This is a recipe I bookmarked to try ages and ages ago - I'd love to make bread more often than I do, but the full 15 minutes of kneading is something I get very fed up with. It would be ok if I could see the results in my bread, but no matter how much I do I always end up with something as dense as a brick. THIS recipe, though, does away with the kneading AND gives you something that's soft and beautiful to eat at the other end. Various blogs were enthusiastic about it but I never thought anything of that - food blogs are always enthusiastic. But this is the grail of bread cookery. I adapted this recipe from the NY Times into something using real measurements (muttermuttervolumemeasurementsforthingswhosevolumechangesmuttermutter). I was faintly scandalised to discover while so doing that even British and American cup measures are different. Grr. Anyway. This is what I did.
360g strong white bread flour
3.5g (half a sachet) instant yeast
1 tsp salt
Optional: 2 tbsp olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, stirring to break up lumps. This will create something more like a batter than a dough. Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place (these are hard to find in my flat under 5 inches of snow and rising, but I chose the airing cupboard in the end) for 12 or better 18 hours.
Scrape the dough out of its bowl, into another one lined with very well floured cotton tea towel and leave to rise for another two hours. [The original recipe's dough was clearly drier than mine - it suggested that you would be able to tip the dough out onto a floured surface and then shape it...that wasn't going to happen with mine. I think that the purpose is the 'knocking back' part of any bread recipe. If my dough was this wet again, a good stir would have fulfilled that part and that's all I'll do next time. I don't think I'd change the recipe much - it was the wetness that leads this to be such a brilliantly airy loaf.]
Half an hour before the end of the rising time, pre-heat the oven to a blissful 230℃. Put a smallish cast iron lidded pot (mine is a 20cm Le Creuset casserole) in to heat up too.
When things are up to temperature, remove the pot from the oven and upend the dough into it. Bake with the lid on for 30 minutes and then 15 with the lid off. It should sound hollow when tapped with a fingernail and be nicely browned on top. Cool on a wire rack to prevent condensation forming.
Spiced Parsnip, Apple and Chestnut Soup
I was reading recipe magazines of my mother's when I was in Cornwall at Christmas, and this soup featured in one of them. I can't remember anything at all apart from the title. My mum did actually make it, and it was lovely. I had bookmarked it as a Thing To Do With The Apple In The Fridge And The Leftover Chestnuts From London Christmas, and proceeded to make up my own version last week.
Oil for frying
1 large white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp garam masala
4 medium parsnips, peeled and with woody core removed before roughly chopping.
1 small bramley apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
250g prepared and vac-packed chestnuts, roughly chopped
1 good quality chicken or vegetable stock cube, or 500ml good stock
A slug of wine or cider vinegar
Cayenne pepper to taste
Salt and pepper
I probably can't just say 'make soup', can I? Fry the onion and garlic until softened but not coloured then stir in the garam masala, add the apple and parsnips. Combine and fry for a few minutes. Crumble in the stock cube and follow with 750ml of boiling water, or add the hot stock and 250ml of boiling water. Bring to the boil and add the chestnuts. When the parsnip pieces appear to be cooked and the apple has softened (about 15 minutes), blitz with a stick blender and add more water if the texture demands it. Add salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. If it's too sweet, temper it with a spoonful or two of vinegar.
Spiced chocolate brownies, with apologies (again) to Nigel Slater
...And apologies to everyone for the photo. Didn't get that right. But I think you can see quite how dark these brownies came out, and how moist they are, which is the point. I've put this recipe down before with slightly different spices. I guess it doesn't matter that much what you use, they just accent the chocolate.
...the chocolate is important. My new discovery this time was M&S's organic fairtrade cocoa - which is as dark as I've ever seen cocoa. It beats Green & Black's hands down. It has just become my go-to chocolate baking ingredient. You can also just about see the Willie's Cacao in the back, which I didn't use, and the SO organic/fairtrade and the Valrhona cooks chocolate in the front, which I did. Everyone knows the difference good quality makes to the taste of chocolate itself, and it's hardly likely to be different in baking...
I am unapologetic about posting this again. I adore it.
300g caster cugar
250g softened butter
250g high quality dark chocolate
3 large f/r eggs, plus one extra yolk
60g high quality cocoa
60g plain flour1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper (for quite hot brownies), half a teaspoon each of ground cinnamon and ground nutmet
Preheat the oven to 180℃. Line a large deep baking tray (around 30cm x 20cm). Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Melt 200g of the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second bursts. Beat an egg at a time into the butter and sugar, finishing with the yolk. Fold in the melted chocolate. Chop the remaining chocolate into gravel sized pieces. Sift the dry ingredients into the wet and taste to adjust the spice levels. Fold in the chocolate chips and turn the lot into a tin. Bake for 25 minutes, remembering that these should still be a bit damp in the middle, though not actually raw. Leave to cool in the tin, they'll fall apart if you take them out too early...
This actually hardly counts. I just hate to throw away that last leftover egg white when I make the brownies. The other day, I went downstairs for a glass of water and opened the fridge to think about what to make for dinner. There was that last white sitting there alone and patient in its bowl. I took pity. I weighed out 40g of caster sugar (it was only a medium egg, or I'd have used 50g), turned the oven on to 120℃ and dug out a whisk. I beat the white into stiff peaks and then beat in the sugar until glossy. I dolloped teaspoons of the mixture onto baking paper in a tin and baked them until faintly golden and dry - probably 15 minutes? When they were in the oven, I realised I was thirsty. 10 minutes previously, I had come down for a drink. Now, I had meringues...