Sunday 19 August 2012

Too-Rye-Ay! or One bowl rye

This loaf is based on Dan Lepard's Light Caraway Bread, as included in 'The Handmade Loaf', but the version I make is certainly not light! It includes different processes and ingredients, plus it takes considerably less time and far less washing up (both essential for bakers!).

The biggest difference, preparation wise, is that this method only uses one bowl. As much as I like Dan Lepard's book, it's a bit top heavy on the washing up and bowls used! However, there is no getting away from it, this is a particularly messy loaf to make. You will be washing gunk off your hands at least twice during the prep, but it really is worth it, believe me! And, importantly, it doesn't require an overnight prove, so let's get started!

The loaf requires a ferment, a starter if you will.

The ferment:
50g sour milk (50g milk and few drops of buttermilk or lemon juice)
125g tepid water
5g dried active yeast
175g rye flour

The dough:
caraway seeds (generous handful)
50g rye flour
150g strong wholemeal flour
7g salt
125g tepid water
5g dried active yeast
10g butter (melted)

2lb loaf tin

First, find a big bowl. This will be used throughout the recipe. Make it a good one! And for goodness sake use a wooden spoon throughout, not your hands!

Combine the milk with either the buttermilk or lemon juice and leave for half an hour. Put the kettle on, have a cup of tea and get out the rest of the ingredients needed for the ferment.

After half an hour, when the sour milk is a thicker, or lumpy, whisk in the water and the yeast. And I do mean whisk! Get lots of bubbles going at this stage, one or two minutes will do, until the yeast is dissolved.

Then add the rye flour, stir to a thick paste, cover with clingfilm and leave for 90 minutes.

Ninety minutes gives you ample time to clean your house, or wash your car. Or you could check your Twitter account. Frankly, do as you please, but make sure that at some point in that time you tip a generous handful of caraway seeds onto a baking tray and put into a preheated oven for 8-10 mins, until lightly toasted. Turn the oven off after this.

After 90 minutes, the ferment should look like this. . .

You are now going to make the dough. Tip most of the caraway seeds into the ferment leaving a few back for later, followed by the tepid water and the yeast. Stir gently then add the rye flour, the wholemeal flour and the salt. Bring together adding more wholemeal if it isn't binding together.

Flour a work surface. The next bit is a bit sticky, so have more flour ready (wholemeal is best). Turn out the dough onto the floured work surface, pat out into a 10cm square then roll up into a cylinder. Very gently knead and roll for 30 seconds, gently pressing down to seal the seam.

Tip the remaining caraway seeds onto the work surface, sprinkle the top of the dough with some water and roll the top of the dough onto the seeds.

Grease with butter and flour a 2lb loaf tin, place the dough inside and, using a sharp breadknife, (or whatever you normally use for slashing bread), carefully cut three long slashes into the dough. You may need to run your knife under a tap as the dough is very sticky! (The reason for slashing so early on is due to the heaviness of the dough).

Cover with a linen/cotton cloth and leave for one hour. Switch the oven on to 200C.

After one hour, the loaf has proved nicely, slashes expanded so let's bake this beauty! Pop it in and leave for 30 minutes, or, if like me you use a domestic oven, check it after 20 minutes and turn it around to stop the oven from burning it on one side!

After 30 minutes, brush the loaf with the butter, on the parts that you didn't slash and pop back in for another 15 minutes.

The smell of caraway seeds, wholemeal and rye flour should now be filling your kitchen. That means it's ready! Out it comes, take it out of the tin (turn it upside down and pop it back in the oven for another 5 minutes if the bottom looks too pale, or doesn't give out a hollow boom when tapped), onto a wire rack and leave to cool. Enjoy!

Saturday 18 August 2012

Testing times

Ok, it's a bit of a dramatic title for a post about cake. I've been testing some recipes for a new cookbook that's due to be released later in the year. That's about all I can tell you as I signed a confidentiality agreement which says I can't say anything about it - so you are probably thinking this is going to be a short post!

What it made me think about is the care, or sometimes lack of it, that goes into recipe development. When we've added recipes to the blog I'm always very conscious to try to give as much (helpful) detail as possible. Only you can tell me if you've tried a recipe and it's worked, if we've been informative enough! Although it is sometimes difficult to know where to pitch something. Is the reader an experienced cook? Do I need to tell them how to line a cake tin? Of course, some of the joy in recipe writing is in the descriptions. Any reader of a Nigella Lawson book will know how she likes a similie. Equally this can be useful in conveying to a reader how something should look - 'crush the biscuits until they look like not too fine, rubble'. More interesting and helpful than just saying crush the biscuits up a bit!

The recipes I tested, while they worked (although no thanks to a missing ingredient in one of the methods) didn't have any feeling or emotion about them. The introductions were perfuntory, the tips a bit bland and there were no indications of what something should look like at a particular stage.

For me, I suppose a recipe needs to say something more. Convey a time, place or feeling. Generally have a little soul to it. It's possible that the book I was testing recipes for will have some of that added in the standfirst by an obliging editor or sub, that once the photographs are included the recipes will have warmth and light and joy about them. Although for me, that should be there in the method, as an avid reader of recipes the ones I choose to cook are the ones that capture a sense of excitement, adventure and skill. I want the recipe's author to invest something of themselves. Baking is often talked about being like science with precise measurement. Without imagination though, it may as well just be chemistry.