Tag Archives: recipes

The Anti-Atkins Diet – The Joy of Homemade Bread

There aren’t many things more pleasing to the senses than the smell of freshly baking bread coming from the kitchen.

There is something magical, I think, about starting with such an uninspiring lineup of ingredients – flour, salt, yeast, water – and finishing with one of the most satisfying and more-ish foods on earth.

I have been into baking bread for quite a few years. When I lived in London and worked  from my apartment, I would make small loafs in my miniscule kitchen – kneading the dough on the dining room table. I have dipped my toe into the world of bread machines, and they do make some delicious bread, but they by no means deliver the satisfaction created by making it from scratch.

After reading lots of recipes and trying out different chefs’ recommendations, the recipe that worked best for me is from British chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Bread Handbook. The book takes baking bread back to its simplest form and is incredibly easy to follow.

Once you master the basic white loaf, then things get really fun with recipes like Chelsea Buns, Hot Cross Buns, Ciabatta, Pizza and Bagels (it still amazes me that one day someone decided dropping raw dough into boiling water before baking it might be interesting!).

Bagels hot from the oven

Chelsea Buns

If you’ve never tried baking a loaf of bread from scratch, I encourage you to give it a go. As long as you measure out the ingredients properly there is very little that can go wrong, and it is such a satisfying thing to create.

Here is the recipe I use for white bread. You can get the full book from amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/River-Cottage-Bread-Handbook/dp/158008186X

(Note: This recipe doesn’t use any sugar, but it still rises just fine. I have tried it with sugar and without, it’s up to you.)

Prep time
1½-2 hours (+ 45 minutes to prove)

Cook Time
40 minutes

Servings
makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

  1. 1kg strong white bread flour (or 7 cups)
  2. 10g fast-action yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  3. 15g fine salt (or 1 tablespoon)
  4. 1-2 tbsp sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil (optional), plus extra to oil the dough
  5. 600ml warm water

1. Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add the oil, if using (not essential, but it makes for a slightly softer, more supple crumb), then add the water. Stir to create a rough, sticky dough. The dough really should be quite sticky at this stage – if it isn’t, add a splash more water.

2. Turn out the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, rhythmically stretching the dough away from you, then folding it back on itself. The idea is to stretch and develop the gluten within the dough, not to beat the living daylights out of it. Avoid adding more flour if you can: the dough will become less sticky and easier to handle as you knead, and a wetter dough is generally a better dough.

3. When the dough is smooth and elastic, form it into a ball, coat it very lightly with oil and place in a clean bowl. Cover with cling film or put inside a clean bin-liner and leave in a warm place until doubled in size – in the region of 1½ hours.

4. Tip the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and deflate with your fingertips. Reshape the dough into neat rounds and put on a lightly floured board to prove for around 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250°C/gas mark 10, or its highest setting. Put a baking tray in to heat up.

5. When the loaves have almost doubled in size again, take the hot baking tray from the oven and sprinkle with a little flour. Carefully transfer the risen loaves to the tray. Slash the tops with a sharp, serrated knife and put in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 190°C/gas mark 5 and bake for about 30 minutes more, or until the crust is well-coloured, and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it sharply with your fingers. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before slicing.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

If Heaven Was Made of Meringue…This is what it would taste like! My version of the Great British Recipe, Eton Mess

There are not many things I find more relaxing after a long tour than coming home for a few days and getting time to cook, or more specifically, to bake.

I don’t know what it is about the sweet stuff that fascinates me so much (although getting to eat it afterwards is obviously one giant incentive!)  but I love the different creations that can come from so few ingredients. Let’s be honest, when your main ingredients are butter and sugar, it’s pretty likely it’ll taste good.

I’ve been staying in Nashville recently with a great friend who likes to throw parties a lot. It’s great for me not only because it means I get to meet loads of other cool people in Nashville, and not least because several of her close friends happen to also be professional chefs. Not a bad deal!

At one recent party I wanted to contribute something to the overflowing table of food, and decided to make the dessert. A bit of pressure, making the only dessert while being surrounded by the city’s top chefs, so I had to pick a fail-safe option. And there is nothing more fail-safe than homemade meringue.

So easy to make, and completely irresistible when combined with large amounts of cream, mascarpone, sugar and fresh fruit. And I threw in some spun sugar too for some extra sweetness and crunch. I ended up making the recipe again the same week because I liked it so much.

So here’s the recipe – give it a try, it’s bound to help make this a great weekend:

(Recipe adapted from http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/meringues.html)

Meringues (makes about 8 individual meringue nests)

2 large egg whites

4 oz (1/2 cup) caster sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 300F/ 150C/ Gas Mark 2

Line a baking sheet with silicone paper or parchment paper.

To make the meringues, place the egg whites in a large bowl and, using an electric hand whisk or kitchen aid on a low speed, begin whisking.

Continue for about 2 minutes, until the whites are foamy, then switch the speed to medium and carry on whisking for 1 more minute.

Now turn the speed to high and continue whisking until the egg whites reach the stiff-peak stage. Next, whisk the sugar in on fast speed, a little at a time (about a dessertspoon), until you have a stiff and glossy mixture.

Now all you do is spoon 8 heaped dessertspoons of the mixture on to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them evenly.

(You can also just do one giant meringue if you’re just going to break it up later.)

Next, put the meringue on the centre shelf of the oven, immediately reduce the heat to gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C) and leave them for 30 minutes.

After that, turn the oven off and leave the meringues to dry out in the warmth of the oven until it is completely cold (usually about 4 hours).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can top with cream and fresh fruit, or go for an even more indulgent option…

3 peaches, cut into slices

Raspberries, strawberries (sliced), or other fresh fruit

Small tub of Mascarpone, or alternatively use regular cream cheese (don’t worry too much about the exact measurements for these ingredients, just do it to taste)

Small tub creme fraiche, or alternatively about 200ml whipping cream

1 tbsp Sugar/ Powdered sugar to taste, add more to taste

1tsp Vanilla extract

Cook the peaches in a pan with a little cold water and a couple teaspoons sugar. Keep on a low heat and cook until softened. You can also add in a handful of the raspberries if you like. When cooked, put into a dish to cool.

Mix the mascarpone, creme fraiche and vanilla together and add sugar to taste. Mix in the fresh fruit. (Leave some for topping)

Break up the meringue and add to the cream mixture. Break some up fine, and leave some big chunks too.

Once the cooked fruit has cooled, put in the bottom of your serving dish. Spoon the cream and meringue mixture on top.

Top with remaining fruit.

If you’d also like to add some spun sugar on top for decoration, here is a great website with videos about how to make spun sugar. It’s very easy! http://www.cookingwithcandra.com/blog/2010/04/12/butter-pecan-cheesecake-with-spun-sugar/

 

 

Enjoy!!

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,
Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: