I have to admit we eat the interesting things first (korean chili crackers, wasabi peanuts, chili almonds..) and the plain things like macadamia nuts and hazelnuts generally remain unopened.

So I make them into cookies!

I based this recipe on this one over at Joy the Baker- but replacing the white chocolate with 70% dark and using a mixture of nuts. The best part of this recipe is the browned butter, it gives the cookies a wonderful nutty flavour, which obviously goes with the nuts!

Macadamia, Hazelnut and Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Makes about 12 very big cookies or 24 smaller ones
(I used cups for this recipe so I’m afraid I have no grams conversion!)

1/2 cup unsalted butter – softened
1 cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons of milk (I added a touch more to the end as my dough was a bit dry)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 and 3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

50gs macadamia nuts
50gs hazlenuts
50gs dark chocolate

Preheat your oven to 190c / gas mark 6

Heat your butter on a medium heat in a saucepan, stirring regularly. After about 5 minutes you should see brown bits appearing in the butter, once this happens remove the butter from the heat, leave to cool for a 5 minutes more.

Once your butter is cooled add it to your sugar in a large bowl, slowly mixing it in. Then add in your egg and combine. Add milk and vanilla.
Then slowly add in your dry ingredients (except nuts and chocolate).

Bash up your macadamias and hazelnuts in a freezer bag so that they are coarsely chopped.
Chop your chocolate in to medium chunks – however small you like them.
Add your nuts and chocolate to the mixture.

For large cookies spoon tablespoon ( I made big ones) fulls on to a greased and lined baking sheet, for smaller ones aim for a generous heaped teaspoon.

Bake for approx 10 minutes until golden. Leave to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Eat with a lovely frothy coffee or a glass of milk!

Sticky Toffee Pudding

I crave things often and suddenly, but normally they go away fairly quickly to be replaced by another craving. Sometimes I crave something for days and this is when I have to make it at all costs.

This time it was sticky toffee pudding. I’ve never made it myself before but it was only going to be a matter of time. I searched around and found this recipe by David Lebowitz and also this version of his recipe on Ginger Tablet which was happily in grams rather than cups too.

This is just the kind of food you need when the roads are covered in ice and the house just won’t heat up, it really does feel like it sticks to your ribs (and your arteries).

Sticky Toffee Pudding – adapted from David Lebowitz & Ginger Tablet
I roughly halved the Ginger Tablet recipe, made a couple of variations and we got four very generous helpings.

for the cake:

250g dried dates, chopped
100g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg
vanilla extract – 1/2 tsp
50g butter, softened
80g granulated sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
50ml milk

for the toffee sauce:

100g muscovado sugar
25g butter, diced
100ml double, heavy cream
1tbsp golden syrup



Put your chopped dates in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for about 10-15 minutes whilst you make the cake mixture and sauce.

For toffee sauce add all the ingredients to a non stick saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring all the time so it doesn’t boil away. After about 5 minutes take off the heat. I added a bit of cream towards the end as the recipe said this would help the sauce to remain thin, it still thickened anyway! Reheating it will bring it back to sauce stage later on.

Line a loaf tin with well buttered greaseproof paper (both sides) – add half of the toffee sauce to the bottom of the loaf in.

Cream butter and sugar in a bowl.Add egg, then vanilla then your syrup. Sift in flour & baking soda slowly and mix in carefully. Add in milk and mix. Then drain your dates and add to the cake mixture, mixing carefully, take care not to overmix.
Then add your cake mixture to the loaf tin, on top of the toffee sauce.
The layer of toffee sauce really makes this pud stand out!

Bake for 20 -25 minutes at Gas mark 4 (I think 180c?). My oven is old and decripid and so took a lot longer but anyone with a normal oven should have this ready in less time.

Reheat the rest of the sauce on the hob when the cake is done, slice cake, pour on sauce, add ice cream/cream/custard, die of pleasure.

Any remaining sauce will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, but if you use it all up the first sitting (don’t blame you!) its fairly easy to make a small batch with the same recipe above.

:)

Perfecting Pastry with a Pecan Pie

I’ve never had much luck with pastry. My shells always shrunk or drooped in or didn’t cook enough or cooked too much. My pies and tarts sometimes tasted ok but they never looked neat and tidy.

