Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Sunny day brioche sliders!

Summer is here at last, so it's time to dust off the bar-b-q, find the firelighters and off we go!

But this year, instead of buying some floppy stale burgers, make some lovely, tasty sliders instead! They take time (18-24 hours) but so does a bar-b-q, so come and join me.

Sliders are slightly smaller buns. You would usually serve two at a time, or three if you really want to go for it. And why shouldn't you! As they are made of brioche dough, they have a lovely sweetness and a rich crust. Yum!

The reason they take so long is because they're made from brioche dough. Traditionally, this dough requires at least five hours in the fridge so it can man up and be shaped. (Although there are lots of variations on this, including a great recipe by James Morton, which takes approximately three hours to make. We teach this way at our Sweetened Dough Class - check it out!)

I turned to Paul Hollywood in his rather super tome, Bread (I wonder why he chose that title?), which has a fab Satsuma and Chocolate Brioche recipe in it. So, I threw out all the chocolatey and orange bits and forged ahead!

I also borrowed some bits from Rachel Khoo too. That's us blackbirds, always nicking ideas - similar to magpies but a bit more honest!

Finally, I used the dough hook for this one. You could stir by hand (or spoon) but it would take a lot longer!

Sunny day sliders 

Makes 12

250g White bread flour
3g Salt
30g Caster sugar
5g Fast action dried yeast
80ml tepid milk
3 eggs
130g unsalted butter, room temp, in cubes

Combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a bowl.

Warm up the milk and add to the bowl, followed by the eggs. Combine for 2 minutes, then add the butter one cube at a time, until there are no lumps left in the dough. About 5 more minutes.

Scrape any excess dough on the side of the bowl back into the bowl, cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge for a minimum of five hours. I left mine overnight. It enjoyed a good night's sleep!

Remove the dough. Don't let it return to room temp while in the bowl, so remove the dough from the bowl and place upon a lightly floured surface (bread board). Cut the dough into two large pieces, then cut each piece in half until you have 12 pieces. They won't be the same size. Life's too short to weigh out everything! They will be tiny, that's okay as they will expand as they prove.

Using your fingertips, lightly knock back each piece of dough by prodding all over

then folding, or rolling, each piece into a ball.

Flip it over, place your hands on either side of the ball of dough and shape into a ball again. This seals the seam under the dough.

Make an egg wash (one egg, a few drops of milk and a pinch of sea salt) and wash the top of each piece of dough. Don't throw it away as you'll need it again later. Leave to prove for 2-3 hours. Cover with a muslin and dig out the barbie!

30 minutes before you want to bake the rolls (ie when they have doubled in size), switch the oven on to 200C.

Carefully remove each roll from the work surface and place upon a floured baking tray. Wash once again with egg wash and into the oven. 10 minutes at 200C.

After 10 minutes, turn the trays around (for an even bake) and reduce the oven temp to 180C. Bake for another 5 minutes.

You don't want to burn the sliders, but you do want a lovely rich crust!

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack until cold.


Friday, 27 June 2014

A guide to sourdough

I'm always asked which bread is my favourite to bake. And I always say sourdough. There's something unique about each sourdough loaf, more so than bread made with shop bought yeast. You simply do not know what you're going to get, which is exciting for me, but off putting for many. This post will hopefully demistify the process that leads up to creating sourdough bread.
Gratuitous shot of sourdough crumb. Stick around. There'll be more.

The thing people always want from sourdough is a chewy crust, lots of air pockets in the crumb and a tangy taste! I'm going to show you how to do this. It's not difficult!

First, I thought I'd show you my first attempt, made a couple of years ago.

I was so proud of it! It had taken blood, sweat and tears to get that far. I remember emailing this photo to Bake With Maria who had given me some advice. Maria told me to use a white bread starter and to add other flour as and when needed, as separate starters. That's very important advice. Thanks Maria!

Since then, I have made quite a few sourdough loaves, but each one requires a lot of work, but not a lot of ingredients. So if you'd like to make your own sourdough, then please read on.

First, you need time. You can't rush this! I've already referred to a thing called a starter. That's not a small plate of food dished up before your main meal, but is the basis of every sourdough.

You may already have bits of kit like proving baskets, which help the loaf to form a shape. Whilst they are not essential, I will talk about them a bit later.

