Friday 20 March 2015

Mini toads!

This might be the best thing I've ever made for my kids! Great for any time of year, mini toad in the hole, small enough for a grown up to pick up and take a bite out of, (if your kids let you!) but also big enough to fill small tummies.

The recipe is ripped almost entirely from the brilliant Allegra McEvedy's essential tome, Big Table Busy Kitchen. I've simply halved the quantities.

Speaking as someone who has struggled with making yorkshire puddings over the years, the recipe here will never let you down, with or without the addition of sausages!

It takes about an hour to make and is very straight forward. It's an excellent way to use up stray sausages, leftover eggs and other larder bits and pieces. One note: you will need ovenproof bowls. If you don't have these, then use a small roasting tray.

Mini toads - makes 2 medium bowls
For the yorkshire pudding:
Plain flour - 55g
Egg - 1 large
Milk - 150ml
Sunflower oil - splash (okay, 2 tbsp)
Salt and pepper - pinch of each

Sausages - anything between 2-4 (depending on audience) - chopped into small chunks

Ok, the first thing is to whack the oven on. Full blast. Yes. All the way to the top!

Whisk together the flour and eggs in a bowl, or a jug. Slowly add the milk. Keep whisking until you have a nice, runny batter. Add the seasoning, then cover and pop in the fridge for at least 30 mins.

After approximately 10 mins, find 2 medium sized cereal bowls. (Make sure they are ovenproof). Drizzle 1 tbsp of oil into each bowl, place the bowls on a large roasting tray and pop into the oven for a couple of mins.

Chop up the sausages into bite sized chunks. Remove the bowls from the oven and add the sausages to the bowls. Pop back into the oven for 10 mins, to brown the sausages.

Remove the batter from the fridge, give it a final brisk whisk. Remove the bowls from the oven and pour the batter over both bowls, making sure the sausages are well covered.

Pop the bowls back into the oven as quickly as you can and leave for at least 15 mins before you take a peek! This gives the batter the best chance to rise.

After 15 mins, open the oven door a tiny bit. They might need another 5 mins. Move them around if you think they're cooking more on one side of the oven, but try to be as quick as you can. Don't let too much cold air into the oven!

Remove and let the bowl cool for a few mins. Depending on the age of the child, or adult, either serve on a tray, or turn out the pudding onto a plate.

Tuck in!

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Beauty and the yeast!

A block of Bioreal - that's organic yeast!

This is a post about that most feared bread making subject - yeast.

When I teach classes, I always have people who who ask what yeast to buy, how much to use and so on. The most basic advice I give them is, when beginning, to use a tiny bit more than is recommended by a recipe. This will usually ensure a good bake and once you gain a bit of confidence, you can start to reduce it a little for subsequent loaves, until you end up at the recommended amount. (However, avoid using recipes on the back of most flour packets - they are usually woefully wrong! See my previous post for details. )

I always used to use Fast Action Dry Yeast. It's reliable, readily available and reasonable. You simply add the required amount to the flour and mix in. However, it does contain additives that some may find disagreeable.

100g tub of Easy Bake/Fast Action Dry Yeast

Sachets of Fast Action Dry Yeast - 7g each

This type of yeast normally comes in green packaging. At classes I always bring along a tub, plus I bring along it's friend, the yellow tub of yeast, also known as Dried Active Yeast.

100g tub of Dried Active Yeast

The difference between the two is significant. The yellow tub does not contain as many additives. It is this yeast that requires proving before you can use it. You add the required amount of yeast to a bowl of warm water and leave for ten minutes, or until it starts to bubble/prove, then you add it to the flour.

A QUICK WORD OF WARNING ABOUT YEAST AND SALT! They are not happy playmates. Salt will attack and 'kill' the yeast if they are placed on top of each other when weighing out. The solution is to weigh them out on separate sides of the bowl. :)

Of course, there are other types of yeast. For the more adventurous you can harvest your own wild yeast, known as a sourdough starter, or a poolish. There are many recipes for how to get a starter going, but all you need is some starong white bread flour, some bottled water and a tub with a lid! This is how it should look just before you use it!

Sourdough starter - I can smell it from here!

Once again, the bubbles are very important. If it's not bubbling/proving, then it has less chance to rise in the oven.

Recently, I have started to use organic yeast. It's called Bioreal and is available from Bakery Bits. Quite simply, it's the best yeast I've used. 

Bioreal - 1kg 

Using organic yeast is very easy. You multiply the normal amount of yeast by two when using it. You follow the normal rules about not mixing it with salt and you can keep it in your fridge for several weeks. If you're put off by having 1 kg of it, then smaller amounts are also available from Bakery Bits . Just ask my good chum Patrick!

It's worth the effort. The taste and smell brings back the bread you used to buy at your local bakery. You know the one!

So go forth and buy some yeast!