I usually blamed it on my oven, its not the best and it has trouble keeping the right temperature.

But I think I just didn’t have the right recipe… or the right equipment. Yes I was guilty of trying to make a tart case with just a normal shallow cake tin.

I was almost about to give up and make a pastry case with a ready made shop bought shell (I know, shocking!) but I couldn’t bring myself to buy it. Instead I bought myself a proper tart case and found this recipe for the great unshrinkable tart shell.


It was indeed a great recipe, not too much hassle, the only thing you need is patience whilst the pastry cools in the fridge and freezes in the freezer. It did shrink a tiny bit but it didnt slump or flop and it stayed in shape to give a lovely pecan pie.

I follow A LOT of food blogs on my google reader, but strangely none of them came up with a recipe for pecan pie – is it such a given that everyone should know how to make pecan pie?
I tweeted it and the lovely Alice of Snapdragonbeads gave me her Mum’s authentic pecan pie recipe – (four large eggs, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup crushed pecans, drop of sherry or bourbon mixed in, I also added cinamonn and a dash of maple syrup).

Whipped it up and poured it into my tart case, baked it for 15 minutes and voila!

Gorgeous! The pastry turned out so well, crisp and sweet and cooked properly all the way round.

(as you can see I also sprinkled it with caster sugar before baking, it didnt really caramelise but it does taste nice! I would suggest using icing sugar or not bothering!).


Watch this space for more tart recipes now that I have found the perfect tart shell!

xx

a humble stew

Now that autumn is coming to an end I am pleased to be able to spend a Sunday afternoon cooking a roast dinner, and then come home on a Monday evening to a big bowl of stew and dumplings.

This is a very easy and adaptable recipe but you do need a the remnants of a roast chicken to help you along – this is where the flavour is. The day before I’d made the Zuni Cafe roast chicken recipe with the usual trimmings and most importantly a lovely gravy from the roasting tray.

We had lots of chicken leftover and also lots of gravy, the chicken was stuffed with thyme so there was lots and lots of flavour there. also the Zuni Cafe method (which is extremely popular, as you will see when you google it) ensures a chicken that is roasted with perfectly crisp skin and incredibly moist and tender meat – the latter very important for a stew.

Firstly I should apologise for the pictures, my new camera is doing a good job in artificial light but chicken stew is hard to make photogenic!

You will need:

Leftover chicken -shredded up
About 100ml of gravy
Approx 50ml chicken stock (I also made my own stock before making the stew rather than using a cube)
Carrots – about 2 medium ones
1/2 large white onion
1-2 cloves of garlic
Thyme

Finely dice the carrot and onion and fry with olive oil in a casserole dish (or ovenproof dish with a lid) until the onions are nice and soft. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so.
Add in the chicken and then the gravy and the stock – make sure the chicken is well covered.
Season and add a sprig or two of thyme – use less if you had a lot of herbs in the chicken when you originally roasted it.

Bring to the boil and then put in a medium oven with the lid on, cook for 20 minutes whilst you make the dumplings.

For the Dumplings

I’ve never really been a fan of dumplings, I always thought of them as being stodgy and cloying – this recipe is much different. It doesn’t use a lot of flour and no suet – instead milk and cream are used to make light and fluffy dumplings with an almost mashed potato like quality. It is adapted from this recipe on Bread and Honey.

approx 60grams plain flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
pinch of salt
thyme, sage, rosemary or any other herb you think goes!
100ml double cream
50mls semi skimmed milk.

Mix dry ingredients and herbs together and then slowly add in the cream and then the milk. You aren’t aiming for a dough but a wet mixture that keeps its shape – does that make sense? You may find you need more or less milk, cream or flour – just add more or less to get your mixture right. If you add more flour make sure to add a little more baking powder.

When the stew has been cooking for 20mins take it out and spoon the dumplings over the top. Put the lid back on and cook for 20mins again. Take the lid off after 20mins and cook for another 5-10 to crisp up the dumplings slightly.


Serve in big bowls and try not to think about the wind and rain outside.

xx

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