No yeast

That's right, sourdough doesn't use any shop bought yeast, although I have seen recipes for it that do, believe it or not. You need to make your own natural yeast, which isn't as difficult as it sounds. This is called a starter, or leaven or poolish (if you're poshish). The bread will use the starter as it's raising agent. You simply mix a bit of starter with your chosen bread flour instead of yeast.

How to make a sourdough starter.

You will need the following:
A jar or bowl with a lid (I use a plastic 2 litre pudding basin - a kilner jar is also good)
One cup of white bread flour
One cup of tepid water

Pour the ingredients into the bowl/jar and using a spoon mix them together. A good stir is needed here. When they are combined, replace the lid and leave for 24 hours (told you it takes time!) I leave mine on top of the fridge, but anywhere fairly warm is food. Don't put it in a cupboard - it likes daylight!
Here's a jam jar. Not much going on here. But a good container!

The following day, empty half of the contents out of the jar and discard. (You may have heard that people share their starter with other people, but it's too early to do that at this point).

Add another cup of white bread flour plus another cup of tepid water. Yes, you guessed it, leave for 24 minutes. I meant hours. Just testing you were still with me!

The following day, you may start to some activity. A few little bubbles may have formed at the top, plus some air bubbles may be visible when looking athe side of the container.
(Note: this is a wholemeal starter, not a white starter)

As before, halve the starter, discard and top up with another cup of white bread flour and a cup of tepid water. Leave for 24 hours.

Right, that should do it. After a day, you should be seeing signs of activity. Don't worry if you don't, just repeat the final step from above. It will happen, but you need to be patient!

Your starter should look something like this.

Lots of bubbles, lots of natural yeast just waiting to be used! In fact, those bubbles are so important as they will form the lovely air pockets (holes) throughout your loaf. Now you can see why it was worth the wait!

At this stage, you can share your starter with others. This is an age old tradition of bread making, by passing on natural yeast, you are encouraging others to make bread.

How to make sourdough bread

Preparation: 15 hours Baking time: 40 mins
You will need the following:
300g sourdough starter
400g white bread flour
160-190 ml tepid water
7g salt
Olive oil (a drizzle)

2 mixing bowls
Water jug
Wooden spoon
Cling film
Kneading board (bread board)
Tin tray
Water spray

Weigh out the bread flour into a mixing bowl. Add the starter, salt and the approximately half of the water. Using a wooden spoon, start to combine. Add more water when needed, until the flour has formed into a dough and comes away from the side of the bowl.

Remove onto a lightly floured board. Knead for 5-7 minutes. There is no right or wrong technique here, but keep it moving, make the starter work with other ingredients, push air into the dough and keep going until the dough is smooth and silky. Add a bit more flour if it gets too sticky.

After kneading, prod the dough with your fingers until almost flat.

Now stretch the dough into a ball. While holding the dough with one hand, grab the tip of the dough with your other hand and gently stretch it, try not to break it, then fold it back into the centre of the dough. Repeat this in a clockwise fashion, each time folding the dough into itself.

Flip the dough over and, using the upturned palms of your hands, shape the dough into a ball, carefully spinning the dough and sealing it underneath. You now have a bottom and a top to your loaf – the top is facing you and should be smooth and the base will look like origami!

Wipe the mixing bowl clean, sprinkle with a splash of olive oil and place the dough inside it, bottom side down. Cover the bowl in clingfilm and leave for 4-5 hours. It doesn’t have to be in a warm place, the clingfilm will create its own warmth for the dough to prove.

Yes 4-5 hours. That's right! As it is using it's own yeast, it takes a lot longer to prove, to stretch and to grow. Leave it alone, go out, do the dusting, grow a moustache but let it do its thing!

If you have a proving basket, or a banneton, then flour it during this time (we'll talk about bannetons later). If you have no idea what I'm talking about, then place a muslin inside a mixing bowl (medium sized is good) and dust it heavily with flour. The bowl will shape the loaf for you.
An oval banneton, or proving basket.

After the first prove the dough should have doubled in size. (If it hasn’t, leave for an extra hour). Remove from the bowl onto a floured work surface, flip it over and knock it back. Don’t ever punch it or anything macho. Use your fingertips as described above, prod it all over and while it is upside down shape into a ball again.

Carefully, place the dough (still bottom side up) into your lined bowl, or your banneton. Cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for 5-8 hours. 

(It does take a long time, so I tend to knead my dough at 4pm, then place into a banneton at 10pm, so it proves overnight. Then when I get up, I switch the oven on and bake it first thing in the morning).

Switch the oven on to 220C, 45 minutes before you are ready to bake. Place a heavy based baking tray on the base of your oven and boil a kettle. No, not for a coffee! For steam, to help the loaf to hydrate when it goes into your red hot oven!

When 45 mins has passed you will have to move fairly fast. Until now the dough has been kept within a container which has given it stability. Once that is removed, the shape of the loaf is determined by how quickly you can get it into the oven. Don't panic, but place the water spray and a breadknife near to the oven so you're not flying around your knichen trying to find them!

Re-boil the kettle. We want some steam very soon!

Carefully, upturn the bowl, or banneton onto a floured tin tray so it is now the right way up. Take the breadknife and make one or two small slashes across the dough. Give it a quick blast with the water spray.
A baked sourdough. The round lines are from the proving basket.

Place the tin tray (with the dough) into the oven. Pour boiling water into the very hot baking tray on the base of the oven and close the oven door as soon as you can!


Bake for 20 minutes at 220c

After this time, spray with water, rotate the loaf and bake for 10 mins.

Spray all over with water, rotate again and bake for 5 more mins.

After this time the bread should be a golden colour, remove from oven, turn it upside down and place back in oven to cook the base of the loaf. This takes 7 mins. It's cooked when it sounds hollow!

Place on a wire rack and let it cool completely before getting stuck in! Please don't slice it while it's hot, or even warm, you risk losing a lovely loaf! 

And that's it. You've made a sourdough. Your nostrils should be doing an impression of Kenneth Williams by now, as the olive oil and the sourness of the loaf combine in your house. Beautiful!

When you have made one or two, then you may want to invest in a banneton. They will give the loaf a more marked appearance, just like the ones on display in your bakers shop window. They are made from wicker and, unlike a lined bowl, allow the dough to 'breathe' while it expands. They usually have a liner, but I prefer to take that off so the wicker makes lovey marks across the top of the loaf.

You may also want to experiment with some slashing/scoring techniques for your loaf. For that reason, and, ok, to show off a bit, here's some I prepared earlier!

4 criss crosses

4 staright slashes

2 slashes

4 lattice style slashes

Zig zag!

I really hope you try it out. Sourdough is the test of any baker worth his metal but is also a really enjoyable way of making a loaf. Yeh, it takes time but the best things usually do! Bye!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Cooking with gas!

In the past few weeks, I've been baking at Heavenly Dish - the most amazing catering service in Twickenham. I've been made so welcome by all the guys that work there, who've given me both preparation space and oven space for me to make bread! Thanks! If you want an incredible lunch, or a cookery class, click on the link above - they're the best!
A rare moment of quiet in the Heavenly Dish kitchen!

I've always been used to baking with an electric oven, (ours is a fan oven), so when I switched to using the ovens at Heavenly Dish I had to adjust to using gas to make bread with. Easier said than done! I've always advocated the use of hydration when making bread (and still do) but the simple fact is that hydration is a real issue when baking with a gas oven. For example, I use a cast iron saucepan in my fan oven and pour in boiling water to create steam - this simply doesn't work in a gas oven. Gas ovens produce a drier, more spongey, crumb with more taste while fan ovens produce crisper loaves with a dynamic crust. Take your choice!

I love my loaves to have a 'sheen' which I achieve through using both steam and spraying water on the dough before it goes into the oven and once during the bake, when I bake using electric ovens.

Here are the first results. Water spray at start. Saucepan in oven which was useless!
A bit charred, no sheen, okay I suppose...

So I consulted my fab chum Steph (at Edesias Kitchen ) who I always ask technical questions. She said to use bricks or even my baking stone at the bottom of the oven, then spray with water to create steam. Sounds good, I thought, but first I'll try spraying with water much more than usual.

You can see the crust on the loaf at the top has caught. Aaarggh! I thought, what am I doing wrong? Then something so obvious hit me! It was the oven temperature. 

I was so used to baking with my oven and setting the temp for the highest setting (or at least 200C) that I was setting the oven at Heavenly Dish to Gas Mark 8, or even 9. MISTAKE! I turned down the gas to 7.5 and started to produce lovely loaves, but still spraying them every 10 minutes, plus a soaking before they go in plus a quick spray as soon as they come out. I don't do anything else to them.

They are light, filled with a heavenly combo of yeast and gas, with a crust that will improve with each toast!

I love baking. And I certainly love baking at Heavenly Dish.

By the way, we also teach there too!